Q&A with Pedro Güida about the Asset Pipeline Editor

In this Q&A, let’s hear from multi-year MVP for DirectX/XNA, Pedro Daniel Güida Vázquez, who has an exciting new tool to talk about.

Q: Hi Pedro, can you tell us a little about your-self?

A: Hi Shahed, thanks for having me.

Well, I’m an Economist, a System Analyst and an indie software developer (mostly, game-related SW).

Creating games started as a hobby for me when I was really young. In fact, the very first game I wrote was a pac-man clone on a Sinclair Spectrum Plus (a really great machine for the time) with its basic language when I was 11 (long time ago); then I moved to other platforms (including the amazing Commodore Amiga) until I got my first PC. From there I mainly embraced Microsoft’s technologies and fell in love with C#: the reason why I first adopted Managed DX for my creations as a hobbyist to then switch to XNA.

During what I believe was the golden age of the latter I was a XNA/DirectX MVP for three years in a row (I must admit that my participation as a mod in the creator’s forum was almost-none-to-zero since I was interested in the technical side of XNA).

I won a couple of prizes thanks to XNA (one international, one local). I have been a reviewer of XNA-related books and video courses for Packt Publishing. I was a beta tester for a couple of game-dev solutions (including the windows version of Unity). I used any kind of game-dev authorware for indies that you can think of (to mention just a few: Game Maker, MMF, Construct, Blitz Basic, Dark Basic, FPS, Torque, Unity, MDX, XNA, Axiom, Jadengine, Monogame, WaveEngine, and the list goes on and on).

I created in-house games and game-related apps for third-parties deployed to platforms like the Web and iOS (mostly). I also was a very active participant of the Tech Acquisition Program (TAP) for Kinect-for-Windows v1 (by using the device, I developed a client-side application for physical rehabilitation known as “Dr. Rehab”).

I used to be an active blogger on my blog, “Do as I say, not as I do”, but now I’m starting to post articles on Gamasutra. And last but not least, I’m a member of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).

To sum up, what started as a hobby/passion when young is now my main professional activity. In fact, during 2005 I quitted my day job to follow the indie route and never looked back ever since (a difficult decision that fortunately I don’t regret).

You can find out more about me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/pedroguida.

Hope all these words still count as “a little about your-self”

Q: What is the new tool you’ve been working on?

A: It’s called “the Asset Pipeline Editor” (or “the APE”). It started as a solution for my in-house projects and then realized that it I had created a tool that could be published worldwide.

Many years ago I decided to create my own replacement for XNA’s content manager (not the content pipeline), so after two years of hard work I ended up creating my own asset manager, which was more efficient in terms of speed and memory consumption.

When MSFT decided to begin to phase out XNA, its content pipeline module got never integrated to Visual Studio 2012 and 2013, so all my XNA-based projects were hooked to Visual Studio 2010, which was a cumbersome situation. Thus, as I had done with the content manager, I decided to replace XNA’s content pipeline with my own … giving birth to the Asset Pipeline Editor.

The Asset Pipeline Editor

It’s worth mentioning that the APE is not a port of XNA’s content pipeline (or any other pipeline) but a whole new solution from scratch that followed XNA’s in spirit, which allowed me to target three ambitious goals:

• To develop a solution independent from any programming IDE.
• To develop a solution that can be tailored for many use cases.
• To develop a solution that can be ported to MacOSX and Linux.

And I can say now that I really nailed it!

As you can watch in the videos of the campaign plus all my blog entries in this regard, the APE delivers what it promises.

Q: Who is it for?

A: The APE is meant for all game developers that need an independent, reliable, flexible and also efficient content pipeline for their game-dev cycle, regardless the language they use to develop the game. I created it with special attention to team work (since I work with my sister, who is a 2d/3d artist, an outstanding one). Plus, it can be used by artists as a top-notch organizer (thanks to the pass-through built-in feature).

So, if you need a way to build content for your games during design (or build) time, create your own content format and or just organize what goes where, this is the tool for you. Not to mention that it covers advanced use-cases when you need to run processes in batch mode, for example, with a server.

Now, if you are using an “all-in-one” authorware like Unity, UDK, or else, then the APE may not be for you (unless you are an artist or work with artists that need an organizer for their work).

