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MegaTexture Hype

Is it just me, or any other of you think that the Megatexture technology that the advanced DOOM 3 engine is going to provide is just nonsense? I mean besides the first awe of the hypie name, when you settle to actually think about it the megatexture technology is just a pain in the @#%!

For those that are not familiar with the term “Megatexture”, megatexture is the new killer feature of the DOOM 3 game engine. It is about using a singe huge (where mega comes from) texture for texturing the whole terrain. This is different from what is commonly used today in game engines, where artists use a set of tile-able textures that repeat over the terrain. So with megatexture the artists are provided with a single 32,768 x 32,768 image that is stretched over the whole terrain and start painting it. Check these links for more information:

I must admit that the concept sounds very promising when you first hear about it. It seems like the way to go for future generations. You no longer have to see the same pattern repeating over and over again. But think of the artist! Do you really expect someone to uniquely draw such a huge texture? And if he does where is he going to do so? In photoshop? Well try opening a 32,768 x 32,768 image in photoshop and think again.

There must be a custom tool to handle this kind of textures, made by Id. And I’m pretty sure that this is not going to be so elaborate as photoshop, no matter how hard they try. The only way to have the artist work with good tools is for the custom tool to export small parts of the terrain texture to photoshop, let the artist draw in it and finally reimport that in the custom tool. This not a good artwork pipeline by my book. It even messes with the way artists work beyond export/import.

It is quite logical that the system will provide a procedural system to layout the terrain and then let the artists refine and add detail to that. This can easily be simulated with decals over an existing terrain implementation.

I have seen videos from the upcoming Quake Wars:Enemy territory that is using this technology and as I expected there was nothing impressive about the terrain. It actually looked very low detailed compared to what I have seen until now. Which is quite normal if think about it. A 32,768 x 32,768 texture starts to look pixelated over a big enough terrain and it will never have the quality of a really huge terrain that is rendered with detail textures. You can paint any detail on the ground but it will never have the fidelity of a 512×512 decal texture placed on the spot of the detail. Simple as that…

The conclusion is that megatexture is a technology that burdens artists will a “mega” amount of work, that in the end does not result in visual improvements. It also uses lots of resources and adds more restrictions to what you can do. How big can you go with a 32,768 x 32,768 texture? Can you do World Of Warcraft with that?

Megatexture is just a nice thing to implement for the hack value of it but I don’t think that has to offer anything to a game…

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