Goodbye, Papervision.

Last week at Flash on the Beach I had an announcement regarding me and Papervision3D. While some people took that as a hint to the release of PapervisionX, the actual news was a bit more sad. After pondering on this for a while, I made the rather big and tough decision to leave the Papervision3D team. As many of you couldn’t be in the session, since the room was packed and as I heard later, many, many people not being able to come in from the line outside. Next to that many of you not able to come out to FOTB, this post is to ellaborate on my decision and explain it to all of you.

A great experience

I’ve been on the Papervision3D team for around 3 years in total. Only weeks after it’s first closed alpha release, I joined the effort. All in all it was a great ride and I had an enormous amount of fun working on the project. Mind you, contrary to what some people believe, Papervision3D is not a company, there is no steady revenue and there is no direct income from it. It’s an opensource project, with all the team members contributing out of fun, love and a feel for our great community. With the team, we have been able to deliver a solid, fun and easy to use 3D API for the Flash Platform. While Papervision3D certainly wasn’t the first Flash 3D engine, many of it’s features where and it’s ease of use propelled the name to the top-ranking name in Flash 3D engines.  Along with that, Papervision3D helped putting Flash 3D solidly on the map for companies and individuals, making Flash 3D a tool accepted and available within the creative palette. I’m very proud to have been part of that and very grateful for all the valuable and nice feedback from the community. When I started on the project, it was only me, John Grden and founder Carlos Ulloa working on it. With time the team grew, changed composition and we also got more and more community input. These days, the team has grown to a rather large size, we got many blogs and sites dedicated to the engine and a vibrant community working with and on the engine. There’s nothing to describe how proud I am of achieving that together with my fellow team members.

Building engines

Over time, I’ve spent more and more time in creating and architecting the core of 3D engines. With Papervision3D, this was the 1.7, 1.9 and 2.0 core of the engine. For PapervisionX I’ve taken that even further, creating the entire core architecture and implementing the many things I’ve learned over the years. But next to Papervision3D, I’ve also built multiple engines in my commercial effort as a freelancer, and have greatly enjoyed doing so. During my FOTB presentation, I showed a video of the Anne Frank Virtual House, for which I was commissioned to build the 3D engine by LBi / Lost Boys and the Anne Frank Foundation. For the project I worked closely together with Floris Drupsteen of Biqini, the 3D modeller on this project, who did an awesome job of building the actual 3D models. It was an all in all great experience to build an engine on that scale and I’m proud to have been part of that effort. Considering the goal of the effort, it was a very meaningful implementation of a 3D engine to me, and an honor to be part of that effort.

With me stopping to work on the Papervision3D project, this is certainly not the end of me building 3D engines. Rather a rehash on how and why I do that. First and foremost, I will keep in chipping in the community effort, through this blog and upcoming projects to be released in the opensource domain. Also, commercially, I see myself building graphical / 3D engines, when possible, for a while to come too. All in all, I just love building the graphical engines for projects, hence also my self-given titel; “visual programmer”. With no noticable big difference in what I do, there is a question remaining.

Why ?

There’s a couple of reasons to the exact why of me leaving. First and foremost, this is a personal choice on my side, has nothing to do with my feelings towards the engine or the other team members. An important factor for me, things have to do with momentum. The engine has had an incredible amount of momentum over the years, and that pushes me to work on such a project even harder. Currently the project is a bit lower on momentum, which doesn’t help me either. I think it’s important to know I’ve been working on the engine many, many hours over the last years, and at some point you get to some fatigue of working on the same thing for a while. With the success of the engine and the personal success of my fellow team members, all of us have gotten more busy on the commercial side of things. This means less time goes into the project, which in turns into less momentum for the entire project, which in turn leaves me less “pushed” to do more. Considering the enormous amount of pressure from people on the outside, this wasn’t good for me either. On the other side, this change in team composition, with me leaving, gives room for other people to full-fill that position and get new ideas, new work and new momentum going. All in all, I think it will do the engine good.

Next to momentum, another important reason for me was the goal of building an opensource 3D engine. With many people doing awesome experiments and examples / implementations of the engine, it really gives me a natural high to see how it’s beeing used. But next to that I’m also looking to create beautiful things myself. Now, I’m not anything near a real visual designer, I like to see myself as one who builds the tools and technology to help enable these experiences. But I want to be part of something which will lead to beauty in visuals, story telling and emotion of the experience. Without a doubt many Papervision3D powered experiences can be classified as beautiful experiences, but most of the time, just building the engine means that they use the technology, but you are not directly involved in that process of creation. I really feel I need to work on projects which will give me a more direct link to the artists, or even more closely enabling artists. One of the projects I have recently joined is the Rhonda Forever project. Certainly very different as a tool to people, my job within the team is very similar to what I did for Papervision3D. For Rhonda I’m building the online drawing viewer for the project. The change for me there is that I will be working directly with it’s creative community and seeing results of that effort in a more tangible/graphical way.

