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Steam-powered Blender (blender.org)
209 points by conductor on Aug 14, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

copy/pasted for readability:

Hi everyone, I work for Valve (http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/). We would like to make our digital distribution platform Steam (www.steampowered.com<http://www.steampowered.com>) one of the places where you can download Blender. The long-term goal would be to make it easier for people to build their own mods for PC games with Blender and share these mods with other gamers. So I was wondering if there are any Blender users on this list who are interested in PC games and could see themselves working on an integration between Blender and PC games that offer official modding support such as DOTA 2.

Long story: Valve is a company that is built on modding. The original Half-Life was built on a modified version of the Quake engine. All our major games since then started out as mods which we found cool, hired the people who built them and released them as major game titles. This is true for Counter-Strike, the original Team Fortress, Day of Defeat and DOTA 2 (Portal was not technically a mod but a student project - but you see the pattern). Similarly, one of the most successful features of our Steam platform is the Steam Workshop (http://steamcommunity.com/workshop/), which is an interface for users to share, discover and install mods for their games. Essentially, you can publish your mod there and other gamers can bring your mod into their games with a single mouse click. This is something that we think would be a cool feature for Blender to tap into. Like modeling a sword in Blender, pushing a button and having it available to all users of Skyrim. But we bet there are more creative ideas out there than this one. What we are currently looking at is offering a completely vanilla version of Blender as a free download on Steam that is completely the same as that offered on other websites. We'd hope that this will get enough of our users exposed to and interested in Blender so they will be inclined to work on Blender plugins that would talk to Steam's backend services such as Workshop. If you think you might be interested in being part of that, we'd be happy to hear from you! Best, Jan-Peter

Hands up who else read the post before coming to the comments, saw this and cursed themselves.

I even stopped, "Wait a second, this has nothing to do with blenders powered by steam", realized the context, and still continued on scrolling back and forth.

That's exactly what I thought of.

I stopped halfway and asked myself if this was 2013?

OK, I'm not the only person what wondered why this didn't wordwrap.

I opened up the dev console and added white-space: pre-wrap; I guess they assume emails to be hard wrapped.

I clicked "View Source" and read it. (It automatically wraps text in Chrome; in Firefox you have to click View > Wrap Long Lines).

It makes sense if they post a lot of code.

Markdown's syntax highlighted code blocks are a superior solution. Pure-text e-mail is a terrible medium to read code in.

After about 2 lines, I gave up and copy/pasted the text into an editor with word-wrap. Funny thing is I have this exact same problem of horizontal scrolling when reading HN comments on my iPhone. It's also the only reason for me to use a app to view this site.

These are pretty handy:


http://readable.tastefulwords.com/ is nice too, but doesn't properly wrap <pre> lines.

yeah... OP formatting is jank as hell.


I wonder why Mailman doesn't ship a better GUI by default :/

Although I'm happy to hear this news, it highlights the importance of Blender's choice of GPL as its license. If it weren't for the GPL, Valve would be free to modify Blender and then sell it without contributing anything back to Blender. Blender is an amazing app that I've enjoyed using for many years. It's definitely in my top 10 ten list of best open source projects. Hopefully the increased exposure through Steam will only help the Blender Foundation continue to provide incredible free software.

That's a strange conclusion to reach. The GPL license is actually a major problem with Blender. Importing and exporting content from artist tools is a huge headache. The Autodesk FBX file format and SDK have largely solved those issues. It's a phenominal interchange format and most professional tools support it out of the box. Just drag and drop. It's wonderful.

Blender does not and will not have official FBX support because of the GPL. That's unfortunate and actively harms users. Providing support for user generated content is a lot of work. Trying to support Blender is extremely painful and adds to that pile of work.

I'd argue that one of the single biggest issues with Blender right now is it's GPL license.


I wouldn't say in this case that the problem lies with Blender's choice of the GPL, but rather with Autodesk's FBX license. The FBX license is much more restrictive and onerous than the GPL. Whether GPL is freer than BSD-style licenses or not is debatable, but it certainly respects the user's freedom far more than Autodesk's "Evaluation License" with "Permitted Number equal to one".

