Feature Articles

3DO, Formatting Our Future

The world of CD-ROM is growing exponentially. Long used with PC computers, CD-ROM drives have been making their way into the home player's market. NEC started this trend with the TG-16 CD-ROM. More recently Sega jumped onto the bandwagon with their Genesis CD. Even the stubborn Nintendo Corp. has plans to release their own CD. The most recent CD development does not come from one of the big gun established gaming companies, however. "3DO" is the new kid on the block, and they are jumping in neck deep. Too deep? Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts--and the driving force behind this new company--does not think so. Hawkins took careful thought as to where he felt that the future of technology is heading, and based 3DO around it.

Hawkins is taking a large step with 3DO -- he is attempting to create a completely new standard. Yes, much like VHS is today, Hawkins believes 3DO can take society by storm and create a completely new format for home video, computers, video games, photographs, and more. He hopes that the 3DO format will becomes as accepted as audio CD players.

Hawkins is not just talk, however. 3DO has already established relations with some of the most influential companies in the world today. Do the names AT&T, Time Warner, MCA, Matsushita (Makers of Panasonic, Quasar, and Technics), Electronic Arts, Warner Bros., GTE ImagiTrek, or Paramount sound familiar? Unless you have been asleep for the past fifty years they should. All of these are already working directly with 3DO, and many more are being added daily. Actually, several hundred companies have lent their support for the 3DO format.

What does this mean? This gives 3DO the largest library of resources of any company ever. Time Warner is the largest media company in the world, and when 3DO became a partner they gained access to Warner's complete library of movies, a huge Cable T.V. network, and a complete R&D staff. Next 3DO linked with AT&T. With AT&T's world class communications, 3DO has the potential to be linked to millions of homes across the world- all in a matter of weeks!

Lately there has been growing concern with the quality of new CD systems. In an effort to shave costs, combined with companies lacking experience, weak CD systems prone to breakage have become a common sight. Many have seen this with systems like the Sega CD, and the older TG-16 CD (the problem was corrected with the Duo). 3DO has made an attempt to completely avoid this problem. Their solution was to link up with the CD system giants. 3DO will not produce their own CD player, instead it will come first from Matshuta (as either a Panasonic or Technics machine) and then later licensed to other interested companies to create 'clones'. This will give the buyer his choice of the best CD for his uses and price range, while still keeping 100% compatibility. Much as current audio CD technology is marketed by many different companies, so will be 3DO. The company goal is not to make their personal machine the best, but rather the format the best. By only marketing the format, 3DO has the potential to span a huge price range, from the best audiophile systems, to bare bones necessities machines.

By now I'm sure that all of you are at least a bit interested in the machine technology. With all of this technological power behind them, you can bet you will be seeing some impressive features on the machines. Of course the 3DO format has all of the functions expected in a top gaming machine (Transparent colors, scaling ect...) but it also has several new features not yet seen. Some of these include special '3D lighting' -- this feature treats all of the objects on the screen as 3D and appropriately creates shadows and highlights. Another advanced feature, 'texture mapping', allows programmers to wrap an image onto any other image, like wrapping a face onto a bouncing ball. Perhaps the most fascinating feature is 'Anti-aliasing' -- an amazing feature which smooths out edges of pixels so images will appear clear (much like on a TV broadcast). And, of course, the ever impressive, 'motion video'. Taking it light years ahead of the home gaming leader Sega CD, 3DO can produce motion video full screen at 30 frames per second -- that is twice the rate of the Sega CD. Not only is better than the Sega CD, it is higher quality than current VHS movies and TV broadcasts!! This will open up many doors for VCR like uses. Of course all of this is accompanied by CD sound- but not just any CD sound. 3DO supports full surround sound, not just the standard left and right stereo of most other units. To support this amazing motion video capability 3DO will soon have an immense video library (Enter Time Warner/Paramount) for rent at your local video store. Expect to see digital movies on 5" CD look even better than your old laser disc players!

A new format will never last if something better comes out anytime soon after its' release, and Hawkins planned on this. 3DO does not intend to be surpassed by a new format anytime soon. With their current upgrades the system is over 50 times more powerful than our best 16 bit systems. But just for good measure 3DO built in easy upgradability to the unit, as simple as plugging in a peripheral. This will help to assure that they do indeed become an industry standard.

"Our goal is to make 3DO the standard for interactive entertainment, education and information," says Trip Hawkins- and he indeed is well on his way. 3DO is definitely a company to watch closely in the near future...

Look to Game Zero for the facts first. 3DO will become a regular feature in the upcoming articles, and with direct talks with them, we will be sure to let you know what is happening first!

-Ferrari Man

Originally appeared Vol 1, Iss 6 (02-03/93)

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