Edge (UK): Immersive Graphics [2001]

Date: May 2001

Source: Edge (UK Edition), Issue 97, p. 114

Immersive graphics

NDL president John Austin (right); NDL technical staffer Lars W Bishop (far right)

NDL’s NetImmerse engine is lowering technology risk, enabling developers to focus on gameplay

Founded by Turner Whitted, the inventor of ray tracing, it took rendering software specialist Numerical Design Ltd (NDL) 14 years to get properly into the games industry. It released the first version of its NetImmerse engine into the nascent middleware market of 1997.

Today, with off-the-shelf 3D engines two-a-penny, NetImmerse is one of the lower-profile offerings, but with more than 30 titles using its technology, NDL’s reputation is certainly on the rise.

“Obviously our flagship title is Munch’s Oddysee,” John Austin, NDL’s president, explains proudly. And with good reason: if one of the selling points of middleware is the reduction of technology risk, then Oddworld Inhabitants’ dramatic platform hump from PlayStation2 to XBox is a textbook example of the benefits. “One of the reasons they were able to make the switch so quickly and successfully was the game was built on top of an engine that was on both platforms, so they didn’t have to rip out a bunch of platform-specific code,” says Austin.


“The developers using our engine break down into two camps,” says Austin. “One is a set of people like Totally Games. They could have written an engine as good as ours, but they want to buy in an engine and focus on the content, development, and gameplay. There are a lot of things like keeping up with all the new hardware, DirectX, support and documentation that they don’t want to do. Oddworld is primarily an artist-driven company for example. They have made a lot of 2D games, so NetImmerse was their way to lever into the 3D world.”

Lorne Lanning’s Oddworld team made the transition from PlayStation2 to XBox look easy, thanks in no small part to the cross-platform ability of the NetImmerse engine