Read Up on the History of 3D Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

TechRadar has written an article on the evolution of 3D games from 1980's Battlezone to upcoming games that you see in 3D with glasses on new televisions. The piece covers quite a bit of territory and acknowledges the early Wing Commander's scaled sprites as a noteworthy milestone. Origin's Ultima Underworld is also credited for its part. You can find the article here. It's a good companion to the gaming graphics writeup that they published last year.
For much of 3D's history, the trick has been getting the effect of the third dimension without having to do it for real. The early Wing Commander games gave the illusion that you were flying through 3D space, but really they were just scaling sprites up and down.

Ultima Underworld could afford to push these limits because as a role-playing game, it was inherently slower than a shooter, and the audience was more willing to accept the necessary limitations, like the small viewing window. It didn't hurt that while publisher Origin's official motto was 'We Create Worlds', its unofficial credo was 'Your PC Will Cry'. It never did worry about system requirements...


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