iTechnologie Blender Conference 2011

3B. Blender Burster Business

Please visit the Burster project website at http://geta3d.com

The Blender Conference 2011, Amsterdam

Speaker: Przemysław Króliszewski, iTechnologie Ltd.


The company was founded in 2010, our main purpose is the Burster web browser plugin development. We also want to make the Blender and Burster to be closer to the industry and entertainment environment.We know that today we have great possibility to put the Blender at web sites. To create new way of providing knowledge, entertainment and great tool full of features for creating visualizations for industry.




Agenda

In this presentation I will talk about how closed and open license differs from the point of view of investor. What give us the open license and what we can achieve with closed license. Why business chooses closed license.I will talk about our experiences related to creating commercial application. We faced some problems and I will talk about how we resolved them. In this part of the presentation I will try to show which new features could bring Blender to the industry environment.In the third part of this presentation I will show you two examples of our work for customers. First one is the fireproof gate assembly instruction – our first commission. We have learned a lot on this case. But the second one – the set of instructions for Window Shutters manufacturer – was really difficult task. We got many problems there, I will show how we solved that. This commission gave us real experience. Our engineers have had tough tasks all the time, the time pressure and the feeling that we don’t know how to make many things. But we did it just as the customer wants to be done.Last five minutes I wil talk about our development plans, I will also show you our new solution for beginner users – the Burster Directory.

OpenSource vs closed source.

We all use open software. Especially graphicans have got many very good application to use. Blender, Inkscape and Gimp – the great trio of the computer graphics, those applications are used in our daily work. We are used to get those applications for free. We are used to getting new version very often. Programmers constantly ads new fantastic features and the huge amount of involved members of the community creates tutorials, they share knowledge. But let as consider that in most cases, those projects, organizations that stands behinds them are non-profit. The great example is the Blender Institute we all know. Blender exists and develops thanks to the community, thanks to that people who buys dvds, books. Thanks to sponsors.In our business assumptions we take that the Blender community is full of professional studios, agencies, ready to create games and visualizations in Blender. But how many companies creating commercial games in Blender Game Engine do we know? Why we don’t heared about them? Yet we all know that the Blender gives us all we need to create games.


Blender games are intended to be open

Games created in blender are initially intended to be open. The source code needs to be published with game. This happens because to play the game, made in Blenderm one needs at least Blenderplayer. The Game could always be compiled into blenderplayer and to be published as the standalone application. But due to the licensing, this work is the derivative of the Blenderplayer and is infected with GPL license, so, the source code needs to be provided with the application. The second way to publish a game is to publish only the source blend files, and tell users to download the blenderplayer by themselves. In both cases we have to publish all our source files with embedded textures, models, and our concepts.

Business means property – this is not popular anyway

Of course in the educational purposes this is great. But for business environment it is not acceptable. Business means property – this is not popular anyway.The investor will never spend his money for something that will not be his property. He will never spend his money for something that everyone can take for free.Of course the GPL license does not deny rights to the source code for author but in some sense causes the owner to lose the control over his work.Let us consider the game production of very simple game like Angry Birds. I suppose that many of us wondered ,that this game could be also created in Blender. I think that it can be even more playable and more popular but if we look closer to the production process, we will see that we start from the project leader, then graphicans, developers, level testers, musicans. The cost of production is growing very fast. I forgot about marketing and advertisement costs. The budged for this project could be a two hundred thousand dollars. For example. Is this big budget? I dont think so. There will be no problem to find the investor. But please, try to convice the investor, that everything that was created can be downloaded for free, can be altered and published again by someone else. You will see investor surprised and then you will see the doors.From my own example, when I was looking for an investor who can finance the Burster development, two questions was asked: how do we make money on something that is available for free? – When we had return on our investment. Finding a particular investor, who understood the open business model and wanted to fund the development took me over a year.In Our business model, we want to give full functionality available to you for free, additional features and those which are intended for professionals are paid. This is the result of compromise and negotiations.I hope, that what I show you in the Use Cases part will alow you to see that the Blender and Burster is realy the Business. You can earn money easier, when you have the ability to close the source. Our company – iTechnologie – is the best example of that.Currently we make money mainly on implementations. We want to change the model and to dedicate ourselves exclusively to Burster development. This will be possible when community members will see that they can earn money with Blender and Burster, and when they will use our encryption mechanism for closing the code. This will give use resources for Burster development.

