French software house Virtools promises to speed up the creation of 3D content with a new games development tool which is currently undergoing beta-testing. As the installed base of 3D-enabled PCs and consoles expands, the games industry is being forced to adopt 3D as its standard. According to industry magazine Computer Trade Week, over 60% […]
French software house Virtools promises to speed up the creation of 3D content with a new games development tool which is currently undergoing beta-testing. As the installed base of 3D-enabled PCs and consoles expands, the games industry is being forced to adopt 3D as its standard. According to industry magazine Computer Trade Week, over 60% of the PC games released this year will feature 3D graphics, and nine out of the 10 current best-selling titles are 3D-based. Costing $45,000, Nemo Dev uses a graphical user interface to manipulate, edit and embellish building blocks for computer games. Games developers can create components such as 3D models, characters and sets in the C++ object-oriented programming language and import them into Nemo Dev for editing. The objects can be moved between projects, exchanged on the Web, stored in libraries and recombined with other models. A game prototype can be created by dragging and dropping 3D objects and characters, combining these and editing them without the need to write further source code. It is a risky business developing a game based on a new concept, says Virtools’ CEO and CTO Bertrand Duplat. You have to wait 9-12 months to develop a concept before you know it will work and is fun to play. There is little economy of scale, Mr Duplat points out, so a more complex game takes even longer. Because games are hard coded, discreet programs cannot be created and there is little reuse or resale of components. Nemo lowers the development time by 30%, content can be tested at a very early stage so the risk is lowered, and it is possible to reuse and interchange all the building blocks, Mr Duplat says. This frees developers to give more attention to the artistic development of ideas. What’s more, the final quality is as good as it would be if you had used programmers throughout the process. Virtools does not eliminate the need for talent, Mr Duplat is quick to point out. What it can do is shift the emphasis in games development away from programming and on to design. Developers can play around with ideas and create a prototype without having to go to programmers for every detail. Nemo Dev is currently being beta-tested and is scheduled for release this September at a recommended price of $45,000 for five seats with additional seats costing $2,000. There will also be a flat fee for each title created using Nemo Dev. A less sophisticated product, called Nemo Creation, is to be launched by the end of the year. Also a 3D interactive development platform, Nemo Creation will allow games producers and programmers to test and view the content of their work. This is expected to cost around $2,000. Cendant Interactive, the parent company of Sierra Online, is to release a game in August which was created using older Virtools technology available last year. French games developers of various sizes are also using Virtools’ products. Virtools has projected revenues of $1.3m for the year to 30 June 1998 and $4.2m next year. The company which was started by software engineers Bertrand Duplat and Thomas Ormand in 1993, initially created interactive 3D software on Silicon Graphics workstations for manufacturers such as Airbus Industrie, Aerospatiale and Peugeot. In 1995, Virtools started creating games prototypes on PCs and ceased its work for its earlier clients. Earlier this year, it raised just under $1m from French venture capital company CDC Innovation and is looking to raise a further $4m-$5m by the end of the year. The cash is to be to spent on starting a US office and extending marketing operations worldwide. Mr Duplat has an impressive background. A graduate of ENSTA, the Paris-based engineering university and a former researcher at Canada’s McGill University, he was responsible for developing the Airbus A3XX virtual walkthrough application in 1995. At Virtools, he created the behavior engine which is at the core of Nemo Dev. Mr Ormond was formerly managing director of Microprose France and vice president of Activision Europe. He joined Virtools in January 1998 to handle its sales and marketing and general management.