Originally published 2003 in Atomic: Maximum Power Computing
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.


OK, so where's the pornographic 3D software?

I don't mean here, in this office, where I'm writing this column. I don't partake of that sort of thing. At all. Ever.

Don't look in that drawer. It contains nothing but dry leaves.

What I mean is, where's the porno 3D software in general?

Porn is a giant industry. Lots of people have 3D graphics accelerators. Why don't we get spam about Super 3D Hotties Who Do What You Say?

That software would be rubbish, of course, because nearly nothing sold via spam is worth buying for one Hong Kong cent. But the spam would be indicative of the existence of 3D X-rated "games" where you got to tell little on-screen people what to do, or watched the action from a first person perspective, or whatever.

There are a few such packages out there; there have been for ages. Porn games started out 2D (oh, the horror over "MacPlaymate" back in 1986, and the thrill of sneaking it into the school computer room!), and there actually are a few 3D ones around today. But they all pretty much stink, at least from what I can see on the sites spruiking them.

(Which I visited in an entirely detached, thoroughly professional and completely tax-deductible way, I'll have you know.)

OK, as a reader's pointed out to me, there is this. But it's, um, limited, and free. The commercial products just aren't there.

One of those humorous screen grabs of Counter-Strike dudes apparently engaged in the Congress Of The Beetle is a heck of a lot more realistic than any porno games I've been able to find. There are "interactive movies" where you can direct the action, Choose Your Own Adventure style, but there's precious little real time rendered material.

On the face of it, this is weird. The porn industry is famous for being at the very atomic wavefront boundary of the cutting edge of any technology they can possibly use.

There's a popular legend that VHS took off because Sony wouldn't let people release porn on Betamax. Well, that's not true; Sony had some control over the Beta licensees, but those companies made VCRs, not movies. The real reason was that early Beta tapes were only an hour long. That was good enough for TV show timeshifting, but no good for movies, dirty or otherwise.

VHS quality sucked (and it still does, though it quickly caught up with Beta quality-wise), but its tapes were longer. And porn was a significant factor in its victory over Beta.

DVD? Superb for porno. Scene selection lets you skip all that boring talking and irrelevant drama. Long before a decent selection of clean DVD movies was available, there were slabs of porn.

JPEG, as a free-for-all image format, may or may not have been created to reduce the bandwidth consumption of the alt.sex.pictures Usenet hierarchy, but that was definitely part of the motivation. At the start of the 1990s, alt.sex.pictures was becoming such a monster GIF-stream that many Usenet servers were dropping it not out of prudery, but just to stop their pipes being clogged. Even if it wasn't actually made for that sole purpose, though, that's certainly the place where it first gained popularity. JPEG allowed you to send five 24 bit images of people doin' it for the bandwidth price of one eight bit GIF of the same thing, so the world's digital pornhounds switched format as soon as they could.

Porn companies are even trying to get people to buy naughty clips to play on mobile phone screens, for heaven's sake. Don't ask me why. But if evidence were needed for the smut-peddlers' enthusiasm to, ahem, probe every niche, there it is.

So - why no 3D porn software?

Well, part of it's got to be the inability of computers so far to render really realistic humans, or even really realistic cartoon humans. Humans realistic enough to shoot at? Yup. Humans realistic enough to have sex with? Nope.

But we're close, now. Look at Nvidia's good old Dawn demo. If you find it inadequately convincing, rename the "fairy.exe" file to "3dmark03.exe" or "quake3.exe", for versions of Naked Dawn with and without wings.

Nvidia put a Naked Fairy Feature right there in the demo, people!

"Cinematic computing", indeed. But the kind of cinema where, ah, the carpet's not sticky for the usual reason.

Now, the porn industry's interested in selling to regular people, not PC enthusiasts with the latest shiny video card. It'll be a little while before the average PC can render Naked Dawn levels of reasonably realistic nudity. So that might account for the lack of porno software.

It also might be a production issue. A porn game would, in many technical respects, be the same as a normal game - you'd need decent programmers and artists and animators, you'd need voice talent, and you'd need design people able to craft a workable user interface.

Yes, you sniggerers in the back row, that interface would need to be usable with only one hand.

Maybe there are substantial technical issues I'm missing, here. I shudder to think what clipping errors might do, for instance. And something that looks good in a screenshot isn't necessarily convincing in motion. The characters in "Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within" moved more like dead bodies animated by invisible wires than like real humans. The necrophiliac market probably can't support a software industry segment.

Still, if Half-Life 2 can contain realistically flopping and floating mattresses, I can't help but think that user-directed activity atop them is only a matter of time. With real-time multiplayer online action, even.

And you know what? I'll bet you twenty bucks that some moral crusader who used to complain about kids shooting each other online is going to be much, much more hysterical about people making love, not war.

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