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Fusion: The Game of the Future, Part II
February 19th, 1999

Randy: Well, Gary, where did we leave off last week?

Gary: You were scared. I was a visionary. And I called you a fuzzball.

Randy: Oh, yeah, and a little idea we called Fusion was being discussed. As I remember it we had brought up the idea of fusing different game engines together to create a totally free gaming environment.

Gary: That's right. A single game where a gamer could play some of the story in a pre-rendered point and click environment and then go outside explore using a VR engine. Next, they jump in a plane and fly a fantastic dogfight in a flight sim environment. Then they could run from the plane to the hangar in a first-person shooter engine, blasting everything in sight. And all game styles would be woven seamlessly into one wide-open game.

Randy: But I know what people out there are asking, "How did we elect a sex-crazed, draft-dodging, pothead to the office of president? Why didn't we see it back then? Why are we surprised now?"

Gary: Hello? Earth to Randy. We were talking about our Fusion idea…

Randy: Oh, yeah… Our readers are probably thinking of different questions, like: "Is this fusion thing possible? Aren't the engines for these game styles too different? Wouldn't it be too confusing? How would it all fit on a CD?"

Gary: Well never fear, timid readers. With the advent of DVD, space will not be an issue. More and more, it is getting affordable to license existing game engines. And I am absolutely convinced that properly done, by using sound, as well as layering techniques, the experience would be very natural, creating a more immersive game experience.

By setting user conventions like mouse input as a consistent form of navigation, the player would feel comfortable stepping between these different styles of game play whether he or she is in a generated-on-the-fly 3D cavern or a pre-rendered ancient temple. Another approach might be setting all outside scenes in the 3D engine and all interior scenes in VR nodes. That would create a paradigm that the player would easily understand.

Randy: At this point, people may be saying, "Sure, I could play a game like that," or, "I would love a game like that. Why hasn't someone already made a game like that?" Or maybe they're saying, "What are these Idiots smoking? How in Hades could someone make a game like that?" To answer, let's backup a bit and explain a tiny bit about how most games are made these days.

Traditionally, games are made one of two ways. One way is they are built in authoring environments like Macromedia Director or the brutally murdered mTropolis (thanks a lot, Quark). These games use pre-rendered art or QuickTime VR and Lingo to create their visuals and interactivity. These types of games are called low-tech. Games like Riven and Obsidian fall into this category. They usually require little "programming" and a lot of production time on game design, creating the art. Game makers like ourselves let the authoring shell take care of the low-level stuff while we worry about the overall design and keeping the fridge stocked with beer.

Gary: Mmmmmm, beer... Oh! While on the other side of the game spectrum there are the high-tech games. The games are programmed from the ground up by serious low level code jockeys who create their worlds as they program them. Games like Quake and Unreal are in this category. These games draw their worlds on the fly, using 3D libraries like OpenGL, and require months or years to develop and program. Programmers sweat all the low-level details on these types of games to bring speed and playability to their title. If you have ever looked at the underbelly of the Mac OS from this point of view you would see why John Carmack "dislikes" the Mac OS. He hates the low-level stuff, because that's where he lives.

However, level editors like the excellent Quiver, for Quake, let you design levels yourself, using simple, familiar 3D drawing tools. More on that later.

Randy: So from these two perspectives, it seems impossible that these two divergent styles of game creation could ever meet on common ground. It would be like trying to get Aerosmith to do a concert with the Spice Girls.

But wait! There are some new products out there for developers that could bridge the two worlds. A company called Shells Interactive Film-Art Ltd. has put out a Director Extra called 3D Dreams that allows game creators to add high-tech 3D worlds to their low-tech Director based games.

Gary: This means that a shell like Director can handle all the QuickTime and VR parts of a game while the 3D Dreams Xtra would handle all the on-the-fly 3D graphics stuff. The beauty of a game design like this is that calls can be made in the 3D world and passed back and forth between QuickTime and VR nodes to trigger events in either side of the game.

Randy: 3D Dreams adds over 80 new Lingo commands to control aspects of your 3D world and script behaviors for the objects in that world. This kind of functionality between the two types of game styles would allow game makers to create the kind of titles we are talking about, with seamless integration between 3D and QuickTime.

Between QuickTime VR and OpenGL.

Between pre-rendered graphical adventures and live 3D adventure!

Between Jerry Falwell and the TeleTubbies.

Gary: Focus, Randy, focus! Do we need to refill your Ritalin prescription already?

Technologies like Shells Interactive's 3D Dreams are still in their infancy at version 1.1. In fact, the Mac version of this Extra isn't due until Q2 of '99. But they present possibilities for the future of gaming. Other Xtras like Live Picture's Real VR have promised to bring 3D, in the form of VRML, into the Director realm, but in our experience they have been too raw in their implementation to really use for gaming purposes. Maybe that's why Live Picture no longer offers Real VR. However 3D Dreams looks like a much more flexible and robust engine for 3D. It even allows access to hardware acceleration cards for real performance where it counts.

Randy: Currently 3D Dreams allows you to import models from your favorite 3D program or use their existing library of models. What would be sweet is a Quiver-type editor for the 3D worlds that you want to import into Director. Imagine if Director one day reached the ease of use that mTropolis had, combined with the ease of use of a Quiver-type editor for the high-tech 3D stuff, combined with an Extra like 3D Dreams to mesh the two together. You would have Fusion. Unbelievable, the-sky's-the-limit, no-holds-barred, wear-your Pampers-when-you-play games could be created by anyone. Even Idiots like us!

Gary: Now if we could just get the Spice Girls over here…

Randy: No way, dude, we'll get Aerosmith. They rock!

Gary: Who's face would you rather see here in the cave? Steven Tyler's or Posh Spice's?

Randy: Good point. Just as long as they don't sing.

Gary: See you next week, folks.

Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.

The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.

You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .

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