Wanting to create visual beauty also means that for me, there was a decisive direction to take. The work you do is the work that defines you within the industry and that in turn gets you the next big job. With me wanting to do more directly involved work on creating things with beauty, but my work mostly being hidden in technical solutions like for instance Papervision3D, I wanted to expand my working area to more visual beauty and become more part of that side of the process. The only way to do that is by just start doing it, finding people to work with and changing that direction. This one of my first steps towards that. With a renewed sense of freedom, I’m hoping to work on projects more closely and be part of the actual implementation more, rather then being part of a tool that enables people to do that, but not being part of the creation of the end result.

Community wise; I’m still there. I am pondering on some of the directions. Along with doing more work with and on OpenFrameworks and Rhonda, I will still build 3D things for the Flash Platform. What I can release, will be released through this blog. With the 3D Flash community having considerably grown from near to nothing to an almost distinct part of the industry, I will be part of it. Also, I’m looking forward to build technology which spans and extends all the available 3D engines, rather then just focusing on one engine.


One thing I’m not entirely sure of as of yet, is what to do with the PapervisionX code base. Built entirely from scratch by me and Tim Knip, this project really has part of my soul in it. It’s been exclusively me and Tim working on it, with plans to have the rest of the team start on it a while back. Currently, that hasn’t happened yet and the engine is not ready for release and officially not part of the Papervision3D code base. In other words; it’s mine and Tim’s. While I’d love to release it at some point in time, currently it’s not ready for that and with me leaving the team, it’s most likely not going to be released under that name, if released at all. I might decide together with Tim to donate it to the Papervision3D project, but currently I’m not sure on that decision yet; as there would have to be a considerable effort to make it stable for release. As it is unfinished now and publishing source code is somewhat a personal thing when most of it is yours, I’d think this is not what should be done right now. As I am going to pursue my own goals for the time being, this decision might take a while.

I will discuss with the team and Tim closely to see what can be done in the future, but for now, I don’t think it should be released. It might also be better for the team to work on it’s own Flash 10 compatible version of the engine.


Another engine I showed at FOTB was my personal experimental 3D engine Triangle3D. Not at all meant to compete with any of the 3D engine, rather to be my own basis for experimenting with Flash and 3D, this engine might be released through this blog in the nearer future. Again, this is not me splitting off from the team and doing my own thing, this is more or less just giving the community my personal playground for Flash 3D. The engine is far from feature complete, and honestly, I don’t want to focus on that. Rather just build it as I go and need something. This engine will most likely form the basis for my commercial 3D efforts too, as a custom based engine is almost always going to be more focussed on the specific implementation then a more generalized 3D engine API.


All in all, in regards of the Papervision3D project, I would like to thank my fellow team members for all the good times. I would like to thank the community for their beautiful implementations and experiments as well as feedback. You make it all happen! Lastly, as a special member of the team, I would like to thank founder Carlos Ulloa for having me on board in the first place. It’s been a great ride, and I’m sure we’ll be riding our race cars for quite some time, even if we have to build them ourselves.

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46 Responses to Goodbye, Papervision.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Goodbye, Papervision. | UnitZeroOne --

  2. Paulo Moreira says:

    Thank you for your wonderfull work in Papervision3D. And keep us posted with the new stuff.
    You ROCK!

  3. Good luck Ralph,
    you have been a great contributor to the Flash 3D community and I know you will keep on being just that. In fact, maybe even more once you get some time to make some cool demos from now on!

  4. Jeff says:

    hey Ralph,

    must have been a tough decision. I’m sure though that your regained sense of freedom will lead to many more beautiful and inspiring things to come. And many thanks for everything you gave to the Flash community :-) ,

    all the best,


  5. While I can read some excuses to yourself from your text I think it shows that the Flash Opensource community is about to mature. People leave projects, others come – thats part of life anywhere. I am curious about what kind of things are about to result from your work and wish you good luck reaching your aims.

  6. Tiago says:

    Like Paulo mentioned, thanks a lot to the effort you put in to PV3D, your efforts made it possible that flash continued it’s way. I’m pretty sure you decided what’s best for you. Keep on rocking!

  7. Eric-Paul says:

    Good for your man, sounds like a smart choice.
    Hope you get some spare time in the process….
    Cheers, EP.

  8. Ralph, good luck on your fresh new path! I’m sure it will soon prove to have been the right decision.
    Meanwhile, thanks for all your open source work. It has changed the Flash community forever, in a very positive way.

  9. People grow, change. They explore new things. So do you (being an programmer-out-of-this-world-alien like Joa). You’ve given all of us great stuff to work with. Thanks for that dude. I’ll probably see you in the near future again, too bad you were so busy at FOTB. Remind me that I owe you a beer mate :-)

    Rock oN!

