Continuing where I left off from earlier, I will now attempt to analyse what some of 3D’s strengths are in the games industry, both in the past and modern use.
3D art styles initially started with low poly models on pc and later on some of the earlier consoles (PS1, N64, Atari Jaguar, Dreamcast ECT). In its earlier days, the technology was not at a point where models had enough detail to create a strong sense of immersion so a focus on creating a distinct style was still paramount. This is not to say games in 3D’s earlier days did not attempt more realistic art styles, but they also often exaggerated certain elements to make up for the lack of detail in certain areas. In the earlier days, their were also techniques to make the rendering process easier whilst still presenting the illusion of a fully 3D environment that involved 3D characters and objects but pre-rendered “Flat” Backgrounds. An example of this would be “Final fantasy 7” which often had complex background environments that only had certain aspects rendered in real-time. This had the added benefit of allowing for far greater detail in the environments without a performance hit.
Earlier 3D had a distinct look that attempted to create the necessary complexity in models whilst using as a few polygons as possible. This style also required the textures to be created In a way that suggested as much detail possible with lower resolutions. This “Low Poly” look has since seen a small resurgence in independent art assets, indie projects and occasionally larger budget game (Gone home, Superhot). Thanks to more advanced technology, the texture elements can be far higher resolution as well as post processing but the assets themselves are purposefully created to evoke that low resolution look that was popularised by early 3D.
As the generations moved on, graphical quality increased, allowing for far greater quality in models, textures and post-processing effects/Rendering techniques. With the inclusion of bump maping, complex lighting and techniques to reduce quality of faraway/Unseen objects, 3D graphics have been constantly improving and becoming more realistic as the industry has progressed. This can allow for a far wider diversity in art styles but also creates an issue where generic art styles become more easily acceptable. Around the Seventh generation of consoles, many games attempted to use the new high levels of processing power to create games that attempted to mimic reality as closely as possible. Whilst this had appeal initially, it saw a sharp decrease in games with memorable and unique art styles. Colorful games and games that used more “Stylistic” art direction were few and far between when compared to the previous generations and whilst this is still the case in todays industry, we are seeing a resurgence with games such as “Yooka-laylee” and “Splatoon” are good examples as well as more mature examples such as “No man’s sky”, “Dishonoured 2” and “Project Setsuna”.
Graphics will always be improving, regardless of art style trends. In the past art styles for video games have been created due in part to limitations of the medium (As many artistic works often are). With technology now allowing for incredibly high definition models and rendering techniques, creating games that emulate reality is more possible now than ever before. Despite this, more and more games are attempting to create unique and appealing visual styles will set them apart from others, and this is heartening to see.
Additional note :
I have also been thinking about Isometric perspectives in relation to art styles and realised that isometric is a perspective tool that suits both 3D and 2D and often uses both to great effect. Initially I was going to write a pose about 2.5D or hybrid art styles in relation to this, but I realised that both of these posts cover it well enough.