Online games generally use a combination of graphics techniques and technologies to create the game visuals.
2D and 3D Graphics¶
Many online games use a combination of 2D and 3D graphics to create their visual elements.
2D graphics are often used for game backgrounds, user interfaces, and other static elements, while 3D graphics are used for characters, environments, and dynamic elements.
A 2D graphic is a type of digital image that is represented in two dimensions, with height and width, but no depth. 2D graphics are often used in video games, user interfaces, and other types of digital media. Unlike 3D graphics, which add a third dimension of depth, 2D graphics are flat and can only be viewed from a single angle.
2D graphics can be created using a variety of techniques and tools, including vector graphics, bitmap graphics, and hand-drawn animation. Vector graphics use mathematical equations to define shapes and lines, making it possible to scale images without loss of quality. Bitmap graphics, on the other hand, are made up of pixels and can be created using tools such as digital painters or image editors.
2D graphics have been used in video games since the early days of gaming and are still widely used today. They are often favored for their simplicity, ease of use, and ability to create highly detailed and vibrant graphics. Despite the increasing popularity of 3D graphics in recent years, 2D graphics remain a staple of the gaming industry and are used in a wide range of game genres, including platformers, puzzle games, and side-scrolling action games.
3D graphics are digital images that are represented in three dimensions, with height, width, and depth. Unlike 2D graphics, which are flat and can only be viewed from a single angle, 3D graphics can be rotated and viewed from multiple perspectives. This allows for the creation of more complex and realistic images, as well as the ability to create 3D animations, simulations, and interactive experiences.
There are many programs that can be used to create 3D graphics, ranging from beginner-friendly tools to professional-level software.
3D graphics programs include:
An open-source, cross-platform 3D graphics creation tool that is used for creating animations, visual effects, and interactive experiences. Blender is widely considered one of the best free 3D graphics programs and offers a robust set of features, including advanced modeling and animation tools, and support for a wide range of file formats.
blender.org - Home of the Blender project - Free and Open 3D Creation Software
A professional-level 3D graphics program used in a wide range of industries, including film, gaming, and product design. Maya is known for its powerful modeling, animation, and rendering tools, as well as its extensive scripting capabilities.
Maya Software | Get Prices and Buy Maya 2023 | Autodesk
A 3D graphics program that is known for its user-friendly interface and fast rendering capabilities. Cinema 4D is widely used in the film, television, and advertising industries and is also popular among architects, product designers, and game developers.
3D Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Animation and Simulation Software |… (maxon.net)
A 3D graphics program developed by Autodesk that is widely used in the gaming, architecture, and product design industries. 3ds Max is known for its powerful modeling and animation tools, as well as its ability to create large, complex scenes with ease.
3ds Max Software | Get Prices & Buy Official 3ds Max 2023 | Autodesk
A 3D graphics program that is widely used in the film and visual effects industries. Houdini is known for its procedural animation capabilities, which allow for the creation of highly complex animations and visual effects with ease.
Houdini - 3D modeling, animation, VFX, look development, lighting and rendering | SideFX
Vector graphics use mathematical equations to define the shapes and lines in a game image, making it possible to scale images without loss of quality. This technique is often used in games that require high-quality graphics or animations.
There are several programs that are considered as some of the best for vector graphics, including:
One of the industry standard tools for vector graphics, Illustrator is a professional-level software used by graphic designers and artists for creating high-quality vector illustrations, logos, and other graphics.
Industry-leading vector graphics software | Adobe Illustrator
A free and open-source software that offers a range of features and tools for creating vector graphics. It is often used as an alternative to Illustrator, and is favored by many users for its simplicity and affordability.
A newer player in the vector graphics market, Affinity Designer is a powerful and user-friendly software that offers advanced features and tools for creating vector graphics. It has been gaining popularity for its affordability and ability to compete with Illustrator.
Affinity – Professional Creative Software (serif.com)
Another well-established vector graphics software, CorelDRAW is favored by many professionals for its range of features and tools, and its compatibility with a variety of file formats.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite | Free Trial
A popular vector graphics software for web and UI designers, Sketch offers a range of features and tools for creating vector graphics and wireframes for websites and mobile applications.
