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14. January 2013


One of the themes of this site has always been to focus on low cost (or free) game development technologies.  As a result, you will tend to find content here tends to focus more on products like Blender or Wings instead of 3D Studio Max or Photoshop.  I will of course share any game development related news regardless to price tag, but I tended to focus on the tools available to the most people, especially when it comes to tutorials.  As a result, one product certainly comes to the front of the pack, GIMP.  While Paint.NET is nice, the GIMP is really the only affordable (free) product that comes close to feature parity with Photoshop.


When I first started this site, I looked at compiling a list of resources for getting started with the GIMP and noticed well… it was a bit of a wasteland.  There were a couple books, mostly far out dated at this point.  Today on Safari Books, this title(Safari link), The Artist’s Guide to GIMP(Amazon link) was just added, although it was published a few months back.  So I decided to take a look at how well the GIMP world is represented in books since I last looked a couple years ago.  The answer is, surprisingly well.  So what follows is a list of books about GIMP, in chronological order of release date:


Book Title Publish Year Safari Link  
The Book of GIMP 2013 Link
The Artists Guide to GIMP 2012 Link
GIMP For Absolute Beginners 2012 Link
GIMP 2.6 for Photographers 2011 Link
GIMP 2.6 Cookbook 2011 Link
GIMP Bible 2010 Link
Beginning Digital Image Processing using Free Tools 2010  



There are more books of course, but these are the ones released in the last 2 years.  Anything much older would be rather out of date at this point. 


I have to admit, the body of work available for GIMP is vastly improved, as has the GIMP in general.  If you haven’t checked it out in a couple years, you really should.  The UI is a lot nicer now, although it still has a ways to go.


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



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


















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



Blender Symmetrize Before



















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.  


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