Autodesk: Standardised technology "a matter of time"

Games VP Marc Stevens believes stable technology will promote creativity and bring down costs

Autodesk's vice president of games Marc Stevens believes the standardisation of development tools and technology is an inevitable part of the industry's future.

Autodesk's suite of products is used for content creation in the majority of commercial game releases. It is currently working on Project Skyline, which aims to lower production costs by creating a unified pipeline.

"If you look at a lot of the larger companies, they're struggling right now to keep costs down and keep these big teams going," Stevens told in an exclusive presentation of Project Skyline at the company's Montreal offices.

"We have talked to some of them and it's a case of, 'If you have a solution for me and I don't have to do it, I'm happy to do that.' At a high level, conceptually, they know they make their money off being creative and creating new, interesting games, not necessarily rewriting technology all the time."

I think it's going to happen; it's just a question of when. If you look at other industries, everything standardises

Marc Stevens, Autodesk

Stevens agrees with the comments made by id Software's John Carmack to Eurogamer, where he predicted that the technology used to create and play games will become stable, placing more emphasis on the creative rather than the technical aspects of development.

"I would say that's where film-making is more ahead right now, just because the technology hasn't been there in games. Every new hardware cycle means a change of everything for everyone. It's been expensive. It's been tough. But it's starting to balance itself out now, and people can afford to standardise a bit more on the pipeline."

"Everything's maturing enough now that we should be able to do better at this... I think it's going to happen; it's just a question of when. If you look at other industries, everything standardises. It's just a matter of time. Are we at the right time here? I hope so."

For the full interview with Marc Stevens and Autodesk's character animation product manager Eric Plante, head over to the features section.

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Latest comments (11)

Anders Alcen6 years ago
I certainly hope this will be the case. If game developers does not have to remake the same engine (and other "recyclable" technology and tools) the umptieth time, maybe just to upgrade the graphics and physics a tiny bit, the big winners will be us gamers. Think of how much they instead can spend on creating new game styles, crazy stories, cool art and other yet-to-be-thought-of features.

Of course there will always be a need for updates and experiments of engines and tools, so they can implement new ideas, but not to the extent that everybody has to invent the wheel over and over again, which has been the case for many FPS and other game types that rely a lot on graphics.
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Michal Doniec R&D Engineer, The Mill6 years ago
"unified pipeline" is an oxymoron, imo.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Michal Doniec on 2nd August 2011 5:28pm

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I believe this will happen in 15 years... We have yet to reach a graphical level similar to some movies 20 years ago. Its too soon to expect this.
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Show all comments (11)
Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 6 years ago
Okay, but will the programmers ever like it that they take a back seat to the game designers?

Programmers have fun coding new things. Most new things they code disrupt what is already in existence. (Or maybe they don't have the foresight to figure out what it is the end-users - the designers - need.)

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Rita Turkowski Reseller Manager, Unity Technologies6 years ago
As good games require deeper and deeper complexity, I think we'll see some "standard" engines emerge, the same way we've seen some artist content tools take precedence. But relying on any closed architecture company to shepherd yet another n'ver-well-managed, not publicly maintained pipeline solution? I think not.
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Nicholas Russell writer 6 years ago
That is an interesting point that Mr. Carter makes though. Arguably programmers are the backbone of our industry up to this point, where graphical and user interface upgrades have defined what the standards of gaming are both on the hardware they appear on and to the public at large who see the spectacle that HALO or Final Fantasy demonstrate. Will this mean that programmers will become less important in the grand scheme of things?

I'll allot though that this idea does excite me a bit. One of the things I feel games are truly lacking is in what messages can be brought about through the medium. I mean yes, games are art and (at least in the states) a protected form of speech but so far, just because we've been in a constant arms race of sorts to produce the prettier, more realistic, or flashier game we've been forced into themes of vioelence and morality tales. This standardization could mean that soon we'll start to see developers create titles that explore higher level concepts like what evil, love, and similar abstract concepts truly are or the political climate of the Cold War era. Heck, we may even get our true equivalent to Richard III here.
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Lee Hansiel Lim Game Developer - Unity3D, Anino PlayLab6 years ago
I've always thought of programming games a creative task that needs a passion for technicality. By standardising dev tools, aren't we sort of limiting creativity? Especially on part of the programmers.

Then again, I could have misinterpreted what Marc Stevens meant when he said that. I do agree with what Rita and (to an extent) Tim says, though.

Exciting news, nonetheless.
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Mark DeLoura Former WH Senior Advisor 6 years ago
The day that we have *a* standardized technology will be a sad day indeed. Different games have different requirements, so a small handful of technologies seems more likely in the short term. Perhaps standardized inputs and outputs on modules makes better sense.

It is interesting to see that many of the AAA games these days use a small subset of technologies already: Max or Maya, Havok or PhysX, Scaleform, FMOD or Wwise, Kynapse, the list is fairly short. However, move away from AAA even slightly and the variety of technologies increases dramatically. In mobile and social you'll see a whole different set of tech. And that's not even paying attention to licensable game engines, or the increasing importance of open source tools and tech.

The game industry will certainly be a different place when it is ruled more by designers than programmers. But I would rather see us move toward the model of the visual effects industry, where design and engineering walk hand in hand, than the film industry. I suspect we'll see a spectrum for years to come.
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Jan Almqvist Senior Level Artist, Ubisoft Quebec City6 years ago
"Okay, but will the programmers ever like it that they take a back seat to the game designers?"

At good studios that has always been the case. Game play is king baby, not tech.

(That is: design should drive the game, not technology. That's not to say that sometimes a programmer has a hand in the design)

As for the point at large, unified tool chains and enhanced middleware raises the lowest common denominator and that can only be a good thing. Creative small teams can be productive and be competitive without the need for a large engineering team. However, there will always be a "cutting edge" and titles that uses proprietary solutions to either squeeze extra performance or create new effects will stand out.
The tools-chain/pipeline has changed a lot over the years and most games nowadays use middleware such as physics, front-end, animation etc in order to free up time for the landmark/sellsheet feature(s).
It is also more and more common for publishers wanting all their first-party teams to consolidate and re-use/co-develop technology. They are after all more or less paying for the same thing over and over.

Where Autodesk fits into all this I don't know. Yeah, we use maya/max/XSI/mudbox/motionbuilder and they are making it easier to translate between the various packages but that's really all we ask of them. I hope they will continue to improve the content creation part of the development and not waste resources messing with the process of getting stuff into the game. That's our job (games industry as opposed to content creation).

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Shane Sweeney Academic 6 years ago
"Will this mean that programmers will become less important in the grand scheme of things?"
One can only hope. The most popular games are still pretty geeky projects involving space marines or hyper violent greek mythology.

Maybe once teams aren't full of techies we can finally have some good English Period Dramas in game form ;)
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Nik Love-Gittins Senior Character Artist, FreeStyleGames6 years ago
"Maybe once teams aren't full of techies we can finally have some good English Period Dramas in game form ;) " " Sense and Sensibility and Zombies" ??? That'd be great.....
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