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John Carmack Discuss Mega Texturing 313

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-mean-we-don't-do-that-already dept.
An anonymous readers writes in to say that "id Software has introduced a new technology dubbed Mega Texturing that will allow graphic engines to render large textures and terrains in a more optomized way while also making them look better. Gamer Within has Q & A with John Carmack on Mega Texturing."
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John Carmack Discuss Mega Texturing

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  • by Walter Carver (973233) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:49AM (#15334472) Homepage
    It may be insignificant, but I accidently saw two relative commands in Doom3, r_showMegaTexture and r_megaTextureLevel.
    • The stage keyword "megaTexture" has been present in the Doom 3 material docs (http://www.iddevnet.com/doom3/materials.php [iddevnet.com]) since version 1.0 though it is still documented as "super secret".
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is exactly why Carmack owns my wallet and why ID Software does so well. Gamers rejoice!
  • Article Text (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:58AM (#15334544)
    0 replies and the site was already moving really slow. Here's the text in case /. kills it.

    Publish Date: 01 May 2006
    Cain Dornan

    One of the most respected and well-known game developers in the world, John Carmack hardly needs any introduction. Having mastered the skill of game programming, Carmack co-founded developer id Software, and has also worked on such classic series as Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D.

    In this Question & Answer with Carmack, he discusses the new MegaTexture technology, which will be used in the upcoming Enemy Territory: Quake Wars for PC. Definitely a worthy read for any programming, designing or general development enthusiast, as well as any gamer slightly interested in the development process behind games.

    Q1: What is MegaTexturing technology?

    Answer: MegaTexture technology is something that addresses resource limitations in one particular aspect of graphics. The core idea of it is that when you start looking at outdoor rendering and how you want to do terrain and things in general, people almost always wind up with some kind of cross-fade blended approach where you tile your textures over and blend between them and add little bits of detail here and there. A really important thing to realize about just generally tiling textures, that we're so used to accepting it in games, is that when you have one repeated pattern over a bunch of geometry, the texture tiling and repeating is really just a very, very specialized form of data compression where it's allowing you to take a smaller amount of data and have it replicated over multiple surfaces, or multiple parts of the same surface in a game since you generally don't have enough memory to be able to have the exact texture that you'd like everywhere.

    The key point of that is what you really want to do is to be able to have as much texture as you want to use where you have something unique everywhere. Now normally, you just can't get away with doing that, because if you allocate a 32,000 by 32,000 texture, the graphics curve can't render directly from that. There's not enough memory in the system to do that, and even when you have normal sized textures, games are always up against the limits of the graphics card memory, and system memory, and eventually you've got hard drive or DVD memory on there, but you wind up with a lot of different swapping schemes, where you'll have a little low-res version of a texture, and then high res versions that you bring in at different times, and a lot of effort goes into trying to manage this one way or the other.

    So when Splash Damage was starting on, really early with Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars, they were looking at some of these different ways to render the outdoor scenes with different blends and things like that. And one of my early suggestions to them was that they consider looking at an approach where you just use one monumentally large texture, and that turned out to be 32,000 by 32,000. And I - rather then doing it by the conventional way that you would approach something like this (i.e. - chopping up the geometry into different pieces and mapping different textures on to there and incrementally swapping them for low res versus high res versions), just let them treat one uniform geometry mesh and have this effectively unbounded texture side on there, and use a more complicated fragment program to go ahead and pick out exactly what should be on there, just as if the graphics hardware and the system really did support such a huge texture.

    In the end what this winds up getting us is the ability to create a great outdoor terrain texture that has far more complex interactions than anything that you would get with any kind of conventional rendering, where you've built it up out of pieces of lots of smaller textures on there, where they do some sophisticated things with growing grass up between bump maps. And then you can go back and do hand touch ups in a lot of different places to accent around features that are coming out of the surf
    • Re:Article Text (Score:2, Interesting)

      by joebooty (967881)
      This sounds like the least user friendly option available to this problem.

      So if a mod team wants to make their own map you either need to reuse one of these behemoth textures or find an artist that can wrap their head around the technology and create one themselves.

      Procedurally generated textures are a hog and can be very hard to pull off but they still seem like a superior solution to this.

      On the other side I am certain that level designers and artists working together can make some really great looking ma
      • Re:Article Text (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Otto (17870) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:46AM (#15334964) Homepage Journal
        So if a mod team wants to make their own map you either need to reuse one of these behemoth textures or find an artist that can wrap their head around the technology and create one themselves.

