Why Voxel Games are so Popular
In a 3D video game there are several ways to represent objects: from common triangle-meshes, primitive geometric shapes (ROBLOX), relief maps for (terrains) and, recently expanded, a new way to represent 3D objects; The Voxel.
A voxel is a volume element that stores information in a three-dimensional space grid.
A video game, a simple field would have two states in that grid; an empty cell (air) and another complete cell (Earth). In a more realistic terrain, each cell would have different color, material. The more voxels, the more realism and, the compression of the data is incredibly high (and mandatory), so it is not necessary to worry much about the storage space and the power of the equipment (initially this could pose a problem as we speak of worlds that could entirely possess millions of cells).
Voxel began in the world of video games many years ago and has evolved to this day.
Some notable examples of a voxel in games:
1992: All Comanche games were built under the Voxel Space engine (owned by NovaLogic) and remain in the history of video games as the first to use Voxels. However, other games implemented it in specific parts as specific game objects or vehicles.
These voxels were 2D bricks with varying heights. By rendering the terrain in this way, the graphics were softer, more contoured, and more detailed.
Comanche, made with Novalogic’s Voxel Space engine. 3D pixels with low definition, but high reproduction of details on the ground (for the time).
In 2000, Ken Silverman began work on Voxlap, a voxel-based engine. A year later Tom Dobrowolski joined the team as a programmer. Voxlap became open source in 2005. Today we can find some games that have been developed with this engine as is the case of Ace of Spades in 2011.
The most remarkable thing about the Voxlap engine is that the CPU can work quickly, the dynamic terrain is made up of small cubes and, that you can destroy rigid objects with very cool effects.
In 2009 – Zachtronics Industries developed Inifiniminer which served as an inspiration for Minecraft.
Infiniminer is a set of building and destroying blocks for the extraction of precious metals that gave points for each equipment when they were brought to the surface.
It was initially designed to be a team competition game, but as the game gained popularity, it was discovered that it was more entertaining to build your creations than to compete.
Zachtronics abandoned the development of the game, and the source code became public.
In this video, we can appreciate the similarity between the two games.
2009-2010: Minecraft sees the light and becomes one of the most popular indie games of the entire decade (and I would venture to say that of all history).
In the game, we can see how the voxel grid could be used to innovate, simplify, and at the same time, enjoy an impressive level of realism and creativity. In Minecraft much is played with the physical and light effects.
Technically Minecraft is based on a Voxel engine but is rendered in a Poxel: polygon/voxel (Poxel Engine).
Why does Minecraft use polygons to draw the grounds of Worlds instead of voxels?
The graphical hardware works and renders triangles, so you have to use them if you want to take advantage of the acceleration.
Most voxel renderers use Marching Cubes to extract a polygonal form from a voxel representation, and that’s what they show. Directly rendering a volume is very hard for the CPU
2006-2010: ROBLOX is a block game where you can create your games and play those that exist. ROBLOX’s beta was built in 2002 and was officially released in 2005-2006.
The team of Roblox is developing dynamic light and shadow engine where most of the work falls on the CPU instead of the graphics. They are also expanding the voxel-based data structure to achieve this rather than just land use.
In short, they are trying to improve and refine The Voxel system.
Some say that Roblox will leave Minecraft to the ground but time will tell (I would say it is destined for a more youthful audience).
In the future, the wind simulation will arrive in the games using coarse voxel grids. Thermal models with which tornadoes can be generated and the density, temperature, speed, pressure, and humidity of the air can be manipulated.
And this is all in when the system advances Voxel in the world of video games. Little by little more will be achieved and with less use of resources, and the best thing is that we will be around to see it.