3D --- Media Creation --- Shared Space
Published by 4th WAVE, Inc.
Issue #616 12/20/96
id Software - GLQuake - A Quake Christmas Present
John Carmac, id Software, has ported Quake to OpenGL and expects to post a copy on the id site by Christmas. At the same time, 3Dfx will post a driver to run GLQuake on the Voodoo Graphics based consumer level cards manufactured by its OEMs including Diamond and Orchid. id Software has run tests on the following cards and systems: Verite, 3Dfx, 3DLabs (Permedia, GLiNT 500TX), Dynamic Pictures (Oxygen), Intergraph (Intense3D and RealiZm), SGI O2, SGI Impact and SGI Infinite Reality. John describes the 3Dfx as "having the highest textured fill rate anything short of high end SGI hardware...at 640 * 480 it will stomp any other consumer board..." 3Dfx is also working on OpenGL libraries and drivers which will also support professional applications on 3Dfx's Obsidian family of high- end 3D graphics boards.
3D Game Benchmark From Simis
Simis, a UK game developer, has announced that it will be releasing to developers a game benchmark program Terramark based on its game Terracide due to be released Q1 1997. According to Jules Davis, Simis has three objectives: to provide IHVs with a way to test their cards and drivers; establish a game benchmark and to provide to game developers an example of benchmark tests. The current version runs on Direct3D and other versions are expected for Glide and Speedy3D (Rendition).
3Dfx - Clarification on Voodoo and Voodoo Rush Setup
Both of 3Dfx's chips, Voodoo and Voodoo Rush, have some triangle set up. In response to our COMDEX coverage (WAVE 614.2) 3Dfx provided a clarification. Their response included "we have more than 2/3 of triangle setup on chip. Voodoo Rush is the same. Also our triangle setup is typically simpler than other chips due to our algorithms. So these 2 things combined reduce our CPU setup work to very little - this is how we can do so many triangles. We are VERY efficient." The net result is that "Voodoo does 850- 900K triangles/sec and Voodoo Rush can do the same." Thus, 3Dfx observed it is not how and where the set up is done but its efficiency and overall system performance which is what counts.
Gemini Technology, developers of OpenGVS, have recently moved their headquaters from Irvine to Lake Forest. Their new address is:
Gemini Technology Corp.
23792 Rockfield Blvd., Ste. 160
Lake Forest, CA
new phone: (714) 598-0961
New Name For Intergraph's Reactor
As of January 1, Intergraph will begin marketing its Reactor 3D consumer accelerator card under the new name of Intense 3D 100, in order to keep all of their boards under one family name. The existing Intense 3D card, which is targeted at the professional markets, will also be renamed as the Intense 3D Pro 1000.
RealAudio 3.0 Ships
Last week, Progressive Networks announced the release of RealAudio 3.0, the follow-up to their immensely successful Internet audio software. RealAudio 3.0, which offers "broadcast-quality audio, including stereo at 28.8 Kbps and near-CD quality audio at ISDN," is supported across many different platforms including Windows 95 and 3.1, Macintosh and Unix. RealAudio 3.0 can be downloaded free from Progressive Networks' Web site, and RealAudio Plus can be purchased for $29.99 (offering additional features such as near-CD quality over modems with their PerfectPlay technology, and scan, preset and record features).
Extreme 3D 2.0 Ships
Extreme 3D 2.0 (see WAVE #611, 10/25/96), the second-generation product announced less than a year after version 1.0, began shipping this week. An approximate price of $399 is expected, with upgrades from version 1.0 for $149. It is also available as a part of the Freehand Graphics Studio 7 suite, which also includes Freehand 7, xRes 3, and Fontographer 4.1 for $449 (or an upgrade for $199).
Correction - COMDEX Andy Grove Keynote - E&S Harmony not demonstrated in Real Time
The WAVE Report has learned that the Harmony demonstration during Andy Grove's Keynote was not an actual demonstration but only the playback of a D-1 video tape onto an HDTV monitor. The imagery was simulated using 11 Pentium Pro processors and recorded for video only playback. Hardware will not be available until Q4 1997. As with any emulation, the actual performance and image quality assessment must wait until physical hardware is available.
New 3D Chips From TriTech
TriTech Microelectronics, a member of Singapore Technologies, recently unveiled Pyramid3D, yet another entry into the burgeoning 3D accelerator market. The Pyramid3D family currently consists of two chips: the TR25201 and TR25202, which are identical except that the TR25201 also contains an integrated geometry engine. Features include:
Rendering Performance: 650K triangles/sec (32-bit bus, z-buffered, textured, Gouraud shaded), 800K triangles/sec (64-bit bus, z-buffered, textured, Gouraud shaded)
Memory Types Supported: SDRAM, SGRAM, EDO
Features: Unified memory architecture, bump mapping, specular lighting, MIP-mapping, bilinear filtering, programmable geometry engine
Two From Apple
Apple made two primary announcements at Internet World:
In a partnership with SGI, Apple announced that they will bundle SGI's Cosmo Player VRML 2.0 browser in future versions of their Internet Connection Kit, which ships with the Apple operating system. In a complimentary fashion, SGI announced that they would employ Apple's QuickDraw3D technology as a core component of the Windows 95 and NT versions of Cosmo Player.
