Maths is the foundation of video game design and mechanics. Much like the real world, video games are virtual realms functioning on mathematical rules. Characters, objects and environments and how they look, operate and interact with their surroundings are programmed into video games by developers using several mathematical subsets.
Maths branches commonly used in video game development include algebra, trigonometry, calculus, linear algebra, discrete mathematics and applied mathematics. Matrices, delta time, unit and scaling vectors, dot and cross products and scalar manipulation are also heavily integrated.
Two particularly prominent branches of maths used in video game development are geometry and physics.
Developers primarily use geometry to create graphics in video games. Simply put, geometry is a branch of maths concerned with the properties of two or three-dimensional spaces like their size, shape and position.
In the form of decorated polygons, geometry makes up nearly every visual aspect of a video game’s virtual world, from character and item models to whole environments and their many components and details.
Polygons are spaces defined by at least three lines connected via a series of coordinates to render three-dimensional wireframe models and thus compose video game graphics. Video game artists can take days to create an object with tens of thousands of polygons, as more polygons equate to more graphical detail.
Making all the right moves
Developers primarily use physics to create motions in video games. Physics is a branch of science that relies heavily on mathematical calculations, concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy.
In video games, physics is used to determine how characters make movements like running, jumping, climbing and swimming. It further dictates how they interact with their surroundings, such as bouncing a ball or falling from a high place.
Physics dictates the actions of weapons and vehicles, like how guns and bows shoot and the momentum and aerodynamics behind how vehicles like cars, boats and planes propel.
Essentially, physics is behind the gravitational forces in a video game’s world, like how objects collide and/or rebound with one another, how water flows and things float or sink in it, and how surroundings respond to explosions.
Developers strive to reflect real-life physics laws in most video games but will sometimes exaggerate or distort them in the name of experimentation and fantasy.
Video game development is a profession which requires at least a basic, high school level of mathematical knowledge to have a strong sense of programming. Some more complex mathematical equations are involved in coding processes, but computers can help to solve them.
One doesn’t need the maths genius of Pythagoras or Albert Einstein to develop video games but fundamental, and some advanced maths knowledge is advised for understanding and appreciating the mathematical input in video game functions.
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