Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blips: Where Have All The Voxels Gone?

Source: Meet the voxel, the pixel's long lost cousin, and why it became videogames' Betamax
Author: Jason Johnson
Site: Kill Screen

I liked this piece by Jason Johnson on voxels mainly because I've heard of voxels for a while now, but never knew what they were, and now I do. The analogy of voxels basically being 3D pixels was probably the most helpful in understanding the key difference between them and polygons. It seems like the only new games that use voxels these days have framed their game around the fact that their graphics are made of voxels, like Voxatron. As Johnson lays out in the article, producing voxel-based assets on the level of high-end polygon modelling is way more computer-intensive.

Think of it this way: you have to build a sculpture of a human figure using polygon and voxel methods. The polygon way is to construct a wireframe and then cover it with an appropriate skin (paper, fabric, resin) which can then be painted. The voxel way is to construct the figure out of Legos, each being the appropriate color as you place them. In order to get relatively smooth rounded surfaces, you have to build with a lot of voxels, basically increasing the resolution the way you would with a static image.

With the popularity of the blocky aesthetic thanks to Minecraft, now might be the perfect time to revive voxels though. If they were used to their own stylistic ends instead of replicating the direction that polygons have gone, I imagine some pretty unique creative stuff could be made. Maybe it would be too technical for your average player to really understand or care about, but I say it's worth a shot, and will definitely be on the lookout for voxel-based games from here on out.

:image credit Arda Kutlu:

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