How Video Game Graphic Designers Create Immersive Environments

video game graphic designers

People have been playing video games for over 50 years. It first started off with the simple game of Pong, with a ball being bounced back and forth between two virtual paddles. The first game console that really captured the market was the Atari 2600. Those of a certain age might remember playing games like ‘Combat!’, which featured crude graphics that vaguely resembled tanks or airplanes.

Over the decades, video games have gotten more advanced. This is true of both arcade and console games. Game console makers and video game graphic designers have been working tirelessly to push the boundaries of what modern graphic processors are capable of. Those of us who grew up playing ‘Combat!’ and watched the games get somewhat more realistic in the late 1990s and early 2000s with fare like ‘Shadows of the Colossus,’ ‘Tomb Raider,’ and the ‘Resident Evil’ games.

Now, people can play truly immersive games. Players can swing around as Spider-Man or Miles Morales and visit real New York locations. Images of the new ‘NBA 2K24’ were released, and it looked like the real Steph Curry was on your TV screen in an NBA game highlight. There’s no trace of pixelation that plagued games of the past. All of this makes for an immersive experience. Here are several ways that the designers use the environment in games to get you totally engrossed and involved.

Realistic Building Materials

While ‘Fortnite’ is a game that uses a lot of building material, it generally doesn’t last too long with other players blasting away at what’s being built. But there are a lot of other games where you can do things like creating roofing and other things or walking around places that have been intricately crafted. This is something that video game graphic designers put a lot of thought into. It can work for everything from ‘The Sims’ to ‘Minecraft’ to ‘Skyrim.’

Diverse Story Settings

This is one of the best things about video games. They can take place in so many different settings. There are the ones set in known places on Earth, with Spider-Man being one of those. Players can go to monuments that they have or have not visited before.

But then, video game graphic designers can flex their imaginations and take them to different worlds. ‘Diablo’ is set on the world of Sanctuary. The Elder Scrolls, which include ‘Skyrim,’ are set on the world of Nirn. They create all kinds of memorable settings that draw in the player from the very second they get past the loading screen. They can find themselves in fiery hellscapes or atop mountains with wintry conditions that make the coldest places on Earth seem balmy by comparison. It might even make you want to put on a winter jacket.

video game graphic designers

Realistic Tool and Weapon Design

When this industry first really began, things like firearm grips weren’t really a thing that video game graphic designers. The graphics were pretty much confined to blobs that vaguely resembled amoebas more than people going ‘PEW PEW!’ at each other.

Then, the graphics began to improve. They went from 8-bit to polygonal to frames. Games like ‘Doom’ began to show the weapons like they really should, with different styles. Then the weaponry began to get more advanced. Now, if you look at games like ‘Fortnite’ and ‘Call of Duty,’ you see realistic-looking weapons with all kinds of grips. The same goes for games in futuristic settings or on a whole different world. A lot of thought goes into the weapon design of these current games. You can see it on the inventory screens – they have distinct styles and even colors. It’s a way to bring the players into the game world … while they try to blast others out of it.

Material Processing Details

There’s another part of gaming that people like. If they have to build something, they like to see the process of its creation. In the Ultima games, it was something as simple as baking bread. This is just an element that video game graphic designers add to add immersion. It has to look like real glass to sand crushers. Otherwise, it’s easy to pop back into the real world when you don’t want to. While this sort of thing might be seen more in things like role-playing games, can see it in everything from first-person-shooters to real-time-strategy games. It’s just a nice little touch that makes the game fun.

In the past, your character would put something in a box, and then it would magically change into something else. Now the graphics enable them to do things like show the creation of the object. This adds more of a real-world feel to the game. Of course, you want your character to do it at a time when it’s safe, not when killer robots are on their tail. Then the chances of them being able to use it are very slim to none.

Unique Machinery

There’s just something very fun about going into a world with a lot of heavy equipment. The video game graphic designers and the concept artists really collaborate well on things like this. They can take what the artist came up with in their imagination and port it to the game world. Both of them have a lot of fun with the machinery, The machines have a lot of intricate wiring and lights and designs. As a player, you’re walking around machinery that can seem like the realm of science fiction. The machinery just lends a whole new atmosphere and feeling to the game world around you as you walk around. Add plenty of beeps and other machine-like sounds, and you’re in another world.

