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  • .VXL
  • .VOX
  • .KVX
  • .KV6
  • .V3A
  • .V3B

I am trying to decide whether it's worth going with any of the above, or some other, or if I should roll my own. The deciding factors in order of importance are:

  1. Animation support (I am aware this is a difficult aspect when it comes to voxels), using voxel deltas or numerical transform descriptions.
  2. Simplicity (or at least a concise format)
  3. Compression

From what I can tell, the Tiberian Sun VXL format is the only one which is designed for animation, but Ken Silverman of Voxelstein3D fame claimed that VXL does not support animation (in a single file, were his words). So I wonder if maybe there are not two different .VXL formats, since it seems an obvious choice of file extension for voxel data... could be from a medical imaging context.

I do need someone with solid experience of voxel formats to come and comment on the practical pros and cons, in their experience. Consider this question in the same way you might compare JPG to PNG to GIF.

share|improve this question
Why are you working with voxels? For real-time 3D rendering it's pretty much an experimental technology. I'm going to be a little blunt and say that if you need to ask these basic questions, it's probably not the technology for you. – aaaaaaaaaaaa Nov 6 '11 at 20:46
Did I ask, "Do you consider this to be a viable technology?" From what you've said there, I can only guess that you don't learn much, since anything you're not already 100% familiar with is "not the technology for you". Make any sense? It's called research and development, the latter part of which we also call prototyping. It leads to knowledge and potentially, to innovation. It's why we have the Portals, the Dwarf Fortresses, the Fables... because believe it or not, people ask questions, and things begin to happen. – Arcane Engineer Nov 6 '11 at 21:20
@NickWiggill This episode presented to you by the letter 's' for OH SNAP! Seriously, though, if I could upvote that comment more I would. – Ray Dey Nov 6 '11 at 23:30
Nice rebuttal Nick. What's even funnier and proves your point, is that @eBusiness has asked zero questions :) – Adam Harte Nov 7 '11 at 0:22
@AdamHarte I usually get what info I need through a Google search, the stack sites are valuable sources of information for that, so much that I rarely need to ask a new question. – aaaaaaaaaaaa Nov 7 '11 at 6:47
up vote 8 down vote accepted

The continuation of my comment:

Decision Making Flowchart

In essence when choosing an existing format these are the problems you must consider:

  • Am I saving time by using this?
    • Do I get a editor?
    • Do I get a library to load this from the game media?
  • Am I deriving any benefit from using this?
    • Are there clever optimizations in existing libraries?
    • Is the format compact, but not complicated?
  • Does this solve my problem in its entirety?
    • Can I use this format with animations?
  • Am I forced to use this (interoperability)?
    • Can I open and edit this file in industry-standard programs?

Sitting around figuring out which library to use will probably take longer than just rolling your own. You could probably throw together a basic format in less than a few days and improve it (or replace it) at some point in the future - start solving real problems in your game before wasting time with something game format (but remember, architect your system in such a way that it can be replaced at some point in the future).

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the reply, Jonathan. This is common sense, I'd say. I agree with your final comment, however as this is not an immediate concern I will let the question stew for now, to see what other respondents may say. There is also the possibility that the given formats are outdated in view of current knowledge (although I find this unlikely given that Voxel engines are somewhat obscure and have seen limited games application since their inception). – Arcane Engineer Nov 7 '11 at 13:30
@NickWiggill I was trying to point out that you are asking yourself the wrong questions. A file format is far less tricky than a voxel renderer - concentrate on the hard parts first; get to the file format when you need it - you will know far more about what you need from it at that point. – Jonathan Dickinson Nov 8 '11 at 10:08
As I said, "this is not an immediate concern". Why? I'm prototyping renderers. In the meantime, this question will wait for pertinent answers. – Arcane Engineer Nov 8 '11 at 10:37
@NickWiggill you win the prize sir :). Your question definitely gets my upvote for using promises in real life :D. – Jonathan Dickinson Nov 8 '11 at 11:04
Jonathan, in the end I've decided to accept your answer (a) you're the only one who tried, & (b) moreover because it turns out the suggestion to write one's own format rings very true. After much R&D over the last 3 months or so, my final conclusion is that voxel data, especially for large worlds, is too critical to everything from render speed, to CSG, to concise storage, for it to be at all likely that you'd get away with using someone else's format unless following their method exactly. This is why voxel research (esp. rendering acceleration and storage strategies) is so incredibly diverse. – Arcane Engineer Jan 24 '12 at 19:00

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