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-- by Lori L. Bloomer
The closest most of us get to creating magical landscapes is building sand castles as children. MetaTools aims to restore that magic with Bryce 2.0, a real-time, 3-D, scene-generation application that gives you the power to shape the world.
Bryce (named for Utah's scenic Bryce Canyon) has improved the realism of its effects; they now behave in ways that are closer to what you'll see in the real world. For example, textures change according to slope, altitude and orientation. The render geometry of each individual object remains intact even when grouped with another object. This allows you to overlap items for effect or meld multiple objects to create a single item. For example, several boulders can be grouped to create Stonehenge.
The program's anti-aliasing is superior. Bryce supports not only normal anti-aliasing functions-which render an image twice and take the average of the two results-but also includes a Fine Art level of anti-aliasing that provides a higher degree of overall realism. Bryce's wireframes are anti-aliased in real-time, smoothing edges and cleaning up an image as you observe.
The textures in Bryce are based on nine-times oversampled genuine ray tracing as opposed to the more common (and less realistic) two-dimensional textures applied to surfaces. If you can't find what you want among the many texture presets, a shuffle function will generate additional textures.
Bryce's Terrain Editor allows you to paint valleys, lakes and other custom natural features directly onto your terrain. Other tools include a Randomize Sky option, which generates skies and clouds automatically, as well as controls for fog, clouds, sunlight, rock texture and multiple light sources.
Pricing for Bryce 2.0 is much lower than most 3-D tools with this level of power. Any aspiring landscaper with a hankering to make scenic magic with a PC will find using Bryce a breathtaking experience.