Why video games are made of tiny triangles

Why video games are made of tiny triangles


This is me in Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s an action-adventure game with over
60 hours of stunning gameplay. I’m about to brush this horse, and you’re
going to see the dust fly off. Games today are meticulously detailed. They’re mysterious and heartwarming, and
colorful and stylized. And inside every one of these games — Fortnite,
PUBG, Rocket League — you’ll find… these. Put thousands, sometimes millions, of these tiny
triangles together and you can make a person…
or a car… or an entire world. But you never see them. So… why triangles? Take another look at this game. Technically, what you’re seeing is all squares. Your screen is divided into pixels, and each
pixel can display exactly one color. That’s been true since the earliest video
games. Like Pong. “It was just squares, right, so it was just like a pile
of squares to make two paddles and one square that was the ball. And the fact that I could move something and it moved, was like super beautiful.” That’s Brett Bibby. He grew up playing Pong — and now he leads
the engineering team at Unity, one of the top game engines in the world. A game engine basically gives you the tools
you need to build elaborate environments. “Let’s imagine you wanted to make a wild
west game and you wanted to ride into town and have a shoot-out. So you might start off just creating some boxes,
to represent the saloon, the bank and other things. The main road. And it would just be all white. You would just try to get a sense of size
and scale.” “Kind of like Legos, right. Just trying to get a sense of the space. And so I’m iterating and developing it slowly.” And when you’re done, the detailed game that you
made needs to show up as pixels on a players’ screen. That process is rendering. And the player’s computer is going to have
to do a ton of math to follow through. In the last 20 years, the amount we can show
on screen per second has gone up — way, way up. This is a standard measure of computing power. It tells you the number of calculations the
machine can perform per second. … in billions. You’d think that a more powerful computer
would make it easier to render games. And it does. Except that gamemakers keep competing to add
more and more detail, pushing the limits of what even the newest technology can do. So the game engine’s job is partly to keep
the number of computations needed for each detail as low as possible, so that gamemakers can
fit more in. Which brings us back to these guys. Triangles are used almost exclusively in rendering
for video games. They’re a way for a game engine to batch
pixels, allowing the player’s computer to process more detail. From the computer’s point of view, everything
in your game really looks like… This. The game engine creates sets of instructions
that the computer translates into pixels on your screen. This “V” means these are coordinates for
vertices — the corners of some kind of shape. Imagine playing connect the dots. You’d use straight lines, right? Especially if you didn’t know what shape
you’re making yet. The player’s computer is playing three dimensional
connect the dots, sometimes thousands of times every second. For them, the equivalent of straight lines
is flat surfaces. Flat surfaces are the easiest to render because
they don’t require a computer to do any additional math to figure out curves or dents. So the game engine needs to convert curved
surfaces into flat ones for the player’s computer to process. And it turns out, the best way to do that
is through triangles. Try picking out three dots in the air in front
of you. No matter where you choose to put them, they’ll
always be on the same plane. York: “The surface of the triangle is always
flat.” And no other shape with vertices is like that. York: “If you have four points, then those
four points could actually describe a very complex object —” “Four points can describe a pyramid for
example.” “That results in a more mathematically complex,
higher processing power ask just to figure out the pixels on the surface.” So triangles it is. Triangles and the ongoing improvements in
game technology make it easier for creators to develop the beautiful games that exist today. “So in the old days it was like, well this
is what I can do: I can have a fixed screen with 8 things moving on it.” “I think nowadays, pretty much whatever you want to create, you could find a way to create.” If you’d like to learn more about how to make videogames, you should click the link and head on over to Skillshare. Their massive library of over 20,000 classes on design, business, and technology, also includes a bunch on how to make videogames. Including my favorite, which is all about how to make that classic snake game. They have a premium membership too, which can offer unlimited classes on how to improve your gamemaking skills. Or whatever else you’re excited about. And because you’re a Vox fan, they’ll give you two months of Skillshare for free. To sign up, just click the link in the description and the first 500 of you will get two months of unlimited classes, no charge. Skillshare doesn’t directly impact our editorial at all. But their support helps make videos like this one possible. So go check them out.

