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Voxels. The future, or dead technology.

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Hi. I just got this idea about voxels, and one question popped up in my mind. The mars demo is VERY fast, and it looks better then most of the stuff that would be done with polygons in hardware. Of course, it uses 2d array, not 3d. To make a 3d level, it would take way too much memory. But I am sure there is a way to optimize. Don''t store empty space. Compression. Etc, etc, etc. Thousands of ways. Voxels also provide a very good level of detail. You need to render too many voxels, no problem, just turn 8 adjecent voxels to one. Now, since voxels are so damn wonderful, why did 3d acceleration manufacturers went with polygons. And are there any voxel acceleration chips? Anyway, just my ideas... Please post ur opinion.

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I honestly believe it was the driving forces of the God''s that would be (M$ and SGI) that forced the hardware guys into the venue of polygons.

I wholeheartedly agree, with hardware implementation and some reworked functionality for voxels, they would do quite well in the games community.

Also, there is plenty of hardware that does voxelling in 3D. Everytime you go to the hospital for a CAT scan. It has just not been devloped on the PC level.










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Two comments:
1. Voxel memory requirements are still prohibitive for consumer-level PCs.
2. Voxel Processing is slow ( TRUE voxels, the 3D ones ) - that hospital equipment doesn''t have to generate 70 frames per second.
3. The MARS demo is a very unfortunate example of bad naming. It renders a heightfield, not voxels. It''s true that it doesn''t use polygons, but the engine has severe degrees-of-freedom limitations. You can''t look up or down, nor can you roll the camera.


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**

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I just want to point out that voxels accelerator processors (like triangle accelerator commonly found in our PC today) exists in laboratory and that 3Dfx is said to add one in one of it''s future product.

With that kind of hardware, we can hope to see fast voxels apps.

Something else : PC are more and more powerfull, with more and more memory, so voxel is a best and best solution

-* Sounds, music and story makes the difference between good and great games *-

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Sorry Ingenu, this is not a personal attack on you, but 3Dfx has been said to be doing a lot of things, but the pricing of their new cards, and that new T-buffer technology, don''t leave me with much respect for that company.

HAD the T-buffer been a full accumulation buffer, perhaps that could have saved their skin, but it isn''t.

Even if they are adding Voxel technology to their hardware, it''s not the complexity and speed of a single voxel operation that is the problem, it is the sheer number of them. Even if you could store a 1024*1024*1024 voxel space using compression techniques, it still leaves that many voxels to be considered when rendering. There''s a lot of research going on in this field ( and I''m one of the people doing it ) - so we might see some advances, but no magic 100% voxel engines.

Note: Pure Voxels HAVE been used in games - Tiberian Sun is a good example. But they use them for very small sprites only, not for the whole game.


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**

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Voxels are great for more realistic games. I hope there will be some voxel accelerator cards in near future.

Visit our homepage: www.rarebyte.de.st

GA

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I''m not offended
I didn''t like 3Dfx, I prefer the PowerVR technology.

About voxels: Outcast is a full 3d game with a splendid voxel engine.

This show you what could be done with voxels in software.
Think what can be done in hardware !

I must say that the PowerVR tech decrease my interest in voxels, whose main advantage to me was the no overdraw thing.


-* Sounds, music and story makes the difference between good and great games *-

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I think with some research and some practical solutions voxel engines can do A LOT. Correct me if I''m wrong, but if you generate quake level 1024x1024x1024 with about 32 bit per voxel, memory requirements won''t make it up to that point anywhere soon. But if you compress that, probably 85% will be "air" voxels, which will allow you to compress this level to possible memory requirements. I''m sure you could come up with hundreds if not thousands of other optimizations...

Can someone point me to voxel links? I need some good info...

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Some clever guy came up with the idea of using heightfields like textures: Put them on a polygon like a texture map. Since it can be drawn with lines instead of points, it takes less time than true 3D voxels, and it only takes as much memory as a texture map. Basically, the lines are drawn normal from the polygon, with their length corresponding to the height of the heightfield. An article explaining this was posted on GPMega, but that site has been down for a long time. Don''t know what happened, www.perplexed.com just went down one day and never got back up.

A single polygon in this case would be able to define a major portion of an object. A sphere would be only 2 polygons back-to-back!

The vehicles in Command & Conquer: Tiberian sun are made with true voxels. I hope accelerator cards will support them. If that happens, the realism of games will reach almost photographic quality at high framerates pretty quickly.

Anybody can try www.perplexed.com/GPMega but I can''t guarantee that they''re up. But the idea was brilliant.

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Hey kill, I recommend you check out the game "Outcast"... it''s a fully 3D (very nice looking) voxel game.

just do a search for it since I can''t remember who developed it.

