In 1984, the space trading game Elite was released for the BBC Micro and the Acorn Electron. It was an enormous success and even though it wasn’t the first 3D game, it did bring 3D graphics to a much wider audience.
The visuals didn’t particularly catch on, however. It would be many years before technology was powerful enough to cope with more elaborate, better-looking 3D modelling. For the most part, game designers stuck to 2D simply because they could produce reasonable graphics. The extra processing required for 3D left the images looking rather functional.
That has all changed now. These days it is unusual to see a two-dimensional computer game world. 3D environments are now so detailed that they are almost indistinguishable from reality. A range of new, very specific occupations has arisen in response with programmers specialising in lighting and other such visuals.
But 3D modelling isn’t just for computer games. Another area where the influence is keenly felt is in architecture. Where once we pored over two-dimensional technical drawings, trying to imagine what was being depicted, we can now enter virtual worlds.
This is hugely advantageous for both architects and clients. It is far easier to sell a design if you can display it clearly and accurately. When the client views this work, they are immersed in what has been created. They do not need to imagine what the building will be like – they can see it.
But it’s not only that. It’s not some static artist’s impression that is displayed. It is an interactive 3D model. It can be explored and surveyed from all angles, just like the finished structure.
Accuracy is to be embraced. Designs will always be carefully measured, but perceptions of those designs cannot be so easily managed. The same blueprints can be perceived in entirely different ways by the enthusiastic client and the worried neighbour. Such uncertainty can be addressed with modern technology.
This means that concerns can be allayed, but it also means that potential problems can be more easily identified. If this sounds undesirable, which would you prefer? To discover a fault at the planning stage or only once the building has been constructed? Far better to nip these things in the bud.
The computer game industry has grown to such an extent that 3D modelling is not seen as anything remarkable, but it has revolutionised more than one industry and we would be far worse off without it.
Kelly Swinton is writing on behalf of Art VPS.