Montreal has been known as a video game hub for years, with a number of development companies operating studios in and around the city. Many, if not all of them, design their games using software made by Autodesk, which also has a considerable presence in town. Their flagship product, 3ds MAX is used by video game designers, movie effects specialists, architects and all manner of artists around the world to tell stories and convey emotion.
This week the company released an update of the product with a list of enhancements for users. Following the release, they hosted a gathering of about 100 3ds MAX users in the lobby of their posh Old Montreal offices where they keep both an Emmy and an Oscar on display. The gathering was designed to mark a turning point in Autodesk’s relationship with 3ds MAX users.
“This is the first such user group gathering at the Autodesk headquarters, which proof that the company wants to participate” says Laurent Abecassis, President of K6 Media Group and organizer of the get together. “We have companies making plugins, teachers, students, all types of passionate people who want to discuss the product and how they use it. More and more the company and the community are becoming one.”
Abecassis worked in conjunction with Autodesk Montreal to restart these user gatherings, which dwindled a couple of years ago. Similar gatherings of users also take place regularly in Vancouver, New York and San Francisco.
There is somewhat of a shift in thinking at Autodesk, especially when it comes to this particular product, which some users work with from morning until night. A couple of years ago the company decided to scrap its standard practise of releasing one major update each year, and instead opted to roll our multiple, smaller updates periodically throughout the year.
“We ship smaller chunks and this helps the quality. It’s way higher because there are fewer things going in. There’s more testing and there’s no longer just 1 window to update, so we don’t have to ship now if a team isn’t ready. We can wait for next opportunity. So, we are seeing metrics on quality and stability increase.” says Nicolas Fonta, Senior product line manager for 3ds MAX.
This new drop has several updates, for example the new animation preview can save hours for character animators by generating much faster previews of their work. If every animator does these 10 times a day, which many of them must, then this upgraded feature will save a lot of time both for users and for their studios.
Fonta also took the time to point out that Autodesk uses multiple digital and analog channels to gather customer feedback and has actually taken action on some of it. In 2017 the company implemented 3ds MAX fluids, a feature voted in by users at that time. They are now working on another upgrade asked for by users, multi viewport and multi monitor views, which they are working on now and will be released soon.
And to top it all off Autodesk has now actually shared with it’s 3ds MAX community the product roadmap for the near future. Something which is seldom if ever seen from a major software company.
“This is big for the community” says Abecassis. “Users can spend 50 hours a week on this software. Knowing where it’s heading and what will be improved is key. Autodesk is listening more and more to users, which saves us time and helps us plan production.”