The CameraSim 3D roadmap

Posted on October 6, 2014 by Jon Arnold


I’ve always liked that term “roadmap” in reference to software development, but I’ve too often imagined it as a straight line. The truth is, it’s like a road full of twists, turns, and unforeseen obstacles. Much like the on-going journey of CameraSim 3D!

Here’s an update on where we’ve been with CameraSim 3D, and what you can expect as it moves on down that winding road.

CameraSim’s future is in 3D

If you’ve been following CameraSim, you know that my big initiative is to use 3D gaming technologies for a more powerful version of CameraSim. The main reason for this? 3D game technologies are based on using virtual cameras and lighting — it’s the same paradigm as real-world photography so it only makes sense to leverage this for learning photography. Plus, 3D games have an intrinsic “cool” factor and can be just plane fun. That’s why so many people with a gaming background loved the CameraSim 3D preview that we released a couple months ago.

The problem was this: non-gamers hated it.

Know thy user, for they are not you

I’ve been having major episodes of that hind-sight-20/20 stuff. I set out to create something that I thought would be educational and fun, but what I created was complicated. Crazy-complicated. The accomplished 3D gamer in me thought nothing of the complex keyboard and mouse controls, but the UX professional in me was aghast at watching non-gamers faced with such a steep learning curve. The unpardonable outcome of this was that a player had to learn CameraSim before they could learn photography. CameraSim had gotten in the way of its own purpose.

Rome wasn’t built by one guy

The other challenge I encountered was the scope of developing massive 3D worlds. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about thinking big and working hard, but I need to work within the constraints of being a sole developer. This is both for the quality of CameraSim as well as for my quality of life. Moving forward, I’m going to keep the focus on quality even though that means a less epic-sized product.

The great news

The developments of the last couple months — for better or worse — are part of the process of building anything great. But here’s why I am so optimistic about the future of CameraSim 3D:

  • Most of my development efforts thus far have been spent building the core technology of an accurate 3D-based virtual DSLR. It has no dependencies on the current “first person shooter” implementation, so I am free to insert it into a totally different (and better) learning experience.
  • Based on the gushing praise and scathing critique I received, I feel nicely equipped to reimagine CameraSim 3D. I know I can combine the engagement of a next-gen 3D learning tool with the simplicity and approachability of the current CameraSim app. (I’ve already got a very promising prototype designed.)

As a final note, I’d like to thank everyone that has left me a comment or sent me an email over the past few months to request a feature, provide feedback or simply offer a word of encouragement. You all are my ultimate source of inspiration that allows me to keep working towards a better photography learning tool for everyone – not just us 3D gamers. :)

  • planetMitch

    Jon, this is good news to me actually… I tried the first demo and had lots of trouble learning it – I sent you a bug report I believe but I didn’t tell you how much I disliked the UI and the 10 minutes I spent just trying to get to the first place to take a photo. I applaud your new direction and I believe you’ll get it right now!

    • Jon Arnold

      Thanks, I appreciate that.

  • JimC

    Jon, we’re behind you all the way. It’s such a brilliant idea you deserve to be given whatever amount of time is necessary to get it implemented brilliantly.

    • Jon Arnold

      Thanks Jim!

  • Eric Heymans

    i Jon.
    I’m not a gamer but I found my way out in the previous releases.
    Anyway, I understand your vision and concern.
    I’m convinced you took the right decision to bring the right quality and usability.
    Thanks for everything you do !

    • Jon Arnold

      Thanks Eric!

  • jo3jak

    I enjoyed the playable demo.. but yes, I am also a gamer and can understand where the other comments are coming from. I am sure whichever direction you take this will be brilliant. Keep up the great work Jon!

    • Jon Arnold

      Thanks jo3jak!

  • Truelight

    Glad you “get it.” I view this program as a teaching tool to show others the basics of photography. I’m in no way interested nor do I have the time to play it as a “game.” I would use it (as I have your original and excellent) in a classroom to visually illustrate exposure and composition concepts. If you can build other features into it using lighting and other game concepts – great, but I don’t want to waste time playing a “game.”

    • Jon Arnold

      Good thoughts, thanks!

  • Vedranius

    Wouldn’t like to be a dork, but cmon, that demo was piece of cake :D
    I’d like to see some challenge in CameraSim too at some point ;) hehe

    Still, I enjoy your work and how you care about this stuff, as after all, it’s not about us, gamers/photographers, it’s about kids, amateurs and everyone else that would like to learn photography through this kind of learning tool :)

    Keep up the great work, as at the end it’ll pay out a lot ;)

    • Jon Arnold

      “not about us”…well said, Vedranius. :)

  • Brian Martens

    I have to be honest, I didn’t think that the “gaming” learning curve was a big deal. If you are able to learn photography concepts and running a complex DSLR camera then this shouldn’t be stretch to figure out. That being said, it’s obviously up to you what direction you take this project, it is yours after all. My one question is WHEN this new direction will bear some fruit? I’ve got the current version of Camerasim this summer and was eagerly awaiting the 3D version and now it appears that could be a long way off? I know giving a date in the developers world is a no win situation, but are we talking 3 months, 6 months, a year?

    • Jon Arnold

      Hi Brian, not trying to be coy, but whatever date I guess will be wrong. I will say I’m going to try to release smaller chunks in intervals rather than holing up for a year only to find out I’ve built the wrong thing.

      To clarify re: the “gaming” learning curve, we’re really talking about the “first person shooter” learning curve. It was hard watching non-first-person-shooter-gamers struggle with the keyboard and mouse movements of my demo, but it was downright painful to realize that those people didn’t even WANT to learn it. That has been my biggest lesson so far.

  • Jon Arnold

    Thanks Tal for all of your thoughts and suggestions. I’ve been thinking a lot about lighting stuff too. What I don’t know yet is whether to have a separate lighting sim or try to work it into my existing codebase. And THANKS for the link to the Poser stuff…I had not heard of that so I will check that out immediately.

    • tal shachar

      I think you should use the lighting stuff into your existing code because it’s a main part in photography, it’s all together. Also the ability to control color of light source in Kelvin temperature and light source (day light, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent etc.)

  • Terri

    This demo didn’t work for me at all. Just brought up a picture and that was it???