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How 3D Graphics Works Before Smartphones (Part Two)

By Cecil Gao
Nov. 11, 2022 updated 10:25

Contributed By JerryD

The Symbian era and international standards

After the introduction of the Symbian system, the European and American markets gradually began to develop the application of 3D graphics in mobile games. And among them, Nokia’s mobile gaming device N-Gage was the leader at the time, with its powerful X-Forge 3D engine.

Nokia has used X-Forge to port many classic games to N-Gage, such as VR Tennis, FIFA Soccer 2004, Red Faction, etc.

Another 3D engine used for N-Gage phones is Segundo 3D, developed by Ideaworks3d, and the most famous work of Segundo 3D is Tomb Raider.

Laura still got her triangular breast at this timeLaura still got her triangular breast at this time

Of course, it doesn’t mean players can’t play games with 3D graphics on Symbian phones without N-Gage. There is a set of common standards for mobile 3D games, the JSR 184 standard, which was jointly created by ARM, Nokia, Motorola and Vodafone. As long as the phone supports JSR 184, users will be able to run Java games with 3D graphics, but it all depends on how the manufacturer company optimizes it or not.

Asphalt3 developed using JSR 184 standardAsphalt3 developed using JSR 184 standard

Another racing game developed based on JSR 184 standardAnother racing game developed based on JSR 184 standard

In addition to JSR 184, the aforementioned OpenGL ES is also an international standard, and its technology can still be seen in mobile applications today.

But in the non-smartphone era, it was difficult to see 3D mobile games on phones other than Symbian because both hardware and software were designed with little regard for cross-device expandability, not to mention the plus functional limitations.

What about discrete graphics cards on phones?

Most of the above-mentioned engines are software that can display and render 3D graphics, but due to the limited hardware of the phones, the graphic quality and frame rate of games are often hardly satisfactory.

After ATI and Nivida tried to develop GPUs for mobile devices, Korean technology company LG finally succeeded. In 2005, LG launched its gaming phone, SV360. SV360 has equipped an ATI IMAGEON 2300 graphics card with the power to render 1 million polygons per second. The phone also supports gravity sensing. Users can play the pre-installed skiing game by tilting the phone.

However, this seemingly powerful gaming phone is limited by the market. Since most of the games in GxG, the mobile game download site in Korea then, did not support hardware optimizations. Obviously, the design of mobile discrete graphics cards did not work that well without the support of software.