Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I've Never Been So Excited for an Apricot

Blender has been the model editor of choice for CrystalSpace for a long, long time. Most of my CrystalSpace documentation has revolved around using Blender to create content for CrystalSpace code. The two together are like peanut butter and bananas. Fantastic.

Recently Jorrit made an exciting announcement on behalf of the CS team - Blender and CrystalSpace are partnering to build Apricot, an independently developed and completely open game title. To fully understand my unbridled enthusiasm you have to understand Elephants Dream, originally called Blender's project Orange. This was an open movie project - a full movie title with all content released under a flexible Creative Commons license. Textures, models, all production files are freely available. This did unbelievable things for Blender. Not only did this give users access to professionally generated content, new documentation and a whole new realm of tutorials it also pushed the envelope for Blender itself. Orange generated demand for whole new genres of features, and kept the Blender development team pushing point release after point release to keep up. If I recall correctly, Blender's hair generation system was largely built due to demands made by artists creating content for Elephants Dream. Not only did the movie promote Blender, it made Blender a production-quality product that could demonstrate it was ready for prime time.

The same envelope is getting ready to be pushed for CrystalSpace now. That's where my unbridled enthusiasm lies; CrystalSpace has been a commercial-quality 3D engine for a while now, but now every stage of the production process will be thoroughly tested and fleshed out. While I have no doubt that this project will result in enhanced functionality grown by the demands of the game developers, I'm most excited about the tool chain being completely fleshed out. In my mind while the Blender exporters for CS were fantastic, all the corner cases hadn't been completely covered. With Apricot, model exporters should be polished, skeletal animation should be more integrated into Blender armatures, physics should be more strictly related to Blender riggings and meshes should have attributes that more exactly equate to CrystalSpace equivalents. This should make the entire end-to-end content generation process as smooth as a polished stone.

Nothing like a real-life, production quality project will take the edges off of the various and sundry tools used for development. It's amazing how much one will forbear when it's not a "huge issue," but when you encounter the same "not a huge issue" twenty times a day it suddenly becomes something worth tackling. Ideas and features may be the result of inspiration, but the remaining 99% of time spent refining a project is sheer perspiration. I'm looking forward to both projects' continued trial by fire, and seeing what has been forged once the fires have quieted down.

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