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10. January 2013

 

I’ve been at a bit of a loss for what to work on next.  I am still going to be working on game math recipes, as well as the HTML based level editor, but I wanted to start a new tutorial series and couldn’t really decide what to work on.  Then I realized how heavily I’ve been ignoring the artist side of the fence… perhaps because I am no artist.  I do of course follow it as a hobby and have since I got 3DS for DOS way back in the 90s.

 

blender icon (1024)

Programmer art is a tricky thing, especially when it comes to the world of 3D.

 

In 2D, you can download a spritesheet from the web and use that as a placeholder.  In 3D, this becomes a bit more difficult.  There exist tons of premade 3D models, some even completely animated, that you can download and plug into your game.  This sounds wonderful… in theory, in practice it is anything but wonderful.  After importing you will often find the animations don’t work, textures are missing, the scale is all wrong, the orientation is all wrong, etc.. 

 

That’s why it’s often handy for a programmer to be able to create their own art.  That is exactly what this tutorial series is going to cover.  From beginning to end on how to model, texture, animate and export your own 3D models or levels.  The results aren’t going to be pretty…  that part requires years of experience… but it will be functional and will teach you all the basics and you can take it from there.  There are also a ton of resources available for Blender, I will point to or include them as I go.

 

Of course, you won’t need to be a programmer to follow this series, I am just making the assumption that my target audience is composed of programmers.  This series should be useful to anyone looking to get up to speed with Blender.

 

Hope you enjoy it.  Any and all suggestions, recommendations and feedback appreciated.

 

Stay tuned for part one shortly.

News Art


20. December 2012

So I fired up Steam today and lo and behold, what's under the new release section?

 

Silo 2.

 

 

Silo 3D graphics

 

If you've ever read the GameFromScratch list of 3D Applications  you will see I am a fan of Silo.  It's mostly a 3D modeller, its very good and previously used to be 200$.  Now a gigantic word of warning, Silo has been pretty much abandoned, with no new updates for years.  This is unfortunate, because it was a great product at a great price.  Even abandoned, for 50$ it's still awfully tempting, if you want a modeller on the cheap… it's a lot like Modo with a fraction of the price tag.

 

Maybe the Steam sale will encourage them to put some more effort into developing Silo again.

 

If you are interested, there is a 30 day trial available.

Art News


14. December 2012

Whoops.  I generally keep on top of new Blender releases, but this one slipped past my radar.  So, this new is a bit dated.

Blender 2.65 splash

 

Anyways, Blender 2.65 was released a couple days ago.  This post takes a look at what's in this release of interest for game developers.  At first glance, not too much.  At second glance, quite a bit actually.  At third glance, you are glancing too much and it's time to simply look!

 

 

First off, stability.  Over 200 items were knocked off the bug list.  More stability is always nice.

 

Stuff not really all that gamedev related

  • Fire simulation and smoke flow force field added
  • Open Shading language support added to Cycles renderer
  • anisotrophic shading node added
  • anti-aliased viewport drawing

 

Game dev related additions

  • decimator modifier rewritten and now preserves UV 
  • new smooth modifier that can preserve edges and volumes
  • triangulate modifier which can be used for creating baked normal maps
  • bevel now includes round and no longer sucks
  • a symmetrize tool was added
  • a tool for transferring vertex weights between objects

 

Bevel

There is not a ton to the bevel controls:

Blender Bevel

 Basically you have offset and segment.

 

 Offset is the amount to bevel by

 

 Segments is the number of iterations or edges to use when composing the bevel

 

 

More impressive are the results, before bevelling multiple edges was… ugly.  Now:

Bevel Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symmetrize 

So how exactly does Symmetrize work in Blender?  Remarkably well actually…  Check this out.

 

Before:

Blender Symmetrize Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After:

Blender Symmetize After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too damned cool.  So, basically it's like a mirror modifier… that you can apply after the fact.  I like.  Options are pretty simple over all. 

