Home Interview

Creator of Crazybump, Ryan Clark

polycounter lvl 18
Offline / Send Message
Emil Mujanovic polycounter lvl 18

Polycount’s Ryan Jackson talked recenty with Ryan Clark about the development of Crazybump, a tool most game artists now use in their regular arsenal of tools.

Ryan Jackson - Before we begin let me just say congratulations! Since Crazybump has been out of Beta it's been quite the success! We've certainly seen a ton of posts about it on the Polycount Forum. How's it been seeing an idea like this come to fruition?

Ryan Clark - Thanks very much! It's been great seeing this little program take on a life of its own. It's also been a bit surprising. I had hoped artists would find CrazyBump useful, but I was didn't expect the wonderful reception the tool has found in the game-art community. (The first time I saw CrazyBump mentioned on someone's resume, I was kinda shocked.)


Ryan Jackson - It really was awesome to see this application take off - especially from someone who was relatively unknown, yet so eager to make it as accessible & powerful as it can be. Why don't you tell everyone a bit about yourself. What sort of technical background do you have?

Ryan Clark - I've been programming recreationally since I was small. I learned to code on Commodores and Apple IIs in the mid-eighties. I never really recovered. I picked up a master's degree at some point, and then spent a few years working for game studios in Austin. I gravitated toward graphics, having identified the field for the giant playground that it is. I found I could entertain myself for hours by creating visualizations of random functions and ideas. That's what eventually led to CrazyBump.


Ryan Jackson - It's interesting what a long period of time can do to one's imagination. Maybe thats why its Crazy (I had to). On that note, where did the idea for Crazybump come from?

Ryan Clark - A lot of it came from playing around. My workflow involves throwing half-baked formulas at a compiler or sheet of graph paper, to see what happens. Most of the time I don't quite know what I'm doing. Occasionally I find an effect that looks cool and gets added to CrazyBump. I have to give a lot of credit to the artists who've contacted me with suggestions and feature requests. CrazyBump wouldn't exist without a lot of helpful advice I've recieved from friends in the art community. The very first version of CrazyBump was born of necessity one weekend in 2003. I had written a parallax shader, but I didn't have good heightmaps to test it with. I’m not much of a visual artist, so I wrote a program to generate some heightmaps. I gave it the imaginative title "Displacement Creator," and I posted it on polycount. It was was a simple program. In retrospect, its best feature was that it displayed my email address whenever you used it. So artists began to send me suggestions for features they’d like to see. I tried to implement things people were asking for. In summary, CrazyBump is a frankensteinian conglomeration of happy accidents and artist's sugestions.

Read on to Page 2 and find out what Ryan has to say about what Crazybump brings to the table, what the community is asking for now, major obstacles he faced when developing Crazybump and more!

Ryan Jackson - In your eyes what does it bring to the table that other software out there does not?

Ryan Clark - I guess the main thing it brings is speed. CrazyBump saves an artist’s time by giving a simple interface to powerful tools. With CrazyBump, an artist can make materials in minutes rather than hours. Every control has immediate visual feedback, so you can see what you’re working on. That's very important, I think. Without immediate feedback, an artist is working blind.


Ryan Jackson - You've updated CrazyBump to not only be a normal map generator & editor, but to be a fully fledged material creator - utilizing or generating all major texture passes. On top of that, CrazyBump was updated to allow the users to import their own meshes to see their textures on. These features were something the videogame artist communities asked for and you promptly delivered. What is the community asking for now and will they get to see these new addition ideas come to fruition?

[caption id="attachment_252" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Crazybump creator, Ryan Clark"][/caption]

Ryan Clark - By coincidence, a new CrazyBump release should appear soon after this interview! It'll be a free update to add some features that artists have been asking for. There will be a new filter to create extra-detailed normals, which is great for mechanical surfaces. CrazyBump has always worked best for natural and organic types of materials, so I'm trying to improve quality for mechanical stuff. Artists have also asked for more specularity tools, so we'll also have one of those in the new release. The community has also been crying out for mac support. They will see that soon. I'm actually embarassed that the osx version isn't available yet. It's been in development forever.


Ryan Jackson - Tell us some of the major obstacles you've faced with creating a tool as robust as CrazyBump?

Ryan Clark - The major obstacle has been keeping the interface simple. I think an interface has a natural tendency to expand and become unweildy as a program grows. With CrazyBump, I've tried very hard to fight that tendency. I've tried to keep the interface simultaneously simple and powerful. It's been a challenge to add new features without losing the ultra-simple feel of the program.


Ryan Jackson - How are you finding the development of CrazyBump now compared to when it was handling normal maps only?

Ryan Clark - Development is more fun at this point, because I have more data to play with. I can create filters for all the different map slots, and I can combine them in interesting ways. It's like having more legos to build with.


Ryan Jackson - Have you anything else you'd like to say about the tool or its users?

Ryan Clark - I’d like to say thanks to all the artists who use CrazyBump. You’ve given the project a life of its own. CrazyBump wouldn't exist without your sugestions. I would also like to say “please continue to do my work for me, because I am lazy.” Tell me what features you want to see, and I'll try to hook them up!


Ryan Jackson - What's next for you, Ryan? Any new technology coming from you that game artists will love to get their hands on, much like Crazybump?

Ryan Clark - I hope so! My latest project is a bit of rendering technology for the iPhone platform. I'm bringing high-performance normal mapping to all generations of iPhone hardware, along with dynamic lights, shadows, and water. The project is still in development, but I can share a couple of screenshots with you. I'm sure I'll be posting more about the project on the polycount forums soon!


Ryan Jackson - Right on, thanks Ryan. We can't wait to see your next project out in the Forum.

If you're one of the few artists who hasn't had the chance yet, check out Crazybump yourself by heading over to www.crazybump.com


Sign In or Register to comment.