Sunday, August 28, 2011

Voxels

John Marine | 8/28/2011 02:00:00 PM | | | |
One of my past ambitions was to break into computer animation. That would require me to learn how to make 3D models. Never have I been able to make 3D models. There is one popular alternative to 3D- voxels. Qubicle Constructor, even in its Basic package, is a great way to introduce yourself to making voxel-based models. These voxel models allow you to do things even today's hyper-realistic 3D polygon models can't take advantage of.

So this blog post is a two-for-one: it is a look at voxels, and a review of Qubicle Constructor (Basic).





--- Voxels in General ---
What are voxels, and how do they compare to 3D models? When you think of voxels, think "volmetric pixel." Voxels can be thought of as three-dimensional pixels. Rather than a flat plane, voxels have depth to them as 3D figures. Most voxel worlds and characters use up less CPU than polygonal 3D figures. While voxels can be used for gaming and for videos, they are also used in other applications, such as in the medical industry (medical imaging, I believe).

Let me share you a video that showcases one of the most impressive videos of voxel models in one great video. Take a look at how impressive voxels can be from this Chilean firm. Look at how detailed everything is:


To learn more about this Voxel 3D group, visit www.voxel.cl (WARNING: Spanish language only).

Too bad the description and everything are all in Spanish. I wonder how much rendering time there was in putting this all together. That was an impressive video showcasing what all is possible using voxels. However, here is a more down-to-earth demonstration of voxels:



Take note of the detail in some of the close-up shots.



--- My Introduction to Voxels ---
I was first enticed to voxels when I first played an enhanced version of Duke Nukem 3D. Because my PC's graphics card (SiS 760) was unable to be of any use for the high-res 3D models, I found a different alternative in using voxels. The use of voxels has opened me up to a different way of looking at one of the most classic first-person shooters of all time. The use of voxels makes for a great alternative to relying on polygon-based 3D. You can convert 3D models to voxelized models, so it isn't as if 3D models have some sort of "No Voxel" regulation.

Two of the most popular games today to utilize voxels are Fortresscraft, and today's vastly-popular Minecraft. Some other games have utilized voxels or voxel-like images. Among others: 3D Dot Game Heroes, Blade Runner, Ace of Spades (the game, not the rock song), some of the earliest Command and Conquer games, Outcast, Shadow Warrior, Blood, and games like that. It is a cheap way to make 3D.


My Current Voxel Plans.

For once, I want to be able to say I've accomplished something major in my life that others may perhaps enjoy. I've somewhat had a private game idea to utilize voxels. It is somewhat of an all-female beat-em-up type game idea. After seeing certain voxel models with stuff made with Qubicle Constructor, I became somewhat interested in seeing if I could design my own characters using voxels.

Since everything would be starting from scratch and not with any sort of 3D modeling program, you can imagine that it will be tough to come up with models from scratch using only bitmaps. In fact, I had game ideas back in 1997 trying to make 3D models using bitmaps. None of those were ever successful.



--- How to Make Voxels ---
The best way I can explain voxels is to think about a pair of playing dice. If you've seen a pair of traditional playing dice, you know that each die has six sides. Each of these six sides come together to make the boxed figure. If you are making a voxel from scratch, you will need to make six bitmaps representing six different slices of the figure. One color has to serve as a masking or alpha color. Commonly, it is fuchsia (RGB: 255-0-255; HEX: FF00FF or #FF00FF) that serves as the transparent color for images in most games and applications.

So let's use an image of a six-sided die to demonstrate voxels:

^ from: www.karrels.org (best I could find- this or nothing) - Most bitmap-based voxel models can be created from six different dimensions, just like this six-sided die.

Here are the six dimensions that make up most voxel models:
• Front
• Left
• Right
• Back
• Top
• Bottom

The key to making voxels come alive is in careful editing of these six faces to make exceptional models. If you're trying to make moving figures from voxels, you'll have to come up with a series of bitmaps to accurately animate everything. It is certainly doable even though a lot of work is involved. Adding a certain amount of depth to voxels can produce some very realistic results.



--- Voxels in Action ---
These videos showcase reasons why voxels are favored in making games. Have a look around in this section. I have featured only so many videos to demonstrate what all is possible in using voxels.

