Peripheral vision in games goes ultrawide with new Quake mod


The default field of vision in Quake—yes, Quake, the groundbreaking Id Software shooter from 1996—was 90 degrees, an angle nowhere near the roughly 180-degree field of view that Wikipedia says normal humans possess. It also proved rather limiting in multiplayer conflicts, in which being able to see the people who are trying to kill you is an important part of preventing said killing. The Fisheye Quake mod went a long way toward rectifying that problem, but it suffered from issues of its own in the form of some pretty severe screen distortion.

It's a problem that's taken nearly 20 years to solve, but now, in the new millennium, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a modified version of Fisheye Quake called Blinky. Its goal isn't actually to bring better situational awareness to Quake, however, but rather to demonstrate a "proof of concept to put peripheral vision into games," without requiring VR goggles.

Blinky employs the Panini projection, "a mathematical rule for constructing perspective images with very wide fields of view"—read more about it here—to recreate a much wider field of vision in games while maintaining a reasonably natural appearance. "To use non-standard projections like Panini, Blinky first snaps multiple pictures around you to form a Globe of pixels," creator Shaun Lebron explained. "Then it projects all those pixels to the screen using a Lens. You can enable a Rubix grid if you wish to visualize the mapping."

Blinky is implemented in the Quake demo linked on the Github page, and it actually works quite well: There are a number of projections to play with, but the default setting betrayed only a slight distortion at certain viewing angles that very quickly became effectively imperceptible.

"I hope to apply this to modern graphics using frame buffers for environment-capturing and pixel shaders for projection. It would be interesting to see its impact on performance," Lebron wrote. "If this modern method is performant enough, I think Panini/Stereographic could easily become a standard for gamers demanding wide-angle video. But if it is not performant enough for live applications, I think it could still prove useful in post-processed videos using something like WolfCam. For example, spectators could benefit from wide-angle viewings of previously recorded competitive matches or even artistic montages."


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