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Lighting for Games

We can all agree that video games have made enormous strides in their relatively short lifespan. In the old days, games like Pong, Asteroids, and Pac Man relied on a single color image restricted to an environment the size of the game's screen. There was no color, lighting, or shading, and the games were created more by programmers than by artists. As more expressive games like Donkey Kong, DigDug, and Galaga came along, they introduced color to their environments in the form of sprites. Any apparent shading or shadows were separate sprites and had nothing to do with an actual lighting model.

Today's games present an immersive, detailed 3D environment, complete with shading applied to hundreds of objects, as well as lights that interact with, or at least appear to interact with, those objects. Even the jump in visual quality from the original Doom to the new Doom3 is impressive by any standard, and much of this is due to the improvements in how lighting is handled.


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