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Product Review: Robert McNeel and Associates' Rhinoceros 2.0

Using NURBS, almost any object that can be imagined can be described as a combination of relatively simple forms. Finding those forms is up to the individual artist or designer, and bringing them together is made much easier with Rhinoceros 2.0 - affectionately called Rhino by those who use it - a 3D design package developed by Robert McNeel & Associates. For the price, a relatively modest $895, Rhino is the highest-quality, most feature rich modeling package on the market today.

Using NURBS, almost any object that can be imagined can be described as a combination of relatively simple forms. Finding those forms is up to the individual artist or designer, and bringing them together is made much easier with Rhinoceros 2.0 - affectionately called Rhino by those who use it - a 3D design package developed by Robert McNeel & Associates. For the price, a relatively modest $895, Rhino is the highest-quality, most feature rich modeling package on the market today.

As a pure surface-modeling package, Rhino is easy to learn and simple to use. The package's powerful import and export features that allow it to be connected to other programs such as Adobe Illustrator and IGES.

With Rhino, all curves and surfaces, including the surfaces of solids, are NURBS-based. The package supports an impressive set of tools for creating surfaces, including edge curves, planar, extrudes, lofts, networks, rail sweeps, revolves, drapes, height fields, blends, and offsets. Once a surface has been created, it can be trimmed, split, moved, rotated, scaled, filleted, chamfered, and/or copied, as well as joined to other surfaces. It's also possible to alter surfaces on an elemental level by editing their control points. Rhino has an equally impressive set of methods for creating and working with curves.


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Rhino offters low-cost NURBS modeling for Windows

To a first-time user, however, the first thing about Rhino that makes an impression is its rather modest system requirements: A Pentium, Celeron, or higher processor, Windows 95/98/NT/Me/2000 for Intel or AMD, 40MB disk space, and 64MB RAM (more is recommended, as is an IntelliMouse).

The default user interface is divided into four views (Rhino 2.0 allows an unlimited number), and toolbars are in the places most 3D modelers expect them to be. Rhino's refresh rate is impressively fast, even with shading turned on. All of the control mechanisms you'd expect to find are present, including an array of filters, object and grid snaps, construction planes, and layers.

A host of friendly features are new in Rhino 2.0, including the ability to add plug-in applications. One such plug-in is Flamingo, an advanced raytracing renderer also from McNeel & Associates (available bundled with Rhino 2.0 for $1,195). Additional plug-in programs (most not directly applicable to the videogame field) are available from third-party sources.

Release 2.0 also includes enhancements to Rhino's built-in renderer and adds new options and capabilities to many tools for creating, analyzing, and modifying curves and surfaces. It also introduces VBScript and JScript support.

Last, but certainly not least, is The Zoo. The Zoo provides for efficient use of Rhino licenses within workgroups (Rhino 2.0 can be installed as either a workgroup node or stand-alone license).

McNeel (and his associates) should consider adding a feature tree in Rhino 3.0 that will help while editing composite geometry. Most other complaints relate to folks using Rhino for architectural purposes (such as providing comprehensive 2D drawings and cross-section views of 3D models); game developers probably won't even be looking for the package to do such things in the first place - problem solved, case closed.

In a nutshell, Rhino 2.0 provides great value for a singularly small dollop of dough. It's the perfect choice for taking your modeling to an even higher plane. Unfortunately, those who believe that anything powerful must come with a powerful price tag may just overlook Rhino.


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Rhinoceros 2.0
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3body_arrow_sm_right.gif Robert McNeel and Associates

3body_arrow_sm_right.gif Price:
$895

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