In 2015, I've been tinkering with a real-time photon mapper to do Global Illumination for simple voxel worlds. Recently, I thought there should be more I could do with this idea.
So my Real Time Ray Tracing experiments are back, but with a twist. The minimalistic voxel world was a little too minimalistic. And it couldn't be much more detailed if I were to keep a 60 FPS target. So something had to give.
This time, I have dropped the Global Illumination feature, and no longer compute indirect light. Instead, I just fire one primary ray, and one shadow ray for each pixel in the projection. Granted, this does not give you much advantage in quality over rasterizing. But it does give nice crisp shadows, that can be cast from a local light, casting shadows in all directions.
To have a little more detail than simple voxel models, I went with AABB primitives. To avoid confusion: Normally AABBs are used in ray tracing for spatial indexing. In my project, however, I use the AABBs are the geometric primitives. They are more efficient than voxels, as large blocks and planes only need a single AABB primitive.
I do use spatial indexing to cull primitives though, but for this I use a simple voxel grid. In each grid cell, I have an instance of a primitive model. These primitive models are packed up as SIMD friendly sets of 8 AABBs in SoA form. Using 8-way SIMD, a single set of 8 AABBs are intersection-tested against a ray, in just a few instructions.
Target platform is AVX2 equipped CPUs, and it's currently running on GNU/Linux and MacOS. It's running close to 60Hz on a 4-core Haswell, at the expense of loud fans running, unfortunately.
Game Play is yet to be determined. Post your ideas in the comments. Thanks!