3DS Max and AAA Video game Development

With the advancements in AAA game graphics over the past years, the possibility of it matching the quality of CG in film production is no longer inconceivable. Games like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Assassin’s Creed are a testament to this, and up and coming games go one step further in providing stunningly realistic game environment characters and environments.

Autodesk’s 3DS Max has been the tool of choice in creating in game assets for close to 20 years, and has adapted to suite this growing avenue more and more with every update.

While many other 3d suites are capable of generating assets that meet the standards of video games today, 3ds Max stands out for several reasons:

Complete Parametric, Mesh and Surface Modeling Capabilities

3ds Max has an extensive toolset for every approach to modeling. It allows for generating shapes and procedurally manipulating them with parameters made available on the generation of a primitive, or creating elaborately contoured surfaces with the use of splines and surface patches,that can be later converted to an editable mesh and transformed using modifiers and traditional polygon editing tools, making it perfect for creating hard surface or organic assets, useful for both traditional 3ds Max rendering and 3ds Max video game development.

Tight integration with external sculpting apps

Optimized models are a must for video games even today. As such, finer detailing on models is usually achieved through the use of texture maps that influence a mesh’s elevation or displacement calculated for every polygon surface or “normal”. These create details that would have otherwise required a polygon-dense mesh to achieve, effectively reducing the polygon count of a game asset and minimizing memory consumption.

Zbrush and Mudbox are the most prominent sculpting applications on the market, with which low poly base assets can be transferred to from Max, subdivided and sculpted over, and transferred back with generated texture maps containing stored information from the high resolution assets to be applied to the low poly base model.

Although these programs support transferring between other 3d modeling applications, 3ds Max has both the extensive modeling functionality and the seamless integration with both Zbrush and Mudbox to make it ideal for this type of use.

Extensive Monitoring for Low Poly asset creation

3ds Max comes with statistics displays, Level of Detail utilities and optimization modifiers allows users to keep track of the poly count of their models, create several variants at different resolutions that Max will switch between depending on their size in a rendered scene, and easily optimize their meshes, respectively.

Most of these tools can be instantaneously applied to one mesh or many, which helps in producing game ready assets more quickly and reducing the need for tweaking manually and risking a compromise on the deformation integrity of an organic mesh, leading to issues when animating it, for instance.

3ds Max Render Farm availability

Although the actual video game does not make use of rendering in the conventional sense, it’s cinematic sequences do. A Triple A video game trailer, cut scene or poster is very likely to make use of rendering engines to create photorealistic renditions of the game’s characters and environments. Even if the in-game graphics would have sufficed, traditional rendering can be distributed among several machines in a render farm to produce a single frame or a frame sequence in significantly less time than if it were performed on a single machine, no matter how powerful.

While big studios usually have their own farms to work with, a lot of rendering is outsourced to 3rd party service providers, and as such, whether the 3d application executing the render is supported by most farms is a huge factor to consider in assembling tools for a production pipeline. Many 3ds Max render farm can be found online because of the prevalence of 3ds Max rendering in the Game industry and various others besides.

The use of 3ds Max for video game development is a common practice among game studios, and will continue to dominate the Game industry thanks to Autodesk’s continued response to the growing demands of AAA game production.