3D --- Media Creation --- Shared Space
Published by 4th WAVE, Inc. Issue
715.1 Quick News by Christina Person
3DO and New World Computing Introduce Might and Magic VI [June 19]
The 3DO Company and New World Computing, a division of 3DO, introduced Might and Magic VI The Mandate of Heaven for the PC. Might and Magic VI combines first person movement with real-time and classic turn-based play. Features of the game include multiple characters, customizable combat and free form non-player character (NPC) interactions. The expected release of Might and Magic VI is this fall.
3DO and Cyclone Studios Introduces Uprising [June 19]
The 3DO Company and Cyclone Studios, a division of 3DO, introduce Uprising, an action-strategy gameplay model with 3D technology for the PC. Uprising combines a 3D action world with strategic elements of base building, resource management and unit deployment. Uprisings expected release is this fall.
Tesla System Premieres in United States [June 12]
Virtual World Entertainments Tesla System, an interactive set of cockpits, will be installed in four U.S. locations this summer. Three locations that have installed the system, which offers VWEs BattleTech, include, Wizards of the Coast, Dave and Busters and Lazer Park. Dave and Busters are scheduled to install the Tesla System in four of their locations by Q1 1998, but the locations have not been released yet.
Prosolvia Clarus and SensAble Technologies Announce Partnership [June 23]
Prosolvia Clarus announced that it is integrating its 3-D visualization software package Oxygen with SensAble Technologies PHANToM 3-D Touch system and GHOST software development toolkit. Prosolvia Clarus will distribute the SensAble products throughout Europe. Oxygen is a multi-platform toolkit that create 3-D visualizations of manufacturing processes and products.
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Accepts Entries for Awards
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is accepting entries for the Red Hot and Gold Awards, Brass Ring Awards, and IAAPA Training Awards. The IAAPA Awards recognize excellence in merchandising, marketing and training. The Annual Red Hot and Gold Award honor visual retail and redemption displays while the Annual Brass Ring Awards honor excellence in marketing and advertising. The Annual IAAPA Training Awards honor training and education. Entry forms can be obtained through IAAPA.
Multimedia Benchmark Committee Accepted As SPEC/GPC Project Group [June 18]
The Multimedia Benchmark Committee has announced its acceptance as an official project group of the Graphics Performance Characterization Group. It will operate under the Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. The new group plans on developing a range of standardized benchmark suites to help vendors and users evaluate multimedia system performance. Expected by the end of this year is an alpha or beta version of MBCs first benchmark, for measuring MPEG-2 decoder performance.
Sega Entertainment Supports PC Gaming Technologies [June 19]
Sega Entertainment Inc. has announced its support of advanced PC gaming technologies like MMX, network play and Power VR. Sega will be using technology from companies including Intel and Microsoft to bring arcade-style games to the PC. A Sega title which optimizes Intels MMX Technology is Virtual ON Cyber Troopers. Sega also supports Microsoft D3D with their Daytona USA Deluxe, a NASCAR racing game. Sega will be featuring high frame rates, 3D characters and environment, detailed texture mapping and multiplayer on-line gaming to deliver future action/arcade PC games.
S3 Releases Software Drivers With Increased 3D Rendering Capabilities [June 24]
S3 Incorporated has announced the release of new software drivers that increase 3D rendering capabilities of the ViRGE 3D accelerators. According to the Ziff-Davis 3D WinBench 97, the software drivers, combined with the ViRGE accelerators, provide an increase performance of over 50%. In particular, the S3 3D accelerator, ViRGE/GX2 coupled with a Dell Dimension XPS H266 Pentium II produces a 3D Winmark score of 81.2.
MoSys, Inc. Offers Synchronous Graphics RAM Modules for 2D/3D Graphics [June 23]
MoSys, Inc. is now offering MG256 and MG 512, synchronous graphics RAM(SGRAM) modules in 2 and 4 MB densities. The modules are designed to improve graphics or multimedia subsystem performance, offering bandwidths of more than 1 gigabyte per second and device access latency of 6.67ns, in speed grades of 100, 125 and 133MHz. Samples are presently available, while volume production is scheduled for September. The suggested retail price begins at $20 for quantities of 1,000.
Dassault Systemes Acquires SolidWorks Corporation [June 24]
SolidWorks has announced that Dassault Systemes will be acquiring it in a stock transaction. SolidWorks develops and sells 3D mechanical design solutions for the Windows platform. Dassault Systemes develops solutions for the CAD/CAM/CAE/PDM-II software market. Dassault Systemes will issue 4.85 millions shares of common stock in exchange for 100% of the outstanding capital stock of SolidWorks. The transaction has an estimated value of $310 million and is expected to be completed by Q3 1997.
