Each new generation of gaming has one thing in common: they do everything the previous generation could but better plus more. The newest generation for gaming consoles allows games to be presented through a wonderful process called Tessellation. Xbox One and Playstation 4 games will now look the way that high-powered computers display video games.
Let’s start with a history in the technology of video game consoles. Super Nintendo generation brought colour palettes so that designs were not just black white or grey. Nintendo 64 generation invented 3D graphics, so that players could go up, down, in and out instead of just sideways. Playstation 2 increased the number of polygons that could be rendered per frame, making character have distinguishable faces and create an open world. Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 generation invented High Definition (HD), which provided high enough resolution to see detail, created a physics system were objects moved according to reality.
So how is Tessellation an improvement? Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games had environments that were flat; objects did not have any depth. Designers used tricks to fool the player that surfaces had depth, such as shadows and high level textures. Video games worked like this for a long time. Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 worked with an API (application programming interface) called DX9 or OpenGL respectively, but now the newest consoles will use DX11 mode. DX9 or OpenGL could not handle the number of polygons needed to render all at once to create the geometric depth of the bricks as seen in the picture above. Tessellation is able to fix this weakness by escalating the level of detail a 3D model has according to the distance between the model and the camera.
The problem with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 was that their driver rendered low quality models first and then high quality models just at the right time. Because the consoles has to constantly do this all the time, sometimes the rendering skips a beat and some details appear to be “glitching”. DX9 or OpenGL showed all the primary polygons needed to show 3D models, but due to its primitive technology the polygons were plane. This made them easier to render and run the game smoothly.
Tessellation is able to give polygons augmented depth and volume. In its most simplified form, Tessellation takes a polygon and cuts it into smaller more “polished” pieces. Tessellation is able to take one polygon and progressively become two, eight or as many as needed. When objects approach the camera closer and closer, the number of polygons used to create that object increases. With the new Tessellation technique this generation of consoles will be able to wonder through a more detailed world.
The most popular way of using these smaller tessellated pieces is with a technique called displacement mapping. This technique is able to insert information about a model’s height. Designers can use this displacement to elevate or lower a surface. With this, designers can create a landscape full of well-detailed craters, bumps, and peaks.
Tessellation keeps pushing the boundaries in terms of making video games seem like real life. Movies have always been able to portray reality because it is nothing but a recording. With video games, designers had to create a whole new world from scratch, and that is why video games characters were always cartoons. With Tessellation being a huge advancement to the new consoles, future generations will look back and wonder how players could stand such unrealistic graphics.
Opinion By Ignacio Gatti