        Nah, you just need good tools. Use the game itself as a tool and let people run around the level spraying the texture with spray paint cans (or the digital equivalent). Then spit the MegaTexture out after they're done.
      • This sounds like the least user friendly option available to this problem.

        It's inevitable that as games get more sophisticated, equivalent-quality fan mods will be harder. Developing a next-gen game costs millions, no fan mod team can compete with that. So, yes, we will have to get used to fan mods re-using a lot of the game's original content.

        The Aliens Total Conversion for Doom II was one of the scariest games I've ever played, but that kind of thing just isn't possible any more, sadly. And not just for

  • Genius (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GmAz (916505) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:06AM (#15334606) Journal
    John Carmack is a Genius in the gaming industry. Quake 3 was by far the best game of its time. Unreal Tournament was fun, but it just wasn't Quake 3. I hope he continues to be innovative and keep the gaming industry steaming forward, and maybe create a few more games thats never been done before.
    • Re:Genius (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Neoprofin (871029) <.neoprofin. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:26AM (#15334769)
      That's right, why would you want to buy UT which had 7 gameplay modes out of the box and bots that weren't either retarded or cheating, not to mention the easiest mod switching system of seen to date in mutators; when I could have the "innovative" perfection of Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch?

      The modding community filled the gap eventually, but that's not points for Q3, that's points for all of the dedicated people who were upset by the lack of options in that fanboy love-fest.

      Sorry if I sound bitter about it, but I can recount back to the days when PC Gamer stated, more or less in its review that UT was vastly superior to Q3 in every imaginable way, and then gave it a lower score and handed the editors choice to Q3 instead. They were flooded with mail but never really could explian whose bathwater they were drinking when they either wrote a review that was too good or a score that was too low. I suspect a rolled up wad of hundreds under the table and nothing more.
    • Re:Genius (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ekarderif (941116)
      Okay first of all, let's examine the FPSs that came out in '99:
      • Quake 3 Arena
      • Unreal Tournament
      • System Shock 2

      Clearly, System Shock 2 is the best of its time. Wait, what about adjacent years?

      • Blood 2
      • Half-Life
      • Sin
      • Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
      • Thief: The Dark Project
      • Unreal
      • No One Lives Forever
      • Deus Ex

      Oh crap, a huge list of games, most of whi

      • Re:Genius (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bung-foo (634132)
        What makes Q3 great is its incredibly simple laser-beam focus. There is almost nothing extraneous in the game. It's like a bonzai tree or a zen rock garden.

        I've played almost every game you listed. Many of them four or five times (some even more) and they all have more story than Q3, a lot of them have more weapons or more game play modes. Some even look better.

        But, Q3 was installed and played almost daily on my computer from the day I bought it (a few weeks after it became available) until about three mont
        • Maybe Q3 had better sound with Trent Reznor, but I seemed to play it a little more than UT. Oh, and free multiplayer gaming on the net. I miss that.
    • John Carmack is a Genius in the gaming industry.

      This is the truth. He seems like an all around down to earth guy which makes it even better.

      Quake 3 was by far the best game of its time. Unreal Tournament was fun, but it just wasn't Quake 3.

      I thought Q2 was better than the original unreal, but I thought Unreal Tournament was much better than quake 3. The extra game modes, along with maps with better flow sold me. The best feature of the original unreal tournament was the overpowered guns. All
  • So how long ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yeremein (678037) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:14AM (#15334668)
    ... before Creative Labs asserts a patent over this?
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:14AM (#15334669)
    This is a very interesting technique for realistic terrain, but I wonder what advantage this approach would have over procedurally rendered textures? I very much like the idea of being able to (effectively) zoom infinitely into a texture being 'generated' as opposed to 'drawn'... and the strengths of modern consoles play to this procedural generation quite well (PowerPC chips, Cell chips). Maybe thats why Carmack isn't so interested?
    • by Surt (22457)
      I think the main disadvantage of procedural texturing is that it limits the precision of control the artists can achieve. For many photorealistic situations artists really just want to be able to slap enormous textures that are hand painted for a precise effect, but are generally limited by the max texture size.
    • Procedurally generated stuff is fine for graphics, but when it comes to interaction between players and the world you want everyone to have the same experience, otherwise multiplayer becomes a synchronisation minefield.

