The Advancement of CGI in the Game Industry


In this day and age, Computer Generated Imagery, commonly known as CGI, has become the key visual recipe for most video games we play today. Since it is hard to bring out some of the dynamic effects with traditional photography only, the game industry cannot think of not using CGI. Over time, this industry has evolved a lot. We can now see some of the most realistic characters in the game that look absolutely real!

If there is one element that people care about the most after the story of the game, it is visuals. In this article, we will take a look at how CGI has revolutionized the graphics we see today in games.

Complexities of the Imagery

Some objects that we see in the games are a projection of someone’s wild imaginations. Different shapes are manipulated in a way that they can come up with images that look as real as possible. CGI is leaning more and more towards creating interactive characters that make gaming more fun for the players.

Supercomputers and high-tech machinery are being made as technology takes one step ahead into the future. Some of them are specialized for particular tasks. Soon we will see Artificial Intelligence taking over the field of gaming and other related digital platforms to deliver the players perfection in terms of image complexities.

Limitless Possibilities and Versatility

As CGI advances, we get to see very fresh perspectives in the field of gaming graphics. Now, people no longer have to be limited to something. There are limitless possibilities – developers can explore their imaginations far and beyond and bring them into life using advanced CGI. Some games such as Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and The Witcher III are best examples of how far CGI can go.

People can enjoy in the games what they are unable to do in real life otherwise. Furthermore, the issues of being limited in exploiting endless possibilities are taken care of by AI and robots. With time, we will see that it would get hard to distinguish between CGI rendered objects and real-life world.

Aspects to Consider for Developing Ultra-Realistic Games

1. Lighting

Lighting plays the most crucial role in the world of games and movies. It needs to break through the boundaries of being artificial and fixed. Lighting shouldn’t be fixed for every model or character; it needs to have a mind of its own to mimic real lighting. Simply put, light behaves in various ways and technology needs to develop something that can mimic natural lighting. This will definitely help in enhancing the realism of a character or a setting.

2. Complexity

When it comes to achieving levels of true photorealism in the world of games, it is important to consider the number of polygons and shmolygons. The higher the poly count, the realistic the games would look. There are two things that developers can do: 1) make complex models that are not complex in numbers and 2) makeincredibly complex characters with extremely high counts and sizes.

For this purpose, we need to design such a technology that has enough AI to perform all this without much human intervention. Being organic is the key here, which means that AI needs to have a mind like us that can take into account the complexity of imagery, lighting, and other elements in order to design such complex objects that we humans can design: without any boundaries.

The second point we discussed above means creating technology and supercomputers that can handle these operations efficiently.

3. Flexibility

As discussed above, CGI is created with polygons and various other shapes. These shapes should be manipulated in a way that they can mimic real-life world without looking fixed or fake. In the real world, everything is organic – means unlimited. Therefore, shaping the real world in the games goes down to dealing with subatomic particles – but all we have for now are polygons. This is why, in order to develop games that are completely indistinguishable from reality, there has to be a way to mimic real-life world without using polygons and shapes.

This is where AI jumps in. Scientists need to build robots and AI strong enough to mimic a human mind that can develop self-awareness and actual common sense.

4. Scalability

Let’s suppose game developers get to the point where they have designed a character model with the help of CGI that looks completely like us. But it would simply be a single character. For making games that are indistinguishable from reality, scalability is required. This means to create square miles of land in an area, having thousands of real-life characters. It would take years or even decades for game developers and technology to take on the challenge of realistically creating a setting – or even a whole world.

The Beginning of CGI in the Game Industry

In the early 1970s, all we had in the games were a few white pixels over a black screen. Although Pong wasn’t the first game ever made officially, it was one of the earlier games to become a hit worldwide. Released in 1972, Pong was a 2D arcade game that took the gaming market by storm. The success of such games having ‘white pixels over a black screen’ led to a desire to develop more attractive and visually appealing shapes.

For this purpose, Namco released its Galaxian game in the year 1979 that astonished gamers everywhere with its brightly red-colored ships. A year later – the father of all the games – Pac-Man arrived. Gamers would spend their whole day playing this game on their computer and gaming houses.

People were working day and night to push the limits of the video game consoles so that the developers can deliver games that are both entertaining and visually appealing.

Space Invaders is another best example of the early games that were nothing but white pixels over a black screen.

When Things Started Getting Serious – The Era of Sprites

The 1980s was the decade when the video game industry was crashing. But the entry of a little game in 1985, Super Mario Bros jumped onto the scene and saved the game industry single-handedly from crashing. At the same time, 2D games like Street Fighter II, Strider, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revived arcades as a social hub.

Revolutions in the storage space, better graphics, memory, screen resolution, etc. took place, which all together allowed these games to offer more appealing visuals and vibrant colors than ever. Hence, this led to improved user experience.

The increased hardware capabilities of gaming consoles such as Super NES and Sega Genesis also inspired game developers to make games having jaw-dropping visuals for their time.

This era can also be called the era of sprites because designers were able to craft imaginary worlds and scenic places using the sprites alone. Games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Chrono Trigger, and Super Metroid are excellent examples of masterpieces that were created to bring a change in the world of gaming and user experiences.

While 2D games still have their fans today who can talk about them the whole day, we cannot ignore the fact that the mid-1990s was indeed the period of greatest CGI advancement (3D) in video games.

3D Takes Over 2D

The increased power of an average computer system and better hardware motivated the game developers to use various tricks to simulate 3D. One of the games back then that achieved this amazing milestone was the critically praised Doom – a pioneer of today’s most famous genre FPS (First Person Shooter).

True 3D games came to life with the release of powerful gaming consoles like PlayStation and Nintendo 64. With the help of these consoles, gamers were able to explore fully 3D worlds that were so pleasing to the eye at that time. There was a lot more to do in games than just seeing the same old boring, repetitive things on the screen. The most incredible thing to see was Mario flying, jumping, and sliding in the game Super Mario 64 – the first successful 3D platformer.

Other games like Quake (PC) and PlayStation’s Crash Bandicoot continued pushing the limits of CGI until the developers realized that now they needed even better gaming hardware to take things a step further.

Check out this trailer of Crash Bandicoot – how developers used 3D polygons and other shapes to craft the characters and setting.

Final Verdict – The Modern Age

The big step from 2D to 3D was indeed the most significant one in the history of video games. The advancement in CGI in the beginning of the new millennium opened new doors to head-turning games like Grand Theft Auto III, Halo: Combat Evolved, and Metroid Prime. Never before the games were so realistic and appealing. Now, they had 3D realistic environments that sucked players in and made them feel that they aren’t just playing some game but are the part of the virtual worlds.

Today, CGI continues dominating the gaming industry as video games become more and more realistic than ever. The latest video game consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox X Series and computer hardware with high-tech graphic cards allow for the best cinematic realism ever! The edge here to the computer gamers is that they can constantly boost their system’s specs and graphic capabilities as new advanced games get released.

Given the current technological advancements and advent of virtual and augmented reality, there is no telling that what wonders would CGI do to the video games in the future.