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Mon, Nov 14 2011 23:28:04 UTC

Interview with creator of forger iPad sculpting app

Today we have an interview with Javier from Double Negative, talking about forger, a new iPad 3D sculpting app he created.

Can you briefly describe yourself?

My name is Javier and I am currently working at Double Negative as a Pipeline TD. I started doing 3D when I was still in high school and continued ever since. I consider myself an artist even though I studied computer science.

I looove sculpting things (digitally) at home, I don't see it as a job, I have fun doing it, like any kid would drawing on a piece of paper. (of course this can only be seen like this at home and without deadlines or production! )

What is forger and what are the main features of the app?

Forger is a sculpting app for the iPad, I think that its main feature is that it is being developed from a modeler point of view, and not from a programmer, so when I plan to add features I add those features that I would use (and I do use) when I am sculpting, that results in a richer feature set.

How does it differ from the other modeling apps we've seen recently on the iPad like 123D Sculpt and iDough?

I think that each app is great at what it's focused on, my app is more thought for professionals or aspiring CG animation/vfx/game artists than 123DSculpt or iDough. It expects users to know up to a certain level or at least have used some desktop sculpting app to some extent, so they can understand what certain features do, and when to use them.

This is definitively not a good ''business decision'' since this closes down the potential customers market to only the people in the industry or the people who want to be in the industry, and after that, take only the ones interested in modeling out of all disciplines and take only a 5% that might have an iPad, that is my target audience.

Like I said, not a smart business decision, but at the end of the day I am trying to write an app that I would like to use, not my mom. So I try to add everything that I feel that I need and I don't try to oversimplify things or stupidify the user base.

Was it hard to make, what kind of experience did you have with XCode and other iOS languages?

I am really happy because I think that I've learned a lot while doing it. I did have the experience of studying computer science, and I know my fair bit of C/C++ and OpenGL, but to put things into actual use and to prepare a project of the scale of this project is something that you can't learn in a class. It's also the mistakes you make and the design errors (that only you see) that makes you better. So I guess that it wasn't easy, but I don't want to say that it was hard, as if this was hard I don't want to know how are the planned features going to turn out to be!

How long did it take you to create it?

I wrote a really rough version of the app for the iPhone to use as a Tech Demo around three years ago when the iPad wasn't out yet, I wrote it in one month and a half straight, by then I was about to finish university and I had nothing else to do, so I was literally working on it 24/7.

Around a year ago, and after having lots of workmates encourage me to finish it, I decided that I would continue to work on it if the technology was ''ready''. I did some initial tests sketching out things in ZBrush and I tried loading my ''worthy'' lowpoly sculpts into an old version of the app running on an iPad to see if the framerate was acceptable and it seemed to be good enough, that's when I started to work on the app.

It has taken me so long for two reasons, the fact that I decided to rewrite everything from scratch planning things out better and I wrote my own underlying drawing engine, as the first time I was using a game engine under the hood (note that drawing engine does not mean renderer) the other is the fact I don't have much time left for myself at the end of the day, but it kept me going, the fact that even if no one liked it, I would still like it and use it, because I love to sculpt!

What makes the iPad great for this type of app?

I think that the fact it's portable and you don't need like a zillion devices to start sculpting, if you are in a train or at the airport you can just take your iPad out of your sleeve and just start sculpting there. I do that in all my flights and I totally lose track of time. You could attempt to do the same carrying a laptop and a separate tablet, or even a tablet PC, but it really isn't the same, trust me.

How has the user feedback been so far?

The user feedback has been incredibly amazing so far! Everyone seems to like it a lot, and it really makes me happy seeing how much people like it after all the time and effort that went into it!

Can you talk about some of the upcoming features you'd like to put in forger?

I really don't like to talk much about upcoming features, mainly because this is not my main job and everything depends on how much spare time I get when I am away from work, and even after work the amount of time I can invest doesn't depend on me entirely, but I would like to say to the current customers that I have major plans for it, and if I get the time I will implement them.

For now I can talk about some small/not-so-exciting features like being able to tweet screenshots directly from the app, sync documents with iCloud, email OBJs, a reworked interface and that there are obviously plans for an iPhone version possibly as an universal app.

But all of these features are considered really tiny stuff that have nothing to do with the ''major plans'' that I repeatedly keep on saying.

Any plan for other apps?

In the process of writing this app I have made another app (a source code reader) just to help myself, it has really helped me and every time that I travel I go through some parts of the code of forger looking for further optimizations (that's when I am not sculpting on forger!) But at the moment I don't want to invest much time on it (I only add the features that I need, as I need them)

I do have other plans, to write some other apps, but I have everything on hold as I would like to focus all my time and effort into forger now. I would definitively like to code a game some day with some nice graphics as I rarely find good 3D graphics on games for iOS/Android which really annoys me, but well...

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