One of the few minor perks gifted to users of the rather overpriced “Ultimate” flavour of Vista was that of animated wallpapers called “dreams”. Although not an entirely novel concept, it was impressive in its low use of system resources since it made use of the fact the OS now has direct access to the computer’s graphics card. Now this is available to all Vista users* through Stardock’s DeskScapes. This is no cheap knock-off or mimicry either — Stardock are the people who developed the .DREAM format in the first place. Presumably their exclusivity period to Vista Ultimate has now expired.
DeskScapes is a fairly small application that integrates fully so that you can pick animated wallpapers through the usual wallpaper selection interface. The model appears to be that the free version will only allow specific bundled dreams while the paid version (around $20) will support scores of fantastic user-created downloads. The current preview release contains just 3, only one of which is worth using but it alone sells the concept with a beautiful sunset scene — imagine those blades of grass billowing gently in the breeze with the light playing realistically off the surface. Presumably the final version due later this month will include several more. The standalone price is low but I imagine most won’t be willing to pay for such a focused application. However it will also form part of the Object Desktop package that allows complete customisation of virtually every element of the Windows interface.
Speaking of Stardock, one of their developers wrote an interesting article in response to the recent discussion about the state of PC gaming and the effect of piracy. Many major developers and publishers decry piracy as being the chief architect of the downfall of PC game development but Stardock, who deliberately distribute games without any form of DRM, argue otherwise, showing strong sales despite the ease with which the game could be copied. The suggestion is that if you treat your paying customers well, they will reward you. The pirates, meanwhile, should simply be ignored in all business decisions as falling outside the market.
* There appear to be limitations under Vista Basic since it cannot run Aero.
19 March 2008 at 3:53 pm
And as it turns out SoaSE (the most recently released game from Stardock) was the second best-selling PC game in February. Looks like Stardock knew what they were talking about.
20 March 2008 at 12:10 am
Also, I downloaded these Dreams thingys to try out on my new widescreen monitor. Nice but a bit weird to try and work with. Also, they’re horrendously unstable. Any amount of alt+tabbing or full-screening then exiting and they lock-up. Nice as a gimmick but not worth $20 IMHO.
24 March 2008 at 5:16 pm
Indeed, GalCiv II made quite a stir with Stardock being quite vocal in their stance against inclusion of anti-piracy software and Sins of a Solar Empire has shown its success was no fluke.
On the Dream front there appear to be two ostensibly different types available at the moment: those which make full use of the .DREAM format and those which are essentially WMV movies under a different guise. The former have low CPU usage and seem quite stable. The latter show noticeable spikes in CPU usage and may be responsible for the instability you experienced.
This all said, I concur that it’s essentially a pretty toy and not really worth $20 alone. However as part of the full Object Desktop Suite for $50, it becomes a lot more appealing.
Note that if you are toying with the idea of buying the suite, I’d encourage buying now since a new version is due at the end of the month and splits the suite into a $50 basic and $70 ultimate version. All existing “subscribers” (buying the software includes free access to any updates or new versions of any of the programs in the suite released in the following year) are automatically upgraded to the Ultimate version. Bargain.