Forever Changing 3D Tree/Vegetation for Games – Hundreds of Xbox® 360 and PlayStation® 3 Titles Later

When we released the first version of SpeedTree, it was a novel concept. No middleware, which we’ve heard of, combined both artistic content and tools with a run-time that could be integrated into a game engine. Naturally, the video game development community was skeptical. When we debuted SpeedTree for Games at GDC 2003 in a very humble 10’x10′ booth filled with beat-up rented equipment, GDC 2003 Conferencewe often heard, “This demo is pretty cool and all, but you’ve got only 3D trees on the screen. I bet it really tanks when you add the rest of the game.” What could we say? We had zero titles at that time. For all we knew, it might tank when added to a real game environment.

Fast forward three years . . . Three years of having SpeedTree evaluated by some of the best programmers and video game artists on the planet. Three years of being told exactly what we were getting right and, more importantly, what we were missing in our offering. Three years of drinking from the feedback fire hose of profoundly talented and equally opinionated game developers. What could we do? We thickened our skins and did everything we could to incorporate their feedback. Finally, in March of 2006, Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released. What do you know? Our 3D tree models performed really well in real-time . . . even with all that other game stuff in there. Who knew?

Image from "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion"Despite the fact that SpeedTree had been used in two other Xbox 360 launch titles, Oblivion was our true breakout title. It rendered the best real-time animated forests ever seen on a console at that time, with surprising detail and draw distances. The phone started ringing and we started licensing for more console titles.

200 Xbox® 360 and 175 PlayStation® 3 titles later, we still embrace all the input we get from our video game development customers, as we gear up to support exciting new features on whatever new console hardware that may be heading our way.