The environment in video games have the important task to help progression in the game, it is the environment that the character will wonder across to meet every objective and so it’s the environment that is in charge to help the player believe in to reinforce the story and make a convincing setting.
The environment in games has always been a major component, especially when it comes to the art aspects of the game as this is supposed to enhance the game experience and convince the player. However this wasn’t always such a major contributor as the early video games the environment was almost like a vessel for the game play and it still is but the level of technology has increased.
Pacman was such a basic game in the sense that your objective was very simple and the game play was just as simple. The main objective is to collect the yellow dots (grains) and evade the coloured ghosts that try to eat you and while you collect these dots you can get a bigger dot which gives u the power to eat the ghosts for a limited amount of time while collecting fruits to get additional points. If we were to visualise Pacman in 3d the game will just consists of corridors after corridors full of grains. The modern video game still has the same principle as you still essentially navigate though corridors except now the walls are looking much prettier with incredible FX and other visually pleasing “stuff” to help you believe the illusion.
The environment in modern games has improved drastically since pacman as they its becoming much more of a focal point for some titles where they show off these highly realistic and interactive environments but most of the times the games still adapt the narrow corridors but now they are cleverly disguised to give the illusion that the character has more paces to but in reality there really is only one way.
Uncharted is a good example for good art direction as this game is of course very linear and adapt the same corridor game play style but it does and excellent job in setting the scene as they constantly referenced Mayan/Aztec/Tibetan civilisations to make believe on this location and they constantly included paintings and treasures that you can pick up.
This next game is not a visually astounding as uncharted but a game developed to push visual quality and gameplay.
“In Crysis 1, global tensions have reached boiling point as the
U.S. and North Korea square off in the South China Sea. At stake: a mysterious artifact uncovered by a team of archeologists. The North Korean government quickly seizes the area, prompting the U.S. to dispatch an elite team of Special Forces operatives on a rescue mission. The battle to save Earth begins as the aliens' flash freeze the tropics into a ghostly-white frozen landscape. As gamers take up arms against the aliens, they will be outfitted with customizable weapons and a high-tech Nanosuit, allowing them to adapt their tactics and abilities to a hostile, ever-changing environment and a mysterious enemy. U.S.
With the sandbox-style gameplay in Crysis, players can choose their own path through the open world of the game, destroying obstacles, driving vehicles from Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft to boats and using the environment itself against the enemies.”
This game presented one of the most realistic environments I have even seen in a game environment and this was no average corridor game it was a full sandbox game and with completely destructible environments and and vehicles to get around it was a fun game to play ….if my computer can run it that is.
The idea of creating nice detailed visuals for a for an area which the player will run past in a few seconds seems like a waste of time but today environment assets are becoming more and more modular to to help them pull of detail environments without having to remake everything. The game engine technology is also allowing artists to get finished results much quicker than ever before.