In today's main Gamasutra feature, and in a more technical complement to Brad Kane's recent SIGGRAPH 2005 wrap-up
, game researcher and developer Morgan McGuire reviews the research papers presented this year that are the most relevant to game developers.
McGuire covers a number of fascinating topics, among them the invention of the 'gamma-ton':
"One of the more subtle ways that the original Star Wars film changed science fiction forever was… dirt. Star Wars was the first film where spaceships and technology were covered in oil and grid instead of appearing as fresh, gleaming objects. Rust, stains, and dirt make objects appear part of their environment and suggest a history that began long before the observer arrived. Lucas points out that the more fantastic the story and setting, the more important it is to make it familiar and realistic so that the audience can relate.
This applies to games as well. Good 3D game artists create meshes and textures that are rusty and dinged-up like the spaceships in Star Wars. This year, Chen et al. introduced a new algorithm for helping with this process called Visual Simulation of Weathering by Gamma-ton Tracing. The “gamma-tons” are imaginary old-age particles that fall from the sky and bounce around a scene. Wherever they contact objects they induce aging artifacts like rust. Because the path of each gamma-ton is traced they are good for simulating effects like stains and moss-growth that flow outward from a source. The ideal use for gamma-tons in games is as part of a level compiler. After building a clean scene, the level compiler can crunch on not only light-maps and AI planning but on weathering the environment for realism."
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature
on the subject (no registration required, please feel free to link to the article from external websites).