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Maximo’s Product Evangelist, Brent Jentzsch, tells us about how their services can be used to power your games and delves into the ways the middleware market for games has changed over the years.
We were lucky to meet Brent at UNITE Europe 2015, just after Maximo’s acquisition by Adobe. Although there was little news about how Mixamo functions inside the corporate giant, we were happy to discuss the features of different products and how it can help to build better games.
My name is Brent Jentzsch, I’m a Product Evangelist for Mixamo. I’ve actually been with the company since near the beginning. Mixamo has been around for almost 7 years now. We’re a 3D character animation service and we provide services mainly in the cloud. We also have tools that allow you to create characters and rig a character, including animations that you can quickly apply to your character.
Our services gets you up and running with character animation in your game within a matter of minutes, rather than weeks to do the same thing.
Animation in the Cloud
The character creator, Fuse, that is all offline. So you would do that on your PC or your Mac, and that’s where you would go through creating your character. Then once you go to autorig it, it’s all done in the cloud. It’s all web based and we’re actually using OpenGL to do it.
You don’t have to worry about installing something else in your PC. It’s always there, it’s always running. Any time there’s an update, it’s already done. You don’t have to worry about the updates or installing the updates. It’s just whenever you need to use the service, you upload your stuff and use the service.
We have a huge database of animations and the nice thing is you can easily retarget any of those animations or plot any of them directly on your character, whether it’s a character you created through Fuse or whether it’s your own character that you uploaded and autorig, or a character that already has a skeleton. You can quickly apply any of our animations to it.
Most of our animations actually have sliders, you can modify the actual animation itself, and then you can preview it realtime in a 3D viewer to see how it looks on your character before you decide to download it. So you know how it looks before bringing it back into your game.
It works for anything where you need 3D characters, whether it’s just two characters in a game. To create a character to the level that our character creator makes, to rig that character, and then to put five animations on it, you’re looking at three months of work. We can do that for you in less than half a day depending on what you’re working on. The amount time it saves you and the amount of quality you get out of it is pretty amazing.
We’re software agnostic. The files you get from us, the main file that we give is an FPX file. FPX drops into almost anything, but we also support COLLADA and DAE files. We even support source engine files if you’re going to use Source engine. Whatever you’re using, we support.
Fuse allows you to create a character and you start by selecting various body parts. So you select a head, and you select any torso to go with that head. It doesn’t have to be the torso that was created with that head, so you could put a male head with a female torso, and you could put arms and legs on there. Once you’ve built out your body mesh, you can actually go in and customize that.
Any avatar system you use in a game, we can actually customize features of the face and features of the body. You can make them fat or thin, with bigger arms or muscles, you can make the nose bigger or the cheeks narrower all the different things to change the overall features of the body. Then once you have that you have clothing that you can quickly clothe the character with. We have a lot of clothing assets. They’re already in there. If you need assets that we don’t have, you can create your own clothing assets and import them into Fuse. Then you can texture all of this in realtime. We use Allegorithmic’s substances inside Fuse.
What you get out of Fuse is one polycount. It’s at a decent polycount. You can certainly use it in a AAA game. If you need to lower the level of detail, Mixamo actually has a offering called The Decimator where you can upload your model (any mesh) to our website and determine the level of detail that you want to downrez it by. So if you want to downrez it by %10, it will automatically downrez it and give you a lower polycount and readjust where it needs to readjust.
About the Adobe Deal
We’ll know quite a bit more in the upcoming months. We don’t have a set date, but Adobe has a lot of stuff in the works for their own products. They’re going to have their own MAX Conference here in October. It’s very possible that we’ll hear more about the details come then. Certainly by the end of the year we’ll know a lot more exactly about how Mixamo is going to be incorporated into the Adobe family and the creative cloud.
We’re royalty-free. Before this happened, we had subscription based services where everything was a la carte but you could also pay monthly or yearly to get different levels of access to everything that we offer, but as of the first of June, everything is now free. So you can sign up for an account and get 20 free animations, 10 free autorigs, Fuse is still free, and you can use all of our offerings for free right now.
The Changing Nature of the Middleware Market
Game developers are changing and game companies are changing, and the way that we play games are different than five years ago. So trying to find the right way to sell to these different developers is definitely a challenge for a lot of these middleware companies, and that’s why we continue to see these things change.
Mixamo has certainly changed over the years, we’ve seen Allegorithmic do the same thing with their pricing plans, and of course Unreal and Unity have certainly changed their pricing plans. The biggest thing is trying to find a way to get it into the hands of the developers so they can utilize, but at the same time still be profitable on our end.
I think we will continue to see the trend of bigger companies trying to acquire smaller middleware providers. Usually when entrepreneurs start a company they’re looking to sell it, go public with it, or keep going with it, but there always has to be that exit strategy. Bigger companies are always excited about the new technologies, and what these middleware companies do is offer these new and exciting technologies.
That’s why bigger companies are always looking at other companies to see how they can incorporate that and bring that into their offering and give it out. You’ve seen Unity do that with buying out Everyplay for Unity ads. Now we’ve got the Unity cloud service and analytics, which are all based off these smaller companies so they can package it into their own thing and make it easier to get into the hands of the developers.
The Impact of VR
VR needs the same type of content that regular games need. The way to make a character isn’t going to be that much different for a VR game than it will be for a AAA game or mobile game. You need a character. VR just means you have an easier way to see that character. You’ll still need a high quality 3D character. So your content is essentially going to be the same in 3D as it is going to be right now.