Autodesk 3D, 3D Art, and Gameware Tools

Autodesk has been slowly buying up tools and technologies. They’ve got quite a collection and it’s worth taking a look at some of the product lines.

First, it is worth noting that Autodesk is the company that makes AutoCAD, the premier engineering and architectural Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) program. AutoCad has been around since 1982… just think about that in relation to the hardware available back then. I actually used AutoCAD 12 back in 1993 when I worked for an engineering company in Orlando. That was when I first had the opportunity to work with 3D rendering.

As an early indication of things to come, Autodesk first published, then bought out the team that made “3D Studio” which later became “3D Studio Max”. It was rewritten for WindowsNT and it finally got the “3ds Max” name we know and love today.

Autodesk later purchased the major 3ds Max competitor Maya and the lesser known SoftImage. The result is that for all practical purposes, if you’re building things in 3D you’re working on an Autodesk product.

At the same time, Autodesk has built or acquired a host of other products for engineering, simulation, entertainment, and media purposes. The full list of software is extensive, but students can now get a 3-year education license for the products on their student website.

Recently they have also understood that learning how to use these products is no easy task, so they’ve created a student expert network in which students can help each other learn. As of now, I’m our local faculty representative for the Student Expert network, and the company is actively looking for students to represent the Champlain College.

All that said, we’re still missing the most interesting pieces for the Game Programmers, and that is Autodesk’s Gameware solutions (again a set of developer products that Autodesk acquired).

The first product, Beast, may be something you’ve used in the past as it is integrated into Unity3D. It provides artists a tool for the creation of nice looking lighting algorithms.

Next is Scaleform, a tool that allows your artist/designer to create your game User Interface (UI) in Adobe Flash, while allowing the programmer to link that code with in game events. The game itself can be written in C++ and OpenGL or DirectX, but the UI then becomes a separate later. Scaleform is used by almost all the big studios and now comes with a Unity plugin. There’s also now a special release of Scaleform for Mobile.

HumanIK is a tool for animation, and finally Navigation is a middleware tool for the creation of Game Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Did I mention they also bought the audio middleware FMOD and incorporated it as part of the Scaleform license?

The Autodesk Gameware branding is relatively new and so they don’t yet have student licenses for these products, however it’s something I’m actively working with them on. At a minimum I hope to get a couple evaluation copies of Scaleform, Scaleform Unity, and Navigation. In the long run I’m hoping to get the college to purchase some classroom licenses for the Scaleform Unity plugin.

And for those of you Champlain College students currently at the Montreal campus, be sure you attend any tours to Autodesk’s Montreal building. I visited them in the fall of 2012 and its quite impressive.

Here’s a quick summary of the links:

So, get involved and get educated while you’re still a student. At the very least, be sure you know what tools are out there.. you may someday find an off-the-shelf solution to a game development challenge is a better alternative to building it from scratch.

Leave a Reply