Imax Corporations Signs Agreement with Regal Cinemas for 3D Theatres [June 24]
Imax Corp. announced an agreement with Regal Cinemas to deliver 10 IMAX 3D theatre systems to be integrated into Regal Cinemas multiplexes over the next five years. The first theatre system delivery date is scheduled for 1998. Dublin, CA. and New Rochelle, NY are two of the first locations expected to receive the systems. Most of the Regal Cinemass theatres will use the IMAX 3D SR system, but the higher traffic locations will require the use of IMAXs larger 3D system. The IMAX 3D SR system features theatre design with an automated projection system and a specialized sound system with up to 270 seats. The IMAX 3D SR theatres were designed for smaller geographic markets located primarily in multiplexes.
According to Regal Cinemas, their web site should be up within a week.
Diamond Multimedia Introduces Maximum DVD Kit [June 16]
Diamond Multimedia Systems, Inc. has announced the shipping of the Maximum DVD Kit, a DVD solution of TV-out capability to the Windows 95 PC desktop. The kit includes Toshibas DVD-ROM drive; Diamonds PCI-based DVD adapter with MPEG-2 video and Dolby Digital audio; and a bundle of full-version DVD-based entertainment titles. The kit also has TV-out support so users can watch DVD and MPEG-2 movies on their TV. The suggested retail price for the kit is $599.95 and consumers can expect to see them in the stores later this month.
American Express Launches 3D Web Page with Superscape [June 18]
American Express has announced its new 3D Web page which is being developed with Superscapes VRT 3D Web page authoring software. UK-based CBL Technology is developing the first phase of the project that is set to include the "Merchandising shop" and the Atlas American Express Golf Club Café.
Fractal Design Announces Ray Dream Studio Version 5 [May 19]
Fractal Design has announced the release of Ray Dream Studio version 5, a 3D graphics application on Windows and Macintosh platforms. Studio 5 features object creation tools, including the Mesh Form modeler and new rendering effects for visible lights, depth of field and lens flares. For maximum efficiency, Studio 5 features the new modeless Properties palette for real-time numerical feedback and Direct Manipulation which controls light, cameras and deformers. Ray Dream Studio supports hardware acceleration through Direct3D(Windows) and QuickDraw 3D(Macintosh). Ray Dream Studio 5 will be available in Q3 '97 for Macintosh and Windows. The suggested retail price is $449, with an expected street price of under $300. The upgrade may be purchased from Fractal Design for $99.
715.2 Conference Report E3 By Christina Person and Jonathan Sunberg
Microsoft Corp. introduced two new games for its Internet Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com). The multi-player games previews at E3 were Microsoft Fighter Ace and Asheron's Call. Both games are formatted for Windows 95/NT operating systems. Fighter Ace supports more than 100 players, will be available in beta version this July, and will go live later this summer. Asheron's Call can support thousands of players and is scheduled for release Q1 1998. There is no cost to be a Zone member.
Microsoft and Rendition, Inc. also announced that they will offer three new games, Microsoft Baseball 3D, Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 and CART Precision Racing all showcased at E3, which support Renditions Verite 2D/3D processors. Microsft Baseball 3D, which is scheduled for Fall of 1997 at approximately $54.95, offers a full 3D environment, 16 bit graphics, 3D audio, force feedback support, and Internet play support. Microsft Flight Simulator 98, which is also scheduled for the Fall of 1997 at approximately $59.95, offers D3D compatibility, Internet play, force feedback, MMX support, and all new planes, cities, and airports. CART Precision Racing, which is scheduled for the Winter of 1997 for approximately $54.95, offers 3D rendered car models, immersive game play, real-world data using GPS technology, support for D3D, and multiplayer support over LANs or the Internet.
Immersion Corporation announced I-FORCE Studio, a graphical design environment for developing feel sensations. I-FORCE is a new hardware technology that allows developers to incorporate "feel" technology into joysticks, steering wheels and other game peripherals. I-FORCE has already been endorsed by manufacturers of gaming peripherals such as, Logitech, InterAct and Interactive I/O.
Psygnosis introduced G Police at the E3 conference. G Police is an action flight-shooter where the player patrols the skies of a futuristic cityscape as a member of the police. The game includes a 3D flight model to enhance the inner-city, mid-air shoot-outs. The scheduled release is Q3 97 for PlayStation and 3D accelerated PC CD-ROM computer systems.
