TwentyTwenty - A year in review

Yet another year is behind us. This one, quite different from the others. It was a year to reflect on how things are done, which we mainly did from our home offices. Working from home, comes with a set of challenges. How do you replace those 15 minutes discussions at the coffee maker? At first glance they might seem like a waste, but in fact they are an essential part of the innovation process.

For a team like ours, not being able to work together at the office is not the sole challenge. We have always been frequent visitors at conferences, meeting up with our peers and clients in the games industry. This has been an inspiration source for our development and a great way to keep up with what is going on in the games industry. On top of that, conferences have been a good place meet and update you on what we're working on. Now that conferences, and traveling generally, is out of the question we had to rethink our communication. This little post is part of that change.

Documentation, Videos and Blogs

As you are reading this, you have already found your way to our blog section, which is new for 2020! In the blog we will be giving hints and helpful pointers that works as a complement to the documentation, which in turn also received a major upgrade this year. In here, we will be sharing a mix of informational pieces, such as customer stories and start-to-finish tutorials that tackles common problems that Simplygon can help you with.

You might also have noticed that we have created content for you and shared that in our Youtube channel. This is the place where we you will be able to find introductory videos as we add new features to the SDK. Occasionally, we will also add short tutorials in there. To not miss out on the latest and greatest, go ahead and subscribe to the channel.

Now let’s take a look at what we achieved in 2020.

2020 in number

Product Development

Even without the current situation taken out of the equation, 2020 was an eventful year. Simplygon's mission is to provide a platform for automatic optimization pipelines, and the achievements this year was very much in line with that goal.

Released Simplygon 9

Simplygon 9 was a big leap from Simplygon 8. In this version we deprecated the standalone UI, in favour for an integrated one in the DCC tool integrations. Our overarching goal with this release make it even simpler to integrate Simplygon into your optimization pipelines. That meant making it more accessible and exposing the tools where you need them. So, we added a number of integrations to our platform, Blender, Houdini and Unity. They are all still in preview mode, but during the coming year they will all become first class citizens of the SDK.

Python and C# API

One key thing for this year, was to make Simplygon even more accessible to the power users. With the new Python and C# API, Simplygon is super simple to get started with, while also making the Simplygon API accessible in environments that supports either of the languages. Now you can write your own Python scripts using Simplygon in Max, Maya, Blender, Houdini, stand-alone and any other environment with a Python interpreter. This is how easy it is to get started with Simplygon in Python:

from simplygon import simplygon_loader
sg = simplygon_loader.init_simplygon()
# Do something with Simplygon
del sg

Our C# API makes it easy to integrate Simplygon into your tools, or Unity if that's the engine of your choice. As with Python, it's super simple to get started. Just bring SimplygonLoader.cs into your project and add this code:

using (ISimplygon simplygon = global::Simplygon.Loader.InitSimplygon(out errorCode, out errorMessage))
    if (simplygon != null)
        // Do something with Simplygon

Focus on kitbashing workflows

Most games today are built using kit bashing workflows, where a large number of smaller assets are combined to create unique environments. This kind of workflow is superbly efficient, both in terms of environment creation and cost of asset creation. However, the generated assets are not optimal for rendering.

Over 2020 we have added several features that support kitbashing workflows. You now have new ways of clipping geometry, using cameras and volumetric culling. This allows you to create cheaper assets, replacing the kitbashed asset with an object that looks exactly the same from the exterior without having to generate new materials.

* Creation of a hollow shell in Maya *

New remesher

This was the year that your trusted remesher got an upgrade. Over the years we have gathered a number of small and large improvement suggestions based upon your feedback. The most visible improvement is the new hole filling functionality. The remesher will now be able to identify large holes that can be filled up to significantly reduce the poly count, while saving texture space for areas that are more visible from the outside. Overall, generating a better-looking proxy at a lower poly count.

Hole filling using the new remesher

New UE4 plugin

In the past, you had to choose between a basic and an advanced integration into UE4. Essentially, a choice between ease of use versus feature richness. A frequent ask was a simplified integration process for the more feature-rich advanced integration. In Simplygon 9.1, we tackled this by moving our advanced integration into a plugin, while ensuring that we had feature parity with our old, to be discontinued, advanced integration. With the plug and play nature of the plugin, getting started with Simplygon is now more streamlined whether you are using the vanilla or a customized version of UE4.

We also introduced a number of new features into the UE4 environment, stand-ins outliner being the most prominent one. This allows you to "bake" asset collections into a cheaper representation object.

A quick speed run of the plugin in action

New impostor

There are number of objects that are tricky to optimize with traditional polygon optimization such as, bushes, trees, fences, and other objects with a lot of "thin" geometry. For these kinds of objects, we now offer an improved impostor technology (introduced in Simplygon 8). There are many use cases for this feature and we highly recommend reading through the latest posts about that feature.

Impostor for vegetation assets. Impostor for "thin" geometry.

Looking forward

Our next major update of Simplygon will be making Simplygon 9 available to all you that are using the free version. With that release we will also move the Blender and Unity plugin from preview to public. Other than that we have big plans for 2021, stay tuned here in the blog section to find out more!

Until we see you again, Happy Holidays!

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