Isosurface Extraction Optimization
I've spent an insane amount of time over the past few days trying to optimize the Marching Cubes algorithm, since it's going to be such a pivotal part of my project. Ideally, I'd like all meshes to be parametrized in terms of isosurfaces for memory efficiency as well as for the ability to quickly prototype models.
I experimented with both octree culling as well as optimizations to the original, brute-force algorithm. Surprisingly, the brute-force algorithm ended up outperforming the octree in all cases. Furthermore, I failed to find a reliable way of predicting whether or not an octree node would intersect the isosurface given just the density values at the corners, so reconstruction often produced meshes with holes in them.
Ultimately, I ended up cutting polygonization time down by a factor of four. I'm still using a brute-force technique. However, using some rather hacky methods to perform linear interpolation on selective parts of the density field, I've managed to avoid having to directly compute the entire field. This method basically involves computing a derivative of the field and then using a very reserved linear approximation of the density field to skip a few computations if the values are determined to be at a "safe" distance from the isolevel.
With this technique, the engine can build a 60k poly model (high quality) of a density field containing roughly 30 metaballs in less than 2 seconds. That's pretty fast! I'm going to continue to seek optimizations for this algorithm, but for now I'm much more pleased than I used to be with the speed. Isosurface extraction is starting to look very feasible for a game engine!