Burster tries to connect the open and closed

The Burster allows to connect separate worlds of open and closed source. The open source world, rich of people ready for sharing knowledge and fruits of their work for free and the closed source world – the world of money, property and greedy corporations.For most users, Burster is the web browser player of blend files. However, the Burster gives us more. It gives us the ability to protect the property. The ability to encrypt blend files without worrying that our work may be used by someone who does not bear the costs of production.

Real life problems in commercial application

Hardware requirements

Most office users uses Intel Cards

When we started discussions on the creation of virtual fairs in which the issuer would be able to show their machines, equipment, products, etc. we met with great enthusiasm. Our partners on the other side of the table saw clearly that this is the future. They understood perfectly well how much they can earn on such a project. And everything was beautiful until the first test among office users.

We knew what are the hardware requirements, we also knew the statistics of equipment used by players (from the steam platform). The intel cards have less than 6% of the market. What was our surprise when we visited the testing department of our partner. 95% of users have intel cards, most of them had less than 1GB of RAM and single core processors, They have had old XP installations without servicepacks. The Burster worked on some machines, but users have seen more images like in the kaleidoscope rather than flattering scenes that we created. This was a particular problem. No GLSL meant that it was not possible to apply many graphic effects, which are now on the strength of Buster. We quickly realized that we have to prepare something that will look good and will work on old machines! But we lost a lot of arguments, the floor is no longer rough, the glass is no longer shiny, and without anti-aliasing it looks like the first Wolfenstein. Oops.

We are graphic designers, gamers, and people who understand very well that the equipment must be replaced - we see no problems here, but among the mass audience, this problem exists.

Making GUI

Poor equipment, fear of installing plug-ins are not the only problems. The real problems begin when the client wants to create a user interface. Sometimes we do just a simple interface, a few buttons. But sometime we have to create a lists, combos. It is lots of fun, a lot of nerves, a lot of trying and experimenting - sentimental return to the books of discovering new lands. Certainly we have to do something here what the blender is not created for. But we have succeeded and this and this proves that Blender is a great and universal tool. I will show you in the Use Cases part what problems we faced and how we solved them.


Another problem is font. We all know how to create bitmap fonts in BGE, and we all know that as we look at the specific distances and when we not scale fonts, they look nice. When we create a simple game, where we decide what font to use, what size and color - everything is ok. In our project, the client expected (which is quite normal), that everything will be done exactly as he designed. We needed to use the corporate font. After several weeks of trial-and-tug with the client, (we said it already looks pretty good, the client - it looks hopeless - this can not be like that). We tried a completely different solution. We made the objects for each letter, then we inserted fonts on the hidden layer. Wherever the text have to appear we put the empty. Then using addObject we add letters where we want to. The letters were legible, great scaling, and we eliminated problems with Polish fonts. This solution slightly increases file size.


UseCases.

To see the presentations from the links below, you need to have Burster installed - please go here to download Burster

1 Fireproof gate

http://geta3d.com/geta3d/projects/ak/

Our first commision was the for fireproof gates manufacturer. The need for creating this assembly instruction was that the manufacturer have the problem with theirs assembly teams. They destroyed parts, they were loosing some elements or the mount elements in i.e. different direction than should be mounted. The manufacturer looses over 20k euros a year. We have the warehouse, the building needs to be protected against high temperature and flames. We got each bolt here, and even the direction of rotating is clarified. We can stop the animation, we can step back and forward. In this commision every model was created from the technical drawing provided by customer.

