We all know what 3D graphics are – length, width & depth, but how many know what 4D graphics are? If you are one of the millions of people thinking ‘What the %&$* are 4D graphics?’, don’t be alarmed. You’ve already seen them. Shocking isn’t it? We all remember Kutaragi proclaiming not too long ago that PS3 would utilize 4D graphics, but what exactly did he mean?
4D, from a developer’s point of view, is is the progression of Life in time. It is where every tangible object in your game is living and constantly changing. As a result, change becomes an integral part of 4D graphics.
But how does all of this become possible? The answer is the dynamic rendering of procedural textures. Sounds complicated, but it’s not. Let me explain; Procedural textures are textures which are linked to an algorithm. Instead of the texture being drawn pixel by pixel, you define the way these pixels have to be lit to produce the texture you want.
When the procedural texture is placed somewhere, you utilize an engine for actually generating these bitmap textures. They have life. They can change in a way you define them, especially through time. In a lot of the current games, the randomized textures method is used. Developers use one bitmap and just map it on randomly in the environment to create the design for that specific area. Every texture is not defined or unique. So, the method to create procedural textures allows for more control.
Allegorithmic is a utility set which allows an extensive realization of procedural textures. With it you define the procedures way using MaPZone, and then use ProFX to rasterize the images, producing the final result to be displayed by a renderer or a game engine.
Observe the following example:
If you look closely at the calm boat dock scene above, the docks are being splattered by rain. The wood is literally degrading with every drop that hits it. The light poles are rusting with every second. The light bulbs are degrading with every photon of light they are emitting. The wooden cabin is degrading, while the grassland outside is rotting slowly. These all fit into the core realization of 4D graphics.
Now, let’s fix a common misconception. These 4D renders can be processed on the Xbox 360 with an average mean time of 10-12 seconds. Yes. The renders are possible, but the dynamic realization of procedural texture streaming is not. The dynamic renders with characters in the scene, with progression of life through the time continuum, are not possible with the 360 system. It would take days to produce dynamic renders on the 360 in the fullest definition of 4D graphics–this with the software already optimized for it.
All the videos on this page can be run perfectly and efficiently, without taking days to render, currently only on two specific platforms. Upscale PC’s and the PlayStation 3. Procedural techniques are demanding in terms of power, so the more power you get: the easier it is to render these 4D graphics dynamically. Programming for the PS3’s eight Synergistic Processing Units (SPUs) can be a challenge sometimes, but there is definitely a lot to gain from the architecture, and the dynamic renders can be processed on the fly with the PlayStation 3.
The 4D graphics above, centralizing on the dynamic renders of procedural textures, show a distinguished change of the bathroom scene as time progresses. The scene starts with a very nice bath tub. Probably one that we would love to take a bubble bath in. But, as time progresses, the bathroom rusts. The tiles shatter, the mold grows, and Mr.Clean won’t work here anymore.
The scene then changes to that of an overhead of a bathroom sink next to a metal core. The metal rusts, the sink degrades in texture, and the mirror shatters. The scene quickly changes to normal, all to show a mirror in the next one.
Now, this mirror is a prime example of 4D graphics made from a core factor of dynamically rendered procedural textures. The mirror shatters while falling, and then slowly begins to lose the sharpness in its reflection. Not only does the condition of the mirror change, but so does the beauty of the reflection. This is what 4D is. The mark of change made apparent as life progresses through time. You then see the prime example of wood rusting discussed earlier, and then the textures of the wall beginning to fade on the roof above you.
The SPU’s certainly helps tremendously on top of the fast processing core for dynamic 4D graphics. The most important and unique ability of the architecture of the PS3, however, allows the Allegorithmic suite to continuously stream textures, using one or two SPUs to compute the textures to be given to the GPU to be displayed. This eliminates the need of having to stream that content from the Blu-ray.
With that said, you can take a first hand look yourself at the apparent change through the progress of life in the continuation of time:
Amazing isn’t it? Just imagine it in motion with the PS3 controller in your very hand. That’s even better!
Finally, let’s move onto actual Sony PlayStation titles that use 4D graphics. One title that is obvious is Motorstorm. If any of you didn’t think this was obvious, I suggest you scroll up all the way now and reread this article. Simply put, the dynamics in Motorstorm and the progress of life/change through time is apparent as soon as collisions happen in Motorstorm.
Some current upcoming future titles that utilize part 4D graphics are: Killzone 2 (The infamous Helghast Grab), White Knight Story, and Eight Days.
Another prime example is the following title:
The following is the main closing featurette of this editorial. This entire PlayStation 3 ad is based on 4D and provides clues most people missed that give meaning to what Sony has been talking as 4D in games. Afrika for one; a clue in itself.
As you are watching this closing main featurette trailer, keep a close eye on the part where the Giraffe chews. This is another prime example of 4D graphics. He chews while the muscles are realistically moving ad the entire head moves. A tiny effect such as this, would take days to render on other consoles. When you are finished, sit back and take time to marvel at what you have just learned. Or, as an alternative, just go play your PlayStation 3 with a newfound sense of knowledge and understanding of 4D graphics in PlayStation 3 titles.