pacman000 wrote:Looked up some of those games. Impressive, even today. You know what they remind me of? The Genesis Affect (Effect?) from Star Trek II.
Effect. An effect affects things.
That's polygonal, not voxel-based, but the height mapping for the mountains is procedurally generated using a similar fractal algorithm to the early voxel-based games that Lucasfilm developed for Atari's 8-bit computers (and subsequently ported to every other computer under the sun). If you aren't familiar with these fine games, you should be: Rescue on Fractalus
was released first and is the most popular, The Eidolon
is the most sophisticated, and Koronis Rift
is a clunky, complicated mess that's great too. (If you have the time, look up the lavish manuals at Atarimania.) Rescue on Fractalus
is actually relevant to the Jaguar - not only is Cybermorph
essentially an (underachieving) update of it, but I also just found out about an impressive-looking homebrew remake for the Jaguar called Fallen Angels
pacman000 wrote:Amazing that they could create such realistic terrain in the early 90's; I almost wish more games had used voxels. I've read it's harder to create an animated character with voxels than with polygons. Is that why most games went the polygon route?
They're just limited. There are big reasons that you only see them used for smoothly rolling hills, even in what heyday they had.
The main issue is that the smoothness you see in these games is because the voxels are calculated using a simple height map. This means that nothing can overhang or overlap anything else. It is
possible to use them in full 3D, but it takes a lot more processing power and is incredibly inefficient compared to polygons. As it is, only the terrain can be voxels, and any moving objects have to be either sprites (in earlier games) or polygon models (in later games).
As for animation, even if we put full 3D on the table and give ourselves the opportunity, the main challenge in animating with voxels is that each frame has to be an entire model, just like how each frame in a pixel-based 2D game's animation uses an entire sprite. It's much less of a waste to simply move polygons around with a skeleton.
In any case, the way that games are now, even the ground that you walk on is always so lushly animated that voxels would be useless for anything you could actually see, and rendering them in 4K would be a complete waste of power if you wanted anything besides hills in your level design. There's also the matter of shaders, which use vector calculations that I can't imagine playing nicely with voxels. Even if voxels had gained a bigger foothold in the '90s, they'd still be obsolete today. (I believe that they're still used in medical imaging, though, since they don't have to do
anything, just represent 3D space.)
[Addendum: This post used to say something very silly about voxels' efficiency before I remembered that these games use raycasting, which scales linearly in processing demand with resolution, which is the entire reason that a game like Comanche
was viable in 1992 in the first place. Me dumb.]