Hello everyone. I am an old Second Life user, but new to High Fidelity… brought here by the news that Second Life is getting a successor. I looked a bit into the project and its current capabilities, which are very impressive so far. For starters, there’s one thing in particular I’m intrigued about:
Something I always dreamed of is a virtual world which properly makes use of voxels… as some could say, a hybrid between Second Life and Minecraft. I was excited to find out that Hifi is voxel based and aims to be just that! But after looking into its existing voxel system, I was a bit disappointed. It appears the voxel editor only lets you place colored cubes… a few models too, but this is beyond the point I wish to get to.
The idea I’ve had for several years was an in-world editing system that lets you sculpt and create entire objects out of voxels… which ultimately look as detailed as standard 3D models. While the ability to import polygon based meshes is of course essential, I believe this is the only way to have a real in-world creation mechanism, where you can build and modify anything freely.
Of course this raises a few problems. Since today’s computer hardware doesn’t allow making voxels as small as molecules, such level of detail isn’t yet doable this way, and ultimately everything looks blocky. But smooth objects can be achieved if, instead of drawing each voxel as a block, you generate a continuous surface between the voxel positions. This typically uses the Marching Cubes algorithm and metaballs, which is what some voxel terrains you can dig / construct in realtime have. More info and some examples of this:
Smoothing the surfaces between voxels is of course not enough on its own, to fully control the shape of a voxel object. First of all, you’d need to specify how and where voxels connect… so different materials / parts of an object don’t soften or erase one another when they shouldn’t. And second, you must define the texture and its blending / scaling / offset / rotation on each voxel manually… since there is no UV mapping here, and the resulting surface is procedural. This should all be doable and relatively easy.
Will Marching Cubes (or another voxel smoothing mechanism) ever be implemented? And will the in-world building tools allow users to make full detail objects out of voxels in realtime?