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Taking 3D Animation Training? Here’s a Brief History of Video Game Graphics!

Apr 01, 2016

3D animation colleges

From the earliest video arcade games to the latest releases, video game graphics have come a long way. While the graphics of the past could only accommodate a few very basic elements, designing today’s video games demands professionals with top 3D animation training. New graduates need to have a firm grasp of polygon modeling, baking light, textures and beyond in order to bring characters and environments to life.

What’s the journey that leads from early games like Computer Space and Pong to the top titles played around the world today? Here’s a look through the history of video game graphics for students and aspiring video game 3D animators.

The First Video Games and Early Arcade Game Art

In 1971, the first commercial video arcade game started cropping up in bars and on campuses in the United States. It was called Computer Space and had simple, black and white graphics. While it wasn’t a commercial success, it helped pave the way for other video games like Pong and Basketball. These early video games boasted very basic black and white graphics.

Early video arcade games used sparse graphics to bring characters to life

Early video arcade games used sparse graphics to bring characters to life

However, it wasn’t long before game makers started improving video game graphics. Less than ten years had passed before video games were produced in colour. In 1977, Car Polo became one of the first games to pioneer colour graphics. It was closely followed by other notable releases like Galaxian in 1979, Pac Man in 1980, and Donkey Kong in 1981.

The 16-Bit Breakthrough: Video Game Graphics in the 1980s

As you’ll soon learn in your 3D animation courses, rendering time is important. If files are too big, the frame rate suffers and the video game will appear choppy—making it less enjoyable for players. That’s why many new breakthroughs in graphics happened alongside breakthroughs video game technology.
The arrival of 16-bit microprocessors was an important breakthrough for video game graphics. With 16 bits to work with instead of just 8, game makers could use more colours and pixels to create characters and backgrounds that were much more detailed—paving the way to today’s enhanced graphics.

The Rise of 3D Animation and the Birth of 3D Animation Training

Even with these new breakthroughs, video games still remained in two dimensions rather than three dimensional. Some early games like Doom and Wolfenstein used raycasting and other shortcuts to create proto-3D environments. But by the 1990s, true 3D polygon graphics had arrived. With this new breakthrough, animators could create elaborate three dimensional worlds that were more realistic than ever before.

The Future of Video Game Graphics for Students in 3D Animation Training

Today, graduates with 3D animation training can draw on a rich history of video game graphics for inspiration in their work. In fact, many of today’s independent game manufacturers purposely recreate blocky and less detailed graphics to give their games a nostalgic look.

Of course, that’s not to say that you have to spend you future career recreating the video game graphics of the past. Many top AAA titles aspire to create elaborate photorealistic graphics. And with virtual reality technology just around the corner, new graduates might get to create worlds that are more immersive than ever before.

Do you think virtual reality is the future of video game graphics?

Do you think virtual reality is the future of video game graphics?

Trying to decide between 3D animation colleges?

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Categories: 3D Animation
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