Reality Quest previewed The Glove, a next-generation controller using natural, finger-button action and wrist-motion sensing technology. Special set-up software is not required, ensuring compatibility with 32- and 64-bit consoles. Some features of The Glove are auto centering and a 3 position switch to choose from digital mode, analog mode or Reality Quests simulated-analog mode. Sony PlayStation distribution is scheduled for Q4 of 97 and shortly thereafter for Nintendo 64. The suggested retail price is $89.95.
The Game Gateway
Concentric Network and Unified Gamers Online announced the launch of Game Gateway, a one-stop service for consumers who want to play a selection of 25 online multi-player games and access gaming related news reviews, tips and downloads. The Game Gateway is freely available at http://www.gamegateway.com and http://www.ugo.net. Game Gateway has partnered with ENGAGE games online, Infogames Entertainment, Kesmai and On-line PC. Gateway will also add Total Entertainment Network, iMagic Online, and MPG-Net to its gaming community.game.
Kesmai Corp. and Fox Interactive announced that they will be creating a multiplayer Internet game based on the movie "Aliens", entitled "Aliens Online". Kesmais CEO, Chris Holden, announced that this game will be the first of a series of online gaming collaboration between the two companies. The real-time 3D action game will be available on AOL, CompuServe, Prodigy, Concentric Network, Earthlink Network, AT&T Worldnet, M-Path, and the following websites: http://www.tvguide.com, http://www.geocities.com, http://www.jumbo.com, and http://www.gamestorm.com.
Big Fun.Net introduced RONIN, a full-scale free multi-player, Internet, Java game. The strategy game, which is set in feudal Japan and involves raiding other players castles, is now open to the public at www.BigFun.net.
ActionWorld, Inc. announced their launch of www.ActionWorld.com. This site, like RONIN, offers platform-independent Java-based games. The site, though, as it was explained to WAVE by CEO Joseph Robinson, is not only a gaming site, "but offers two online publications for the latest gaming news and tips and an online store which will offer the latest games and game-related merchandise." Mr. Robinson explained that ActionWorld "offers a unique concept to game developers, because unlike mail-order and retail stores, the whole process of pulling the customer in and making the transaction is done over the Internet, thus distribution and transaction problems can be decreased." Although the games are interesting and entertaining, they are intended to entice customers into "Games Dealer", ActionWorlds online store.
ActionWorld also announced that they are working with Newfire, Inc. to create enhanced VRML based 3D games for their site. ActionWorld is currently offering full screen and half screen banners for its site.
Acclaim introduced Forsaken, a 3-D first person action shooter. Available in the 4th Quarter of 1997, Forsaken offers 15 single-player levels and 8 multi-player levels. One of the games producers, Shawn Rosen, explained to WAVE that the game offers 25 weapons and allows up to 12 players over LAN or the Internet. Forsaken offers smooth graphics and they expect it will be one to watch when it becomes available for Win95 and the Playstation in early 1998 and Nintendo64 in Spring 1998.
Although DVD was a hot topic at the conference and most predict the DVD-ROM will take the CD-ROMs place, none of the publishers expect to publish more than a single title on DVD in 1997.
TerraGlyph Interactive Studios was the first to demonstrate a childrens software title for DVD at E3. The beta version of "Buster and the Beanstalk" was created to show the merits of Intels Pentium II processor and DVD. The game, aimed at children ages 3 to 10, offers TV-like animation and the ability for children to actually interact with the characters in the story.
Ubi Soft Entertainment
Ubi Soft Entertainment also showed off the combination of DVD and Intels Pentium II, with the introduction of Tonic Trouble. This 3D action-adventure game about an "endearing alien named Ed", offers up to 60 frames per second animation. Tonic Trouble is expected to launch during the 4th Quarter of 1997 as an OEM bundle with Pentium II processors. It will also be released in CD-ROM format and as a Nintendo64 game.
Bethesda Softworks unveiled four new PC games at E3. The games are Xcar: Experimental Racing, An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire, The 10th Planet and Redguard. Battlespire is a 3D, role-playing action game using XGine 3D technolgy and is to be released in August. The 10th Planet, due to be released Q4 of 1997, is a sci-fi action game with 3D explosions and laser cannon battles. The nationwide release of Redguard is scheduled for Q4 1997 also and features a 3D environment with fully animated 3D characters.
Electronic Arts demonstrated new interactive game titles for the PC which features 3D technology. In PGA TOUR Pro, players can walk 360 degrees around the green and 3D grids are used to analyze the putting greens. Need For Speed II is a racing simulation where players are immersed in a 3D world. In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a 3D action game, players control characters as they fight their way through one of 25 environments with 3D graphics.
