I wrote earlier about the limited options for simulating the light when using the ray-casting technique, so on that note, there were these particular lighting (or should I say “lighting”) elements in ray-casting game Redneck Rampage, which really caught my eye back in 1997. The effect was simply amazing at the time, although I had a feeling in the back of my mind that there was something fishy about the effect, but back then, I just couldn’t put my finger on it what it was. Indeed, that was because the “lighting” effect really was nothing more than a texture painted to portray the light cone hitting the surface, and thus wasn’t really a lighting simulation at all. In retrospect, one could say fittingly that the lighting effect in question was an authentic redneck solution for the problems the aging rendering technique, ray-casting, posed.
So why those particular lighting elements in RR looked so amazing at the time (at least for me), even though Quake, released a year earlier, had technically speaking way more sophisticated lighting throughout the game and not just in elements here and there? I believe it was the context. Quake wasn’t a ray-casting game anymore but a next generation title with true 3D space, so one should have expected, rightly so, more advanced lighting model from such a game. So when you, for instance, encountered seemingly sophisticated lighting effect in a ray-casting game acknowledging the limitations graphics engine had, the experience in a way transcended the framework through which you thought you were observing the game. Technology became indistinguishable from magic for that brief moment, as late Arthur C. Clarke would put it.
It’s always about the context and expectations, as it is with life in general.