Have you ever given a damn thought haw a triple-A video game might have been built? It might have taken a decade to build, require a team, or even multiple teams, of hundreds of people, and tens of millions of dollars to fund. Their development cycles are normally sagas themselves, filled with tales of endless drudgery and developer burnout.
A lot of people every year play video games in one form or another, on their cell phone, one of the dedicated games consoles, or on the PC. And yet, despite their massive popularity, many people have not real insight into how games are created!
Here, we’ll be breaking down some of the fundamentals of how our favorite video games are made and how some of those basics haven’t changed since its inception they were used in the arcade version of Donkey Kong.
Polygons and Textures
The most basic thing in any video game is the ability to create 3D objects. To do this, most gaming software uses polygons. A polygon is, at its most basic, any area defined by at least three lines. These three lines are used to connect coordinates in the 3D “world” that the game creates.
The point where these lines meet is called a vertex and each vertex has X, Y, and Z coordinates. These coordinates define the shape where to be. How far up or down, left or right, back or forward it should be. Once the game knows the shape of the 3D object it is creating and what its position should be, it then needs to know what it should look like. This is where textures come into the picture.
A texture is a 2D image, applied like a decal, to the 3D shape created by the polygons. If the walls in your video game are made by polygons, then the brick pattern, or wallpaper, or bullet holes on that wall are created by putting textures over those polygons. The more complex the polygon and textures, the more detailed those objects become. However, complex polygons and textures use up memory and graphics processing power. So, the better the game, the more memory it captures of your computer.
Shaders and Light
Games like The Witcher 3 have won awards based, at least partly, on their potential to develop something close to realistic lighting conditions. Sunsets, campfires, flickering torches, sputtering campfires, and dappled light coming through trees all help to draw the player into the game.
Modern games create their lighting effects through some technical processes, but one of the most basic is using shaders to show how each pixel is represented. A pixel is usually the smallest part of an image and shaders tell those pixels what color to be. As you walk down a street with a lit torch in-game, the shaders will tell the pixels closest to the light source to be the brightest and then fade to black as the light source moves away from them.
Once you have made your 3D shape, its position in the 3D world, and its image properties, you might then need to communicate with the surroundings, especially if it represents something living in that game theme.
How components in a game make decisions is often referred to as artificial intelligence, but in reality, it is just like machine learning. The object you have created follows a rule set and uses those rules to make out what it’s doing and how it reacts to input. AI for in-game objects can either be relatively simple or complicated, depending on the game and the console the game is running on.
RNG, which is commonly called a random number generation, is a simple concept that underpins a large amount of gaming content. The potential to create a non-biased random number underpins everything from what treasure you get in Skyrim, your attacks in World of Warcraft, and nearly everything you can play on any casino.
RNG in-game is like rolling the dice when you are playing an RPG. It generates a random number that can be modified by other numbers, adding an element of randomness to the game that replicates, to an extent, how random elements affect our day to day lives.
The Components of Gaming
It is a mixture of textures, polygons, shaders, AI, and RNG, which represent some of the more basic building blocks of video games. Despite the huge strides forward that video games have seen in a few years now, these basics still play a great role in game creation.