Alex
Atypical Interactive
www.atypical-interactive.com

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The people that made Outcast is Infogrames.
(btw. that game kicks ASS)

The only drawback w/ it is the low res... (500*500 something)

But there are other voxel BASED games. Like Deltaforce 1/2 those suckie tank games (cant remember the names).
But i think they use Voxels for the enviroments and Polys for the Characters.




========================
Game project(s):
www.fiend.cjb.net

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Cobra, that clever guy was ME
( I''m not kidding either )
Unfortunately the voxel-polygon idea didn''t work too well, and I''m researching a new way to do it, one that WILL allow polygon hardware acceleration, combined with the usefulness of voxels.


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**

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Sorry, but ''Appeal'' made outcast.
And outcast was published by Infogrammes.
Infogrammes don''t develop anything.




-* Sounds, music and story makes the difference between good and great games *-

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If any of you guys are interested in my work on Voxel Texturing - send me an email asking for it at MadKeithV@yahoo.com.
I took it off the web ''cause the damn PDF file locked up my university account ''cause it was too big.


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**

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Just a little off topic, but...
I noticed www.perplexed.com went down as well. That was a great site. There''s bound to be someone here who know''s what happened.
Anybody got the scoop?

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Well since I had some response, I'll post up a link to my Master's Thesis right here.

It's in PDF format - so you have to get the Acrobat Reader if you don't have it yet.

voxelthesis.pdf

I could open a discussion on this document explaining the shortcomings I discovered after finishing this thesis..

I don't have a demo implementation anymore due to a hard disk crash - but it was very slow anyway ( just a proof-of-concept ).
I'm working on something new for which I might have a better demo soon.


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**


Edited by - MadKeithV on 4/26/00 2:03:18 AM

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Bumping this thread up a bit more
I''m hoping to get some reactions to my docs.


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**

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MadKeith: fast question. How come u r releasing all the docs without the patent?

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''cause
1. I believe in open source, and I already got my grade for that subject.
2. The technique is actually not perspective correct at all, something I can point out to you if you feel like the long boring explanation

#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**

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It seems you can still access parts of GPMega using this address:  http://216.189.21.252/GPMega/

Why the domain name itself is down is beyond me. It also appears that the site hasn''t been updated since 24 August 1999! Has anybody talked to Matt Reiferson about it? Does anybody know a non-perplexed.com E-mail address for him? It simply went down without warning, I myself had just joined their "Bulletin Board" when they went down.

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Sure thing, khawk - I''d be honoured to have it up here!
I just wish I had the old word docs still though, and not the acrobat file.

I''m currently working on a paper towards my PhD thesis as well - if I get that done I''ll have a demo and another doc, once it''s been published you can post that up too.

( I have to be careful saying too much before its published of course, in case someone runs off with MY research )


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**

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After three email requests for my document the feedback has kinda stopped - are you guys still reading it, or have you given up on it altogether

I''d like to open this discussion again, to get more people''s ideas together on how to get this kind of technology to work under any circumstance.


#pragma DWIM // Do What I Mean!
~ Mad Keith ~
**I use Software Mode**

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I was going to make a 3D engine that would implement that sort of technology, but portability issues and a lack of graphics knowledge has stalled (stopped?) my project. You can find information on my engine at http://www.geocities.com/moss-taylor/A3D.htm. It documents the progress of my project, along with screenshots of two overlapping polygons and a line. I created what you see with Allegro and custom 3D code. The polygons were created with the custom code, with Allegro taking care of setting the screen resolution and blitting.

A3D was created after I found the article online about voxel texturing. I had hoped to get past polygons and get to putting voxels on, but I couldn't get an adequate frame rate (as shown by the FPS counter) for just two polygons and a line! The images were created on a Pentium at 166 MHz with a 2D (maybe not even that?) accelerator card. Even Allegro did better than I did with its polygons. I'm gonna try again this summer; since I now know C++ instead of plain C, I'll probably do a total rewrite. I may also have access to a faster computer, my sister bought a new machine that runs over 400 MHz. I'll also try to use fixed-point math instead of floating point, along with lookup tables. And I'll try to understand this matrix math stuff.

I suppose I should really ask for permission to use this idea. MadKeithV, you don't mind if I attempt to implement a 3D engine using voxel texturing, do you?

-Jeremiah Moss
http://www.geocities.com/moss-taylor
E-mail: moss-taylor at geocities.com

Edited by - CobraA1 on 4/27/00 4:05:24 PM

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After reading parts of that file, I was thinking, couldn''t you use a compression where (and I KNOW there''s a term for this, but I can''t remember it) you start off with one big cube, you then divide that into 8 parts (2x2x2) and only the parts that have more information is divided smaller? That way the air and earth are stored as large blocks where as the more detailed ground surface is stored as smaller blocks.

BTW: Just what is the advantage of voxels? Just better quality ground? Couldn''t you write routines to draw "random" ground patterns to whatever quality you want?

E:cb woof!

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