Away3D: Is Papervision3D dead?

Well, when I’ve gotten pretty far and ran across some random problem I’ve checked the Papervision3D forums, just to, again, stumble across some people asking whether PV3D is still being developed or not. Seemingly not. The last release is from 2009 and this blog post, where one of Papervision3D’s main developers leaves the crew doesn’t look promising at all. Furthermore, the development on PV3D’s Flash Player 10 / CS4-Branch as well as the development of the next version, PapervisionX, seems to have been on hold for about a year. That is especially easy to see at the PapervisionX GitHub, which was introduced for people to “watch the engine grow” and abandoned after the initial commit. Since then, nothing seems to have happened and while there’s no official statement, even the Papervision3D Forum Administrator doesn’t exactly believe that PV3D is sill alive.

Now that I’ve already spent some serious effort into learning PV3D, I’ve got to ask myself whether it still makes sense to continue or not. Continuing could be risky, because it’s always possible to come across a bug big enough that it turns out to be a final dead end, with no hopes of Papervision3D’s developers to ever repair it (because they disbanded long ago).

And even if I manage to get some project done, if PV3D isn’t developed any further, I’ve clearly bet on the wrong horse and acquired a skill that’s going to be completely useless. Oh my.

From a quick scan it seems that Away3D is the more actively developed engine right now. So I guess that, even though it’s quite a hassle to switch engines in the middle of a project, it only makes sense to spend a while looking into it… Meh. This is turning out to be a Duke Nukem Forever, but well, wonders do happen.

Update: Papervision may be dead, but Away3D isn’t exactly a good solution either. It’s neither more stable nor is it faster.

Papervision 3D

A while ago I wanted to broaden my horizon and two things came into my mind: Motion Graphics or 3D Modeling. At work I see others doing that frequently and I’m just as frequently awestruck by what those people can accomplish (Well, that feeling is mutual, but you know: the grass on the other side). And then there’s that talk about “Hypernurbs”! Now, if that doesn’t scream Sci-Fi, I don’t know what does.

Despite my best intentions, I failed miserably: I claim to have some basic understanding of both, Motion and 3D, but at the end of the day I’m just a total noob. It took me hours for the most basic things and the prospect of having to waste days and weeks before getting anywhere remotely OK was less than promising.

Cobbler, stick to thy last. For me, interactive and Flash-based 3D is the probably the only proper way to go.

Flash CS4 already provided some basic 3D functionality that Adobe tries to improve, but currently it mostly sucks. Those new motion tweens are already a major pain in the ass, but without z-sorting, cameras and lighting? As they are now, Flash’s internal 3D methods are at best appropriate for online banners. For interactive websites and 3D worlds? Not so much.

Some time ago I’ve already had some first experiences with Papervision3D (a 3D engine for flash) and fiddled with a few of Mr. Doob‘s sources – though what I achieved in the end was more due to endurance than skill. Even getting PV3D to run was already a mess of its own, because there’s still much development going on and different versions vary greatly enough to keep older tutorials and files from running.

Papervision3d Essentials

Without a rich pool of online tutorials found for other technologies, it’s quite hard to get into Papervision3D. Some months ago I was finally recommended the Papervision3D Essentials book, bought it and it’s a bliss. It’s like the missing tutorial you’ve always been looking for: from downloading sources to mere cubes and cones to more advanced problems like performance optimization; everyting is explained comprehensively and in detail (and at thirty-something bucks for both the book and pdf it’s a steal). If someone wants to get into 3D Flash, this is the proper way to start.