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Carmack Shows Off the id Tech 5 Engine 104

MojoKid writes "id's keynote address from this past week's Quakecon featured John Carmack revealing details of the id tech 5 engine. For more on the subject, has an interview with id developer Steve Nix about the project. 'I know that when we started working with Splash Damage on Enemy Territory they wanted large, detailed outdoor terrains, and they had some ideas on how to dynamically load the textures and everything, and John [Carmack] said, 'Why don't we try this new approach and make the entire terrain one massive texture, and then just load blocks of texture in dynamically that you can see at any one given time?' So John did the initial work on it, got it up and running, and it just so happened that that work was the basis for what we have in id Tech 5.'"
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Carmack Shows Off the id Tech 5 Engine

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  • The article doesn't say much about the new engine. Does anyone know how it compares with the Unreal 3 engine or the CryEngine 2 (used in the upcoming Crysis)? Those engines look pretty amazing.
    • Croteam's Serious engine and Monolith's LithTech seemed to be giving them a run for their money for a's their technology stacking up?
      • by GeckoX ( 259575 )
        Is the serious engine still being developed? Haven't heard squat from Croteam in quite a long time.

        No idea about LithTech.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah I have info...

      The new engine will be something innovative, new and unique which every other game company will copy and do better.

      UT3 engine is currently a piece of string with a knot in it.

      Crysis... it looks pretty and works great in demos but will prove hard to play unless you have 8 limbs.
      • by nuzak ( 959558 )
        > UT3 engine is currently a piece of string with a knot in it.

        Seems everyone on earth is licensing that string. Yeah, before you go into it, they have one pissed-off licensee, which seems to be a bit better than idtech 4's one licensee total.
      • UT3 engine is currently a piece of string with a knot in it.
        ASCII or UTF?
    • Re:Cmparisons? (Score:5, Informative)

      by elFarto the 2nd ( 709099 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:30PM (#20186157)

      Here's a few videos of Carmack talking about it:

      • by Bombula ( 670389 )
        Thanks - interesting stuff. In my opinion, the lighting doesn't look as realistic as the CryEngine's fancy new bump-mapping stuff. It almost looks like DX9 instead of DC10... Maybe it's just me. The textures don't pop, and I didn't see much in terms of depth of field or motion blurring or ambient lighting and occlusion effects. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
        • Re:Cmparisons? (Score:4, Informative)

          by elFarto the 2nd ( 709099 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:51PM (#20186491)

          That's because it is DirectX9, atleast on the XBox360, OpenGL on the PC/Mac and OpenGL|ES/whatever else they use on the PS3.

        • Re:Cmparisons? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Cornelius the Great ( 555189 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @03:14PM (#20186869)
          You're missing the point of the tech demonstrations. Depth of field, motion blurring, and HDR lighting are current-gen features and are commonly featured in games out today. He was rather focusing on the amount of detail (80 GB worth) that was dynamically loaded, and didn't rely on old "hacks" (detail textures heavily repeated over a lower-res diffuse map, etc) to create the illusion of detail at an acceptable frame rate. And do so while keeping the engine both portable and fast is icing on the cake.

          That in itself is rather impressive. As an OpenGL developer, I'm no longer impressed by motion blur, volume shadows, and other textbook shaders/effects - I'm more impressed by this.
          • by Bombula ( 670389 )
            You're clearly the expert here, so I don't doubt you for a second. Still, to my eye there was something flat about the lighting in particular in the demo clips compared to the depth of the CryEngine 2(and the Cryengine does all that real-time editing and rendering too, from what I've seen). I've been waiting a long time for really convincing lighting - the current generation doesn't do a very good job of looking 'realistic' to my eye, and it's mainly because of lighting, whereas the demos I've seen of Cry
          • I don't know...

            I find dynamically loading stuff to be pretty textbook by now. It's always nice when someone does it, but I mostly notice that most people don't.