Yeah. "Releasing" a file format as a restrictive binary SDK rather than actually documenting the format is a really weird and aggressive thing to do, and is very much Autodesk's fault rather than Blender's, even if you ignore the issues with platforms for which the binary might not be available.

On the other hand, the format does not appear to actually be that complicated, so integrating the SDK probably wouldn't save that much programming time compared to just reimplementing it.

Blame whichever license you want. It doesn't matter.

Let's say it is Autodesk's fault and they don't care. Now what? Blender is the tool that's a pain in the ass to use so the onus is on them to make their tool not suck. Meanwhile the rest of the world will continue to use FBX because it's an awesome format to work with.

"Blame the gun or the guy who died for not having a steel skeleton, it doesn't matter. The guy is the one who's dead, the gun is fine. The onus is on guys to not die."

If we're going to make this analogy work, the guy who died could have easily worn a bullet-proof vest or avoided getting in the fight at all.

Or he could have picked a different software license.


You are the one who was all "GPL hurtz dem users!!"

You're probably right with your assumption that FBX is awesome, but this wasn't part of the debate.

What does "awesome format to work with" mean? You're not working with the format.

even LGPL would have been preferable.

Oh, and licenseless download-and-"what license?"-type warez seems to be the most wholeheartedly welcomed option with the general crowd.

Free Software's there for a reason. Let's not forget that. And if we stick to that (i.e. not trade freedom to whatever feels comfortable at the moment), there's a good reason to not use LGPL instead of GPL: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-not-lgpl.html


Blender’s next release (2.69) will support binary FBX file reading as well.

If that's all the docs they have, they might have a long way to go. FBX is a pretty huge spec. I find it hard enough understanding the SDK docs.

"The Autodesk FBX file format and SDK have largely solved those issues. It's a phenominal interchange format and most professional tools support it out of the box. Just drag and drop. It's wonderful."

Really? To me it looks like what Autodesk have managed to do is convince loads of people make their software depend on Autodesk's proprietary binary blob, which is a genius move on their part.

(bet you've never seen your wonderful "just drag and drop" work on anything non-x86)

Someone please correct me, but isn't the FBX SDK a proprietary licensed software?

If blender want to redistribute Autodesk software, they would need a license. The FBX SDK looks to be under a restrictive, individual, non-transferable and non-shareable license which also expires after 30 days. That would make any redistributing of said Autodesk software a crime (copyright infringement).

The only way blender could legally give users access to the proprietary FBX SDK, is to provide a download mechanism where users themselves download and agrees to the license, and then have their software being disabled after 30 days.

So I must ask, what does this have to do with GPL? It would still be equally impossible under BSD, MIT, or add-your-own-license-here license.

Why can't they make the user download it?

And possibly adjust how the linking works to avoid issues.

I don't understand what your GPL comment has to do with this situation at all. Nobody is even talking about modifying blender in the first place, let alone improving it in ways that could be contributed back, let alone would they have any reason not to contribute back.

This is just asking the blender community what they think about some distribution and upload scripts.

"We'd hope that this will get enough of our users exposed to and interested in Blender so they will be inclined to work on Blender plugins that would talk to Steam's backend services such as Workshop."

doesn't sound like a modification to you?

'make a plugin for' doesn't sound like a modification of the original, no.

And even if it was, I don't see why BSD changes wouldn't get shared back here.

Doesn't sound like, but (probably) is. http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html

"If a program released under the GPL uses plug-ins, what are the requirements for the licenses of a plug-in? (#GPLAndPlugins) It depends on how the program invokes its plug-ins. If the program uses fork and exec to invoke plug-ins, then the plug-ins are separate programs, so the license for the main program makes no requirements for them.

If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program, which must be treated as an extension of both the main program and the plug-ins. This means the plug-ins must be released under the GPL or a GPL-compatible free software license, and that the terms of the GPL must be followed when those plug-ins are distributed.

If the program dynamically links plug-ins, but the communication between them is limited to invoking the ‘main’ function of the plug-in with some options and waiting for it to return, that is a borderline case."


"Can I sell plug-ins for Blender?