2. Window Shutters

http://geta3d.com/geta3d/projects/anwis

The assembly instructions have the descriptions In polish language, but if the customer wants us to do the translation to other language it is not a problem, because we prepared all labels in python scripts. The GUI is quite different than in previous example. We got some buttons here, we got a combo list. Everything works smooth and nice. As was mentioned earlier, we made meshes from fonts to get clear and good scaling texts. We got different objects for light and bold styles. Each letter has the ascii code in the name. In the scene we have an empty wherever the text will appear. In the fonts.py we have the code that puts the letter into right places.  nother interesting thing, when we add constant space between the letters we will get some strange result, so we always take the real dimension of the letter from the mesh. Polish letters are in the extended set in the unicode characters, they cant be reached using two bytes, so in our case, the polish font have non standard codes – we replaced unused characters with polish fonts. Quite interesting is also how we controll the animation in particular stages. We have got the main controller, it contains information about which stage is currently played, and gather some other properties. Then we have controllers for each stage in the scene. We have here the start frame of the animation, the end frame, some technical variables stores information about state of the current stage. Everything is controlled by simple ipo scripts. The camera movement is quite smooth. We have the main camera for each stage, and always four dirfferent cameras pointing to some details. We could use emptys here, but it is much easier to look by camera than by empty – to define the good detail view. The point in the space that the camera is tracking to is defined by track object. We have the track object for each camera. 

Development plans

Multiple blend files and their relations

Currently the burster can download only one file from the server. This is a big problem in creating larger projects. For example it will be a great feature if the developer could divide the game into starting stage, levels. And to load them when they are needed. This will decrease the whole size and the loading time. We are working at this sollution and all your opinions and needs will be very helpful for us. This feature for sure will burst the Blender popularity as the IDE for creating professional games.The second thing we want to do in the near future is the two-way javascript - Burster communication. For example we see the need for reloading the page after some action done in the game. We also count at your opinions and needs in this matter.

Burster storage.

Geta3d.com, this is the project that I cannot show you localy, and so I will show it as fast as the internet connection allows me to do. We have got two access plans, we thing that most users will need only the basic access It is quite cheap.

Mobile Blender games

First step will be made very soon, we were trying to end our creation for this conference, but I supposed that this is almost impossible, so you will see our production in the near future.Our target are android and iPhone/iPads platforms, while the gears are quite powerfull and can play physics and 3d graphics. Of course this is very very big task,


Intro

Speaker: Przemysław Króliszewski, iTechnologie Ltd.


The company was founded in 2010, our main purpose is the Burster web browser plugin development. We also want to make the Blender and Burster to be closer to the industry and entertainment environment.


We know that today we have great possibility to put the Blender at web sites. To create new way of providing knowledge, entertainment and great tool full of features for creating visualizations for industry.


Agenda

In this presentation I will talk about how closed and open license differs from the point of view of investor. What give us the open license and what we can achieve with closed license. Why business chooses closed license.

I will talk about our experiences related to creating commercial application. We faced some problems and I will talk about how we resolved them. In this part of the presentation I will try to show which new features could bring Blender to the industry environment.

In the third part of this presentation I will show you two examples of our work for customers. First one is the fireproof gate assembly instruction – our first commission. We have learned a lot on this case. But the second one – the set of instructions for Window Shutters manufacturer – was really difficult task. We got many problems there, I will show how we solved that. This commission gave us real experience. Our engineers have had tough tasks all the time, the time pressure and the feeling that we don’t know how to make many things. But we did it just as the customer wants to be done.

Last five minutes I wil talk about our development plans, I will also show you our new solution for beginner users – the Burster Directory.


OpenSource vs closed source.

Blender GPL License causes the fast software development and popularity

We all use open software. Especially graphicans have got many very good application to use. Blender, Inkscape and Gimp – the great trio of the computer graphics, those applications are used in our daily work. We are used to get those applications for free. We are used to getting new version very often. Programmers constantly ads new fantastic features and the huge amount of involved members of the community creates tutorials, they share knowledge..

But let as consider that in most cases, those projects, organizations that stands behinds them are non-profit. The great example is the Blender Institute we all know. Blender exists and develops thanks to the community, thanks to that people who buys dvds, books. Thanks to sponsors.


In our business assumptions we take that the Blender community is full of professional studios, agencies, ready to create games and visualizations in Blender. But how many companies creating commercial games in Blender Game Engine do we know? Why we don’t heared about them? Yet we all know that the Blender gives us all we need to create games.