            Now, maybe I'm wrong, and maybe making it one huge texture does make it harder, but I don't think so.
            • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward
              All those lighting and special effects are just shaders. A game engine might have all kinds of useful tools for building those shaders, but the fact remains that anyone can buy a textbook (or just go and look the shaders up), copy the shaders out of there, and have all kinds of cool special effects running. Any idiot can do them, and they can be done at any point in the development process. In modern engines, you can even pull almost all of the shaders out and rewrite them. They're boring.

              Basically, complai
              • by CandyMan ( 15493 )
                Can you please explain how this "virtualised texture" approach works?

                To my uninformed but interested understanding, it seems that if you only have 256Mb of memory and 1Gb of texture, you are going to have a lot of paging, missing textures, or the performance hit associated with downsampling the textures so they fit in memory.
                • by mikael ( 484 )
                  If you do a Google search for "terrain rendering" or "multiresolution rendering", you will find some research papers which describe dedicated hardware systems which defined the database as a combination of heightfield data (from radar) with photographic data (from satellites). The database would consist of an entire region sampled at 1 metre resolution (millions of polygons). It would be impossible to store the entire database in memory at the same time. To make the entire system run at the desired frame ra
                  • by CandyMan ( 15493 )
                    Thanks for the explanation, but isn't quadtrees and frustum culling what all engines before the supertexture were using? Also, your explanation does not manage to clear up the doubts raised by the grandparent's statement:

                    > "In fact, you can have 1GB of textures just for the stuff on screen, and still have that displayed on a system with only 256MB of video memory."

                    If the stuff *on screen* (ie inside the frustrum) needs 1GB of textures, it just can't be culled out, and if you only have 256MB of video mem
                    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

                      by originalnih ( 709470 )
                      Shader results aren't really stored in video memory (unless you want them to be). They're output directly to the buffer based on a combination of shader code and base textures. Although the terrain may generate quite a bit of data, the resources it used to generate that frame won't be as large.

                      Eventually we'll all want video cards with 10GB of memory, but this is a nice way of bridging the gap.
                  • Ok, now I've got a question:

                    Are two-dimensional textures, quadtrees, etc more efficient than traditional octrees and LoD applied to 3D objects?

                    That was the one thing that actually bothered me about this "megatexture" concept, that I think it could be generalized so easily...

                    Well, that, and I also want to see more games use procedurally generated content (saving disk space and RAM) rather than just throwing some gigantic satellite-photo-sized texture at the problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dunezone ( 899268 )
      Screw the engine. What about game play?

      When they were showcasing the Doom 3 technology several years ago it looked amazing and outstanding and Rage looks the same way too. Now the problem is game play, Doom 3 game play was pretty much non-existent, it was a simple shooter with awesome graphics, no real story or plot to help carry it. And you can argue that id software has never really had much of a story or plot to drive their games but thats expected now. When Doom, Quake, Quake 2 came out you could sti
      • Yes, I honestly think id Software rather makes a large chunk of revenue on
        1. Brand names -- Doom is still such a brand name that tons would buy a Doom 4 on this engine, despite Doom 3's mediocre gameplay
        2. Engine licensing
        • by nuzak ( 959558 )
          If engine licensing is a significant chunk of their revenue, they screwed the pooch with Doom3. 3DRealms licensed it for Prey, and that was pretty much that.

          Thankfully they didn't grow their studio and metastasize like other game development studios, or get acquired by a quarterly-balance-focused game-grinding publisher, so they can weather a slowdown in business like that. And Doom3 sold pretty well too, largely thanks to point 1.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        The recent id software games were money making ads/demos for selling their game engines to other game companies.

        I figure they've found what they are good at, and sticking with it doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

        Let the other game companies hire hordes of people to create content/assets, pay money to license stuff from George Lucas etc.
      • Now the problem is game play, Doom 3 game play was pretty much non-existent, it was a simple shooter with awesome graphics, no real story or plot to help carry it.