Apple outlined current developments regarding QuickTime technology on the Internet. It was announced that both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer now support QuickTime playback on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms via the new release of version 1.1 of the QuickTime plug-in. The plug-in, which is available for free download from Apple's site, offers several new features including QuickTime VR "URL Hot Spot" capabilities and additional QuickTime playback commands. It was also announced that Netscape would make the QuickTime plug-in available with future versions of Netscape Communicator, and the @Home Network would provide the technology for its subscribers.
Oxygen Offers NT 4.0 Support
Dynamic Pictures has announced the release of version 2.2 of the driver software for their Oxygen 3D line of accelerators, which now offers support for Windows NT 4.0 on both the Intel and DEC Alpha platforms.
Pesce Denounces VRML Consortium
In a move ominous to the future of VRML, VRML co-creator and visionary Mark Pesce has resigned from the VRML Consortium. He also sent an open letter to the VRML community at large, in which he warned that the interests of large corporations will destroy VRML and have already begun to do so. In particular, in an interview with Wired News, he singled out Apple, who he feels are "doing everything they could to destroy VRML." He also called for all of the current VAG (the predecessor to the VRML Consortium) members to resign and stand for re-election.
Microsoft: Software DVD Playback for ActiveMovie
Last week Microsoft announced a partnership with Mediamatics, a company involved with developing MPEG software, which will bring DVD playback to the forthcoming ActivePlay 2.0. Further strengthening ActiveMovie as an enabling technology for video editing and playback on the desktop, the solution will use both MPEG-2 video and AC3 audio decoding in software, which will eliminate the need for consumers to buy expensive additional hardware.
MetaVR Announces Low-Cost Scene Generation System
At the I/TSEC trade show last week, MetaVR announced "the worlds lowest cost, real-time, multiplayer, textured, Virtual Reality Scene Generation (VRSG TM) system on a personal computer based on the Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) gaming and network protocols." Their VRSG system, which is based on Direct3D and 3Dfx' Voodoo Graphics, can provide a sustained rate of 20-30 fps on a 200 MHz Pentium PC for DIS applications.
Sense8 Publishes Benchmarks
Sense8 Corp. has made available on their Web site a 3D benchmarking program for Direct3D accelerators along with a table of results for various systems. The tests can measure pixel fill rate, polygon rate, and frame rate for either an 11k terrian database or an NxN grid, along with the ability to effect several rendering options. The results from a number of graphics cards are presented in a growing table, including SGI RE II, High Impact, and Extreme, Intergraph Z10, Z13, and GLZ5, several GLINT-based cards, several S3-based cards and several Rendition-based cards.
Chip From Acer
Acer Labs recently put on display their new 64-bit 3D controller, the Ali M3151. Scheduled for production in Q3 1997, it boasts the following stats:
616.2 I/ITSEC in Orlando by Roy Latham
I/ITSEC is the big trade show for aerospace and military simulation, and the latest installment in Orlando proved one more time who has the best toys. The graphics and simulation technology on display was the most exciting anywhere. High on the list of show highlights was E&S's Harmony graphics engine, for two reasons: (1) after more than a decade, a graphics box promises new features (real time Phong shading and bump mapping, anisotropic texture mapping) rather than *just* more of the same at a lower price, and (2) E&S looks ready to play on the high end of the broad commercial markets; their product looks fit to challenge SGI.
Other highlights: 3Dfx's new high resolution version of their VooDoo graphics technology looks good enough to do serious sim work, even without edge antialiasing; 1280 x 1024 CRT-based head mounted displays from n-Vision are expensive, but every VR-hackers dream in terms of color image quality; a very hot rumor was around that next month we will see introduced the first full-VGA-resolution LCD head mounted display, and it will sell for under $10K; SEOS's spectacular SGI-driven dome (a hemisphere was built at the site) projection system combines CRT and LCD projection technology; Israeli-based SimTech showed a small arms trainer with high resolution projected imagery, an ultra-accurate laser-based scoring system -- and the system detects your breathing pattern as you hold the weapon. All of this, plus the usual assortment of aerospace giants providing displays of networked simulation, motion bases, and simulations of things like infrared sensors that many people would not know were even things.
Despite massive defense cutbacks, defense simulation has been holding its own as the military switches from real weapons to simulators. The prospects for the near term are not so bright, however, as many insiders expect the next round of cuts will get to the simulators as well.
