The Ray Casting Games List

A non-exhaustive list of games utilizing ray casting technology.

Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold

Blake Stone: Planet Strike


Catacomb 3-D

Chasm: The Rift

Corridor 7: Alien Invasion

Cryptic Passage for Blood


Duke Nukem 3D

Dungeon Master (1987; Amiga, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, MS-DOS (x86), SNES, TurboGrafx-CD, Sharp X68000, PC-9801, FM Towns)

Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep (1993/1995; Amiga, PC, PC-9801, Mac OS, Sega Mega-CD)

Eye of the Beholder (1990; DOS, Amiga, Sega CD, SNES)

Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon

Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor



Might and Magic: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum (1986; Apple II, Mac, DOS, Commodore 64, NES, MSX, PC-Engine CD-ROM)

Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World (1988; Apple II, Amiga, DOS, Commodore 64, Mac, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Europe only), SNES (Japan-only, different from the European version), MSX, PC-Engine CD)

Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra (1991; DOS, Mac, Amiga, SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, PC-Engine CD-ROM)

Might and Magic IV: Clouds of Xeen (1992; DOS, Mac)

Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen (1993; DOS, Mac)

Might and Magic: World of Xeen (1994; DOS, Mac)

Operation Body Count

Redneck Rampage

Redneck Rampage Rides Again: Arkansas

Redneck Rampage: Suckin’ Grits on Route 66

Rise of the Triad: Dark War

Road Rash

Road Rash II

Shadow Warrior


The Catacomb Abyss

The Terminator: Rampage

Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds

Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss

Wolfenstein 3D

Yendorian Tales Book I: Chapter 2

Yendorian Tales: The Tyrants of Thaine

Zero Tolerance


  1. Do you have any more information on this? I took a look about and some sources seem to reckon that it renders polygons in the typical 3D manner?

  2. Hello, Catacomb 3-D is no raycaster. Excerpt:

    Steven Kent – Was the Doom3 graphic engine harder to create than past engines ?

    John Carmack – That side of the development went really nicely. The features were all pretty much ready years ago, and I spent a year or so tuning it up and adding the different options and parameterizations that people needed to get exactly the effects that they wanted. All of that went kind of according to our original schedule.

    Steven Kent – I understand you created Doom3 in C++.

    John Carmack – DOOM is our first game programmed in C++. I actually did the original renderer in straight C working inside the QUAKE III Areana framework, but most of it has been objectified since then, and all of our new code is set up that way.

    It’s been a mixed bag. There have been some bad things from going about it that way; but in general, it’s been moderately positive for the development stuff. Having as much as we do now, having the large objects, it’s been a useful thing.

    Steven Kent – Just how much code went into creating the doom 3 rendering engine ?

    John Carmack – The actual rendering side of things, the core medium, is not all that big. It’s not that much larger that the previous stuff we have done.
    That’s actually something that causes me a fair amount of concern. We have more programmers working on DOOM3…We’ve had five programmers at a time, which is much more that we have had on previous projects. Perhaps even more significantly, individual programmers have been creating subsystems effectively from scratch, where in the previous games I wrote the face of everything. I produced a functional system, and we would have usually a secondary programmer kind of flesh out of the stuff that I wrote; but I wrote the entire basic framework, and it fit together nicely. I had consistent vision throughout everything.

    With DOOM3, we started off with multiple programmers writing large subsystems form scratch, which means that things don’t git together as nicely as when we started off with one person setting everything up. There are always little inefficiencies you get when you have different people [who] dont’ [always] think in exactly the same way. You look for the synergies between the different areas and the ways you can simplify things down. There’s always a strong desire with functionality to kind of pile things down.

