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Nichimen Graphics N-World 3

Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:26 am
by SiliconClassics
In the spirit of Foetz's more well-researched reviews of notable SGI graphics packages, here's a brief overview of Nichimen's N-World suite, a game-centric 3D toolkit that was popular in the late '90s. Screenshots have been taken from the software and from the accompanying HTML documentation pages (check 'em out!). Splash screen:

nworld.gif


From a 1998 press release by Nichimen: "Nichimen Graphics is a leading supplier of 3D graphics software for game development and interactive entertainment. Nichimen Graphics focuses its efforts on supporting the interactive content market, providing developers with the industry's most open system and leading-edge modeling and animation technology... The company's suite of packages is truly integrated, dramatically simplifying game content generation..."

N-World was widely used in the development of console games in the late '90s, notably for Super Mario 64 and Final Fantasy VII. The software itself was written using a Lisp-based development environment called Allegro CL: "Nichimen chose Allegro CL from Franz Inc. to develop its powerful N-World products... Bob Coyne, Director of Software Development at Nichimen, explains why Allegro CL's Common Lisp/CLOS was the best choice for this kind of product. 'We benefit from the usual advantages of Lisp. Programming in Allegro CL allows concepts and designs to be fluidly expressed in code, and the language and environment don't get in the way...'" N-World's origins in Lisp make sense as it was derived from S-Graphics, the 3D animation system from Symbolics workstations, acquired by Nichimen after Symbolics went under.

N-World, like many 3D packages in the '90s, was organized as a suite of programs, each tailored to a particular part of the graphics production process:

Image Image Image Image

From a 1996 E3 press release: N-Geometry was a 3D polygon-based modeler, N-Dynamics offered animation scripting and choreography, N-Render performed photorealistic rendering (including raytracing), and N-Paint was a 2D/3D paint system. N-World also included game-specific tools like color reduction, a visual PSX VRAM editor, and export to Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation, and Sega Saturn. When Alias|Wavefront's Maya debuted in 1998, Nichimen's Game Engine 2.0 code was bundled with it as part of a collaboration between the two companies.

N-World would later evolve into a package called Mirai that included nonlinear animation, advanced inverse kinematics, and biomechanical motion editing tools, presumably to process motion captured animation, which was increasingly used in game development. While it never achieved the widespread industry adoption of packages like PowerAnimator, Maya, and 3dsmax, N-World and its successors were a significant tool for game developers in the late '90s / early 2000s and offered some very useful and unique features, particularly in the realm of polygonal modeling.

Screenshots:

N-World_3.1_Geometry_1.png


N-World_3.1_Geometry_2.png


N-World_3.1_Paint.png


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Re: Nichimen Graphics N-World 3

Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:33 am
by robespierre
Much of this package was developed at Triple-I in Culver City, who did the port from Symbolics to SGI. Franz Inc also contributed (it uses Allegro CL, as well as other custom code). It was then acquired by Nichimen (a general trading company) in the wave of Japanese acquisitions (Columbia pictures, Rockefeller Center, etc) in the '80s and '90s. After a few years they got out of the software business and spun off Winged Edge Software, which renamed itself Izware.

Re: Nichimen Graphics N-World 3

Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:03 am
by tomvos
Thanks a lot. Your work in showing the good old software in its former glory is well appreciated.

Re: Nichimen Graphics N-World 3

Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:35 pm
by foetz
tomvos wrote:Thanks a lot. Your work in showing the good old software in its former glory is well appreciated.

indeed, even more so since this is not one of the big players so info is even more welcome :-)

Re: Nichimen Graphics N-World 3

Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:32 pm
by tomvos
By the way, is it only me, or are these coloured buttons something you would like to see making a reappearance in todays software? Somehow I feel feed up with sleek uniform mono-coloured user interfaces.

Re: Nichimen Graphics N-World 3

Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:00 pm
by robespierre
Another "unusual" acquisition in the graphics industry was the Japanese heavy machinery maker Kubota and their ownership of Ardent and Stellar (Stardent). The last product from this group was the Denali TurboChannel board for the DEC 3000.

Re: Nichimen Graphics N-World 3

Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:06 pm
by robespierre
tomvos wrote:By the way, is it only me, or are these coloured buttons something you would like to see making a reappearance in todays software? Somehow I feel feed up with sleek uniform mono-coloured user interfaces.

It looks like the interface was done manually using XLib calls from the CLX library.

Re: Nichimen Graphics N-World 3

Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:58 am
by commodorejohn
tomvos wrote:By the way, is it only me, or are these coloured buttons something you would like to see making a reappearance in todays software? Somehow I feel feed up with sleek uniform mono-coloured user interfaces.

It's interesting because color in modern OSes is either not done at all or it's done very poorly (see Windows 8 and its awful, awful garish color themes.) Somewhere along the line designers lost the notion that color should be used to convey information about interface elements or mutated it into the simpler, stupider notion that color should be used merely to differentiate elements.