Thomas Pasieka has long been known for his CINEMA 4D-focused portal: www.3dattack.us. But lately he’s been up to something new. Last month, he rolled out his first iPhone app, a game called Rune Memory. Reviews of the game, in which players attempt to recall the locations of colorful runes (letters from the runic alphabet, which were used in Germanic languages prior to the Latin alphabet), have been favorable so far.
Pasieka used CINEMA 4D to model everything for his Rune Memory game, including this opening splash screen. “I like to wait to do a lot of my texturing until I see where my lighting is going,” he explains.
Pasieka, who began his career as a 2D artist before teaching himself to use CINEMA to create 3D, launched 3D Attack with his wife, Tavy, in 2004. In addition to having an active forum of CINEMA 4D users, 3D Attack is known for its information-packed monthly magazine that, as of a couple of months ago, has gone from a completely PDF format to offering all tutorials as videos.
Though he’s already busy enough, with so many people creating iPhone apps these days, Pasieka figured he’d like to try designing one himself. He chose to base his first game, which can also be played on the iPod Touch, on runes because as a boy growing up in Düsseldorf, Germany, (he moved to the United States when he was 30), he saw runes often and was fascinated with them. “I’m also a fantasy fan and runes are part of fantasy-themed games,” he says, adding that he’d never seen a memory game with a fantasy twist.
Twenty-four different runes are used in the game, which Pasieka describes as being relaxing rather than competitive. “Some people just really like listening to the music,” he says.
To create Rune Memory, which took about three weeks to make from start to finish, Pasieka began by using Photoshop to “scribble” a mockup of the kinds of screens and elements he would need. Once he had roughed out his concepts, he used the CINEMA 4D Studio Bundle to model all of the main assets for making a prototype before doing some quick UV mapping and texturing with MAXON’s BodyPaint 3D. “BodyPaint allows me to quickly do my UV work and select all the UVs and assign colors,” he says. “Then, I go back and forth a lot between BodyPaint and Photoshop to do my serious texturing.”
Pasieka has used other 3D software programs, but he prefers CINEMA 4D because of its intuitive interface and ease of use. “I’ve been trying for the last couple of years to get the word out to game artists that they can create anything they need with CINEMA,” he explains. “If game makers would do their modeling in CINEMA, things would go a lot faster and the pipeline would make more sense.” For example, he continues, “I can block out things in CINEMA in a quarter of the time it would take in other programs.” And he likes the way CINEMA 4D allows for fast prototyping and finals. (See a sample of the game here: http://www.3dattack.us/interactive/web/Rune_Memory.html)
In this screenshot, the game can be seen running inside Unity. The code is set up for flexibility, allowing Pasieka and programmer, Ricardo Mendez, to change how fast tiles turn and how long their faces show. The butterfly flitting from flower to flower was animated in Unity.
Pasieka exported everything to Unity and used the game development tool to create the code for the game and bring all the components together. Because writing code is not his area of expertise, he teamed up with programmer Ricardo Mendez to make the game. “Unity has a tool that allows you to test your game to see how your code is working and how it will look on an iPod or iPhone without actually having to deploy the game,” he explains (He does deploy to the iPhone for testing, as well, just to be safe).
Noted composer Levan Iordanishvili wrote the relaxing, medieval score (which critics have praised) that serves as a backdrop for the game. “I wanted to work with him because he has a lot of experience with musical scores,” recalls Pasieka. “We talked about what kind of music would fit the game and he had something within 24 hours.”
Polygon count was not an issue for this project, Pasieka says, because though game elements appear to be 3D (thanks to good lighting), with the exception of the tiles, everything was rendered in 2D. Part of the reason for this has to do with the limitations of the iPhone. “You shouldn’t go over a certain amount of polygons, about 10,000, or you’ll end up with a sluggish frame rate and things will look shabby,” he continues. One way he optimized scenes without having to make too many compromises was to get rid of the back of objects that would never be seen. “If anything,” he says, “creating iPhone games will teach you how to optimize the hell out of something.”
All of the tiles are separate elements but they share one texture sheet. This helped with optimization, but made things a little more time consuming because Pasieka had to assign all of the individual UV’s a texture. He used Photoshop to layer several color fills and add a little bit of blur to make the runes look as if they glow.
To ensure the game sounded and looked its best, Pasieka used high-resolution images and mid-range compression so file size for the game is fairly high at 22 megabytes. Render times were about two to three minutes per frame. “Because of the high visual and sound quality, downloading and loading time are a little bit higher, but it’s definitely worth it,” he says.
Since the release of Rune Memory, Pasieka has come out with two more games, Rock ‘n’ Roll Dice Roller and Memory School, a memory game for kids that uses the same frame as Rune Memory. “We intentionally build things in CINEMA and Unity so we can easily use the same frame for a new theme,” he explains.
Space Taxi is Back
This close-up of the Space Taxi model, which was textured in Photoshop, shows how Pasieka is giving the traditional taxi a more futuristic look. “I call it retro-futuristic,” he says, adding that the polygon count for the taxi is just under 1,700.
Later this summer, Pasieka plans to release Space Taxi Reloaded, another iPhone app game that’s particularly close to his heart because it’s based on the Space Taxi game he played with his brother and friends as a kid in the 1980s. This time, his friend Martin Schultz (who also has fond memories of Space Taxi) will be doing the programming of the game. While doing research for the project, Pasieka sought out Space Taxi’s original creator, John F. Kutcher, telling him he wanted to recreate the game for the iPhone. “He wrote back almost instantly and said, ‘Yes, let’s do it,’ and gave me the rights to create it,” he recalls. “So I’m really excited about this one.”
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Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer. Contact her at her website: www.slowdog.com
June 1, 2009
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