Finally, the APE will never replace production tools. For example, if you need to create and edit audio, video, or any other type of content. Its purpose is to prepare source files (images, sounds, meshes, levels, etc.) for their use on a specific game (engine) on a per-target-platform basis outputting desired asset files, and not to create those source files.

Q: Are there any known issues we should be aware of, while it’s still in this early phase?
A: Basically, two.

The current version only comes with pass-through units (asset importer, asset processor, asset formatter and asset writer), so if you need to build content files with a specific process you will need to implement your own units (with C#).

And, the APE’s GUI only works on Windows, currently (which I know is a bummer for artists that use Mac computers).

Running APE Build

Running APE Build

Q: What are some future improvements you would like to add to it?
A: First, to complete all pending tasks in order to turn this in-house tool into a solution that can be released publicly.

Second, to implement some units for those like me who come from XNA but targeting Monogame (open-source solution that is succeeding XNA). And to help those who want to use the APE to replace their content pipeline to reach their goal (for example, the guys behind Wave Engine).

Third, to port the APE to MacOSX (and maybe Linux) so that artists stop hating me, and the APE fully becomes a cross-platform solution.

And fourth, to start developing v2 based on the feedback from users.

Q: How do you plan to fund the ongoing development of the APE?

IndieGoGo Campaign

IndieGoGo Campaign

A: There are two phases here.

For phase one (first release version + XNA modules) there is an ongoing crowd-funding campaign at IndieGoGo: http://igg.me/at/theape.

And for phase two (port to MacOSX + version 2) there is nothing decided yet, since I need to see if the campaign succeeds, which not only indicates whether indies are willing to support the APE or not, but also, whether I should commit my time and efforts to bring the tool to the public or to maintain it for in-house projects.

Q: What kind of feedback and coverage have you seen from indie developers and media?
A: The answer to this question is twofold.

From media, results have been better than I expected, actually.:
• Telerik is sponsoring the campaign by providing one complimentary license of its marvellous WPF controls,
• The APE has been featured by 3D Artist magazine, one of the best out there,
• It has been also mentioned on the blog of the Software Developer’s Journal,
• A news post has been published on the Monogame’s site,
• The guys behind WaveEngine would love to replace their content pipeline with the APE,
• Gamasutra has featured all of my articles related to the APE, and
• IGDA is now sponsoring the campaign at IndieGoGo!
• And more to come (cannot disclose it right now) …

Yet, I’m doing my best to get more exposure:
• I’m attempting to get some coverage from MSFT’s Channel9, with no luck so far in all my attempts,
• I’m contacting other important magazines and press outlets,
• I’m updating my posts on Facebook and LinkedIn groups to generate some buzz and get backers,
• I have hired artists to improve the videos for the campaign,
• Also hire some PR specialists, and
• So on so forth …

I shouldn’t be clarifying this, but I’m going through all these efforts (and costs) because I believe in my product and how beneficial it could be for indies.

However, regarding indies, and this is the second part of my answer to your question, I must admit that I have been more naïve than intended with my optimism.

Eighteen days have passed since the campaign started and I haven’t raised $400 bucks. I didn’t expect to fully raise the campaign in a couple of days based on the reduced critical mass of stakeholders for the project, but I was expecting to have 30% raised by this time.

I’ve been told that I’m selling a great idea, but unfortunately big companies create their own solutions… and indies, those who may need a content pipeline, are not willing to pay for it.

And, based on the results obtained so far, I agree: the campaign for the APE lies between the boundaries of that reality. Many indies prefer to cry out loud for a unicorn like XNA 5 than to give a chance for a real solution like the APE for a few bucks. And let me all remind you that XNA was free when you were targeting the Windows platform (ditto, by transitive, for XNA’s content pipeline).

We do still have 27 days to go, so I hope the tendency reverts and we start seeing a brighter future for the campaign.

Time will tell …

Q: Any plans to make any plush toys of the cute little mascot?
A: [LOL]Never thought of that, really, but now you mention it maybe I will. And who knows, I could also use it for one of my next games.[/LOL]

Q: Anything else to add?
A: I neither expect to further develop the APE for the public nor to publish it as open source if the campaign at IndieGoGo fails, and if it succeeds, the price for the APE will be set around $100 when released.

So I really hope indies realize how handy this tool could be for them, the bargain I’m offering for as little as $30 (check the perks), and make the campaign succeed.

Thanks again for having me.-

Thanks for your time! :-)


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