      Which means that you'd need to lock everyone down to a lowest-common-denominator level of generated world, to ensure that all machines could handle it in the time you had.

      I also suspect that games designers want more control over the way things look than procedural effects would give them.
      • Depends entirely on what you mean when you say "the same experience". In a multiplayer game, we could both be running down the same corridor, the walls of which on your high-end machine looks like procedurally dented brushed aluminum and on my lower-end machine looks a flat gray.

        As such, we can both be chasing the same demon down the same hallway, having the same experience, without having to see the same exact thing, just as your running at 1024x768 doesn't impact my running at 800x600.
    • by Nahor (41537)
      Procedural texturing is another form of texture compression. The advantage of procedural textures is that it take less space than regular bitmap textures and you can have some sort on uniqueness (no repeating pattern). But it's still an automated rendering and thus has limitation.

      - you still don't get full control on the look. If you want to add a rabbit hole texture in a particular area, you still have to create a polygon just for it or do some other texture trick to add that texture over the normal gras

    • Artists.

      Procedural is great, when you're talking about certain types of things ( say, fractally generating displacement maps for terrain ), but isn't going to help when you want, for example, foot prints, blood spatters, graffiti, cigarette butts, candy bar wrappers, etc etc. Artists can do all this, and can do it well. Who cares how far you can zoom into, say, a ceramic tile texture if it's just a ceramic tile texture? With this mega texture, artists can make each tile slightly different and can put in ind
      • I don't understand why foot prints and blood spatters can't be rendered procedurally. Those would be the easiest things to do in code. Cigarette butts, candy bar wrappers and graffiti would be better off as textures, but blood spatters and footprints? Those cry out for procedural rendering, much the same way as trees and other plants do. As a bonus, if you have a procedure for rendering blood spatters and footprints, you can use it to add new blood spatters and footprints.
    • Maybe it doesn't look as good in the end? for a realistic procedural texture, you're going to have to add a lot of layers to make it look any decent. It's much less processor intensive to create a raster image with all of those layers already combined. Also, with raster, there is the ability to fine tune where you want, say, a specific clump of dirt to show up. Maybe you want more dirt to pile up in the corners of a room compared to the middle. This would require some sort of raster image to define areas wh
    • Indeed. I'll disagree with every single reply so far, and say procedural textures can look very good, especially when used in combination with bitmaps. Perlin noise can be used to make all sorts of textures, such as the usual marble, or more interestingly, granite, woven fabric, fur, rust, wood. Anything rough and irregular. Modern graphics hardware can do a lot of work on a per pixel basis, although at the moment, perlin noise generation is a bit slow. These things really need to have decent noise gen
    • by smug_lisp_weenie (824771) <cbarski.4503440@bloglines.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @02:57PM (#15336599) Homepage
      John C is highly opposed to procedural textures. His thinking is that it requires that programmers act as artists. MegaTexturing allows artists to use their favorite tools to create their textures without worrying about programming or whether a certain effect is supported by a specific procedural language.

      I agree with him.
  • On Carmack (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Carmack is really good as a person who pushes teh technology.

    As a game developer, though, it's just not there. anytime I hear about an id game now, I just wait until someone brings out a truly great game using the engine that Carmack has developed.

    Seriously - let's review teh last few: Doom3? Enter room. Kill. Lights go out. Kill more. Repeat. Q3A? See also: UT Q2? See Q1. then the origin Doom games. Then Wolfenstein.

    id software make great tech demos. Not great games. Beyond the engine, id's games do nothin
    • Carmack is really good as a person who pushes teh technology.

      As a game developer, though, it's just not there. anytime I hear about an id game now, I just wait until someone brings out a truly great game using the engine that Carmack has developed.


      Yes, I'm surprised that they thought nostalgia would make Doom3 a hit. In fact, there was supposedly quite a bit of internal turmoil regarding on whether to even do a Doom3. I can't find the link right now because I originally got it off of Brian Hook's web site [bookofhook.com]
      • Re:On Carmack (Score:4, Interesting)

        by kimvette (919543) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:57AM (#15335056) Homepage Journal
        One game I'd love to see is Hexen III. For the time, the graphics in Hexen II were incredible and the gameplay was great - there was more focus on solving the puzzles (how the heck do I get out of this level) than there was on killing. Sure, there were plenty of monsters to kill but the, er, mazes seemed more intricate in Hexen. I don't recall whether that was just due to the different visuals or if it actually was the case. I've actually been playing the old Id games again in order (Doom, Doom II, Final Doom, Heretic, Hexen, etc) and find Heretic and Hexen more entertaining than Doom.
  • Variation on a theme (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ford Prefect (8777) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:24AM (#15334752) Homepage
    Uniquely texturing entire terrains sounds pretty cool, but the concept isn't entirely new - just an evolution on an already-existing idea.

