Bryce is one of the big names in 3D. It pioneered the whole field of naturalistic scenery generation, and its long history has allowed it to build up some impressive power. However, its increasingly dated and idiosyncratic interface has kept it from reaching the audience it deserves, and it looked as if Corel had allowed the legend to die. The good news is that 3D content provider DAZ has taken up the challenge of developing Bryce, while Eovia is handling distribution.
When you first load the program, little new strikes you. However, once you begin working, you soon appreciate the new OpenGL-based display modes, especially the support for onscreen low-resolution texture maps. For final output quality, you still need to render and, with Bryce's scenes often involving millions of rays and polygons, this is a major operation. However, DAZ claims that rendering optimisations cut down rendering times by a third. Even more useful is the ability to minimise the main app window when rendering so you can get on with other work. Alternatively, if you're on a network, you can take advantage of Lightning 2, a new release of Bryce's network renderer, which can be installed freely on any number of systems.
Other than these changes, the major introduction is the DAZ|Studio character plug-in. This is a separate app that can be used to open Poser PZ3 files and DAZ's own low-cost figures. You can then pose your figures and apply clothes and props and, when you return to Bryce, the model and maps are automatically imported. The ability to incorporate static figures into your Bryce scenes is a major step forward, but having to switch between apps to fine-tune a pose is awkward. Direct PZ3 support, such as that provided by Vue 5 Esprit, would be more useful if you already own Poser, but otherwise the combination of Bryce and DAZ|Studio provides a low-cost route to both creating and populating your scenes.
It's good to see Bryce back. However, while it's been away, its thunder has been stolen by Vue 5 Esprit and its professional sibling Vue 5 Infinite. Ultimately, Bryce can't compete with Vue when it comes to power or usability. Where it can still put up a challenge is value, and Bryce 5.5's new price certainly provides great value for new users. It's disappointing, however, that no upgrade path has been provided for Bryce's many long-suffering fans