Electronic Arts also unveiled the impressive sequel to AH-64D Longbow, Janes Longbow 2. Scheduled to ship for Win95 in the Fall of this year, this helicopter simulator will support team and head-to-head play over LAN, modem, and the Internet. Longbow 2 features an all new graphics engine, with dynamic lighting and four times the object and terrain detail of AH-64D Longbow. The Flight Simulation offers support for 3dfx acceleration.
Maxis unveiled new 3D action games including SimCity 3000 and Nightfall. SimCity 3000 features 3D graphics where virtual mayors can watch citizens from 50,000 feet in the air. SimCity also supports progressive rendering that allows for greater image detail with subsequent images. Nightfall is a 3D action vehicle combat game where players are challenged with battle conditions. More information on Maxis games can be found at their Web site.
Eidos Interactive featured many new PC games at E3. Included in the list were Deathtrap Dungeon, a 3D action/combat game in a 3D environment, and Forsaken, an adventure/exploration game with coloring in Direct 3D and animated 3D characters. Other games which feature 3D include, Lunatik, Omikron, Plague and Tomb Raider 2.
3Dfx Interactive showed accelerated game titles including Quake 2 from id Software, Wipeout XL and G Police from Psygnosis and NHL Hockey 98 from Electronic Arts. Other games featured were Tomb Raider 2 from Eidos Interactive and SWIV from Interplay.
SegaSoft, Inc. introduced HEAT, a new Internet gaming network. HEAT will feature new titles HEAT Warz, Net Fighter, Alien Race, Scud Online and community features such as chat rooms, bulletin boards, e-mail, and member web pages. Access to the service is free, but members who pay an annual fee will receive added features, exclusive games, and participation in special events. HEAT.NET will be able to accommodate 250,000 members and will have dedicated Mpath servers to host the network.
SegaSoft also announced that they have agreed with PostLinear Entertainment to create an open market for digital goods and services on HEAT.NET. This agreement will enable members of HEAT to buy sell, own and trade digital objects within the network. HEAT is expected to launch later this summer and can be found at:
Activision, Inc. showcased many of its new PC games. Included in the showcase was Sin, a first-person 3D action game which uses id Softwares Quake engine. Twinsens Odyssey, an adventure game which features animated 3D characters was also introduced. The suggested retail price for both games is $49.95.
Activision also announced it will launch an online gaming service that will support all of its companys multi-player capable games. The service, which is expected this fall, will allow gamers to connect through a button within the game. It will feature refined player matching, player rankings, automatic game updates, and chat rooms. Activision also plans to track the results of multi-player games and calculate win-loss ratios and other statistics to create rankings. These rankings will allow players to match up with players of equal or greater skill and accomplishment. More information on the new service can be found at:
GT Interactive Acquires SingleTrac
At E3, GT Interactive Software Corp. announced that they have entered into an agreement to acquire SingleTrac in a stock and cash transaction. Upon approval of the acquisition, SingleTrac will become a fully integrated GT Interactive development studio. SingleTracs employees will remain with the company, while it develops approximately three to four titles a year for next-generation video game systems and PCs. The first SingleTrac title to be published by GT Interactive is Critical Depth, an action adventure game unveiled at E3. Critical Depth will be available for Sony PlayStation in November with a suggested retail price of $49.95.
Miller Freeman launched the online site www.gamasutra.com, a technical and community support site for game designers, game programmers, game artists, animators, sound engineers and marketing specialists. The site will feature original content on game design and production, a NewsWire with industry analysis and press releases, a job search section, vendor directories and design and development tool reviews.
VIRTUAL ON CyberTroopers
NEC Electronics and VideoLogic announced the launch of Sega Enterprises PC game, VIRTUAL ON CyberTroopers for Power VR. VIRTUAL ON will bring arcade-quality games to the PC using the PowerVR 3D graphics accelerator. The PowerVRs 3D graphics capability allows for 3D characters and a 3D environment on the PC. VIRTUAL ON is a 3D, network-enabled adventure game featuring eight Virtualoid robots and 360-degree movement.
Matrox introduced their Rainbow Runner Studio, a companion card for Matrox Mystique high performance 2D/3D graphics accelerators. The Rainbow Runner Studio offers professional quality video editing with high resolution Motion-JPEG compression, video conferencing, frame grabbing, output to TV, and hardware MPEG decoding. The expected sales price is $249.00. The Rainbow Runner Studio will be shipping in June 97, while the Millennium II version will be available Q3 97.