Sketch · Design, collaborate, prototype and handoff
Bitmap graphics are made up of pixels, and they can be created using tools such as digital painters or image editors. Bitmap graphics are often used in games that require a high level of detail, such as character portraits or backgrounds.
Bitmap graphics, also known as raster graphics, are a type of digital image representation that uses a grid of pixels to store color information. Some of the best programs for creating bitmap graphics include:
One of the most well-known and widely used bitmap graphic editors, Adobe Photoshop is a professional-level software that offers a range of tools and features for editing, retouching, and manipulating images.
Official Adobe Photoshop - Photo & design software
A free and open-source alternative to Photoshop, GIMP offers many of the same features and tools for editing and manipulating images, and is often used as a more affordable option for hobbyists and casual users.
GIMP - GNU Image Manipulation Program
A professional-level software designed specifically for creating digital paintings, Corel Painter is a popular choice among digital artists for its range of brushes and tools that mimic traditional painting techniques.
Digital Art & Painting Software - Corel Painter 2023 (painterartist.com)
A newer player in the bitmap graphics market, Affinity Photo offers a range of features and tools for editing and retouching images, and has been gaining popularity for its affordability and ability to compete with Photoshop.
Affinity Photo – award-winning photo editing software (serif.com)
A free and open-source bitmap graphics editor, Paint.NET is a popular choice for casual users and hobbyists for its simple and user-friendly interface, and its range of features and tools for basic image editing and manipulation.
Paint.NET - Free Software for Digital Photo Editing (getpaint.net)
Online games use a variety of animation techniques to bring their characters and other elements to life. Some common animation techniques include keyframe animation, motion capture, and hand-drawn animation.
Here are some common animation techniques used in online games:
2D sprite animation¶
This technique involves creating individual frames of animation and then arranging them in sequence to create a moving character or object. The frames are typically drawn as bitmap graphics and are usually combined with a simple animation library or engine to display the animation in-game.
3D modeling and animation¶
This technique involves creating 3D models of characters, objects, and environments and then using animation software to bring those models to life. This can involve rigging the models with skeletons, creating animations for different actions and movements, and then rendering the final animations for use in the game.
This technique involves capturing real-world movements and then using that data to drive the animation of 3D characters in a game. This is often done using special sensors and cameras that track the movement of actors and then convert that data into animation data for use in the game.
This technique involves using physics engines to create realistic, physics-based animations in games. This can involve using algorithms to simulate the behavior of objects and characters, and then using that data to drive the animation in the game.
This technique involves defining key positions and movements for characters and objects in a game, and then using software to automatically interpolate the motion between those key positions to create smooth, fluid animations.
Many online games are built using game engines, which provide a set of tools and technologies for creating and rendering game graphics. Some popular game engines used for online game development include Unity, Unreal Engine, and CryEngine.
Here is a list of top ten game engines:
Unity is one of the most popular game engines, with a large community of developers and a vast collection of assets and tools. It supports a wide range of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and many more. It is known for its user-friendly interface and comprehensive documentation.
Unity Real-Time Development Platform | 3D, 2D VR & AR Engine
Unreal Engine 4¶
Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) is a cutting-edge game engine with a focus on photorealism and advanced graphics. It offers a wide range of features, including a built-in level editor, advanced physics simulation, and support for virtual reality. UE4 is widely used by AAA game studios and independent game developers alike.
The most powerful real-time 3D creation tool - Unreal Engine
CryEngine is a powerful game engine known for its advanced graphics capabilities. It was originally developed for the first-person shooter Crysis, and has since been used to create many other popular games. CryEngine supports a wide range of platforms, including Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
CRYENGINE | The complete solution for next generation game development by Crytek
GameMaker Studio is a game engine designed for 2D game development. It is known for its ease of use, especially for beginners, and for its support for a wide range of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, HTML5, and more. GameMaker Studio is also known for its drag-and-drop interface, which makes it easier to develop games without the need for programming knowledge.
