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Real-time Procedural Environments

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Hello folks. I'm involved in a project called FxGen, and it's got me to thinking about procedural development. Houdini is all about that, apparently, and I seek your advice on a concept I just thought up.

FxGen is a procedural texturing library that attempts to render textures on-the-fly, which then cooperates with an engine which then displays those textures. It's a middleware, if you will. So, basically, you've got two layers for graphics rendering inside the software-- a layer that contains and processes the procedural data, which is what makes up the image, and can be very dynamic (the program itself could edit the texture itself depending on the environment) and then there's the the layer that displays the rendered image, which is pretty static, and what traditional 3D environments do.

Now, what I see with Houdini is that it also extends this concept of procedural development to models, particles, animations, everything. Could all this, then, possibly be rendered on-the-fly with assets created from the Houdini software, with, say, a middleware library similar to FxGen, then displayed using a traditional 3D-renderer, taking the usual shortcuts that Houdini wouldn't, in order to make it real-time?

The advantage to doing this, adding another layer to your software rather than having it be static geometry, static bitmap, etc. is that the user can then modify the 'source' of the 3D environment, then have it be re-rendered immediately. Many things that were previously static would become quite dynamic, yet not so flexible that the user loses their ability to interact with this world, and instead is creating their own. What I mean by that is, editors such as Houdini are much like a sandbox, with tools to build their own world. Highly functional, highly flexible, however, artists must look elsewhere for inspiration. Within a 3D environment that already is populated with artistic assets such as a videogame, there is inspiration everywhere, yet no way to interact with it on the fundamental level that an editor would. What the result of this concept might be is to merge the two, the 3D environment and the 3D editor, into something more dynamic and functional, but also offers the user constraints within which to work and build their ideas by using those of others as a foundation.

Now, as you can see, this is a project much larger than FxGen, or just about any other 3D interactive software out there. Houdini, being procedural, might facilitate this process nicely, however. Any thoughts on this, and how Houdini may be able to fit in? Perhaps the key to this riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma is COLLADA, however, it is XML-based, and may not be quick enough for the transformation intermediary process of taking communicating dynamic information between the procedural aspect of the program, and the static real-time renderer. At any rate, thoughts on this concept would be appreciated.

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...I was not able to think about all your post... i guess i will need to read it more carefully when I have time since it covers a wide range of topics...

I just want to say that there is a Houdini based... real-time visuals generator:


the TOUCH Player, TOUCH Mixer, TOUCH Designer... they create and play procedural visuals... etc.

Also... while you were talking about real-time procedural game graphics... I just remembered that I saw that site a few days ago:


which also focuses on real-time procedural textures in games...

so... yes... these are just a few ideas that poped out my mind while I was reading your post.

Edited by Symbolic
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Thank you, Symbolic. Yes, what we're doing at FxGen is similar to the ProFX middleware and the MaPZone editor. We are open source. I don't know how the folks around here feel about open source software... Some people swear by it, some people are quite critical of it.

As for the Derivative software, I've seen that also, however, I was not impressed, as it seemed to me, at first glance, that it replicated only very abstract-looking particle systems... It also had a lot of extra fluff on it (for music) that I'm not all that interested in.

Please realize that my post touches upon several subjects, however, it brings them all together into one novel, central concept.

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