We had to do a 3D game for the Sega CD once (youngsters: the Sega CD was a Sega Genesis plugged into a CD system so you could play from a disc instead of a game cartridge). It wasn’t easy. RandyT had some really clever way to draw triangles, and that helped a lot, but getting the speed we needed to do everything was just impossible.
The game was a zip-around-on-various-alien-landscapes shooter. I realized that we could cheat and do all the vehicles in cylindrical coordinates instead of in true 3D, so the vehicles could turn in a full circle (but, unfortunately, not flip over). All the rotation ended up in a lookup table. All of the sudden, the 3D wasn’t a problem.
But still, to get as many vehicles out there as we wanted, we couldn’t spend any time sorting the polygons that made up each vehicle (we barely had time to sort the vehicles), so I made a tool where you could look at the vehicle and push and pull polygons until everything you needed to see from a given angle was sorted.
This was really a pain, because you had to look straight on and down onto the ground vehicles, and you had to look straight on and up at the flying vehicles. If you just couldn’t make it work, you had to go to an artist and ask him to add a polygon.
So whomever had to do this had a really crummy job, and it fell to our ambitious assistant designer, GregG, who was busy designing stuff we knew we’d never have time to ship anyway. “Greg, all that great stuff your designing? The weight, weapons, ammo details? Forget that. We just made this really primitive tool. You’ll be manually sorting polygons all day for WEEKS!”
Sorry Greg. I still feel guilty.