Subject: Blender
From: "Ton Roosendaal" <ton@neogeo.nl>
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 1998 22:05:35 -0600



Hi everybody,

I've been following this newsgroup for some months now. It was very amusing and
some contributions were quite impressive.
I was thinking about it for weeks, and finally decided to send a
proposal for an interesting experiment.

One of the mayor subjects of the 'April Avalanche' was about (the lack of) a
practical example of a company surviving the free software model.

To freshen up memories:

----------------Keith Bostic------------------------------------
OK, does *anyone* know of *any company that got *any money to build
software they were going to give away?  Not a company selling the
packaging/support of someone else's work, or selling hardware, who
gave away the software they wrote along the way.  A company that wanted
to sell a piece of software and was going to make it "free".
-------------------------------------------------------------------

or as stated by:

---------------Jonathan S. Shapiro---------------------------------
For large-scale new work, though, I do not see how to get the work
funded.  Where a "seed version" of a perl or a web server or even a
netnews can be built and then leveraged in Eric's bazaar approach in
the course of a year's spare time by 2 or 3 people, this is not true
of larger systems.

Perhaps people are content with saying "this model doesn't work for
something large and new, and that's okay with me."  I'm not.

You want people like me to give our software away.  Hell, at some
level *I* want to give my software away.  I cannot rationally do that
until I exhaust the profit-making options; there is just too much at
stake.
-------------------------------------------------------------------

I have an example and a proposal.
Let's start with the example:

* The company

For the past 9 years animation studio NeoGeo has been using exclusively
in-house tools for 3D animation, modeling and image processing. This culminated
in the very coherent and integrated package 'Blender'. Until 1998 only the few
people at NeoGeo were using this package.
Five months ago Blender - the executable only - was published as freeware.
Currently it's available for SGI and i386 FreeBSD/Linux PC's. There were 1000's
of downloads, more than 4000 users are at the announcement list.

The direct motivation for this gift was (and I'm honest now...) that business
went slow. Once employing seven people, our company couldn't even pay the three
owners anymore. Exact reasons for this don't matter here, what is important is
that a few alternatives were open, and one of them was publishing Blender.

* Blender 3D

Blender is a very light weight (0.7 - 2.5 Mb) 3D modeling/animation package. It
can be compared to 'bigger' programs like 3DStudio or AliasWavefront. Blender
may not have the enourmous varied set of tools of these packages, but what
Blender *can* do, it does very well and extremely fast.
Blender is an artists' tool. It's meant for 3D designers, animators,
architects, video artists and graphics designers.

The program is quite complex to learn. There's no real manual available. The
very 'technical' and 'logical' interface is for most people confusing,
especially at start.
But it is filled with loads of original ideas; 90% of the programming work has
been
invested in the interface. That pays back the effort of learning it
tenfold.

Most of the info about Blender can be found at our web site.

* The Blender software

Blender is typical example of 'Performance Programming', I mean (and I'm the
main programmer, so I can know) that everything starts from scratch, should
function right away, grows with trial and error and finally becomes a
wilderness. This is not a school book example!
Fortunately I'm gifted with an enormous amount of energy, so every 2-3 years I
almost throw away everything and start completely over. The current Blender
structure is still *very* neat, but some weeds are already creeping...

The other favourable circumstance is the immediate feedback by the users. The
programmers were the users themselves! We did an enormous amount of jobs, week
after week, year after year, in a very high cycle. Sometimes we finished a 6
minute fully animated video program - from order to delivery - in just 3 weeks!
Blender reflects that. It's a very reliable and powerful tool.

But Blender still isn't finished. There are a lot of routines for which we
hadn't time (or the skill) to implement.

* The current plans

We don't have the intention to become an AliasWavefront or 3Dstudio competitor,
neither to become a huge software factory like that. The software has grown in
a creative production environment, and that's exactly the place where it should
be.
For us - to survive as a creative company - it would be essential to set up a
kind of self-sufficient marketing system for external Blender users. Or better,
something that makes profits to finance our own creative productions.
The most realistic option (for now) is to sell a manual and use the revenues to
build the new company activity.

* Other plans

I wouldn't post this here if we had already made up our minds. There are many
strategies to follow, these have been discussed in this group, and have been
suggested to me personally. I don't consider GPL as my religion, but as a
liberal/socialist type of human being (capitalist is still a dirty word here in
the Netherlands ;-) I feel a lot of sympathy for concepts based on 'freedom'
and 'sharing'. Not to forget 'evolution'!

* The proposal

My idea was: if it is possible to build a company based on Free Software
principles, then it should also be possible to start such a company with Free
Marketing advisory!

We don't have the contacts nor the expertise to start a Free Software business
alone. I also don't need to be convinced, so don't argue with me!
Couldn't it be possible for this group to have some consensis, to come up with
a
good plan, financial propositions, publisher contacts, or whatever is needed to
start this experiment? To define the experiment?
This group should be able to function as a 'board of executives'. I'm willing
to follow the wildest ideas, giving away and giving up everything. That's all
up to you.

Let's see what happens...

-Ton-

-- 
-------------------------------------------------------------
 | Ton Roosendaal                       NeoGeo/Enji Games |
 | ton@neogeo.nl  blender@neogeo.nl  http://www.neogeo.nl |
-------------------------------------------------------------