The coming revolution in the world of video games.

The combination of three ray tracing technologies for light, voxels for particles, and procedural generation to create the game maps will lead to a revolution never seen before in the world of video games and will make them almost indistinguishable from reality when we also add virtual reality.

These technologies have been around for a long time but now they have been enabled for use in real time, fluid image and ultra-high resolution. All of this is emerging now and did not emerge twenty years ago because today we have the hardware, especially video cards capable of computing all of this, and because today we have a collection of efficient and realistic software algorithms. Two enabling technologies coupled with three fields of use are about to take us to computer images that we only dreamed of in the movies.

Minecraft leads the way

It seems incredible that a game as simple as Minecraft is today one of the spearheads of these technologies. Those of you who know me know that I am a fan of Minecraft since I found it back in 2012, and we are more and more people who think that Minecraft is the best video game in history;

but Minecraft already has procedural generation, i.e. the creation of the terrain instead of being done manually is done by algorithms from a point called "seed". Minecraft is the world of cubes, of voxels, in this case they are very large, one meter by one meter by one meter, but these cubes can be made smaller and smaller and related to physical laws to simulate solids, liquids and gases.

But Minecraft has also recently been the first game to incorporate ray tracing, this is an algorithm for generating images that calculates the path of light as if it were photons and simulates its effects on the virtual surfaces on which it strikes.

The first thing to come is ray tracing

The paradigm shift is so profound that the consoles (Xbox and Playstation) that will be renewed at the end of 2020 will no longer measure their power by processor and ram memory but by the capacity of calculations they are able to do per second (flops), this until now was a parameter of artificial intelligence processing, but if we process photons, or rather groups of photons, as if they were individual particles, we need to make many calculations.

This revolution already has custom hardware in the world of computers and is led by Nvidia with its Turing architecture and the next Ampere, whose RTX cards reach 130 Teraflops, ie, are capable of 130 trillion floating point operations per second ... and then comes a game as simple as Minecraft and put them red hot, of course we are not talking about the normal Minecraft but Minecraft RTX (beta) that brings that ray tracing - ray tracing.

The ray tracing is at least as old as the Pixar movies of the nineties that already let us see it, but then to generate a 30-second animation they could have a supercomputer of the time working for a week while now we are able to do the calculation in real time thanks to improved algorithms, and of course the incredible power of graphics cards.

Voxelization. Particles separately

If we separate light into groups of photons and apply physical laws such as reflection or refraction to them, why shouldn't we do the same with particles.

Why are we going to be able to dig and make holes in Minecraft but not in World of Warcraft or GTA?

If we make those Minecraft cubes smaller and smaller and join them by physical laws, in this case: attraction, inertia, surface tension, gravity,... we can make a digital graph much closer to reality.

Rediscovering procedural generation

Enabling technologies in hardware (graphics cards) and software (artificial intelligence) were not going to stop at calculating light and particles but could even generate the game terrain based on algorithms, automatically.

The procedural generation guided by artificial intelligence allows to generate new worlds constantly and all of them will be different so it avoids getting bored of a space, but also, as it happens with ray tracing and voxels, it has an endless number of practical applications that we have yet to imagine.

Conclusion, it is time for Voxelers.

When two enabling technologies come together: new graphics cards and new algorithms with three fields of application: ray tracing, voxels and procedural generation, an exciting world of possibilities emerges that we do not want to miss. Also a bit of a coincidence, following the confinement and within the framework of the Together from Home, Álvaro del Castillo and I started doing Minecraft workshops to teach Python programming to kids and families; one thing led to another.

Álvaro created McThingsa whole framework for creating and modifying Minecraft constructions with a few lines of Python; then a system for importing "sculptures" from Magicavoxel and Blender, and we even have, a Minecraft server where he brought five hundred structures and has had some of them dancing ever since.

When we started thinking about what would happen if those big voxels in Minecraft became smaller, the need for an engine of physical laws to govern the interactions between those cubes or voxels immediately arose, and that's when Álvaro came up with Voxelfarm and later a graphics engine like Godot to bring all that to a real videogame. The fact is that we have created some VoxelersThe software is able to create voxels, to move voxels from one place to another, from one software to another and also to make those voxels obey physical laws.


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