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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Voxel Studio Revisited

We are working to make Voxel Farm accessible for a bigger crowd. Among other things we are easing Unity integration and improving our tools. Here is a teaser of the new Voxel Studio application, showing some terrain building:


We removed a lot of the complexity from the old Voxel Studio. No need to set up or connect to a render Voxel Farm anymore for instance.

The tool allows you to work on the macro features of your world like terrain, lakes, caves, architecture, then to jump in and edit the voxels directly. We will be showing more of that in the future.



Friday, August 22, 2014

Eureka!

Tired of running and swimming in virtual worlds? I see people wanting to build their own vehicles in order to get around. When the time comes, their imagination should be free to create ships and airships in any form they like.

Voxels are a good help here. They are volumetric by nature, and we can always know what kind of material is there. Each material then can have its own specific weight. So wood is lighter than stone, and stone may be lighter than raw iron. These properties have a great deal of influence one how things interact with each other, also how they rotate, how their center of mass is computed.

Air is no different. It is meant to weight something. So what happens if you have a material lighter than air? Check out the following video:



Here the balloons are just regular voxels. They could be any shape. The trick is they have a material that is much lighter than air. As soon as they become free standing objects, they raise. This is because the air they displace weights more than themselves and this force may be big enough to overcome gravity.

We will be looking at the same principle for water in a next iteration.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dynamic Fluids

You may have caught some of this if you attended SOE Live or if you watched some of the audience videos from the panels.

We have been working for a while on a cellular automata system. The following video shows some early results:



As you can see the automata is producing something that resembles flowing water. I guess with different rules we could represent other phenomena, like smoke, clouds, slime and lava. Water in particular is a tough system because it likes to flow pretty fast.

This system is already able to schedule simulation so areas near the player (or players) get more simulation ticks. Simulation frequency is also affected by how much the system "wants" to change in a given area. For instance a stable puddle of water will get far less ticks than water falling from a cliff.

This makes the solution manageable from a computational point. This approach does create its own set of problems. For instance if nobody is there to experience the water, it does not really change. As someone approaches, the simulation frequency will increase gradually. This is enough to deceive players I hope, the player influence area is large enough to mask the fact that distant water does not update as frequently.

There are a few significant challenges ahead. We need to make sure this scales when we have hundreds of players. Also not everything in a game world is made out of voxels, eventually we would need to make props block and modify the flow of water.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Appetite for Destruction

We continue to work non-stop on the physics for Voxel Farm. It has to be that way, physics is a huge component of what we are trying to build.  All the pretty things we can help you create must also come down. 

In earlier videos you saw things breaking apart. Now we can do it at a much larger scale, also with all sort of flying fragments and debris. We are taking a page from Michael Bay on this one. We want enough stuff blowing up to make you run for cover under your desk.

Still a long way to go, but I am very happy with our latest results. Have a look for yourself:


An interesting point for me in the video is the creation of the chair. It shows how physics can be an intuitive way of making objects for your world:


These objects you could rotate, position and scale at will. It would be very similar to a traditional mesh prop.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mind of a Terrain Engineer

A few days ago I decided to write a new terrain system. I wanted to see if I could get better performance, and also additional features. I will post more about this experience, for now I just wanted to share the feeling I got working on terrains again. I put together this inspirational video for all the terrain makers out there:



Yes it is very silly, I could not resist. I realized I had taken enough screenshots along the process and probably a single video was the best format to share them.






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