Infinite Detail And Euclideon: The Elephants In The Room

Infinite Detail And Euclideon: The Elephants In The Room
Image: Euclideon

Yesterday we posted a video from Euclideon – a Australian company that claims it can revolutionise video game graphics, increasing visual fidelity by 100,000. This morning we spoke to Euclideon’s CEO Bruce Dell – the man Markus Persson calls a “Snake Oil Salesman” – to ask a few questions regarding Euclideon’s ‘Infinite Detail’ technology

“I think what I would like to make clear is that this is not the finished product,” says Bruce Dell, CEO of Euclideon. “We feel like a mother who put cookies in the oven, and now everyone is surrounding the oven chanting ‘are they ready yet? Are they ready yet?’

“Give us time and the cookies will taste just fine!”

Instantly we recognise the voice — it’s the voice from that video. The voice that claimed Euclideon could revolutionise video game graphics, the voice that claimed a new technology called ‘Infinite Detail’ could increase visual fidelity by a factor of 100,000. The man Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, the creator of Minecraft, openly called a “Snake Oil Salesman”.

It’s 9am in Brisbane, and we’ve just woken said Snake Oil Salesman up.

“No! No, this isn’t a hoax,” Bruce Dell laughs, in response to our first, obvious question. “If this was a hoax then we’ve convinced the Australian government it was a hoax. We’ve convinced our board of directors and investors it’s a hoax!
“We have a government grant – so no, it is not a hoax! We have real time demonstrations.”

The response to Euclideon’s demonstration video, which we posted yesterday was instantaneous and fairly mixed. Some were cynical, some called it a hoax, others were more receptive – but it was hardly a convincing demonstration. Markus Persson, writing on his own personal blog, was perhaps the most scathing in his criticism.

“They’re hyping this as something new and revolutionary because they want funding,” wrote Persson. “It’s a scam.”

But if it’s a scam, then the Australian Government is the mark, having invested 2 million dollars into Euclideon and its technology.

Image: Euclideon

Looking For Snow White

We asked Bruce to explain the technology and how it worked.

“Well, basically anyone who is technical is going to say you can’t run that many polygons,” he began, “but in the past we were trying to explain it in simple terms so people could understand.

“A good analogy would be this: imagine you go to a library to find a book — say… Snow White. Imagine you go to a library and those books aren’t on the shelf; they’re all lying on the ground. At the moment systems that run point cloud data are doing that, they’re putting every point on the screen and there is no order to it. Now imagine you go to a library and all the books are on the shelf and in order – you go to the ‘S’ Section, then look for ‘SNO’ and it isn’t long before you’ve found the book you need.

“One system is looking at thousands of books,” he continues, “and the other system is looking at ten labels. That’s the basis of a search algorithm like Google or Yahoo – they sort through all the knowledge in the world really quickly because it’s categorised.
“We made a search algorithm, but it’s a search algorithm that that finds points, so it can quickly grab just one atom for every point on the screen.”

According to Bruce Dell, it’s all about efficiency.

“So think about the difference,” he says. “If you had all of the points you are seeing on the screen, like in our demo, it’s going to take forever. You’ll be waiting for a long time. But if you’re grabbing only one for every pixel on the screen, then you don’t have a trillion dots, you have… well, pick a resolution and do the maths!

“That’s the difference. In layman’s terms that’s how we’re doing what we’re doing. The workload is so small that at the moment we’re running software just fine with real time demonstrations and we’re still optimising, because we keep finding more efficient ways to do this.”

That appears to be all well and good, but most criticism from the games industry has come from the detail Euclideon has been a little more coy on: animation, physics …

“[V] oxels are horrible for doing animation,” wrote Markus Persson in his aforementioned blog, “because there is no current fast algorithms for deforming a voxel cloud based on a skeletal mesh, and if you do keyframe animation, you end up with a LOT of data. It’s possible to rotate, scale and translate individual chunks of voxel data to do simple animation (imagine one chunk for the upper arm, one for the lower, one for the torso, and so on), but it’s not going to look as nice as polygon based animated characters do.”

According to Bruce Dell, the reason no animations have been shown is simple – Infinite Detail is still a work in progress.

“We have animation,” claims Bruce, confidently. “We’re certainly going to do a lot more work in that area. I have faith that you’ll find our animation quite satisfactory, but we have no intention of releasing anything in that department until it looks absolutely 100% because if we release it now, I assure you that no-one will take it as ‘that’s where we’re up to and we’re still working on it’, they’ll just scream ‘it’s not perfect yet! They can’t make it perfect! This can’t compare to polygons!'”

Image: Euclideon

The Empire Strikes Back

We spoke to an Australian physics engine developer with experience of Bruce Dell and Euclideon. His company dealt with Bruce Dell years ago, when Euclideon was seeking funding for the Infinite Detail project. Said company declined to fund the project, citing issues with memory management, particularly when it came to animations.

According to him any live demonstrations given by Euclideon featured poor art and assets, so it was difficult to gauge precisely how hardware intensive Infinite Detail actually was.

The developer in question asked not to be named, but his primary concern wasn’t with the ‘Infinite Detail’ tech itself, which he claimed could work with adjustments – the issue was the toolset and the investments required to move an entire industry across to a new standard. Currently every game developer in the world is using tools dedicated to polygons – convincing an entire industry to toss years of investment and research would be a difficult task indeed, especially with an unproven technology.

Bruce Dell disagrees with that assertion.

