Autodesk release Character Generator. Cloud based tool to easily create textured and rigged character models.

21. February 2014

 

 

Indie developers are increasingly purchasing “off the shelf’ assets to ease the workload on their game project.  The popularity of resources like the Unity Asset Store, Turbo Squid and Mixamo are certainly proof.  These resources are especially useful for the artistically challenged developers amongst us.  Now, Autodesk is throwing their hat into the ring with Character Generator.

 

AutodeskCharacterGenerator

What is Character Generator?  In their own words:

Drastically reduce the time needed to create customized, rigged and ready-to-animate 3D characters with Autodesk® Character Generator; a new, easy-to-use, web-based service. With Character Generator, users have control over a character’s body, face, clothes and hair, and can then generate their customized character for use in popular animation packages: Autodesk® Maya®, Autodesk® Maya LT™, and Autodesk® 3ds Max® software as well as in game engines like Unity.

 

 

Basically you use a number of pre made components to generate models for export to Maya, Max and Unity.  ( Why no Softimage love? )

 

So, you pick a character:

2

 

Refine the body.

3

 

Add details/accesories:

4

 

And export as an FBX or Maya file:

5

 

It is available in two forms, paid and free.  The cost seems tied to the complexity of the model you’ve created.  Free versions obviously have some limitations, as shown on this (somewhat odd) chart below.  I am assuming the lack of checkmarks on the paid side was a mistake on Autodesks part. :)

6

 

Exported models are rigged with a HumanIK rig.  Perhaps the most noticeable difference between Free and Paid is the free version is limited to low quality models.  That’s a bit of a loaded expression, as what do they mean by “quality”?  If they simply mean polygon, for many people that isn’t a huge drawback. 

 

Then again, you can try it completely free, so what have you got to lose?  I glossed over a great deal of functionality in this post, so if you are interested, you should check out the Autodesk product page.

 

A few questions still remain for me.  If you are using an Autodesk toolchain, trying this out is a no brainer.  But if you are using other tools like Blender or Modo, how well does this slot into your pipeline?  How well does a HumanIK rig work in Unity, or does it work at all?  Im going to try and get back to you.  If you’ve tried it with a non-Autodesk toolchain, how was your experience?

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Substance Designer 4 texturing tool currently on sale on Steam

26. December 2013

 

Substance Designer is a visual texture creation tool which is currently 66% off on Steam, selling for 33.99$.  It’s a flash sale and only 2 1/2 hours to go, so you might want to act quick.

Substance 4 integrates with most 3D modelling applications including Max, Maya, Modo as well as engines such as Unity and UDK.  Of course you can generate a texture in SD4 and use it in any application.

Think it may be a late Christmas gift for myself.

Art, News




Autodesk release Maya LT Extension 1. Polygon limits more than doubled

23. October 2013

 

I just received the following information from Autodesk about Maya LT, an indie focused version of the Maya 3D software we covered back in August.  Today’s release adds some new functionality and addresses one of the biggest complaints, the low polygon limit.

 

Autodesk Releases Maya LT Extension 1 for Indie and Mobile Game Developers


Advances asset export and 3D modeling through enhanced interoperability with Unity3D and increased polygon count


Today Autodesk launched the first extension for Autodesk Maya LT - the company's recently released 3D modeling and animation tool designed specifically for independent and mobile game developers. With new features such as improved interoperability with Unity3D, an increased polygon count and more, Maya LT Extension 1 simplifies the export of 3D content into artists' desired game engines and expands 3D modeling capabilities. Extension 1 is available today to as a free download for customers on subscription and pay-as-you-go plans.


Key features in Maya LT Extension 1 include:
- Improved Interoperability with Unity: A new “Send to Unity” workflow allows artists to export 3D assets with unlimited polygon counts from Maya LT directly into the asset folder of a Unity project.
- Increased Polygon Count for Export: Export high-resolution models or scenes up to 65,000 polygons in the Autodesk FBX asset exchange format to the desired game engine.
- New Retopology Toolset: First integrated in Maya 2014 and now part of Maya LT, NEX modeling technology streamlines the retopology workflow. Artists can optimize meshes for cleaner deformations and better performance using a single toolset within Maya LT.
- Advanced Booleans: Maya LT now employs a robust and efficient new library for faster and more reliable Boolean operations on polygon geometry.
- FBX Export Improvements: Advanced support for exporting accurate geometry normals (binormals) facilitates consistent surface shading when assets are rendered in-engine.


More information about Maya LT and a free trial of the software are available via http://www.autodesk.com/mayalt and http://area.autodesk.com/mayalt .

