TurboSquid has been in the business of selling 3D models since 2000. The site has amassed over 250,000 3D models from 25,000+ 3D artists, all of which have varying skill levels from the complete novice to 3D expert. This diversity has given the site the opportunity to offer models at all quality levels and prices. The vast catalog of content combined with the company’s maniacal focus on selling 3D models has cemented TurboSquid as the top 3D marketplace in the world.
All well and good, but being the industry leader also brings a lot of responsibility for driving the growth of the industry. The stock 3D model industry is very niche and requires that the user has an understanding of 3D software to use the content. Companies often use a team of in-house 3D modelers to create the content for them with no regard for purchasing stock 3D content. This gives the company full control over the artist direction and quality of the content at the cost of production time. For example, a typical car 3D model will take 40 hours for a 3D artist to create.
After a series of customer surveys, anecdotal feedback and internal research conduced in 2010 TurboSquid had determined that customers were less interested in diversity then they were quality. At this time my company, Falling Pixel, had just been acquired by TurboSquid and I made the move from my home in Manchester, UK to New Orleans to join the team. When I arrived at the company in early 2011 the shift in focus was very clear and we were quickly gearing up to introduce the industry’s very first standard for 3D models.
CheckMate – The Industry’s 3D Modeling Standard
It was clear that not all 3D artists were at a level where they could offer the quality and consistency demanded by the customers. A massive effort was made to create tools, videos, standards and knowledge base articles to help bring artists up to speed on modelling and publishing standards. The program started life as “Modeling Best Practices” and was the first public introduction to the shift in focus happening behind the scenes at TurboSquid.
At that time a standard for quality was being forged. This standard encapsulated everything that our customers were asking for, which included hands on inspection of native file formats, ensuring the file opened correctly with no errors, that the file would render correctly, no isolated vertices, no coincident vertices or face, quad and triangle based geometry only, real-world scale and many other technical requirements. Artists started to pay attention, but they were also skeptical that the added effort and attention required to hit this standard would not result in a net gain for them.
These requirements were the best case scenario for quality and hard for the artists to meet. The standard was later split into a Pro and Lite versions, with Lite being easily achievable by artists. Our standard was dubbed as CheckMate, named for the inspection checks required on the models and for our inspectors who work as “mates” of the artists, offering friendly advice and instruction on meeting this standard.
Since the launch of CheckMate the company has grown a team of 3D model inspectors who certify content and help artists who have submitted to the program. Content that makes it to CheckMate Pro is of the highest quality found on the site. CheckMate content represents 2.5% of the content found on TurboSquid but equates to over 16% of the revenue. It has become very obvious to us that customers are more willing to spend more when presented with high quality content that is ready to deploy in their projects.
This has introduced other challenges. For one, we need to make sure that the site does not contain very low quality and unsalable content. It is probably obvious, but the industry has come a long way in the 12 years since TurboSquid was started. Artists and customers have said to simply remove content from the site that doesn’t meet the quality. If only it were that simple. 3D modeling quality is very subjective at the best of times and, due to the huge amount 3D models available. Reviewing all of this content would take a significant amount of time.
3D Expert – Crowd-source Quality Review
Artists rate content on the site through a trusted rater system. However, this did not prove to be useful when reviewing content quality. Artists would often reward friends with 5 star ratings (our highest rating), even if the quality was not all that. If that didn’t affect quality of the data enough, raters would often target price undercutters and post 1 star ratings.
We still trust users to make the right decisions about quality, but we also know that some rules had to be put in place. We introduced a crowd-source tool that employs a gamification technique to allow artists to vote on the quality level of content. The game also introduces randomized content and artist names are not revealed until after the vote takes place. 20 votes are required on each 3D model before the final quality score is determined. We call this game 3D Expert.
Thanks to over 1,000 players, we have amassed over 500,000 quality votes. From this we are starting to understand content quality across the board and we are all pretty impressed at TurboSquid by the results. The game has already highlighted some incredible content that we didn’t know we had including the Bombardier Outlander 800R X MR 2012 3D Model featured in this post. It has also helped us to remove some pretty ugly 3D models that stood no chance of selling. I will refrain from posting the content here to not offend the artist.
Next Steps for Quality
The next step for us? Get new insights into our catalog, including the breadth of what we have available, the quality level of all of this content, what is in demand, what artists should be creating for customers and introduction of stricter 3D model pricing standards that respects the artist’s efforts and the customer’s budgets.