        I wouldn't say that's entirely true. You're spot on about the gameplay, but Doom 3 actually had quite a lot of plot and story. Unfortunately, nearly all of it was presented on PDAs scattered throughout the game that took too long to read and completely drew the player out of the situation, rather than having a plot that was integral to and intertwined with the gameplay. They were using System Shock's style of story telling in a world that had already played Half-Life 2. Then they hammered the final na

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GeckoX ( 259575 )
        How can we discuss gameplay when we're not even talking about a game?

        The discussion is about game engines, NOT games themselves.

        Thus the GP's request to compare 3 game engines, not games.

        Given that, what about what gameplay?

      • by brkello ( 642429 )
        Umm, what the heck are you talking about? This is like seeing the awesome new engine of a car that has more power and speed than the one previous...and you are saying..."yeah, but what does the body of the car look like?". You are completely missing the point. How the heck do you talk about game play when are showing an engine? There is no game. That is up to whoever is making the game. Yeah, Doom3 was an expensive demo for the engine...we all know that. So don't buy id games.

        The only thing the en
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tixxit ( 1107127 )
        I loved Doom 3. Everytime I played I would play at night w/ the lights off. I thought I was going to shit myself sometimes. Gameplay was not the greatest, but the atmosphere was amazing. That alone was worth playing it. Not too many games get that level of emersion from me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        "it was a simple shooter with awesome graphics, no real story or plot to help carry it."

        Yeah but exactly where were they going to go from Doom 2? It's not like the doom series was big on story to begin with, and I would have to say that as a gaming experience Doom 3 and its expansion was FAR from bad, Doom 3 had some of the most scary and memorable bosses, I agree the story wasn't very cohesive or convincing but it was hardly bad.

        The level design was very good and the art was stellar, the real problem was
      • I enjoyed Doom 3. That's probably because I was expecting what it was-- a shallow, 10 hour shooter with lots of "Holy shit! Where did that thing come from?" moments that looked really good. I never needed or expected it to be Half-life.

        That said, it *is* a shallow game with no real story, and I've never felt the need to go back and play it again.

        I can't comment on Rage, except to say that if it's another Doom 3, I will be disappointed because this time I do want more.

        I think this technology will spawn some

  • by Lethyos ( 408045 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:13PM (#20185907) Journal

    Are they getting to expensive or are they just tired of nerds? Either way, I dislike the alternative [].

    • by clem ( 5683 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:27PM (#20186111) Homepage
      Look on the bright side -- she'll still be smiling even when you get close to her.
  • Consoles? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Could this idea be used for consoles, which have a lot less video RAM than computers?

    Imagine Final Fantasy XI on the Nintendo DS. ;-)

    • According to the Youtube Videos [] I was checking out ... Tech 5 compiles and runs on PC, Mac, PS3 and XBox 360 "in about 5 minutes". So yes. Tech 5 works on PS3 and XBox 360 and was designed to be portable across all platforms from the beginning.
    • by GweeDo ( 127172 )
      It will be on the 360, PC and PS3...but he doesn't like the RAM limitations of the PS3 :)
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Whoa yeah! He put down the PS3! Woooo! Wii strokin' time!
  • I cannot put into words how awesome John Carmack is. A true pioneer in video game graphics.
  • I know that when we started working with Splash Damage on Enemy Territory they wanted large, detailed outdoor terrains, and they had some ideas on how to dynamically load the textures and everything, and John [Carmack] said, 'Why don't we try this new approach and make the entire terrain one massive texture, and then just load blocks of texture in dynamically that you can see at any one given time

    "Only load what you need from a large set of data" is a new concept in computer science? No wonder these game

    • Nope (Score:3, Informative)

      by everphilski ( 877346 )
      The difference apparently is between dynamically loading a whole bunch of different textures (as-needed, which is the traditional way of doing things), and paging through 1 texture.
    • by quanticle ( 843097 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:33PM (#20186217) Homepage
      Previously, you had to break up your textures into blocks and manually load them as the player moved into the area covered by those textures. This new technology allows you to create one large texture for the entire level and have the game engine automatically break up the texture into blocks and dynamically load them for you.

