April 2020

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Seven things, none of which have to do with actually playing videogames, unlike yesterday’s listing:

  • Mesh shaders are A Big Deal, as they help generalize the rendering pipeline. If you don’t yet know about them, Shawn Hargreaves gives a nice introduction. Too long? At least listen to and watch the first minute of it to know what they’re about, or six minutes for the full introduction. For more more more, see Martin Fuller’s more advanced talk on the subject.
  • I3D 2020 may be postponed, but its research papers are not. Ke-Sen Huang has done his usual wonderful work in listing and linking these.
  • I mentioned in a previous seven things that the GDC 2020 content for graphics technical talks was underwhelming at that point. Happily, this has changed, e.g., with talks on Minecraft RTX, World of Tanks, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Witcher 3, and much else – see the programming track.
  • The Immersive Math interactive book is now on version 1.1. Me, I finally sat still long enough to read the Eigenvectors and Eigenvalues chapter (“This chapter has a value in itself”) and am a better person for it.
  • Turner Whitted wrote a retrospective, “Origins of Global Illumination.” Paywalled, annoyingly, something I’ve written the Editor-in-Chief about – you can, too. Embrace being that cranky person writing letters to the editor.
  • I talk about ray tracing effect eye candy a bit in this fifth talk in the series, along with the dangers of snow globes. I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of the comment, “This whole series was created just so Eric Haines would have a decent reason to show off his cool glass sphere burn marks.” BTW, I’ll be doing a 40 minute webinar based on these talks come May 12th.
  • John Horton Conway is gone, as we likely all know. The xkcd tribute was lovely, SMBC too. In reading about it, one resource I hadn’t known about was LifeWiki, with beautiful things such as this Turing machine.

Here are seven things, with a focus on videogames and related things this time around:

  • Minecraft RTX is now out in beta, along with a tech talk about it. There’s also a FAQ and known issues list. There are custom worlds that show off effects, but yes, you can convert your Java worlds to Bedrock format. I tried it on our old world and made one on/off video and five separate location videos, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Fun! Free! If you have an RTX card and a child, you’ll be guaranteed to not be able to use your computer for a month. Oh, and two pro tips: “;” toggles RTX on/off, and if you have a great GPU, go to Advanced Video settings and crank the Ray Tracing Render Distance up (you’ll need to do this each time you play).
  • No RTX or home schooling? Try Minecraft Hour of Code instead, for students in grades 2 and up.
  • There’s now a minigame in Borderlands 3 where you solve little DNA alignment puzzles for in-game bonuses. The loot earned is absurdly good at higher levels. Gearbox finally explained, with particularly poorly chosen dark-gray-on-black link text colors, what (the heck) the game does for science. It seems players are generating training sets for deep learning algorithms, though I can’t say I truly grok it.
  • Beat Saber with a staff is hypnotic. You can also use your skills outside to maintain social distancing.
  • A few Grand Theft Auto V players now shoot bullets to make art. Artists have to be careful to not scare the NPCs while drawing with their guns, as any nearby injuries or deaths can affect the memory pool and so might erase the image being produced.
  • Unreal Engine’s StageCraft tech was used to develop The Mandalorian. I’m amazed that a semicircular wall of LED displayscould give realistic backgrounds at high enough resolution, range, and quality in real time. It has only 28 million pixels for a 270 degree display, according to the article – sounds like a lot, but note a single 4K display is 3840 * 2160 = 8.3 million pixels.
  • Stuck inside and want to make your housing situation an infernal hellscape, or at least more of one? Doomba‘s the solution. It takes your Roomba’s movement information and turns it into a level of classic Doom.

Made it this far? Bonus link, since it’s the day after U.S. taxes were due, but now deferred until July 15th: Fortnite virtual currency is not taxable.