PROJECT REALITY PREVIEW by Nintendo/Silicon Graphics

Article by Nathan Cochrane

Taken from Vision, the Silicon Graphics nswsletter

Project Reality

The power of 64-bit technology is about to revolutionise the video and arcade games markets thanks to a joint development venture being undertaken by Silicon Graphics and leading video games manufacturer, Nintendo.

The venture known as Project Reality, will create Nintendo's next generation gaming system and combine three-dimensional graphics of the quality seen in films such as Jurassic Park and Terminator 2, with high- fidelity sound and an interaction speed around 10-15 times faster than the current 16-bit games. The new system will be built around a Silicon Graphics/MIPS Multimedia Engine, a chip consisting of a 64-bit RISC microprocessor, a graphics co-processor chip and Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs).

It is the first time MIPS RISC technology will be used in the video entertainment industry, providing the power previously only available in high-end PCs and workstations. The graphics co-processor and ASICs provide the specialised audio, video and graphics capabilities. Storage will be based on a revolutionary mega-memory silicon-based cartridge format which will allow the system to access a minimum of 100 megabits of data for each game, which is five to six times the memory of the current 16-bit games. The silicon-based cartridge format will have an access time two million times faster than that of current CD-ROM technology, providing a speed video users have so far only been able to dream about.

Project Reality, the first application of Nintendo's Reality Immersion Technology, will allow video game players to interact with virtual, infinitely evolving worlds which react instantaneously to their commands and whims.

In other words, for the first time ever, players will become part of the game itself. The project, which will be developed specifically for Nintendo, will be unveiled in arcades later this year and be available for home use in 1995. The target US price for the home systems is below USD250.

The joint development and License Agreement represents a long-term, worldwide business relationship between Nintendo and Silicon Graphics. Under this agreement Nintendo will pay Silicon Graphics royalties for the use of the licensed 3D technology, and Nintendo and its authorised licensees will provide the application software.

Silicon Graphics is hopeful that some games may be sourced from Australia and is actively encouraging local developers.

"There are a number of good graphics software developers in Australia and there are opportunities for these people to be involved in a new, major growth area of computer visualisation," said Val Mickan, Managing Director Australia/New Zealand, Silicon Graphics. "We are most interested in hearing from local games developers who feel they may be able to contribute to this project."

Silicon Graphics announced their intention to establish a centre for excellence in Adelaide in conjunction with a local training institution. The centre, due to be set up in the next 18 months will be part of a worldwide web of such training centres, of which there are currently seven - six in North America and one in Holland. Comprised largely of high end Onyx systems and graphics servers, as well as personal Indigo2 workstations, the centre will be a leading force in encouraging budding electronics graphicists, designers and developers to pursue their dreams on the world's most advanced graphics systems.

The centres worldwide will be interlinked by a complex network that will permit designers, developers, engineers and clients to communicate their creations and ideas, from initial concept right through to finished product ready to be recorded to media for final presentation. This system is already in place in North America, and it is envisioned that its expansion will forever eliminate the 'Tyranny of Distance" that Australian developers have had to endure for too long.

In a separate move aimed at videographers and communications students, the Film and Television Institute in Fremantle, Western Australia has forged a link with Curtin University, a recognised leader in producing graduates for this field, to bring the power of SGI workstations to the classroom. In a move that will revolutionise the way that communications majors pursue their studies, FTI intends to combine their established industry expertise with the best of up and coming talent in this area.

A spokesman for the FTI said, "We will be establishing the large servers at Curtin, with a landlink to connect us to them so that production can continue in the broadcast edit suites we have here. It is our intention to help fund the project by providing commercial services using the technology, while at the same time providing valuable industry experience to the undergraduates. We will have a number of the top-end systems at our disposal including the graphics servers, Indigo2 workstations as well as networks to hook in their existing technology. We will be providing all the best 3D, 2D, animation, compositing, audio and editing software available to the students so that their dreams can become reality, taking full advantage of the exciting capabilities that this platform gives us".

This review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Nathan Cochran for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.