I have been thinking of using level of detail to make rendering crowds easier. The idea is to replace a group of meshes with a single one representing a group.
For example, you have 1 individual cube mesh. If you get 100 cubes together in a close space, replace all of those with a generic "blob of 100 cubes" mesh, that would be simplified and hopefully have a lower polycount than the sum of all 100 cubes. If 100 "blob of 100 cubes" meshes are together, then replace them with a simpler "blob of 10000 cubes" mesh. And so on.
There are many different challenges in doing this. Such as how to detect the objects are close? How to render the blob so it looks realistic enough? What to do about each object's metadata (physics, game variables)? etc So before I delve too much into it, I would like to see what is the current state of this technology and how people have been using this.
But I cannot find anything related to it. I've been looking for it for days, but every search I do about "LOD" and "crowds" only returns things about how to simplify each individual mesh of each game unit (ie. replacing a high poly count character, with a low poly character). Instead of replacing many game units with fewer ones, which is what I want to do. I've obviously played many games, and I can easily tell when they're using LoD for simplifying individual units. But I don't remember a single game that would replace groups. Am I looking it up wrong? Is there a specific term for this thing that I should be looking up for instead? Do you guys happen to know some case study examples of games that do this that I could check? Or maybe this isn't done at all?
Any help to point me in the right direction would be appreciated. Thanks.