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Ricardo Portugal


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Voxel is short for Volume element, the same way that pixel is short for picture element (and texel ...)

One way of rendering voxels is to shoot a ray through each pixel on the screen and into the 3D matrix of voxels. The pixel would then be assigned the color of the first voxel hit by the ray.
Another way of rendering the volume is to render several textured layers where each texture is taken from different layers in the matrix.
Of course as you can imagine this is an extremely slow procedure, and we are far away from seing true voxels in games, at least in a large scale (The units in Tiberian sun are made with voxels).
Voxels today have a large market in the medical/scientific area, CAT scans comes to my mind. But images rendered with voxels are almost never rendered in full interactive speeds, and if so with an extremely powerful computer.

You might have heard of voxel terrains, this is a technique that exist in several games today, one of the latest being Outcast. The name voxel terrains is a misleading term, it is in fact not voxels that are rendered but a 2D heightmap.
The reason it is called voxel terrain, I believe, has to do with the fact that it bears similarities with real voxels by the technique used in rendering them. To render voxel terrains you shoot rays through pixels in the screen and into the heightmap, taking into acount the height of each column (element in the heightmap). The pixel is assigned the color of the column that is first hit by the ray. By some clever optimizations you don''t have to shoot a ray through every pixel in the screen thereby allowing interactive speeds of the voxel terrain engine.
These optimizations at the same time imposes some limits on the freedom of view namely: you cannot look down or up (the same effect seen in the Doom games). You can simulate the pitch of the camera to some degree by raising/lowering the horizon but it is impossible to look straight up or down.

If you want to learn more on voxel terrains then you may do so by reading the following articles/tutorials:

Realtime Voxel Landscape Engines
Voxel Landscapes


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*applauds for WitchLord*
That''s a very good explanation.
I must say I''m impressed!

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

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