“I see comments from people saying the games industry will never use this,” he begins. “Well, this industry isn’t quite so old and stubborn. The games industry is actually quite open and we’re in contact with quite a lot of players in that industry.”
According to Bruce, the sheer efficiency of his technology will win developers over.

“The present polygon system has got quite a few problems, but not in terms of graphics. Polygons are not really scalable between platforms – if I were to make a character on a PlayStation 3, I can’t put him on the Nintendo Wii because he uses too many polygons, so I have to completely rebuild him. Imagine we weren’t doing a polygon game, say we were doing a 2D game, if I drew a character on the PlayStation, he’s just a bitmap image – this can easily be rescaled. You could do it in Microsoft Paint! ‘Infinite Detail’ data is like a 2D bitmap image in that rescaling its size is easy, whereas polygons can’t scale like that.
“The big thing is – if you make a game using the present polygon system, you have to rebuild it to rescale it. You don’t have to do that with Unlimited Detail.

“The industry’s response was, basically, what you have is really good, you do not understand that the industry is used to using polygons and our tools are very good. I took a look at those tools and thought yes, they are very good. We want to get things to the stage where the artists don’t have to change anything, just that now they’re using unlimited detail.”

Not all developers have openly dismissed Bruce Dell and his ‘Infinite Detail’ technology, but even the most optimistic have opted for a ‘wait and see’ approach. John Carmack, for example, mentioned Euclideon briefly on his Twitter account claiming that “production issues would be challenging” but wondered if the tech might viable “a couple of years from now”.

Even Bruce Dell himself admits that he needs time. Come back later, he says, perhaps sooner than we think, and we might get the final product.

“Basically we’re in the middle of a trilogy and this is like our Empire Strikes Back,” he explains. “We disappeared for so long that I think everyone thought ‘oh, they’re dead’. So we thought we’ll release a one year report, tell everyone we’re alive and then disappear again.

“The intention is to come out again, once we’ve finished, and then we’ll be releasing real time demonstrations.”


  • The thing that i think a lot of people aren’t getting is that this is still a developing technology and even if this peticular engine doesnt get passed from the tech demo stage then its going to pave the way for future development.

    This technology has amazing potential to revolutionise graphics but as all technology there is still a lot of development for it to become feasible.

    • The video doesn’t present it straightforwardly as a developing technology though, rather it is full of boasting and the specific claim that it offers 100,000 times the level of detail of current solutions.

      Certainly they want to promote themselves (to seek funding, etc) but they’ve overblown that and that’s what has people sceptical.

      • How is it over blown? They say that their software is capable of the detail and show it. What people are crying for blood about is the animations but the video mentions nothing about them, so they aren’t claiming it can do it yet.

        Not to mention that no where in the video do they say its anywhere near completion, people are far too impatient these days

        • It’s overblown because they say things like “this is the biggest advancement since 3D graphics,” etc. and talk about the entire games industry switching over. The whole tone of the video makes it sound like “we have the technology” and the game devs are just too slow to adapt to it.

          It’s only when they get called out on certain things that they admit the drawbacks – you don’t hear about any of them in the video and that’s a tad dishonest IMO.

          • Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head there. I thought that the tone of the most recent video was unbelievably smarmy. If they had even said something along the lines of “if we can develop our tech the way we want it to, it has the potential to be the biggest advance in the industry since 3D graphics”, and perhaps toned down (or just plain got rid of) some of the vague “infinitely better!” sections, there would have been at least a little less skepticism.

        • @Hamish & Justin:

          You guys are idiots. Not only did you fail to recall that the guy in the video has absolved game devs and artists from any guilt or responsibility for any poor work they may have done under the restraints of the Polygon method of computer graphics, but you also judged the entire video based on the tone instead of the content.

          Also, them saying that “this is the biggest advancement since 3D graphics” isn’t an over-blown statement if you actually you know, get the concept they were describing to you. If I said to you,

          “hey guys, I found a way to use my phone to connect to and operate any electrical device my house and channel their electrical energy to charge my phone! This is revolutionary game changing stuff that no one has done before!”

          Would you guys be interested want to know more, or would you guys dismiss it because I used a tone that you don’t like?

          You guys didn’t understand the context of the tone because you guys simply didn’t or couldn’t grasp the concept of how big of a deal this thing is, if proven (of which I doubt they will have trouble doing).

          • Kizaru, you’re right People must be crazy to not just take a company’s youtube video on faith and assume that the grandiose claims made by the video are completely true.

            On a less sarcastic note people have a right to not take a company’s word on a thing when that company is making big claims that can not be proven. Without some technical information there is no way for anyone outside that company to really know what they have done. It is not at all stupid to not immediately believe people when they tell you something that is unlikely.

    • and they were boasting about it over three years ago, so it may still be developing, but should be at a point by now where they can show some animation and release more actual details.

  • Thanks for this Mark, I was hoping you’d work on an interview regarding Euclideon as there were a lot of unanswered questions.

    In my mind, I’m still very “wait and see”.

  • “We have a government grant – so no, it is not a hoax!”

    Getting the Australian government to waste money on hare-brained schemes is easier than shooting fish in a barrel – it’s not exactly the best evidence of something being legit.

    • Getting the Australian government to waste money on hare-brained schemes is easier than shooting fish in a barrel – it’s not exactly the best evidence of something being legit.

