Autodesk games industry marketing manager Wesley Adams talked about the main advantages of the game engine Stingray for indie companies.
Stingray is another name for Bitsquid engine – a technology developed by the devs of Fatshark Games. It’s a fully featured game engine, which has enough potential to become a standard in modern game development. We had a little chat with Autodesk’s Wesley Adams to talk about the main advantages of the engine and tried to gather some great examples of using Stingray.
Autodesk has impressive knowledge of the 3D content creation process. One of the biggest advantages of Stingray is the incredible level of cross-integration between different Autodesk products, including 3DS Max & Maya. There are a lot of ways these products can work together. For example, you can live link your viewport cameras. Let’s say you have Maya LP and Stingray running at the same time and you have the asset loaded. By linking the cameras you don’t necessarily have to make minor adjustments: all the movements of the camera will be synchronized and you could see all the little details on the asset you are working on. It’s a great way to evaluate your asset in the context of the engine right away.
The great thing is that you don’t necessarily need to use Autodesk tools to enjoy Stingray. You can use Blender or any other tool of your choice. Nothing is set in stone.
One Click Asset Update
If you’re working in 3DS Max and you’re making updates to your character, you can just click update and the program will send all the updates into Stingray. You’ve got your character with all the animations, materials and adjustments updated in no time with no additional time spent! You can see right away if you’re getting the look and the feel you’re looking for. If not, you can make changes in the tool and push them back to Stingray in no time.
Fast Materials Update
This applies to materials as well. Usually working out the right materials is a huge problem for game creators. You would usually create your material in a 3D tool as an artist and then you need to bring that over to your engine developer and that person has to figure out how to remake the same look and feel for a new material inside the engine. At least this is how it was a couple of years ago. But now with modern tools you can easily transfer all the physically-based materials in all of Autodesk’s 3D tools and Stingray. You only have to create this material once and then they’ll appear correctly inside Stingray.
Stingray foes support PBR and advanced particle effects, post processed visual effects, high-performance reflection system. Technically it’s on par with Unreal and Unity.
Stingray can also do live linking to your platforms of deployment. For example your game is running on your PC that you are developing on. Over the Wi-Fi network the engine can connect to your deployment platforms by just entering the IP address. Then you can have your game running live on the device: Windows 7, 8, iOS, Android, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, second-generation Oculus Rift.
You’ll instantly see how the game plays and runs on the device. If there’s something you don’t like in terms of gameplay (the number of enemies, the distance of the jump and all that stuff) or artistic choices, you can just go back to your Stingray editor make the necessary changes and the game will update in real time on the device. You don’t have to recompile and reload the game. With this hot reloading system you can make all the changes on the fly. It’s a really cool feature for the designers. Live linking works with geometry, lights, animations and shaders.
Ease of Use
Autodesk wants to keep Stingray powerful but also accessible. The company wants to give an opportunity to make the changes you want, even for those developers are yet not very experienced. For these clients Autodesk has developed a visual-based scripting system called Flow.
Essentially you create nodes and drop connections between these nodes. You can control game logic or gameplay events with this technology. It’s very versatile. You can work with environmental triggers, audio, or really with anything that you want. You can also create Flow nodes for it. They are based on Lua script. This is basically another way of interacting with the engine.
If you have a team of people and part of this team is less experienced you can have them using Flow to create the game logic and the programmers can work with the Lua script. You can create some scripts for your artist and send it over by email and they can just copy it all into the game code and enjoy new features.
Stingray provides a great package of additional middleware solutions that can help you with the development. There’s Autodesk Beast for global illumination, HUMANIK – inverse kinematics animation solution, Scaleform Studio – a great tool for building all your menus and interface. There’s also WWISE from Audiokinetic, PhysX from NVIDIA. It’s a great package for smaller companies. All the integration is already done, so the devs can start using this technology from the start.
The developers who created this product wanted to make this technology as flexible as possible as it was used to build completely different titles for various platforms. The team needed to keep the engine lightweight and super flexible. Stingray does not lock people into doing just some particular kind of game. It’s very versatile and you could easily use it to build shooters, platformers, RPGs, strategies – whatever you want!
Super Fast Updates
Autodesk is constantly developing the engine. The plan is to release some kind of update every 4-5 days. The development team is trying to be super responsive. Every addition to the engine is based on user feedback. Autodesk wants to build the engine together with the community.
Creative Market is another big advantage of Stingray. Although not as well-developed as Unity Store or Unreal Marketplace, this platforms serves as a great way to sell your assets and buy new content for your project. A special 3D category (launched a little over a month ago) has a decent amount of models, textures and complete scenes available for download and purchase. The company uses the 30%/70% share, with the developers getting most of the money. Plus there’s a separate category of Stingray assets, which you can explore here.
Custom AAA-Pipeline for Indies
Before now most of these features were available only for big AAA companies, who created their custom pipelines. Now Autodesk is basically doing all that adjustments for the developers, so that they could enjoy a smooth production process. It’s a great help for smaller companies that do not have the resources or time to do that. This service is free for all Maya LT users. You can also get a separate subscription for $30 per month or $50 per month (with additional support). However for now this tool is only compatible with Windows. no Linux or Mac for you.
Studios Working with Stingray
Fatshark is the company who created Bitsquid, which was later renamed into Stingray. Currently this studio is working on a new title called Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide. It’s a fast paced online co-op shooter with awesome visuals. The project features hundreds of enemies, incredibly fast gameplay and awesome gothic locations. The project will be released on October 23, so you’ll soon have the opportunity to check this game out.
Arrowhead Game Studios is another big European game company from Stockholm, which is currently working with Stingray. Their debut title Magicka: Wizard Wars was an amazing success, and later they continued to develop online projects with the help of Bitsquid technology. Gauntlet & Helldivers are some of the most recent projects from this studio. These games show the amazing flexibility of the engine. Helldivers is especially interesting, since it has fast paced gameplay, isometric perspective and very fun gameplay. This project was simultaneously developed for PS4 and PSP Vita, which just goes to show the possibilities of the multiplatform development with Stingray.
Beatshapers is a big Ukrainian game development company, which is working on a number of interesting titles. The studio has a lot of experience working with stingray. Their most recent project #KILLALLZOMBIES features some incredible functionality. It’s a co-op title with Twitch integration, fast gameplay and lots of zombies on one screen. The studio praises the incredible flexibility of Stingray and the way it could be used to build console and mobile titles.