Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
30 December 2006
During breakfast, I was trying to read back up on video cards in case I ever discover a three-hundred dollar bill laying on the ground and have nothing better to do with the cash. (Though I think we all know I'm happy with what I've got, for now.)

Looking at the first image on this page from an Anandtech review of video card performance in Rainbow Six: Vegas, I caught myself wondering when we'll ever get to the point that buildings aren't arranged in perfect grids in our virtual worlds. Look at the corner the guy's looking around. A perfect edge, down to the molecule. What's more, it appears the architects of the buildings on the street he's considering charging built their shanties (is this really Vegas? I'm guessing not) perfectly to code, four feet -- to at least eight significant digits (4.00000000') -- from the street. Add to this that not a single building seems to have a significant dent in the wall and, well, it's simply horribly unrealistic. Characterless boxes set up according to a inferior spin on the Jeffersonian city plan.

Compare this to the fellow in the same picture or the gun model from the pages previous and I believe you'll see the cityscape's attention to realism is sorely lagging.

This reminds me of the perfect cubits of Tomb Raider, where every tomb, even the city of Venice, regardless of time period or continent, has somehow built itself to the same exacting specifications of the ones prior. Luckily Lara is well-versed in the eyeball measurement of cubits, as each of her jumps, the distance she can push cubit-cubed, um, cubes around floors before tiring, the height she can swing herself up from one pole to the next -- all cubits. I'll give the original a free pass, but the continued use of cubits in later games (seems even Angel of Darkness still had some cubit-ism) seems downright lazy.

I understand now, knowing a bit about the innards of an Atari 2600, why every ladder, from Pitfall to Donkey Kong to, well, I don't recall more ladder games at the moment, but why each was the same width, and why that same width was also the horizontal width of the smallest barrier in Combat. It had to do with limitations of the console; the playfield graphics had a minimum width of very limited granularity. There is no such technical limitation forcing a similar convergence of any sort in today's PC games.

I want buildings slightly further from the slightly winding street than one another. A few buildings not precisely built parallel to one another. Some buildings that have stories that are 10' high, others with 8.342'. Real balconies that vary from building to building, even floor from floor. Uneven sides of buildings, for heaven's sake. Potholes and small grades in streets. Furry lobsters. I want it all. Need I remind anyone what a little strategic use of a random number generator did for a game like Elite?

People are lamenting their inability to tax their quad SLI setups. Hit 'em with some reality, please.

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--ruffin at 10:47
Comment [ 6 ]

Comments on this post:

That is the first level, in mexico.

By Blogger Zachary, at 30 December, 2006 18:08  

One of the things that intrigues me about Bioshock is that it appears to create a natural environment. I'm pretty sure corners are mostly still sharp, when they're there, but my recollection from the short developer walkthrough of game mechanics was very positive with regard to the design of the world.

By Blogger jvm, at 30 December, 2006 22:49  

Well, it's certainly not a failure of technology. Level design is the domain of level design artists, not video card makers.

My suspicion is that most 3d level design artists are former architects or architecture students, which is what leads to everything being pretty much code perfect.

Also, console gaming has a legacy of low memory environments where 3d games were only able to be really expansive if you reused a lot of geometry and art in the environments.

It's also worth pointing out that the environments are somewhat secondary in action and tactical games. But, having played the game, I can attest to the Mexico stage sticking out rather like a sore thumb versus the rest of the game. The casinos are much more interesting visually.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 02 January, 2007 10:17  

My suspicion is that most 3d level design artists are former architects or architecture students

Hahaha if only. Although our art director here is a former architect, but it's incredibly rare.

Anyway, building believable environments is really really really really really hard. Take it from someone who has built Manhattan twice.


By Blogger Michael, at 02 January, 2007 17:48  

Anyway, building believable environments is really really really really really hard. Take it from someone who has built Manhattan twice.

My hope is that the skilled introduction of random number selection could, like Elite's planetary systems over its five galaxies, make the process a little easier. If the buildings were simply torqued a bit, a few jaggies added to the corners, and some small slopes put under the roads, I think you'd've covered 80% of my concerns very quickly.

There's an interview with some author named Darin Strauss that talks about not over researching your historical fiction. I'm not sure I agree with his praxis, but I'm pretty sure I agree to some degree with the theory. Don't worry if the torques and jaggies and slopes are accurate, just ensure the inaccuracies aren't so danged generically rendered.

By Blogger rufbo, at 02 January, 2007 17:57  

They aren't all so bad. I've been playing Saints Row lately, and buildings are offset differently, are shapes other than square, and streets have occasional arcs/curvature.

On Tomb Raider, I wonder whether the cubits aren't for the benefit of the player as much or more so than a limit of the architecture. I'd think that arbitrary distances would make it difficult to judge "whether I can jump/swing over that gap".

By Blogger kim, at 07 January, 2007 20:45  

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