The following images are screen shots taken from a demo used to test the engine, and game prototypes. An earlier version of the demo was shown at Comdex '96, and MacWorld SF '98. For more recent images, look here.They are a mix of 16 and 32 bit screen pictures drawn on a Mac using the software renderer. Certain browsers may display artifacts when reproducing the pictures. For best results try opening the images using a JPEG viewing application.


What makes this engine special?

    Why make another 3D simulation when there are so many out there? To cut a long story short, we were aiming to do something very different from the engines currently published. Most real time 3D games involve a lot of shooting, and a little puzzle solving. Just try a level of your favourite game and count how many shots you must fire or entities you kill to the number of switches clicked or objects moved into special places. This is a very succesful mix, but a lot of people who enjoy puzzle solving are missing out on the experience of real time 3d (sorry - panoramic images are not the same!). However, to date we haven't been able to buy one where there is a lot of puzzle solving and little or no violence. So we decided to make one!

    You can see the results in these pictures. However, a pretty picture is a small part of the story. Suddenly the rest of the environment has to make up for the 70% of the time spent firing shots and dodging projectiles. One thing to notice is that a lot of games use the 3D environment as hiding places for monsters, firing vantage points etc. However, how many 3D games have you played where many crucial parts of the plot are part of the 3D environment? Some games use cut scenes, or pages of text, to give away the plot, but when was the last time you read a clue on a wall?

    2D image games are really good at this. That painting on the wall, or the blue disk in the fireplace could be crucial to the meaning and solution of the plot. A good test as to how involved in the plot a 3D game is comes from asking yourself "If I swapped all the textures in this level for another lot with a similar theme and looking just as good (switch one door texture for another, or one castle wall for another), would it stop me from enjoying the game?". If the answer is no or mostly no, the textures aren't crucial to the plot - do this to a 2D game and you would kill it, as many of the clues wouldn't make sense. This means textures are really important to a puzzle solving game.

    For a 3D puzzle game, textures are crucial. They have to be detailed enough for you to read clues on them, and varied enough so there can be many significant things on them. Looking at the engines out there, they can do amazing lighting, geometry, and run at fantastic frame rates. However, ask them to cope with hundreds of detailed textures is a hard task. Our game has over 1000 different textures, most at 256x256, mip-mapped, with multiple palettes. Even this is just enough to get the story IN the environment. It's not as visually rich as the 2D games, but it's miles away from the currently available 3D games.

    Of course, we have a lot of the attributes of other 3D engines - complex environments, true 3D and 2D objects, real time lighting, physics, atmospheric and fog effects - the list goes on and on! We can have all the cut scenes and still art/movies/text that other games have, but it's much more fun to hunt for clues that are IN your world.

Power to the user

The VR hand

Real Time

View additional images

About the engine

    Products using this technology will allow users to experience rich virtual environments with unprecedented freedom of interaction in graphic adventure game settings. In addition, these environments can convey more meaningful visual cues by means of detailed textures and complex geometries.

The engine features:

  • A volumetric lighting model which enables the user to experience beautiful lighting and atmosphere in real time, through dynamic light source shading, colored fog, dust, glows, other effects.

  • Moving and manipulating objects in scenes, in addition to a shoot and switch strategy.

  • The capability to show hundreds of textures, each with a high level of detail.

  • A renderer that can run on any PowerPC, but uses the speed of 200 and 300 MHz models to show vivid and complex environments.

  • Fast software renderers for 8, 16, and 32 bit screens, utilizing complex shading and dust models, lighting coronas, and other special effects.

  • Software and hardware renderers use mip-mapping for crisp filtered texture rendering.

  • Portal rendering for dynamic scene culling and hyperspace effects.

  • Flexible physics model allows objects to be stacked, lifted, carried. Build barriers, stairways.. the possibilities are endless.

  • Support for 3D hardware via the Apple RAVE standard.

  • Tested and working on the most common RAVE based cards - over a million Macs (and rising each day) can make good use of the game. Many Performas, all iMacs and all G3 based Macs can run the engine using built in hardware 3D.

  • True 3D objects, perspective correct and face on sprites.

  • High geometrical complexity - rooms may contain hundreds of polygons, and levels may be composed of millions of polygons, all rendering at an acceptable speed.

  • Floating point values for position, textures etc. Smooth motion and animation.

  • VR hand to select, pick up and use objects during game play and/or editing.

  • Clicking on objects can link to 2D sequences of images and movies by simple text scripts, or to almost any form of AI, physics, and animation by means of C code.

  • High level C routines for AI functions - route finding, sensing other objects nearby, creating other objects, moving around.

    Our goal is to allow the user greater control over their environment, where the environment itself plays a key role in puzzle solving. Currently available products do not allow complex interactions with the 3D environment and rarely display enough information to create complex and involved puzzles. To this end, the engine has been designed specifically for environments with high information content. Moreover, data can be manipulated in complex fashions, allowing objects within the environment to affect one another in diverse manners.

Source code and tools

    On the Nightfall CD, tools and some source code are included. The list of tools is as follows:

  • An editor, for laying out the architecture, placing objects within it, setting lighting, behaviors, textures etc. A picture of the editor is here.

  • Custom resource file builder - formatting data such as images to be efficiently used by the game.

  • Custom palette builder - Nightfall requires texture palettes in a specific layout, and this tool can aid in this.

    In addition, some source code is provided, to enable you to customize the AI, user interface, puzzle behavior, and audio playback. This is packaged as a plugIn - a dynamically linked library (DLL) for Nightfall. The capabilities and potential of this requires a lot of detail. If you are interested, you can download additional information in a document here.

    The editor is the full production version - almost anything we can do, you can potentially do to. It is very powerful. For example, you can select multiple objects/areas, move them all, copy and paste them. You can also apply changes to them all e.g. select 5 areas and change the texture of all their floors, at the same time. There is a 3D preview to see what you are doing. In the preview, you can use the grab hand to pick up and move objects, as well as select and line up wall textures in 3D. There is an included document to get you started, an example level and a set of textures in PICT format, example 3D models from the game, and of course all the source code comments to explain what the values mean.

    Please note that all these tools and the source are those used to make the actual game. They have full, professional development level functionality. The user interface is 'as is', making them powerful, but difficult to use, and Altor does not provide technical support or updates. There is also a steep learning curve involved, but there is a lot that can be learnt from the tools and code, and you can do a huge amount with them.

    Product names or services may be trademarks or service marks of others.

last update: 23rd August 1999 Web Maestro