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Author Topic: I had a vague idea that "fractal" was related to "pretty pictures"  (Read 1056 times)
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« on: October 07, 2012, 11:34:28 PM »

and my boss offered to let me take a couple of classes at SIGGRAPH '87 on the company dime, so I signed up for the all-day fractals class -- and came out with my mind completely blown.

There were maybe a hundred people in attendance; the class was chaired by Heinz-Otto Peitgen, and all the heavy-hitters except Mandelbrot were there to lecture.  I still have the spiral-bound course notes, later reprinted (in color!) as The Science of Fractal Images.  When I got home, I fired up my honesttogod original IBM PC and broke out the C compiler; had a diffusion-limited aggregation sort of thing and a Sierpinski triangle running before I went to bed.

Since then, I've tried to program every kind of fractal I knew of.  This hasn't happened, it being pretty much impossible to hold a day job and fool around with this stuff as much as I'd like, but I took a pretty good bite out of things.  I've lost most of the code along the way, but no matter; part of the beauty is how absolutely simple the core algorithms are.  99% of a program tends to be fooling around setting everything up, etc., then the real fractal computation takes a few lines.

Some of the images I've seen in the gallery here are absolutely amazing.  I thought I'd cooked some good piccies over the years, but -- wow.

My Day JobÖ is coding games.  I have a GDC Game of the Year award from the mid-90s; some of the game's landscapes were brewed by good ol' midpoint displacement done by a program I wrote (which pretty much got me the job in the first place) cribbed from the SIGGRAPH course notes.  The code still lives, only it runs somewhat faster these days.  The IFS bird-thing in the foreground took about 30 minutes (done separately then pasted in later with Photoshop, natch -- nothing fancy, just linear transforms), but the landscape and clouds (what the program is really about) took a few tens of milliseconds.  The clouds are precisely the landscape, just shown differently. The image is 8M triangles, originally rendered at 4096 pixels across.  I'm working on a way to tile a planet given 128 bits of starting parameters; the goal is to be able to generate the terrain as fast as you can fly over it.  I pull all kinds of horrible cheats to get it to run fast, from pointer arithmetic to dropping into assembler for the really time-critical parts -- stuff that would make your comp sci professor run screaming from the room -- but it does move right along.  Considering I've been fiddling with it off and on for 25 years, it'd better.

Anyways, hello all!  This place was a delightful find.  There are some mind-boggling things in the gallery, and my hat's off to those who put them there.
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cKleinhuis
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« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2012, 12:03:38 AM »

hello and welcome to the forums

impressive vita, cool landscape rendering, we have some landscape realtime renderers around here as well, and some are discussing techniques like wavelet landscape generation, cant the cool thread with the gpu landscape might look for it later on if you are interested, have fun!
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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2012, 12:32:19 AM »

> I pull all kinds of horrible cheats to get it to run fast, from pointer arithmetic to dropping into assembler for the really time-critical parts

Ermmm - you mean some folks *don't* do that ? cheesy
Actually I know they don't - I remember when I was working at Magnetic Fields (after producing Crystal Dragon for the Amiga - 100% machine code and most of the OS unloaded) a certain Shaun Southern produced the first Mag.Fields version of the Rally Championship series and completely stole the show at one of the big computer games events because the frame rate left the competition standing - again *all* the time-critical code was assembler plus quite a lot of the rest too.
Of course nowadays it's a lot more difficult to write optimised code by hand because of caching/pipelining/branch prediction etc. plus the compilers are now a lot smarter too - even so for many key bits of fractal or other procedural stuff assembler's still best at least on CPU/FPU anyway - I confess I have no idea if you can use "assembler" on GPU but I'd love to try it wink Maybe OpenCL or CUDA ? I'm still using plain shader fragments in OpenGL/OpenGL ES.
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cKleinhuis
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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2012, 12:37:47 AM »

@dave you were working at magnetic fields ?! the dudes that did the greates car game on amiga ?!
i spend hours racing through this amazing 50 frames per second game, damn that was a nice piece of software on the amiga!
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« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2012, 10:26:02 PM »

@dave you were working at magnetic fields ?! the dudes that did the greates car game on amiga ?!
i spend hours racing through this amazing 50 frames per second game, damn that was a nice piece of software on the amiga!


I started at Magnetic Fields just as they became that, having been formerly known as "Mr.chip" and producing 8-bit hits like Kickstart I and II and Trailblazer (Shaun's work) the went on to 16-bit games on Amiga and/or ST such as Trailblazer (conversion), Super Cars (i and II), Super Scramble Simulator, Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge (series), Kid Chaos and Crystal Dragon. I left before they went on to produce the Rally Championship series and ended up working with Parys Technografx in St.Asaph - as I do now.

I worked at Mr.Chip/Magnetic Fields first on a music player for the ST I think in around 1989 and on Super Cars I (I coded ST, Shaun coded Amiga), then Super Scramble Simulator was almost all my code (ST and Amiga) at which point I think Shaun had started the Lotus series - I then spent 2 years working with just Ian Lewis (graphics and level design) and Jeff Rourke (music) to produce the DM style RPG Crystal Dragon for Amiga - unfortunately released after Commodore's insane and disastrous attempt to enter the console market and their fairly rapid disappearance sad
Now if only they'd released a new Amiga in say 1995 with a 68040 and bought the Picasso video card to go with it instead of trying to enter a far from mature and very volatile and competitive market in such a pathetic fashion....but then again hindsight's a wonderful thing wink

Ending up at Magnetic Fields was a bit of an accident - I moved to North Wales with my parents when they retired from teaching to help them run a Guest House in Colwyn Bay and at the time I had a fairly new Atari ST and was just learning the ins ad outs of programming it.
When here in Colwyn Bay I looked in the Yellow Pages for computer games retailers and assumed "Mr.Chip" were such - spoke to Doug Braisby the boss there and he said "no, we write/produce computer games" - to which of course I replied "I'm a programmer, have you got a job for me ?" - Doug arranged for me to be vetted by Shaun and I passed as I had just sussed out the insane format of the ST's screen layout, something that Shaun was also wrestling with - we had no access to any proper low-level hardware documentation and had to suss the format by trial and error !!
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« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2012, 02:04:23 AM »

I have to say that my favourite "sout" (Shaun Southern) game on the Amiga was and still is Kid Chaos - it's easily the best 16-bit rival to Sonic and is great for testing the performance of Amiga emulators wink
After leaving Magnetic Fields the first coding I did at Parys Technografx was a little work on "Tower of Souls" - another game for which the Amiga release suffered because of the fall of Commodore.

Of course both Crystal Dragon and Tower of Souls didn't make as much money as hoped because the software company that released them, Black Legend, lived up to their name when one of the directors ran off with all the profits.
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The meaning and purpose of life is to give life purpose and meaning.

http://www.fractalgallery.co.uk/
"Makin' Magic Music" on Jango
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