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Hardware Review==

Graphics Cards and Game Engines

Computer hardware are the components which internally make up the physical computer. Hardware is installed within the computer which generally makes up the PC and each device helps operate the computer in different ways. Essentially, the key components of a computer are the monitor, keyboard, mouse and the tower. The tower operates the whole computer, within it. It contains the power supply which would usually have a fan or coolant system attachment, hard disk drive and optic disc drive. All other major components are connected to the computer’s motherboard such as the CPU the RAM and the Expansion Cards.

Upon expansion cards, there are graphics cards, also known as video cards. The graphics card can be integrated into the motherboard of the computer or into the CPU (Central Processing Unit).



Graphics cards work in a very complex manor, however what they do can be simplified for easier understanding. A Video card will transfer all binary date into a picture, binary data being the code (which is generally perceived as 0s and 1s). The graphics card receives information from the CPU which would be in the form of binary data, and translates an image out of it, which is displayed with the pixels of a computer’s screen.



Graphics cards are a major computer component needed for video games. Key features of graphics cards are how they handle specifications such as resolution, memory size and frame rates for overall graphics card performance. Graphics cards account for a lot of the visual technicalities of the computer’s image.

The image displayed is made of thousands of pixels upon the screen. As the years have passed, the images displayed have become much more advanced, being capable of displaying millions of colours, and at high-end capabilities, being able to display a resolution of 2040 x 1536 pixels.

Graphics cards are constantly evolving in our modern generation, so fast as to have a new graphics card released by each major competitive company within less than 6 month periods. Hand in hand with graphics cards, is the ever evolving computer video gaming engines. Gaming engines are platforms for displaying sound, animation, scripting, artificial intelligences, scene graphing, networking and non-scripted interactions.

For optimal running efficiency of a game engine, the computer hardware (system specifications) must be of an equal or higher performance. This allows the imaging to be displayed as it should on the monitor, and run with efficient frames per second.

Currently, the most high-end graphics cards for 2012 are AMD Radeon HD series, Nvidia GeForce GTX series and ATI Radeon HD series.

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ATI Radeon HD 6990. An example of a more advanced modern Graphics Card.



In the year of 2005, late October, video gaming developer Valve Software released a small, additional level to the critically acclaimed video game Half Life 2 known as Half Life 2: Lost Coast. The reason for the small 30 minutes of additional gameplay was to test run a new and improved gaming engine for the Valve audience of gamers.

The valve Source Engine is a high dynamic range rendering video game engine, extremely advanced for its time as it consumed almost full memory of graphics cards capabilities at maximum capacity.

The upgraded Source engine demonstrated new features of video gaming graphics, exploited by the modern graphics card.



A new graphics feature was added in called High Dynamic Range (HDR) which was implemented into the Source engine. It was an attempt to improve multisample anti-aliasing to improve image graphics, and improve pixel shaders, computing each pixels colour to form complex effects and colour blooming.

Because the new HDR feature was so advanced, the program only initially worked on Nvidia graphics cards, and not on ATI graphics cards. Finally, with appropriate adjustment, the high end graphics were finally compatible with modern graphics cards. Exposure control was introduced into the game which allowed the game to represent how the human eye works when exposed to light after being in a dark, unlit area.

In the image below is an example of a 3D landscape environment used in the upcoming game, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. It shows 3D modelling after 2D sketching is done within the gaming studio of Frogware to develop the environment of their game using the gaming engine, Motion Capture, and then a finished environment displayed with several distinct features such as shadowing, lighting bloom and high resolution pixels usage.

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Superiorly advanced graphics displayed in Half Life 2: The Lost Coast special episode from Valve. (Hail Gaben)

Graphics cards are always an important part of computer purchasing, especially as they control a very important part of the computer’s systems and visualization of processed images. They are constantly maturing every month to cater for the needs of developing gaming engines.


ADMIN ~ JACK K SPIDEY

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