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Game Evolution

Reality Check: 3D Graphics Take On Hollywood

Real-time strategy games have been through a fascinating development. The graphics have arguably made the greatest progress, the controllers are constantly being improved, but options and ideas have stagnated somewhat in the last few years, giving many gamers the impression that everything was better in the past.

Warcraft took the world by storm in 1994. The simple graphics were given a sidelong point of view and fixed, painted on shadows were added to make things look more plastic. The sequel came along in 1995; the graphics were slightly improved, but the greatest change was a higher resolution, which made the pixels more fine. This was a necessary move, particularly for the text. Real 3D graphics hadn’t even been considered yet. They first appeared with the third part of the series in 2002—immediately you noticed that the environment and the figures all appeared to have fallen into a paint box. Everything was super-colorful and lively, every effect had to be demonstrated optically. Magic and special abilities lit up and the game sparkled and glittered all over the place.

The look of real time strategy games from 1994 to 2007

Further developments in real time strategy games toned down the bright colors a little, improved the level of details on the figures and made it all look a little more natural. Individual characters could be identified by their equipment, you could zoom in and out of the world, and the number of troops increased dramatically. However, the CPU did a lot of this work. Locating the hordes, calculating the artificial intelligence, and managing the increased number of individual units requires a lot of power. And a modern graphics cards must have the resources to be able to draw the shader effects quickly enough. Current games like World in Conflict are putting more emphasis on lighting effects, serious explosions, realistic smoke, rays of sunlight, and large water surfaces.

3D games must develop quicker and be more closely based on nature. Graphics makes rapid progress, thanks to the new shader effects. Water looks very professional, weather effects and sunshine look much more natural. The film filter in Mass Effect is somewhat contended—the more crude granulation creates an element of blur which leads to a little less focus on edges and colors. This makes both the environment and people very realistic, but not everyone finds this blur to their liking.

Knights of the Old Republic has obviously influenced Mass Effect.

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