Midoki studio’s latest release ‘Plunder Pirates’, a strategy game melding 4X exploration with tower defense, set in the Caribbean, was picked as ‘Editor’s choice’ on Apples iTunes app store. Art director Daniel Martinez-Normand has been instrumental in bringing the team to use Blender alongside their more traditional Maya workflow and is keen to share his and his studio’s experience of this transition.
November 2013, looming deadlines for their Crazy Taxi project and frustration with aspects of UV handling with the texture paint tools in Maya sent Daniel on a hunt for an alternative
tool for the job. He quickly found Blender tutorials that drew him in leading to a swift download and install of the package. The speed of this process impressed him further, especially when compared to the lengthy procedure to get Maya onto a machine and while he continued to have some initial trouble with naming conventions in Blender as well as the unique ‘right click’ methodology, he was enamored enough to implement techniques learned from video tutorials into the team’s workflow.
Chief among these was the use of the Ocean’ modifier, used to generate wave surfaces for pre-rendered action sequences. They had initially abandoned plans for these sorts of shots, believing that while they could achieve the look they required in-game, the setup and render time needed to produce an equivalent set of was too much for their four week schedule. However Daniel managed to get a working ocean scene up and running in Blender within a few days so they re-upped their expectations and went ahead with the sequence.
- Most models are made and exported to the game from Maya LT using FBX. Plunder Pirates uses Midoki’s own engine, and the model converter was designed to read FBX files with the 2012 specification.
- Midoki do a lot of marketing images for social media, so once a model is finished they import it into Blender, re-apply cycles materials, and subdivide the mesh with extra details if needed. Setting up a scene doesn’t take long and they can easily produce a couple of renders per week while carrying on work on the game.
- Any UI assets that require pre-rendered images (such as buttons) are also rendered in Blender.
- Finally, all the latest characters are fully modelled and baked in Blender, and only exported to Maya for rigging and FBX export. Blender is much faster than Maya baking the textures and the quality of the bakes is stunning, adding Cycles baking to the mix has improved that further.