Yes you can, but only if you provide the plug-in and the sources to your clients under the GNU GPL license. The client then benefits from all rights the GPL offers; free to use it, or even distribute it when they wish.

Only if the plug-in doesn't work within Blender as "acting as a single program" (like using fork or pipe; by only transferring data and not using each others program code) you have the full freedom to license the plug-in as you wish."

What process the code runs in is a complete distraction, I'm going to ignore that part. It has nothing at all to do with linking or derivation.

Anyway, we're talking about plugins that upload files to steam with a simple interface, so they could easily be independent code, sharing no internal data structures.

I'm not ad-libbing, you're arbitrarily deciding to ignore the GPL, with no justification. It's not a distraction, it's the whole point.

If Blender is GPL but the plug-in interface is Python and thus only GPL-Compatible, why can't the plugin be GPL-Compatible and thus not require providing sources?

Because the critical point isn't the use of python. The critical point is that your plugin code is running in the same O/S process as the parent application.

Also I don't think that's how "GPL Compatible" works.

At this point there is no talk of modification, but if Blender became a large part of Valve's modification ecosystem there would surely be some back-and-forth source modification going on.

While Valve wouldn't be able to rerelease blender with new changes unless the changes themselves are released under the GPL in some form, there's nothing stopping them from making changes and using them internally. If they want to make tools available to their community and cannot do so under the GPL, they can aways use a dual-licensing scheme.

You can't dual licence someone else's GPL code. That's why companies that want to do this need contributers to assign copyright. For existing projects this would often be too much work to be worth the bother (though not impossible, I believe x 264 did this, and Firefox has done similar things in the past).

Couldn't they dual-license just their own modifications?

As a big fan of the GPL, ...I'm skeptical. I don't think Valve would benefit from keeping any potential modifications (or even plugins) secret, given that these would be far removed from its bread-and-butter.

A friend once suggested that outside of licensing pressure, maintainership is a huge driving force behind open-source contributions: you find something that does almost what you need, then you make the changes you require, and if you get these accepted upstream, they're maintained for you for free, pretty much forever. In many situations, that's far more important than any IP you're trying to conceal.

Because it's far easier for a manager to say "no" than to say "yes". By not releasing code, he's running less risk than by releasing code. There might be a chance that he missed something and violated copyright somewhere, accidentally leaked some company secret, or accidentally gave competitors an advantage. Saying "no" is the easier choice.

Why do you assume that?

The SDL developer works at Valve, and he just released 2.0. I don't see why they would do such a move on Blender...

Are you describing copyright? ("Valve would be free to modify Blender and then sell it without contributing anything back to Blender.")

You know, with a link title like that, I was really hoping to see a food processor powered by a steam engine.

That's HN for you. You're never quite sure whether it's programming related or not.

40 Days without Booze - Alcohol Abstinence or Node.js Framework?

Steam powered Blender - 3d Modeling Software or Steampunk kitchen tool?

A new perspective on Coffee and Tea: “Building” Coffee Match - Again, Beverages or Web Frameworks?

Someone should write a site akin to http://www.crackshackormansion.com/ or http://steakhouseorgaybar.com/ regarding HN post titles.

My original title was "Valve is planning to use Blender as a game modding tool in Steam", it was changed by a mod/admin.

Same. I was expecting something along the lines of the pulse jet powered tea kettle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fDM9Eb16Do

Now you made me miss my time to sleep because of all such awesome jet powered things.

(but can someone explain to me the jet powered kettle???)

Basically he's just using the mini-pulse jet's waste heat to boil the water.

(Pulse jets are sort of primitive jet engines, though they operate on a different principles. Most famous for being used by the Germans with their V-1 "Flying Bomb".)

My submission (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6204638) had the title "Valve interested in getting Blender on Steam" which used a powerful technique of "more words, less terseness" to attempt to maximize clarity. :)

I should perhaps have added "3D" somewhere to make it more clear, but at least there are words to make it sound software-related.

Too bad the submission sank.

Agreed. It would be a great followup to Top Gear's V8-powered blender and their occasional obsession with steam trains.

Third, I'd like to see this. Or a steam powered coffee grinder, who's with me?!

