idea: external engine interface for tools


taking 3d modeling tools as example, but idea could be extended generically to other types of tools / softwares.

Seeing how multiple companies are more and more investing into things such as Blender, to get modeling pipeline finally sorted out into engines, i’m wondering if there is not a better long term solution to enable artists.

I think the following is a good idea, and think perhaps one or more companies should take lead and put such a thing forward.

Modeling tools need various export / import tools between the modeling tool and engines to get content imported. this take away a lot from the creative process of modeling and creating content for in the engine. A lot of tools like texturing tools and programming interfaces have fairly direct pipelines, but modeling usually requires multiple actions before a model can be inside an engine. Additionally to edit such a model one needs to go back and forth between tools and import / export repeatedly.

ideal scenario:
For example in ue4, one would want to be able to connect say blender to it directly. then be able to ‘push’ changes from blender into UE4. additionally, one could then in reverse ‘select’ models in ue4 and ‘open in blender’ to open that project in blender to be able to edit it. Now this would be fun and nice for blender, and i can imagine something of the likes being built. But what about artists who work in max or maya?

possible solution:
Create a standard ‘interface’ which can be implemented in ‘game engines’. This interface will expose an API to modeling tools ,who can build a plugin which interfaces directly with the engine.
That way modeling tools can implement a standardised API, and engines can create the interface on their side. It might be a bit of a heavy change from a short term perspective, but in the long run it would enable artists and independent tool creators to freely make tools and know their tools will be compatible within engines who implement the spec (which would hopefully be more and more engines over time…)

Since it seems fairly simple solution, i’m expecting there are certain limitations which prevent this from being done. Does anyone know if there are certain restrictions which prevent such an interface from being created? It seems like a logical step to enable artists and tool creators, and i’m wondering why such a thing was not done before already. Any ideas on this?

*A similar thing was done in Audio production, where Steinberg created VST, and now pretty much all DAW products support VST and pretty much all ‘instruments and effects’ come in VSt format (theres others, but VST is generally the standard), so most independently created music tools work in all DAWs. It makes it so all external tools in this trade are pretty much universally usable directly inside of the DAWs. You could use them independently and save files, but that work-flow is horrible, so this was the solution. the problem is exact the same for modeling tools, and the solution could also be the same.

There’s been some work on that to some degree, for example Epic has a plugin for Maya to allow you to link the programs for doing skeletal mesh animation:

I know in the past other people have also been working on similar general plugins for different programs, so it’s definitely possible, just needs someone to do it.