100 Comments on "Why video games are made of tiny triangles"


  1. Thanks for watching everyone! I want to share my new favorite place on YouTube: the Vox Video Lab, our new home for exclusive creator commentary, bonus clips, and more. If you become a member, you'll be helping us make more of the videos you love. And I'll be doing something for the Video Lab soon too! I hope you check it out: http://www.vox.com/join

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  2. hey guys, kove your channel, but i just wantes to correct you giys on something. The first game was Table tennis, not pong. It took the creator of table tennis 6 years to make his game, and then Atari ripped it off in around one year.

    Reply

  3. TL;DR Any geometry that isn't curved can be seen as triangles, every curved geometry can be approximated as non curved geometry => triangles are god.

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  4. they basically make it less like minecraft because they can bend from the middle while a square cant

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  5. "Put these polygons together and you get a person, car, or entire world. Why don't you ever see them?" We do though. Bruh.

    Reply

  6. Explain Minecraft then god damnit

    Edit: 11 seconds after posting this I realize triangles can make squares

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  7. I can't wait for you humans to figure out raster based 3d rendering as opposed to this vector method

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  8. They’re tris combined with “faces”. If you look very closely on maybe on the edge of a cylinder or sharp shape, you can see the sharp faces

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  9. Someday we'll be able to have characters and objects that on their own hit millions of polygons in real-time as well as higher quality textures and Ray traced lighting. That will bring game graphics to the quality of rendering that we see in modern day CGI.

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  10. welp tbh its not JUST videogames but all cgi and 3D models are made out of polygons since the triangle is the most versitile shape

    please dont r/whoosh me lads yall know better

    Reply

  11. Took these vastly overpaid dum-dums five minutes to say essentially its easier to render curved 3D surfaces with triangles than any other 2D shape.

    And they got a woman with an incredibly annoying lisp (aka the skinny white thot accent) to earrape it into our skulls.

    SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!! Every 1.3 seconds.

    That horrible lisp is still stuck deep into my brain and I wanna hit something. It's like some a$#hole flicked my ear and ran away before I could yeet him into the f$#king shadow realm.

    Reply

  12. Actually, there made out of quads mostly. Quads are subdivideable and easy to work woth the render of your game or scene triangulates your meshes.

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  13. If you have to talk about anything of a video game. You may as well started the console war.

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  14. the process of turning those tiny triangles into pixels would be more accurately described as rasterization.

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  15. Ironically I'm learning about OpenGL right now and I just got into loading models that look exactly like the ones on screen.

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  16. Don't know but aren't quads better for subdivision purposes so you won't deal with unwanted singular bumps seen in triangular polygons? 🤔

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  17. How are there 0 gflops in 2004? In that time i think graphic cards had like few hundred like 300-500 gflops? Dont remember exactly

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  18. Then why the heck was i taught to use square polygons instead of triangles in my game art and design course

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  19. This is what happens when someone who knows nothing about computer graphics tries to explain computer graphics. They should have just let the unity guy lecture for 5 minutes.

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  20. It's called polygons for God sake! O my God! Mass degradation everywhere! Those triangles are result of a construction with polygons. God!

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  21. Compare a 2000 and 2008 game, and 2010 and 2018. Visually the improvement have slowed down a bit in later years because of moores law, its getting harder and harder to fit more transistors on a chip

    Reply

  22. Hey ,favor could you guys explain the NO BAIL SWEDEN SITUATION ? would help us ASAP.

    Reply

  23. I'm surprised to see that there aren't much gamers trying to nit pick one or two stuff in this video and making a big deal out of it.

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  24. Don't you hate it when your making Quake, but then then you accidentally make the basis of almost every modern 3D rendering software today.

    Reply

  25. I took a shroom trip before knowing the concept of triangles being what creates video games and throughout the experience everyone I was looking at looked like 2 dimensional triangles and 3 dimensional triangles. Not saying we are in a simulation or anything but it could be possible…

    Reply

  26. Me: sees title and thumbnail
    Me: but the thumbnail is from a short film (I wish it was a game, but as far as I know it’s just a video)

    Reply

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