Shapeways

3D Printing your Spore characters

Spore is the <buzz-word alert>multi-genre massively single-player metaverse god game</buzz-word alert> from Maxis, published by Electronic Arts. In it, you take a species from the ‘cell’ to ‘space’ stage and at each stage you make decisions about its development (more information on Wikipedia).

With the latest update (‘patch 5’, released last July) they added a cool feature: exporting your creatures to Collada files. Not only can you export the geometry of the creatures, but also their rigs and several texturemaps (diffuse, normal and specular maps). Pretty cool!

On the Spore forums, several groups have jumped on this and are documenting their efforts to import the models into several 3D applications.

So far, I’ve found Maya, Max and Blender users working on it – if you know of any others please let me know and I’ll add them to the list at the end of this post.

I was pleasantly surprised when I met Eric Finley, who uploading his Spore models to Shapeways. Eric uses Blender to import and fix the Spore files and then prepare them for printing. He writes:

I found manifolding/watertightening them to be moderately tricky, involving a reasonably large amount of manual tweaking.  Spore’s exported DAE files are definitely not watertight, but they’re close; the major submeshes (body, mouth, etc) seem to be reasonably close to manifold as-output, but the minor submeshes (details and decorations in Spore) are frequently nonmanifold in subtle ways.  Some fairly aggressive remove-duplicates operations, some mesh joins, and a number of out-and-out fill operations all seem to have helped.  The worst of it was trying to do manual corrections to the mesh, to rectify something I didn’t like about the Spore model… that was quite tricky, although part of that may still be my Blender inexperience talking (for example I’m still not clear on the distinction between “Merge verts at center” and “Collapse  verts”).

We’ll get some characters printed – stick around to see how they turned out!

(Render by scozdawg)

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