 

Is 65K polygons a better limit, or still to low for your games?  It’s certainly an improvement on the old 25K limit.  One of the big flaws of a polygon limit is if you are using Maya as a level design tool, which is nicely solved if you are working in Unity which no longer has an limits.  If you are working in UDK or Project Anarchy on the other hand, there is still a problem. On a somewhat off topic note, I am not sure what I think of the “extension” versioning system.  It makes sense and its nice to see a fast support cycle but there is something about that I find off-putting.

News ,




Maya LT officially launches. An interview with Autodesk reveals more information.

28. August 2013

 

As you may have noticed yet we ( somewhat prematurely ) reported on Maya LT, a new indie focused version of Maya.  Today marks the official release of Maya LT. I also got the opportunity to get some additional clarification from Autodesk, in an interview below.

 

Here is the official press release:

Autodesk Unveils Maya LT for Indie and Mobile Game Developers Starting at $50 a Month

 

 


Powerful Tools and Affordable Pricing Expand 3D Options for Independent Game Developers and Small Studios

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., August 28, 2013 — Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) today introduced Autodesk Maya LT 2014, a new 3D modeling and animation tool tailored for independent and mobile game developers. Available immediately and compatible with certain industry-standard game engines, Maya LT draws inspiration from award-winning Autodesk Maya software to bring an intuitive, affordable new toolset for the creation of professional-grade 3D mobile, PC and web-based game assets.MayaLT__HyperShade_DX11_UberShader__1920x1080

“We see indie game developers as a key part of the industry, driving innovative new production techniques and gameplay,” said Chris Bradshaw, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. “The market is fiercely competitive, and Maya LT can provide indie developers and small studios with a powerful, yet simplified workflow for designing and animating remarkable 3D characters, environments and props – at a price that fits within even the most modest budget. It’s a practical solution that closely matches the needs of the mobile game development production cycle and helps developers rise above the noise and really shine.”

Smaller studios like Phyken Media, creators of the mobile game Wizard Ops Tactics, saw both the economic and workflow benefits of the new product.
“I jumped at the chance to try Maya LT, as the cost flexibility means we could grow the studio much more comfortably,” said Phyken Media President Kunal Patel. “With an option like Maya LT, our small team can accept bigger challenges and take on various new types of projects that may require more artists without having to worry much about any large upfront expenses. We even found operating expenses are much easier to determine.”

Maya LT for Game Developers
Maya LT debuts with an easy-to-navigate user interface (UI) and industry-renowned 3D modeling and animation tools that enable independent game developers to rapidly deliver 3D assets into game engines. The software integrates seamlessly into game development workflows with out-of-the box support for Unity 3D Engine and Unreal® Engine™ through the FBX file format for primary data exchange, and the ability to import certain 3D asset formats [Maya (.ma, .mb), Maya LT (.mlt), OBJ, FBX, AI, EPS] and texture formats (BMP, PNG, DDS, EXR, TGA, TIFF), as well as export 3D assets in FBX and .mlt.

MayaLT__HumanIK_AnimationGraph_and_Outliner__1920x1080Key Features
Maya LT has a number of features customized specifically for the needs of mobile and independent game developers: powerful modeling tools to help create and alter 3D assets of any size and export FBX files containing up to 25,000 polygons per object, animation tools that include a skeleton generator and inverse kinematics with Autodesk HumanIK, and high-quality viewport previews to help developers view assets as they would appear in game, reducing iteration and asset creation time. Other key features are lighting and texture baking, giving designers professional global illumination tools to help simulate near realistic lighting through baking lighting data into texture maps, and vertex maps.

 

Pricing and Availability
Autodesk Maya LT 2014 is now available for Mac and Windows at a starting price of $795* SRP per perpetual license. Term licenses will also be available as part of a monthly, quarterly or annual rental plan in the near future, starting at $50* SRP, $125* SRP and $400* SRP respectively.

Learn More About Game Development with Autodesk Maya LT
For more information, and to download a free** trial of Maya LT, visit: www.autodesk.com/mayalt. Connect with the Maya LT development community at: http://area.autodesk.com/mayalt.

 

I got the opportunity to get a bit more detail from the team at Autodesk.  Answers where provided by Wesley Adams (WA), Autodesk Industry Market Adams  and Frank Delise (FD), Autodesk Director of Game Solutions.

 

Question: What are your target audience with this release.  Are you aiming primarily at game developers working with UDK and Unity, or indie developers in general?

