4 years. That's the time it took me to write this blog post. It's also the time it took me go from broke African guy to creating best-selling Maya tools, key employee at Quixel, then Epic Games, and now Polygonflow.
In this article, we'll go through the state of modern art and tools production workflows, and how we at Polygonflow intend to push those processes to the 21st century.
20 years ago, 3D artists had to manually create every single polygon of most objects in their scenes, and 20 years after, most projects still resort to the same techniques. PBR, Proceduralism and Photogrammetry have brought an incredible wealth of innovation to the Computer Graphics industry, but in the grand scheme of things, they are just a small part of a much bigger puzzle; the puzzle of creativity and automation.
Technologies like Unreal Engine 5's Nanite and Lumen, Promethean AI's scene building system, Quixel's Megascans and Adobe's Oculus Medium promise a new creative era for more people than ever.
It can be tempting to think of these new technologies as nothing but hype, and while they don't fully solve the puzzle of creativity and automation, they represent the biggest push this industry has had in decades.
5 years ago Baidhir (Polygonflow's Principal Geometry Programmer) and myself were trying to figure out why 3D modeling techniques haven't changed for decades, and why they're rarely mentioned in the pursuit of solving this puzzle.
We were aspiring artists at the time, but dug toe-deep into the technical aspect of our jobs to automate a few small tasks. 6 months later tens of thousands of licenses were sold, and the tools were being used by almost every major AAA gaming studio.
This gave us some perspective, and an incredible amount of emails from artists who have felt left out of the conversation on this puzzle. Technical artists exist to bridge the communication gap between artists and programmers, and once they stare into the abyss, relating to the plight of artists because a little bit harder by the day.
I wrote an article on 80 Level in late 2016 that teased a plugin named Macro Master. The idea behind it was simple: if you create a layer-stack tool where artists can easily combine their favorite operations into one, you would already solve a really big piece of their puzzle.
If you had a set of operations (extrude, move edges, bevel, merge, repeat) that was done hundreds of times whenever you modeled something complex, it could be combined into one action, saving you possibly dozens of hours.
That tool never came to be, but its origin is the story of Polygonflow's mission; democratizing tools creation, and making artists an active part of the conversation.
With Polygonflow we wanted to create a new ecosystem around which tools creation, distribution and maintenance is easy and welcoming to artists and technical artists. It bears noting that we're not taking the term "easy" lightly here. We really mean it.
Our ecosystem consists of a visual programming software called GraphN, which aims to be the easiest visual programming experience in the market. Then there's Metanode, a library of tools that are built with GraphN. Metanode acts as a mech suit around your 3D software of choice, and aims to integrates seamlessly with your current workflow.
We're still in the early days of development, with a private beta being scheduled for fall 2020, and a public beta for GDC 2021, so mark your calendars!
We are an extremely ambitious and experienced team that believe at its core in Polygonflow's mission, and if you're a Technical Artist, Graphics Programmer or Environment Artist looking for an opportunity to make a dent in the universe, we cannot wait to hear from you!
One of the ways we communicate important news and info is through our email newsletters. You can sign up to stay connected.