Blender games are intended to be open

Games created in blender are initially intended to be open. The source code needs to be published with game. This happens because to play the game, made in Blenderm one needs at least Blenderplayer. The Game could always be compiled into blenderplayer and to be published as the standalone application. But due to the licensing, this work is the derivative of the Blenderplayer and is infected with GPL license, so, the source code needs to be provided with the application. The second way to publish a game is to publish only the source blend files, and tell users to download the blenderplayer by themselves. In both cases we have to publish all our source files with embedded textures, models, and our concepts.



Business means property – this is not popular anyway


Of course in the educational purposes this is great. But for business environment it is not acceptable. Business means property – this is not popular anyway.

The investor will never spend his money for something that will not be his property. He will never spend his money for something that everyone can take for free.

Of course the GPL license does not deny rights to the source code for author but in some sense causes the owner to lose the control over his work.

Let us consider the game production of very simple game like Angry Birds. I suppose that many of us wondered ,that this game could be also created in Blender. I think that it can be even more playable and more popular but if we look closer to the production process, we will see that we start from the project leader, then graphicans, developers, level testers, musicans. The cost of production is growing very fast. I forgot about marketing and advertisement costs. The budged for this project could be a two hundred thousand dollars. For example. Is this big budget? I dont think so. There will be no problem to find the investor. But please, try to convice the investor, that everything that was created can be downloaded for free, can be altered and published again by someone else. You will see investor surprised and then you will see the doors.


From my own example, when I was looking for an investor who can finance the Burster development, two questions was asked: how do we make money on something that is available for free? – When we had return on our investment. Finding a particular investor, who understood the open business model and wanted to fund the development took me over a year.

In Our business model, we want to give full functionality available to you for free, additional features and those which are intended for professionals are paid. This is the result of compromise and negotiations.

I hope, that what I show you in the Use Cases part will alow you to see that the Blender and Burster is realy the Business. You can earn money easier, when you have the ability to close the source. Our company – iTechnologie – is the best example of that.


Currently we make money mainly on implementations. We want to change the model and to dedicate ourselves exclusively to Burster development. This will be possible when community members will see that they can earn money with Blender and Burster, and when they will use our encryption mechanism for closing the code. This will give use resources for Burster development.


Burster tries to connect the open and closed

The Burster allows to connect separate worlds of open and closed source. The open source world, rich of people ready for sharing knowledge and fruits of their work for free and the closed source world – the world of money, property and greedy corporations.


For most users, Burster is the web browser player of blend files. However, the Burster gives us more. It gives us the ability to protect the property. The ability to encrypt blend files without worrying that our work may be used by someone who does not bear the costs of production.


Real life problems in commercial application


Hardware requirements

Most office users uses Intel Cards

When we started discussions on the creation of virtual fairs in which the issuer would be able to show their machines, equipment, products, etc. we met with great enthusiasm. Our partners on the other side of the table saw clearly that this is the future. They understood perfectly well how much they can earn on such a project. And everything was beautiful until the first test among office users.


We knew what are the hardware requirements, we also knew the statistics of equipment used by players (from the steam platform). The intel cards have less than 6% of the market. What was our surprise when we visited the testing department of our partner. 95% of users have intel cards, most of them had less than 1GB of RAM and single core processors, They have had old XP installations without servicepacks. The Burster worked on some machines, but users have seen more images like in the kaleidoscope rather than flattering scenes that we created. This was a particular problem. No GLSL meant that it was not possible to apply many graphic effects, which are now on the strength of Buster. We quickly realized that we have to prepare something that will look good and will work on old machines! But we lost a lot of arguments, the floor is no longer rough, the glass is no longer shiny, and without anti-aliasing it looks like the first Wolfenstein. Oops.
We are graphic designers, gamers, and people who understand very well that the equipment must be replaced - we see no problems here, but among the mass audience, this problem exists.



Making GUI

Poor equipment, fear of installing plug-ins are not the only problems. The real problems begin when the client wants to create a user interface. Sometimes we do just a simple interface, a few buttons. But sometime we have to create a lists, combos. It is lots of fun, a lot of nerves, a lot of trying and experimenting - sentimental return to the books of discovering new lands. Certainly we have to do something here what the blender is not created for. But we have succeeded and this and this proves that Blender is a great and universal tool. I will show you in the Use Cases part what problems we faced and how we solved them.

