Thursday 23 August 2018

Game Engine Import for Omber

One of my long-term goals for Omber is to develop vector graphics tooling for animation and games. That's why the Omber gradient engine is based on a 3d graphics pipeline typical for games instead of a more typical vector graphics pipeline. Omber has supported COLLADA and glTF export for a while because I've always wanted Omber's art to be usable in games.

Unfortunately, support for COLLADA and glTF is pretty rudimentary in most game engines. The situation is not improving either. The new glTF 3d format is one of the best 3d file standards that's been created in decades. It is the first 3d file format standard with the technical capabilities needed for sharing modern 3d models between programs. But most 3d tools have been very reluctant to add support for it. So even though Omber has been able to export its vector art for use in games, no game engines have been able to actually import this vector art.

So I took some time out from working on Omber to create some importer plugins for the game engines PIXI.js (which is also used by RPG Maker MV) and Unity. You don't have to wait around for game engines to catch up to importing modern 3d file formats. You can import Omber vector art immediately into these game engines using the importer plugins with a minimum of hassle. I even game jammed with Omber's PIXI plugin to make sure everything worked, and it was fine. The vector art exported by Omber tends to be heavy in triangles currently, which can be graphics intensive if you have hundreds of pieces of vector art on-screen at the same time, but it's fine for more normal situations. I also used the Unity plugin to make an animation from one of Omber's clipart pieces. Basically, I broke down the chibi boy image into parts and exported each one separately. After importing them into Unity, I reassembled them hierarchically so that the the legs, arms, and heads would be children of the torso object, etc. Then, I could use Unity's animation tools to make a simple run animation. If you want support for other game engines, just send me a message and I'll see what I can do.

I'm now back to working directly on Omber again. I'm not sure which areas I should focus on next. I could add in more general vector design functionality. Although Omber has some unique features, it will take a while for it to be competitive in the general graphic design space. Even then, it would be hard to compete with better resourced firms. I was thinking of making an iPad port, but now that Affinity Designer is out and Vectornator has been made free, I'm not sure there's much of a market there. Ports are also time-consuming and other versions of Omber won't see any improvements when I'm doing the port. Oddly enough, three years ago, I made a rudimentary animation tool in a few months called Animation Companion, and even now, that tool often has more traffic and more users than Omber. I could use some of Omber's technology to make a much better animation tool, something comparable to Spine and that could also handle vector art exported by Omber. I wonder if that would be a better area to focus on.