Voxels?

Hey Folks! Still digging away at admin tasks today, a lot of which involved phone calls with bank personnel. However, once that was done, I took a bit of a side trip today to look into another graphic tool.

Voxels.

So far, my ship pieces have been one of two things. The first is a flat sprite hovering over the floor with a rough column of mesh underneath to cast shadows. (Picture one of those single-legged cafe tables, or a really flat, wide tree.) This is for walls and other shadow-casters.

The second is just a flat sprite at floor level for, you guessed it, floor (and some items like beds). No shadows, no height.

From a top-down perspective, these look pretty good. Add normal maps and lights to them, and they actually look pretty great.

However, one problem which my contract artist and I discovered was that certain objects cannot cast a good shadow this way. When they start living together in the same scene, or interacting with a human that has height, the illusion breaks a bit.Things like chairs, grills/jail-cells, and other non-cube/perforated shapes are going to look a bit off, either casting not enough or too much shadow.

The traditional solution to this problem (and games with lighting in general) is to make 3D models for things. They have volume, surface textures, and basically look good from all sides and cast appropriate shadows. However, one reason I prefer not to use 3D is because it's hard to create art for. Both for me and for modders. I also like the pixel art look, so 3D models seem like a bit of a step backward.

I forgot about voxels, though. Or more appropriately, I figured they were either too hard to setup or wouldn't look good.

Perusing some art styles yesterday, I realized the error of my thinking. It turns out that voxel editors are actually pretty easy to use. They integrate with Unity almost seamlessly. And in one case, MagickaVoxel, they're also free!

I decided to give MagickaVoxel a try, and this is what my first 30 minutes produced:

IMAGE(http://bluebottlegames.com/img/screenshots/screenshot-2016-05-10.png)

Lego instruction manual nostalgia increasing...

and here it is in the prototype:

IMAGE(http://bluebottlegames.com/img/screenshots/screenshot-2016-05-10a.png)

Hmmm...

That's not too bad. It's slightly more work than creating a pixel art tile (because it has depth), but the voxel editor is pretty easy. And it can still be loaded at run-time, so modders can create stuff. More importantly, I can create non-cube and non plane objects with a pixel-art-like editor, and they'll exist in 3D in the game.

I won't say it's perfect. Voxels do have this "voxel" look to them, and this may be unavoidable. But at the very least, the top-down can look almost identical to a sprite with the advantage of accurate volume/shadow data.

And, perhaps dangerously, it makes isometric art attainable...

Warrants some more thought, at any rate!

Comments

Malacodor's picture
Malacodor

I'm sold on it.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool