A few years ago KatsBits did some informal consulting for a company that now looks to be doing pretty well for itself. Although the initial product consulted on no longer exits, a 3D avatar-based virtual world, the company now has a number of new brands under its belt in the same fashion based social 3D games space, this time specifically for the mobile and tablet marketplace rather than for computers.
At the time they were unsure about how best to meet the needs of their creator/user community who produced the content needed to keep the product itself interesting and alive. Their own core art team had initially used 3ds Max to built their content but understood the ramifications of that on its user-base - very few people ever stump-up $3000 to purchase legitimate licences for a 'hobby'. KatsBits input concerned the adoption of Blender; the tools was readily available, the tutorials and much of the grunt-work associated with the process had already been worked out (mainly by yours-truly), with a set of export scripts and converters made available by the company itself. The key though, was that to someone new to 3D and content creation generally, and by "new" it's meant "someone that's never done anything like 3D before
", the learning curve for Blender was no different than that of any other application (or 3ds Max in this particular instance).
So, all thing being equal, from the perspective of their users who would produce the content needed to keep the game alive and interesting, Blender was actually a better choice, and being frank, within this type of context - User Generated Content - this is largely due to it being free. Free to use, free to access.
But, the company in question didn't go with Blender for one simple reason. Even though at the time of consultation the game was in early beta - there wasn't much content, and the exact 'style' of the game was still being worked out - they opted to continue their use of 3ds Max simply because all their initial content had been built with it. And even though there wasn't much of it, it still would have meant their making a significant enough change to and already established workflow that Blenders adoption might have cost the company. For a start-up on seed money, that's a valid reason not to change, even though it might have meant a better product - sometimes a short-term risk is too great a bet against the long term even being there to benefit from that sort of decision.
The broader take-away from this for Blender is "early adoption
". If you're part of a game development start-up it needs to be understood that once you start the ball rolling using a particular tool-set or process it's not going to be easy to change or adapt further down the line without significant costs.
If you are looking to get your community involved, a small segment producing content pushed out to a larger non-creative user-base of consumers, any decisions made with respect to the whole content generation process should be tempered by expectations attributable to the average users ability to acquire legitimate access to the same tools you might choose as a professional organisation. They are not necessarily congruent. Whilst this might not mean adopting Blender outright for your own internal production, it does mean making sure the application is fully support with documentation and working export scripts, tools and converters.
For Blender itself, the real-life example above highlights the general need for stability and slower release cycles to allow the surrounding ecosystem to mature; one of the main criticisms leveled during discussions with the company's CEO, was Blenders being so "unstable
" the company had to constantly invest significant human resources, that could be better spent elsewhere, to make sure associated scripts and tools worked with the latest versions when they had previously worked fine. So much so in fact they eventually stopped doing it and only unofficially support the application, leaving the community to figure things out for themselves, which naturally resulted in a lowering of interest and probably contributed to the services eventual closing. These types of problems generally don't occur where other more mainstream applications are concerned, certainly in this instance where 3ds Max was used as a main content production tool, because their development is more stable and less frenetic.
There's a lesson in there somewhere.
P.S. if you're looking for advice, or just someone to run your business ideas past with respect to using Blender in a game development, get in touch
, we're more than happy to point you in the right direction.