      You are an idiot
      you have not tried to get a govt grant for something new. Unless they can see a profit for them selves they wont give you cent, promote innovation B*ll*hit, I have been through this twice and had to take new ideas overseas because of the short sightedness of the aust gov (the US china and India have all funded me since)

    • No it isn’t. Getting the Australian government to hand over a dollar is a monumentally difficult task. The grants exist to be given but competition is fierce. Having a 2 million dollar grant means they put some compelling evidence in their grant submission.

      But I do applaud your bravery at using Fish in a Barrel and Hair Brained Scheme in the same sentence. Off course now I’m visualising you as anthropomorphic coyote.

  • That’s fair enough. It’s an update to say how they’re going. When they give the final one, to show off the tech, we’ll see how it goes.

  • This is great. Nice follow up by getting it from the horse’s mouth. I was also thinking yesterday why would the Govt throw nearly two million in funding at this if it wasn’t seen as a viable technology to be developed.
    I say good on you guys and all the best. Any technology that has the potential to make advances in gaming is a plus and needs to be supported.

  • Notch’s comments really made me lose a lot of respect for the guy, being “The Indie Games” guy, a scene all about doing new things, pushing envelopes etc to come out and totally put down this work is really ignorant.

    In his experience working with voxels is horrible, well 20+ years ago what does he think people were thinking about with polys.

    • i totally agree with you, while i think the technology they’ve shown so far is far from even being pre alpha, the fact that notch came out and just said: “nope, not possible, they are lying.”.

      To me it seems like voxels need alot of optimization and a dedicated team of people with dreams and the brains to slowly make them reality.

      p.s. Notch really shouldn’t talk about memory management considering minecraft runs slower than a 95 year old with a walker. Notch is to optimization as Cats are to Dogs.

      • I don’t think you read Notch’s blog then. His explanation as to why the video is a gross exaggeration is irrefutable: according to the numbers they state, it would require 512 petrabytes of data to animate that island. Their clearly cheating by doing a lot of duplication, and regardless, he’s right to point out the animation issues.

        • No, you people have to remember Notch is a guy who codes poorly in Java. He might be popular, but he is by no means good or as well informed as people like John Carmack who seem to think it is possible.

        • Notch made a horrible assumption in assuming that the unlimited detail engine uses voxels the same way his horribly inefficient minecraft engine uses them. Just looking at unlimited detail’s models tells you they aren’t using voxels in the same way. Unlimited detail looks like it just builds the outer surface of any individual model, not the entire volume as minecraft does. Apples and oranges, and Notch’s calculations don’t mean a thing.

          • Notch based his math off the figures they provided. In the clip they say the entire island was made up of ‘atoms’, and make a big deal about showing it off. All Notch did was calculate the number of atoms required by an the island that size to get his figure. It doesn’t take a sophisticated knowledge of engines to know that they can’t be doing exactly what they’re describing to that scale without heavy duplication.

            Also, John Carmack thinking a technology is feasible in the future doesn’t make this video any more plausible. Stephen Hawking believes space travel is possible, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to take a companies claims that they can fly me to the moon today seriously. I’d dare say Carmack is as suspicious as Notch.

          • Notch didn’t have to calculate the number of atoms in the island, I’m pretty sure that voice-over gives the number. And as someone has said before, that number isn’t the number of points being placed/tracked.

            Not saying this is gonna see use in the next five years or anything, but from what I’ve heard/read from Notch over the years is that he gets a bit of a ‘Troll’ itch every so often. Skepticism in this case would be understandable. Notch just seems like he woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning and spilled his milk right before sitting down to watch the video and respond. 😛

          • A company reasonably could fly you to the moon if you could afford it and if the company could afford it. It’s a big undertaking but yes extremely plausible, just not a huge market in that like there is in unlimited detail gaming.
            Also Notch probably would be right but he doesn’t even know how they store the memory and the actually byte size of each point, he just assumed that they would take at least 1 and probably at least 3 if it stored the points the same way todays engines do. They could very well have stored the data in a completely different way that uses less than a byte for any given atom. I say that everyone should stop acting like a bunch of ignorant jackwagons and at least try to face this reasonably. If you are skeptical, sit and wait. If you are optimistic, wait and sit. Everybody will eventually know who they can point fingers and laugh at.

          • i think you’re right. we just have to sit and wait. and i think Notch is jealous. i think along the way to create minecraft he actually tried this approach and failed. that’s why he’s skeptical about this. But it’s just me and thoughts.

            It’d be cool to play around in real-time demo. even if it’s pre-alpha.

  • Great article Mark. You’ve managed to find out the answers to most of the questions I’ve had. I’m still a little dubious if it will ever be put into practice but it will be interesting to see how it all pans out. It would be nice if it was successful.

  • I remember seeing this demo, or one like it, a few years ago I’m sure.
    Almost certain this isn’t new, and didn’t work properly with animation and non-repeated geometry back then either.

  • I like how every time he’s asked for an explanation of the algorithm used, he falls back on overly-simplified analogies that are tenuous at best.

    But to take the bait, and imagine it’s just like a search engine. Why is Google so fast? It uses giant server farms to index the payload (URLs) by an index (keywords). Now, what happens if you change the content of your website? From experience, it takes a week or so at best for the data to be re-indexed by the new keywords.

