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How Is Math Used in Video Game Designing?

Are you a designer, but overwhelmed by mathematics and want to design game?

Don’t worry , a lot of us are not confident in our mathematical capabilities but do not stress, there is hope for us all. You can still explore the world of game design & development, and we will tell you how to do that exactly!


Game development is a meticulous task that requires not only the envisioning of gameplay but also the execution of various characters and their actions. To breathe life into gaming, one must program a game with utmost dedication and precision. It is this accuracy which leads us to believe that mathematical soundness is necessary, to some extent, in-game development.

The more mathematics you know, the better, but the absolute minimum that you need to get started includes knowledge of:

  1. Algebra and Arithmetic:

    A basic sense of numbers and calculations is necessary to finesse the programming that happens behind the scenes. This helps in all forms of programming and is not necessarily only limited to game development. 

  2. Vectors:

    Characters and objects in games are represented with vectors, these are simply defined as the direction and speed associated with any object. Through vector calculation, a game developer is able to move an object and achieve different goals, as per the rules, such as walking, running or swimming by a particular character. 

  3. Physics:

    The combination of physics and mathematics is crucial in determining object dynamics: from making a ball bounce, to moving an object with a certain level of force, to colliding with momentum, are all encapsulated under the knowledge of physics. The purpose of this is to give your game a feeling of ‘realism’, something which avid gamers are keenly observant and fond of.

     To render high-performance games, the framework must be well-thought-out to create a realistic experience for gamers. With games like PUBG, a lot of mathematical concepts come into play while programming them. During game development, vector knowledge allows you to understand how to make a character move, and in what direction, and possibly towards another player.
    The power or ‘life’ or ‘lives’ of a player is determined using basic arithmetic. Also, if a character is to shoot a bullet through a gun, the distance, momentum, and impact is all programmed under the realm of mathematics.

     Math concepts also help determine victory in games. For e.g. in popular racing games, such as Mario Kart or Gran Turismo, the ranking of a player depends on who reaches the finish line the fastest. These distances are calculated using vector mathematics where, in milliseconds, positions relative to the finish line are being calculated to show a player rank in the races. Formulas, such as the Pythagorean Theorem, are routinely employed to deduce these distances and award players accordingly.

     As a starter, you may get away with not being a pro at mathematics, but for high-end professional game development, you will be required to excel in the subject: this is because big gaming industries list ‘expertise in mathematics’ as a pre-requisite to apply at their firms for a job – simply because a math-savvy programmer will be more efficient in producing games.

     The degree of application of mathematical knowledge in gaming is immense, and that is what makes it truly worthwhile. Just like basic logic is important, so is mathematics, because all your programming needs to have a reason behind it.

     Another example of a game is Grand Theft Auto – here, movement of cars, explosions, day and night alternating, are routinely occurring with the aid of mathematical calculations embedded into the gameplay. Even a basic game, such as Pacman requires a rudimentary semblance of vector knowledge.

     However, do not be disconcerted if you get overwhelmed or daunted by mathematics – a lot of the calculations are built into the game engines, such as Unity 3D, so you might not even need knowledge beyond basic arithmetic. Such software has avoided knowing complex knowledge and allows programmers to dive in regardless. But then again, to reiterate: it doesn’t hurt to know.
     For novices in the field, various sites offer mathematics primer courses presently, such as Coursera, Udemy, and GameDev, to enable you to brush up your mathematical base and logical reasoning enabling you to dive confidently into game development. These are not that expensive and cover all levels from beginner to advanced. The best thing about such tutorials is the step-by-step application which the makers have deconstructed such that the crux can be fully understood by you.
     Thus, if it boils down to is mathematics truly needed? The answer is simply: not needed per se, but beneficial if you have it because it can speed up your programming skills. Also, the more advanced your skills, the better – for example, in competitive programming, permutation and combinations know-how is needed.
     With sharpened math skills, you can control everything from graphics to artificial intelligence to movement, and physics. Courses taught for game development currently cover topics such as writing and solving equations, vector math, imaginary, complex numbers, quaternions, and angles.

    So the next time you ponder over practical application of mathematics in
    school, you must realize that even the best of the best games does utilize the
    essence of mathematics in creating those captivating visuals performing in
    synch and real-time, all with the help of mathematics! 


  • Conclusion

This article describes the need for mathematical awareness and knowledge in the context of developing games. It shows which topics are vital to proceed with programming gaming concepts, and to what extent they can be applied in this context. By giving examples of popular games, the usage is exemplified. It is also stressed that the knowledge is helpful, yet not a pre-requisite and that a novice developer without a math-savvy mindset can still dive into this field, by using available sources, that offer courses on mathematical tools for game development. A concluding remark reiterates that mathematical knowledge improves logical reasoning, which in turn compliments game development. 



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