      It makes programming easier, because its one less thing to keep track of.
      • It also opens up the possibility to stream these textures in line-by-line, instead of block-by-block. No need to waste time/memory loading in a 2048x2048 texture of the next area as soon as it's barely visible if we can do it arbitrarily.
        • That makes no sense whatsoever. I assume that by "line" you are talking about a row of texels. If so, then the orientation of the texture, relative to the view frustum, would have to align perfectly for a single line of texels to be of any use. If the frustum were merely rotated 90 degrees, then you need a column of texels, requiring fetching a single texel per line, resulting in massive cache misses. That is the whole point of breaking textures into squares, so that you don't loose efficiency due to or
    • It's obviously not a new concept in computer science, much less games. Too bad the difference between data manipulation and games is that the games need to access these textures 30 - 60 times per second depending on hardware. I take it you don't know much about 3D rendering and games programming, do you?
      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        And this differs from concepts like Google Maps how? (which also is not an original idea, btw)
        • by GeckoX ( 259575 )
          Framerate for starters?

          For some reason, I don't think most gamers would accept a bunch of gray blocks slowly and randomly being replaced with textures before your very eyes every time your view changes..but hey, maybe that's just me ;)
          • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
            perhaps we could load more blocks outside of the immediate view? You know, like, perhaps, just maybe, caching them with an intelligent loader?

            But I guess that might have been too forward thinking.
        • Hint: Google Maps 2007 = MS Flight Simulator 1992.
    • Denigrating the work of others, particularly work you don't understand and couldn't accomplish on your own, is the oldest concept in computer science. Come up with something new, please.
    • by GeckoX ( 259575 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @03:16PM (#20186897)
      Memory footprint of these extremely large textures was prohibitive in the past. Originally this just wasn't possible.

      In the beginning, very small textures were all that could be used, and they were tiled everywhere. Ever since then, the workable size of textures has been slowly increasing...but the old habit of breaking things down into small(ish) textures remained.

      Technological advances and an 'aha!, we can do that now!' lead to advances such as this that to some might appear 'obvious', when in fact, since they hadn't been done before, weren't so obvious after all.
  • by tjwhaynes ( 114792 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @03:04PM (#20186697)

    The new texture technology that JC is demonstrating is fascinating but it really is a neat new twist on a much older trick - using tile-able textures to build up a much larger map, and then using overlays to take it further and make it less predictable.

    The basic landscape is built up at some reasonable level of detail for distance shots, with whatever geometry the modeller wants. Then the new techniques are applied to any polygon, anywhere. From the videos, there is a part where JC takes a texture, paints it on either side of the track. At this point, you can see that it really is square tiles - maybe 128x128 in the demo but I suspect it is arbitrary. Then these tiles are blended against other tiles and it's no longer so obvious what is going on. Then the overlays are painted on over the top to provide unique details.

    Now - the backend technology to cache all of these separate layers together must be pretty impressive to ensure that the view doesn't stutter as you pan the view. Using this level of organisation for the textures is akin to a smart compression routine, except you are identifying common elements right up front in the form of texture tiles, rather than trying to do it after the fact.

    I'd pay serious money to get my hands on the level editors for this tech - but I don't think my salary will stretch to a ID license fee.

    Toby Haynes

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2007 @08:47PM (#20191201)
      Sorry you're completely wrong. The mega texture itself is not based on tiles, that's just how they author it. It all gets baked out into a single completely unique texture at the end. So the initial large scale detail really is hugely detailed and extremely high res. Tiling is just a way of quickly painting terrain for outdoor areas, and then you can use an unlimited number of overlays (because they get baked out into the texture) to for example stamp out rocks and stuff to break up the surface. You can easily envision having a mode where you hit a key which brings a screenshot up into photoshop, you edit it however you want, and then project it back into the scene.
      • I wish you didn't use an anonymous account, or I had mod points, because I think a lot of people are similarly confused, and your post deserves to be seen.
    • by DaAdder ( 124139 )

      I'd pay serious money to get my hands on the level editors for this tech - but I don't think my salary will stretch to a ID license fee.

