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3D in Director

February 23, 1999
by Alex Zavatone

I've been dying to write about this for a while but now I've got no excuse. Pretty soon, there will be three players in Director's 3D Xtra market, Virtus, 3DGroove and Shells. I'd been holding out because I haven't been able to take a look at the Shells Xtra but I just can't wait any longer. I've been jet setting out at the Virtus Stomping grounds in North Carolina and seen their goods, kicked the boxes out of the way as the Groove elves invaded my apartment/Tequila stash and then played "I don't want to dance with her, you take her" with American and Scott Kevill*. As if that was not enough, Scott and I played "my PowerBook is better than yours" with a Quake Deathmatch and a "show me the cool things that you're working on for the next release of Quiver". In essence I am being thrown into the world of 3D like it or not.

I think we're all going to like it.

After spending more than a few late hours designing quake levels with Quiver, there is a realization that diving into creating 3D worlds to be incorporated into Director titles and Shockwaves will require a new way of thinking. Much like Director is a media integration tool, the 3D worlds that you can create in the upcoming Director tools are made up of objects, entities, textures and scripts that must be integrated into a world that can be placed in Director. Then you'll need scripts in Director to talk with the 3D world. Initially, you'd use a 3D content creation app like 3D studio max to create your objects and use a media integration tool (supplied with Virtus's and 3DGroove's xtras) to place them in the world you plan to insert into a Director or Shockwave movie. No matter how different the process is, these xtras definitely lower the bar for the production of interactive 3D content.

The first question on everyone's mind is probably, "Gee, does that mean that I can create the next 3D gaming sensation and buy 10 Ferraris?" I don't really have an answer here. 3D capabilities aside, all the popular 3D games out today have serious networking code with things like server and client side player movement prediction. If you want that capability, you'll have to write that and I'm betting that Director 7's multi user server may fall a bit short. We need open sockets man or thine ass is rocket fodder.

Now one must think that a 3D engine running in Director will be no way near as fast as the custom engines that power games like Unreal, Quake & the like, but will they be "fast enough"? I think so. Remember that Quake is 2 year old technology with a limited polygon count. Try designing your own levels and you'll find out just how limited it really is. I've only seen the current engines running in software and surprisingly, they can pump out the polygons to really display a 3D world. Kudos to Dave Smith & Jules Urbach.

But games schmames. The market is currently littered with 3D games and only a few standouts are worth the money. In my book, Unreal is uhhhhh lame. Half Life, though longer than War & Peace held Zac's and my attention more than any other game well since Doom. Do you think you create something that will compete with that? Think about other things that would be appropriate to display in 3D in a window within Director. Take those corporate presentations and spice them up with a 3D model of the product your client is selling - one that they can take apart. Think education and take that boring chemistry CD-ROM and model the molecules so that the students can actually see them combining to create a new compound. Model the solar system for an education trip on a space probe from the Earth to Jupiter. Make that CE for Harley Davidson that lets you build your bike online and order it. Illustrate the beer brewing process. (Ok, that one was a stretch.)

If you've never tried building a 3D world and want to get started, try downloading Quiver (Mac) or Worldcraft (PC) and create a Quake level. If you have half a smidgeon of imagination, you'll be creating 3D worlds with ten times the impact of yours truly. Below for your viewing pleasure, a screenshot of a 3D groove world running on my Laptop in Director and a few Quake "Experiments" to get the creative process brewing. And as always, ENJOY! - Zav

The Groove Allliance:

* American McGee - Worked at Id on Doom and Quake. Created levels that have wasted man years of my life. Aspiring Ski bum.

Scott Kevill - Just out of college in Perth, has finished the definitive editor for Quake on the Mac: Quiver. One of the 2 out of 3 Aussies who have not gotten ill as a result of my driving.

A Director user since 1987, Alex (Zav) Zavatone has worked on the engineering teams for both Director and Shockwave, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Recent investigations find him developing foundation classes for Director with asynchronous process management and other life threatening activities. In its early days, he had something to do with this Internet thing known as "DOUG". A noted ne'erdowell, slacker and laggard, Mr. Zavatone is nonetheless is trusted by children, small animals and the elderly. In his spare time, Mr. Zavatone rehabilitates lame desert trout.

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