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Wed, Nov 9 2011 15:35:11 UTC

Interview with TopoGun

Today we talk with Cristi from TopoGun about the latest release of this retopologizing software.

Could you briefly describe yourself?

I'm 29 years old, I live in Bucharest, Romania and I've been working as a senior character artist for about 10 years. I also have a computer programming background starting from the early high school to the late college years, which somehow made me a technical artist. I always tried to combine art with it's technical aspects.

What is TopoGun?

TopoGun is a retopologizing software, mainly. But it can also be used for baking maps and several other interesting and important stuff.

Why did you initially create the program?

When I first started to write TopoGun, about 7 years ago, it was for personal use. Retopologizing was just more like a theory back then and not actually a step in the pipeline (or at least it wasn't such a popular and mainstream process). Digital sculpting was just emerging and given the fact that I had the chance to work on some next-gen titles that actually involved digital sculpting into the workflow, I had the opportunity to figure out and try to find ways to improve the production process.

I was working at AMC STUDIO back then as a character artist and have been working with great artists and workmates. The only retopologizing solution was way too expensive for me and had a not-so-nice interface and workflow. It was only used in the film industry, to retopologize 3D scans. So I decided to create my own set of tools to get the job done. The first working versions were used in-house and I noticed the good feedback I got from my colleagues. I decided to make TopoGun available to everybody and started beta testing it.

Then something wonderful happened, I got a great response from artists around the globe involved in testing it and they all seemed to like it. I always tried to listen to their feedback and suggestions, which helped me tremendously in developing it further and adding new exciting features. It was a real brainstorming and I don't think I would've done it without their support and positive feedback, which just kept me going. I remember I was working like 20 hours a day back then, but I had so much fun!

What are use cases where TopoGun would be useful as opposed to built-in tools in popular modelers?

Well, retopologizing is the most obvious case when TopoGun can be used against other tools. Its tools are perfectly streamlined to this, I tried to keep the interface SIMPLE and hide the technical aspects as much as I could. A bloated interface for example or a not-so-friendly workflow just drives the users away when trying a demo. At least that happens to me, as many try a demo without actually reading the docs at the beginning. It's either love at first sight or a quick uninstall. You need to make sure people are tempted to adopt a third party standalone tool, and so many are a little bit reluctant to this idea.

The performance is another important aspect, you need a program that's able to hold huge loads of generic, random and not predictable geometry, after all that's what digital sculpting is about. TopoGun does that very well, due to many low level graphics programming tricks it uses.

The other features TopoGun offers over other popular modelers are the Subdvision, Morpher and symmetry approaches, which, at least to my knowledge, are nowhere else to be found.

The latest version, 2.0, is currently in beta, what major features does it bring over the first one?

TopoGun 2.0 brings more stability and a set of new tools and features, such as the Tubes, Extrude and the Brush tools, the revamped Draw tool, the Morpher and Symmetry Planes extensions. Another major feature is TopoGun for Linux, as there was a huge demand from big film and game studios, which are mainly based on Linux pipelines. The sources have been unified for Windows, OS X and Linux. The licensing system isn't operating system dependent, so if someone buys TopoGun, he doesn't buy TopoGun for Windows, OS X or Linux. He just buys TopoGun, which can be activated or moved between Windows, OS X and Linux. I think a portable licensing system is a fair approach, people change operating systems, it wouldn't be right to limit their options.

When is the full version expected to come out?

By the end of this year, TopoGun 2.0 beta 2 will be available and after a brief retesting period (probably several months, anyway much shorter than beta 1), TopoGun 2.0 will be out. TopoGun 2.0 will be available for free for existing TopoGun 1.xx customers.

How has user feedback been so far?

The user feedback has been fantastic so far, people just seem to enjoy and like TopoGun. I get a lot of emails just to let me know how much TopoGun has changed their workflow and made things easier and artist centric.

Can you talk about future features you may be working on?

I can't talk about that, but I have a long list of features waiting to get implemented.

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