      Or you could just buy Rage, where their development studio with all the tools are included :)

      As mentioned here: []

      I wouldn't be too surprised to see the level technology appear as as free download as well down the road.

    • Well, you'll notice that JC says that the editors will be shipped with the game. Unless you meant source access.
  • The thing JC keeps saying about his new gfx tech is that it allows the artists to chance the textures in a given scene or map on a PER PIXEL LEVEL. Literally letting the artists go into the entire map and basically photo-shop every pixel until they get it perfect. The engine also updates everything real time across the entire development platform so if I go in and paint some graffiti on a wall, and the AI programmer goes to that same section of the world on his computer to test some things, he will see th
  • proves that he has vision beyond the typical game developer.

    How many countless technologies id Software has brought us over the years, games today should be forever thankful. Now that games tend to sprawl out into massive landscapes (MMOs are big on this too), engines that are geared towards serving large landscapes instead of 'room by room' sprawling are going to be the norm.

    On an unrelated note -- I'm looking forward to Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
  • the downfall of every id game isn't art, graphics, or design, but the fact the basic game play is rudimentary at best, some love their games because of this, but most wish for more. hopefully they will at least abandon the door/key game play element in every one of their games since keen, jesus, unlimited time and budget, come up with something new!
    • by adamofgreyskull ( 640712 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @04:17PM (#20187825)
      Eesh! Repeat. id do NOT make the games you want. id make ENGINES and games that showcase them.

      A little harsh maybe, but basically correct. If you want a rip-roaring game with a smashing storyline, wait until the first game companies start licensing the tech from id. Until then, like me, you could do a lot worse than forgetting your high-minded, high-falluting city-slicker ambitions and just run around for a while, shooting every demon between you and the blue keycard.
      • That's all well and good, and it's certainly fair to say that Quake and Quake 3 were licensed big-time, but a quick glance at Wikipedia [] shows a grand total of six titles using the Doom 3 engine, two of which are Doom 3 and it's expansion, and one of which hasn't even been released yet.

        Something wrong with id's latest work, I wonder?

        • According to Wikipedia, the Quake 3 engine was used for roughly 5 years (8 if you count the in-development game Severity). The Doom 3 engine is only 3 years old, unless ID Software decides to pull support (which isn't going to happen with ET:Quake Wars coming out soon) the Doom 3 engine has a solid 2 years left in it.
    • Hmm maybe you didn't RTFA (wait, it's /. you didn't RTFA) This is about the *engine* not a *game*.

  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by whoop ( 194 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @04:26PM (#20187991) Homepage
    How many shades of brown will the next Quake have? 32k? 64k? 4096k? That's all we really want to know!!
  • ...can be seen in this trailer [] for iD's upcoming game, Rage. Even keeping in mind it's work in progress i'm floored.
  • by Coolhand2120 ( 1001761 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:46PM (#20189249)
    You want to talk wide open spaces. Talk about the military simulator VBS or it's civilian counterpart OPF/Arma. These games may not look the prettiest but they have hundreds of square miles of seamless terrain. Enough so that many branches of the U.S. military signed up for it several years in a row. It has cross sim technology that allows it to talk to other simulators. But most importantly it run a insane resolutions and has view distances that would make a 747 pilot jealous.

    I really wish video game makers would get a little more realistic in their shooting games. Real (outdoor) warfare does not occur at 50ft, it happens at about 400 meters, that's almost so far that the guy you're shooting at looks like an ant. And that happens to be real life. Also, someone tell JC if someone is hiding behind a cinderblock wall and I shoot an 7.62 AK74 round at said wall and the bullet happens to land where someone is standing on the other side, they are dead. Bullets penetrate EVERYTHING except HEAVY ARMOR. That means if you shoot a house, someone on the other side of the house may get hit because the bullet penetrated every wall in the house. This is especially true for heavy machine guns (.50cal+) which can demolish a small house with a few dozen rounds.

