|Developer(s)||Interactive Data Visualization, Inc. (IDV)|
|Stable release||SpeedTree for Games v6.3 (March 20, 2013)
SpeedTree Cinema v7, SpeedTree Studio v7 and SpeedTree Architect 7 (November 13, 2013)
|Operating system||Windows, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Mac OS X, Linux|
|Type||Game Middleware and Animation|
|Website||SpeedTree Official Website|
SpeedTree is a group of vegetation programming and modeling software products developed and sold by Interactive Data Visualization, Inc. (IDV) that generates virtual foliage for animations, architecture and in real time for video games and demanding real time simulations. It has been licensed to developers of a range of video games for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and has been featured in about a dozen major 2013 releases, including Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness, as well as 2012's Life of Pi and 2009's Avatar.
Origins and History
In a "Postmortem" feature on Gamasutra.com, Kevin Meredith of IDV recounted SpeedTree as originating due to their lack of satisfaction with 3rd-party plug-ins on the market. The initial version of SpeedTreeCAD (CAD standing for "computer-aided design") was developed by IDV for a real-time golf simulation. Although backers pulled out of the golf project, IDV refined the CAD software as a 3D Studio Max component for an animated architectural rendering. After refining SpeedTreeMAX for retail, IDV went on to produce the real-time version SDK version to much commercial success.
IDV released SpeedTree v5.0 in July 2009. v5.0 represented a "complete re-engineering" of the software, according to an IDV announcement in March 2009, and features a new set of components: SpeedTree Modeler (replacing SpeedTreeCAD) and SpeedTreeSDK (replacing SpeedTreeRT), as well as SpeedTree Compiler, which prepares SpeedTree files for real-time rendering. The same components are featured with Version 6 of the product, released in November 2011 and identified as SpeedTree for Games to distinguish it from other products not meant for gaming/real-time use.
Products and Components
On August 3, 2011, IDV announced the release of SpeedTree version 6 technology and its inclusion in two products, SpeedTree Cinema and a new product SpeedTree Studio. SpeedTree Cinema was first released by IDV in 2009, based on version 5 technology, and is meant for high-end movies and animations. SpeedTree Studio licenses at a lower price and offers fewer features than SpeedTree Cinema. SpeedTree for Games, featuring version 6 technology, was released on November 7, 2011. SpeedTree Architect was released on October 15, 2012 and offers a more limited version of SpeedTree Studio for architectural stills and fly-throughs. Version 7 of SpeedTree Cinema, SpeedTree Studio and SpeedTree Architect were released on November 13, 2013.
SpeedTree SDK is a software development kit written in C++ whose source code is available to licensees of SpeedTree for Games for use in video games and other real-time applications. It is intended to be fitted into a larger graphical engine, with the SpeedTree software handling the rendering of trees and foliage alone and the specific product's engine incorporating these into the larger environment.
SpeedTree Modeler is a Windows-based specialized modeling tool created specifically for creating and editing foliage. SpeedTree Modeler permits specification of such variables as branch length, branching angles, bark texture and gravitational influence, and then generates a tree from that information in a variety of static mesh or real-time formats. Trees created in SpeedTree Modeler can be more or less detailed, and consequently can be used for either real-time or prerendered display.
SpeedTree Compiler is a component of SpeedTree for Games used with SpeedTree SDK for real-time projects. It facilitates the creation of texture atlases and compiles and optimizes tree models for real-time use.
SpeedTree for Games Licensees, Publishers and Partners
SpeedTree for Games was licensed for its first video games, including The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, in December 2002. SpeedTree has been licensed for PC and next-generation console titles in a wide variety of genres. Firms that have used SpeedTree, or published games featuring the technology, include:
SpeedTree has partnered with Epic Games in order to integrate the software with Epic's Unreal Engine 4 and Unreal Engine 3 and the free UDK engine released in November 2009. Partnerships have also been formed between SpeedTree and BigWorld Tech, the Vision Engine by Havok, Multiverse Network, the Gamebryo engine by Emergent Game Technologies and the OGRE open-source rendering engine by Torus Knot.
SpeedTree in Recent and Noteworthy Video Games
Selected recent, upcoming and/or popular titles featuring SpeedTree for Games:
SpeedTree in Movies and Animation
Following the release of SpeedTree Cinema in 2009, SpeedTree saw its first major cinematic use in 2009's Avatar, in which the technology provided the vegetation for the flyover of the planet Pandora in the first frames of the movie, as well as other scenes. Known movies featuring SpeedTree include:
SpeedTree in Real-Time Non-Game Applications
SpeedTree is being used in the following real-time, non-game projects and offerings:
- America's Army project, both the America's Army game and in non-public applications used for training, simulation, education, virtual prototyping and outreach
- An optional foliage module with the Vega Prime visualization product line (official announcement) developed by MultiGen-Paradigm, Inc. (now Presagis) prior to its acquisition by CAE in May 2007. Vega Prime is a 3D visual simulation software package used by the global military industry and in other game and non-game markets
- An Apache attack helicopter FLIR simulation developed for the US Army by Camber Corp. of Huntsville, Alabama, for pilot training under night flying conditions
- The Expresso Fitness Virtual Reality Bike, a cardio exercise system developed by Expresso Fitness of Sunnyvale, Calif., and sold to gyms and home users
- A combat simulation developed by Emergent Game Technologies for the US Department of Defense (official announcement).
- A project under development by the Germany-based division of European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) (official announcement).
- The Forest Fire project, developed by the Media Convergence Laboratory (MCL) at the University of Central Florida. The project is helping to determine if a virtual reality presentation of wildfires can influence local residents to invest in prescribed burns and other protective efforts.
- 2008 Develop Industry Excellence Awards Finalist, in the Technology & Services, Tools Providers category. Develop, a UK-based magazine and website serving the game industry, first recognized industry achievements in a variety of categories in 2003.
- 2005 Frontline Award, Middleware category. This award program, sponsored by Game Developer magazine, recognizes exceptional game development tools.
- Frontline Award Finalist: 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2012
- MT2 Top 100: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. The MT2 Top 100 awards are sponsored by Kerrigan Media International and Military Training Technology to recognize companies and technologies that have made a significant impact in the military training industry.
- "Middleware Postmortem: IDV Inc's SpeedTreeRT". Gamasutra.com. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
- SpeedTree Official Website - features news updates, affiliate information, videos and screenshots of SpeedTree products.
- Interactive Data Visualization, Inc. Official Website - the website of the developers of SpeedTree.
- SpeedTree showcase - features videos of SpeedTree modeling features.
- SpeedTree Gallery - features screenshots of SpeedTree at work.
- Gamasutra feature article on SpeedTree
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion video - the chapter 2 video features Bethesda Softwork's implementation of SpeedTreeRT.