Make 2D Games With GameMaker | Free Video Game Maker
Godot Engine is a free and open-source game engine designed for both 2D and 3D game development. It has a powerful scripting system and supports a wide range of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and more. Godot Engine is known for its easy-to-use interface and its focus on creative freedom.
Godot Engine - Free and open source 2D and 3D game engine
Construct 3 is a cloud-based game engine designed for 2D game development. It is known for its user-friendly interface and its drag-and-drop programming system, which makes it easy for beginners to create games. Construct 3 supports a wide range of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and more.
Game Making Software - Construct 3
Unreal Engine 5¶
Unreal Engine 5 is the latest version of Unreal Engine and is designed for next-generation graphics and real-time 3D experiences. It features advanced physics simulation, support for virtual reality, and a wide range of other cutting-edge features. UE5 is available on multiple platforms, including Windows, macOS, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5.
Advantages of Unreal Engine 5:
- High-quality graphics: Unreal Engine 5 is known for its advanced graphics capabilities, which allow game developers to create stunningly realistic environments and characters.
- Cross-platform development: Unreal Engine 5 supports a wide range of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and more, making it easy to develop games that can reach a large audience.
- Efficient workflows: Unreal Engine 5 includes a range of tools and workflows that are designed to streamline the game development process, including a built-in level editor, scripting tools, and a robust animation system.
- Large community: Unreal Engine 5 has a large and active community of developers who share resources and offer support to one another, making it easy to find help and resources when you need them.
- Unreal Engine 5 - Unreal Engine
Amazon Lumberyard is a free and cross-platform game engine developed by Amazon. It is designed for building high-quality 3D games and supports a wide range of platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Android. Lumberyard is known for its integration with Amazon Web Services, which makes it easier to build and scale multiplayer games.
Fully Customizable Game Engine - Amazon Lumberyard -Amazon Web Services
Some of the most well-known games built on Cocos2d-x include:
- Angry Birds 2
- Crossy Road
- Fruit Ninja
- Subway Surfers
- Temple Run
- WeChat Mini Games
- Clumsy Bird
- Tower of Saviors
Cocos - The world's top 2D&3D engine, game / smart cockpit /AR/VR/ virtual character / education
Defold is a free and open-source game engine designed specifically for 2D game development. It is known for its fast performance, lightweight design, and user-friendly interface. Defold offers a wide range of features, including a built-in level editor, advanced physics simulation, and support for a variety of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and more.
One of the key strengths of Defold is its scripting system, which is based on the Lua programming language. This makes it easy for game developers to quickly prototype and develop games, even without extensive programming knowledge. Additionally, Defold has a large and active community of developers, who share resources and offer support to one another.
Another advantage of Defold is its focus on performance and optimization, making it a good choice for games that need to run smoothly on a variety of different devices. Defold also includes tools for creating animations, making it possible to create high-quality, visually appealing games.
Overall, Defold is a solid choice for game developers looking for a free and easy-to-use game engine for 2D game development.
Defold has been used to develop a variety of 2D games across a range of genres, including platformers, puzzle games, arcade games, and more. Some of the games developed with the Defold engine include:
- Looty Dungeon
- Flow Free
- Matchington Mansion
- Super Mario Run (Android port)
- Roll the Ball
Defold - Official Homepage - Cross platform game engine
Game engine examples for 2D mobile games¶
Unity game engine¶
- Subway Surfers
- Temple Run
- Fruit Ninja
- Crossy Road
- Hill Climb Racing
- Shadow Fight 2
- Stack Ball
- Ball Jump
- Love Balls
- Flip the Gun
- PUBG Mobile Lite
Custom game engine developed by Nintendo¶
- Mario Kart Tour
Cocos2d game engine¶
- Geometry Dash
- Magic Tiles 3
Unity game engine, with additional custom tools and scripts¶
- Monument Valley
In-house game engine developed by Gameloft¶
- Asphalt 8: Airborne
In-house game engine developed by Supercell¶
- Clash of Clans
PopCap Framework, an in-house game engine developed by PopCap Games¶
- Plants vs. Zombies 2
The specific graphics techniques and technologies used in an online game depend on a number of factors, including the type of game, the platform it is being developed for, and the desired visual style and performance.