To create reasonable creatures or vehicles, I’d need a decent 3D object creation tool. Ideally, since this is an iPad project, an iPad app.

In another world, I’ve built some 3D objects using Blender, which is a free app that runs on Mac and Windows, with very complete capabilities. It goes well beyond just creating 3D objects, with the ability to animate objects, create movies, and probably bake bread. It’s also so complicated that it’s hard to use casually.

It would do the job of creating bugs or orcs or even human-looking creatures, and in a production mode, Blender or another of the desktop 3D apps would probably be the system of choice.

But I’m not shooting for a real game, I’m essentially spiking the problems to get a sense of what it would take to build a real game, and to demonstrate how one might proceed when faced with building something about which one has limited clues. Essentially I’m entertaining myself and a few readers. So I’d like to build my objects on the iPad, since the Game is being written on the iPad and the articles are mostly written on the iPad (in Scrivener).

There are a handful of contenders for this task. There are two basic divisions of app, sculpting apps and what I’ll call construction apps. Sculpting apps start you off with a ball or something, and you can pull and push and essentially work in digital clay. They’re good for building organic-looking things. For our purposes, I think they don’t apply, mostly because we need simpler objects than they create to save triangles. They’d work, though, and if this were a real product I’d say we should try them.

The construction-focused apps are kind of CAD-like and while I’m no expert, I see two basic approaches. Some apps, like 3DC.IO, let you build with primitive objects, cubes, spheres, and pyramids, and you basically assemble what you want from those bits. 3DC allows you to “subtract”, so you can get some interesting shapes by cutting holes in other shapes. Nonetheless you get fairly blocky objects, with smooth general curves being pretty much out of the question.

Then there are apps that are more like 3D drawing. Two that I’ve checked out are uMake and SHAPR. uMake is quite interesting, very simple, and costs about $100 a year to use. Unfortunately, it has turned out to be rather buggy in my tests, although it is possible that the problem lies in Codea.

SHAPR is more like $240 a year, but it is nearly a full CAD application, much more robust in its features. I’ve not yet tried it: it’s next on my list.

Both of these apps allow things like drawing a curve, then smoothing it by fitting a NURBS or Bezier, then extruding it to create a surface. They will loft a smooth surface from one curve to another. You can cut holes in things, or draw on a face and pull out an extrusion or push in a hole. And they both work rather nicely with Apple Pencil.

$240 a year wouldn’t be much for a real designer and might even be worth it to me if I got deeply into this. But it’s a lot for a hobby, when most apps cost just a few dollars. So I’d prefer that uMake do the job. Unfortunately, it seems that it won’t.

I built an odd thing in uMake, starting with a cylinder. I pulled a disc out of one face, making a kind of handle. Then I pulled a weird shape out of the opposite face, making an oddly-shaped handle. Then I cut a hole in the rounded part of the cylinder. You can’t extrude that, I guess, but I did manage to make the hole. It’s supposed to look like this:

Unfortunately when imported into Codea, it looks like this:

The uMake folks acknowledge that it looks like a bug in their export and that they’ll look into fixing it. That would be good news: I’d like to use uMake if it were going to work.

I’ve also created a simple object with 3DC.IO, but its export comes up blank in Codea. That’s not necessarily a bug, the literature says somewhere that .obj export is a paid feature, and I’ve not yet paid.

I’ll report soon on 3DC.IO, just wanted to get this much progress documented. If progress it is.

General Note

To me, all projects go like this. Random things work or don’t work, discoveries get made, ideas turn out to be good or bad. Slowly pieces of the thing come together.

The trick with an Agile approach is that as things come together we keep them wrapped up in a working tested package, so that our sponsors and fans can see where we are. That helps them make better decisions, and, frankly, it can help keep them off our backs.

I like that feature.

See you next time!