 

Mirror Direction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basically you just pick the axis and direction you want the symmetry applied along.  Again, very cool.

 

Great job on the release Blender team.  Head on over and download it here.

Art News


13. November 2012

In this world of cheap mass market cross platform game engines like UDK and Unity, the barrier of entry to creating a polished game have never been lower.  Except of course when it comes to art that is.  Take a quick look at GameFromScratch's 3D application list for an idea of what kind of prices we are talking about here.  There have been a few options on the lower/cheap end with Blender and the GIMP being the two most popular free options.  There are a few other options, like the MacOS only Cheetah, the now-defunct Silo or Shade Basic available for a hundred dollars or so.  The next jump up is to applications like Modo and Cinema4D, both with a price tag nearing or over the 1000$ mark.  From this point we jump drastically to the various Autodesk applications, all with a price tag in the many thousands dollar range. 

 

Simply put, if you are creating your first game, perhaps a mobile title on a truly indie budget, if you don't like Blender or aren't breaking the law, you are pretty much screwed.  Sorta.

 

Autodesk Maya actually has an incredibly interesting option available.  You can now license Autodesk 3D Studio Max or Maya 2013 for 90 days for a price of 199$.  Yes, that is a full commercial license, so you can ship a game and make money on a 90 day license.

 

1. What are Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya 90-day fixed term licenses?
90-day fixed term licenses*, sometimes referred to as “project licenses,” are fully
operational, commercial licenses of Autodesk 3ds Max 2013 or Autodesk Maya 2013
software that enable a license holder to use the software for a period of 90 days only.

2. Can an Autodesk 3ds Max or Autodesk Maya 90-day fixed term license be used
for commercial purposes?
Yes, unlike the free, 30-day trial which can be used for evaluation purposes only, you can
use a 90-day fixed term license of either Autodesk 3ds Max 2013 or Autodesk Maya 2013
software in production for commercial purposes.

 

You can read the complete FAQ here (PDF LINK).  You cannot renew the license, so be sure that you can complete your project in 3 months or you will need a full license.  You can however also get a 30 day trial of either Max or Maya ( which you can't ship using ) to get started, giving you a total of 4 months to create your game.  

 

That covers you on the 3D side, what about Photoshop?  Well, you have options there too…  The Photoshop CS suite normally has a price tag around a 1000$.  A while back, Adobe started offering their software on a subscription basis for about 50$ a month.  Interestingly enough, since then they have started offering Photoshop for as low as 20$ a month ( with a year commitment ), or for 30$ a month on a pay as you go basis.

 

Also like Autodesk, they offer a 30 day trial.  Therefore, if you are able to create your game in less than 4 months, you can legally use Photoshop and Maya (or Max) for a total price of 289$ ( 199$ + 30$ x 3 months, + 1 month trial ).  

 

Four months might not seem like enough time, but it is actually a reasonable development window for a typical mobile game, especially if you are working full time.  Hopefully your game will then be successful enough to justify and pay for full licenses for both products.  Another interesting side effect of both license structures is they give a credible ( and affordable ) pathway for pirates to go legit if they are using pirated software.  

Art


27. October 2012

 

 

It's odd how news arrives sometimes, it always seems to arrive in batches and today's post is no exception.  Earlier this week I read about a recently launched 3D modeller that works within Unity3D.  That piqued my interest for a few minutes, then something shiny came along and I forgot about it completely.  Then a day later a different product was announced that also enables 3D asset creation within Unity.

If you've not heard of it, Unity is a massively popular game creation suite, that enables developers to create games for PC, Mac, iOS, Android and more.  Prices range from free to around the 1,500$ mark.  The biggest catch has always been the content creation side, take a look at our 3D application list for an idea of the typical price tag attached to these application.  Up until now, Blender and Cheetah3D on the Mac where you only options if you didn't have several thousand dollars to spend.  Then you have to contend with the annoyances of getting your asset from the application and in to Unity, not always a seamless process.  Therefore, a low cost/no cost editor that works within Unity is certainly welcome.  And today, we get two of them!