Answer (WA) : Maya LT was specifically created to address the needs of indie game developers who want to create 2D and/or 3D assets for mobile platforms and much of its feature set is dictated by these requirements. It is primarily a 3D asset creation tool although it has a broad range of animation tools as well. It is engine agnostic and the assets created in Maya LT can be exported to any game engine via FBX including both Unity and UDK. Maya LT is designed to expand our portfolio of mobile game development tools, which already includes the Scaleform Mobile SDK with a Unity plugin. The Mobile SDK is based on the core technology of Autodesk Scaleform, but enables developers to use it as a standalone Flash runtime to port games to mobile platforms. This gives indie and mobile developers two different ways to access technology that was somewhat inaccessible to them previously.

 

Question: Are you considering launching a similar program for other tools such as Softimage or Max?

Answer (WA): Although we cannot talk specifically about future product releases, we do intend to continue to evaluate many different productization strategies, including LT versions, for our core entertainment markets of Film, Games and Television as well as to address new markets. However, it is not our intent to release multiple products for new markets. In this case we are targeting game developers who want to create 2D (sprite sheets) and 3D assets for mobile games. They require a solution that works both on PC and Mac and so we chose Maya as the basis.

 

Question: Will it be possible to white list certain plugins.  For example, the current no plugin policy will make it impossible to use Maya with Project Anarchy's art tools from Havok.  Will Autodesk be working with third parties in this regard?

Answer (WA): Yes, our intent is to work with third parties to build a healthy plug-in eco-system around Maya LT. In many ways Maya LT is a v1 product and we plan on an aggressive development path for it.

 

Question: Any possibility of an end-to-end Autodesk bundle ( such as versions that output specifically to Scaleform ) at indie friendly pricing. Or in a Creative Cloud type subscription service?

Answer (WA): We have no further announcements to make at this time regarding other new products and offerings, but we will indeed offer customers the option of purchasing either a perpetual license (with or without subscription) or a monthly rental plan.

 

Question: Are there going to be upgrade options available like other Autodesk LT products to move from LT to full versions?

Answer (WA): Right now there are no upgrade options available to move from Autodesk Maya LT to Autodesk Maya or any other Autodesk 3D animation product, primarily because it was not designed as an entry level product to Maya but to go after a new market.

 

Question: Is LT based on 2014? Is the intention to keep them at release parity? How long is the outright license purchase eligible for support?

Answer (FD): While Maya LT is based on Maya 2014 it is not intended to just be a reduced version of Maya but follow its own trajectory as a solution for indie developers developing for mobile platforms. So while we plan to keep Maya LT and Maya very close in terms of those Maya features that are relevant to indie game development, in some cases we may take different approaches to solving certain problems or needs. This could mean Maya LT specific capabilities not available in Maya for example.

 

Question: Doesn't the 25K limit on export heavily handicap certain usage scenarios, such as using Maya as a level editor?

Answer (FD): No, Maya LT can handle the same scene sizes as Maya. Therefore you can create large complex scenes. When exporting to a game engine, you’ll need to export the scene in modular pieces, up to 25k per object via FBX. This is a typical scenario when building games, using modular design. For example, you can create a car that’s over 70k polys, but export the body separate from the wheels. Maya LT also supports hi-res to low res texture baking for complex asset work.

 

Question: Does removal of MEL also prevent creation of toolbar shortcuts? What is the reason for removing MEL in general, is it not remarkably core to the Maya experience?

Answer (FD): In Maya LT, you can still create custom toolbars; however, Mel was removed. Maya LT is not a replacement for Maya in games; it is designed for asset creation for many indie game assets. We still expect Maya to be used by game developers who want the functionality to build custom pipelines\tools and advanced features.

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer guys!

Art ,




Autodesk finally offer cheaper Maya “indie” edition

27. August 2013

 

This one comes care of Tom’s Hardware:

 

Autodesk has introduced Maya LT, a new 3D animation product based on their award-winning Maya software. This new product also brings with it a subscription pricing model that they hope will make it more affordable to indie developers.

 

 

Indie developers, whether working for mobile, PC, or web-based games, need a professional 3D animation software that can be used to create 3D and 2D assets to be used in game engines. Autodesk has developed Maya LT as a new product whose focus is on the needs of indie game developers. It brings the established tools of Maya into the affordability range of indie game developers and also allows them to import assets that were created in Maya proper (as well as OBJ and FBX), giving them access to thousands of available models from sites like Turbosquid. Through support for FBX export, Maya LT also can be used for game engines like Unity Engine and Unreal Engine.

 

I have been advocating for an indie friendly version of Autodesk products for a long time, as they are easily the most expensive aspect of the game development tool chain.  This release certainly lowers the price, but does it lower it enough?

 

Pricing and Availability

Maya LT is available immediately for both OSX and Windows at a price of $795 for a perpetual license. Term licenses are available as part of a monthly, quarterly or annual rental plan in the near future, starting at $50, $125 and $400, respectively.

