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Notch vs Unlimited Detail

That's not unlimited. Why, it's only 600 pixels wide

Mr Minecraft himself, Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, isn’t at all impressed by Euclideon’s bold, bewildering claims of an ‘unlimited detail’ graphics engine. And he’s not talking about that voiceover guy – he’s talking about the engine itself, and alleging that it isn’t really what it claims to be. So he’s broken down why in great detail. Caution: science. Also, videos.

Here’s the main thrust of his assessment:

“They made a voxel renderer, probably based on sparse voxel octrees. That’s cool and all, but.. To quote the video, the island in the video is one km^2. Let’s assume a modest island height of just eight meters, and we end up with 0.008 km^3. At 64 atoms per cubic millimeter (four per millimeter), that is a total of 512 000 000 000 000 000 atoms. If each voxel is made up of one byte of data, that is a total of 512 petabytes of information, or about 170 000 three-terrabyte harddrives full of information. In reality, you will need way more than just one byte of data per voxel to do colors and lighting, and the island is probably way taller than just eight meters, so that estimate is very optimistic.”

He also notes that the video shows “repeated structure[s], all roughly the same size”, claiming sparse voxel octrees are very good at referencing the same data over and over. He also reckons this system wouldn’t be much cop for animation.

Nonetheless, “It’s a very pretty and very impressive piece of technology, but they’re carefully avoiding to mention any of the drawbacks, and they’re pretending like what they’re doing is something new and impressive. In reality, it’s been done several times before.” Which he claims is demonstrated to some degree by these projects.

The Atomontage Engine:

The engine for Voxelstein, created by the guy who made Duke Nukem 3D’s engine:

SVO raycasting from 2009:

Obviously these aren’t exactly the same as Unlimited Detail – and I’m probably the wrong guy to ask such techery of anyway – but they are, to Notch’s mind, using the same technology. For that reason, he alleges that “They’re hyping this as something new and revolutionary because they want funding. Don’t get excited. Or, more correctly, get excited about voxels, but not about the snake oil salesmen.”

More here. Will there be a riposte from Mr Euclideon? We can but hope.

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Alec Meer


Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about videogames.

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