Reallusion and gaming

So there is a company that I love and that has been part of my main hobby for years now. The company is called Reallusion, and the hobby I’m referring to is making machinima.

Machinima is that art of taking real time footage captured usually from a game engine, and using it to make a movie. I have been doing this for over five years now and have become quite an expert in the tools and techniques involved.

Reallusion has been selling an application called iClone for several years now that allows people to create machinima for a very low budget compared to full CGI programs used by Hollywood studios, but they have been adding more and more sophistication to their application over the years, and it has become very powerful while remaining within reach of the average hobbyist in terms of pricing.

A rich and diverse ecosystem of content creators have formed around this application to produce all manner of 3D assets including props, scenery, avatars and motions and I have in fact amassed a very extensive collection of all of this stuff as well as expert skills using it and creating content for it.

But it has always been a one way street. It has always been very easy to get 3D assets into iClone, but there has never been a way to get them out. Considering that the purpose of the application is to make videos however, this was never really an issue.

A few weeks ago however, they released new versions of their asset import tools and announced that they would be changing their content store and asset pipeline tools to allow purchase of content for use in game engines.

This is a very smart move for them and all of their existing content developers, and for me it is a boon beyond belief. I have been looking for a way to share 3D assets between iClone and game engines so that iClone can be used to make videos that feature the same characters as the game, but a clean solution has never presented itself until now.

So hats off to the folks at Reallusion for their excellent product. It never fails to amaze me how much value they pack into each iteration of iClone.

This is QNX?

It’s been a while since I’ve worked with the QNX operating system. I was recently lured back to working with it for some industrial control stuff, but I thought I would take a look at the Playbook while I was familiarizing myself with the Momentics IDE. I had heard it was very similar to the Playbook IDE.

Well it’s very near identical in fact, and it’s come a very long way since I used to use VEdit and launch builds using the Watcom compiler before test in Photon.

I left just as the .com crash happened and just as they were converting from an x86 shop built on the Watcom compiler to a cross platform shop using the Dinkum compilers.

So yeah.. WOW!

Momentics is a pretty decent IDE, but what makes it particularly cool is how the IDE integrates with your embedded target whether that is a PXA-270 board that’s going to be used in a medical device, or the Blackberry Playbook. It’s all more or less the same thing.

It’s nice to be home, and I like what you’ve done with the place.

RIM and Gameplay 3D

I am not a pundit, and if you actually needed to hear me say that then this blog probably isn’t for you. I am just a geek that has an interest in modern computing of all sorts, and how it is all converging together and becoming a ubiquitous part of our lives. There are a lot of pundits however that are counting RIM out and saying the Blackberry platform is dead.

Well to paraphrase Monty Python “they’re not dead yet”.

RIM is funding something that I find quite appealing and that is an open source, cross platform gaming framework called Gameplay 3D. Released under the Apache 2.0 license, anyone can get the complete source code for this framework and write a game with it that will run on iOS, Mac OS X, Windows 7, Android, and Blackberry OS 10 and Playbook 2.

For me this is a no brainer. I have a Unity 3D license for iOS, but that’s about the only platform that license gets me, and it’s a constant struggle to keep those tools up to date with new versions of Xcode and iOS. I may have the same issue with GamePlay 3D, but I have ALL the source code for it here, and it costs nothing.

It’s also being very actively worked on and developed by some top notch game programmers working for RIM, and the features they have mapped out for the next few iterations are quite appealing. They are also very accessible and responsive to bug reports.

Susan can share her own thoughts about the framework, but it wasn’t hard to convince her to give it a look even though she was already well invested in using a different framework. We have both been looking for ways to work together to achieve more than either of us could alone, so we want to be careful about what skills and tools we choose to learn so we get the most out of them. Gameplay 3D looks like a good way to achieve a lot of portability with very little effort on our part.

Check this stuff out at http://gameplay3d.org

Git with the program

So for the last ten years or so I have been doing Windows driver work for a living. As such, we were a Windows shop and we used Team Foundation for source control and that was that.

We had some source code in older SVN repositories, but we were getting away from that code and moving everything to the TFS repositories.

So I have been out of the loop in terms of what people are using nowadays for source control. I had heard of Git a while ago, but like a lot of things to someone working in a Windows shop it sounded like one of the many other ‘fads’ that would come and go.

So when I signed up and got Git I was very pleasantly surprised at how well it just worked right out of the box. I also got a chance to use the git based integration in the Xcode and Momentics toolchains, as well as the Web based interface and the PC based native Git tool and I have to say I really like this tool/service.

I will forego the ‘when I was a young programmer we had to do revision control with punch cards and a manual hole punch and repair tool’ but I will just sum it up by saying that source control has never been easy until now.

Git – I salute you for solving a longstanding and aggravating problem with skill, style and a great sense of humour as well.

A Flurry of Posts

So we have a blog now, but what do we put on it?

Well for now you’ll have to bear with us for a bit of a braindump of what we’ve been talking about over the last month or so. We’ve been circling around our common skill sets and looking at what we might be able to make a living at, but it’s more than that.

It’s about doing what we really want to be doing. Something that we will be happy doing, and that will bring happiness to others. We’re not about being a huge game company and dominating the industry and growing like crazy and making zillions of dollars.That’s the whole adrenaline thing, and there are plenty of adrenaline based games and entertainment venues out there already if that’s what you’re looking for.

We wouldn’t be happy trying to make adrenaline based games because that’s not who we are or the kind of games we enjoy playing. As with many creative pursuits you can always tell when someone truly enjoys their work, and we think that if we produce things that we truly enjoy and love, that they will find a market that enjoys and loves them too.

There is also the whole near instant connectedness that we all share and that certainly affects nearly everything about how we think about entertainment, games, social activies, work activities. Nearly every aspect of our lives.

So visit us often as we explore the possibilities that abound in this exciting new connected world we all find ourselves in.