Game Graphics: Rasterization

Last time, I talked about racing the beam, a type of graphics used when memory was scarce. Now it’s time to step into the future with more memory and talk about what modern 2D games still do to this day: rasterization.

Just in time Memory

Continuing the trend set by racing the beam, rasterized graphics are also on a grid, just a much tinier one. Though not unique to rasterized, the “frame buffer” is the logical conclusion of bitmap mode fidelity: enough memory is allocated so that every pixel can have its own color. What’s different about a frame buffer is that everything is drawn before it is shown and, crucially, this doesn’t have to happen in the same order as the pixels are displayed. Rasterization draws entire shapes — triangles, lines and rectangles — into the frame buffer and the screen is typically updated all at once. Continue reading “Game Graphics: Rasterization”

Game Graphics: Racing The Beam

Have you ever wondered how the graphics in your favorite video games worked? This is the start of a series on game graphics, and what better place to start than how exactly the original Mario Bros. got those glorious pixely pixels onto the screen. Buckle in, because we’re “racing the beam” with systems like the NES, Commodore 64, and many other classics from the 1980s.

And to understand the 1980’s, it’s important to understand how the televisions of the time worked. Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) televisions work by precisely bombarding a phosphor layer with electrons, which excites the phosphor, which then releases visible light. The beam scans from left to right then top to bottom, giving each pixel a small fraction of a second of time. All of this effectively means that pixel data needs be sent at the same time as when the pixels are being lit up, which is why this type of graphics is often dubbed “racing the beam”.

Continue reading “Game Graphics: Racing The Beam”