demo scene

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It’s 5/7/09, a nice odd sequence, so time for a few odds and ends I’ve collected.

OK, this is worth a few minutes of your life: the elevated demo is awe-inspiring. Terrain generation (be patient when you start it), fly-by’s, and music, all in less than 4096 bytes. By way of comparison, an empty MS Word document is 9834 bytes. (thanks to Steve Worley)

Google has put out a browser-based low-level 3D graphics API called O3D. API here. Demos here. Some initial impressions here. It will be interesting to see if they succeed where so many others have failed.

There is a call for participation out for a new book series called “Game Engine Gems“, edited by Eric Lengyel. (thanks to Marwan Ansari)

The main thing I look at on the SIGGRAPH exhibition floor are the book booths. Good books are such a ridiculous bargain: if a book like Geometric Tools saves a programmer 2 hours of time, it’s paid for itself. One new book that I want to see is Real-Time Cameras, by Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, which came out this April. Looking around for more info, I noticed this sad note. I never met Mark, but we corresponded a few times. He came up with a clever idea to avoid performing division when doing a point in polygon test; I folded this into the CrossingsMultiplyTest Graphics Gems code here, crediting him.

I’ve been looking at GPU capabilities and benchmarking information lately. Some nice resources:

  • You probably know about the benchmarking group Futuremark. Me, I hadn’t realized they had useful stats at their site: see the Futuremark ORB links at the bottom of the page and start clicking.
  • Two applications that tell you a ton about your card’s capabilities: GPU-Z, with a ton of information and a statistics page & cute map of downloads at their site, and GPU Caps, which also includes CUDA-related information and some nice little OpenGL benchmarks.
  • Chris Dragan has a web database that provides a fair amount of data on card support for DirectX capabilities and OpenGL extensions.
  • The Notebook Check site had way too much information about many laptop graphics accelerators.
  • nHancer is a utility for NVIDIA cards. It lets you get at all sorts of different capabilities on your GPU, on a per-game basis. There are also interesting antialiasing and anisotropic filtering comparison pages (click on the radio buttons). (thanks to Mauricio Vives)
Some interesting libraries I ran across lately:
  • GTS is an open-source mesh manipulation package.
  • Box2D is a 2D physics engine.
  • Touchlib is a multitouch development kit. (thanks to Morgan McGuire)

Coincidental world: it turns out there’s a different “Eric Haines” out there that made a well-received 3D graphics game for the iPhone, Realmaze 3D. I’m not sure how it compares to his The Magical Flying Pink Pony Game, which looks awesome. (thanks to Nikolai Sander)

I’ve seen similar real-world illusions, but still thought this one was pretty great. (Addendum: Morgan McGuire found this even-better video of the effect.)

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This and That

I’ll someday run out of titles for these occasional summaries of new(ish) resources, but in the meantime, this one’s “This and That”.

Christer Ericson’s article on dealing with grouping and sorting objects for rendering is excellent. It mostly depends on input latency, but has concepts that can be applied in immediate mode.

An element that continues to renew the field of computer graphics is that the rules change. This article is about taking Quake 2 (from 1997) and moving it to a modern GPU.

If you haven’t seen it yet, Farbrausch’s demo “debris” is truly impressive. It’s only 183,462 bytes, and is absolutely packed with procedural content. Download here (last link works). Or be lazy and watch on YouTube.

NVIDIA’s pulled together its resources for shadow generation and ambient occlusion all onto one handy page (plus ray tracing – just one entry so far, but it’s a good one).

How to deal with various rendering paradigms on multiple platforms? GRAMPS looks intriguing.

Gamasutra put a useful Game Developer article online, all about commercial middleware game engines currently available.

OpenGL will always exist, since Macs and Linux need it. It’s easier to use in college courses because of its clarity and readability. But otherwise the pendulum’s swung far towards DirectX. Phil Taylor comments on and gives some historical context to the controversy around the latest release, OpenGL 3.0.

A nice trend for OpenGL is that people continue to write useful bits, such as GLee, which manages extensions.

New info on older effects: blur and glow, volumetric clouds, and particle systems.

