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Monday, June 27, 2016

Introducing Pollock

Pollock is the code-name for our new terrain generation system. Why Pollock? This system went rogue for a couple of days and started producing things that did not look like terrain and more like Jackson Pollock paintings:

It seems mad randomness at first, just like Pollock, but there is a lot of order in this chaos (and also what appeared to be a buffer overrun error somewhere in the code.)

Here are some images of the system when it behaves as expected:

The colors you see in these renders are not the final landscape colors. Each color identifies a different layer of more detailed material that will go there. These are placeholder materials Pollock is creating for you.

Pollock's main input is photographs, which you provide to suggest the geography of each biome. In case you want to create a full continent, Pollock will ask you some additional basic facts about elevation, temperature and wind direction.

In continents, you will get nice surprises like a desert appearing on one side of a mountain range:

While the other side of the same range is all made of fertile land:

This has happened due to all the moisture coming from the sea precipitating over one side and having only dry air go over the mountains.

It takes around five minutes to set this up from scratch. The system will so some pre-processing for a few minutes (usually less than five) and that's it. In less than 15 minutes you can complete the creation of an entire continent that spans over a dozen different biomes.

We are in the last stages of completion for this system. There are two main features missing: the addition of forests, rocks, etc. and plugging this with the lake generator to get inner lakes. Right now the system only does ocean.

This system will be included in the Voxel Farm 3 release.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A simple creative mechanic

For some people, a pencil is all they need to create something amazing. For others, the blank page can be discouraging. It is not an invitation to create, rather a reminder you may not be a creative person after all.

I see voxels as a creative medium far superior in terms of simplicity to anything that came before. They are closer to working with physical matter, your mind just gets what you need to do. If done right, they can be as simple and intuitive as using a pencil on paper. But again, pencils can be quite daunting.

I keep asking myself if there is a way around this. We all like to feel creative. Is there a framework where technology can help? Dumbing the medium down to large boxes to level the playing field worked for Minecraft, but this giving both Shakespeare and the village idiot a total vocabulary of five words. They may have a good time just do not expect Julius Cesar.

What if you are not asked to create something entirely new after all? Drawing with a pencil is not the only way you can feel good about your creative self. Remember coloring books. They remove all the stress in the creative act, but you still feel you are creating something.

Here is the equivalent of a coloring book using voxels:

If you are a Landmark builder you will know exactly what is going on. The shapes are already there, they are just filled with air. A paint tool converts the user brushstrokes into visible matter by applying the user's material of choice.

I see games in the future exploiting this mechanic. My five-year-old kids had a lot of fun filling up the different shapes I set up for them. A game could make building rich objects and structures very accessible and stress-free by just hinting where things could be built, and leaving enough for the player to discover and decide on their own.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Voxel Farm 3

I'm happy to announce Voxel Farm 3, a new version of our tech, will be available August 2016.

The team has been working hard towards this next major release. There are still a lot of bugs to squash, but pretty much everything included in the release is ready.

The major items in the release are:

  • UV-mapped voxels
  • Meta-materials and Meta-meshes for large, custom procedural objects
  • Improved Unreal Engine 4 Integration
  • New instancing system, both voxel and mesh-based
  • Intelligent Biome Terrain Synthesis
  • Continent and landmass generator

I have covered most of these already in earlier posts. There are some other items under wraps that we have not disclosed yet, mainly because we are not sure if they will make the release.

The new version will bring a new business model. We are dropping the monthly fees and royalty payments. The new model is simple: you purchase for a one-time fee and you get one year of free updates. To make it fair, we have implemented these changes already for the current version. And everyone who has a Voxel Farm 2 license will get an upgrade to version 3 at no additional cost.

Gearing up towards the major release, we have just updated the company's website at:

There is a new WebGL demo that shows Voxel Farm in action over the web (it is in the Showcase section.) We also added Forums, something our users have been demanding almost since last year's launch.