    Historically, I always resisted this. I’ve been one of the big believers in keeping it as simple and clear as possible. It pays off in maintenance and flexibility and stuff like that.
    As we have more people working on things, a lot of features get added. That is definitely a two-edged sword. Sure, new features are great; but what’s not always obvious is that every time you add a feature, you are at the very least increasing entropy to the code, if not actually breaking things. You are adding bugs and inefficiencies.
    that’s one of my larger concerns with increasing the feature count and the number od developers. IN previous games, when it all came from me, any time there was any problem I could go in very rapidly and find what the source of the problem was. Now, we’ve got lots of situations where if something is not right, it could be like “Oh that’s Jan Paul’s code, or Jim’s code, or Robert’s code. It’s not so much a case where one person can just go in and immediately diagnose and fix things. So, there is a level of inefficiency.
    It’s certainly manageable. Lots of projects that are managed in the world today require huge numbers of resources and complexity, but you add this additional layer of oversight and accept this additional level of inefficiency.

    Steven Kent – What new features have you added to the Doom3 engine ?

    John Carmack – Well, the fundamental thing about it on the rendering side is that it completely, properly unifies the lighting of surfaces. With previous games, you always had to use a collection of tricks and hacks to do your lighting. We would do light maps, blurring, ray-casted light maps for the static lighting, and static lights on static surfaces in the games. We used a different level-point Gouraud thing doing the static lights on dynamic surfaces moving around and then mushing together all of the dynamic lights onto the dynamic surfaces to modify the Gouraud shading.

    There was this matrix of four things you would have static surfaces, dynamic surfaces, static lights, and dynamic lights, and there were four different sorts of ways that things got rendered. You might have lights this way and that way for one, and you might have shadows a different way and lighting a different way for another thing. That was more or less forced because of the limitations that we had to work with in terms of what the hardware and processors could do. I always thought that was a negative thing.Things Shaved differently as to whether they were going to move or not. i referred to it as the ‘Hanna- Barbera effect/You could always tell these rocks were going to fall away because they looked a little different than the cell painting behind them. The big goal for DOOM 3 was to unify the lighting and shading so that everything behaved the same no matter where it came from, whether it’s moving around or a fixed Part of the world.

    Lots of effort still goes into optimizing things when they are static, but the resulting pixels are exactly the same. Now, somewhat tied in with that, lighting becomes this first-class object rather than lots of lights mushed around with the world, kind of painted with light like the QUAKE series would do.The bump mapping ties in with the lighting and the shadowing to produce the DOOM 3 look and visuals. This is the visual style… In the next five years, we’ll see this become the standard. Right now, there is the standard sort of QUAKE level of rendering in graphics, where you have light-mapped worlds and Gouraud-shaded characters.That is pretty much where the industry standard is right now.
    The Industry standard will be basically bump mapped surfaces and proper shadowing for the next five years or so. That’s what defines the graphics side fundamentally on a technical level. Now, what you do with that light surface interaction crosses the bridge between what the game does, what the scripting does, the interactions with the renderer, and how models are built, ties in with lots of areas that you have as technical data points. There are two different particle systems in DOOM 3. One can be [used for] moving things around and affecting things dynamically like the smoke drifting out of guns.The other is more of a static effect type of thing like smoke and bubbles coming in the world. You 11 differentiate those two for performance reasons because the things that are just effects in the world … you don’t want to mess with them if they are not in view. So, particle effects are just dynamic models that get tossed in when necessary.

    The animation system is a big part of it. The animation subsystem is a big part of the coding in DOOM 3, where the motion of the characters determines a lot of things that happen. All this requires very complicated set of interaction, and that is a lot of what Jim (Dose] has been working on. People look at that and think of it as sort of a render feature, but the way DOOM 3 is set up, it’s not really part of the renderer. It’s mostly 11 Part of the game code. | The renderer just looks $ at it as, “Okay, here is something that is generated as part of a model surface. Now I need to make lighting and shadowing for it.” And that also then ties in with the animation system and how it interacts with the rag doll system that Jan Paul wrote, which interacts with the physics and the precise collision detection which does feedback with the renderer and model data structure. AH of that kind of goes back and forth a lot. The scripting system that we have, to let the level designers add more complex stuff, is something that is actually an outgrowth of fairly old technology.That took an interesting developmental path. Back in the original QUAKE days, the game code was done in the U-C. interpretive language. One of the licensees, Ritual where Jim Dos used to work evolved and expanded that [the scripting system] in a lot of ways for their game Sin.Then that technology was licensed for Alice and used in Heavy Metal. They had been developing this branched path while we had gone with QUAKE II back to the in-code DLLs and stayed that way with QUAKE III Arena.

