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Plants, Trees, And Forests

Reality Check: 3D Graphics Take On Hollywood

With GeForce 256, transform and lighting functionality was moved over to the graphic chip.Before, these calculations were carried out by the CPU. The faster graphics cards were expected to increase the level of details and the number of 3D objects.

This complex leaf structure is calculated by the graphics card.

For a 3D game, you need more than one tree made up of real leaves, although even the most recent games still use tricks. To keep the computing effort as low as possible, only rough structures like tree trunks, thick branches or the basic framework of bushes are created as real objects. Grass, reeds, leaves and twigs are textures, painted wallpapers which simulate thick plant growth. This enables you to represent a thick forest, but neither leaves or twigs will react to touch—the player simply walks through unimpeded. If the game is less complex, these leaves and bushes don’t even provide a screen to hide the character from opponents, even though you are unable to look through the undergrowth.

Tree trunks and thick branches are 3D objects: grass, leaves and twigs are simulated wallpapers.

In older games, the forest is made up of a few arranged trees. Only as recently as Far Cry and Crysis was it possible to generate the impression of an impenetrable jungle with wild plant life and irregular structures. Oblivion can be upgraded with the Qarls Texture Pack, which makes the otherwise rather drab exteriors look thicker and richer. 3D games are still not able to reach the level of detail of nature; even Hollywood productions have better tricks. The left hand image shows digitally processed trees, you can see this in the slightly lighter colors.

The PC forest has improved considerably; Crysis shows irregular plant structures.

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