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Carmack on 3D: May as well be speaking alien

So, you're saying graphicsability will be improveitudes

While I understand about one word in forty, I do like hearing Carmack speak about what he’s been up to. His recent interview with PC Perspective is a goldmine of Carmack-thinking. For example, this is what Carmack’s been up to recently…

“It involves ray tracing into a sparse voxel octree which is essentially a geometric evolution of the mega-texture technologies that we’re doing today for uniquely texturing entire worlds. It’s clear that what we want to do in the following generation is have unique geometry down to the equivalent of the texel across everything. There are different approaches that you could wind up and try to get that done that would involve tessellation and different levels of triangle meshes and you can could conceivably make something like that work but rasterization architecture does really start falling apart when your typical triangle size is less than one pixel.”

I empathise. When triangle size gets less than one pixel around here, it’s complete chaos. Jim starts screaming, Walker just flakes out completely and it’s only Alec who keeps his head together, reassuring us that triangle size will be back at more than a pixel shortly. However, I have managed to decode some stuff.
Well, not me. PC Perspective in the conclusion rounds stuff up. The most interesting stuff is involving the ray-tracing, which I’ve been vaguely aware of. There’s been various people saying – and this is Kieron-o-vision – claiming that traditional Polygon-rendering 3D card stuff is going to disappear, in favour of Ray Tracing. You may remember ray-tracking from the nineties, when we used it on our Amigas to make pictures of spheres appear after eight hours of ‘puter-think. Now, apparently processors are fast enough that they can use that method to start doing in-game stuff. The major proponents are Intel, and the theory is explained a bit here. From our perspective, the biggest change would be that 3D cards basically would become obsolete, as they’re based around throwing around textures. Or, at least, that’s what I can make out. This is all Martian, remember. [We’ll hopefully be exploring a ray-tracing a little more in an extended post next week – Ed-who-may-or-may-not-happen-to-be-Alec]

Now, Carmack basically doesn’t think this will happen. He can see specific uses for the technology – which is the tree-tracing stuff he’s going on about – but doesn’t think it’ll win out. He also agrees with PC Perspective that Intel needs to actually show this is possible – the theory is all well enough, but they need to actually show, not tell – which is why they’ve been buying a load of middleware stuff.

So that’ll be worth watching.

My next post will be an analysis of Ada Lovelaces’ notes on Menabrea sketch of Babbage’s Difference Engine.

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Kieron Gillen


Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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