Let's take a look at the evolution of video game graphics over the past 20 years
Even I am no hardcore gamer I still like to play a video game once in a while. This hobby is what brought me into CGI/VFX in the first place. When I bought an Asus motherboard lately, I got Doom 4 for free. I know the Quake series from Quake 1, played the original Doom and Doom 3 (though not excessive) so I decided to give this game a try. Not that I bought the board for the game, in fact, when I wouldn't have got the game for 'free' I even wouldn't think about buying it. Not because I expect a bad game or something, the plain fact that I didn't play a competitive shooter for years is the reason and that I lost my interest in that kind of games over the time.
Nonetheless when the game arrived I was excited and I started the steam download immediately. As this isn't a game review, I'll get straight to the point this article is about: The first thing that catched my attention was the graphics! Not that it is something that I haven't seen before, in fact there are many games with visuals that can compete, but looking back at games like the mentioned Quake 1 this really is a lot of progress. And this is just 20 years of time. Quake 1 was released in 1996 and the difference is just astonishing. With this in mind and looking back on quite a 'gaming career' I decided to search the basement for CD's and DVD's and write an article about the evolution of video game graphics.
I found some real treasures, although I hoped to find some of my other classics, but they seem to be really well hidden... However, I found enough to write about and to have a good comparison. Important to mention is, that I only took first-person-shooters as this will guarantee the best comparison of development. Looking at, for example, an open world game and compare it to a first-person-shooter is not going to work well. There is much more to render at the same time and an open world needs more resources than a closed level. On the other hand you can place much more details into small levels, that's why a first-person-shooter from the same generation will usually look much better than an open world game. To get a good overview over the evolution of video game graphics we will be looking at the following games:
Quake - released in 1996
Unreal Tournament - released in 1999
Battlefield 1942 - released in 2002
Medal of Honor Pacific Assault - released in 2004
Crysis 1 - released in 2007
Bioshock - released in 2007
Battlefield 3 - released in 2011
Bioshock Infinite - released in 2013
Doom 4 - released in 2016
Unreal Tournament 4 - pre-alpha in 2016