From Tiny Triangles, to Small Squares, to Red Dead Redemption 2: How A Computer Renders Complex Images Faster Than A Gunshot

Technically, the image you see while playing a game today is entirely composed by squares – tiny square pixels that carry one colour each, and combine to form a meticulously detailed, colourful, stylised virtual world. From the earliest games, such as Pong, squares have played a pivotal role. But with ever increasing creative ambition flowing rapidly out of enormous gaming studios, computers have had to up their game in terms of processing power, and find new ways of rendering complex images at speed on the small screen. 

The immersive games we play today are supported by game engines, which allow designers to create worlds of endless possibility and complexity. Such game engines work by utilising a code based on trilateral coordinates, which combine to provide the computer with the framework to display a certain image on the screen. 

And triangles are key due to one simple fact: the easiest spacial idea for a computer to render is a flat surface, and flat surfaces can be used to build curved surfaces,  making the world of the game more realistic. While a four-cornered shape can exist in multiple dimensions, a shape with three corners can only ever exist on one plane. And so in using three coordinates, the computer builds up a series of triangles that become flat surfaces, that become curved surfaces, that become a realistic picture. 

Video originally created and published by Vox.

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