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Where Are They Now?

In search of the graveyard of old 3D graphics software
Monday 13 January 2014.

Some old software dies of neglect, some is killed and some just fades away…

When I recently wrote a review of the latest release of e-on Software’s 3D terrain designer, Vue, I was reminded of another impressive terrain generator called MojoWorld. This seems to be in that sad category of old software which has just been left to fade away. While not officially dead, Pandromeda’s MojoWorld doesn’t show many obvious signs of life either. The last sign of any activity on the Pandromeda web site is a press release dated April, 2006. You can still download the demo of MojoWorld and, in principle, you can buy the commercial release. However, with the web site itself looking so desolate and forgotten, it is hard to have much confidence in MojoWorld’s long-term future.

This is a shame. I like MojoWorld. It is different, innovative and beautiful. Whereas other landscape software lets you design mountains and valleys a piece at a time like some monomaniac theatre set designer, MojoWorld takes a radically different approach. It lets you generate huge fractal planets. When you want a particular ‘scene’ you have to explore the planet in search of an existing ‘location’. Possibly this is not the most convenient way of generating 3D landscapes ‘to order’ for film and TV. But it was nevertheless a breathtakingly wonderful idea and I for one am sorry that MojoWorld has been left to languish in dusty corner of the web.

For more on MojoWorld, see my interview with its creator, Dr Kenton ‘Doc Mojo’ Musgrave.

Amorphium is just one of the 3D programs that I once loved but seems now to have been largely forgotten…

Thinking of 3D graphics programs that have been left to fade away, I soon began to wonder whatever became of Electric Image’s Amorphium. I last look at this way back in 2003 and I was mightily impressed. This is what I wrote in my column in ‘PC Plus Magazine’….

"Electric Image’s Amorphium 3 graphics program ($139) is a difficult product to review. Mainly because every time I use it, hours go by without a single word being written. It’s like being given a toy and then told to write about it. Well, sorry, but I’d rather play with it.

"A great many 3D graphics programs are worthy but, ultimately, dull. Electric Image’s high-end package, Universe, falls into this category. Hugely powerful it undoubtedly is, nevertheless, the pulse does not race, the heart does not skip a beat when the time comes to use it.

"While Amorphium 3 is not in the same league as Universe, it is a powerful tool in its own right. In addition to a traditional ‘mesh’ modeller it has a ‘wax’ modeller that lets you mould objects and biospheres that flow into one other like blobs of oil. In this new release it has also gained a modelling tool that lets you deform objects smoothly by tugging at an invisible ‘cage’ around it. Other graphics programs call this ‘subdivision surface’ modelling. Amorphium characteristically uses the more down-to-earth name, Tin, which suggests (I think) the way of squashing an object into a shape as you might crumple a tin can.

"The previous version of Amorphium was promoted principally as a Flash tool for Web based animation. Even though it has now clearly broken out of its self-imposed niche, Amorphium 3 still does Flash well. It can render Flash graphics with optional outlines and in varying levels of detail which may include gradient fills, surface patterns, shadows and specular highlights."

I rather liked Amorphium. It let you ‘sculpt’ 3D models almost as though they were made of virtual clay

While I haven’t heard that Amorphium has been discontinued, all I can say for sure is that, if it still exists at all, it is pretty well hidden. It still gets a mention on this old Electric Image blog but I can’t find any signs of a download or ‘buy now’ link either there or on the main Electric Image site.

And finally, whatever became of Caligari Corporation’s trueSpace? Once upon a time this was one of the better known 3D modelling and animation packages. In various forms, it had been around since the mid 1980s. It could be said to occupy the ‘high-end amateur’ or ‘low-end professional’ niche of the market. So when I tried to log onto the Caligari web site at www.caligari.com recently I was surprised to find that the domain was for sale!

Now I must admit that I was never one of trueSpace’s biggest fans. It’s been over ten years since the last time I used the software and I wasn’t all that complementary, admitting to my “love/hate relationship” with its “icon-cluttered workplace”. Even so, at that time it had a community of dedicated users who clearly liked trueSpace more than I did. So I was surprised to find that not only the software but even the entire company no longer existed. I turned to Wikipedia for more information.

Here I discovered that Caligari Corporation had been bought out by Microsoft (“Why?” was the question that popped unbidden into my mind) and, having bought it, Microsoft then discontinued trueSpace in May 2009. Anyway, the good news for trueSpace lovers is that, after its demise, trueSpace continues to live on, zombie-like, in a free edition. The only slight problem is that since the official download site was the Caligari web site and since that web site no longer exists, you may have to do some searching to find the free software. Let me save you the effort. It turns out that it is available on quite a few sites such as CNet. However, as far as I can determine, there is no ongoing development so the future of trueSpace is far from assured.

It’s not all depressing news, however. While some old software languishes, new software keeps coming along to take its place. I’ll be writing about some 3D graphics packages which I’ve been using recently – and some of the best of these have the added advantage of being completely free.

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