Another problem is font. We all know how to create bitmap fonts in BGE, and we all know that as we look at the specific distances and when we not scale fonts, they look nice. When we create a simple game, where we decide what font to use, what size and color - everything is ok. In our project, the client expected (which is quite normal), that everything will be done exactly as he designed. We needed to use the corporate font. After several weeks of trial-and-tug with the client, (we said it already looks pretty good, the client - it looks hopeless - this can not be like that). We tried a completely different solution. We made the objects for each letter, then we inserted fonts on the hidden layer. Wherever the text have to appear we put the empty. Then using addObject we add letters where we want to. The letters were legible, great scaling, and we eliminated problems with Polish fonts. This solution slightly increases file size.


UseCases.

1 Fireproof gate

Our first commision was the for fireproof gates manufacturer. The need for creating this assembly instruction was that the manufacturer have the problem with theirs assembly teams. They destroyed parts, they were loosing some elements or the mount elements in i.e. different direction than should be mounted. The manufacturer looses over 20k euros a year.


We have the warehouse, the building needs to be protected against high temperature and flames. We got each bolt here, and even the direction of rotating is clarified. We can stop the animation, we can step back and forward.


In this commision every model was created from the technical drawing provided by customer.

The second project is made at the same framework, so I will speak about the framework in details in the next few minutes, but first let me show you how it works.


Window Shutters

OK. now I will show you the project we made. Just after, I will show you how we made some things which I think may be interesting for some of you.

The assembly instructions have the descriptions In polish language, but if the customer wants us to do the translation to other language it is not a problem, because we prepared all labels in python scripts.


Lux

We got some buttons here, we got a combo list. Everything works smooth and nice.


Firstly lets look how we made clear fonts. At the ui scene we have got object for each letter.

We got different objects for light and bold styles. Each letter has the ascii code in the name.


In the scene we have an empty wherever the text will appear.


In the fonts.py we have the code that puts the letter into right places. As you can see at the parameters list here, we put text at different scenes. The reason for that is that the ui is at the overlayed scene, and there is another scene overlaying ui.


Another interesting thing, when we add constant space between the letters we will get some strange result, so we always take the real dimension of the letter from the mesh.


Polish letters are in the extended set in the unicode characters, they cant be reached using two bytes, so in our case, the polish font have non standard codes – we replaced unused characters with polish fonts.


Quite interesting is also how we controll the animation in particular stages.

We have got the main controller, it contains information about which stage is currently played, and gather some other properties.

Then we have controllers for each stage in the scene. We have here the start frame of the animation, the end frame, some technical variables stores information about state of the current stage.

Everything is controlled by simple ipo scripts.


The camera movement is quite smooth. We have the main camera for each stage, and always four dirfferent cameras pointing to some details. We could use emptys here, but it is much easier to look by camera than by empty – to define the good detail view. The point in the space that the camera is tracking to is defined by track object. We have the track object for each camera.



Development plans

Multiple blend files and their relations – currently the burster can download only one file from the server. This is a big problem in creating larger projects. For example it will be a great feature if the developer could divide the game into starting stage, levels. And to load them when they are needed. This will decrease the whole size and the loading time. We are working at this sollution and all your opinions and needs will be very helpful for us. This feature for sure will burst the Blender popularity as the IDE for creating professional games.


The second thing we want to do in the near future is the two-way javascript - Burster communication. For example we see the need for reloading the page after some action done in the game. We also count at your opinions and needs in this matter.


Burster storage.

Geta3d.com, this is the project that I cannot show you localy, and so I will show it as fast as the internet connection allows me to do.


We have got two access plans, we thing that most users will need only the basic access It is quite cheap.


Mobile Blender games

First step will be made very soon, we were trying to end our creation for this conference, but I supposed that this is almost impossible, so you will see our production in the near future.

Our target are android and iPhone/iPads platforms, while the gears are quite powerfull and can play physics and 3d graphics. Of course this is very very big task,

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