Yes! And if you could somehow re-route the steam from the steam-powered coffee grinder to an adjoining moka pot... automatic steam-powered coffee-grinder-brewer?

I'm all for it, now I just need to find that free steam source

Go full-circle and make the steam with a Bitcoin miner.

Me too. Thought it sounded cool.

Me too, but then I looked at the URL :D

It seems strange that steam would want to put blender in steam. Wouldn't they just work on integrating with blender if they wanted blender?

I suppose the strategy is to get the devs currently working on blender to look closer at making blender more compatable with the formats DOTA 2 is using, and putting a little more focus on the UX for that.

Then again, steam is basically a content distribution system, and windows doesn't have one of those (or at least doesn't have one that anyone wants to use. I'M SORRY http://chocolatey.org/ I LOVE YOU, DON'T BE MAD)

From the follow-up posts on the list I take it Blender is already popular with the mod community and they are trying to make Blender easier to install and get going to make a mod.

Steam already sells several pieces of game-related software, such as Cakewalk and GameMaker. A 3D modeling package fits right in.

Blender is pretty much the only choice of 3D package for Valve's portfolio, being multi-platform, stable and costing less than $3000.

The Unity game engine calls their equivalent to this the Unity Asset Store (http://blogs.unity3d.com/2013/07/19/funding-indie-games-asse...) which was discussed previously here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2500426 ("Unity Asset Store: $3000 revenue in 5 days from a spline drawing tool").

I am not sure if I understand this right - what I understand is, that they try to attract Blender users (which is a good thing (tm) ). But are they referring to developers that integrate towards a certain game? What kind of integration? You fire up Blender and have an exporter? Or artists contributing to mods? Or are they looking for ideas in general? And where would I post them?

Is an interesting proposal, some of the early day blender games + the blender browser plugin really did show the potential of having the browser be the delivery system for games... some day, and with webgl, someday sooner!

I'd really love to see this, but only if it comes with a character narrated walk through of the blender ui... it would do a lot for the future blender userbase.

Great news. I'm almost surprised this hasn't occurred sooner. Blender is used all the time in the item and mapmaking community.

How is it used for making maps? For models that are imported to Hammer?

Wait, what ?

What happened to the tools developed by Valve for HL2 and the integration with Lightwave and their facial animation tool ?

Those were awesome and already proved their usefulness.

How does it fit with Hammer and the fact that... well... modding is never going to be what it was in the 90's again ? *

* I am looking at all those modders that got folie des grandeurs and turned into studio with 7 years dev. plan.

I hate the papermail web front-end...

I'm not sure about papermail, i.e. whether it supports "format=flowed" or not. Perhaps the mail lacked it anyway.

Use gmane for your own sake and sanity: http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.comp.video.blender.devel/40386

I clicked on it thinking that blender technology might have come into the 20th Century...

It's be cool to build an actual steam-powered blender, but the article title is misleading (in a funny way)

WOW, it would be awesome if it becomes a reality :)

I read this is as "Hey, can everyone do our work for us? That'd be great."

Except that you can sell the items you make for cash, and a lot of people make thousands of dollars making hats for Valve games.

Yup, over 10 million dollars paid out for TF2 items as of June apparently: http://www.teamfortress.com/post.php?id=10843

Really? It felt more like a genuine attempt to gauge interest, and possibility recruit for, a project they're considering.

I quote:

    We'd hope that this will get enough of our users
    exposed to and interested in Blender so they will
    be inclined to work on Blender plugins that would
    talk to Steam's backend services
Recruiting you say? Certainly so, they appear to be taking volunteers.

Shame on them for hoping people will contribute to an open source project.

No, I do that myself. This is like writing a plugin to integrate WinSCP with Azure. Who the fuck cares except Microsoft?

This is integrating a free 3d package with a very popular game distribution network. The plan is to essentially just have a link from steam to a vanilla download of blender, and they hope there will be more of a community built up around it.

I have absolutely no idea what you're complaining about or how this could be a bad thing.

The plan is to get that, and let the community to their work from thereon. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I (for one) wouldn't want to do their job for free.

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