Autodesk’s Stingray will change the way games are made: Marc-Andre Ferguson

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With the recent introduction of the game engine Stingray, Autodesk has further forayed in providing a wholesome experience to the creative industry and dig its hands deep into the whole ecosystem and integrate everything in one tool. The game engine (now called Stingray) was acquired in 2014 from BitSquid and one thing that the company has done is to make it better and integrate its work across different Autodesk softwares without having to move files here and there.

We at TheGraphicSlate.com met up with Autodesk – Design Animation Group, product manager, Marc-André Ferguson; to know more about Stingray, the newly launched Creative Market and how important is Stingray for the Indian gaming market.

Excerpts:-

Expand on your role at Autodesk and your journey in the industry?

My journey started 15 years ago in the Film and TV business as an editor. I did visual effects and motion graphics initially and worked on everything from music videos, commercials, documentaries and feature films and later widened my scope into a lot of consulting work.

Previously at Red Digital Cinema Camera, I worked with directors of photography making them understand how the technology works and how they could become better DoPs with new cameras systems. I was a post production work flow specialist for them.

Then in 2008, Autodesk hired me as a consultant and a product designer on Flame and Smoke to bring more digital technology where I then eventually went on to work on the ports of Smoke forMac. Since I know the professional video market very well, I became the evangelist for Smoke and did a lot of touring and trade shows promoting the product at various markets, talking about how Smoke could make your business better and how it was a perfect platform. How one could use it in conjunction with tools like Final Cut Pro, Media Composer and After Effects.

Two years ago, we formed a new group in the company called Design Animation and this was something that got me excited. We are taking all the knowledge and technology that we have built for Film and TV, Special Effects, Graphics and Games and offering it to the rest of Autodesk users. So people like architects, civil engineers and product designers would benefit from this. So now we are helping all these people tell better stories with our tools.Apartment Screenshots2

How can Stingray help in creating a workflow?

I am a product manager at Autodesk now and am behind the strategy, design animation and how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. So we have 3DS Max in design specifically and we are building a platform with Stingray to build tools, applications and even small apps for architects that are not as complicated to users  of 3DS Max or Stingray for example. One of things that we are doing is called Project Expo where we are taking tools like these which are fairly advanced and simplify the workflow between Revit and Stingray and similarly between Revit and Expo, so that even architects can pick up their model and interact in real time in VR, their tablet, their laptop or desktop.

This was the one piece we were missing at Autodesk, to have a complete portfolio that lets you as an artist create visualizations and interactive presentations; quickly and efficiently so that you could explain your design and demonstrate your games and prototypes and win new clients.

About a year ago, Autodesk acquired a Swedish company called BitSquid.  Started by 12 guys, the game engine they built is well componentized and contemporary in design, which allows iterating a lot faster which will eventually lead to developing new features for it faster.

So by integrating BitSquid, the first thing that we looked at was how do we make it easy for our customers to use? So we completely revamped the model, integrated it with HTML5, added new tools, built the live linking technology wherein one could integrate their work with Max and Maya. So the recently launched product gives a vastly different look and is way better with more integrated functionality.

We are positioning Stingray as a development tool for Indie game studios and developers in conjunction with Maya LT. We are continuing something we started with Maya LT a couple of years ago where we focus on the indie game designers as they are incapable of working in complex pipelines.

You can create anything you want with Stingray just as you can create anything with Maya LT. But we see this as a great duo where you can use your content creation tool to build, model and animate in Maya LT and thanks to our live link technology you can live link to Stingray and see in real time your interactive design.

What is your strategy for Stingray in India and how important is this market for Autodesk?

The Indie game industry is specifically making casual games. We have recognized India to be a very big part of the Indie gaming scene globally and it is mostly around mobiles. The fun fact is that you have Maya LT on one side to create some content, so you can create content in Max, you can create content in Maya and live link it to Stingray. Stingray can then run on mobile the platform. So it becomes very cost effective and an interesting work flow where you can iterate much quicker, so your game design becomes a lot less expensive.

Stingray is already positioned at a very good price and I understand prices are even lower here in India. There is also a very interesting combination; you can get Maya LT and Stingray together for same price. This makes it a very cost effective platform to design games and you get everything you need to build content and distribute it as much as you want.Taxi Game1

What does the Creative Market bring to the table from Autodesk’s end?

At Autodesk, we don’t want to have our own content to sell, that’s why we depend on Creative Market. We don’t want to compete with our users. So Creative Market becomes the marketplace for Stingray users. So if you build something in Max and Maya you can sell it on our creative market and then you can transact. There have been other contenders in the industry, who have been here far longer and have built a great community, but what we feel is that we have the best workflow between the content creation tool and the production workflow tool like Shotgun and our real time engine Stingray. You have this great workflow between all of your applications.

Last year Autodesk acquired a market place called Creative Market. If you look at the marketplaces today it is very 2D centric. There are a lot of Photoshop templates, there are actions for Photoshop to clean up photos, fonts and there are wordpress templates as well.

But, what is interesting about Creative Market is that everything is beautiful because it is curated, as opposed to other market places you might have seen. It is very socially driven and people vote for their favourite artist and content, which trickles up to the top. For example you are searching for a tree, in other market places you might get 1000 trees and you might have to search through it. You don’t really know about the quality of the design. But on the Creative Market since the content is curated so the best content trickles up to the top.

What we have been adding to the Creative Market is the 3D store, which was launched at SIGGRAPH last week and directly from Maya LT, Max, Maya and Stringray access the 3D store on Creative Market buy and download content really easily and eventually bring that seamlessly into your content creation application. So interesting part of Creative Market is that each individual can have their own marketplace where you set the prices, you decide what you are going to sell and also take the final call on the entire process. We have lot of individual content artists who have uploaded their content on the Creative Market and they see it as a brand new source of revenue now.

We are making things a lot easier for you as a content creator to sell content in the Creative Market. Traditionally, when you think of a 3D Marketplace you think of the models and maybe environments but when you look now at 3DS Max in 2016 one thing we have released is the Max creation graph to do procedural based content so you can sell Max Creation Graph tools on Creative Market. You can sell templates for MAX; you can sell behaviours for your objects and animations in Stingray. You can sell entire levels if you want as well. If you are a content creator and if you spend a lot of time creating this, you basically own the right to the content, you can sell it on Creative Market; and you can know that we will be driving our customers to creative market first for them to require building their environments and scenes that they will be using in their TV, Films, Games, Animation and even design.

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