Why Video Games Are Made Of Tiny Triangles?

Triangles are called polygons. They are an easy and efficient way to render 3d graphics. You are able to create one surface using only three points. When you combine a lot of these surfaces 3d shapes begin to form. Early video games used few polys typically in the hundreds to render a character. Video games now can use several hundred thousand polygons. These triangles are then endured onto the pixels on your screen. In this article, I will show you why tiny triangles are used to make video game graphics?

Why are triangles used to make 3D objects?

A triangle is a very simple 2D object, so most graphics systems are optimized to render surfaces that have been made up of triangles. Unless you have a curved surface, triangles are completely sufficient. Any polygon can be drawn as a combination of triangles (e.g., imagine any quadrilateral. Then draw a line from any vertex to its opposite vertex, and viola! — you have two triangles that represent the same shape). The math involved to project a triangle from a 3D world to a 2D viewing screen is straightforward and can be heavily optimized.

As explained above, triangles are simple, and can easily be projected into 2D planes, a necessary step for videogames to show on your screen. If you are wondering why we are not using squares or other shapes, look at the image at the beginning of the article.

Notice how triangles can easily scale up, down, fold, and join edges with other triangles? Now, try doing that with any other shapes to create something like this. If you use squares, unless you are making a perfect cube, there will be blank spaces. And what shape fits into those blank spaces? How about after seeing this:

rectangle model shown to illustrate 3D model made by square polygons

Yeah! Triangles would fit those blank spaces. It’s important to remember that squares are the simplest polygon with 4 vertices. There are infinite others. We can even state it as a Triangles Game Engine.

Let’s do a little experiment:

Make a square with your hands. Kind of like thi

virtual square made by hand to illustrate

Imagine the lines connecting your index fingers and thumbs. You’ll notice it’s not a perfect square, but that’s ok. Now, twist your hands a little bit.
Can you imagine a single face connecting all four fingers?

That’s a curved surface. Those are hard to do. Curved vectors are hard to render and take a lot of processing power. Even an approximation using triangles, as weird as it is, is MUCH more efficient than rendering that!

rectangular modeling shape and triangular modeling shape

So why not simplify and use triangles for everything and make our lives easier by standardizing the rules for rendering stuff? Also, it’s imperceptible to the EYE! Naked gamer eye!

One final thing, in case you still haven’t noticed. What is a square if not two triangles joined at the edges? If you need more shapes, just add more triangles! Similarly, You can make more shapes just by adding triangles.

There is an incredible video made by Vox on this topic.

Nixan Gauli

Hey Folks! Nixan is a tech enthusiast from Nepal who has been in the tech field for a long time. I am into smartphones and different IoT devices which drives me crazy as a geeky person. I was working with TechSathi as a blogger/author for 1 year. Another fact about me is I am a Casual Gamer and a live streamer on YouTube (Nixan).

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