Evolution of Foliage in Video Games

For this task I will be analysing the progression of graphics in game development with a focus on how foliage has changed as technology improved, we did this task to gain insight on how the improvement of technology allows us to create much more realistic environments as knowing this is important when developing my own game environments.

In games development graphics have come a long way, one example of this advancement is the foliage used in games, in older games such as the original Sonic the Hedgehog (shown below) foliage was created in 2D and was not very real to life, the plants are very angular and use large areas of bright colours, this may be a thematic choice, but it is also likely it was at least partially due to the inability to create realistic plants. The game does, however, attempt to add depth by making certain areas darker or lighter, such as on the leaves of the palm tree, or on the edge of the grass.

Game source: Sonic the Hedgehog

Image source: http://supersmashbros.wikia.com/wiki/Green_Hill_Zone

In later iterations such as Sonic Generations (below) the graphics have improved drastically and transitioned to 3D, this is due to the increase in processing power and storage of systems. The foliage in Sonic Generations is very high quality, mixing realistic foliage and higher quality reproductions of the old unrealistic foliage. However when compared to real life the game still has further to go graphically, many assets are reused throughout areas and some pieces of foliage are made up of simple textured planes.

Game: Sonic Generations

Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSn2KB69Spw

When compared to a real palm tree, shown below, the differences are easy to see, in Sonic Generations the trunk of the palm tree is one simple polygon with a texture, whereas the real palm tree is far more intricate. Also, the leaves of the palm tree from Sonic Generations are highly polygonal, though this may be to replicate the older style of the original Sonic the Hedgehog.

Image source: http://stevegarufi.com/palm-trees/photos.htm

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game that contains photorealistic foliage, the models are detailed, have good textures and the lighting is accurately affected by the fauna. The leaves on the plant to the right are textured planes, copied to fill out the plant, the end result is a highly detailed plant. The use of light and dark due to the shadows and the bright colours of the scene make for a beautiful, realistic area within the game.

Game: Dragon Age: Inquisition (DA:I)

Image source: http://calmdowntom.com/2014/12/screenshots-of-the-year/

When compared to this real area we can see a few differences, one is the type of foliage, in DA:I the plants seemed to be repeated quite a lot, for instance there are approximately eight of the plant that can be seen on the right, whereas in the real scene it is very hard to find duplicates of plants, even ones of the same species have different appearances. Also, the real jungle scene has slightly more depth in several areas, many surfaces have things on them, such as leaves strewn across the ground, fauna growing off the branch and a thin layer of plant life beside the path. Also, in the DA:I scene it can be seen that although there is plant life across the ground the texture beneath is very flat, the same can be seen on the tree trunk, where a flat texture uses tone to replicate a surface of varying depth.

Image source: http://eskipaper.com/jungle.html#gal_post_8383_jungle-2.jpg

Larger: http://eskipaper.com/images/jungle-2.jpg

In conclusion the progression of technology has greatly improved our ability to develop photo realistic environments for games. In the past games were mainly 2D imitations of 3D environments, but as 3D games were introduced and improved environments were capable of appearing much more realistic due to the quality of the models, animations and lighting. Previously we weren’t capable of creating convincing game environments due to technological limitations such as processing power and storage capabilities.

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