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We all know about some of the main pieces of technology that allow us to enjoy many of our favourite video games. After all, we can’t ignore the giant flat-screen TV, console, and wireless controller that we play on; nor can we avoid the smartphone that lets us play games on the go.
However, there are many technologies that sit behind the scenes, allowing us to have fun without ever taking any of the glory. In many cases, this hidden tech is just as or even more important than the star players that hog all of the limelight.
Let’s take a look at some of these tools and technologies so we can all appreciate them a little more.
Random Number Generators
Casino games are incredibly popular, as they have been for much of the last several centuries. Wagering on games actually dates back even further with evidence that the Ancient Romans and Ancient Greeks also enjoyed having a flutter every now and then.
While the casino games that humans have played have evolved over the years, the basic principles behind them have remained the same. Essentially, all of these pastimes have been kept fair with the physical cards, dice, and wheels that they are based on. For example, when a dealer spins a roulette wheel and then sets the ball spinning in the opposite direction, there is no way to know which pocket it will come to rest in.
However, this doesn’t work in online casino games as a computer needs to select a pocket and computers are terrible at creating randomness. That’s where random number generators come in, they provide a truly random input, usually from an external source, that can be fed into the casino’s software.
For the players, they won’t ever notice the difference. While most gaming sites offer many variants of roulette, almost all of them use a random number generator to determine winning numbers fairly. The only exceptions to this are live dealer versions that use physical wheels, just like those in land-based.
The random number generators get their truly random data from a variety of sources, such as atmospheric static left over from the big bang, walls of lava lamps, and even photon guns. The exact source isn’t overly important, all that matters is that it can’t be predicted by someone reverse-engineering the software.
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In years gone by, video games could only be made with a fixed map that remained (more or less) the same throughout its entire life. This meant that a title would get old and tired pretty quickly as it couldn’t provide anything new and exciting to players.
That’s where procedural generation comes in. It’s a technology that allows games to create landscapes on the fly, using a series of algorithms to make them feel unique while using a finite number of textures.
The technology has actually been around for a few decades but didn’t become commonplace until the 2010s when processing power made it more feasible. Examples of these procedurally generated landscapes can be found in games like Minecraft, Stardew Valley, and World of Warcraft.
Even in games where the map isn’t created on the fly using this technology, developers still take advantage of the technique to help them speed up the process of creating certain elements, rather than having to do everything by hand.
Of all three of these technologies, ray tracing may be the one you’re most familiar with as it enjoyed a degree of press coverage in 2020 in the run-up to the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S as these consoles feature it in their graphics processors.
However, it has since been largely forgotten about by players as they go back to enjoying the content without caring too much about how it’s created.
Ray tracing is actually not a new concept. It’s been around since the 16th century and has been used in movies for some time. However, it’s only been in the last few years that it has been possible to perform the necessary calculations in real-time.
The technology makes graphics look more realistic by creating more natural lighting elements that involve tracing the path of individual rays as they bounce off objects. When done well, it can be easy to confuse these computer graphics with photographs.
Although it’s early days, ray tracing will soon be finding its way into mobile gaming, though supported devices will be limited for several years yet. By which point, it’ll be another of the everyday gaming technologies almost no one knows about.