It is really easy to forget how sophisticated modern video games actually are. While we as players experience things like alien invasions, cheesy melodramatic dialogue and frustrating missions to rescue princesses, there is a lot more going on that we rarely think about. Modern video games are actually incredibly sophisticated computer programs that create unbelievably immersive experiences, including realistic physics, interactive environments and they even simulate the thinking and behavior of people. Often times video games are so sophisticated that even the original creators are surprised at some of the things that players have managed to do with them.
There are plenty of examples throughout gaming. In Minecraft, players have built everything from recreations of real world locations to other video games tribute, and once an enterprising player even created a rudimentary 3D printer. In Fallout 4 players are given tools to build entire settlements and machines that can be combined in limitless ways, resulting in unbelievably complex creations. One of the ways that this was accomplished is the game developers granting users what are essentially shortcuts to programming their own game effects. PC gamers have a long history of manipulating and modifying the code from their favorite games and creating everything from alternate clothing to entire new levels to entire new games. All of that was possible because the software itself was robust enough to be manipulated by players and made to look like something else.
So it makes perfect sense that a video game that allows players to design and build their own airplanes could be used as a 3D modelling program. The game SimplePlanes from game developer Jundroo is a pretty simple and unassuming game. Players are given tools to build their own airplanes and then they can fly them in a series of training exercises and challenges. While that may not sound especially remarkable, the plane building aspect of the game is actually quite a powerful bit of software, and players quickly learned that it can be used to make far more than just airplanes. In fact, just about anything can be designed using the plane builder, including Astrometric Droids, an Eagle with flapping wings and even giant musical instruments.
3D printing services provider Eucl3D offers video game and other smartphone app users the ability to pull 3D assets and convert them into 3D printed models. The intention is to offer users a personalized piece of their game, and it is a service that is becoming increasingly common. Last week the San Francisco-based company announced that they are adding a new game to their roster of clients: SimplePlanes. With a click of a few buttons, players could have a 3D printed version of their favorite creation in the game delivered right to their house. It is a great service, and it seems like a natural fit for a game like SimplePlanes that allows players to create completely unique creations.
The game mechanics of SimplePlanes, when paired with 3D printing services, make the video game some remarkably easy to use 3D design software. There really are not a lot of limits placed on users in regards to what they can create using the plane builder, so almost anything is possible. This is, obviously, not the intended use of the video game or the 3D printing services, but it could certainly be used in this way. Even the easier to use, web-based 3D design software has a steeper learning curve than SimplePlanes does. While it may take a while to build your perfect 3D printable model, it can be done, and without knowing a lot about 3D modelling. Granted, you’re limited in how exact measurements and fine details can be, and if you want it 3D printed you can only get it as full-color sandstone, but it is still pretty great that you can have almost anything that you design 3D printed for you.
Here is a video showing the process of ordering 3D prints in-game:
One of the reasons that 3D printing hasn’t become more common in the average home isn’t the cost or the relatively imperfect printed parts from average FDM machines, it’s the difficulty in creating custom 3D printable models. The real disruptive aspect of 3D printing is being able to use it in your home to build things specific to your home. Being able to 3D print replacement parts for appliances or custom holders or latches built especially for your doors would be a great use for a home 3D printer. Unfortunately being able to design those things is beyond most people. However the fact that a simple video game like SimplePlanes can be used to create amazing, 3D creations using only a game controller is pretty amazing. It proves that 3D design software that anyone can use is possible, software designers just have to stop thinking of it as a CAD program, and start thinking of it as a game. Discuss further in the Eucl3D 3D Prints forum over at 3DPB.com.