The lights are on
Is the Australian-developed Unlimited Detail technology the
future of gaming? Or is it just a scam? We invited Euclideon CEO Bruce Dell to
our office to prove his claims by letting us go hands-on. He was happy to
The following article was originally published in issue 22 of Game Informer Australia, and was written by contributing editor Adam Mathew. For a bit of background on Euclideon's claims, as well as a video of the original tech demo the company released this summer, check out our original news article.
Up and AtomFledgling Australian company Euclideon recently ignited
YouTube and the international gaming industry with a short teaser of its
Unlimited Detail 3D engine. Its claim: using an unconventional "atom based"
approach to building 3D worlds, this new technology can increase the current
visual fidelity of graphics by 100,000 times. Can it be true?
Skepticism furrowing my brow, I invited the Wollongong
born-and-bred CEO of the company, Bruce Dell, into the office to discuss
Unlimited Detail, respond to his critics, and to go hands-on with the tech. I
wanted to gauge its potential for myself and, in truth, to try and break it. To
make sure there was no smoke and mirrors.
I had a basic idea of what to expect. Most of the computer
graphics that we enjoy in games today are based on polygon systems, with all
the objects in the world built out of flat little shapes. But Unlimited Detail
forgoes these flat panels by building everything in the world out of tiny
little atoms, more commonly known as "voxels", the three-dimensional equivalent
"In the graphics industry, everyone is used to using
polygons, so we thought we'd build a polygon converter," Dell explains. "So by
converting regular polygons into Unlimited Detail (or 'point cloud data'), you
can then run them in unlimited quantities. At present, we're converting
polygons at a rate of 64 atoms per cubic millimeter. Not sure how small that
is? It's a rate of 1,000,000 atoms per cubic inch."
Better yet, Dell claims that this process, called the
"Unlimited Detail algorithm" is so efficient, it can run capably on anything
from a PC to a mobile phone with no graphics card required.
Understandably, the suggestions of "unlimited graphics
power" made by Euclideon were met with considerable amounts of excitement, but
also a lot of cynicism and, in some cases, outright abuse. It's due to this
reaction that I have insisted that I get a real-time, hands-on demonstration of
But I'm after more than just an explanation of how this
revolutionary idea works: I wanted to learn how an Australian from a coastal
town just south of Sydney came up with such an out-of-the-box concept for the
future of graphics processing. A concept that is currently polarizing and
flat-out confounding his classically educated computer scientist peers.
Euclideon's logo isn't just a logo...
Big Brain on BruceSuggesting he's a computer scientist, or at least a
university alumni in the field, proves to be a mistake: Dell is quick to point
out that he holds no such uni degree, nor anything approximating it. Seeing my
eyebrow rise – and being well aware of the "snake oil salesmen" accusations leveled
at him by Minecraft creator, Markus "Notch" Persson – Dell quickly explains
that his lack of a tertiary education is core to his success.
"Not going to uni isn't something people should be proud of
– and I don't want to disrespect unis because they're necessary and good," he
disclaims without skipping a beat. "But there is a pattern, historically
speaking, between inventing new things and being disconnected from the
established way things are done."
Dell went on to explain why being sheltered from schools
during the early '90s evolution of 3D gaming was a massive boon. It meant he
avoided the temptation of easy answers. Whenever he encountered a problem with
his own budding 3D engine, he was forced to solve the riddles himself, rather
than plucking the accepted solution from a textbook. His self-taught approach
created a unique schism between how he imagined the innards of a 3D engine
ought to work, and what others were collaboratively accepting and creating
Dell attributes two things to the genesis of Unlimited
Detail during that period: a big misunderstanding, and a hobby that spiraled
into an obsession. 17 years ago, Dell was an avid coder hobbyist of 2D games on
his Amiga 500. He had created quite a few basic games for himself and his
family, but his world was rocked, like many at the time, by the release of one
particular SNES game with landmark graphics.
"Do you know what started all this?" Dell confides. "Donkey Kong
Country. When that first came out I made the mistake of thinking that [Rare was
using] real-time 3D processing. Obviously they were just using pre-rendered
sprites, but as a start-up 2D coder I was utterly dismayed. I thought 'oh no, I
can't compete with this. I'm not smart; I'll never be able to do this.' Then
one day I had a weird idea in my head [Unlimited Detail] and I looked at it and
thought: I wonder if that would make similar 3D?"
After three years and a lot of stubbornness, Dell says he
finally had some primordial-looking, but functional 3D working on his humble
Amiga. Better yet, he realized that the way he had achieved it was quite unlike
anything else out there. After ten more years of reinventing 3D graphics he
assures me that the fateful seed planted by Rare, via Donkey Kong Country, has
all but fully germinated into a radically different type of graphics middleware
that has obvious advantages over what we use today.