Bryce 2 from MetaTools (805 566-6200) is designed as a tool for artists who want to design realistic or fantastic three-dimensional landscapes. But the $160 program for Windows 95/NT or Macintosh also makes a wonderful desktop toy.
Bryce, the brainchild of designer Kai Krause, allows you to create scenes by dropping in pre-designed terrain, sky, clouds, water, and other topographical features. You can select textures, colors, and characteristics such as reflectiveness and transparency for each element, make it a day or night scene, and change the intensity and direction of the lighting. Then click a button and watch as Bryce turns your selections into a fanciful landscape with photo-realistic quality. You may not accomplish much, but watching the scenes materialize on screen is curiously soothing. And it sure beats solitaire as a way to pass the time with your computer.
If you would like to get some inspiration, try the company Web site, www.meta tools.com. But be sure you have a fast Internet connection, and be prepared to wait while the images appear.
By STEPHEN H. WILDSTROM
Updated June 15, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1997, Bloomberg L.P.