Euclideon Teases Photo Realistic Voxel-Based Game Engine -- But Can It Deliver?

One of the most hotly debated issues regarding current consoles isn't just whether the PS4 or Xbox One is the better device -- it's whether the new consoles launched with sufficiently advanced hardware at all. Many in the press and readers alike have complained that next-gen devices just aren't powerful enough to justify an upgrade when compared to previous-gen products or current PCs. Now, game engine company Euclideon wants to change that -- with a new foray into gaming and a voxel-based engine.

The company has put together a six-minute video clip of its new engine, and its genuinely impressive -- though there's a huge, supposed-to-be-impressive unveil around the two minute mark where the announcer declares that he's actually showing us computer-generated graphics -- something you'll probably have figured out long before that point.

Euclideon's proprietary design purportedly uses a laser scanner to create a point cloud model of a real-world area. That area can then be translated into a voxel renderer and drawn by a conventional GPU (though the task might be accelerated on a product like Maxwell). Supposedly this can be done so efficiently and with such speed that there's no need for conventional load screens or enormous amounts of texture memory. Storing data as a point cloud allows information to be streamed off conventional hard drives.

Unfortunately, Euclideon's promises, including a fresh declaration that it would release two games built on its customized voxel engine by December, 2015, have been previously met with reactions ranging from disbelief to outright scorn. Minecraft's creator, Notch, called the company a scam several years ago. Others, like John Carmack, were more optimistic about the company's technology in the long term, but weren't willing to sign on with declaring it an up-and-coming thing.

It seems noteworthy that for all the beautiful demo shots included in the video above, one of the critical aspects missing from the photorealistic scenery is animation. Seriously, check the video again. There's none. No grass, no trees, no people -- nothing in the background (or foreground) of any of these still shots actually moves.

This doesn't mean that Euclideon is faking its technology or that its engine of point cloud data can't be adapted to work with such minor features as characters and environments that don't resemble matte paintings.  However, past critiques have pointed to animation as one area where the company's technique might struggle. Given the ongoing lack of a demonstrated solution in animation, we're inclined to think this would-be game-changer has some challenges still to solve.

Euclideon went through a significant round of layoffs as recently as last June, so this new release may be part of a push to find additional investor funding to complete its projects. We like the work the company has done but after years of announcements and no game adoption we need to see more before we sign off on this as "the next big thing."