Pixel Web Site
In WAVE Issue 714.3 we reported on the Roncarelli Report. The address for information is:
715.4 E3 Atlanta: At the Center of Consumer 3D Action by John Latta and Jonathan Sunberg
E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo.) has become the premier event for PC and video console entertainment. This is where games for Q4 are rolled out and Douglas Lowenstein, president of IDSA (Interactive Digital Software Association) estimated that 1,500 new titles were announced. Intel also used E3 to announce the Pentium II for the home. On the show floor few can match the extravagance of the booths even COMDEX. Booths have multiple levels and even walkways. Some exhibitors even paid to have the escalators to the show floor only go down to provide a forced entry to their booths (which displeased no end of attendees known as negative marketing).
In spite of the festive atmosphere and busy aisles all was not rosy at E3. In a move which many questioned, this was the first of what will be a two year-in-a-row show run in Atlanta. While the exhibit space rose 40,000 square feet to 528,000 the attendance fell 20,000.
1997: 37,100 Attendees 485 Exhibitors 1,500 New Titles
1996: 57,100 Attendees 400 Exhibitors 1,700 New Titles
1995: 40,000 Attendees 300 Exhibitors 1,300 New Titles
Part of this fall was claimed to be Atlantas lack of walk-in traffic. Another deterring factor could have been the rise of Exhibit-Only registration, from $50 in LA to $75 in Atlanta. The conference will take place in Atlanta, once again in 1998, but the 1999 site has yet to be determined.
We came away from E3 with the following key points:
3D is at the center of the shifts in entertainment content;
The PC has taken the image quality and game diversity edge over home video games; and
The home entertainment market remains very competitive and the advantage continues to shift to the larger companies.
Intel Roles out Home PC Strategy
Using the theme "The PC: Its where the fun is!" Andy Grove gave the Friday keynote. He made the point that PC in the home is at a strategic inflection point (SIP) where major changes are about to occur (Reference: Only the Paranoid Survive). Consistent with his theme at last falls COMDEX he reiterated the competition for leisure time and todays major attractant for consumer time is television (5 hours per person per day). Thus, the PC industry is in a "war for eyeballs" to gain more consumer attention. Andy cited statistics that TV viewing by those that own PCs dropped by ˝. He sees "three factors that characterize our future (the video game industry): new users, new technologies and new delivery mechanisms."
Andy Grove stated that the PC industry has an advantage over the console industry because it already has an installed base that goes beyond the "8 to 17 year old male group" that currently holds "90 percent" of the video game market. In order to have broad appeal the PC needs increased performance and capabilities that includes for example, digital video capture and digital video on-line editing. What technology should be used to address these issues? Intels new Pentium II PCs, of course. He stated that Pentium II systems will hit mainstream market around Christmas and will sell for approximately $2500.
Intels solutions were highlighted with the following points and demonstrations: arcade games are moving to the PC, the PC is an excellent game platform especially with AGP, digital content creation can be extended to the home and there is potential for a DVD enabled living room PC, including connectivity with the Internet. In the last demonstration a personal concert was shown via Intels Proshare videoconferencing. Likewise Intels booth, off the show floor, was structured around 4 themes: Play Zones, Music Pod, PC Theater, DVD Studio and the PC Creativity Zone.
During interviews Intel also disclosed that the AGP 4X specification will be released in Q4.
PC vs. Home Consoles
As reported in WAVE 713.6, the competition between the PC platform and home video game market is increasingly brutal. In the first two E3s the focus was on when Nintendo 64 would ship and pricing battles between the home consoles. Keynotes were given by the home console leaders and the PC was a small player in comparison. This year the mind share had shifted. Home consoles have established their presence while being engaged in a bruising market war. Sega Saturn, if the space dedicated to it in the Sega booth is any measure, is history. Even Sega was pushing its on line presence, HEAT, and PC titles. In total, this year was the first one where the PC dominated the event and showed its grains as the PC becomes a viable game play platform against the home consoles.
Before the conference got underway, IDSA, host of E3, held a pre-conference press breakfast. Larry Probst, Chairman of Electronic Arts (EA), spoke of the rising installed base of Multimedia PCs and Video Game Consoles. Mr. Probst, still an obvious supporter of consoles because of EAs powerful console sports titles, stated that while he "sees an increase in PC gaming he does not believe that it will greatly affect console gaming." He then went on to reveal that this year EA "produces about 2/3 console vs. 1/3 PC, next year it will be about 65/35, and in 1999 about 60/40." If this shift is occurring in EAs business we wonder how the PC cannot significantly impact home consoles?