    I think the Myth RTS games from Bungie used very large textures for the terrain, and this moved on to Halo - terrain there is drawn using a large, low-resolution texture - the red, green and blue channels are used for the colour, while the alpha channel is used to determine which of two detail textures should be used - e.g. grass or sand. It works quite well [halomaps.org]. I think Far Cry does something similar, but more advanced still.

    The former are still low-resolution, though - but the not-a-game Celestia [shatters.net] has 'virtual texture' support, for rendering silly levels of detail on planet surfaces. Like, up to 128k by 64k pixels [celestiamotherlode.net]. The textures are split into many, many files for each level of detail, which are streamed in from the hard disk when required. Works fairly well.

    Combining the two approaches, though, seems very new - the 'Mega Texturing' from John Carmack is probably dramatically different from an implementation point of view, and sounds rather interesting at any rate - the description of the upgraded, non-Quake-Wars version makes it sound like it could uniquely texture a whole world beyond just terrain, so could work for simulating real cities, as opposed to smoke-and-mirrors game cities.

    I'm sure he talked about this in a .plan thing some years ago - anyone want to find it?
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:36AM (#15334871)
    This is neat. It's been a shortcoming I've noticed in most games, where landscape textures tend to be lacking.

    However, what we really need is gameplay innovation. Actually, what we really need is for developers to stop making every last first person game a damn shooter. Can't they do anything else with a first person perspective. The potential here is enormous and yet it looks like developers have a fetish with gunplay.

    There have been games with potentially strong storylines that get mired down by this nonsense. There's little discovery and certainly no problem-solving. These games come down to who has more firepower and occassionally discerning some basic pattern in enemy movement.

    Maybe the problem is that these developers invest so much energy in graphics that there's little room to refine the other aspects of the game. Or they just think that the consumer doesn't want to do anything other than destroy things and kill people.
    • However, what we really need is gameplay innovation. Actually, what we really need is for developers to stop making every last first person game a damn shooter. Can't they do anything else with a first person perspective. The potential here is enormous and yet it looks like developers have a fetish with gunplay.

      The answer to this, if I may quote the character of Michael Scott from the US version of The Office (fantastic show, BTW):

      "What is the most exciting thing that can happen on TV or in movies, or in

    • You have to remember though that Carmack's specialty is in designing graphics engines. And, in this area he really is quite good at what he does. While I certainly agree with you that gameplay is an area that needs substantial growth in this industry, as Carmack put it himself, he doesn't really design the gameplay anymore, he just makes engines for people to use. Despite the need for much more varied gameplay concepts, people like Carmack and what they do are still very important to the industry.

      By de
    • Hearing him talk about this, I immediately think about the level in Half Life where you're walking along the cliff with all the ladders and that stinkin' helicopter popping out to shoot at you. Just the same red rock repeating every couple of feet. Really, there were two other things that made it feel fake though. The first was the simple geometry of the cliff face. The second was the fact that it relied on the skybox to draw the bottom of bottom of the canyon. Too much discontinuity. Having an open floor l
  • While I've been extremely time-limited lately, I've always wanted to get back into playing with 3d development and I've been looking a lot at sci-fi space-based games. In terms of visuals, one of the biggest problems I've had with many of the ones currently available, is that space games generally tend to go with the "large and looming" aspect. You have these really big objects, such as starports, battlecruisers, or planets. Making a texture that would nicely cover them would be huge (especially the planets
    • by jhantin (252660)
      You may then want to consider an algorithm like ROAM [llnl.gov] which allows dynamically varying mesh level of detail: in brief, triangles are recursively broken down tree-wise until either maximum triangles or sufficiently low visible error is reached; bump mapping or light mapping really helps because simple vertex lighting leads to disconcerting "pops" as new vertices with different normals are inserted. Pairing ROAM with this texture zooming technique could give some really spectacular results.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:03PM (#15335099)
    is what I'm waiting for. Mega Texturing is so last magnitude.
  • by Channard (693317) on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:25PM (#15335282) Journal
    At last.. now I can look forward to Quake 5 offering a previous unparallled highly detailed panorma of three hundred shades of brown.
  • The best info I find about how the next Gen consoles are going to stack up, I find from devs.

