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Unlimited Detail Engine defended

by Steve Watts, Nov 23, 2011 12:00pm PST

If you follow the games industry closely enough, chances are you heard about Euclideon's Unlimited Detail Engine. The engine uses voxels rather than polygons, and has promised a level of graphical fidelity orders of magnitude greater than anything we've seen using standard current tech. It all seems a little too good to be true, and the company's silence on the issue gave cause for some skepticism.

Now CEO Bruce Dell has defended the company's bold claims by allowing journalist access for a personal look at the engine's demo, and responded to some of its harshest critics.

GameInformer's hands-on claims that the demo video shown previously was legitimate, though the company arranges the voxels in a clever way to render them. The "atoms" (i.e. voxels) are arranged to be one per pixel for maximum efficiency. Essentially, the system decides what points need to be displayed to give the desired effect.

Well-known industry figures chimed in on the engine when it was shown, some more harshly than others. John Carmack, CEO of id Software, was impressed but said the technology was several years away. "[Carmack] was unaware at the time that we were running this purely in software," Dell said. "In his particular case, he and Intel had tried to go down a similar road themselves. Intel had tried making its own system in order to do things along the field of unlimited graphics. It ended up closing that avenue as it figured it was something for the distant future when computers have more power."

Meanwhile, Markus "Notch" Persson went so far as to claim the whole thing was a scam. "On the one hand, I could be nice and say, 'yes, there are scammers out there โ€“ it's fair enough to look at something and immediately label it as a scam," Dell said. "But on the other โ€“ which people have brought up โ€“ the man compared [Unlimited Detail] to three other engines. The mistakes Notch made were so bad that, if we were less kind, we would be able to really discredit his actual understanding of a lot of stuff in general. But that's honestly not our intention: we don't want to make enemies with him. We prefer to bring him around and be nice to him."

Critics have also observed the object repetition in their demo, claiming it's an inherent weakness in the engine. Dell claims that this is simply a product of the company scanning in objects on a short time frame, and says the company's next demo makes use of ex-THQ staff artists to show off more variety.

Even so, the engine isn't perfect. Euclideon claims it runs at 20 FPS at the time, and there's still plenty of room for improvement. Plus, it's a tech company, so Dell often notes that industry artists would be able to render better results. Still, Dell says he's aiming for less than a year before the software development kit starts hitting the hands of developers, so we may not have to wait much longer for devs themselves to give feedback on the viability of the system.




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