Video Game Graphics: Polygons

Video Game Graphics: Polygons

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  1. According to Merriam-Webster, a polygon is:

    1 : a closed plane figure bounded by straight lines

    This, while it is true, is not exactly the entire definition in video games and graphics. Polygons make up three dimensional objects in video games. Every figure in a 3D video game contains up to millions of polygons. 

    Three dimensional coordinates are used to determine the polygons location relevant to other polygons. The basic coordinates used are X, Y, and Z. X is the coordinate relevant to left or right, Y is the coordinate relevant to top or bottom, and Z is the coordinate relevant to the front or back. 

    After each polygon has coordinates and is placed in the desired position, the polygons must then be shaded to apply realism to the object. There are many types of shading used, including flat shading, Gourard shading, Phong shading, and Texture mapping.

    Flat shading applies a single color to an object and progressively darkens in shade as it is applied across the surface in squares. Flat shading is a simple type of shading and makes the polygon look artificial.

    Gourard shading is a more complex type of shading. Colors are applied to different vertices on the object and blended together, causing a more realistic look for the polygon.

    Phong shading is even more complex than Gourard. Instead of blending colors on vertices together, Phong shading actually blends each pixel together. This results in an even more natural, realistic look.

    Texture mapping works similarly. However, in texture mapping, a texture/color is applied on to another 3D image and stretched across it. In most video games, texture mapping is used on premade objects such as characters or weapons.

    Polygons are the basis of three dimensional video games and the shading of these polygons results in the realistic or non-realistic looking graphics. The more complex the shading, the more realistic the graphics.

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