SpeedTree Overview © IDV Inc.
By: Kurt Knudsen

IDV seems to devote a lot of time to trees and it shows. SpeedTree is a program and engine that allows developers to create and implement trees into their games. Unlike most games with generic trees, IDV allows you to create trees with dynamic lighting and wind effects.

Several games have picked up the license to use these incredible trees in their games. War Hammer Online (title cancelled), Auto Assault, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Imperator, and many others. IDV currently has an Unreal 2 demo that shows off the implementation of SpeedTree in Epic’s engine. The demo ran flawlessly on a GeForce 2 GTS and looked even better on high-end cards. The wind can be dynamic or static and doesn’t seem to slow anything down. Trees, bushes, shrubs, and grasses are all affected by the wind.

SpeedTreeCAD allows you to create your own trees in their program. I had the luck to get a chance to look at their program and try it out. I have no previous experience in such programs and have noticed that some programs are quite difficult to use. SpeedTreeCAD allows you to look at one tree and mess around with its properties. You can change pretty much everything to do with your tree, shrub, bush, or grass. You can modify the different level of branches and leaves. The different levels include the trunk, the main branches off the trunk, and then branches off the branches and so on. You can create the physical properties of each branch and leaf to meet your needs.

SpeedTreeCAD also allows you to change the scenery slightly. You can see the tree at noon, night, and dusk. The lighting on the tree can be dynamic or static as well. You can have self-shadowing leaves, so the leaves cast independent shadows on the tree. Most games have a default shadow that the tree casts on objects. SpeedTreeCAD allows you to have each leaf create a shadow. The wind in SpeedTreeCAD plays a big part as well. When you create your tree you can change the properties of the branches and leaves. From rocking frequency to flexibility of the branches, SpeedTreeCAD gives you unbelievable control over your trees.

Aside from creating trees IDV has an SDK that allows you to use trees created in their CAD program in your games. SpeedTreeRT reads the .spt files and allows the programmer to interpret and manipulate their tree to their desire. Auto Assault created the possibility to destroy the trees, as well as everything else in the game. When I saw Auto Assault at E3 I said they had really good looking trees, this was before I met with SpeedTree. The next day I met with SpeedTree and told them I saw the Auto Assault demo and was interested in their products.

IDV has created a few demos of their trees. The playable Unreal demo really shows off how the trees perform in a game. The trees and their physics really don’t have a detrimental affect on performance, which is a good thing. They also have a demo called ‘Trees of Pangaea’ which allows you to fly around huge landscapes full of trees, shrubs, and bushes. The cool thing I found, after hitting F1, was that you can control the helicopter and fly it around. The helicopter’s blades generate wind that makes the trees sway. You can change the wind force to almost break the trees in half, if IDV had implemented that in their demo. How many times have we played games where the trees just don’t do anything?

Because IDV sells source code as part of a standard SpeedTreeRT license, other events can affect the trees as well, such as shooting a rocket that makes the nearby trees shake.

If you want to see all of this in action I urge you to check out the demos IDV has put out on their software, all freely downloadable at www.idvinc.com. It really shows off their product to the fullest extent. SpeedTree is an amazing product and is sure to catch a lot of attention is outdoor games.