Perhaps you've seen the videos about some groundbreaking “unlimited detail” rendering technology? If not, check it out, then get back to this post.

Posted by Kizzycocoa on Aug 3rd, 2011

Perhaps you've seen the videos about some groundbreaking “unlimited detail” rendering technology? If not, check it out here, then get back to this post:

Well, it is a scam.

They made a voxel renderer, probably based on sparse voxel octrees. That's cool and all, but.. To quote the video, the island in the video is one km^2. Let's assume a modest island height of just eight meters, and we end up with 0.008 km^3. At 64 atoms per cubic millimeter (four per millimeter), that is a total of 512 000 000 000 000 000 atoms. If each voxel is made up of one byte of data, that is a total of 512 petabytes of information, or about 170 000 three-terrabyte harddrives full of information. In reality, you will need way more than just one byte of data per voxel to do colours and lighting, and the island is probably way taller than just eight meters, so that estimate is very optimistic.

So obviously, it's not made up of that many unique voxels.

In the video, you can make up loads of repeated structured, all roughly the same size. Sparse voxel octrees work great for this, as you don't need to have unique data in each leaf node, but can reference the same data repeatedly (at fixed intervals) with great speed and memory efficiency. This explains how they can have that much data, but it also shows one of the biggest weaknesses of their engine.

Another weakness is that voxels are horrible for doing animation, because there is no current fast algorithms for deforming a voxel cloud based on a skeletal mesh, and if you do keyframe animation, you end up with a LOT of data. It's possible to rotate, scale and translate individual chunks of voxel data to do simple animation (imagine one chunk for the upper arm, one for the lower, one for the torso, and so on), but it's not going to look as nice as polygon based animated characters do.

It's a very pretty and very impressive piece of technology, but they're carefully avoiding to mention any of the drawbacks, and they're pretending like what they're doing is something new and impressive. In reality, it's been done several times before.

There's the very impressive looking Atomontage Engine:

Ken Silverman (the guy who wrote the Build engine, used in Duke Nukem 3D) has been working on a voxel engine called Voxlap, which is the basis for Voxelstein 3d:

And there's more:

They're hyping this as something new and revolutionary because they want funding. It's a scam. Don't get excited.

Or, more correctly, get excited about voxels, but not about the snake oil salesmen.

(Development blog link)

Post comment Comments
Orac| Aug 3 2011 says:

I love voxels! :D

+1 vote     reply to comment
Flash112 Aug 3 2011 says:

Still, it looks pretty damn amazing!

+2 votes     reply to comment
silverfang22 Aug 3 2011 says:

Yeah I was very skeptical, I still won't shoot it down though as it's still a possibility. It was pretty obvious it wasn't going to be good for gaming, having each grain of dirt as a full 3d object is just a waste of detail and processing power.

+9 votes     reply to comment
Garyn Dakari Aug 3 2011 replied:

Agreed. I won't be getting over exited about this any time soon, but I remain optimistic :)

Time will tell, I suppose.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Izrachy Aug 3 2011 replied:

we only have to wait 8-12 years and games like that are already made lol.

+2 votes     reply to comment
lol1234 Aug 3 2011 replied:

In 8-12 years they may find out how to seamlessly animate voxels...

+1 vote     reply to comment
Bolognius_Maximus Aug 3 2011 says:

Hey that rock did look amazing!

+3 votes     reply to comment
Kizzycocoa Author
Kizzycocoa Aug 3 2011 replied:

but do we really want real realism? really?

some of the best games of all time are pixelly. and some more are very realistic.

I think we've hit the sane barrier of realism. lets hope AAA companies stop progressing on graphics, and start progressing on aesthetics!

+7 votes   reply to comment
Angelic Aug 3 2011 replied:

It's just that people want there world to feel alive, with minecraft still being old school.

if you had the chance to make minecraft so real, i mean almost real looking grass etc, but still keep the most important part of the games smashing blocks etc, wouldn't you take it?

about that people are already trying to implant HD textures

+2 votes     reply to comment
LopperUK Aug 3 2011 replied:

Minecraft is MEANT to look old though

-3 votes     reply to comment
deathparadeNL Aug 3 2011 replied:

in these "new worlds" i feel like a mouse i like the old games alot better

+1 vote     reply to comment
Hamtaro Aug 3 2011 says:

Well, John Carmack also mentioned the Drawbacks somewhere, some of which are destructible environments becoming a trend.

+1 vote     reply to comment
mathys Aug 3 2011 says:

The only way they'd be able to do it is if they revolutionize point cloud data rendering, and of course compression.

+1 vote     reply to comment
heyitsme259 Aug 3 2011 says:

this doesn't prove for certain that this is fake i remain optimitic it could well be possible who knows only time will tell. Don't accuse it's a scam yet just wait and see what happens.

+2 votes     reply to comment
ThisIsGamer Aug 3 2011 says:

I don't even give a **** about graphics, it's one of the reasons I play MineCraft.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Capn_Nick Aug 3 2011 says:

First of all, what way UE is linked to MC? I mean what's the point to post about it in MC news? Secondly UE exists for 2-3 years already (even latest vids I saw are made last year or even earlier), so I see even less sense to post about it. Finally UE is not about voxels it's about using search algorithms (like Yahoo or Google, Bing, etc. are using to fetch links) to render graphics, which IS quite innovative IMO. At least I haven't seen this approach in more or less popular engines yet.

I'm NOT defending UE or even have affiliated to it. I just don't see the purpose of this hate-post.

+1 vote     reply to comment
ArkaZeen Aug 3 2011 says:

duh duh DUH

+1 vote     reply to comment
Zeltrax Aug 3 2011 says:

Awww i wish it was real :'(

+1 vote     reply to comment
Anderan Aug 3 2011 says:

In the end it seems like an interesting concept, but I personally would rather people focus on innovating gameplay over trying to make super advanced engines.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Rawra Aug 10 2011 says:

Its also a trap!

+1 vote     reply to comment
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