    Read how the devs that are working on them, and what they are liking, I find provides better incite than PR prelesses, or Pony shows for the press.

    Press releases are garbage, reading inbetween the lines of Carmack's or Sweeney's comments provides far more information about where consoles are going.
  • by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:54PM (#15335527)
    "Q14: Do you think that the MegaTexture technology will be accessible to mod teams? I'm making the connection there in terms of thinking of some of the smaller teams out there.

    Answer: It doesn't help them. In general, all the technology progress has been essentially reducing the ability of a mod team to do something significant and competitive. We've certainly seen this over the last 10 years, where, in the early days of somebody messing with DOOM or QUAKE, you could take essentially a pure concept idea, put it in, and see how the game play evolved there. But doing a mod now, if you're making new models, new animation, you essentially need to be a game studio doing something for free to do something that's going to be the significant equivalent. And almost nobody even considers doing a total conversion anymore. Anything like this that allows more media effort to be spent, probably does not help the mods."

    A pretty honest and insightful answer, if you ask me. This is a feature that'll allow the big boys to make ever-more realistic environments, but it'll mean indie developers and mod developers will have to work that much harder to make anything comparable.
  • by Cee (22717) on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:59PM (#15335562)
    Carmack says:
    And one of my early suggestions to them was that they consider looking at an approach where you just use one monumentally large texture, and that turned out to be 32,000 by 32,000. And I - rather then doing it by the conventional way that you would approach something like this (i.e. - chopping up the geometry into different pieces and mapping different textures on to there and incrementally swapping them for low res versus high res versions), just let them treat one uniform geometry mesh and have this effectively unbounded texture side on there, and use a more complicated fragment program to go ahead and pick out exactly what should be on there, just as if the graphics hardware and the system really did support such a huge texture.

    What does it mean? Unless I missed something, the closest approach to describe how MegaTexturing works is "a more complicated fragment program to go ahead and pick out exactly what should be on there". So? Carmack talks about how awsome the technique is but he won't tell us how it works in reality. Of course, he has no obligation to tell the world his trade secrets, but the article itself seems mostly just to be there to hype this technology.
    • by Have Blue (616)
      The difference between this and a simple fragment program is probably a method for dealing with the fact that the entire texture cannot be kept in VRAM (or even main system RAM). It'll need to dispatch loads for parts of the texture that aren't yet loaded and expire parts that haven't been used for a while.
    • Just a wild guess - maybe it's a two-pass approach, where the first rendering pass uses a shader that indicates which texture tile applies to each pixel, then the engine reads back the image and loads all the needed tiles into memory (using some sort of cache), and finally renders the image.
  • Something not mentioned is what video cards support the mega texturing technique. The new NVIDIA 7900 hardware (a card aimed specifically at gaming computers [widowpc.com] enthusiasts) supposedly supports it. However, the only real way to test that is to get a copy of the new Doom.
  • games based on Valve's game Engine look graphically more polished and have more realistic effects (fog, light diffusing through fog, moving water ..etc). I have personally played quake2, ut2004, CounterStrike, CounterStrike-Source (or CS2). Haven't played doom3 or quake3.

    is it a matter of DirectX vs. OpenGL?

    no troll, just a gamer trying to get my head around the engine technology.
  • This hi-res movie [gametrailers.com] of Quake Wars went up recently, and honestly it doesn't look that great. The ground textures looks flat and splotchy. I understand that the "MegaTexture" tech may be about making games run faster, not necessarily a graphical imporvement, but, for example, I've seen screenshots and videos of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. from a couple years ago that looked much more photorealistic (the environment, not the character models which were below average looking) and when I played a leaked version it ran really
  • by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @02:34PM (#15336380) Homepage
    I've seen bits on mega texture for awhile but I have yet to be able to divine how the hell it is suppose to work.

    My best guess is that one starts with a tiled texture like you would in any other game but that some engine allows artists to add modifications to the texture in different areas. Thus you take up less memory than actually having a full texture of that size but each area has it's own unique touchups.

    Is this really what it does? I'm getting really frustrated at these stupid little gaming articles that never really explain the tech.

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