Roy Latham is President of Computer Graphics Systems Development Corp.(CGSD) and the editor of the newsletter Real Time Graphics
616.3 Internet World - Seeing Patterns in the Internet by John Latta
Internet World - Points to Ponder
Internet World provided contrasts on the show floor which illustrated the evolving Internet. Consider the following:
If the Business Model is Weak - Sell Tools
In markets where most everything fails, from a business model standpoint, the tools winners have the best chance. Just as in the '49er days in California the suppliers of gold panning and digging equipment came out ahead of many of the miners the same appears to be the case with the Internet. At Internet World the floor was populated with companies selling tools to make it easier to create Web sites and more.
PointCast has changed the Internet
With a broadcast model the PointCast has made the Internet less interactive and more like a "deliver when it happens" or "deliver when I want it" network. In the span of 9 months PointCast pulled in 1.5+ million users - not bad even for the warped dynamics of the Internet. With the popularity of PointCast, to the point of being banned in some corporations because of excess network loading, the Internet is shifting more to a broadcast model. With advertising playing an increasing role in generating revenue on the Internet, this only reinforces the broadcast model. Just as the free over-the- air television business model struggles against cable, it is expanding on the Internet.
Emerging Dominant Internet Uses
If it be said that the Internet is falling into use patterns we saw some clear indications on the show floor:
Search, Explore and Find
Look for sites with search engines and one hopes to get lucky in finding it. The search engines are still crude but better than nothing. At Internet World there were only a few such companies - why come when search is free anyway - what is there to sell?
By far the most dominant were the tools companies.
GIS (Geographic Information Systems)
Even Autodesk was touting its GIS capabilities. Given the popularity of the graphical interface the movement to map based information is not surprising. Yet, the next step to volume visualization with 3D will be a much more difficult one - there needs to be a sufficient installed base of accelerated 3D within the clients.
In spite of the poor quality there were many examples of video over the net on the show floor. We see this as not only an extension of the broadcast model but going beyond it and bringing what interactive television has failed to deliver. Yet, if one technology could bring the Internet to its knees it will be the pervasive use of video.
Connecting to Legacy Systems
Making available legacy data bases both externally and in intranets is increasingly important if the activity on the show floor is any gauge.
Do you have a Channel?
Popping up were channel companies of which the one of highest interest was Marimba tucked away in a small section of the Java pavilion.
Internet World Announcements and Exhibiting Companies
Using a city as the foundation of a business locator NeworkCity premiered at Internet World. Located in Spain and founded by real estate developer Miguel Zapata the city has four commercial zones (Natural Products, Mineral Products, Creative Products and Company Services) focuses on business to business interaction. The zones are divided by two avenues: Neworld avenue which runs North to South where there are retail outlets and press stands. Perpendicular to Neworld avenue is Top Companies avenue where spots are available for companies to create their own premises. Within each zone are multiple streets such as the Electronics Street in the Creative Products zone. Each street has four buildings which does: product display, companies (2 buildings), suppliers (what companies need) and services. At the end of Neworld avenue is an island which houses the Neworld City Airport and contains links to airlines. All the locations have links to Web sites and it is claimed that there are already 18,000 such links. Up to 5 languages are supported: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish). WAVE notes: interesting concept, but of dubious usefulness. Lacks the utility of Yahoo! and the intuitive VRML GUI of BigBook.
Within 90 days after shipping version 1.0, NetObjects Fusion 2.0 was announced with over 101 features and improvements. Enhancements include: import site to download a web site and enhance it with NetObjects Fusion, Master Borders to make for consistent look and feel, components which are pre-built mini-applications with drag and drop attributes. Available Q1 1997 at a street price of $495.
Black Diamond Consulting
Using ActiveX Black Diamond Consulting has implemented the Surround Video SDK which allows developers to add 360 degree panoramic impacts to an application, HTML documents or Web pages. The SDK has a Surround Video Editor or image authoring, an API for image display, a link editor to embed links for use on the Internet and Surround Video Internet Control which is an Internet OLE control. The SDK is priced at $495 and is available now.
Both Internet3 Space Builder 2.0 (ISB) and Internet3D FontMagic (IFM) were announced and shown at Internet World. ISB is for the generation of home spaces which can be browsed in VRML2.0. IFM can convert any TrueType font into VRML 2.0 so that it can be included into a VRML space. Some of the capabilities of ISB include: shape creation including Boolean operations, drag and drop scene assembly, multimedia integration including URL links and import of VRML2.0 and 3DS files. ISB cost $89.95 and IFM costs $29.95.
OZ Virtual, its Internet browser, now supports VRML 2.0. Beta version of version 1.0 is available for free at the web site.
Worlds and Open Market Announce Relationship
Worlds and Open Market announced a business relationship where commercial transactions can be accomplished in 3D malls. World will integrate Open Market's OM-SecureLink software in the Active Worlds Development Kit and its upcoming Java-based tool kit code named Gamma.
Building on the channel model BackWeb announced 20 new channels which include: American Singles, NetRadio Network, SmartGames, The SnowReport Channel, the Wall Street Journal Channel and Virtual Vineyards. Content from the channels is downloaded in the background during idle time and users are alerted with BackWeb's Flashes. The user only has to click on the flash to get to the content.
Microsoft Announces Relationship with PointCast
Microsoft announced that PointCast will be a premier content provider for the Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 Active Desktop. Further, MSNBC will become a key news and information provider on the PointCast Network.
Peak, a 2-year old start-up focusing on Internet performance products, announced an agreement with Infinop to license and market the Java version of Lightning Strike, an image compression technology alternative (and according to them, with twice the performance of) JPEG. They also announced the availability of Web Peak Animator, which allows Web site developers to add animation and sound to a site via an easy-to-use GUI. Web Peak Animator will be available in January for $49.95.
SoftQuad, makers of the popular HoTMetal Web/HTML authoring software, displayed HoTMetal Pro 3.0. Version 3.0, which is now available for the Macintosh as well as Windows platforms, is available for $159 from Softquad.
Integrated Data Systems
IDS, a pioneer in the growing VRML market, announced V-Realm Builder 2.0, which they tout as the first "pure" VRML 2.0 authoring package. Available in January for $595 (or an upgrade from version 1.0 for $100), V-Realm Builder 2.0 includes many new features such as a key frame animation editor, an extrusion editor, texture mapping, and import for VRML 1.0, Open Inventor, 3D Studio, RAW, Wavefront and trueSpace formats. In addition to complete VRML 2.0 support, V-Realm Builder 2.0 also offers support for DirectSound as well as an integrated MPEG compression system.
Backstage Internet Studio 2.0, a suite of programs for building and maintaining a Web site, was announced, and is being targeted at the high- end of the market such as corporate IS professionals and professional Web site developers. Studio 2.0, which is available in the Desktop Edition or Enterprise Edition, consists of four components: Backstage Designer, a WYSIWYG HTML editor; Backstage Manager, which offers site management; Backstage Server, which works in conjunction with a Web server to provide customized content and database connectivity; and Backstage Objects, which provides 16 objects to offer high-level programming capabilities. Backstage Internet Studio will be available in early 1997, with a Beta version due by the end of December. The Enterprise Edition will cost $999, and the Desktop Edition $299.
Marimba, the start-up company founded by the original Java development team earlier this year, has developed two primary technologies: Castanet and Bongo. Castanet utilizes the concept of channels and transmitters to enable broadcast capabilities on the Internet; Bongo is a visual tool for designing GUI interfaces for Java applications.
The broadcast approach to data delivery on the Internet is a fairly new concept, brought into the limelight earlier this year with the debut of Pointcast. Castanet promises to provide a critical underlying component as an enabling technology. At Internet World, a joint announcement with Macromedia was released, in which it was revealed that Castanet would be integrated with Shockwave. The integration will allow Shockwave content to run within Java over Castanet channels.
616.4 IAAPA: High Tech and the Ride Show Business by Louis Brill
With bright lights, carousal music, clowns and sexy Q-Zar women dancing to disco, you'd think another COMDEX trade show showing whatever it takes to bring in customers - nope! Wrong show - right idea. It's the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), a trade show dedicated to theme parks and entertainment centers, hotels, casinos, Location-Based Entertainment (LBE) centers and other recreational facilities. Entering its 78th year, IAAPA is the largest trade show and conference covering rides and attractions for theme parks.
Our IAAPA report will examine variations in high-tech entertainment.
Each participant wears a special vest and has a ray gun that emits a collimated light beam. Participants form into 2 teams where one team, the huntees, enters into a smoke-filled, maze-like, light-strobed environment. Within minutes, the other team, the hunters, enters into the environment to seek out the first team and kill them off for points. The vests are light sensitive and register direct or partial hits for points. All hits are transmitted back to a central computer which tallies the scores and action.
Designed as an emulation of a capture-the-flag event where both teams compete for kill points or finding a hidden treasure, laser tag has evolved into a content driven game where the team's access to their environment is like a mission or quest-driven adventure.
Laser tag has become a popular attraction with much the same form of play, except for minor game subtitles. The prominent companies include Ultrazone, Q-Zar, Laser Storm, and Laser Runner,
Virtual reality has become a part of the entertainment venue and for the most part emulates the arcades shoot-em-up and fantasy adventure roles. While most VR games were the same as last year we saw some new variations.
CyberFunk's (Italy) Cyber Buggy brought a new and different interface. Players climb aboard what is a giant air pillow with the world's largest joystick imbedded in the middle. Players use an HMD to encounter Kaleidosong Scooter, a delightful world of flying through cityscapes and an aerial obstacle course, all the time chasing after various musical notes which you try to capture. Navigation is simple, with the appropriate body English, players grab the joystick and lean into the direction they wish to travel. Well, a data glove it's not, but it was an interesting variant on VR navigation.
Kimera, which was shown by Immersive Technology (Richardson, TX), is based on a HMD within a cowl (looks like a Darth Vader helmet) balanced on a boom. Players put their head into the cowl and then hold handles which allowed them to steer. The cowl has 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) and its embedded HMD uses a LCD viewer. The available game was Pyramid Pilot which involved flying up and into a pyramid.
The Vivid Group (Toronto, Canada) demonstrated a new product called Big Head Racer, which is gesture controlled network car racing. Players sit in a booth and their face is immediately imaged and digitally imposed on the body of a sports car. Once the game begins the player controls their car's racing position by head movements - tilting left or right steers the car. The game is networkable and up to 8 players can race each other. The challenge is classic, keep on the road, try to pass all other cars and win! The game offers 3 levels of play.
Virtuality (Irving, TX) had diverse VR gaming presentations, several platform configurations and the introduction of a new game, PAC MAN VR, licensed from NAMCO. PAC MAN's back and is running loose in cyberspace with the usual cute smiley face and a voracious appetite for energy pills and ghosts. Players in the PAC world encounter three-dimensional trenches filled with the same obstacles found in the 2D flat screen version. The rules are the same - run as fast as possible and gobble up everything in sight. Although Virtuality only displayed a Beta version, it was voted one of the best new products by the 1996 IAAPA awards committee. Virtuality also presented their standard stand-up (2000SU) and sit-down (2000SD) platforms as well as a Total Recoil platform for those itching to take a crack at improving their rifle shooting skills. Two Total Recoil games were offered including Trap Master and Quickshoot Carnival.
Other notable VR companies included Metamedia CCG (NY,NY), RPI (San Francisco, CA), Ferris Productions, (Phoenix, AZ), Virtual Systems & Mariah (Pittsfield, MA) and Signifi Group VR (Montreal, Canada).
The big question - Where is the VR entertainment industry going? For the most part VR entertainment seems to be emulating arcade games, its potential as a experiential and exploration medium has hardly been tapped. While VR entertainment is slowly building a base of customer/players, we believe that this is not a representation of what VR entertainment is all about.
We feel that VR games should present both experiences which are not normally encountered and which are compelling enough that players continue to want to go out to play. Providing Doom look-alikes is not exciting and interesting VR entertainment. While arcades present a level of VR entertainment, it is not the only one. We wait to see if these VR companies will move beyond the shoot-em-up mold and offer a new level of VR content.
A major exception to the arcade quality content limitation in VR is in Disney's Aladdin, a VR version of one of its animation feature. Aladdin brings VR to a new level with a ride on a magic carpet through a city. Besides content Disney also brings a level of investment that others cannot. What Aladdin has done is serve as an inspiration to both designers and players - this is what VR can be. It is hoped that it ushers the start of a new level of VR entertainment which is more than just perfecting shooting skills.
A ride simulation is the combination of a motion platform and synchronized fast-paced movie strip such as speeding in a boat. The movie is presented in a special theater where the seats are placed on a motion- platform with either 3 or 6(DOF) and the motions follow the screen action.
Leading companies include IMAX, IWERKS, SHOWSCAN, Simex, Cinema Ride, Doron, McFadden and Falcon. Many see this as a growth market. Each year we see 3 - 4 new companies. A number of issues dominate this venue.
Throughput - how many people can ride in an hour? Throughput determines how much cash flow can be generated. Motion-base platforms are built with every possible seating combination: 2-seaters, 4-seaters, 8-seaters, 16 seaters and more. Seating combinations allows for flexibility in attendance and makes it as economical for both a high-end theme park to have a ride sim attraction as well as a smaller Family Entertainment center to have one.
Many ride films are now plot driven, as much as one can be in 4 minutes of action. Typical content includes rides in volcanoes, a space ship journey, a car chase and jet boat rides in a canyon. New this year, SHOWSCAN had an entertaining film about the life of a raindrop falling from a rain cloud through the NYC skyline. IWERKS presented a ride film loosely based on an Indiana Jones jungle adventure.
We were surprised at the number of the motion platforms which were poorly built as a way to save money. This included the lack of hand rails or seat belts. Some cab-based systems also had very small viewing screens. Most companies had the programming relationship between film and motion properly coordinated, however, some did not and the resultant entertainment was very discerning to watch.
Three-dimensional films are increasing as an entertainment medium with many ride film companies having films in 3D. When done well, it gives a certain 'lift' to the ride experience as viewers now appear to travel through space rather than just watch it.
SPECIAL DESTINATION CINEMA THEATERS
This market is dominated by IMAX, IWERKS and SHOWSCAN. Each has a cinema process unique to it which forms the basis of dedicated destination cinema centers. IMAX uses a very large film frame (15 perf / 70mm @ 24 fps). Films are shown in a special theater on a screen about 100' x 60'. The IMAX format has reached a position that its closest competitors, IWERKS (8 perf x 70mm @ 24 fps) and SHOWSCAN, (5 perf x 70mm @ 60 fps), each with different formats, have adopted the IMAX film standard as an additional film format
New large-format trends:
1. The adoption of IMAX film format as cited above.
2. Use of three-dimensional projection. Between built theaters and a construction backlog, IMAX has (or will soon have) about 50 3D theaters.
3. Content Films are starting to be made with narrative plots, and getting away from strict nature or historical films. These new films are being directed towards the emerging large-format commercial film market.
4. Customer base Theater installations are moving away from museums and science centers. New locations include malls and add-ons to existing multiplex centers. This is the beginning of the push for IMAX to develop a commercial segment, complete with its own customer base, and a separate series of entertainment films.
At IAAPA it was evident that high-tech has even spread to conventional rides. For example, roller coasters are using CAD/CAM for design and computerized pre visualization of their rides. The rides now have so many turns, loops, and corkscrews that they could be an intermediate astronaut training course.
Technology has become a tool for designing new rides for new ways of having fun. In the process, park owner / operators are also realizing that content, not the technology itself, which is the attraction that will bring audiences back for repeat visits. And that is what theme parks and other entertainment centers are banking on.
Louis Brill has his own firm Illuminations in San Francisco.
616.5 Speedy3D: The Little-Known API by David Lohse
While most of the industry looks towards industry-standard APIs as the future of 3D on the desktop, many chips support their own 3D libraries for optimized performance, including Creative Lab's CGL and 3Dfx's Glide. In addition to these more well-known graphics libraries, Rendition has quietly been providing its Speedy3D API only under NDA to registered developers. Speedy3D, whose use can be recognized in products sporting the "Rendition Ready" logo, was quietly ushered in, in early 1995 along with the debut of the Verite accelerator chip, which has already been adopted by a number of leading board manufacturers including Number Nine, Creative Labs, Intergraph, Sierra and Canopus.
The Speedy3D API has been optimally designed specifically for the Rendition hardware platform. As Don Harris, the Director of ISV Relations at Rendition best explained to us, "Speedy3D supports all of the features of our V1000 processor and also provides the optimal interface to allow the host CPU to achieve peak performance and optimal application load balance. Games and applications require other host CPU cycles for AI, sound and networking as well as calculating geometry for 3D environments and models. To achieve this optimal load balance, the Rendition architecture is optimally complemented by the Speedy3D interface." Although the Verite chip also supports other industry-standard APIs including Direct3D and CGL (as well as upcoming support for OpenGL), Speedy3D optimizes use of the chip's key functions which include a unified memory architecture, perspectively correct texture mapping with bilinear filtering, anti-aliasing, alpha blending and per-pixel fog.
Although Speedy3D performs optimally on the Verite platform, software developers may find it has a fairly significant drawback: currently, Speedy3D 1.0 is DOS-only. On the other hand, a number of games are still being written for DOS, as many software developers are as yet unconvinced of the benefits of Windows 95s. This includes at least two very recent "hit" games, both of which have been ported to the Speedy3D API: ids's Quake and Eidos' Tomb Raider. Whether or not this is a limitation of Speedy3D is not obvious, and although Rendition will not publicly comment on the future direction of Speedy3D, indications are that it will appear on Windows 95. As Mr. Harris told us, "These applications generally launch from a Windows desktop so it can be transparent to the user. As the Windows 95 and possibly Windows NT desktop become entertainment and development platforms for real-time 3D graphics, the Rendition technology can adapt to ensure optimal performance and provide the necessary features and performance with essentially any API. The trick is to ensure that the API allows optimal load balance of required host application cycles and graphics processor rendering."
As a leading consumer 3D chip, software support has been quickly growing for the Rendition/Speedy3D platform. Titles currently ported to the Speedy3D API include:
Quake id Software Indycar Racing II Sierra Online Nascar Racing II Sierra Online Tomb Raider EIDOS EF2000 TactCom Digital Image Design Descent II Interplay Whiplash Interplay VR Soccer Interplay Scorched Planet Virgin Interactive
For more information about Rendition and Verite, check out their Web site, although Speedy3D information is available only to registered developers:
616.6 Web Development: Content over Multimedia by Jonathan Sunberg
"Multimedia made the Internet take off, because it took it to a commercial and consumer level," according to Jonathan Nelson, CEO of Web developer Organic Online. WAVE recently interviewed Web content developers to assess the state of multimedia on the Web. Each developer saw multimedia as the means to take the web to its next level, but most agree with Frank Forbes, President of Free Run Technologies, that "there has been a gratuitous use of gadgets and spinning-wheels." Mr. Forbes believes that clients coming to Free Run for web page creation, "are looking to just stick their toe in the water. People are surfing for content, not whiz-bang graphics."
Web content developers are skeptical of multimedia today because of bandwidth limitations. The size of browser plug-ins and the imposition of downloading them, has also inhibited multimedia adoption by users. Some developers, exemplified by Robin Krauss, Director of Creative Services at SpectraCom Inc., "try to encourage clients to use multimedia, but many times find the clients feel that their customers don't have the plug-ins to use it."
Nevertheless, multimedia has made some inroads on the net.