The PC versus console issue was raised once again at a roundtable session. Scott Sellers of 3Dfx joined Victor Varney of Intel, Jason Robar of Microsoft, and Kelt H. Reeves of Falcon Computers to discuss emerging PC Technologies.
Mr. Sellers gave the strongest support for PC gaming when he described criteria for the "compelling 3D game experience." In order to appeal to the masses 3D games must become more interactive, which means games will have to run at an absolute minimum of 30 fps. He described the current state of interactive games comprising of 3 groups:
Barely interactive: 5-10 fps (i.e. Myst) Interactive: 20-30 fps (i.e. Quake) Very Interactive: 60 fps (i.e. Virtua Fighter 3)
Mr. Sellers went further to state that although games "without 3D hardware acceleration offer good realism, their interactivity is still lacking." Thus 3Dfx feels that the future for 3D acceleration will occur through a high volume of cards with the following characteristics:
1997: 70 Mp/s 1.5M Triangles/second 620x480 Resolution
Perspective Correction Bilinear Filtering Per-pixel Mip-mapping
1998: 100-125 Mp/s 2-3M Triangles/second 800x600 Resolution
Texture Compositing Multi-pass Rendering Full Scene Z-buffering
1999: 200-250 Mp/s 4-5M Triangles/second 1024x768 Resolution
Full Scene Anti-aliasing Geometry Morphing Non-polygonal Geometry
This was a theme that we saw repeated by the game developers on the show floor acceleration provides for frame rate escalation and this is the single largest factor in improving game play.
Victor Varney of Intel further supported the acceleration theme, when he displayed Intels predictions for 3D-accelerator penetration in Worldwide Home PCs:
1996: 30% 1997: 78% 1998: 95% 1999: 99%
Mr. Varney went on to say that he sees four important trends that will lead to increased PC gaming: the advent of the Pentium II processor, AGP architecture, DVD, and USB (Universal Serial Bus). The processor will increase game performance, AGP will reduce the bandwidth tension of the present-day bus, DVD he cited will be "CD-ROM on steroids", and USB will enhance gaming peripherals, through USB joysticks, cameras, speakers, and more.
The IDSA Web site is still under construction.
Mysts Sequel, Rivens, First Public Appearance
Red Orb Productions, a division of Broderbund, gave a sneak preview of Riven, the sequel to Myst. Rivens creators, Rand Miller, Robyn Miller, and Richard Vander Wende answered questions and demonstrated a short scene from the game. Riven, like Myst, is a pre-rendered 3D adventure for the PC.
Riven will start exactly where Myst ends, but the creators assured the audience that gamers would not have to be familiar with Myst in order to play. Although the creators were a bit hesitant in revealing too much about the game it will contain more characters integrated within the environment. Riven differs from Myst in that it was created with SGI machines and not on Macs. The creators felt that running SoftImage 3-D rendering software would be the best way to create the increased amount of animation. The developers were also able to take advantage of technologies such as full screen animation, stereo sound, and faster CD-ROMs, which were not available during the making of Myst.
Riven is expected to be available this Fall. Red Orb has set up a web site dedicated to the game.
Oak Technology WARP 5 Shown for the First Time
With silicon barely 2 weeks old Oak Technology showed the first images from is WARP 5 chip. This processor is based on a region concept, which has many similarities to Microsofts Talisman architecture. The chip processes each region at a time and does on chip z-sorting and anti-aliasing. As a result the chip does 24 bit floating point z, sub-pixel anti-aliasing, order independent translucency, non-linear fogging and atmospheric effects and MIP-Mapping. In the booth, direct comparisons were being shown with the 3Dfx Voodoo with impressive image quality results. Typically, such region based architectures are gated by the number of polygons that can be processed per region but Oak claims that there are no such limitations in the WARP 5.
The specifications include:
50m pixels/sec (all features turned on) EDO and SGRAM Memory Supported 8MB On-chip Texture Cache 2D GUI acceleration Video Scaling in Y VBI support Including Intercast 220MHz RAMDAC Resolutions to 1600 X 1200 Direct 3D and Brender APIs supported OS support Windows 95 and Windows NT Packaging 256 pin BGA Pin Compatibility with OAK OTI-74217 EON 2D GUI accelerator
Not announced was OpenGL and AGP support.
WARP 5 will sample in July to OEMs, they expect to announce design wins in Q3 and ship quantities in Q4. Pricing is $35 in OEM quantities.
The WAVE Report used E3 to gain the views of a number of the key companies in the industry. In this our E3 report we highlight a number of company perspectives.