    Also, and almost as important, don't make stupid doors that have a fucking golf ball holding them shut, I just destroyed a god damn super monkey spider droid with a mega doppler 5000 hand blastron laser fink and I can't open this god damn door because someone wedged a golf ball under it's flimsy wooden frame. What's that you say? Don't go in there? It's not part of the level? DON'T MAKE THE FUCKING DOOR THEN! Did you think you had to follow the layout of Walter Reed hospital exactly? I won't care if there is a wall where there should be a janitors closet, just don't put a door in the level that can't be opened, especially a door with a window and a god damn wooden chair wedged under the door knob. BAD BAD BAD!! Anyone remember Red Faction? Where you could blow up the walls. What ever happen to that idea? What kind of future war training are we offering our children?! ->

    Ted: Hey Jimmy hide behind those wooden pallets so the Chinese T80 main battle tank can't use it's HE round to kill you
    Jimmy: Thank Ted! I'm not sure how long I could have lasted without that great advice

    • Anyone remember Red Faction? Where you could blow up the walls. What ever happen to that idea?

      Software patents.
    • I think the majority of game players don't want ultra-real. FPS players like to bunny-hop around shooting almost non-stop. They do this because its fun, not because they want to model realism.

      There are some good ultra-real games out there (I remember playing a sniper game at E3 that actually modeled heart-rate and atmospheric effects (rain, heat, altitude, etc.) to calculate where each shot landed). The problem is that there is a very small market for them.

      • That would be Sniper Elite [], a terrific game in my opinion. I don't think i've seen another sniper sim ever since. It had a great balance of realistic shooting and action.
        • by drik00 ( 526104 )
          I remember back in the day, playing some supposed "ultra-realistic" combat game, "ultra-realistic" meant you get shot, u die... told a vet friend about it, he asked if you get trench rot in your foot in the game from being in trenches for too long... yeah. ultra-realistic = not so much fun.
          • It is realistic in the sense it involves "real" sniping techinques - finding spots with cover, firing, relocating, watching your pulse and breath between shots. Then again, the missions are fun and well laid out with more than just long range shots - you go from assasination and cover missions to POW rescues. It is a very fun game, and well worth a fetch from the bargain bin.
    • Modelling large areas is a lot easier if you get rid of the stipulation that it has to be pretty. Hell, Google Earth modelled the entire planet. I'm a programmer for Hegemony: Philip of Macedon [], a game which models the entirety of Greece, so I feel I know a few things about the topic. Tech 5 wouldn't work for us, for a few reasons, but it's still hugely innovative, and I have yet to figure out how he used MegaTexture on non-height-based-terrain objects.

      Regarding game design, everybody has to choose whe
  • Anyone else more excited about the mention of the $70 "every game that id developed" Pack that can be purchased on Steam, more so than the Rage demonstration?

    Maybe I'm just getting old...
  • by jensen404 ( 717086 ) on Saturday August 11, 2007 @02:23AM (#20193153)
    I'm sure Carmack is a great programmer, but his engines are specialized at doing one thing well at the expense of general flexibility. And the one special feature of the engine isn't even carried on to the next generation.

    Quake 3 had curved surfaces, no other major engine since then has had curved surfaces.

    Doom 3 had a unified lighting model, Rage does not. The unified lighting caused some pitch black areas and made it harder too make large outdoor type levels.

    Rage has unified texturing, which makes it harder to use specialized shaders on some surfaces. Other than the texturing and the much better development tools, I don't see much new?
    • by DohnJoe ( 900898 )
      I think the major thing here is indeed the better development tools, with 3 architectures supported from a single code base, plus the fact that artists are given almost complete freedom. Given the fact that on most big games a lot of time is spent on getting the artwork done, I think this is quite an important improvement that many game studios are very interested in.
    • What is wrong with Rage's lighting, it looks to me the environment and characters are lit the same way. Wasn't that what the Doom 3 engine was about? No more using vertex lighting on characters but lightmapping for the environment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jensen404 ( 717086 )
        Rage uses lightmapping on the environment. The only thing that really moved in the Rage trailer was the cars. The cars cast a shadow even if they are inside another shadow (from the same light source)

The other line moves faster.