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Games Entertainment

On The Trendiest Concepts In Game Design 50

Thanks to the Guardian Gamesblog for its post discussing some of the 'trendiest' concepts currently infusing the world of videogames. The author notes: "Like every other entertainment sector, the videogame industry is prone to sudden fads and fashions that seem to spring out of nowhere, take the scene by storm, and then disappear only to be replaced by more advanced technologies, or better ideas, or something really silly", before pointing out trends such as 'sandbox gameplay' ("Sandbox is the new 'non-linear' - a favourite buzzword for open-ended game design... the dole office is full of unemployed end-of-level bosses") street racing games ("All the big driving genres - arcade, rally, F1 - have been done to death, so developers, already fascinated by crime and edgy urban themes, have turned to street racing"), and 'historical accuracy' ("Once the preserve of sad PC strategy titles, history has become a major videogame theme.")
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On The Trendiest Concepts In Game Design

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  • by Slurm-V ( 513189 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @08:27PM (#10018672) Homepage
    Wikipedia to the rescue [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:Sandbox? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sigma 7 ( 266129 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:09PM (#10018870)
    Is sandbox really a good term to use for video games?
    It is, but not in the context used.

    Traditionally, a "sandbox" in a computer is an isolated portion of a computer where absolutly anything can happen but is incapable of inflicting damage on either other computers or on other parts of the system. This is quite similar to the honeypot concept.

    In a video game, a sandbox is a free-style area where anything can happen without having to worry about outside effects or changes to the outside. Normally, such a sandbox is used if you want to experiment with how monsters can react or to play with each individual item within the game to see their results.

    This is different than the context used in the article, where such "sandboxes" are free-for-all stuff that *DOES* impact other portions of the game. For example, the Grand Theft Auto - if you shoot everything in sight, the cops will go after you more. This is not an ideal sandbox envrionment as there isn't really a way to isolate your experimentation (aside from saved games, but those technically don't count.)

  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:15PM (#10018900) Homepage
    Basically normal mapping is geometry, bump mapping is lighting.

    Bump mapping is used to make a surface look more 3D by making the small details get light differntly (like the grout between bricks). It gives the illusion of depth. The problem is if you view across the surface, it's still just a flat surface.

    Normal mapping actually changes the geomety of the object when it's rendered. So while the effect might end up looking the same (probably not, but they could be used for the same kind of thing), when you look across the surface, this time it's not flat, it's actually 3D.

    Now that's a lousy way to use it if all it does is the same as bump mapping. Do the little tiny bumps (like on bricks) really matter that much? Wouldn't bump mapping be faster? Yes. But normal mapping lets you do more. You could edit the normal maps on the side panels of a car in-game to "bend" it so that it is dented because it was hit by another car. You could use slightly different normal maps on all the soldier in a game so that they are all the same model, but seem to have slightly different faces, body structures, etc. It allows some interesting stuff, which bump could, at best, hint at.

  • by badmanone ( 806884 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:05PM (#10019139)
    Actually you're half right.

    Normal mapping isn't doing the geometry stuff, that's displacement mapping. Something that isn't yet available (I don't think) in hardware (No, not even on a 6800 GT ULTRA SUPER DUPER). This is not to be confused with Virtual Displacement Mapping, or Holographic Mapping, or Virtual Holographic Displacement Mapping (all of which are the same thing). They involve offsetting texture coordinates based on the camera position and angle to make textures APPEAR as though the actual geometry is being displaced, when in fact it isn't (see the cool Unreal Engine 3 video for an example).

    AFAIK normal mapping and bump mapping fall under the same category. I think there is a "simple" bump mapping based on just a single value (heightmap), with normal mapping being an extension of that.

    Someone with more knowledge than I can expound...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:46PM (#10019300)
    Bump maps are textures that use only black and white (for lower / higher values, respectively). These textures give a small illusion of depth on an object, like the previous posters example of the grout between bricks. It cannot be used for anything large, because the lighting information is very basic.

    Normal Maps are an extension of bump mapping in a way. Instead of using simple black and white images they use the red, green and blue channels of a color texture to capture the directions that varying surfaces on an object face. A "normal" is the direction that a polygon faces outward, and the term Normal Mapping comes from the Normal information contained in the texture. When a light hits a normal map it takes into account the direction that some surfaces were facing on the original, higher-detail model, and shades the pixels to create the illusion that the flat surface is actually composed of many different faces.

    Both Normal Maps and Bump Maps use flat polygons for the most part (or as low detail as possible).

    Displacement mapping is actually used in games today, but usually in the form of height-maps for terrain. Displacement mapping will probably never be used on actual models for the most part, because unlike Normal and Bump maps it can actually create more polygons when applied to a surface, and therefore would not be a good idea for fast and efficient real-time rendering.

    I hope that answers your questions and I hope I got everything right.
  • by Klowner ( 145731 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @11:49PM (#10019584) Homepage
    Displacement mapping is doable nowadays, just use the surfaces depth value plus the added depth from the bump map, and adjust the Z-buffer accordingly, it can be done.. Along with a little parallax mapping. In another year it'll be a totally common effect seen in games :) fun fun
  • by jensen404 ( 717086 ) on Friday August 20, 2004 @02:28AM (#10020211)
    A pixel in a bump map represents the elevation of that pixel.

    A pixel in a normal map represents the angle/direction (normal) that the surface at that point should appear to be facing. When the lighting is applied, it is calculated using that normal, relative to the actual orientation of the underlying polygon.

    The problem with normal mapping is the lack of parallax.
  • Re:Sandbox? (Score:5, Informative)

    by EnglishTim ( 9662 ) on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:12AM (#10021062)
    > Traditionally, a "sandbox" in a computer is an isolated portion of a computer...

    Actually a sandbox is traditionally a box filled with sand, and is often used by children for playing it with little toy diggers, spades, buckets and the like. Sure, in computer science circles it may mean an area where you can play around without harming the rest of the system, but that really only applies to computer science. If you're talking about gaming it makes a lot more sense to refer to the free-form play aspect of sandboxes.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN