37 Comments
Posted by JamesBoyce

Outcast, not Outlast. :P

Very interesting interview though, appreciate content like this.

Edited by gimpanse

Hm, I really respect the guy. But I don't think his explanation of Voxels is very good. *edit* It probably would've been better to make this a written interview so he could have more time to write his answers.

In addition, he doesn't really explain that a human has still to program the programs that create the voxel world. He is more or less just talking about procedural terrain generation there.

There is actually something similar for polygon geometry: CSG

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_solid_geometry

The issue with CSG is that it's computationally expensive. An example for CSG applied to games is Planetary Annihilation, which uses CSG to carve out parts of their planets when a big asteroid hits it.

So this kind of world manipulation is not really exclusive to Voxel engines. But implementing this kind of deformation is ofcourser a *lot* easier in Voxel based engines.

Another issue he didn't go into: The material for added geometry (color, shading properties) is easier to automatically deduce when using Voxels since you can look at the "neighbours".

Posted by JesterPC238

Man, I loved Outcast. I was younger then, dunno if it holds up now, but I really liked it.

Posted by Hurvilo

The view distance that the voxels enabled in the first Delta Force was AMAZING.

Have some good memories of sniping duels from that game.

Posted by CptBedlam

I remember voxels...

Edited by Sphinx

Man, I still own Outcast on disk, I loved that game to death as a kid and played through it multiple times, always finding some out of the way side quest or sight that I missed the first time. It still holds up quite well today, since I have a GOG copy...maybe I should fire it up tonight...

Posted by Shivoa

The guy writes a mean blog that has been charting how this developed over the last few years. It has been fascinating to watch it as this has developed over here.

Posted by MaxOpower

I don't know, I feel Voxels have been big for some time now. They are not a main selling point, but it seems pretty common to use.

Posted by DJJoeJoe

I don't know, I feel Voxels have been big for some time now. They are not a main selling point, but it seems pretty common to use.

Define big, because the actual number of games that use them is incredibly small. 4 games this year include voxels for instance http://www.giantbomb.com/voxel/3015-1887/games/

Posted by Corey1984

Very cool interview, thanks SCOOPS!

Posted by flasaltine

@djjoejoe said:

@maxopower said:

I don't know, I feel Voxels have been big for some time now. They are not a main selling point, but it seems pretty common to use.

Define big, because the actual number of games that use them is incredibly small. 4 games this year include voxels for instance http://www.giantbomb.com/voxel/3015-1887/games/

And pretty much every Voxel game coming out just looks like Minecraft that has no definition to objects because the blocks are so huge.

Posted by pingolobo

Voxels are like Virtual Reality. They were very promising in the 80's but were ahead of their time.

Today's technology allows for easier applications of them and there will be demand for them. Just think of the Oculus Rift.

Posted by Sweetz

Man, I loved Outcast. I was younger then, dunno if it holds up now, but I really liked it.

It came out on GoG a year or two ago (thankfully with many community fixes pre-applied) and I replayed it then (having also played it when it was new). I think it holds up amazingly well for a 15 year old game, the shooting is clunky (always was), but the character interaction is basically Bioware style (that's a good thing) when Bioware was still making D&D based games. It really struck me just how much it feels like a modern Bioware game. If someone at Bioware says they weren't heavily influenced by Outcast and it's just coincidence, I wouldn't believe it.

Posted by oppai2

@cptbedlam: Comanche indeed! So much fun we had.

Posted by Lokno

I find this a little frustrating, coming from a graphics background. Voxels was a marketing term before graphics cards took over accelerated rendering. Voxels in the old days really just meant ray-casting height maps and sprites.The suggestion that this is a revival of the voxels from the 90s a misnomer. Everquests use of voxels is basically the same as how Minecraft uses them, only Minecraft is obviously a lot lower resolution. The basic principles are the same.

Posted by Christoffer

Pretty damn fascinating stuff. Polygons has been the standard for so long that I tend to forget it's far from the perfect solution, in theory at least, and can very well be obsolete in a couple of years. Like the man said, let the machines do the stupid work. Goddamned idiot machines, sheesh.

Speaking of which. Whatever happened to Euclideon?

Posted by HotelDon

Man, fuck Voxels, and double fuck Polygons; the real future is my new engine, which renders everything in millions of pentagonal prisms.

Online
Posted by deskp

Nice chat.