Company Perspective - Matrox
Matrox has a simple goal To be the #1 (revenue) branded graphics board vendor in the world. A private company they are already running at $500m (US $) per year. For business products their strategy is to have the best business products at the volume price points. On the consumer side they want to retain and expand on their position of the best selling graphics card in retail. When consumers have a choice Matrox expects to remain #1.
A factor, which they regard to be their core strategy is stability this includes drivers, games to be played and even video. For example, all of the Millenium and Mystique graphics products have the same drivers.
To implement their strategy they have both a card and OEM business. In volume of business 60% goes to OEMs and 40% to distribution (retail).
Company Perspective ATI
ATI takes a contrary view of 3D it is not a separate market from what it does today. Quite simply they see their strategy focused on consumer demands the PC should provide a pleasant visual experience, that the computer should run well and have the best content. To implement this they seek to provide the visual solution of choice for the PC marketplace. A key discriminator is their use of cutting edge technology. Today, in the RAGE Pro, this is the only chip shipping with AGP 2X support and what they describe as brute horsepower in 3D. This is consistent with their goal of having the best technology for the mass market. They have no interest in small or niche markets. The company is focused on those segments which are visual and rapidly growing.
ATI speaks with pride on how they continue to be the first to market with new technology for the main stream, SGRAM and AGP being two examples. With this emphasis on being at the leading edge of technology ATI views their products as being the direct result of their Intellectual Property (IP). To them they are both an IP and software company. Over 50% of the technical staff are in software. At the same time to bring this technology to market ATI does its designs based on features and price point that is, how much functionality and performance can be included in a $30 part.
The company feels it essential that 2D importance not be sacrificed in the quest for 3D. The RAGE Pro 2D performance is at 120 Winmarks under Windows 95. They also have full MPEG-2 decode with a Pentium II and can scale video in both X & Y. By the same token they describe the 3D engine as one which "any game can be thrown at it." The 3D capabilities include floating point set up engine, 1.2M triangles/sec and 45m bilinear pixels/sec.
The company only sells its chips to OEMs and not to independent card companies. However, ATI supplies chips to themselves for their own branded cards. 60% of the $ volume of the company is in cards. In units, chips out sell cards by 2.5 to 1. In 1996 it sold 4m units and expects to do from 10 12 m units in 1997. ATI claims that already in 1997 that it has been very successful in the AGP and OEM wins.
The company characterizes Talisman technology as interesting. This is very consistent with the company wanting to move 3D technology forward.
MotionFactory Motivate System Launched
At E3 Motion Factor unveiled its Motivate system product. This allows developers to create intelligent digital actors whose motion can be generated on the fly and which responds to events in the scene. The emphasis is on walking and body part movement. The product is focused on what they describe as next generation games those with intelligent moving individuals in them.
There are two parts: a tool and the runtime. The run time component has a rich set of features that include an actor editor, skill editor, behavior editor, and motion intelligence. Characters can be accepted from virtually any standard 3D packages including 3D Studio MAX and Softimage. Motion Factor differentiates two components of the 3D game that results. The game logic, which today is typically done in C++ would be done as C++ code but as an extension to Motivate. The scene elements can be done by standard platforms including tools from these companies: Datapath, Paradigm and MultiGen. When played back one must use the Motivate run time module for the game experience.
System pricing is $25,000 for first time users and $25,000 for the technology use in one title without restriction on the number of copies. The company is in the last stages of beta and they expect to ship by the end of September. Because of the demand at E3 , they expect to offer what was characterizes as an "access program" which is expected to begin on 15 July. Both Windows 95 and Windows NT are supported.
We asked if facial animation is supported. The response was that this could be done but with an external module. Such animations are not a part of Motivate.
TriTech Shifting Strategies
TriTechs first Pyramid3D part, the 202, has not been well received apparently no OEM orders have been collected. This part is sampling now but lacks a VGA core that OEMs consider essential. The 202 part was being shown but only with a simple scene that highlighted the chip features fog and bump mapping. When asked where are other game titles they did not have any to show because the current games do not exploit their chip features.
The next product in the Pyramid3D family is the 204 and it will have a VGA core. Following shortly thereafter will be 203, which builds upon the 204 by adding a geometry engine. Both the 203 and 204 will be sampled by COMDEX. Target price for a card that includes the Pyramid3D chip is $199. The company refuses to disclose chip prices.