    So sure, I’ll keep an open mind and accept that the kind of fast lookup of payload (voxel data) by key (spatial location) is feasible. But what happens when something moves? The key changes and data has to be re-indexed. In a game world, hundreds of models, containing potentially “unlimited” voxels, move every frame. I for one don’t look forward to a week-long delay in my game whenever something moves 😛

    We’ve seen the large scale, static tech demo. He says they have animation tech demos, which I imagine can only be small scale (one model at a time). Using his own analogy, rendering a large scale, dynamic world at an interactive framerate just wouldn’t work.

  • What I’m interested in knowing is why they’ve put out this video after a year with no improvements on the areas that people have concerns about. Animations, physics and lighting are big issues to tackle, if they aren’t going to show those until they’re ready, why are they showing us the large static environments?

    All of the assets look to be copied and pasted, which makes me think that memory usage is still a major issue, or they’d have shown more diverse assets as well.

    This hasn’t really done anything to dispel my doubts. Sure, this technology might work in the future, but nothing I’ve seen makes me think the future is any time soon.

  • Again though – no mention of anything technical.

    this migth be real, but all im hearing is a salesman / consultant.

    I see them in my industry all the time. They come in, talk the high level talk and try to make the sale.

    Again im not dismissing this as a hoax, i am just saying I wont believe it until I see some technical details discussed.

  • It’s a bit odd that you’re claiming Notch was the most scathing in his criticism when his criticism was essentially that this is old news with a new sales pitch (and some major undisclosed limitations). It’s not like he was saying that the tech’s not ‘real’, just that it’s got some major drawbacks that make it impractical for use in games.

    It’s disappointing that the regularly spaced objects weren’t brought up; it’s a very common constraint on voxel demos because it looks impressive without being computationally intense, but it’s almost never going to happen in a commercial situation.

    I don’t really think that the industry would shun voxel-based technology just because hardware isn’t optimised for it. nVidia and ATI would love to have an excuse to sell some new cards, after all.

  • Well he speaks a good game which means he’s confident in the tech and it’s results or he’s just that slick in pulling a scam.

    So right now I’ll wait and see too. Could be the injection the graphic industry needs to catapult the technology. Could still be a scam but even if it is it’s going to set minds thinking. May be something we’ll see in future or something like it anyway.

  • This is from march 2008 at the link I posted above:
    “Is This Vapourware?

    Unlimited Detail says that the entire R&D is done. They now need to build the commercial version of the editor and the PC and console versions of the engine. ”

    Hmmm…. that was over 3 years ago.

  • They should’ve held back until they had viable examples of animations, everyone is going to be douchebaggy now because they want an instant product.

    This is a very possible technology for graphics in video games of the near future, I feel it might be much like the Human Genome Project, it’s just slowly chugging along, going to take years to get it all in the industry, but with the demand, the technology increases. I know looking through the internet that video game players are absolute jerks and will complain about graphics constantly, that’s good, it gives drive for the industry to out-perform each other, eventually, somebody is going to be looking into this technology as an option.

  • No matter what the end result of this tech I still find it hilarious that Notch, the man who can’t get such a visually simple game like Minecraft to run well on so many moderate systems, has the gaul to make such statements. He really has a massive ego.

    • Yeah it’s kinda like the angry birds guys

      Oh and notch it’s been 9 months since the lanterns were meant to be implemented

      So if it takes that long for a lantern think I’m willing to give these guys some more time

      • He kind of back down from that because of the backlash. It would have (mind my language) pissed off a lot of people if he had made all there torches suddenly extinguish.

        As for the demo they have made a big mistake:
        Unveiling there product without releasing it.
        If you want to make a product release it soon after you unveil it, even if you just release a beta version. Better yet just don’t say a word about it until it is done.

  • Thanks very much for this really great story Mark, this has been a matter of debate for a lot of us and this cleared up a lot of it.

    We were all pretty much in the same frame of mind, as in wait and see. When I did some digging and actually tracked down the grant for 1.9mill we were decided that either:
    These guys were doing real research.
    Were inept and stupid.
    It was a hoax.

    But on the information given it was really not anything to go on, and I have to admit that secretly I would love for it to be true and viable. Anyone with any modelling experience understands the pros and cons of this system, if a genuine fix was found awesome.

    What angers me is Notch basically slandering people in the public court with the same amount of evidence.
    As an Australian I’m downright defensive, because as it seems what these people are doing is research into known technology.

    Whether its viable to make games or not, research and Australians doing this research isn’t a bad thing.

    If at the end of the day it’s a lemon then fine, but whats with all this soothsayin’ slander? Sounds more like haters gonna hate to me.
    This is known tech that isnt viable right now mainly due to memory and processing restraints. Personally though long term I dont see any other option, polygons and such are just the easiest way to interpret our surroundings using current hardware…
    That’s first year stuff…

    Just because this may not be viable to run yo next pokemonz on, does not mean this tech, and research into it isn’t important.

    Also.. go grab another coffee Notch.

    • Tend to agree with you here.

      Any research is better than no research, even if its a dead end.

      As for Notch… they guy is using Java… not exactly top of the line or pushing the boundaries.

  • All I can say about this is if it IS real, and you CAN animate with it.. imagine fallout 4 if bethesda started working with this stuff.

    • As long as there’s an ironclad restraining order stopping Obsidian going NEAR the franchise EVER again, I say yes!

      • They ruin every IP they touch, even their own sequels seem to take steps backwards.

        At the very least we can hope Obsidian will eventually run out of IPs being offered to work with in their own way they are digging their own grave using the pick of mediocrity and shovel of earned mistrust.

