Pilgway talk about the ethics in 3D and hint at a new major release of 3D-Coat in the next months.
For more than a decade, the team at Pilgway have been working on 3DCoat. The company has become a strong partner of CGTrader, supporting 3D design challenges and other initiatives, the most recent one being our 3D Character: Female challenge, which invited designers to submit non-sexualized models of realistic and fantasy characters. We had the chance to talk to Andrew Shpagin and Stanislav Chernyshuk about their experience in 3D and the role ethics play in their professional lives.
The core of your team are physicists. How did you guys end up in 3D graphics and developing 3D-Coat?
Andrew graduated from the Physics department at Kiev’s National University in 1997 and started working at the gaming company GSC. We were friends from University and, at that time, some of us were attending the same church with Andrew. His wife Marina asked him – why you create only usual games – let’s make something Christian. She had an idea: to make a game based on John’s Bunyan “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. We wanted to tell people about Christ in an interesting way and not obsessively, especially to those who hadn’t even held the Bible in their hands. Andrew and some of his friends came together to think about the concept of the game and the script. But during the work Andrew noticed that it is hard to design in other apps and decided to make his own small app just for texturing characters. At that time he left GSC and lived on very little money. In six months, the new app 3D-Brush (later renamed to 3DCoat) was born, and we made our first sale for $70 in 2007. We did not finish that Pilgrim’s Progress game, but later we made a small interactive book for the iPad. It’s free and cool, and you can find it at http://ppibook.com/
Your founder Andrew Shpagin is a renowned game developer. How has his experience impacted what you do at Pilgway?
That experience served as a great starting point and defined our vision of how 3DCoat works and feels. Back in the day, Andrew developed a game engine for powering real-time strategy games. Part of the libraries for the engine included the level/map editor, as well as the character editor. These, as well as understanding the needs and the pipeline of an artist working on game assets, served as a good foundation for designing 3DCoat. Although many of our customers are game development studios, 3DCoat is successfully used not only in the game industry, but in multiple other industries as well.
What function of 3DCoat is often under-used by designers? What are they missing?
It’s hard to tell exactly, as everyone has their own pipeline and uses the features they need. One of the unique tools that we feel could be used more often is File->Import->Import image as mesh. It can mix two completely different stencil images with very different topologies of contours. It is like a loft between two very different contours with different topology. You can create a model, where on one side you have letter A and letter B on the other, and the model is a gradual transition between the two.
How to import an image as mesh in 3D-Coat
What use of 3DCoat did you find the most surprising, in a good way?
To us it’s probably the creation of concept art. From the beginning, 3D-Coat was designed to be a tool for creating and painting over 3D models, so making concept art turned out a pretty surprising (in a good way, of course) use of the toolset for us. It grew incredibly popular lately and the quality of the concept art people create never ceases to amaze us!
By Eryk Szczygiel, image from 3dcoat.com
What major trends are you seeing in the 3D industry?
For the last couple years that’s definitely been VR, which gets used more and more extensively. And we are looking to get an adaptation of that into 3DCoat sometime soon as well.
Pilgway has been around for more than a decade. What major changes have you lived through in the gaming industry and what developments do you expect in the future?
The graphics quality in games increases from year to year as computers become more powerful and capable to process and render ever more realistic visuals on screen. On one hand, this makes the games more demanding and expensive to create, on the other hand, the technologies allow better quality visuals to be produced faster. From our perspective, the most noticeable change happened on the side of textures and materials used to build game worlds, characters etc. The transition to PBR made it a common standard these days and we’re happy to say 3DCoat has extensive support for PBR and the so called Smart Materials. It has not been announced yet, but we are launching our own library of materials soon, which should make 3DCoat an even more attractive tool from that perspective.
PBR assets textured with 3DCoat
What plans, projects or challenges have you set for yourselves in the future?
Without spilling out too much at this point, we have some great unannounced features currently in production. So our strategy would be to make a new major release of 3DCoat within the next 12 months and then support it with regular feature updates every 2-3 months (that’s what we’ve been traditionally doing anyway:). In terms of challenges, there will always be some, especially when new technologies and solutions come out to the market and you need to keep up, but that’s what builds the progress, right? So we are definitely up to meet those with all our zeal!
Tell us why you chose to collaborate with CGTrader on the Space Challenge.
It goes fully in line with our policy of the community-driven progress – you can always count on us when it comes to supporting art, creativity and the communities designing something positive and new.
Tell us about your Voice. What prompted you to release the message?
Andrew: When we started to sell 3DCoat, one of the first questions we raised was our responsibility for how the tool will be used, maybe for something that we think is destructive. This is not an easy question. Being Christians, at the very beginning, in 2007, we wrote a really strict Our Voice page and even placed some restrictions for violence and erotica in the EULA. It was not my initiative, but I agreed with Stanislav to place those restrictions. And we felt a real wave of frustration and anger from the artist community, which is so used to freedom. People liked the tool but hated that policy. I got many angry letters. So I started to revisit the question: is there any sense in restrictions and why we, as Christians, want those restrictions for other people? This impacted my views a lot. I completely rethought what I believe and my values really changed because I understood that people are really different and forcing them to accept my values is actually violence. I see how many times this had happened in history. So I removed any restrictions. Our Voice is just an opinion, not a request. This whole story completely changed my relation to religion and human sexuality. Now, I treat human sexuality and beauty in a very positive way. I am a Christian, but I am a free man. I even wrote a book “Eat the lion” to resolve this conflict. It is about cooperation of strong desires and conscience. It will be translated to English soon. So, users changed me a lot and I am thankful. I was developing 3D-Coat, but users helped me to develop itself.
Stanislav: When we saw that 3D-Coat was getting more and more popular and that the product is used in various projects by many game studios, we asked ourselves – what is our responsibility as the creators? Then we decided to ask developers to make positive games, without violence and carnality, with the help of our software. Of course, this is just our appeal, not a legal demand. We also want to let people know why we have such views and to explain the reasons why we have faith in Christ. We are sure that the Christian faith helps us a lot in modern life. It gives forgiveness of sins, peace, joy, hope and understanding of what is going on.
By Tyler Thull, image from 3dcoat.com
You are among the few companies in the industry that are focused on ethics. How do you see morality and ethics in the work that you do and the industry as a whole?
Andrew: Generally, the core of our ethic is the desire to create a better future. We don’t do this just for money, we think it makes the world around us at least a little bit better. Our ethics are based on Christian values (“love thy neighbor as thyself”), but in reality it is not different from what most thinking people want. I don’t think of actions as being very bad or very good, I prefer to see it as acting better than before. If my children play games – it is not bad. But it’s better if they play and learn 3D, which will possibly help them in the future. It’s worse if they play and reject professional growth or break off relations with close ones. This is the reason for making a modding tool for games.
Stanislav: It’s a hard question. We hope that Our Voice will help at least some people to make better games, with good, positive ideas, and to decrease violence and lustfulness in games. Each of us has some influence. Even a single person in the company can change something. From our side, we want to make the best app and remind everyone that each of us has a responsibility. We think that developers should think more about the influence of their games on people. We also like to be partners and participate in good third party initiatives, similar to CGTrader’s Female Character challenge.
Header by Kait Kybar. Image from 3dcoat.com