February 11, 2013

The Possibility Of Vector Graphics In Games

Pixel graphics have been the building blocks of gaming goodness since the days of Pong and Tetris. While you may not like to believe that there is a limit to using pixel-based graphics, the fact of the matter is that pixels contribute to serious limitations in video games.

Sure, we may be able to see intense attention of detail to gunshot wounds and flora detail in Max Payne 3, but can you imagine how much information is being drained from your graphics card to push the visuals of that flower? Never mind the fact that your computer can’t generate the realistic physical movements of its form.

It’s not as if we can’t see the amazement of detail in graphic design, it’s just that we can’t see the level of design to where it impresses us. Have you seen the color design on the tanks in Battlefield 3? From far away, we can see beautifully done swatches of brown and tan fused together to make a believable design.

But if you peek closer at its surface, you will see strange smudges of paint slapped rather neatly into a formation that reveals the true intention of the tank. It’s not designed to look like a replica of a real tank, it’s designed to look like a game-designed copy of a real tank.

The industry is changing, and the developers are losing the respect of their fans. These gamers have played with happiness and comfort for years, so why do they feel the need to revolt against the same people that have brought them nothing but button mashing happiness?

It’s because they’re tired of being treated like consumers, really. That’s strange to think about, but consider that the revolution of Online and Season passes did not exist five years ago. Where companies are trying to freeze profits in place and ring more money out of games with online subscriptions, the gamers have been speaking their opinions on digital robbery.

Also, the suspicion of disbelief that we used to feel is fading. We’re simply not impressed by Battlefield’s Frostbite, or Crytek’s Cryengine 3. Unless these developers can push more effort in their pixel painting skills, the gamers aren’t going to be giving any medals anytime soon. Likewise, vector graphics probably won’t be utilized in game design for a while. But while I’m on it, why don’t we examine the main benefits of this medium.

The main points for this movement are as follows:


One of the physical differences between vector and raster based graphics is that vector allows infinite scalability due to its mathematical based architecture. The basis for vector is individual shapes and mathematically placed points that can create models. I believe that when placed in a 3-D format, these shapes can make for some very impressively detailed designs.

However, it would take more physical work from artists in terms of detail, as opposed to just painting over a single area. This means that paying artists to commit to this could run a developer dry.


Detail really is my favorite aspect of the idea. Painting can be done with great detail and precision to make for delicious gradients, but artists don’t really commit to the beauty of painting the way I’d like them to. If they could ignore the amount of work it takes, then that painted tank can look like a real life rendition.

These two points are strong, but the transparency is the true factor that holds the idea back. Without transparency, the color swatches can’t create good gradients that can fade into other colors. Without that invisible factor, you’re left with the difficulty of going over solid areas of color with different colored shapes in a rainbow-type color scheme. I know that it’s an area of the industry that developers have already thought of. But the benefits are outweighed by negatives of overcompensation for work and software and hardware that doesn’t support the format.

The transition to vector would need to be an industry wide change. Sadly, the change might never happen.

But it’s still fun to dream.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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