Bryce is one of the big names in 3D as it pioneered the whole field of naturalistic scenery generation. And its long history has enabled Bryce to build up some impressive power with dedicated terrain, atmosphere and tree handling along with animation support and network rendering. However its dated and idiosyncratic interface has always kept Bryce from reaching the audience it deserves and it looked as if Corel had allowed the legend to die. The good news is that 3D content provider DAZ has taken up the challenge of developing Bryce while Eovia is handling distribution. So is Bryce back with a bang?
When you first load the program there’s little new that strikes you but begin working on a project and you’ll soon appreciate the new OpenGL-based display modes, especially the support for onscreen low-resolution texture maps. For final output quality you still need to render and with Bryce’s scenes often involving millions of polygons and billions of rays this is inevitably a major operation. It still is with Bryce 5.5, but DAZ claims that rendering optimizations cut down average rendering times by around a third. Even more useful is the ability to minimize Bryce when rendering so that you can get on with other work. Alternatively, if you’re on a network, you can take advantage of Lightning 2, a new release of Bryce’s network renderer that can be installed freely on any number of systems.
Other than these changes, the major introduction in Bryce 5.5 is the incorporation of DAZ’s DAZ :Studio character plug-in. This is a separate application that can be used to open Poser PZ3 files and DAZ’s own low-cost figures. You can then pose your figures and apply clothes, materials and props and, when you return to Bryce, the model and maps are automatically imported. The ability to incorporate static figures into your Bryce scenes is a major step forward but having to switch between applications to fine-tune a pose is awkward. Direct PZ3 support such as that provided by Vue 5 Esprit would certainly be more useful if you already own Poser, but otherwise the combination of Bryce and DAZ :Studio provides a low-cost route to both creating and populating your scenes.
It’s good to see Bryce back. However, during the four years it’s been away, its thunder has been comprehensively stolen by Vue Esprit and its professional sibling Vue Infinite. Ultimately Bryce just can’t compete with Vue when it comes to power or usability. Where it can still put up a challenge is value and Bryce 5.5’s new budget price certainly provides a lot of bang-per-buck for new users. It’s disappointing however that no upgrade path has been provided for Bryce’s many longsuffering fans.