Its that time of year again. With the 2014 Game Developers Conference taking place this week, and as things get closer to the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas on April 5-10, content creation software companies are starting to announce their pending software upgrades. Autodesk is announcing, as of today, the availability of the 2015 version of its Entertainment Creation Suites.
This announcement unveils the 2015 versions of the popular 3D animation tools: Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, Softimage and indie game 3D tool, Maya LT.
The new versions have specific improvements aimed at increasing performance with large datasets. In games, film, and TV, the detail level of models continues to rise and this it becomes paramount for the tools to rise to the challenge. With the new consoles that shipped last fall, console development has seen a sudden jump in complexity and tools need to keep up. Autodesk has also made new efforts to build on its cross-application workflows in order to be able to smoothly move projects from one piece of software to another, in order to be able to use each package for its particular strengths.
Autodesk 2015 Update Highlights:
- Autodesk Maya 2015 (opens in new tab) software adds new capabilities to the toolset such as the new Bifrost procedural effects platform which provides an extensible, artist-friendly workflow for complex simulation and rendering tasks, initially applied to near photorealistic liquids; XGen Arbitrary Primitive Generator for the easy creation of richly detailed geometry such as hair, fur, and foliage; Geodesic Voxel Binding method for skinning characters; ShaderFX, a new node-based visual interface for shader programing; support for Pixar’s OpenSubdiv libraries; enhanced polygon modeling tools; and expanded UV options;
- Autodesk 3ds Max 2015 (opens in new tab) software has been extended and redesigned to help improve performance, ease-of-use and management of complex scenes. New in 2015 is ShaderFX, a new node-based visual interface that allows game artists and programmers to more easily create advanced HLSL viewport shaders; point cloud dataset support for reality capture workflows; new viewport performance optimizations; a redesigned scene explorer to make it easier for artists to manage large scenes; ActiveShade support for the NVIDIA mental ray renderer; and new Python scripting support – a highly requested user feature for pipeline integration;
- Autodesk MotionBuilder 2015 (opens in new tab) provides several features that advance motion capture workflow accessibility such as: a new plug-in for Microsoft Kinect to help capture body movements for use in MotionBuilder, Animatable Depth of Field and Follow Focus camera options to recreate elements of real-world cinematography, a robust content library with 100 commonly required character animations in the Autodesk FBX® format and flexible marker assignment to adjust character positions;
- Autodesk Mudbox 2015 (opens in new tab)software boasts streamlined mesh refinement for retopologizing and new Sculpt Layer and Paint Layer groups for organizing and identifying particular layers in complex scenes. The release also has advanced interoperability with Maya 2015, an enhanced texture export and updating workflow, new caliper tool and support for Intel HD graphics 4000 on compatible Windows 8 operating system hybrid tablet/PCs;
- Autodesk Softimage 2015 (opens in new tab) software helps streamline 3D asset creation and management with Alembic caching, enhancements to the ICE platform and animatable weight maps in Syflex cloth.
Unfortunately, Autodesk has also announced that the 2015 release of Softimage will be its final release. They will continue to support it for two years and have set up a plan to transition users to their choice of other Autodesk 3D applications- either Maya or 3ds Max.
The Entertainment Creation Suites feature extended interoperability between the applications, including:
- The ability to exchange Ptex and multi-tile UV textures between Maya and Mudbox helps facilitate an iterative round-trip workflow between Mudbox and Maya.
- Enhanced image plane matching between Maya and Mudbox allows artists to use the same reference image without having to readjust the image to match.
- Export Blend Shapes with multiple targets or Blend Shapes from Maya into Mudbox for sculpting, and then merge them back into the original Maya scene.
- Import MotionBuilder character animations created in Softimage in a single step and export CrowdFX simulations from Softimage to Maya for inclusion with scene elements in one click
Autodesk Maya LT 2015: Improved product for indie game developers
Autodesk Maya LT 2015 is targeted at indie game developers who don't need the full version of Maya for their products, but still want access to the strong feature set of this widely-used animation software.
Subsequent to its original release, Maya LT has been expanded by two extension releases and addressed specific concerns of the users, such as adding in MEL scripting, uncapping the polygon count limit on Unity exports, increasing the polygon limit for FBX and OBJ objects to 65,000 polygons, adding Human IK and IK Handle animation, and Boolean operations on polygonal geometry.
Maya LT 2015 expands this by adding:
• Cloud integration allowing artists to browse, open, modify and save Dropbox or Autodesk 360 files to the cloud directly through the Maya LT interface. Leverage 123D Catch or 123D Creature files saved in Autodesk’s 123D cloud storage as a reference for creating game assets in Maya LT;
• Unfold 3D helping facilitate the seamless creation of UV maps from 3D models;
• Substance Material Integration allowing users to apply materials created in the Allegorithmic Substance Designer procedural texture creation tool to 3D models. (The direct integration of the Allegorithmic Substance Materials is a roundabout way of addressing the lack of plug-in architecture in Maya LT.)
This image shows pretty clearly one of the major improvements of the Unfold 3D UV toolset- it shows the user a shaded view where they can clearly see the parts of their UV map where texture distortion is likely to occur, here shaded red.
Product release dates vary by country. Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max, Entertainment Creation Suites, and Maya LT are also available in two configurations: as a perpetual license or desktop subscription. Details and license purchasing options are available via www.autodesk.com (opens in new tab).