The idea of in-game graphics being photorealistic has long been the dream of many gamers across the world. From the wow factor early VGA graphics offered to the more advanced rendering engines of today, developers have been striving to achieve a more realistic rendering engine for decades. Will they ever reach a point where the digitally created graphics you see on the screen look so real that you would have a very difficult time telling the two apart?
Recently, a video surfaced on YouTube made by a company named Euclideon that promised a real-time rendering engine with unlimited detail, free of the restriction of polygons. Polygons are different shapes used to make up various objects found in the game environment, and each one takes up a percentage of the overall required RAM and processing power of the system doing the rendering. Unlike digitally created 3D graphics found in still images, videos, and major motion pictures, the graphics found in video games are rendered in real time, and because of this they are restricted by the processing power and RAM available to the machine running the game. In order to make the game playable to a larger audience, designers are given a polygon budget that they have to work within. Once this budget has been exceeded, a reduction of game content or object quality results.
This technology could be a giant leap forward when it comes down to real time rendering engines. Doing away with polygon-based graphics in place of smaller atoms (the company’s term) allows the environment to take on a much more realistic look. Shapes are no longer restricted by an artificial limit on the amount of sides they can possess. This sounds too good to be true, and it probably is. To date, the only real example of this rendering engine available to the general public exists in the form of a YouTube video. If it is everything Euclideon claims, it could very well turn the gaming world on its head and usher in a new era of gaming that would redefine what we currently refer to as realistic imagery.
Brandon Wirtz, a member of the LockerGnome team with an extensive background in media and graphics has offered his analysis on the Euclideon technology and why it may be too soon to celebrate. In short, until we see this engine in the wild, it may not be capable of delivering on the promise given in the YouTube video. So many different factors go into creating the 3D environment found in many games, including dynamic lighting and physics. All of these factors should be taken into account when considering this engine capable of being run on today’s consumer-level computing technology.
Between photorealistic textures and stunning physics capabilities present in current gaming engines, we have seen titles that push the limits of technology and present an environment that looks “good enough” to be considered realistic. When Half Life 2 was first introduced, the dynamic physics and incredible texturing turned more than a few heads. Later, Crysis created buzz with its processor-heavy engine and stunning 3D environments. What will be the next technology to bring gaming to the next level in realism? Will it be Euclideon’s atom-based technology, or something entirely different?