        It’s just going to be a laborious task, because they work with really good established IP’s people are automatically drawn to the game without checking the developer/publishing house before they buy. Thus over-inflating the success of the product as it is only every measured by sales and profits in this day and age.

  • I am very excited for this technology. I have been playing with voxels for quite some time trying to crack the holy grail of efficiency. And despite what our lord and savior Markus Persson *rolls eyes* says voxels WILL be the future of graphic technology and it’s only a matter of when. By the way Minecraft is a VERY simplistic game, this guy is far from genius, and akra is right… Java?!

    I admit that the animation part is true for now, but when voxels are applied to a polygon (think sorta displacement maps in 3DS) then animation is very do-able also with things like bulging muscles very easy to animate. We can only get quite close to real-life graphics with polygons. Voxels are real-life 3d graphics.

    I could go on all day about the benefits of this!

  • The fact that the guy refuses to talk anything remotely technical and comes up with dodgy analogies instead makes me pretty skeptical honestly.

    “At the moment systems that run point cloud data are doing that, they’re putting every point on the screen and there is no order to it.”

    If this is true, then everyone working on dot clouds is ignoring decades of work in computer graphics. Space partitioning is not a new idea, it’s been developed since the 60s and been in games since Doom started using BSP trees. In fact, what he describes is a raycasting approach combined with space partitioning. It’s not new. It’s been done before. It’s called a sparse voxel octree. Here’s a paper from nVIDIA:

    In addition to having the issues regarding animation and so on that are voxel issues, I’d expect that adding things such as semi-transparency (eg water effects) will throw away a lot of the benefits of the approach.

    “Polygons are not really scalable between platforms – if I were to make a character on a PlayStation 3, I can’t put him on the Nintendo Wii because he uses too many polygons”

    I’m sure that this dot cloud approach will top out in other ways. Like memory. Animation is going to cost a lot of extra memory, and holding all those dots in an efficient structure is going to suck up a lot as well. And that memory needs to be fast enough to be quickly searched. Plus, polygons *are* scalable to a degree. And there’s a lot more to video games than just rendering polygons.

    The reason that he’s getting the ‘snake oil’ allegations is that he refuses to provide any technical detail. There’s no mention of the sort of hardware this is running on, how much memory is taken, how scalable it really is, what the limitations are and so on. Instead it’s the ‘next evolution’ in graphics and it’s going to increase performance a million times while it does your laundry. I’m not saying it’s a lemon – and I certainly wouldn’t take Notch’s word for it, the renderer in Minecraft is awfully inefficient – but it’s hard not to be very skeptical, especially when they’re trying to pass it off as entirely their work when it clearly isn’t. The fact that the Australian Government gave them some cash doesn’t mean anything beyond that it’s worth investing some time into researching. Which it is. That doesn’t mean it’s not a dead end, just that finding out is worth the investment.

    • I concur, a very solid argument.

      The fact that they are boasting so openly and so extravagnatly about it seems very suspicious. 100,000 times increase in graphical fidelity overnight? Please.

      Don’t get me wrong, they may have something decent on their hands here, but, well, we all remember Peter Molyneux don’t we?

    • Thank goodness someone else noticed that this isn’t in any way new tech.

      There’s way too much hyperbole in this. Bruce comes across to me as someone who is repeating analogies that have been explained to him, but that he doesn’t really understand himself.

  • I’m more amused by the fact Notch is calling it out, and this article makes it sound like a valuable opinion. Since when is he the go-to guy for feedback on this sort of stuff?

    I’m not going to say I’m not dubious, but how about the haters wait and see before sh*tcanning it completely? I agree with the previous comment that says it just sounds like haters hatin’ more than anything.

  • For a WIP tech demo it looked ok, far from perfect but still quite impressive at least from a technical viewpoint. Aesthetically? well, it is a tech demo and the bloke stated clearly that they where coders rather than artists so I guess that is understandable.
    I just wished that the demo implied that they were having fun with the technology rather than just pushing pixels.

  • I’ve copied some of the article below. This gives no comfort at all. All of this can be said of Firepower. (

    Still, keeping an open mind.

    “No! No, this isn’t a hoax,” Bruce Dell laughs, in response to our first, obvious question. “If this was a hoax then we’ve convinced the Australian government it was a hoax. We’ve convinced our board of directors and investors it’s a hoax!
    “We have a government grant – so no, it is not a hoax! We have real time demonstrations.”

  • Good article. I’m certainly not convinced. I make games in my spare time, and it’s very easy to copy paste models.

    If they had some physics demonstrations, such as walking and moving the grains of dirt, or something clever, I’d have been won over. But it wasn’t. It was just a bunch of mega duplicated models in a room.

    I think they’re gonna go under. Waste of taxpayer money.

  • Yeh I think theres a lot of backward Wikipedia thinking here.
    Same way investigative journalism these days entails going through the press releases and paraphrasing.

    Nevermind that data storage at speeds never before used for anything more than ram is just round the corner…

    Not like anyone could benefit from having actual proper models that could be animated in real time…
    Not any medical or media boons there.

    Its not like you sound like a bunch of nay-sayers going on half a hunch.

    Not like Aussies on less steam, with even more tall poppies against them made a vaccine for cancer, or proved that ulcers didn’t have to be cut out.

    And its not like this kind of steadfast arrogance means that anyone with a contrary idea gets shouted down by the keyboard warriors with their psychic powers.

