Have you ever wanted to design your very own 3D world.? Well that's precisely what this product is all about, 3D Construction Kit (the first time around) was widely received as an ideal armchair artist's program - an awful lot of people bought the original, but not many people released their own creations to a hostile world.
To be honest, the kind of 3D environments you can create with this program are not that amazing compared to current commercial standards. The clever bit, though, is that you don't need to know a lot about the Amiga or computers in general to use 3D Construction Kit. In fact, the graphics capabilities of version 2 are not radically different - but the ease of use and general flexibility of the program are.
Here's the general gist of what makes the program tick. You start off with a blank landscape - sky is up, ground is down. On this landscape you can position 3D objects to give the impression of buildings, vehicles, and people. You can add general scenery (stuff like trees) to give a bit more realism to the scenes.
You are not limited to just one landscape, or 'area' as the program calls them. You can create different areas and link them together with entrances and exits - details like the ground and sky colur can be easily changed. What 3DCK2 is very good at, though, is if you want to create a 3D game without having to learn how to program first.
A few years ago Incentive Software create a name for themselves with their 'Freescape' adventures. 3DCK2 is a direct descendant of those games, except that the programmers prefers to call the 3D system 'Superscape' because it's so different in detail if not in concept. For instance, things like spheres and teleporters were missing from the originals, because the propular home computers back then were the rather slow Spectrum, CPC, and C64 (not that C64s aren't popular even now).
On an Amiga with a standard 68000, this program is still pretty slow, because of all the slow but nice extras. One other factor involving speed is that 3dCK2 fully multitasks, as do the games and worlds it produces. Ok, so the program is slower as a result - but the nice thing is that it works all right on the A1200, where it runs at a usable speed.
It's an important consideration. You're sitting there, all fired up to start clicking madly and the program takes a while to catch up. Testing different features can be a pain, until you get used to which function does what.
But there are three bundled features to help you get started. One is a tutorial video, which wasn't included in the review sample so I can't comment on it. Two is a disk full of predefined objects. This is extremely useful, because if a preset object isn't quite what you had in mind, you can edit it to your heart's content. Three is the manual, which is not very technical at all for the most part. Instead it concentrates more on a hands-on tutorial approach, using simple language to describe what's going on.
There are two different talents you need to use this program. The first part is the actual 3D design, and to be honest this is where I had problems getting my head around some of the concepts. It's all down to time, and creating simple shapes like cubes, blocks and pyramids is not a problem. The art is in learning how to make more complex objects without using so many shapes that the program grinds to a halt trying to update it.
The other half of learning in 3DCK2 is the Freescape Command Language (FCL). While you don't need an intimate knowledge of this to get results, the better you are with FCL the more complex and deep your 3D worlds will be. For instance, you could get a simple FCL control that wouldn't let the player leave a given area until some task had been completed.
Editing FCL is like any other programming language - you type in conditions about objects and variables, with a result happening when a variable gets so big or an object changes. The standard way of manipulating objects in Freescape games is to shoot them, and if you're prepared to stick with that convention then you should get on fine.
There's a lot of cute extras to this package. You get a sound sample editor (which I never did work out how to use), you can alter the backdrops and control panels of the finished games, and change things like the font used. The idea is that 3DCK2 can produce more individual games than its predecessor.
To a certain extent it does, but I can't help feeling the Freescape concept is in danger of going the way of text adventures - becoming old hat rather than the in thing. What finished the text adventure was a flood of games written with games designers, all of which looked and felt the same and were not a patch on the original commercial games.
Ever since, commercial developers have had a jaundiced view of programs which enable novices to 'have a go' at writing games without learning a lot of backgrounds programming knowledge first. Personally, I'm all for making games more accessible to design.
It remains to be seen whether any individual is talented enough to write a commercial success with 3DCK2. It's a tall order, as you would have to create an individual 'look and feel' to the game with FCL while making the 3D views distinctive and attractive.
Using 3DCK2 is quicker and cheaper than building 3D worlds using Lego, but it takes some time before you start to become creative; learning what primitives work best together to form the right shapes. Don't believe the hype about it being to write a commercial-