January 8, 2018

Game worlds and Flat Earth theory

OK, this is a fun one.

I have other blog posts in progress, but idea struck me unprepred and I wrote this in record speed.
So i`ve been obsessed by articles of theories that considers our world to be flat. Initially I thought they were sarcasm or jokes, but more research I did, more I realized how serious the topic is considered by some individuals.
I`m going to analyze here only my own fascination with them, not judge their ideas and reasons.

If you don`t know about them, here, have a read, it`s crazy:

why do I care? 

Vast majority of us don`t actually care if world is round or flat or cube or pear shaped. We are dealing with daily issues and don`t trouble ourselves wondering about how world works. I do care and think it is important to question everything. But this is not the reason why Flat Earthers caught my attention.

I make worlds every now and then. For simulators, games, personal experiments, research and so on. These game worlds mostly are crude approximations based on our own to simulate environment we experience on Earth. I place my objects in it and they are lit by Sun and the sky. I tend to specify the requirements for the game world before I start the project, mostly based on complexity of simulation I need.

Few of those are planetary scale. For these occasions I make a sphere, add an atmosphere, place a Sun and Moon in the right distance, add an orbit. Add a point based gravity to stick objects to the ground. Voila - a world like our own is ready, with working day/night cycle, stars, Moon phases. There are a lot of "hacks" and tricks involved to render planets from the distance, to be able to land and walk on them, so I tend not to complicate things too much.
Now, most of the time I don`t need a whole planet. Many of my projects are grounded and I need only a small portion of flat surface, sky and a Sun. It would be a waste of performance to render the whole globe otherwise.

spherical game world

In this case I consider our game world to be flat, which for the most part is easier to render and manipulate. This is how many 3D games have been made, and even till now game engines are only optimized for flat worlds. There are few exceptions, but in general - planetary scale is pain in the ass to maintain and operate. On the other hand flat and stationary world is more intuitive for an artist to understand, more stable for the program to predict and so naturally our games and creations use Flat Earth`s simplified physics laws. This is where I found similarities in interests of myself and those of Flat Earthers. Even more interesting - they are facing some of the same problems as I am when defining my flat worlds!

flat game world

am I a Flat Earther in my profession?!

So in a sense, Flat Earthers are too making their "game" world. What I mean is that they disregard most existing modern laws of physics because those are not required for their world to work, but still their belief is based on real world observations. This is exaclty what I do!! I have made my worlds optimized, so I need to invent shaders and functions to replicate or re-shape spherical world effects on a flat game world.

Digging through their publications and explanations of optimized flat Earth, I have found some interesting techniques in regards of skydome rendering using atmospheric lensing, they`ve gave me some ideas mapping clouds on planar surfaces to look spherical and idea of invisible ghost objects that cast only shadow is hilariously similar what digital worlds allow. I will be closely following their latest publications and approaches in non-traditional thinking and might even credit them for upcoming shaders.