Editorial
GameGeex - Are Voxel Engines the wave of the future? Atomontage definitely sees the potential in Voxel-based game engines. But really? Is it as good as they think?
This is an Editorial post. Views expressed by this post are not necessarily those of GameGeex.

For quite some time now, gaming companies have used polygons to render most of the visual graphics in gaming, and for the most part, video games look great. Like most things however, it might eventually be replaced but I doubt the polygon's replacement is just around the corner. Still, I'm sure companies are thinking what the next big thing might be so it's no surprise developers want to try and experiment with more Voxel Geometry.

In a video titled Voxel Geometry, Atomontage show-cased a little more of what their upcoming "Atomontage Engine" could do for the visual rendering of a game. This engine uses the voxel as a base. Just incase you aren't familiar with a voxel, think of Minecraft and how a lot of players are able to build ingenious designs using only blocks. That's what this engine does: creates with blocks. A lot of them.

Even though I find this engine quite fascinating I don't think the Voxel is the best visual solution at this time. Video games are dynamic. The modern game is frenetic, viewed at high definitions, and run anywhere between 30 and 120 frames per second. The voxel is a cube or as some call it, a 3D pixel. It's cool to make things out of blocks but they'll only look good when they're static. That's why Minecraft does the voxel thing so well because the world, realistically speaking, is very stationary like a moment recreated with Legos.

In other words, my issue with the voxel is animation. As of now, I don't think anyone has made a good, or even practical way of re-creating motion for voxel creations. Imagine a game like Mirror's Edge rendered using Voxel. It'll look sluggish. You'd know the world was made of blocks. It would take a lot of voxels to make motion look fluid and I assume they would use up a lot of processing power. As of today, most of the games on the market are fast-paced works of digitally dynamic art and sacrificing fluidity for amazing still images is a no go, especially with the emergence of even faster and visually sharper televisions.

Of course, i'm not the type person who just sits here and talks about interesting things with such disdain. The Atomontage Engine, and future engines like it, do have a place I feel. From afar, the showcased creations of the worlds and static images are absolutely phenomenal. Imagine background landscapes or even RTS maps made with this engine. They'd look absolutely unreal. I'm sure if someone finds a way to blend Voxel worlds with fluid motion in the characters; perhaps through motion capture, you could create something with the greatest graphics ever.

So what do all of you think of using voxel engines for video games? And I mean dynamic AAA titles. I think the Voxel should be implemented, but it's not quite ready to replace. Still, when this gets going, I can see amazing things happen, especially for other industries that already use the voxel as a staple, like the medical field but that's for another time.

Don't forget to watch the video below to see what this engine is capable of.

 

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You will notice that the truck they had driving over the voxel terrain was still polygonal - Voxel tech is not yet practical for all aspects of rendering. Its getting very impressive, I agree, but I dont really see polygonal meshes going anywhere any time soon.


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