Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sample Project: Metamor Valley

Created a flythrough of Metamor Valley

Based off of this map:

The scale is too small, since the valley is supposed to be 50 miles long. Would like to do a version with more houses and trees and possibly little people walking around, but that might be beyond the limits of my computer as it was already protesting at the large number of objects.

Took about 3 hours to make and another 3 to render. Animation is still moving too fast, so render time will be longer after I slow it down.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sample Project: World of Metamor Keep

Starting with a map, I created a 3d render of the world of Metamor Keep ( as seen from space.

In order to do this I wrote a plugin for GIMP in order to create the terrain

#!/usr/bin/env python

from gimpfu import *

def color_offset(img, layer, ca, cb):

# Disable Undo

#pdb.gimp_message("hello world!")

#save the selection area

#calculate the diameter
while pdb.gimp_selection_bounds(img)[0]:

#load the selection area

#do the gradient
while pdb.gimp_selection_bounds(img)[0]:
if n/Python-Fu/Effects/SGradient",
(PF_COLOR, "ca", "InnerColor", (0,0,0)),
(PF_COLOR, "cb", "OuterColor", (255,255,255))



The code fills in a selection with a gradient based on the distance from the selection, making it easy to create pretty looking maps like this

Total time to do everything was about 5 hours, but 2 of that was writing the plugin and 2 was rendering, so assuming that it'll go faster next time, this could be a 1-2 hour ($10-20) project.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sample Project: Dolphin Ring

3d printing jewelry is something that seemed like a good idea to me ever since Shapeways started offering Stainless steel printing. As a sample, I made a ring of dolphins for my friend in Blender and uploaded it to Shapeways.

Here is what the ring looks like rendered in Blender:

And HERE is the link to it on Shapeways.

(I promise to post a picture after I print it out so you can see the final result)

This was a quick project (~1 hour), so it would cost ~$10 if you wanted me to sell you the 3d model. However, since this has some ability to sell on Shapeways, I would also be willing to consider uploading it to my Shapeways store where I would sell it for a small $2 markup over the printing price, although then it would no longer be completely personal. For example you couldn't say "You are the only person in the world with this" to the person you give it to.

How do you do this?

Most of the tools that I use to make things are free, and perferably open source. Some of them include Blender, Python, Gimp, the Spore Creature Creator (for rough-drafts only) and Partiview.

If you want a physical object, I will probably suggest Shapeways or Ponoko and will be happy to convert something into the proper format and upload it.

For some tasks, I also use programs that I wrote myself in Python or C. If people are really interested, I would probably be willing to open-source any of these too.

Except when otherwise unavoidable, I will try to keep stuff as DRM-free as possible. Anything that I produce for myself will be CC share-alike, whereas work sold to other people is fully theirs although I may ask to show it off in my portfolio.

You might be wondering, if all the programs you use are free, why should I pay you? The answer is that while the software is free, the thousands of hours I have spent mastering them are not. My time is not free. By all means, though, do learn how to use software like Blender for yourself because the more people who use open-source software, the stronger it will become.

How much does it cost?

How much can you afford?

No, seriously. Name your price and I'll see whether or not I think it's feasible for me to do the project. Obviously I can't afford to work for $1/hour, and I don't want to hurry something and then try and sell you a piece of junk.

In general, the more detailed something is supposed to be, the more it will cost. Also, if something has to be 3d printed on Shapeways or Ponoko, that cost will be above-and-beyond the costs for my labor.

Most projects will also have a suggested price next to them for something equivalent. To take the mystery out of it, the formula I will be using is (number of hours it should take)*($10/hour).

What services do you offer?

"Whatever your tastes, Magrathea can cater to you"
--The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams.

Here at Ex Chausa, we build worlds. More specifically, we build your world. You might ask, if it's my world, why are you building it? And the answer is that we aren't really, because we can't, because it's yours. What we can do is help fill in the details.

Suppose, for example, that you say: "I already have my own world, it's the land of Awesome, and in the land of Awesome I am king!" Well, we completely agree with you, but we still think there are a few things we can offer. For example, does the land of Awesome have a map? How about a flag? Do you have a royal seal? Do you have a ring with your royal seal on it? We can make it all for you.

Maybe you and your friends have an inside joke about how gremlins are always stealing your work. We can give you a picture of the gremlin to show your friends, a video, a figurine, or even an animatronic robot that you can use to steal your friends work too.

Maybe you're a writer who doesn't have the time to research what a medieval economy looks like, but still wants to maintain some semblance of realism. Maybe you're wondering what it would do to the cobbler's guild if someone invented magical wings so people stopped walking around and wearing out their shoes so much. Through the power of maths and computer simulation, we can give you detailed answers to questions like these.

Maybe you're writing a sci-fi epic but don't have the patience to name all 10,000,000 stars in your galaxy. We can help with that too, and give you an interactive way to fly through your own galaxy.

Maybe you think "Star Wars is a load of hooey! I could make a better story if I had some spare time to fill in the details!" Well, maybe you can. And we can help with creatures for your world, stories, a wiki, even movies and novels if you think you can afford it.

Keep an eye on this blog for examples of most of the things listed above and ask yourself if there's anything you need for your world. If there's something not mentioned, even if you think its impossible, feel free to ask. Remember, anything you can imagine we can help bring-to-life!

What's your business model?

After some time of trying to find a job suited to my tastes and not succeeding, I confess to being lured by a reason which I shall refer to as "Nigerian economics" after this article. In essence, when Americans are asked why they started a business, they will name some lofty goal such as "to achieve independence", whereas Nigerian entrepreneurs listed "making money" as their chief goal.

That being said, there's also a reason I've chosen this business. Namely, I'm trying to be ahead of my time. I agree with Jospeh Pine:

If you didn't watch the whole thing, the essential point is that over time the economy has undergone a number of shifts. The interesting part of the economy has shifted from an agricultural to an industrial and then to a service economy. The next step, however, will be to an experience economy where value will be based on "authenticity".

The problem with authenticity, though, is that it comes from people, not business. As a business, it is impossible to sell "your authentic self" to you. What is possible, however, is to make an authentic experience better, more colorful and cooler. The goal of Ex Chausa, then is to create objects, art, etc. that are part of your personal authentic reality.

What does Ex Chausa mean?

Strictly orthodox Christian theology insists that God created the world "ex nihilo", that is to say "out of nothing". Almost every other religious tradition, however, including Milton's Paradise Lost insists that the world was created out of chaos. Assuming that my understanding of the Latin ablative case is correct, this would be creation "ex chausa", or "out of chaos."

Why "ex chausa" instead of "ex nihilo"? Well, it has a little bit to do with this joke:

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this, let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist replied, "OK, great!"

But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"


It also has a little bit to do with this XKCD:


In essence, "ex chausa" isn't about making something from nothing. Rather, it's about taking an existing material and breathing form and life into it.