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Argonaut BRender
Brender logo.gif
Developer(s) Argonaut Software
Designer(s) Jez San
Sam Littlewood
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Sony Playstation
Release date(s) 1996: v1.2.1
1997: v1.3
1998: v1.4
Genre(s) Game Engine

Argonaut BRender (abbreviation of Blazing Renderer) is one of the first development toolkits and a real-time 3D graphics engines for computer games, simulators and graphic tools. It was developed and licensed by now defunct Argonaut Software. The engine had support for Intel's MMX instruction set, 3D hardware device drivers and software drivers including DirectDraw, and it supported Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS, OS/2 and Sony PlayStation platforms. It was competing at the time with other engines such as Criterion's RenderWare and RenderMorphics' Reality Lab.

Besides the performance, part of the success is due to its accessibility as it came with standard support for popular 3D and image formats (especially 3D Studio Max), with extensive documentation and examples, and with a diverse licensing/pricing range as well as trial packages. Many industrial and entertainment softwares used BRender for rendering such as SGI's FireWalker, Microsoft's 3D Movie Maker and Electronic Arts' Privateer 2. While famous until the late 90s to the point of version 1.2.1 being pirated, the development kit has completely vanished since then and most of the currently available resources have resurfaced thanks to archiving efforts such as the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine.

In the 2010s, BRender is still at the center of ongoing projects as the 3D Movie Maker, Carmageddon and Croc online communities develop new content and tools according to the engine specifications.

BRender and Carmageddon

Graffitis in BRoom
BRoom! splashscreen
Plaything starts...

Patrick Buckland and Neil Barnden were subcontracted to work for Argonaut Software around 1995. As Stainless Software, they first developed the gamelette BRoom as a technical demo showcasing BRender's capabilities. Despite the small scope of the project, obvious similarities to the future Carmageddon title are apparent: the genre is car-combat and some 3D models are near identical to their Carmageddon counterpart (minus the textures). The metallic and industrial style of the level is also similar to the industrial environment in Carmageddon which was the first level to be set up in the alpha. In 1996 they developed BRender Plaything which is self-introduced as a utility for the creation & editing of BRender resources and is an improvement over the then-existing BRview tool. Plaything was a great addition to the BRender toolset as previewing and preparing 3D assets was made easier in its WYSIWYG interface.

" After trying various packages Stainless Software chose to write Carmageddon with BRender because it was the only rendering solution which allowed the features and the level of flexibility we needed.
The API was written by gamers for gamers, and that makes a great difference which we hope is reflected in the quality of our software.
-- Mat Sullivan "

Stainless Software took advantage of their knowledge of BRender to go on with their own effort, still titled 3D Destruction Derby at the time they pitched it to Sales Curve Interactive. Adding their collision and deformation system upon BRender as well as a yet improved Plaything suiting the development needs, Carmageddon was on the way. At first the game made use of the engine's strongest feature, the software rendering, in both 320x200 and 640x480 resolutions in MS-DOS. Both modes were made available from the Windows 95 environment some time later. And finally Voodoo and Voodoo2 support was painstakingly added even later as 3dfx patches.

By then, Carmageddon 2 was already in development. Again an enhanced version of Plaything, promoted to Plaything 2 for the occasion, helped the developers create the levels, cars and pedestrians for the game. Carmageddon 2 put the emphasis on hardware accelerated graphics by support of both Direct3D and Glide API. Software mode was also featured but this time only in 320x200 and within Windows. It must be noted that unlike Carmageddon 1, graphic assets for Carmageddon 2 weren't made with regard to the software mode 256 color limited palette. This is explained by the focus on 16 bit textures to map the environments.

" Carma was probably the highlight of working on BRender - they were a great team - I used to drive down to the Isle of Wight to do support, every visit would see more craziness.
They were unashamedly making something that they themselves wanted, with really very few concessions.
-- Sam Littlewood "

While not the last game to use BRender, Carmageddon 2 is probably to most ambitious and the one to take BRender the farthest. This, with the early release of development tools, might explain the longevity of the modding scene for the game, each year pushing asset complexity a bit further. The game was patched a couple of times. Amongst other things, patch 1.02 (aka. v2) raised the resource limits greatly and allowed much larger fan-made levels.

After the release, Stainless Software used Carmageddon 2 as a base to pitch a Hot Wheels game to Mattel but it didn't go further. The Hot Room level and die-cast car Flashfire were available amongst the C2 development assets and brought back into the game by fans. Stainless Software then moved on to a gladiatorial 3D physics based combat game project using their improved BRender engine: Arena AD was set to be released by late 1999 - early 2000 and seemed to be quite advanced when it was showcased at E3 '99. However a mishap in development schedule tore apart the already tense Stainless-SCi business relationship and had financial consequences. This was not only the end for Arena AD but for Stainless Software as well, the team had to merge with VIS Entertainment. In late 2001, Patrick Buckland revived the studio as Stainless Games and the rest of the team was back by 2003, Neil Barnden included. They brought back their own technology elaborated through the Carmageddon series development, nicknamed Beelzebub, and little by little replaced the last remnants of the BRender engine in the code as they modernized the graphics engine features.

Some games using the BRender engine

  • 3D Movie Maker
  • Alien Odyssey
  • Arena AD (cancelled)
  • Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Racing
  • Bundesliga Manager series
  • Carmageddon, its Splat Pack add-on, and the sequel Carmageddon II
  • Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
  • Dr. Who, Destiny Of The Doctors
  • F1 Manager, F1 Manager Professional
  • FX Fighter, FX Fighter Turbo
  • I-War (Independence War) and its add-on campaign Defiance
  • Kanaan (cancelled)
  • Motor Mash
  • Pete Sampras Tennis 97
  • Play with Teletubbies (Windows 95/98)
  • Privateer 2: The Darkening
  • Queen: The eYe
  • VR Baseball '96

External links