    We actually brought most of that evolution ack in with DOOM 3.There was a rewrite where we restructured and cleaned up and got to apply the lessons learned. But that is not a good way to write game code. I actually think we made some mistakes by doing more stuff in script than we should have for development reasons. It [scripting] is a convenient thing for level designers to be able to make more interesting things happen than they could with just tying things together in the level editor. One of our big, not so much technological improvements, but structural architectural improvements, is the integration of all of our utilities into the executable. And that was something that actually saved a bunch of code. I moaned and complained about the code size for everything, but integrating the utilities saved probably some tens of thousands of lines of code that we used to have duplicated in slightly modified forms. We had three places that code could live: the game itself, the level editor, and the off-line utilities. All of them had similar sets of things that were not quite similar enough that they could share a library or something. Pulling all this together was a nice way to unify all of that, and one of the strong reasons for unifying them was also to allow the editor to use the renderer exactly as the game uses it, which is something we have never done in our previous titles. It allows designers to see exactly what their level is going to look like with all the lighting, shadowing, and bump mapping, animated textures, animated particles, and all of that stuff, without having to actually load it ud into the game. One of the real gating factors to creativity in the QUAKE generation of games was these significant preprocess times that you had to go through to get your simple, shaded view in the editor into the game with all of the rendering effects. In small areas, it might only have been several minutes, but in the full-size levels, the times were too long. Even when we were using these big, expensive multiprocessor machines, there were a lot of levels that would take over 30 minutes to process. Some of the licensees did not make as effective decisions on the complexity issues of the maps, they did not have the big expensive processing machines, and they would have levels that would take up to eight hours to process. There’s an interesting slope of inactivity that you get where the most creative aspect is when you are messing with something interactively where you are actually twiddling a kn<56 and seeing something changing. You can only do that type of thing when you've got sub-second or hopefully sub-tenth-of-a-second feedback. When you've got something that stretches up into a couple of minutes between tries, like reloading a level or something, you've got another level of things that you are willing to attempt to do. But when you start going down to hours at a try, you just make a rough cut and don't tweak and tune it nearly as much.That's one of the things we have with DOOM 3 is the ability to work interactively with things inside the editor and inside the game until you get to the level of quality that you are specifically looking for.

    Steven Kent – Unified Lighting two particle systems, and an on-the-fly rendering inthe editor…is that everything ?

    John Carmack – If we just walk down through the code, there is just a ton of new things, but again… People want bullet points and they want to be able to categorize things. Reality is more complicated than that. If you give up bullet points for a lot of stuff, you can say… a bunch of things about the physics systems and exact hit detection, and about the animation systems, and the game scripting system, and the game editing system, and the integration of the editor, you know, and the integration of the rest of the tool chains, and the ability to have video textures on surfaces, and the remote camera views on surfaces, and the synchronous-tick player stuff on surfaces, and the remote camera views on I surfaces, and the synchronous-tide player stuff that avoids some of the frame-rate-dependent issues that we had with previous game multiplayer stuff,..

    There is just a ton of little things that I just look at as partial aspects. Step back and look at all the different things that you can do to give feedback to the player on a basic action like shooting a gun or hitting a monster. I went through and counted, and there are 30 different effects that we can use. There's the sounds that it makes when the guns fire and there's the animation of the gun. There s a potential kick of the hands, and there's a muzzle flash, and there's a smoke trail that comes out. There's a projectile that comes out that may make a sound. It may leave a particle trail behind it It will probably have very dynamic light with it. It may impact a character. They [the designers] can put a blood decal on it. They can effect a pain animation on the character. They can turn it into a rag doll.They can have a Wood particle stream ejecting from it.They can have fragments ejecting from it.They can have brass [jackets] ejecting from the gun. They do have impacts on the wall. They can leave a decal that can stay there. They can spawn an FX system to have additional particles coming off of that. They can have physics effects on the target that is hit. There's just this huge list of all of the stuff that goes down.

