GT7's Polygon Count Tweet Shows How Racing Games Have Evolved in 20 Years

Gran Turismo Render Quality Over Time.jpg
A recent tweet by the official Gran Turismo Twitter account demonstrates the remarkable advancement of racing game graphics over recent decades.

Gran Turismo's Twitter account showed a quick but fascinating look at how far racing game graphics and content accuracy have advanced between the first Gran Turismo title released in the late 90's and the upcoming Gran Turismo 7.


The tweet demonstrates the visual difference between renderings of the Tom's Supra in 1997's Gran Turismo and 2022's Gran Turismo 7. The former was rendered using 300 polygons, compared to 500,000 in the latter.

Advancements in not only the developer's ability to gather, process and render the higher resolution models, but also the consumer's gaming hardware and display technologies make the higher resolution models possible.

For those of us old enough to remember the release of 1997's Gran Turismo will also recall how realistic and life-like those lower polygon count cars looked. At the time it was hard to imagine graphics evolving past what we were seeing in Gran Turismo, so it's interesting to speculate on what graphics could look like 25 years from today.

If you have any thoughts on the past, present and future of racing game graphics, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
About author
Mike Smith
I have been obsessed with sim racing and racing games since the 1980's. My first taste of live auto racing was in 1988, and I couldn't get enough ever since. Lead writer for RaceDepartment, and owner of SimRacing604 and its YouTube channel. Favourite sims include Assetto Corsa Competizione, Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Automobilista 2, DiRT Rally 2 - On Twitter as @simracing604

Comments

The future belongs to rendering techniques that allow to recreate lighting as it is in real life. Poly count doesn't need to increase. The best (extreme) example is what ray tracing can do to a game as old as Quake 2 when it comes to feel, keeping the same poly count.
 
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The future belongs to rendering techniques that allow to recreate lighting as it is in real life. Poly count doesn't need to increase. The best (extreme) example is what ray tracing can do to a game as old as Quake 2 when it comes to feel, keeping the same poly count.
Why not increase polys and lighting tech, if the hardware can run it whats the problem?
 
I feel like polycounts on car models usually end up hitting a point of diminishing returns (take for example how on AC content the LOD1 obviously looks great but the LOD2 looks more than servicable with usually a third of the poly count)
My take is the next big leap in gaming graphics is lighting/reflection tech, stuff like raytracing are helping to really bring things to life and if the performance cost can be lowered within the next few years we'll probably see that become a main thing in the same vein as PBR or HDR
 
GT Sport / GT7 models are definitely a step up in quality, I'd guess it's from cooperation with brand museums letting them laserscan the historic cars that don't have cad models. Is it necessary for a fun game? not at all. But it's good for making screenshots nicer.
 
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Why not increase polys and lighting tech, if the hardware can run it whats the problem?

I understand that demand creates supply.

Why continually drive prices up - say, for a gpu that's already 3x overpriced - if it's not needed and if the human eye, with its obvious limitations, can't make the difference between 500k polys and 1500k polys from a given distance?

Just because "why not"?

I think it's for the same reason you don't need a 8k 138 cm TV you watch from 3m away.
 
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I feel like polycounts on car models usually end up hitting a point of diminishing returns (take for example how on AC content the LOD1 obviously looks great but the LOD2 looks more than servicable with usually a third of the poly count)
My take is the next big leap in gaming graphics is lighting/reflection tech, stuff like raytracing are helping to really bring things to life and if the performance cost can be lowered within the next few years we'll probably see that become a main thing in the same vein as PBR or HDR
UNREAL ENGINE 5, some specs:

Benefits of Nanite​

  • Multiple orders of magnitude increase in geometry complexity, higher triangle and objects counts than has been possible before in real-time
  • Frame budgets are no longer constrained by polycounts, draw calls, and mesh memory usage
  • Now possible to directly import film-quality source arts, such as ZBrush sculpts and photogrammetry scans
  • Use high-poly detailing rather than baking detail into normal map textures
  • Level of Detail (LOD) is automatically handled and no longer requires manual setup for individual mesh's LODs
  • Loss of quality is rare or non-existent, especially with LOD transitions
 
