Category Archives: Book Reviews

Blender for Game Developers

It’s been a busy couple of months for me.  Gamescom is just a couple of weeks away, and I’ve had a lot of work with my new weight training book, as well as a new pet project of mine.

I’ve been exploring the Unity engine of late, hoping that it would suit my game project.  It’s proving to be useful so far – although not without quite a learning curve!  The ability to test stuff from within the engine is a huge benefit, though, and the flexibility to use it with other engines for things such as network code is a big draw for me.

One area where I struggle, however, is 3D graphics.  I know my way around the software, but I’m not exactly an artist.  So, I jumped at the chance to review two new books by Packt – the Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook by Virgilio Vasconcelos, and Blender 2.5 HOTSHOT by John E Herreno.

The first of the two books focuses on characters, and giving them life – rather than having them look like plastic models or rag-dolls.  The second covers a broader range of projects, and explains how to approach them in a systematic manner.  This is definitely a weakness of mine – I tend to approach my models from the angle of “OK, well what would look good?”, and that sort of haphazard methodology doesn’t work very well for anything fancier than a table or a barrel!

I’m studying the books now, and I’m impressed so far.  Expect a full review soon.


Review: Blender 3D – Architecture, Buildings and Scenery

Packt Publishing sent me a copy of Blender 3D: Architecture, Buildings and Scenery to review. This came at a great time for me because I’m working on a game in Multiverse, and I’m spending a lot of time tweaking assets in Blender.

I’m a programmer, not a graphic artist. I can get by with 3D software, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert. I hate online tutorials. Sure, some of them are good, but many of them don’t specify what version of the software they’re for (which is annoying when you get halfway through and realise an option has moved). Some of them are written by people who have customized their menus, meaning things are in a different place for people who are using a fresh install, and some are incomplete. I don’t say this to criticize the people who wrote the tutorials. Indeed, I’m grateful to anyone who takes the time to share their knowledge, but sometimes a book that has been tested, peer reviewed, and edited, is a lifesaver.

The back of the book says that you don’t need to be experienced with Blender in order to follow the book. I was dubious at first, but the first few chapters of the book do actually give a good introduction to the program.

Blender 3D: Architecture, Buildings and Scenery starts off by explaining the tools that will be used in the book: Blender, Gimp, and YafRay. The author, Allan Brito, also offers some useful links for building up a library of 3D objects.

Chapter 2 is spent learning the basics of the interface – keyboard shortcuts, modes, and working with objects, while Chapter 3 takes a quick look at modeling and some of the tools that are available. Experienced Blender users would probably skip these chapters, but they’re a great refresher for someone who has been using Blender but doesn’t have any formal training.

Things start getting more interesting after this. As you work through the book you learn to model walls, scenery, furniture, and decorative items such as lamps. You also learn about textures and lighting – both spot lights and ambient lights. There’s lots of architecture specific advice given, such as marking seams to help with UV mapping. The precision modeling section is useful too.

The examples are very detailed and easy to follow. Each step is carefully explained and there are lots of screenshots. Unfortunately, the screenshots are black and white. Since the default Blender interface is so dark, this makes it hard to pick out the details.

The chapter on Post Production with Gimp has crisp, clear screenshots, so I don’t think the printing is at fault, just the fact that Blender’s default interface is so dark. It would have been nice if the author had changed the interface to some colours with more contrast in order to make things stand out more.

There is a chapter on animation. The author does a good job of explaining the basics of keyframes, timelines, and camera management, so you can make the kind of animations he talks about in the chapter (for showing off buildings and interiors). I would have liked to have seen animation covered in more depth, but to be fair I think that the things I wanted to see were outside of the schope of an architecture focused book.

People experienced with Blender may find that there aren’t many suprises for them, but I think that the author achieved his goal very well.

Overall, I was impressed by this book. I had hoped to pick up some tips to use for making buildings for my game, and also for making benches, barrels, and other interior items. The book isn’t designed for people creating game art, but there was still a lot of useful information. If you’re interested in architecture but new to Blender, or have some experience with Blender and want to learn about the extra considerations that go into making architectural art, then you’ll get a lot out of this book.