715.5 Points to Ponder By John Latta
Intel has laid out a carefully crafted story for Q4. The top end consumer machine to buy for Christmas 1997 is a Pentium II with a price point slightly above the sweet spot of the market. This system could have AGP that will give a significant boost to 3D performance. In addition, the family can do many more things with this PC including video editing. Thus, if you want the best go for the Pentium II. This will make everyone happy at Christmas or will it?
Below the surface lie important issues that could impact this strategy.
No company or, in fact, even the PC industry is capable of shaping consumer demand. Intel is attempting to make the transition to Pentium II when it is not capable of fully supporting the demand if this becomes the machine of choice in Q4. Thus, stimulating demand for Pentium II while still maintaining demand for the older Pentium computers is critical to making sure warehouses are not full of Pentium chips which have been bypassed by consumers.
Raising the expectations for computers accelerated with AGP chips is risky in that the strategy for supporting AGP is incomplete. Open issues include: Windows 95 support, numbers of systems with AGP core logic chip sets, and availability of 3D AGP chips. If the industry raises the expectation level for AGP and cannot deliver this will only depress PC demand. Andy Grove highlighted in a demo how important AGP will be in 3D performance and this signals what consumers should be looking for.
Speculation is rampant about the Intel 740 chip that is an AGP 3D accelerator. This is Intels entry into visual computing with both 2D and 3D capabilities. It will compete directly with S3, ATI, Matrox and virtually any company supplying a mainstream 2D and 3D part. In spite of the fact that Intel continues to downplay this there is rampant speculation about the chip and what Intels entry could mean. The more information which leaks into the press, the more likely it is to impact consumer buying patterns and only on the down side.
In many respects Intel has done much to paint itself in its own corner. In order to fuel demand for PCs with ever higher MIP levels it paints an ever brighter picture of what the computing will be like. Right now the future is visual computing and the home PC experience. Yet consumers fear spending money unwisely and they buy for the future. With replacement cycles running 3 4 years buying forward is very important. In order to implement the future Intel must continually seed its key partners with new technology. All of this creates a feeding frenzy that spins out of Intels control. Intel is seen as a firm that maintains the tightest controls of its own information in the industry Intels NDAs are well know. Yet, this control only serves to fuel speculation especially in those areas that Intel is moving to extend its dominant control the 740 being a prime example. The industry now finds itself on the verge of an uncertain Q4 for many reasons. We believe that Andy Groves inflection point analogy with the home PC is a valid one. At the same time he counseled that it is very difficult to predict future directions during such periods of high instability. We agree.
Another AGP issue continued to surface during E3 that has the potential of being a "consumer time bomb." If a PC has an AGP accelerator on the motherboard it cannot be upgraded. There will be no aftermarket card business on these machines. We received a range of responses on this issue. One camp claims that in 6 24 months that many consumers will be very disappointed when they find out that they cannot buy the latest and best 3D accelerator for the hot AGP system they purchased a relatively short time ago. Another camp sees it differently in that AGP "down" will only be for the lowest cost systems and these buyers will not have any expectation of upgrades. We find it too early to call how this issue will go. However, it ranks as a potential major issue if consumers are not well informed. The responsibility lies across the PC food chain from Intel, to the OEM and even the retail outlet. Just as the <$1,000 PC is intended to bring a new class of buyers to the market these machines represent the low end of the envelope of upgradability. When it comes to AGP let the buyer beware should also be the hallmark.
As the 4X AGP specification is being developed we picked up some important tidbits. In its current state parts created for 4X will not be downward compatible in 1X and 2X AGP systems. Likewise early AGP chips will not work in 4X systems. All the more reason for the AGP buyer to beware.
In our analysis of the evolution of the 3D market it has become apparent that significant events shape the industry in long term ways. Some of these include the 3Dlabs 300SX chip, the 3Dfx Voodoo chip and Microsofts Direct3D. This is not to imply that every event has had a corresponding impact in the market Microsofts Direct3D is still in its formative stages and evolving. In 3D accelerators the pacing item is performance and image quality. Certainly the 3Dfx Voodoo, in spite of small volumes, has set the performance and image quality standard. Vendor after vendor now says " we have 3Dfx performance levels or better." We believe that the Oak Technology WARP 5 accelerator is another part that will shape the industry. The key feature is anti-aliasing. The image quality bar has been raised again. It will be months, if not years to determine if this part will be successful, however, having anti-aliasing in a main stream part will be required going forward for all new parts.
We came away amazed at TriTechs approach to the market. They were not even showing 3D games at the premier game show. Secret pricing is of days long passed. Buyers look for price, features, performance and availability. TriTech apparently feels that making their price known is not important to their positioning. We disagree.
Copyright 1997 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.