    Steven Kent – Can you walk me through the evolution of your games engines ?

    John Carmack – Catacombs 3D was the very first commercial game that we did that had 3D aspects to it. That was limited in that the entire map was made out of nothing but tile blocks. You could put textures on the blocks.There were limits like, there were no doors. You just had blocks that would disappear. It had scaled, bit-mapped creatures. So that was the first 3D-action shooter.
    The next step was Wolfenstein 3D, which was still a block-based map, but it had a few minor, new features in there. We had doors that slid side-to-side and push- walls and a few interactive features; but the characters and items were still basically the same. The internal rendering was very different from Catacombs 3D. Catacombs used basically a line- rasterization approach, whii Wolfenstein used a much more robust ray-casting approach. But the end result was that they rendered the same pictures.

    Steven Kent – What Wolfenstein the first game to use raycasting ?

    John Carmack – I don't know. Things like that aren't that important. I know people like to try and focus in on a specific technique, and where is the magic… hunt for the magic in something like that. That's really not the way things are, you know. It's never been the crucial part of the development process. It's not the first use of this technique that makes it important For any given way of doing things, there are many ways of approaching it Tin visuals from Catacombs and Wolfenstein were very similar; the process was completely different That's a good example of the fact that there is never a critical algorithm, there are always multiple ways of approaching things. a Another good example the next major step for us was the original 1 DOOM engine, which brought in some light-diminishing effects and it took us away from block-based maps.

    Everything now could be arbitrarily designed and have different heights. DOOM was known for using BSP trees, more so than rasterization, but that was a small part of what made up the rendering.There was another competitive engine at the time the Build engine that was used for Duke Nukem and Shadow Warrior, which used a completely different rendering architecture internally and produced pictures that were basically the same effects.That's just another example about how the exact particulars of implementation are not that important on the larger scale side of things.

    Then, after DOOM, we made QUAKE. QUAKE was our first arbitrary 3D system where you could have a full, complete look up and down. Some people have extended the DOOM and the Build engines so you could look up and down, but that's not really what you wanted or there. With QUAKE you had the ability to do much better lighting where the lighting could cast fuzzy, blurry shadows. The characters were no longer scaled bit maps, they were actually 3D models. At that point in time, they were really, truly crude 3D models. They'd have less than 200 polygons, or triangles in most cases, compared to the thousands [of polygons] that we have now. But that was a really important step for us.

    After that, we evolved to start taking advantage of hardware accelerators. Since then, the moves from QUAKE to QUAKE II to QUAKE III have been much more evolutionary than the earlier steps. Lots of the code stayed common between all of those systems.That meant that the developers and the rest of the team did not have to go through a major relearning process from one step to another. When we added the hardware acceleration, it did not radically change the way they were doing things. It just made things look smoother, and more colorful.

    The new DOOM 3 engine that was another radical change where it fundamentally changed the way you build the textures, the way you light the levels and animate the characters, and the way that things move around and interact inside the world. It's been a really big change, very much similar to what we had to go through with earlier generations, but magnified by the fact that there is just so much more now that the games are expected to do. We're expected to have a better sound system, a better physics system, a better networking system, more things going on in the world, better scripting systems. AH of this stuff is expected to be tied together 0n there.

    Steven Kent – Does the doom3 engine lend itself to creating organic environments ?

    John Carmack – We can obviously make some really, really cool organic environments, and we have a few of those in the Hell scenes.The rendering of those is spectacularly cool.
    In fact, I worry a lot that our best foot is halfway through the game. You always want to put your best foot forward and get the great impression at the beginning. I think that the Hell stuff that we have, with the more organic settings, is much more visually stunning than the base level stuff that we have throughout the early part of the game. So yes, I think that it is extremely well suited for that.

