Last week at the Vienna Game/AI Conference 2012, Guillaume Aldebert demonstrated Autodesk's new navigation middleware, part of the company's new Gameware initiative. Guillaume, Principal Engineer of Game AI Middleware, gave an interactive presentation from within the tool itself — featuring a whirlwind tour through the product's many different features.
Below you'll find the press release and some screenshots, but there's a lot more to this announcement than the official release. Note, Autodesk was the Gold Sponsor for the conference this year, though it won't affect our journalistic integrity. :-) Read our analysis just below, see what you think!
Screenshot 1: A real-time dynamic and user-modifiable NavMesh, with obstacles integrated at runtime within the mesh.
Autodesk and Middleware
Here's our analysis of the release and official announcement:
- The official release of Recast and Detour in 2009 (and subsequent updates through 2010) caused quite a stir in the middleware industry. Some middleware companies responded by de-emphasizing their navigation businesses, while others returned to the drawing board to produce the next-generation of navigation systems. Still today you'll notice the impact, and Guillaume mentioned Recast multiple times in his presentation.
- Autodesk has invested significantly in navigation in the past few years, building up a skilled team based in Paris. The company also focused its development resources on overhauling Kynapse, which resulted in comparatively fewer announcements about the product (and new features) until Gameware Navigation was introduced last week.
- This new product release signals Autodesk's strong interest in pathfinding and navigation middleware. The market has matured significantly over the past couple years, and although it's still not quite as established as other middleware segments, Autodesk obviously sees potential there. These heavy investments into producing Gameware Navigation shows the company is in it for the long term.
- Overall, there are now a handful of middleware solutions available that offer measurable improvements over open-source libraries. This applies to the runtime pathfinding (performance and reliability) as well as the tool-side generation (turnaround times and robustness). It's great to see companies like Autodesk rise to the challenge, and it's a promising sign for the future of AI in games.
Screenshot 2: Gameware Navigation allows AI characters to adapt to complex level designs through Smart Objects, for example ladders and elevators.
Official Press Release
Re-Engineered Middleware Provides More Open, Accessible and Efficient AI Solution; Empowers Game Developers to Create More Believable Character Behaviors.
Autodesk Inc. has revealed the next-generation of its artificial intelligence (AI) middleware, Autodesk Gameware Navigation. Gameware Navigation is the successor of Autodesk Kynapse AI middleware, which empowers game developers to create believable character behaviors for video games. This technology has been re-engineered to offer developers full source code access, a more accessible API (application programming interface) and remote visual debugging tools.
To date, Autodesk AI middleware has been implemented in at least 100 games to empower the creation of compelling behaviors for non-player characters. Using this technology, developers can help improve game play, while reducing development costs and cutting time to market.
“All of the tools in our Autodesk Gameware product line have been designed to streamline the game making process and reduce the need for costly custom solutions to common production challenges. With Gameware Navigation, we have overhauled our existing AI technology to make the algorithms faster and more efficient, and the API more accessible and intuitive. The result will be a tool that is much faster and easier to use, so programmers can spend more time on high-impact areas of development such as gameplay and design” — Marc Petit, Senior Vice President of Media & Entertainment at Autodesk.
Gameware Navigation provides automatic NavMesh generation, pathfinding and path following in complex game environments. Character and obstacle avoidance, dynamic NavMesh and swappable sectors are supported out-of-the-box. The middleware also offers developers extensible, remote visual debugging tools with record/playback capability, improving the speed and quality of AI iteration.
Availability Game developers can apply for the public beta version of Autodesk Gameware Navigation 2013 on this official page. Autodesk anticipates the middleware will be commercially available during fall 2012. To learn more about Autodesk Gameware Navigation, or to register for a free webinar visit the Gameware homepage.