    Your saying that they arent being forward enough, and openly admitting you dont have enough to go on.

    What do you want? Source code?
    Hey, why dont you ring up Ninty and demand to see the hardware designs and boot codes for the Wii-U..

    You wont get anywhere.. because like any company still in dev stage with private and federal investors that would be professional suicide.

    Maybe if ya’ll didnt buy mobile tech five years old and whine all the time, we could have nice things.
    But you cant, and you wont, because its much cooler, easier, and righteous to be the status quo.

    Even when you don’t have anything to go on.
    Which is what you are accusing them of…
    Jus sayin… glass houses and all.

    Also… Notch, you got that coffee yet?
    Fix yo damn game.

  • They could stream sections, as is common with the textures and geometry for open world engines – as is seen in games using the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (GTAIV, LA Noire). I’d assume with point-clouds that not all point-data needs to be loaded all at once: all branches have parent-child relationships, they could be loaded and unloaded freely as they get de/prioritised (disappear into the distance, fall out of camera range). The same could be said of the point-clouds themselves, not all of them would need to be loaded into memory at the same time.

    The scene does not need to load all of the points in a given cloud at once, and not all points need to be stored in memory at all times. Each cloud could be part of a larger scene-graph and have enough information to be dynamically streamed at a specified detail level, determined by proximity to the camera. As the density of a point cloud is relatively consistent, dynamic detail-level reduction would be of a higher quality than it is for polygonal scenes.
    I’m interested in seeing more about this technology. Notch is far from the top of the technology food train and though Carmack has come out in doubt over Twitter, he himself has identified voxel engines as a possible future direction. They might have found something he hasn’t.

    Unlimited is a silly claim, they would have a finite number of points and clouds though whether they need to retain all information at all times is an entirely different matter.

    TL;DR – I remain cautiously optimistic, rather than full skeptic, though I don’t value Notch’s input or rationale.

  • If they can get it working in games, able to run on your average PC in the market, then all it would take is one game developer to use it and every company would HAVE to do the same just to keep up with the quality.

  • It certainly does smell a bit fishy. It does look very exciting if it is indeed true but I will suspend judgment till we see more information.

    A lot of people attacking Notch but not a lot of people attacking his argument. His criticism seems quite reasonable to me. I haven’t heard a good counter-argument yet. (Feel free to supply one)

  • There are some very dubious claims here and some classic dodging of the question.

    First, the Madoff Maneuver: The mastermind of the biggest ever private Ponzi scheme relied on new suckers being impressed by the list of past suckers. So the Australian government gave them a grant. And the technical credentials of the people processing these grant submissions are…?

    “We have this marvelous process by which we only deal with the exact stuff needed to make the current frame of video.” Yeah, and so does every other GPU and game engine in existence. Such algorithms are one of the areas where different companies claim superiority and have been doing so for decades. Everybody seeks to decrease the processing load by not rendering things the user cannot see from the current camera angle. This does absolutely nothing to explain how their system can deliver detail improvement of several orders of magnitude on any existing hardware.

    Nor does it explain how the immense amount of data needed to comprise the raw scene would be managed in anything resembling a useful time frame. Remember, we’re being specifically promised that we’ll no longer have facades of objects with no backside detail. The problem of reducing the amount of data that must be processed every frame to keep up a decent pace is entirely separate from the mammoth data volume for all of these atoms. Are we expecting consoles to ship with dozens of gigabytes of RAM any year soon? And a fantastically fast and capacious storage medium to move all of this data into that immense RAM? Plus it has to be cheap like a DVD. You aren’t going to download stuff like this in a reasonable time frame unless you have a multi-gigabit connection with no data cap.

    If they have something real the patents should long since been filed and the IP protected. And the company more forthcoming on practical detail. But they aren’t and I’ll remain suspicious until they’ve put something real in the hands of real game developers. Even if an actual game were a decade off, some demos from people without a stake in the company would raise their integrity a good bit.

  • Nice article here.

    Before anyone starts clinging to Notch; Notch is a very hard-working individual and Minecraft is very inventive. When it comes down to it though, it’s a terribly made game. It probably has the most bugs of anything I’ve encountered post-PS1/N64, it has inconceivable memory use, and Java is a nightmare.

    Again, given that he’s working on Minecraft pretty much solo, it’s an amazing achievement. I don’t want to sound like I’m badmouthing Notch – even though I almost certainly will – but all the fun and creativity in the world won’t stop the fact that Minecraft is good because of the players and without them it would be awful.

    tl;dr: Notch is not the person to talk to about this.

    On another note, Australian government giving 2mil funding… I already said this in the previous article, but the Australian government is hardly a reliable source on whether a gaming development is genuine, and 2mil is chump change compared to, say, Final Fantasy XIII’s >$100,000,000 budget.

  • @Shinkada – Government Funding and Private Funding is a different matter. Money from the government is money from the Tax Payers.

  • I love how everyones argument here is “nobody has done this before so its not possible” well blow me sideways, imagine a company doing R&D on something nobody has done before. amazing. thanks for that insight kotaku community, this is why gaming is so stale, someone goes out on a limb to try and make an advancement, and the greater populous howls for blood and the next CoD

  • I’m just amused that the justification for legitimacy is that the “Government”, “Board of Directors” and “Investors” have put money in.

    The government, and whatever investors you scrounge up, are just as gullible as ANYONE out there. Even worse, that they have millions to throw at stupid ideas.