Shockwave from Macromedia dominates as the means to deliver multimedia. Key reasons being its ease of use and simple integrated multimedia development environment. More than 11 million copies of Shockwave have been downloaded. Macromedia expects it to be on more than 30 million desktops by the end of 1996. In spite of its pervasiveness, there are some limitations. Bernie Khoo of Khoo.com, found the tool to be "kind of clumsy and buggy." Our survey found 65% of the developers use Shockwave and are happy with it, 25% use the tool, but have had problems with it, and 10% don't use the tool at all.
The battle between Microsoft's ActiveX and Sun's Java doesn't seem to be much of a battle. Java is the clear winner, but developers give higher praise to Microsoft's technology. 95% of the developers have used Java while 35% used ActiveX. Half of the Java users use the language in a majority of the web sites they develop, while only 29% of ActiveX users use the technology in their web sites. Most often the explanation as to why people do not use ActiveX was because it is neither Netscape nor Mac friendly. But most companies found ActiveX to offer some very interesting tools and were presently experimenting with it. Chris Bryant, Founder and Principal of T3 Media Inc., compared the two in the following manner: "Java is not good for multimedia; it's too unstable, especially for multiple platforms. ActiveX, however, has good mature development environments and a good download model. But the proprietary approach is a very bad idea for the Internet."
Multimedia has grown to be so many things that it has become increasingly hard to define. Therefore, we wanted to see what the developers we interviewed are using. A significant 85% of the developers have used streaming audio, 30% have used streaming video, 30% have also used VRML, but no one has taken telephony onto their web sites.
Developers are craving to build creative multimedia-packed web sites, but downloading times and browser compatibility issues have limited the number of viewers of their works. So while bandwidth issues are being solved, Dave Ferguson, President of ISL Consulting believes that "multimedia should be used as a tool for content driven sites, like databases, to create better links." He feels that "content is the most important thing," once the issues are resolved, "then you can back it with 'spinning wheels'."
To learn more about the developers and see some of the web pages they have created, WAVE has created links at:
616.7 Viewpoint's Models by David Lohse
In the world of 3D modeling, model design can be a time-consuming and sometimes tedious process, requiring developers to concentrate on specific model details rather than the project as a whole. That's where Viewpoint DataLabs comes in. Viewpoint, a leader since 1988 in the quickly growing market of 3D content publishing, has recently introduced their Freedom Collection of 3D models.
The Freedom Collection is a "mix-and-match" collection of models that can be individually chosen by the user from Viewpoint's collection of over 5,000 3D models (which they claim is the world's largest archive). Viewpoint's collection of models is available through one of two methods: via their Web site or using their DataShop 5.0.1 CD-ROM. The DataShop CD- ROM ($29.95)contains Viewpoint's entire collection of models, locked and accessible by contacting Viewpoint and buying the correct passwords, in addition to 25 free models. Viewpoint's models may be purchased in one of four methods:
Individually: Each model, which ranges in price from $49 to $1995, may be purchased individually.
Collections: A Collection is a group of models with a similar theme, such as aircraft, characters & humans, and landmarks & buildings. 14 different collections are available, and may be purchased as either a Gold Series or Platinum Series; the Gold Series contain models of up to 10,000 polygons, while the Platinum Series contains the same models as well as many others. Gold Series Collections range from $1,495 to $3,795, while the Platinum Series Collections range from $2,995 to $8,995.
Libraries: Spanning all of Viewpoint's categories, libraries are are also available in either Gold or Platinum levels. The Gold Library contains 1,796 models for $8,495, while the Platinum Librarycontains 2,495 models for $19,995.
Freedom Collection: Viewpoint's newest collection of models is actually user-definable. Five different packages are available, ranging from 3 models for $995 to 20 models for $4,295, all of which can be chosen by the user from Viewpoint's collection (as long as none of the models individually exceeds the cost of the Freedom Collection being purchased). In addition, a "holiday bonus" special offer is currently in effect, under which anyone purchasing a Freedom Collection can also purchase an additional model of their choice at a special low cost (depending on the Freedom Collection chosen).
For more information, or to peruse Viewpoint's collection of models, check out their Web site at:
616.8 3D Game Reviews by Jonathan Sunberg
In Issue 614 of WAVE, I explained how a good portion of games are coming out with 3D capabilities. In this issue we review some of the games and provide short descriptions. Each game is based on a scale of * to *****.
A 3D combat game that travels throughout history trying to stop the deadly computer virus. Quite entertaining with very good graphics. The various landscapes and worlds are mostly pre-rendered 3D graphics, while the characters are all real-time 3D. It lacks though in overall maneuverability, only allowing linear movement from the users 3rd person perspective.
A real-time futuristic, combat/hockey game that contains extremely fast 3D graphics. Although the games graphics and images are strong, Hyperblade lacks in overall controllability. The game is quite violent in nature also, since players are able to decapitate the opposing team players.
