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From Dust

31st July 2011
from dust
god game

Its not often these days that I post about games I have been playing, usually I leave that sort of stuff in the realms of Twitter or social networks.

For "From Dust" however ill make an exception. It's also not often these days that I see some tech in a game and wonder to myself "how the hell did they do that?" or just "wow I have never seen that done before". From Dust made me think both those things this week.

From Dust is a god game that follows in the heels of other god games such as Populus and Black and White. The reason why it has attracted my attention so much is the incredible tech that the game employs.

Check out this tech-demo / trailer for the game:

When I watched that earlier in the week I was amazed but skeptical that everything shown was actually how it was in game. After downloading and playing it on xbox this week however I can confirm that everything shown in the above video is in game and more. Not only that its actually fun!

The water flows from the top of the mountains realistically, over time it erodes the landscape to form rivers. Water pressure builds up need harder rock causing bends in the river that threaten your villages. You have to think ahead about how to divert a river one way but making sure not to flood an area downstream. More often than not it takes several tries to get it right.

Lava is great. Several missions have volcanoes that you must be swift to tame else they can easily threaten your villages. The great this however is that there are many ways you can choose to solve a particular problem.

You could just manually suck up all the lava and drop it somewhere else, a somewhat temporary solution. You could try to build a channel for the lava to follow however lava has a habit of melting through any channels you build. You could use one of the spells your villagers to supply to aid you. You could divert the course of a river to cool the lava as it nears your village. You could use a "water tree" to cool the oncoming flow of magma. The choice is yours.

I have been pondering over the tech and thinking how they managed to get such a complex liquid simulation to run in realtime. Infact, how they managed to get several complex liquid simulations to run in realtime. The sand, the water, the lava and the rock all act as liquids with different properties, however they all interact with each other in different ways. Not only is the liquid tech impressive, the vegetation propagation and the fire mechanics are all seamless, and from what I could tell not a single frame was dropped.

It must be a GPU based liquid simulation (particularly as the xbox CPU is weak), however I didn't think they were good enough to do something like this. Perhaps they are using some optimized Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics such as that employed by Fairlight from the scene:

Anyways, the game is available for download right now on xbox or if you are like me and are pc-inclined then it should be available on PC from the 17th of August.