The glorious teapot. I like “a wireframe view”. Yes, the real thing is taller than the synthetic model, as the model makers were compensating for non-square pixels.

“What’s the future hold?” is always a fun topic, one we’ve used each edition to end our book. I liked this presentation on SlideShare for its sheer “here are a hundred things that hurtle us towards the Singularity” feel, though I don’t buy it for a minute. SlideShare, where it is hosted, is a pleasant medium-attention-span kind of place, with all sorts of random and fun slidesets.

Finally, I am pleased to find that LittleBIGPlanet is just as gorgeous as it looked like it would be. I’ve played myself for only a bit, but walking by when my kids are playing I find I have to stop and stare.

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I’ve been collecting links via del.icio.us of things for the blog. Let’s go:

Antialiasing thick lines by using textures is an old technique. Areakkusu’s site is nice in that it has good examples and code.

The Level of Detail blog has a great pointer to Slisesix’s amazing demo. “Demo” as in “Demoscene,” where his program is a mere 4k bytes in size. It’s not animated, not real-time, but shows how distance fields could be used for ambient occlusion approximation. Definitely check out all the links: Alex Evan (of LittleBIGPlanet) has a worthwhile talk, and Iñigo’s presentation is even better: good technical content and real-time programs running inside the slides.

I’d rather avoid logrolling in this blog, but did want to mention enjoying Christer Ericson’s post on graphical shader systems. I have to agree that such systems are bad for creating efficient shaders, but these tools do at least allow a wider range of people to experiment and explore. There are a lot of worthwhile followup comments on this thread.

Oogst has a clever trick he calls interior mapping, for rendering walls, floors, and ceilings for buildings seen from the outside. Define a texture to be used for each interior element, and have the pixel shader compute from the eye direction what would be seen inside. There’s no actual geometry, it’s all just computing the ray intersection using (wait for it) a floor function. Humus has demo code available for this technique, using DirectX 10. Admittedly, the various tiles repeat and there are other limits, but actual interiors are vastly superior to the usual dirty or reflective windows currently used in games, with no extra geometry added.

Bavoil and Sainz have a new approach for Screen-Space Ambient Occlusion, using a more elaborate form of horizon mapping: http://developer.nvidia.com/object/siggraph-2008-HBAO.html. Code’s available in NVIDIA’s DX 10 SDK.

If you missed Jon Olick’s talk at SIGGRAPH about voxel octree representation, Timothy Farrar has a summary. Personally, I think Jon’s research is very much that-research, not something that is immediately practical-but I love seeing how changing capabilities and increased flexibility can lead to different approaches.

On Amazon: 4 graphics books for the price of 2, minus the papery bits. Pharr and Humphrey’s “Physically Based Rendering” (PBR) and Luebke’s “Level of Detail for 3D Graphics” are certainly worthwhile, the other two I don’t know about (though look worthwhile and are well-rated). I don’t know a thing about the electronic media used; I’m guessing the books are DRM’ed, not naked PDFs. Searchable is certainly nice. While it’s too bad you can’t just buy the ones you want (I smell a marketing department having some “what can we get them to pay for what bundle?” meetings, given the negligible physical cost), I did notice an interesting thing on Amazon I hadn’t seen before for each book except PBR: “Upgrade this book for $18.39 more, and you can read, search, and annotate every page online.” You can also upgrade books you’ve previously purchased on Amazon.

On Gamasutra, an article summarizing DirectX 11. I liked it: to the point, and with some useful figures.

Every once in awhile someone will say he has a new graphics rendering method that’s awesome, but won’t explain it because of some reason (usually involving money or fame). Here’s one, from Sunfish Studio: no micropolygons, no point sampling. OK, so that leaves-what?-voxels? If anyone knows what this is about, please comment; I’m curious.

GameDeveloperTools.com is a new site that tracks news and has users rate books. To be honest, a lot more voting needs to happen to make the ratings useful-I’d stick with Amazon for now. The main use is that you can look at specific categories, which are a bit better than Amazon’s somewhat random sorting of graphics books (e.g., our book is in three categories on Amazon, competing against artists’ books on using mental ray and RenderMan).

Finally, this, well, this is not interactive graphics, but is just so cool: parking signs understandable from only certain locations.

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