GameDraw


The first is GameDraw, which is available in Unity or as a stand alone application on Mac, Windows, Linux and iPad.  It currently has a 45$ price-tag, which is about 1% of the cost of 3D Studio Max if you want to put that in perspective.

GameDraw features include:

Polygonal Modeling, Sculpting, Generation and Optimization Tools
UV Editor
City Generator
Runtime API
Character Customizer
Mesh Editing ( Vertex, Edge, Triangle, Element)
Mesh manipulation functions (Extrude, Weld, Subdivide, Delete, Smooth,…etc)
Assigning new Materials
Mesh Optimization
UV editing
Primitives (25 basic model)
Sculpting
Boolean operations
Node based mesh generation
2D tools (Geometry painting, 2D to 3D image tracing)
Character customizer
City Generator
Warehouse “hundreds of free assets”




 

Shade for Unity

Shade is the other contender entering the ring.  This is a bit odd for me, as I have been a hobbyist in the 3D industry since the early DOS days when I purchased 3D Studio ( note, no MAX ) 4.  I spent my childhood dreaming of owning an SGI Indy with PowerAnimator.  I have followed the industry forever, used just about every 3D application out there, from the big guys like Max and Maya to the fringe like Nichimen nWorlds and Houdini.  In all of that timeNewImage however, I don't think I have ever even heard of Shade, which amazingly has been around since 1986 and is currently at version 12!  

I downloaded the 30 day trial  and I am rather impressed with this package, which I will be looking in to in a bit more depth later.  I noticed along the way, while search for help on how to do certain tasks in Shade, nobody else has heard of it either!  There just isn't a ton of information out there.  How the heck can a package get to version 12 and nobodies heard of it?  Easily… it's big in Japan.  Ah.

So then, why the hell am I babbling on about Shade?  Well, this announcement recently crossed my desk:

Publisher Mirye Software and developer E Frontier announce the free 3D game content development system for indie developers and professionals will soon be available for developers on Mac OS X.

Shade 3D for Unity is based on the professional 3D modeling, animation and rendering tool set Shade, a product available for over 27 years and used worldwide by illustrators and designers. Shade 3D for Unity enables designers and game developers to build animated project content that integrates with Unity 3D, the game development system for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android.

Workflow integration makes it is easy to share project assets (Configuration Files) of Unity in Shade 3D for Unity and easily transfer content between them.

Snip…

Shade 3D for Unity includes an advanced tool set for creation of original 3D content:

* Import/Export integration with Unity 3D
* Advanced 3D Modeling Environment
* Polygon Mesh Editor
* UV Editor and Image Management
* Design friendly Bezier Spline Modeler
* Powerful Object Instancing Features
* 3D Object Hierarchy Browser
* Material Setting Features
* Material Parameter with Texture Map Settings
* Animation Setting Feature
* Draft Ray Tracing Renderer

Interesting…

Perhaps most interesting of all is the price tag.  Free.  I like free.

That said, the last free product 3D product I tried out was Daz3D and I am still getting half a dozen spam emails a week from them ( serious Daz, quit it, or make your freaking unsubscribe functionality work! ), so free isn't always free.  Mirye certainly intends to make money somehow, just not sure of exactly how as of yet.  My guess is they are following Daz's model of selling content, or perhaps it's an attempt to upwell you to Shade Professional.

Shade for Unity isn't actually out yet, don't expect it until November.  You can read more details on their site.  They also currently have a utility for using Shade with Unity on the Unity Store called the Shade Unity Loader.  

 

 

Now if you will forgive me, I'm off to play with my new toy.  It's always cool to find another professional caliber 3D application, especially one with a price tag starting at 99$!  I will post a bit more detail on my experiences with Shade 12 trial shortly.

Art News


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