Destructible Elements.

Watch the level of destruction of the environment in this one:


It is a simple video showcasing what is possible with the destructible environment.


Voxelstein 3D.

This game is a voxelized re-imagination of the hit 1992 PC game, Wolfenstein. Take a look at what is possible using voxel modeling:


Take note of the amount of destruction and realism of the environment in the game. By the way, this is a free game! Visit Voxelstein 3D's home page to download Voxelstein 3D.


Extreme Detail.

What is possible if you have loads of bytes to play around with to make complex structures? THIS is possible:


Be sure to read the stats on all the rendering and the size of the whole operation. Makes you appreciate what you can create with computers that are able to sustain and utilize so much detail.


Outcast.

Outcast was a PC game released in 1999. I've never played it, but even today, this is one of the most visually-impressive games ever. You too will be a believer when you see THIS video:



Remember- 1999 with voxels! There was a rumor circulating that this game was NOT made using voxels. You be the judge, though.


Last, but not least...

FortressCraft and MineCraft.

FortressCraft and today's Minecraft are two voxel-powered games. These wildly-popular (especially Minecraft) games are immensely fun in creating all sorts of environments. There is no right or wrong way to play either game.

First, Fortresscraft:


And now, a Minecraft video:



I would make a blog post regarding Minecraft, but you have to buy Minecraft to be able to use it. So I may just do a post regarding thoughts on Minecraft in the future.


I tried to find videos where I didn't get bombarded with advertisements before a YouTube video loads. You know some of what trouble I may often face trying to provide quality content for all of you.





--- Qubicle Constructor: A Quick Review ---
Qubicle Constructor is one of a few different voxel-making programs you can download. I have the Basic version, which you can do only so much with. This is basically what you can use to get familiar with what all you can do in making voxel models. You are unable to save using the Basic version. However, it is possible to upload voxel creations to Minecraft using the Basic version. To be able to do a lot more with Qubicle Constructor, you need to purchase the program online.

There are two packages for Qubicle Constructor besides Light: the Education version gives you many more options for which to make voxel models with as well as being able to export your models to a host of different formats. The Education version requires an academic ID. If you want the top-of-the-line version of this program, you will need to purchase the Master version. The Master version includes all of the features of the Education version, but with commercial support. This will allow you to make videos, games, or whatever you like.

Qubicle Constructor itself is something I see great promise in if I had the full version. I literally feel like I could put together a series of bitmaps and make some quality models for projects or whatever. I wanted the Basic one because I'm cheap. :P Just because it's the basic version doesn't mean it's basic in interface and execution. As long as your PC meets the requirements and as long as you have the creativity to make almost whatever you want, this is a very solid program. There are not a lot of free programs that allow you to make voxels. Not to mention any that offer a solid and complete interface for which to make voxels. Even if you can't save in the Basic version, there aren't too many intuitive programs that will allow you to make voxel models for various applications. Only knock is that I probably wish the array of colors I could choose from was better. Otherwise, this is one of the easiest programs for which to make voxel models with. You'll likely need to get the Master version to really enjoy what this program has to offer.

Learn more about Qubicle Constructor (and see tutorials and videos) at www.qubicle-constructor.com. You can also download/purchase the program from the site.





These are only a few examples of what is possible by using and utilizing voxels. I see voxels as an inexpensive and alternate way of making quality 3D material without having to continually rely on polygons. It is really impressive what most are capable of pulling off by utilizing voxel technology. How do you feel about voxels? Feel free to comment!

Thank you for reading!

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1 comments:

John B. Marine said...

Omg...I ve been trying to comment on your blog since ...forver, but I couldn t. I don t understand what s the problem.This never happened to me on other blogs.Is it juts me?!I m so sorry, John.Oh, and by the way, the mistakes are caused by the fact that I can t delete what I m writing.So...sorry,but I m trying to make the most of this chance I have.Great post, as always!I ve bene meaning to tell you...i admire you for all the hard work you put in a post, every single one is very well documented and researched.I m absolutely impressed!Loved the post with the horsed...omg...horses!My favorite!

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