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8-bit Raycasting Quake Skies and Animated Textures

Posted by benryves, 19 August 2007 · 839 views

All of this Quake and XNA 3D stuff has given me a few ideas for calculator (TI-83) 3D.

One of my problems with calculator 3D apps is that I have never managed to even get a raycaster working. Raycasters aren't exactly very tricky things to write.

So, to help me, I wrote a raycaster in C#, limiting myself to the constraints of the calculator engine - 96×64 display, 256 whole angles in a full revolution, 16×16 map, that sort of thing. This was easy as I had floating-point maths to fall back on.

With that done, I went and ripped out all of the floating-point code and replaced it with fixed-point integer arithmetic; I'm using 16-bit values, 8 bits for the whole part and 8 bits for the fractional part.

From here, I just rewrote all of my C# code in Z80 assembly, chucking in debugging code all the way through so that I could watch the state of values and compare them with the results from my C# code.

The result is rather slow, but on the plus side the code is clean and simple. [smile] The screen is cropped for three reasons: it's faster to only render 64 columns (naturally), you get some space to put a HUD and - most importantly - it limits the FOV to 90°, as the classic fisheye distortion becomes a more obvious problem above this.

I sneaked a look at the source code of Gemini, an advanced raycaster featuring textured walls, objects and doors. It is much, much faster than my engine, even though it does a lot more!

It appears that the basic raycasting algorithm is pretty much identical to the one I use, but gets away with 8-bit fixed point values. 8-bit operations can be done significantly faster than 16-bit ones on the Z80, especially multiplications and divisions (which need to be implemented in software). You can also keep track of more variables in registers, and restricting the number of memory reads and writes can shave off some precious cycles.

Some ideas that I've had for the raycaster, that I'd like to try and implement:

  • Variable height floors and ceilings. Each block in the world is given a floor and ceiling height. When the ray intersects the boundary, the camera height is subtracted from these values, they are divided by the length of the ray (for projection) and the visible section of the wall is drawn. Two counters would keep track of the upper and lower values currently drawn to to keep track of the last block's extent (for occlusion) and floor/ceiling colours could be filled between blocks.
  • No texturing: wall faces and floors/ceilings would be assigned dithered shades of grey. I think this, combined with lighting effects (flickering, shading), would look better than monochrome texture mapping - and would be faster!
  • Ray-transforming blocks. For example, you could have two 16×16 maps with a tunnel: the tunnel would contain a special block that would, when hit, tell the raycaster to start scanning through a different level. This could be used to stitch together large worlds from small maps (16×16 is a good value as it lets you reduce level pointers to 8-bit values).
  • Adjusting floors and ceilings for lifts or crushing ceilings.

As far as the Quake project, I've made a little progress. I've added skybox support for Quake 2:

Quake 2's skyboxes are simply made up of six textures (top, bottom, front, back, left, right). Quake doesn't use a skybox. Firstly, you have two parts of the texture - one half is the sky background, and the other half is a cloud overlay (both layers scroll at different speeds). Secondly, it is warped in a rather interesting fashion - rather like a squashed sphere, reflected in the horizon:

For the moment, I'm just using the Quake 2 box plus a simple pixel shader to mix the two halves of the sky texture.

I daresay something could be worked out to simulate the warping.

The above is from GLQuake, which doesn't really look very convincing at all.

I've reimplemented the texture animation system in the new BSP renderer, including support for Quake 2's animation system (which is much simpler than Quake 1's - rather than have magic texture names, all textures contain the name of the next frame in their animation cycle).