    What it is not necessarily as well suited for organic environments is things like dense foliage.There is a clear set of things that you need to do [in order] to do that.
    If you want to have a ton of foliage, you need to make it non shadow casting. You want the leaves to be on light interacting. You throw away a lot of the cool stuff that the engine does if you do that; but if you want to render 500,000 leaves, you are going to want to make them single texture without affecting light so that you can have them wave around without having to regenerate the shadow from the sun coming off of them every time they move.

    If I were to write an engine specifically for rendering forest scenes, I would use a completely different algorithm than what I am using now. Some of the licensees have already done some of this. You can do a great job with DOOM 3 technology by manually applying a lot of the hacks.
    If you want a forest scene, you render tons and tons of little leaves. Instead of letting the leaves cast shadows, you just make a texture of a leafy shadow and project that down. You do the same thing with motion blurs. It would be nice if this were handled automatically. It probably will be in the next generation. But if you wanted to do a propeller, you don't just make a propeller and spin it really fast.You make a blurred texture and you rotate that at a slower rate. You do the same thing for a shadow. Vou make a blurry shadow and project that.

    Steven Kent – Of the games you have worked on, Which is your favorite ?

    John Carmack – QUAKE III Arena. I've always felt that there is a battle between what you want to do with a single-player game versus the multiplayer side of things.
    Making QUAKE III was being able to say, "This is an activity. It has no sequence or a story. It's a simple, straightforward activity for fun." You sit down and can play it for a little while. There's not a moving story with deep characters or anything behind it. It knows what it is.
    It's really simple and it's good at that. It wasn't our most successful game, although it probably was our most successful engine license. I think that it was probably one of the more pure experiences.The original DOOM was a really big game, but in recent times, QUAKE III Arena was the game that I was really happy with.

    Steven Kent – Have you started a laundry list of new features for your next game engine ?

    John Carmack – There are a bunch of things that are analytically intractable problems… things like soft shadows, proper anti-aliasing, motion blur, order-independent translucency.These are things that there aren't closed-form solutions for arbitrary environments. You can do tricks to address any one of them; but I pretty strongly believe that with all of these things that are troublesome in graphics, rather than throwing really complex algorithms at them, they will eventually fall to raw processing power.

    People write research papers about, "Here's a really tricky algorithm to do that," but it doesn't work in all cases. People who are synthesists and think of those complex algorithms, they really pooh-pooh that. They don't like to hear that because they want it to fall to cleverness rather than raw power; but the way things have consistently, undeniably fallen over the years is to raw power.

    We do very little procedural texturing, we just use hundreds of megs of textures. We don't use scan-line subdivision sorting depth inclusion, we use depth buffers that take megabytes. Right now we're using subsampling for anti-aliasing.The same thing will happen for soft shadows, better translucency, motion blur… all of these things. I think the "clever" part will be figuring out ways that we can solve all of these at once. We'll still take a ton of samples, but well also be a little bit more intelligent about how we choose them.

    The next generation engine should be suitable for a lot of things that are done in off-line rendering right now. I don't expect that you will see it used for motion pictures; but I do think that the next generation game engine technology will be completely capable of doing a lot of the off-line rendering that goes into TV and commercial-level production. Some of that [graphics rendering] will run in real time and that will be great. Some of that stuff will be slower. Instead of running 30 frames per second, it may run at 1 second per frame.That's still a monumental improvement over the 30 minutes per frame that you get with off-line rendering [today]. People are coming at this from different directions.

    I think one of the things that Nvidia did that was really, really smart was that they bought a company called Exluna, which had just been formed by a bunch of people from Pixar. They have people who worked on Final Fantasy and Shrek all of these people are big off-line renderer guys.They are coming together to write a brand-new off-line renderer. But they are writing it to be able to take some advantage of hardware acceleration, so they can start speeding things up. Now, they are still planning on doing everything that all the previous renderers did and better. They're not built around 3D j| acceleration. They're using the 3D acceleration for the low hanging fruit to try to speed some things up.They're going to be a few times faster, which is still a big deal.