UNREAL ENGINE 5, some specs:

Benefits of Nanite​

  • Multiple orders of magnitude increase in geometry complexity, higher triangle and objects counts than has been possible before in real-time
  • Frame budgets are no longer constrained by polycounts, draw calls, and mesh memory usage
  • Now possible to directly import film-quality source arts, such as ZBrush sculpts and photogrammetry scans
  • Use high-poly detailing rather than baking detail into normal map textures
  • Level of Detail (LOD) is automatically handled and no longer requires manual setup for individual mesh's LODs
  • Loss of quality is rare or non-existent, especially with LOD transitions
UE5 seems like an absolutely amazing engine, it's just a shame that ACC's PC performance has made me somewhat wary of Unreal titles recently :p
 
@MaxStokes1 I have an old (2015 old) Core i7 with GTX 980. I run ACC better than AC with Ilja's CSP. :D
So, with Marco Massarutto saying AC2 will use their own new graphic engine instead of UE5, I'm a bit worried...
In any case my main worry is changing PC in the future, hoping graphic card prices will drop somehow.
 
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UE5 seems like an absolutely amazing engine, it's just a shame that ACC's PC performance has made me somewhat wary of Unreal titles recently :p
What worries me the most is that Kunoz disliked coding the physics for ACC so much that they seem to plan to reuse the AC1 engine. That's not good considering how hardcoded the engine was and how many features that seem basic needed to be added through modding.
 
UE5 seems like an absolutely amazing engine, it's just a shame that ACC's PC performance has made me somewhat wary of Unreal titles recently :p
Sims have some disadvantages on performance though, with long view distances (upward of 1km) and low fov (even below 20 degrees for triple screens) being the norm so they need much higher quality assets in view than a first person shooter where you're never in a room bigger than 20m across. Also of course you're moving through it at 300km/h instead of human running speed (about 15-20)

Probably for most games that are more like Unreal Tournament, it'd be very unusual to have something even approaching a 500k model front and center at all times.
 
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I understand that demand creates supply.

Why continually drive prices up - say, for a gpu - if it's not needed and if the human eye, with its obvious limitations, can't make the difference between 500k polys and 1500k polys from a given distance?

Just because "we can"?

Does someone NEED a 8k 138 cm TV sitting 3m away?
That's why you have lod levels.
100 meters from the car you have enough with a few hundred polygons. But driving bumper to bumper it's great to have more details.
 
500k on models is a pretty good sweet spot, even for future.
But 500k on.. let's say rfactor2 or iracing, and 500k on forza, gt, even ACC are not the same.
It's all about the engine, and the know-how to polish and make good-looking things that are lacking in small, simulation-oriented teams. Polyphony is the best in class for sure.
 
That's why you have lod levels.
100 meters from the car you have enough with a few hundred polygons. But driving bumper to bumper it's great to have more details.

Do point me to a 500k poly car in AC on which you actually see the polys when going bumper to bumper while sitting 1m+ away from your monitor.
 
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I'm still waiting for my 5-door 2001 Impreza WRX... I'm buying the game if they got THIS car included.

AvFNeBnGdGZz.jpg
 
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Just some other comparisons based on my own ideas:
GT1 -- GT7
300 polys -- 500k polys
1 texture per car -- 100 textures per car
single 256x256 texture for whole car, maybe another 64x64 for wheel and tires -- multiple 1k, 2k, 4k textures for each material
1 material (shader) for whole car -- 60 materials, multiple different shaders per car
5 objects = car body + 4 tires -- at least 60 objects, at least one per material
no alphablending or alphatested materials (see through objects like windshields), no cockpits -- multiple see through materials and overlapping textures like windshields, dash glass, front and rear lights etc..
 
I am more fascinated that they managed to render car with 300 polygons and you could actually recognize it.
 

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