Computer Games and Graphics: Raster vs. Vector Graphics
Computer Games and Graphics: Raster vs - Computer Games and Graphics: Raster vs. Vector Graphics introduction. Vector Graphics
While it is considered to be an example of computer graphic applications, graphical user interfaces (GUI) no more play any important role in computer graphics (Klawonn, 1). New tools are increasingly being developed to fill the void between the existing technology and the increasing human needs and preferences. Tools such as the application programming interfaces (APIs) and common programming tools have improved the way graphics are generated and represented particularly in computer games (Klawonn, 1). The modern GUI purpose is to construct human-computer interface that is user-friendly. The most commonly used computer graphics are the raster and vector graphics. Because of the popularity of Windows platform in the past, vector graphics attracted a wider application in computer games (Chastain). However, with other platforms increasingly becoming more adopted, raster graphics are today widely used in computer games and a number of software have been developed to convert vector graphics to raster graphics.
Raster graphics refer to bitmap images made up of minute dots known as pixels. The pixels have individual colors and shades which make up the images visible on the screens of computers. The most common modern monitors display about 70-100 pixels or dots per inch (dpi) and the specific dpi depends on the type of monitor and the settings of the screen (Klawonn, 8). Bitmap images or raster graphics unlike vector graphics are resolution dependent. This means that raster graphics depend on the number of dots per inch (dpi) or pixels per inch (ppi) and it’s often difficult to reduce or increase the image size without affecting the integrity or the image quality. Image quality is always sacrificed while resizing in a process known as interpolation. In interpolation, new pixels are formed while increasing the size and some pixels are thrown while reducing the image size. This always causes jagged images (Klawonn, 9).
Vector graphics techniques describe images in terms of geometric lines and shapes by using their mathematical relationships and not pixels. This makes them to be scalable and resolution independent and can be used to produce sharp and crisp high quality images in both prints and computer displays even with resizing. Vector images are easily modified as the components can be resized, moved, deleted or rotated independently without any loss in image quality in the process of scaling up (Chastain). Vector images may consist of curves, shapes and curves with fully editable attributes like fill, outline and color. One major setback of vector graphics is that they are unsuitable for the production of real-photo images with continuous subtle tone. For this reason, vector drawings have cartoon-like appearances. These images may only be converted into bitmap formats such as Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) or Portable Network Graphics (PNG) in a process known as rasterizing for enhanced resolution of choice (Chastain).
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While the reducing and increasing of the size of images is a common practice in computer games which might interfere with image quality, the infallible raster graphics are mostly used in displaying images on monitors because of their resolutions. This is because raster graphics that employ pixels display of images with subtle shading and rich colors such as in computer games. Vector graphics are only suited for applications such as page layouts, line illustrations or arts and types. To counter the problem of jagged images in raster graphics, anti-liasing tools have been used to scale up raster images while maintaining the integrity of images. Macromedia Freehand, Adobe Illustrator and DeBabelizer are among the applications widely used in scaling up raster images while maintaining the smooth edges (Chastain). With these techniques, raster graphics still remain the most used in displaying images in computer games.
Vector graphics have been used time in history with the invention of the first computer games such as the SPACEWAR that was used on the PDP-1 back in 1962 (Raymond). Since the invention of the game by Steve Russel many changes have been done in the way graphics are presented on computer monitors (Raymond). The limitations of vector graphics have made modern computer games to rely on raster based graphics. However, with the increasing computing power, the application of vector graphics that will integrate bitmap capability seems a possibility in the future. In general, most of the output devices such as printers and monitors are pixel-oriented (Klawonn, 7) and therefore raster graphics becomes the most suitable method for displaying images in computer games using monitors. The formats used in vector graphics such as Windows metafile (WMF) can only be used in Windows platform hence posing another disadvantage for them to be used in computer games.
Chastain, Sue. Vector and bitmap images: two types of 2D graphics. About.com 2010. Web: July 13, 2010 from <http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/aboutgraphics/a/bitmapvector.htm>
Klawonn, Frank. Introduction to computer graphics: using Java 2D and 3D. London: Springer-Verlag London Limited, 2008
Raymond, Eric. Vector graphics, video games and NSL/augment. 2004. Web: July 13, 2010 from <http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/taouu/html/ch02s04.html>