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I have been a user of Bryce since version 2 (when it was ported to Windows), and have seen the program passed from corporation to corporation like a bad case of herpes, no one wanting to do anything with the program, consigning it to the dusty top shelf of software development.
In 2004 when DAZ3D bought it from the software behemoth, Corel, we Bryce-disciples rejoiced, that at last the program was being returned to the hands of people who would develop and take ownership of the little unwanted orphan.
Since then the Bryce has been fixed and tweaked to some extent by DAZ3D, but in my opinion these have been largely "bug fixes" and minor enhancements. (Changing the color of the Camera controls and the "widgets" is only window-dressing, not an improvement or upgrade!) For me the only real enhancement was the DAZ|Studio Poser Importer that allowed me to import Poser figure with considerably less trouble than before, and even that still continues to frustrate me with its failure to import Poser morphs and customizations!
So in the last few days of 2009, DAZ3D release Version 6.3 and that was supposed to address some stability issues, and in a quick one-two combination the owners of Bryce 6 were allowed to join in the open development of Bryce 7.
This new initiative was announced on the DAZ3D forums on January 13, 2010, and caught us all by surprise! DAZ 3D were "looking for feedback" as they worked on Bryce 7 to try and take the software into the 21st century and make it something other than a hobbyist's toy! I was and still am excited!
Already there are a number of new features added and there are bound to be many more additions to the software before final release. However, keep in mind that this is just the first Beta version and DAZ has promised more before the final release. The current Beta I have will expire on February 10th, but DAZ have assured us that the next build will be available for download – and testing – shortly before then.
This is definitely a Beta release, it crashes more than Tiger Wood's SUV at a sorority pajama party! There are some issues and bugs in the program, and if you are considering giving it a go, do not remove your previous installation but install it in its own directory!
I have run Bryce 7 Beta alongside 6.3 and I can see how far DAZ3D have come with this new release. The program does indeed run faster and renders faster, and the new Lightning Network Rendering Client also has increased performance. There are some rumors that the rendering engine is now the Carrara engine, as this 3D program (also owned by DAZ3D is considerably faster than Bryce.) I wonder if there is any truth in this? If DAZ can build Bryce to render faster, and do nothing else I would be happy, as I have had to contend with hours and hours of computer time rendering images or animations!
Also new to this release is support for the Windows Vista and Windows 7 file structure. Now as a user of Windows 7 at work, and a fan of the first decent OS that Microsoft has released since Windows 3.1, I thought that I could now see Bryce 7 perform! I was disappointed, but it was largely my own fault – I run Windows 7 64-bit and Bryce is still a 32-bit application, so there is no advantage in having 4Gb+ of RAM and dual multi-core processors!
Please DAZ! develop a true 64-bit version! It is a long overdue feature!
DAZ are developing a "Serial Number management" system for licensing which will supposedly enable different features to be unlocked within the same program.
To the uninitiated, this means that a single install can be a time- limited demo, or a budget version with some features, and finally a full-priced heavyweight with all the bells and whistles, all from the same download. I suppose this makes marketing sense, enticing potential new users (who bring in the cash) to upgrade to get more features. Us old stalwarts, with several versions under our belts might find the upgrade path restrictive and pandering to the whims of the bankers rather than the needs of the digital artist.
So let's look briefly at the Bryce 7 Beta:
The new Instance Lab does not use true instancing (yet) – and it bombs beautifully with no error message or hint of trouble – so beware and save often!
It is very easy to run out of memory when placing large amounts of objects – a 3Gb XP 32-bit computer is not enough!
In the Instance Lab, (Hidden in the tiny [I] button next to a selected object) you can paint a mix of tree species with brush. Apparently you can paint species, change proportions and spacing, which because of the "out of memory issues" I have had only a modicum of success.
It is quite easy to replicate Objects and paint any object using the Instance Brush tool, like rocks, grass, and shells on a surface, and already the various Bryce Forums are filled to the brim with trees or grass on hills, but I am sure that with imagination and creative thought, this instance painting lends itself to greebles and nurnies!
One feature that stands out for me is that Bryce 7 can now use the current sky as HDRI scene lighting. I love this feature!
The Import and Export of OBJ, image formats, FBX and COLLADA, have been improved, although the DAZ Studio Bridge does not work and continues to trash Poser-created OBJ files.
Rendering speeds have improved although the so-called "major improvements" of the DAZ Press release are deceptive and misleading. Faster, yes, but not that faster!
Only a few of the major 6.x Bug fixes have been addressed:
- Importing 3D objects – maybe but big OBJ files still give me the infamous "Out of memory" crash.
- Slow render times – Yes fixed.
- Nano previews different from main window – But there is STILL no way of enlarging that sh*tty little postage stamp nano-preview and it is still only landscape format!
- Keep loosing HDRI probe – Yes fixed.
- Tree Lab "file not found" error – Hallelujah!
- Default Ground Texture – One of the dumbest things ever done by DAZ – the default ground texture that slowed the default scene render down to a crawl!
- User Interface Improvements – None visible that I can see, or perhaps these are hidden "easter eggs" like most Bryce features?
- Native Bryce UI elements (DAZ Studio Version dialog) – Duh?
- Animated Splash Screen – So what if the splash screen animates – anyway nothing animates on my version! It does nothing to enhance the program's functionality!
I have been hard on DAZ, and I sound pretty sceptical, but overall I think Bryce 7 has a great future ahead of it, even though it is early days!