    On the technology, I wasn’t impressed by the video or his boasting, but whatever, let’s wait and see. The Phantom game system made big claims too, as the Duke Nukem. I’ll be a bit cynical for now.

  • All this hate on Notch makes no sense.. It’s an opinion, one he’s revised several times. Euclidion gets to grandstand and make outragous statements and everyone is like “ooooh, look at the shiny!”. Freaking doubt people! Make them live up to the expectation they are setting!

  • I think what it all translates to in the end is the 2 videos are both saying:
    We’re working on this point cloud technology. We haven’t finished yet. But we just thought you would like to know.

    And while we are confident 3d scanners can work with polygons, we just wanted to pretend that our one is the only one that creates non-fiction.

    But we do have a cool idea which seems to use categorization for optimization much like scribblenauts, and it just might work.

    And we understand that sometimes marketing and project management are just as important as technology. Just ask Nikola Tesla.

  • At least there is some discussion about a possible change in direction for gaming graphics.
    All that is needed now is a reasonable certified demo that shows some animated gaming characters along with the shadow mapping fixes all in a video with hardware specs and live CPU graphing.
    As for the tool sets they will come if the game developers believe in the technology.
    Maybe if John Carmack was given some shares in the company the development may come sooner.

  • Began as early as 2008? That’s 2008,2009,2010,2011. Possibly related to Firepower?

    I am just making this comment to recant anything nice I said in my last comment. At least duke nukem forever had the excuse of changing graphics engines so many times.

    By the time they release anything the competition will have caught up. I’ll wager they show up one day making alarm clocks.

  • -Voxel Keyframe animation is feasible, at least one guy developed a technique for doing it as part of his thesis.

    There are a few ways I can think of to make this feasible. I’m not a developer so I’m sure there are better ways.

    For one thing, not everything is stored in memory at once on the whole island, things can be swapped in and out depending on how much you see.
    And definitely not every object is rendered at full resolution all the time, anything smaller than a pixel on screen, or is occluded will not be rendered. This is a native feature of voxel Octree architecture.

    So,I don’t think Notch’s objections are entirely valid. He’s right to point out shortcomings in the technology, but to say it’s infeasible, or a downright hoax, is jumping the gun.

  • Why is this creating so much hype ?

    Why are people commenting on this like it’s real ?

    The voice over is enough information to confirm this is all nonsense. Cant believe how much discussion this is generating over the web.

  • Why have they not specified how much memory was used, RAM and disk? What amount of computing power for running it in real-time? Does not seem to be a big secret and would certainly settle a thing or two.

  • My first thought was, why not combine the best of two technologies? For example, voxels for landscapes and polygons for animated and moving objects?

    I worry about memory issues though. Consoles today have a tiny amount of memory, would this not put a heavy restrain on how detailed you can go?

  • I think it’s fair to be skeptical of this technology. Hell, I think we all ought to be skeptical of this technology. Bold claims have been made.

    But it is one thing to be skeptical and another thing entirely to be dismissive and totally negative minded. No they haven’t ‘proved’ their technology. That will only happen when it is finished and we can all play with it for ourselves.

    They’ve made a demo showing potentially impressive (revolutionary) technology. In my opinion the demo was slightly damaged by the annoying narrator.

    I am skeptical. But I am also optimistic. Why do people feel the need to slam this?

  • And to follow up on my previous comment, what is with all the notch fanboys?

    I’m not necessarily referring to comments that have been made here, but I’ve seen a lot of comments and coversation pieces on the internet which have played out as ‘Wow, this technology might be exciting!’…”Oh, no its just a scam cos notch said so”.

    If this is a scam, I do not see the catch yet. Money is not being asked for, a product is not being sold, at least not to us in the general public. It might be a company being a little overzealous and overconfident, but a snakeoil salesmen needs to ask you for money before he is a snakeoil salesmen.

    Did people actually read Notch’s post? He’s taken guesses about what this company is doing and saying why they can’t do it. And then he says they aren’t doing anything new. But the fact is nobody knows exactly what their technology is. Notch is taking his speculations as fact and I personally don’t have as much faith in his guesswork as he does.

    Tbh, he sounds far more arrogant than the Euclideon folk do.

  • But it didn’t show potentially impressive technology. It just showed a voxel renderer using a vast amount of repetition to create a large boring world. It really wasn’t anything impressive.

    You don’t see other people doing it because it’s not actually useful. People are working on varied and realistic worlds, not worlds where everything looks the same.

  • I just love how people are attacking Notch on his programming prowess and for the most part completely ignore his actual argument. That said, someone did actually give a good argument against Notch’s story here: he assumes the engine needs a volume of data instead of just surfaces. So let’s redo Notch’s calculations a bit differently: let’s assume we’re not dealing with a volume of 1000*1000*8m^3 but a surface of 1000*1000m^2 (i.e. the entire 1km^2 island is just a flat surface; that means no trees, no rocks, in fact nothing on top of each other). Let’s keep the one byte/voxel assumption (ha) and the 4 voxels/mm assumption.
    Let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that the company has found the holy grail of compression letting them reduce the required storage space by a factor of 1/1000 (i.e. your 10 megapixel family photo is now 30KB; if they actually had this algorithm they wouldn’t need a government grant by now, by the way)
    Assuming zero metadata (like, you know, the octree structure needed to make the whole thing tick), we’d still end up with an island that takes up 16GB of harddrive space.
    Now, you’ll be saying “Hey, that actually sounds pretty doable in a few years”, but remember that the assumptions above are unrealistic to begin with. Even for such a dull single layer terrain a more realistic estimate that includes stuff like colour and simple dynamic lighting would already be 256GB, and that’s for one completely flat game area with unrealistic compression.
    Now, the next argument of course is going to be “But what if the amount of memory and harddrive space goes up very quickly in the next 10 years?”
    John Carmack (you know, that guy who said he didn’t disagree with anything Notch said) might know the answer to that last question, which is probably why he’s not discounting the demo outright but just saying it’s not feasible yet.

