If you read a gaming forum daily you certainly have already seen the word Render when a very or almost too beautiful image of a game was published. In this article I'll try to explain what a render is, how to create one and will make a comparison between renders and ingame images of 4 games (PGR2, DOAX, MM3)
What's a render ?
A render is a high
resolution image created so you have a better idea of how the game will
on your TV. This image is not directly captured from the game but
Renders at first were given to the press so they had very high
resolution images to illustrate the games previews and reviews. A half
page images requires at least a resolution of 1920x1440 to look good !
But since everyone started using the internet renders are also used to
give the best impression of a game, while hiding the most embarrassing
problems like aliasing or texture resolution.
It's also important to separate concept shots done very early in the
developpement of the game and renders, like we will see later.
How is generated a render ?
There are generally two ways to generate a render :
- Using the Xbox and the game engine : The game engine uses a
special mode without any display on TV and internally generates a very
high resolution image and puts it on a PC once done (PGR2). It's the
most common method, but it requires to put the game in a special stand
alone mode since you can't play. Team Ninja seems to use a variation of
that mode, they play the game normally and when they want they generate
the very high resolution image. The main point of the method is that
the 3d models / textures and game engine are used so there is no real
cheating, except that there is no mipmapping (the texture resolution
stays high even for far away models) and no aliasing.
- Using a PC (workstation method) :
This method is mostly used for a game being developped for multiple
platforms, where the developpers mostly use the PC for all testing and
just validate everything on each console from time to time. This allows
to play the game at very high resolution directly with a normal high
performance PC, and use true screen captures as renders. This method
allows the developper to truly cheat us by using more detailed models
and textures. This method is also used for early concept shots of games.
How do I identify a render ?
It's usually very easy to identify a render. If the resolution
is higher than 480 vertically you can be 99% sure it's a render (with
the 720p exception). If there is absolutely no aliasing then it's also
a render. The Xbox can "only" use a 4x antialiasing that won't hide all
jaggies on almost horizontal or vertical lines.
Comparisons between renders and final
Here is how I did the comparison :
- Search for a render with an interesting setting and rather
simple to reproduce myself.
- Resize the image to 640x480 is needed
- Capture of the image from the framebuffer of the Xbox (internal
- Capture of the image from my TV card
Most of the hype of PGR2 was because the
renders we all saw were incredibly beautiful and detailed. A lot of
people thought it would not be possible to have this on a simple Xbox.
Here is the proof Bizarre did not lie to us. Except for a very slight
aliasing the game looks exactly the same as the render !
Dead or Alive Xtreme
DOAX is a bit more of a problem. There
is a big difference between the render and the framebuffer capture. The
game uses no antialiasing and the water does not look as good.
Midtown Madness 3
Midtown Madness 3 is the worst of the
lot. The first image is a concept shot of the game. As you can see it's
very different from even the first render. Comparing the render and the
ingame framebuffer capture also leads to quite a few difference,
aliasing, textures and lighting all look worse in game.
Renders are now part of almost all games advertising. So it's getting
more and more important not to believe everything we get to see. After
seeing a screen of a game try identifiying a render and then think if
what you have is too good to be true or may be done on the Xbox with
some slights alterations. You may be surprised !