An underwater pre-rendered 3D action adventure. Although the graphics were eye-popping (all pre-rendered), the action became monotonous and drawn-out, leaving the player wondering when the game would end. Although Deadly Tide is quite long and leads to many different environments, the user is limited to pre-destined paths. Also enemies are killed by sporadic shooting, with not much skill needed.
Real-time 3D monster truck racing. Monster Truck Madness is all that it is hyped up to be. With four different types of events; drag, circuit, rally, and tournament racing, the graphics are superb and the different camera angles lend to a very visually appealing perspective. One important characteristic of this game is the driver's ability to drive anywhere (mud, streams, through signs).
NCAA College Basketball is hyped as an intelligent 3D basketball game for the PC. We never got to the intelligent parts, because we found the actions to be boring and the graphics only average. The keyboard controls were clumsy and defense was almost impossible. The intelligence factors that GTE does speak of are impressive, but they should focus on the basics, like maneuverability and graphics, before worrying about seasonal play.
A pre-rendered 3D space age action adventure, Hellbender led to one thought, boring. The game, much like Deadly Tide, is all about shooting everything in site and feeling a lack of achievement. The game is long and we didn't get anywhere near any site of a goal or an end.
Mystery aboard the SS Titanic. Fantastic 3D rendered graphics and an easy to navigate 1st person perspective. This spy-mystery pits the player on board the Titanic, with little time to spare as it quickly sinks to the bottom of the ocean. The game demands thought from its players and also teaches a little bit about the history of the ship and the time period from which it was in.
This real-time 3D game is one of the revolutionary new games coming out this season. Much like Mario64 from Nintendo, Tomb Raider allows you to go almost anywhere at anytime. The graphics are beautifully rendered and features a curvaceous leading lady as your character. From a 3rd person perspective the user uses ingenuity and strength to survive in 4 different, lengthy levels. Unfortunately, the only perk to Tomb Raider is that the graphics are visually appealing, but it is limited in interaction with others. You can literally go minutes without seeing another creature or human during the game, and thus limits the overall entertainment value.
616.9 Company Profile: Utopia Technologies by Jonathan Sunberg
In August of this year, Utopia Technologies opened its east coast operations in Hoboken, NJ, a ferry ride away from New York City. Robert Jaeger, co-founder and creator of the video game classic, Montezuma's Revenge, will head Utopia's east coast operations. WAVE interviewed both Mr. Jaeger and the Vice-President, Mr. Bergenholtzs.
Utopia began as a virtual company working over the Internet in 1992. Since its beginning, Utopia has experienced success in the coin-op industry, and now looks to the PC market. Among Utopia's coin-op successes are Countertop Champion's 1 and 2, and a variety of other touch-screen machines. Today the company is 50% virtual and 50% headquartered with its licensing office in Plano, Texas.
The company has created its new headquarters in order to develop a new real-time 3D engine, UVision, which Mr. Bergenholtz explained offers advantages unlike any other previous engines. The engine, which has been in development for over 2 years, will support most new emerging technologies such as MMX, Win95, and worthy video cards. Mr. Jaeger explained that they are currently considering support of Rendition's and 3Dfx's accelerator cards. The engine does not currently support Direct3D, because as Mr. Bergenholtz put it, "it is a bit immature". But he feels Direct3D is an ambitious effort that they will continue to track and possibly support in the next year or so.
Advantages of this new 3D engine include:
Six degrees of freedom in movement, fast phong shaded, perspective corrected texture mapped polygons, multiple, movable cameras and view ports, multiple, real-time movable light sources, support for multiple resolutions and color depth up to 65,536 colors, support for all VESA linear frame buffer modes up to 800x600, surface attributes (sticky, slippery, bouncy, surface forces, chrome mapping, facet smoothing on models, jointed models, morphing models, full freedom in swim modes, opacity, texture turbulence, and more.
Mr. Bergenholtz feels that three of the key features included; phong shading, 3D models which have jointed hierarchies which fuses joints together, and multiple moving light sources. They regard this last feature as creating an evident advantage over other 3D engines, such as Quake's 3D engine.
The first game that will incorporate Utopia's technology will be Montezuma's Return. Mr. Jaeger explained that, "much like the original game, Montezuma's Revenge, Return combines arcade with adventure, allowing the player to explore a giant universe within a story. This first person, 3D action game will be available sometime around April of 1997.
Mr. Jaeger has an optimistic goal for three more titles, not including Montezuma's Return, during the new year. All of the titles would include the UVision engine and be solely designed and developed by the company.
The company currently is a small team of about ten, but is currently seeking new employees in the New York/New Jersey area.
To learn more about Utopia's new 3D engine and Montezuma's Return visit
or call the company directly at their Texas office at (972)517-3377.
Copyright 1996 4th WAVE Inc.
May be redistributed in full for individual readership and posted to newsgroups, Web, and FTP sites. May not be reprinted or redistributed for profit. Short quotes are permitted but must be attributed to the WAVE Report on Digital Media.