    That the technology will not work without repetition in a game area at a high resolution on current day hardware is pretty much a given. If you don’t mind the repetition, it totally works. Incidentally, that will make the resulting game (like the tech demo) look a lot like a fancy version of Minecraft.

    Who said Notch wasn’t the guy to ask?

  • It seems the ignorant started a trend of ‘ololol fayk hoaxzorz’ and those who aren’t technical or wise jump on the bandwagon like it’s the cool thing to do. When I first watched the videos I didn’t have a shred of doubt in my mind that what I was seeing and hearing was legitimate.

    For all those saying it’s not possible to animate citing memory constraints I will give you a simple analogy. If I were to give you a pen and paper and ask you to work out what 793,154,690,512 to the power of 182,953 divided by 673,902,822.012265 is you’d either tell me to fuck off because you can’t do it or it’ll take you a week to do. My response would be “well, your METHOD of solving the problem is horribly in efficient (pen & paper), The problem can be solved in a fraction of a second using a calculator”.

    Now people like Markus Persson are using their knowledge of the inefficient method of animating voxels as ground evidence that it can never be done. One thing is ALWAYS bear in mind about programming is that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. As a programmer myself there have been times where I’d thought I hit a brick wall only to figure out a way around the wall.

    You can quote me on this, this method of 3D atoms is the future. Markus Persson seriously needs to keep his ego on a leash because I guarantee you his words will come back to bite him in the ass for sure. And such arrogance and ignorance has seriously stained his image, I now know what a total douche he is to be saying such heinous things about someone who is at least TRYING something different.

  • HeywoodFloyd: I think you’ll find that some things are actually impossible. For that matter, why don’t you try entering that calculation from your analogy into an actual calculator?

    It’s not that hard to do with pen and paper by the way. (though obviously having a pocket calculator handy will speed things up a lot because of all those decimals)

    The limitations of voxels are and have been for quite some time, pretty well known, and anything we’ve seen from Dell so far is very safely within those constraints (though he wisely shuts up about them, or perhaps isn’t even aware of them), while the claims made by his fans are not.

    Put a little differently, if you tell me doing that calculation on paper is impossible or very hard and I do it in front of your eyes with a crowd of mathematicians watching, snickering and then telling you how I did it (an explanation you didn’t understand), would you believe I was smart enough to lift a table with my mind? Because that’s basically what a lot of people here seem to expect from voxels, even though Dell himself never even had to claim it. All he had to do was show a tech demo of something known to be possible and the people that don’t know how it works start expecting the impossible.

  • first off, What was shown was in fact fairly impressive. That said:

    I can see how this might be doable if you compact your voxel data (for each object) by keeping the surface in a sparse matrix, and then instance these objects (pos + rot) and keep them cataloged in space so when you need to find the atom, you can do so with a fairly fast ray trace/lookup in partitioned space -> oriented sparse matrix…

    But once you start talking about large objects (actual 8kx8k terrain), and a large number of non identical objects, you’re going to need some pretty fancy paging/caching (procedurals ftw) techniques to keep the illusion up.

    You don’t have animation, physics etc fine. but if you’re going to boast that you have “infinite detail”, you should show something other than a bunch of copy/paste data. You could easily test this with a bunch of procedurally generated assets. Show a demo of the same island with every inch filled with different rocks/trees etc and then you could truly claim “infinite detail” and not just “infinite detail of 20 objects”

    I’d be interesting to know, for example, how much memory a scanned rock takes vs say the statue of the woman. That’d give a better example of the type of scaling your engine supports when it comes to adding more and more assets – what’s the typical asset count on-screen for a typical AAA game these days etc (since you compare yourself to them visually)?

  • I think this discussion area is all about premature ejactulations!

    They say things, they show things but they dont ask for money. We spoke with them today. Detailed questions, detailed answers, but lots of comments of wait and see, let us finish this stage of development, all typical responses to questions of when will it be ready. Well when it is it is. They are onbviously very technically savy, very open to discussions and in no way like FirePower.

    Government funding is great news for them, as trying to get money out of you lot, that are walking into the future looking backwards, would be impossible.

    Now go and look for your next mammoth to kill for dinner neanderthal boys, and do something about your breath!

  • It’s pretty clear from common sense that this company’s claims are dubious.
    -Just the way they market; they don’t go to credible conferences or propose their ideas to the big names industry. They just post up a youtube video (CENSORING comments and ratings). They’re aiming for hype with no sustenance.
    -All claims, no hard evidence; this ties into the first argument. Professionals would know whether any claims had validity. The creator of Minecraft seemed to understand the technicalities of the technology and his stance was pretty firm.

    People, I know it’s easy to want to believe in things like this (and I know ambition is what made technology so great), this seems way too obviously like one of those “too-good-to-be-true” scenarios.

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