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Advanced Game to Be Designed by Nintendo, Silicon Graphics : Technology: In one demonstration, users ride a pterodactyl in a world full of realistic colors and sounds.

August 24, 1993|MARTHA GROVES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Nintendo and Silicon Graphics Inc. on Monday unveiled plans for an advanced new video game that is part of what promises to be a forthcoming boom in the enormously profitable arena, a boom driven by advances in computer technology.

"They're leapfrogging the point the rest of the industry is trying to get to," crowed Dave Corbin, director of marketing for MIPS Technologies, a Silicon Graphics subsidiary that is developing the new generation of speedy, powerful chips on which the new game system will run.

"Project Reality," as the two companies are calling it, is nowhere near being real enough to touch, but it is scheduled to hit arcades late next year and homes in 1995. Expected to be priced at $250 for the home market, Nintendo's 64-bit video game system will feature leading-edge graphics, sound and speed that, its makers contend, will leave the current 16-bit systems in its silicon dust.

The machine is expected to compete most directly with a product from 3DO Co. of Redwood City, Calif., due in stores in October. At $700, that system could come in for some heavy discounting, industry analysts and software developers say. Nintendo, Sega of America and Atari all are targeting the upstart.

Although consumers have yet to see any of these splashy new devices, the lucrative industry is at least showing the kind of early innovation that powered the 6-year-old business to $3 billion in sales by 1982.

Plagued at times by a poky pace of advancement, the industry has spent the last decade on a roller-coaster ride offering more nail-biting thrills than most of its games.

Nintendo will build its new machine and pay royalties to Silicon Graphics for that company's fast-paced, three-dimensional imaging software. Silicon Graphics, based in Mountain View, created the lifelike computerized dinosaurs in the film "Jurassic Park" and the body-melting-and-mutating "morphing" effects in "Terminator 2."

Nintendo of America, based in Redmond, Wash., is a subsidiary of Nintendo Co. Ltd. of Kyoto, Japan.

Nintendo and Silicon Graphics officials had no Project Reality prototype to show off, but they offered a glimpse of the product's potential by demonstrating software on Silicon Graphics workstations.

In one example, the user was invited to swoop on the back of a pterodactyl through a prehistoric world, with realistic colors and sounds.

"You physically get on this thing and pull the reins," said Corbin.

The product would offer sophisticated three-dimensional graphics that the consumer could adjust and shift according to whim in real time. A golf pro could offer tips on using drivers and putters. The younger set could tag along with Nintendo's ubiquitous Mario brothers, the adventure-seeking plumbers.

The machine would play compact discs or cartridges containing music, photos and movies, so that a user could invite the family along on a spin through a "virtual world" that changed as they went along. A parachutist would hear the wind blowing under the chute. Realistic-looking leaves with shadings and texture would flutter in a realistic breeze.

"The same principles that enable the world's leading scientists and engineers to visualize complex information will revolutionize video entertainment in the home," Silicon Graphics Chairman James Clark said at a news conference.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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