The PS2 can render 75 million polygons per second, when using small polygons with no effects. This is just a theoretical number; more realistically, taking into account all the effects (for example Alpha Blending or Mip Mapping) used by new games, this number goes down to no more than 20 million polygons per second. To make a comparison, Sega's Dreamcast could handle a maximum theoretical number of 3 millions polygons and the old Psx approximately 360.000 polygons per second.
The PS2 can render 150 million particles per second; particles are used for atmospherical effects like rain, snow or fire. The PS2 has many special hardware effects, graphic procedures that should help programmers develop more realistic looking games. But it's true, too, that a lot of programmers complained about the difficulty to program games for the new PlayStation. In fact, the internal architecture of the console is very different from the one of other consoles or PCs. When they started developing for the PlayStation 2, programmers had a hard time trying to figure out the best way to exploit the possibilities offered by the console. Here is a list of PS2's main hardware effects .
Alpha Blending is used to create transparency effects for special objects like windows or water, without an excessive loss of speed for the system. For this effect, 8 of the 64 bits used for the pixel configuration are reserved.
These are several different procedures designed to eliminate "jaggies" evident in 3D games running at low resolutions. These jaggies create a stair stepping effect at the borders of rendered polygons (for example, take a look at Tomb Rider for PsOne). Anti-Aliasing works by inserting intermediate colors at the edges of lines that define two different surfaces: this reduces contrast along the borders and eliminates, in part or completely, the stair stepping effect. Some developers reported that the PlayStation 2's built-in anti-aliasing causes an excessive loss of speed. That is why most developers will probably have to develop new anti-aliasing procedures optimized for their games.
This makes 2D surfaces look like 3D surfaces having bumps and cavities.
Also known as distance fog, is a technique used to enhance the peception of distance, usually in outdoor environments; objects further from the camera are progressively more obscured by haze, like it happens in reality - this should let developers "hide" some of the limits of the console, also in the final years of the console's life.
Do you remember those walls in games like Doom, Quake or Tomb Rider becoming awful as you got close to them? Forget it. PlayStation 2 games, with this technique, can use different textures for each element into their simulated 3D worlds. When you get closer to a wall you see a high definition texture; when you move away from it, you see a different, lower definition texture.
Modulation and Highlights
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This will let developers use lighting effects over a preexisting texture with no need to create a different texture for each different ligthing condition. With this technique, implementation of dynamic lighting in a game becomes easier: you could see the lights and shadows of a room changing as the weather changes outside the windows; you could see the light of a sunset over a fully 3D city, and all in real time (in other words, not in a CG movie but while you are playing). New games will have nights and days, rain and clouds, like in real worlds.