The Shareware Review People

Dark Basic Professional

Type of Program: Game Editor
Supported Platforms: Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP (Requires DirectX 8.1 or Higher)
Company Name: Dark Basic Ltd.
Version: Professional Version
Price: $99.99
Installed Size: 475MB


You may of seen, or heard of some of the 3D game programming battles going on around the Internet lately. If youíve been watching, or looking for a decent 3D compiler for your game engine than no doubt you have seen the war of words, over which compiler is better, which program has more features, and so on. Well than let me throw (or keep) Dark Basic Pro in the loop. Dark Basic has actually been around for some time (its first release was in 1999). This first release was touted as version 1.x (which I reviewed here), and now has been completely rewritten and launched as the "Pro" Version into this arena of 3D game compilers.

When I first started using this version of Dark Basic Pro (DBP), it was one of the first releases of the Pro Version. Since then (within a few months of testing this app), it has released several patches. As of this review I have applied patch #3 to the Pro Version so this is what we will be speaking of here. Although I currently am using patch #3, there will soon be patch #4 released within a few weeks. This news tells me that DBP is continually being updated, reworked and polished up to keep its users not only happier, but they are trying to keep all the bugs out as well. Speaking of which, DBP has a great Forum for users to post ideas, suggestions and of course bug reports. So the DBP Team continues to work out most bugs as they are reported and to be fair, since it is a "new" product, is sure to have a few now and then so the bigger question might be; "Is the publisher willing and able to correct them?" The answer here is: Yes!

Dark Basic Pro is your lower-end (as far as price is concerned) 3D game program and compiler. If you want to delve into this realm of 3D game programming than DBP is sure to please your wallet. Donít let the low price fool you though. It has many functions and features not found elsewhere and should satisfy many programmers around whether you are a newbie or a seasoned veteran.

To begin with Dark Basic Pro has a very nice GUI to work in. It is one of the first things I really admired and was a nice change from its earlier version (1.x). From its interface you can see at a glance all of your Functions, Labels, Variables, Settings, Files and so forth. You can setup your Projects Window style, Properties, Screen Resolution and more from the Settings Button. So from the onset, DBP is relatively easy to get setup and ready to program! So now that you have DBP ready to go, what is it that you can actually do with it? Aside from designing your own graphics, which we will have to assume you have that knowledge and has already been done, letís look at some of the Dark Basic Professional features:

During the coding of your program you can Run your application from within DBP. You can Run it in its full state, Step Through it using the Debugger, set Breakpoints and set a Variable Watcher. Since programming is actually 98% debugging you should have no problem here. With its Editor you will find it rather easy to use its Project Manager as well as its Syntax Formatting and Function Folding. Once you have created that perfect snippet of code that collides with objects or makes the enemy more intelligent, save it back as a Template for future use and easy insertion into any other section of code!

With over 1,000 commands you are able to work with Binary Space Partitioning (BSP). Here you can create your Levels and Worlds in 3rd party packages and incorporate them within DBP. Use Bump Mapping and Lighting, Sphere or Cubic Mapping along with Pixel and Vertex Shading and youíre all but on your way to designing true 3D applications! Do you want "Real Time" shadows? DBP has it! Want to work with Terrains, Particle Systems or Matrices? Go ahead and start your coding as DBP can handle them all! Maybe you are more familiar with designing and working with .X Objects. No problem here, just create your ..X Object in a 3rd party program for insertion into Dark Basic Pro.

Hereís a partial list of many of the Dark Basic Pro features concerning its 3D Engine:
1. Binary Space Partitioning BSPs
2. Potential Visibility Set (PVS)
3.Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG)
4. Terrains
5. Sphere and Cubic Mapping
6. Bone Based Animation
7. Vector and Matrix Manipulation
8. Real Time Shadows
9, True Reflections
10, Bump, Light and Environment Mapping
11. Particle System
12. Full Polygon Collision and Response
13. Multiple Camera Views
14. Multitexturing
15. Cartoon Shading
16. Nodetree Optimization
17. Rainbow Rendering
And More

Although one should have some experience into programming, Dark Basic Pro does have some Help files to help you work your way through. If the Help files are not enough, browse the friendly User Forums for advice, tips and downloads. Generally 3D programming is not for the faint of heart. It does take some serious time and patience but Dark Basic Pro can aid you on your way through this tangled mess of creating 3D applications. Once youíve mastered Dark Basic Pro you will be pleased to know that it is expandable using DLLs that can be dropped its plugin directory. Dark Basic Pro supports in its 3D format; X, 3DS, MD2, MD3, MDL, Quake 2 and 3 Maps as well as Half Life Maps. 2D formats include; DIB, TGA, BMP, JPG, DDS, and PNG. The sound and music formats are; SND, WAV, AIFF, AU, MIDI and MP3. Video formats are; DVD, MPEG, Indeo, Cinepak along with AVI.

When you use Dark Basic Pro no doubt you will be pleasantly surprised how easy some commands are while others take some grasping. But that should be expected within any 3D game program and compiler. Some compilers do one thing, while another compiler will something else. So the bottom line is when you are looking for your 3D game program and compiler, ask yourself; "How easy is it?" "How fast does it compile" "How much does it cost?" and "Does it have all the features I need?"

Dark Basic Pro is fairly easy to use if you already have some programming experience. As I said, some commands are easy while others take some getting use to (but that comes only from my own lack of using those commands to begin with), with time they will too become easier Iím sure. How fast does it compile? Well, from my testing it does its job but ask someone else using competitors program and the war of words begin. For me DBP compiles fast enough and the only real issue I found was how big the final .EXE was (but that too is being worked out in future patches). No one can argue too much on the cost so thatís an easy one! As far as having enough features that depends on all that you want or need to accomplish. Dark Basic Pro has the feature of Multiplayer (LAN or Internet), is fully XP compliant and of course has over 1,000 commands. So is it feature rich? You bet!

Are there any Cons to Dark Basic Pro? To be truthful in my testing over a few months most of the Cons could be condensed down to only a few areas. Bugs cropped up here and there (as should be expected in any new program), but most bugs were addressed and patched as soon as possible via the Forums. So I watched as new bugs were reported and fixed. Another area would have to be the lack of any real Manual. It comes with only a 47 page Manual but also includes a more in-depth 126 page Reference Manual. Of course both Manuals are included in the online Help file and plenty of included examples to get you on your way to learning as quickly as possible.

So let the war of words continue. Dark Basic Pro should be able to handle anything thrown its way. It does have many features not found in more expensive programs, is faster than others and it is continually being improved upon! You can create any type of game you plan to make using Dark Basic Pro because it does have the power to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it (visit the Dark Basic Web site and take a look at some of the showcase programs created with Dark Basic Pro). Overall Dark Basic Pro has more Pros than Cons and did I mention the great email support and Forum support? Dark Basic Pro should seriously be considered as your next 3D game program/compiler.

User Friendly
Ease of Installation
Reviewed by Robert Hall
Purchases can be made online from their Web site.

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