The machinery can even be built into the rest of the environment. Players can contend with moving walkways or other dangers while trying to avoid being shot at by homicidal aliens or robots. It allows the player to feel like they are in a whole new world, or part of a future where technology has run amok. This is something that the science fiction writers of the 1940s or 50s would marvel at watching today. Then again, they might see it as being a cautionary tale.

Mini Games Based on Real World Tasks

While it can be compelling to be doing things like going on quests to kill dragons or finding villagers that were kidnapped by evil bandits, there is something to be said for doing everyday tasks too as a break. You can do something like a mini-game that includes knife sharpening. Your character can get bonus skills that can help you later on.

While the game coders are the ones who have to implement this, video game graphic designers are the ones who have to make it look both fun and real. It shouldn’t be something that is tedious or boring. If it gets too hard, then the player is likely to just give up and not advance anymore. There are a lot of these types of things in the game — the ‘Super Mario’ franchise is one of those that love to use them. It’s a nice way to take a break from stomping on turtles (that sounds meaner than it really should).

video game graphic designers

Custom Clothing Options

Whatever the genre of game, one of the best parts is the character creation screen. Some people can spend a good amount of time just crafting their character’s look. You can choose from all kinds of skin tones, hair color, eye color, facial hair, and different clothing types. If you like, you can be as fancy or as plain as you’d like to be. You can also look completely different from how you look in real life. Then again, there aren’t too many orcs roaming around New York City.

In fact, if the game calls for it, you can even get custom tailored hats. While there may be some crossover in vastly populated multiplayer games, you can still stand out from others as a whole. As the technology continues to get better and better, video game graphic designers have been able to make the choices be almost limitless. This is also because of larger storage space, so the game designers can have it be multiple gigabytes in size. In the past, the variety was limited due to the type of graphics. Now you can have clothes that have realistic folds in their fabric. You’d love to have some of these in your actual wardrobe.

Realistic Hairstyle Changes

When it came to hair in video games, most of the time, it looked like characters were wearing obvious wigs. Part of this was due to the limitations of how things were rendered. That’s not the case anymore. Video game graphic designers have made it so that you can almost see each individual strand of hair. If you change the hairstyle in-game, it looks natural. There’s no longer a break of immersion.

The hair sits on your character’s head like it would on a real person. It moves around naturally. You can have different hair colors. The best thing about that? Not having to pay a stylist hundreds of dollars to get that hair color. This is another great way to individualize your in-game avatar.

Realistic Textures

This is another area of gameplay where video game graphic designers have seen an evolution throughout the decades. When it came to architecture and texture on the Atari 2600, there were none. The 8-bit era added some things like bricks, but it was still clearly 2-D. Even a game like the original ‘Quake,’ which was a huge step forward (not just because Trent Reznor of Nine-Inch Nails did the soundtrack and in-game sounds) in terms of textures looks positively dated now.’

Now, you can almost feel the textures of things yourself as your character walks through a world. When Miles Morales walks through New York, you can almost feel the stamped concrete underneath your own feet. The graphics are that good. The same goes for other locales. You can feel like you’re walking in a desert or on an alien planet.

Visual Cues To Drive the Story Forward

While it can be fun to walk around and explore things, especially in open-world games like ‘Morrowind,’ ‘Oblivion,’ or ‘Skyrim,’ there are times when you want something that can drive the story forward. They can be anything like a quest signal that appears over a certain NPC’s head, something that the ‘Diablo’ series likes to use or even certain truck wraps in driving games. While video game graphic designers might want to give you freedom, there are other times when you just want to have your hand held and guided to where you need to go

There might be some people who grumble about this. That’s their problem, not yours. Playing video games is a uniquely individual thing, and if you want to play a first-person shooter with the aimer off, good for you. Don’t you dare criticize someone else for actually using it.

This is one area that everyone involved in video games, from the writers who craft the plot to those who do the graphics to the ones who code the actual game, all face. No matter how much they work to make the game compelling for everyone, they aren’t going to be able to please everyone.

The problem is, that a really loud minority of these toxic fans can make it a lot less fun for the others. This isn’t something that only happens to video games. It can happen in other areas, like movies. Just ask people who watch ‘Star Wars’ about that. The so-called gatekeepers drive away potential fans with their behavior, whether online or in person.

Still, video game graphic designers, along with people in creative industries, keep on doing it. Mainly because they love doing it, but also because it feels like they have to. That’s because they will always have things to create to immerse the players in their games.

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