    The game companies are coming from the other end. They're built around doing things really fast, and the quality is improving We're going to be approaching the production process from two different sides.They might be ten times faster than the old software renderers used to be, and we might work up to having graphics with ten times higher quality-as an arbitrary metric. Eventually you will reach a point where you might say, "If I can spend ten minutes per frame, I will use this type of renderer. If I can only spend one minute or ten seconds per frame, I will use this type of thing.The content and the way you go about [creating] it will be different, but it will be an interesting kind of convergence.

    You are always working within your hardware restraints and figuring out the technology. Then, when you make a second game with mature technology, youVe got a lot more elbow room and the quality improves. So it's not that far off. In fact, even the resolution which they render on film, which is very high between one and two megapixels, depending on what they are doing-even that quality of resolution is not that far off. We are still a long ways from photo- realistic.Things look a lot better, they have a lot more detail, but they are still clearly synthetic images. I think we have a ways to go yet before we'll be past that. If you throw enough texture detail at some things, you can make images that look photo- realistic from a little bit of distance with current technology. It's just a matter of throwing very large textures that are digitized on there.The synthesis of those images is certainly possible with off-line rendering today. Next generation rendering technology will have a lot of scenes that look effectively photo-realistic if you have a little bit of distance from it. You see that in games where they have more limited constraints today, like the sports games where they have got a very finite amount of issues that they have to deal with. Those are pretty damned close to photo- realistic right now. When you are across the room, sometimes you can't tell if you're looking at a game or a broadcast with certain camera angles. We've got a harder job to do in the more general, first-person environment, but it's still not that far away.The next generation first-person games, if somebody walks by the outside of your office looking in, there will be a lot of scenes where it's not clear whether it was computer simulated or used a digital image.

    Steven Kent – How long before we see games with the lord of the rings-quality graphics ?

    John Carmack – It's a pretty clear path that we've got. There is no fundamental magic that needs to be pulled in. For individual scenes of that level of quality, the next generation engine is going to be an important thing. You will be able to throw larger and larger amounts of stuff at it without having to write a new engine to take advantage of it.

    Once you cross the threshold of programmability… RenderMan, for instance, as a functional interface, has not changed much in ten years. The next game engine is going to be something like that. Once you have that programmability, making fundamental changes inside there does not really change your data. There still may be generations of improvements in the plumbing underneath things, but the interface may stay constant for , ten years. It's hard to say.

    There are a lot of things that add momentum to strategic decisions like this. With all of the work going on in hardware accelerators, there is a style of programming that they (the latest graphics chips] encourage if you want to take advantage of them. And, of course, they have so much power that you really want to take advantage of them. When you were just doing things on the CPU, you could have lots of divergent ways of doing things. Some people were doing voxel stuff, and some people were doing splatting stuff, and some people were doing ray tracing and ray casting versus triangle rasterizers. You don't really have that many paths open with the hardware. A lot of things got more flexible just in this last generation with programmability, but there is still sort of a fundamental style of how the hardware wants to work. I think there are better odds in terms of something having long-term stability because of these other forces out there.

    Steven Kent – Do you foresee this as your last engine ?

    John Carmack – Again, the next engine is going to be of a different character than the previous ones. Even DOOM 3 is set up by knowing that you have these limited hardware features available and you need to do the best you can with them, while the next one is going to be much poser to defining a programming language. You reach a point where you don't need to keep inventing new programming languages.

    There may be reasons to invent new ones. One may be much easier to construct certain problems in. There really is not a reason to reinvent the C language every year. It may turn out to be very much like the evolution of programming languages, where every four or five years there is a bump to the standard. You include this bunch of things that people have tried and it's worked out well. But it's not a deep, fundamental change.

    While there will continue to be new engines, just like there are new programming languages and off-line renderers, there is going to be much less of a pressing need for them. Some people will still do it because some people like making new things like that. But the chances of it becoming a landmark event for a broader, industrial scale, I think, are less likely.

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