Here comes Cloud-based 3D printing!
Cloud Strife, that is — the main character of the classic video game "Final Fantasy VII."
Digital artist and "Final Fantasy" fan Joaquin Baldwin has 3D printed the characters from the beloved game based directly on their original, blocky low-polygon appearance.
Baldwin ripped the characters' 3D models from the 1998 PC version of the game using software called Biturn and Unmass.
That doesn't mean it was easy, however. After exporting the models, Baldwin had to convert them to a modern file format, then fix up any holes or glitches and reposition them so they would stand up straight when printed. Further, each character model had to be manually retextured and recolored.
Finally, Baldwin hollowed the models out so they would be cheaper to print. "It's a long and tedious process," he told us. "I only did it as a labor of love since I'm a huge fan of the game."
Of course, Baldwin was making money on the printed products. On his Shapeways page, alongside his original 3D printed designs, Baldwin sold the models for between $14 (for character Yuffie Kisaragi) and $32 (for the Chocobo).
The model's pricing is determined by its volume, Baldwin explained. "So you will see that most of the female characters are cheaper because they are a bit smaller,” even with the character Tifa's large breasts, Baldwin said.
Square Enix, the company that owns the "Final Fantasy" brand, wasn't pleased that Baldwin was selling their intellectual property. Baldwin received a takedown notice from Square Enix and took the models down today.
"All orders that haven't been printed will be refunded, and I can't print any of them anymore," Baldwin told us. "It was a good ride while it lasted."
This appears to be the first time someone has ported a model from a video game into 3D printer-compatible software and printed it. Obviously the process isn't seamless, but demand for Baldwin's models has been tremendous. "I didn't expect it to go so wildly viral," Baldwin told us.
Square Enix doesn't sell any toy versions of these iconic characters as they appeared in the original game.
That's because there are other, more robust versions of the characters. For one, the character models from the battles in "Final Fantasy VII" are a bit higher-resolution — and the ones in the prerendered cut scenes are even more so. Plus, the characters have since been redesigned in more recent media such as the digitally animated movie "Advent Children" and the video games "Dirge of Cerberus" and "Crisis Core," so the action figures Square Enix sells are based on these models.
The original game's outdated graphics are part of the reason why so many fans have been clamoring for a "Final Fantasy VII" remake for years.
But Baldwin thinks the old character models still have a certain nostalgic charm. "If I wanted the normal-proportion version, I would buy the official action figures, which are already very cool; there's no need to remake them."
These models, on the other hand, have something that the realistic versions lack: They're cute.
"They have huge heads, and they are extremely abstracted. They are simple, like a Hello Kitty or a Pokémon, they have a different type of appeal. They are also nostalgic, [in that] they remind us of the way the game was, more than the way the characters look today with all the new graphics. Just like an 8-bit Mario gives you that happy feeling."