Posted by Sin4profit

I feel like Voxels will become more interesting when you can apply individual physical properties to the voxels. Seems most voxels are pretty static.

Edited by RaffaChicken

The engine seems to be voxels rendered as polygons, cleverly wrapping the texture and allowing it to be edited minecraft style. Old voxel games actually used individual blobs in 3D space to render the graphics. Very different concept. Slightly annoying not to see this acknowledged anywhere.

Posted by TheHT

Very interesting! Good stuff Patrick.

Posted by Trosp98
Posted by Seppli

Awesome. I am totally curious about Voxels. Will have to give this a listen soon.

Posted by mjk0104

Sweet, I've been following his development blog for a few years, it's some really cool tech. Thanks for this, Patrick.

Edited by ChrisTaran

Voxels have never not been amazing. I really do not understand why they are taking so long to take off. Seems like a far better game building method over pixels polygons.

Edited by cikame

Voxels have never not been amazing. I really do not understand why they are taking so long to take off. Seems like a far better game building method over pixels.

Not pixels, polygons, at the time it seemed more simple and efficient to lay out a mesh of polygons, stick a texture onto it and get good results. Because of this we continued down that road and refined our CG creating programs towards the polygon method.

It's going to take some time before we find ways to use voxels to get great results and, most importantly, with efficiency, just take the nvidia tech demo for a realistic face, can you imagine putting that together using what are basically bricks?

Edited by Sweetz

@christaran said:

Voxels have never not been amazing. I really do not understand why they are taking so long to take off. Seems like a far better game building method over pixels.

Note that just like Mincraft, Everquest Next is not true voxels. The blocks in Minecraft are drawn using traditional polygon rendering. What's "voxely" about it is that by putting those blocks together you form more complex 3D models. Similarly Everquest is ultimately rendering using polygon rasterization. The difference is just that it's generating polygon meshes in real time based on voxel-like data behind the scenes. It's basically a voxel to polygon translation engine (which is exactly how the engine it's based on is billed).

Actual voxel rendering, like the kind seen in Outcast and Commanche has significant problems, which is why it's not used. The biggest one is that performance requirements scale exponentially with resolution, whereas that's not the case with polygon rasterization.

Posted by RetroVirus

In case anyone hasn't seen it, go and watch the Random PC Game episode featuring Outcast, cause it's brilliant. Here it is.

Posted by cassus

I miss voxels. Blows my mind that we still haven't gone back to it. We have super powerful computers now, and the stuff Voxels can do is awesome. Polygons are just polygons. No destruction or anything doable without making an engine that supports it, and NO ONE does. I think the last one was Soldner or whatever it was called. That was around 2003 probably..

Check out some of the voxel videos online. I saw one voxel engine that showed that objects had depth, and the material through an object could change. That is, you can have actual reinforced bars in concrete.. So when a mortar shell hits the side of a concrete building you can see the bars sticking out of the broken off pieces of concrete and stuff like that. Similar to how Minecraft has different types of blocks depending on where you dig. The "blocks" in a voxel engine are pixel sized no matter how close you get though.

Voxels are super intensive on your harddrive. I suspect this might be why it's not used a lot these days. Hard drives have not kept up with the speed leaps CPU's and GPU's have done since the days Novalogic released Delta Force 1 and 2. Man.. Delta Force 1 was fucking amazing.. Showed another awesome thing about voxels: View distance.
Once we get data access fast enough to dish out single pixel resolution voxels, graphics are basically done. That's going to be weird for a while. No graphics development.

Edited by dr_mantas

Isn't the biggest problem that you can't properly animate voxels, at least on current hardware, as quickly as polygons.

Posted by johnmasterlee

Yes, the challenge with voxels is that because they are defined on a XYZ coordinates, you can't easily animate them. You really move a voxel "off the grid" if you will. Thus developers would convert stuff to polygons to allow for animation. The reality is most voxel engines today have some level of integration with a polygon engine because games need it. But having an environment designed in voxels can be very powerful especially if you design it to be destructible. And we're reaching the point where PCs are fast enough to handle lots of voxels at once.

It's kinda hard to grasp and even draw the line between voxel vs polygon in most games. Even for me, who is working on Spark Rising, a voxel based game! My team and I had long debates of what remains a voxel and what gets converted into polygon meshes, and how to keep them consistent visually so that gamers feel like it makes sense.