  10. I was telling a friend the other day the following thing:

    You get 2 types of people – those who create platforms and those who create experiences. I’m glad to see you’re starting to be one of those that create experiences.

    I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!


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  12. good luck man,
    thanks for your brain sharing :)

    see you soon

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  14. christian says:

    To be honest I never understood why Papervision3D development has always been happened so privately (core developers working with their own repository and every now and then deployment to the public repository). Especially now I don’t see how Papervision3DX could get to a release state without you Ralph if there is not a more open development where anyone can help defining features and fixing bugs.

    Good luck!

  15. Hi Ralph, dispite your explaination above, this must be hard too. Sure we will see what’s next from you. Please keep us posted and lost of succes! Bert

  16. Good luck with your future projects Ralph and as a Papervision user thanks a million for all the hours you’ve put it to make Papervision so easy and effective to use.

  17. Zeh says:

    We walk in steps and that was a long stride. Thanks for everything and good luck!

  18. szataniol says:

    Where the hell I’ve been during your session, seriously I have no idea. Bad news for the Papervision3D project, although I fully understand your decision.
    Thank you for your contribution to the community Ralph. Keep it real! :)

  19. wazoo says:

    Thanks so much for all the work put into what Papervision is today!

    Good luck and best of success on your future projects. Can’t wait until you choose to reveal them. :)

  20. ClockMaker says:

    Thank you for great activity.
    You have evolved the possibility of Flash 3D !

  21. Devin Reimer says:

    Thanks for all your work on Papervision3D. Good luck on all your future endeavourers and I hope we can all hear more about them at some point.

  22. jankees says:

    I understand your choice! Hope you have fun doing other things!!

  23. Bruno Fonzi says:

    Thanks for the post. I am a big fan of the Rhonda Forever project, let me know if I can help, and good luck with the new venture. See you in L.A. in few days …

  24. NateJC says:

    Your contributions have been significant and have definitely been utilized by me in my work. Thanks for your inspiration and all you’ve done. Best of luck.

  25. That’s the biggest shock I”ve had since Robbie left Take That.
    I hope you too get an 80 million dollar contract from Sony, and go on to release some good singles, engines, whatever.

    Bit of a death blow to PV though. I’m guessing the rest of the band have been waiting for PaperVisionX just as eagerly as we have, and I don’t think even Robbie ran off with the master tapes! You will be sorely missed.

    Seriously, good luck for the future.

  26. Thanks for your great work on pv3d. Succes :)

  27. Ryan Stewart says:

    Hey Ralph,

    Thanks for all the work you put into PvP3D. It’s enabled some of the coolest Flash stuff out there and as an evangelist it’s always fun to see people’s faces when you show them Papervision3D and how easy it is to use.

    I’m glad you’ll have time to do some work on your own. I can’t wait to see what you cook up.


  28. nikolaj says:

    very sad to hear that no papervisionX will be developed by you, and that all the waiting for it has ended before the happyend had a chance to come.

    plenty of luck in your future efforts.

  29. Hi Ralph,

    I completely understand your decision. I relate to the experience of building tools for others for years but not using those tools to make something concrete. I think it’s extremely valuable to take a break and get more hands-on. This helps us get better connected to the real-world needs of people using the tools. Enjoy creating visual beauty!


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  31. thanks Ralph for the amazing work you have done for our Flash community, looking forward to see some “Visual Beautiful stuff” you will certainly made, keep on rocking…

  32. David Pérez says:

    Hi Ralph!
    Thanks for everything and good luck!

  33. Oliver says:

    Thank you for all your great work!
    I was expecting PapervisionX to come out soon. It’s sad that it may never happen but hey,it’s your time, your work.

    Maybe you could release it as a Donationware.

    Thanks again!

  34. Ed says:

    Sad to hear you are leaving PV3D but thank you for all the things you have done to the community:)

    Best luck to you!!


  35. slopester says:

    Hey Ralph

    Thanks for your selfless sharing and giving up of free time over the years – i’ll be in your debt forever.
    All the best with whatever comes next mate


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  38. ryan says:

    Thanks for all your work Ralph. Papervision 3D really threw it down when AS3 was coming out and made Flash not only fun again but very exciting. Onward!

  39. Pingback: Flash On the Beach 2009 | News | SupaFlash – Guillaume Tomasi

  40. Seeker says:

    We have all benefited from your tireless efforts Ralph. We owe you a great debt of thanks! Best of luck in your future work!


  41. John McCormack says:

    You have done a fantastic work.
    Thank you.

  42. Me too, I thank you very much for the work you have done. As business process modeller it was a hobby to build and create.. to be creative. It is a “hobby” for me.

    Just know: Whenever I stopped my daily work, the new sources that came through SVN were a gift, that made my day.

    Un cordial saludo,

  43. Pingback: Flash community – moments of 2009 | Peter Elst

  44. Pingback: Away3D: Is Papervision3D dead?

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