Review: Design Your Own Home 3D Walkaround
Product Information System Requirements
Published by: Abracadata Ltd.
Phone: (514) 342-3030
List Price: $99.99
68040 with FPU (math co-processor) or PowerMac (recommended)
27 MB hard disk space
8 MB RAM (16 MB recommended)
The Security Issue
There are many folks who would like to try their hand at design, especially when it involves their own home’s improvement. But where do you start? There are books, periodicals, and of course, design professionals. If any of those options seem intimidating, or hands-on design is more your style, then flex some creative muscles with Design Your Own Home® 3D WalkAround[TM]. This program is easy enough for users who are novices in both design and computer usage, yet will hold the interest of experienced users who would like to experiment with a fun, creative program. However, if your goal is to get serious design “mileage,” then be prepared to make a commitment. Even though the program sells itself as a user-friendly, easy-to-use program, there is a lot to discover in order to fully appreciate WalkAround.
This program does go out of it’s way to make you feel comfortable. The manual and instructions are worded so that you never feel incompetent. Topics are organized in a clear and concise manner, which is good, since you’ll most likely need frequent during your forays into designdom. Before you even load the program, I suggest that you go through the manual and familiarize your- self with WalkAround’s tools and commands. Though the program is non-threatening, the icons give little indication about their function, so you may feel somewhat lost. The interface is hardly intuitive. There are many toolboxes full of ambiguous icons which can be confusing.
Getting started, however, is easy. Just load WalkAround onto your hard drive. It takes up a fair bit of hard disk space and uses a good chunk of RAM because it is a graphics program complete with rendering capabilities and 3D animation. After a short installation, you’re set to go.
One of the first topics is a basic tutorial setting up a room with some furniture and art. This is a comfortable setting which will boost the confidence of even the most computer phobic person. I’ve used other modeling programs, such as AutoCad, so I had no problem getting started. I encourage you to try your hand at it. You’ll gain confidence and familiarity with the tools. As the manual puts it, you can’t ruin anything. Everything can be fixed.
If you feel a need for extra help with setting up a suitable interior, browse through the samples folder. In it you will find numerous styles for many different tastes, all set up and ready to be altered as you wish. In this way, you won’t have to grunt and sweat, struggling to establish an original plan. You may even be inspired.
Once the design process begins to gel, the itch to view your room in 3D is immediate. There are two separate screens: one for 2D, the other for 3D. After creating a plan design, clicking on the 3D button enables you to behold your masterpiece. The tour through the space is not as majestic. You will notice that you have the coordination of a two-year-old, stopping in the middle of exterior walls, or stuck in the end table.
After completing the tutorial step by step, I set out to see how far I could stretch the limits of this program. This is a great program for drafting. There are a wide variety of tools and commands available which make plotting a plan pleasurable. Just enough tools are available to proceed comfortably. However, having been spoiled by the freedom of drafting by hand or in AutoCad, I soon ran into a number of snags. WalkAround lends itself to quick design if the client has a standard, straightforward plan in mind. This means that if you want sloping roofs, continuous curved walls, or custom millwork (to name a few), you should reevaluate their importance because you may not get them. For example, many tools are available in 2D design. Choices are limited by only one’s imagination and determination. So, many objects can be created in plan.
Unfortunately, there is a discrepancy between 2D drawings and the resulting 3D realization. Sometimes it just does not exist! What one draws on plan will not necessarily translate into an object. Objects are created by specific 3D tools. This can be frustrating and sometimes you will need to improvise in order to compensate. In my case, I was looking to place a curved wall in my pseudo dwelling. Initially, I plotted the curve with the bezier curve tool, but then discovered that I couldn’t find it in the WalkAround. After experimenting with the wall tool, I finally achieved a fairly decent curved wall by linking a number of smaller manipulated panels together. Remember to preset any 3D information on objects (except altitude), if possible, before placing them on the plan. Once an object is placed it cannot be altered, short of deleting and starting again.
Sometimes fighting with the program to prove who is master becomes exhausting. In which case, there are a fairly extensive furniture and textures libraries to peruse. Interestingly enough, the creators of this program realized that a little character goes a long way. You may only have four walls, but if you’ve got furniture and objects, you can make any space seem full, or cozy (which explains the depths of WalkAround’s libraries). I’m assuming there are “add ons,” or that there are ways to add to the libraries.
Furniture is the most easily manipulated object. You can rotate, shift, and resize without difficulty. The only shortcoming is that all objects are in plan form, including doors and windows. They are labeled with a descriptive name and dimensions, but other than that, it’s a 3D surprise every time! Surface materials are viewed in small square samples, and the selection is limited. You can create your own furniture symbols if the library is found lacking, but given the extensive “pick and plot” options, who will bother?
Two aspects of the program were completely lacking. The first is the quality of lighting available. Choices include bright, grayed out, or dark general light settings. Though different types of lighting are available in the furniture library, they are not operable as light sources. Few rendering programs provide a good sense of how lighting affects a space, which is a very important factor in design. At best, the lighting in this program is functional.
The second aspect is viewing heights. Though there is the possibility of creating multi-story spaces, be prepared to view them from the ground level only. You can view upwards in the WalkAround, but you cannot view a space exceeding the height of the first floor in a WalkAround. You may design two floors, but they would need to be split into two separate files. This is unfortunate, as there is a loss of continuity when moving through the space.
All criticisms considered, “Design Your Own Home 3D WalkAround” is a worthwhile commercial design package. As a recent graduate, currently working in a design office and well-acquainted in dealing with clients, I would say that this program is well-suited for those who want to explore design ideas on their own. I particularly appreciate that WalkAround provides an environment where one learns to develop a direct correlation of 2D to 3D, even if the two seem separate. One is constantly reminded of how both affect each other, while flipping back and forth between the 2D and 3D screens (which will often occur out of sheer necessity). In addition, WalkAround could be a helpful first step in either designing a dream home to discuss with a professional, or upgrading to another design program where the 3D is harder to achieve, but there is more precise control over each of the elements. Those looking for a souped-up, high-powered graphics package will be slightly let down. But if you’d like a program where you can fiddle around and get immediate 3D gratification, then check it out. There are certain limitations to WalkAround, and to use it to it’s full capacity requires some time. Once you do get the hang of things, you will find it enjoyable, perhaps to the point where you’ll find it difficult to leave your room(s).