Oct 9, 2016 -- Guild Halls -- Video
April 27, 2016 -- Lifeline -- Video
April 26, 2016 -- Twister -- Video
April 25, 2016 -- Pastebin -- Video
Note: in this demonstration, I deactivated Smart Select with key g,
January 7, 2016 -- Problems of Blackbox: Image Quality -- Article
So far I have been mostly discussing interesting abilities and advantages of Blackbox. They are its reason for existence, after all. And the possibilities are exciting.
However, it is just as important to discuss the problems that come with that. For all its promise, Blackbox is not short of problems either. And to use this tool to its best, we need a good understanding of them, in general and in detail. We will discuss how we can make Blackbox work regardless. Hopefully this can also give some interesting insight into problems of art at large. We will start out with a first Article of this series.
You should have noticed soon in your first tests that image quality may be the single biggest concern in working Blackbox. The issues of image quality are a form of restriction to your art. You have this amazing power in scale, but it takes much careful design to make it work well on the eye.
In the beginnings of 3d graphics, image quality was not the primary concern. It was making the illusion of reality work to begin with. And in a sort of greed, drunk with possibility, the art of these titles aimed for more than is aesthetically sane. And the audience of the time, amazed by this new age, was able to ignore the visual problems in a suspension of disbelief. But ever since times have changed. 3d is ubiquitous, and the expectations and standards have been drastically raised.
Image quality has become one of the most important measures. Many new technologies have been invented to improve it. All of graphics and display products contest in it and advertise its importance. And our eyes have been incredibly spoiled by it. Look an old CRT today, watch VHS video cassette, play Doom in its most original rendering code, and you will find all that extremely difficult on the eyes, it almost literally hurts. So it didn't take long before 3d entirely abandoned pixel art in favour of much filtering. Strict Pixel Art has the smallest margin of mistakes in readability, and a dynamic view breaks that very quickly. The goal was not to find an art that makes 3d work as is, but to find a tech that makes realism in 3d work.
In its raw approach to the artistic rendering, Blackbox faces many of the same challenges the first 3d games had. But the difference we have today is, we better understand the art to deal with it. Pixel art itself as an art form and theory, transitioned to a more image quality oriented approach in the meantime. In 2d, it is the utmost polished impression of pixel art that set it apart from competing art forms. And drawing from a better understanding of pixel art today, we reinvestigate the raw rendering in the 3d of the past. We focus on studying the range of values in which it works by smart design of the content. And we attempt to turn its crisp visuals from a liability into a proud and pleasing quality within these bounds.
Appropriate art techniques aside, the level design, view ranges and perspectives in relation to cube sizes, are also of great interest to us in working around that. Isometric worlds may be the most straightforward to look good, but a clever room and vista layout too can set the bounds for good image quality even in First Person View. Also consider on the technical side, that advanced system work such as an intrinsic level of detail system can also improve upon the situation across the board.
However, do take note: new display technologies, like ultra HD displays, which will become market standard in just a few years, will ease our problems and expand the ranges and use cases. Even our normal HD displays today give us a huge leg up compared to what people of the past had to deal with. Altogether, raw rendering is a much more feasible approach than it has been. But make no mistake, image quality will always stay the maybe biggest concern of Blackbox compared to other tools.
Another thing to consider is, that we can try further ease it up with fullscreen anti-aliasing on top of that. Though this might sound heretical at first, it would be simply an equivalent to the quirks of older display tech like CRT. But this has the lowest priority of interest to this project. To learn most in our study here, we make our case tougher by dealing as is, and will later benefit ever so more from a better understanding in improved conditions, may things come as they do. Laziness is learned quick, discipline must be achieved.
December 24, 2015 -- First public release of Blackbox Voxel Tool
This is just an early experimental demo for studies. Visit the main page to download the latest version.
The hotkey system discussed in the accompanied readme.txt may be a bit much at first, but will make more sense eventually.
The first release omits the tiling capabilities shown in the videos previously, as well as the animation discussed on my site. That will come with the following releases, alongside a better GUI. But it also sports abilities not shown or discussed yet. So do read the readme.
Still, there are a great many more or less obvious features missing that keep this from being an actual tool more than a toy. I consider this tool like the body of a living creature. It has vital organs, a heart, lungs, brain, any of which must be there and work properly, or the body can't live. There is a systemic dependency of functionality, so that the creature can go about the way it's supposed to. But this release right now would cut down from many vital functionality that define its true nature, its workflow, its very usefulness. For example, a selection snapped to grid is just a strange quirk only by itself. It is the crazy possibilities of the new tiling here that decide its usefulness, and entirely change your workflow. But that is not in this release. All you're stuck with is this weird selection then. And there are many other missing features just as important in defining the real identity of this tool.
The purpose of this release is to concentrate on studying the reactive behaviour of the grid, the visual behaviour of coloured cubes by side, the use of perspective on very large scale, and the basic idea behind the control scheme. Try to work around the tight cube limit with what you got, see what kind of visuals you can do with that for a mockup scene. That's enough for now. It will give you a first base of understanding. On the following releases it will start to actually get interesting then going from that.
As you play with it you may eventually notice problems innate to this medium. Some of it will be solved, some will solve themselves as computers improve, some you may always have to work around. We are here to study the potential, viability and proper use cases, alongside the limits, of this proposed technique here.
Also a couple more immediate issues remain that will be addressed in the future:
This project focuses on the very experience of the pixel art medium's process. It attempts to have a natural approach to it. One of its key features is a resilient and efficient Input Interpolation that is supposed to enable beautiful line drawing, mostly uninterrupted even across corners and complex environment. However this needs more tweaking. For example, aggressive as it is now, it can happen that it paints a hidden side on edge cases, which prevents a reoptimization of the grid upon large overpainting. When you see it, use shift-paint to recolour the location wholesome, so the grid recovers.
Have fun and work hard.