 

So, 800$ is certainly a better price than 3,675$ for a license of the full version.  The monthly and quarterly licenses are certainly a great option for short term game development and complement the Adobe Creative Cloud offerings nicely.  But

 

What exactly do you give up for that savings?  Well, here is where things get a bit tricky.

  • Does not support external renderers; cannot render 'scenes' or animations
  • No MEL support, and currently no plugin support or SDK.
  • Export to FBX format of up to 25,000 polygons per scene (but the .mlt format allows denser meshes within Maya LT)

 

The first item, the inability to render scenes means you cannot use Maya LT to create pre-rendered animations, such as cut scenes.  Perhaps worse, you also can’t even create a composited still, or any graphic more complicated than a rendered sprite.  So if you were thinking about rendering your title screen using Maya LT, you are out of luck.

 

No MEL support; that either sucks or is a non-issue depending on your workflow.  No plugin support is the same story with a bigger downside.  The inability to support plugins makes Maya LT completely useless for game engines that require plugin support such as the indie friendly Project Anarchy.

 

FBX export limited to 25,000 polygons.  This is probably the biggest problem as higher polygon count meshes are becoming more and more common as devices improve in power.  Granted, you generally wouldn’t use this many polygons on a standard mesh in a mobile title, yet.  On a desktop title though, you certainly would.  Perhaps the biggest downside is, this limit pretty much precludes you using Maya LT as your level editor.

 

In the end, it is certainly a step in the right direction but falls flat for me.  If Blender didn’t exist and wasn’t getting better with every release, this might be more appealing. At 800$, that is getting incredibly close in price to Modo, Lightwave and Maxon in price.

 

Oddly enough, Tom’s Hardware is the only source of information right now.  There are no details on Autodesk’s site.  I will update more information as it becomes available.

 

EDIT:

The Tom’s Hardware link is now down and as it was the primary source of this information there may be something fishy with this story.  I have found no other source to verify the story, nor have I heard back from Autodesk.

 

EDIT: 2:37PM

Shawn McClelland from Autodesk’s games solution group made the following post, with a great deal of clarification over on the Polycount forums:

 

Hey guys!
My name is Shawn McClelland and I am a product designer over on the games solutions group. I'll pause in case people would like to throw any objects at me upfront.

I wanted to come in and clarify a couple of things with regards to the Maya LT release and hopefully answer any questions you all might have or listed to your input/feedback.

As far as the 25k poly limit goes this is purely on export so the FBX file will not store anything larger than 25k. You could stuff a gigajillion polygons into a Maya LT scene and still save out the LT file and have zero issues but when you want to export that out to your game engine it needs to be packed in 25k chunks. We felt that limiting the contents of the scene was dumb but wanted to manage things on export a bit better so that's the reasoning there though we're not adverse to hearing your input and changing this to suit your needs.

With regards to the scripting I will say yeah it's a bit of a bummer and I totally get the disappointment of some tools guys or folks that like to rely on third party scripts floating out there on the web. We've heard this feedback and it's loud and clear to us that you need a scripting solution as part of this offering so we're going to see what we can do here. There is no Script Editor inside of Maya LT by the way just to clear that up as well.

JonJones: Your feature list isn't actually all that far off from what LT provides We did our best to provide a feature set that was enticing to the non-highend crowd so we removed things like rendering features, dynamics and various other things that cause a ton of UI bloat but aren't really all that useful to the indie, mobile, casual games developer or the freelance modeler. While we don't provide an SDK out of the box we do provide ShaderFX, FBX and Turtle all as pre-compiled included plug-ins. For third-party stuff we have a few ideas we've been mulling about but I don't think I can go into specifics just yet but if there are plug-ins you feel are a necessity to your work please let me know and I'm happy to work with dev on it.

For Rendering output we're relying on the VP2.0 and playblast options to output essentially hardware renders of your scene. Turtle is also provided for map baking needs as well and we've got a pretty sweet build of ShaderFX included as well that will let you build node networks for surface shaders. I have a few sample scenes I've built up using ShaderFX if people are interested including a version of the DOTA2 Hero Shader I've been working on as a ShaderFX graph.

Hopefully I've answered some questions and concerns here. If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to ask me via these forums or you can reach me direct at shawn(dot)mcclelland(at)autodesk(dot)com. If you're interested in becoming a beta tester you can also email me about beta participation and I'd be happy to get you added to the LT program.

Cheers,
Shawn

 

It basically confirms the majority of what was said earlier.  They are listening for feedback though, so if you strongly disagree with the 25K limit or removal of scripting for example, let them know!

Art ,