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Today, Autodesk announced Maya LT, a streamlined 3D modeling tool targeted at independent and mobile game developers. The maker of AutoCAD and 3ds Max is looking to make a splash with developers by introducing a lower-cost version of its Maya software, but still keeping it equipped with powerful animation tools, including a skeleton generator with the capability to calculate inverse kinematics (using Autodesk HumanIK), and a viewport preview system to visualize models as they would appear in game with full lighting and texture effects. Just watching the video makes the software look like a lot of fun to play with, which seems like an important quality when building games.

As many developers know, picking one tool is often tantamount to picking your entire tool chain, usually due to incompatibilities between software packages. Maya LT can import several different formats for 3D assets (Maya/Maya LT, OBJ, FBX, AI, and EPS) and textures (BMP, PNG, DDS, EXR, TGA, and TIFF), so it shouldn't be too hard to bring your existing work into a project. Once your models are complete, they can be exported for Unity 3D or Unreal Engine using the FBX file format. It's worth noting, the FBX format is technically proprietary to Autodesk, but converters are available, and the company has released a library that eases some of the burden in adding support to other applications.

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MayaLT__HumanIK_AnimationGraph_and_Outliner__1920x1080HumanIK_GraphEditorMayaLT_Animation

Maya LT is available today for $795, significantly less than its big brother which currently sells for $3,675. However, Autodesk plans to introduce rental options on a monthly basis for $50, quarterly for $125, and annually for $400. An active game studio will still prefer perpetual licenses, but for developers just getting started, this might be a good way to gain access to a fully-featured software suite without having to front the massive price tag on day one. Of course, if your project doesn't demand a year of modeling work or regular changes, the rental option could save a healthy amount of money. A free trial is also available, so you don't have to pay anything to check it out.

It's great to see really powerful tools rolling out for free or with flexible pricing. We're reaching a point of critical mass where a few experienced game developers, already familiar with many of these tools, can get together to produce AAA-quality titles without working for major game studios. As indie developers gain access to the right software, their creative visions can come to life in less time and with the imagery they originally intended.

Autodesk Unveils Maya LT for Indie and Mobile Game Dev

elopers Starting at $50 a Month

Powerful Tools and Affordable Pricing Expand 3D Options for Independent Game Developers and Small Studios

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., August 28, 2013 — Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) today introduced Autodesk Maya LT 2014, a new 3D modeling and animation tool tailored for independent and mobile game developers. Available immediately and compatible with certain industry-standard game engines, Maya LT draws inspiration from award-winning Autodesk Maya software to bring an intuitive, affordable new toolset for the creation of professional-grade 3D mobile, PC and web-based game assets.

“We see indie game developers as a key part of the industry, driving innovative new production techniques and gameplay,” said Chris Bradshaw, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. “The market is fiercely competitive, and Maya LT can provide indie developers and small studios with a powerful, yet simplified workflow for designing and animating remarkable 3D characters, environments and props – at a price that fits within even the most modest budget. It’s a practical solution that closely matches the needs of the mobile game development production cycle and helps developers rise above the noise and really shine.”

Smaller studios like Phyken Media, creators of the mobile game Wizard Ops Tactics, saw both the economic and workflow benefits of the new product. “I jumped at the chance to try Maya LT, as the cost flexibility means we could grow the studio much more comfortably,” said Phyken Media President Kunal Patel. “With an option like Maya LT, our small team can accept bigger challenges and take on various new types of projects that may require more artists without having to worry much about any large upfront expenses. We even found operating expenses are much easier to determine.”

Maya LT for Game Developers

Maya LT debuts with an easy-to-navigate user interface (UI) and industry-renowned 3D modeling and animation tools that enable independent game developers to rapidly deliver 3D assets into game engines. The software integrates seamlessly into game development workflows with out-of-the box support for Unity 3D Engine and Unreal® Engine™ through the FBX file format for primary data exchange, and the ability to import certain 3D asset formats [Maya (.ma, .mb), Maya LT (.mlt), OBJ, FBX, AI, EPS] and texture formats (BMP, PNG, DDS, EXR, TGA, TIFF), as well as export 3D assets in FBX and .mlt.

Key Features

Maya LT has a number of features customized specifically for the needs of mobile and independent game developers: powerful modeling tools to help create and alter 3D assets of any size and export FBX files containing up to 25,000 polygons per object, animation tools that include a skeleton generator and inverse kinematics with Autodesk HumanIK, and high-quality viewport previews to help developers view assets as they would appear in game, reducing iteration and asset creation time. Other key features are lighting and texture baking, giving designers professional global illumination tools to help simulate near realistic lighting through baking lighting data into texture maps, and vertex maps.

Pricing and Availability

Autodesk Maya LT 2014 is now available for Mac and Windows at a starting price of $795* SRP per perpetual license. Term licenses will also be available as part of a monthly, quarterly or annual rental plan in the near future, starting at $50* SRP, $125* SRP and $400* SRP respectively.

Learn More About Game Development with Autodesk Maya LT

For more information, and to download a free** trial of Maya LT, visit: www.autodesk.com/mayalt.

Connect with the Maya LT development community at: http://area.autodesk.com/mayalt.

[Autodesk Maya LT]

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • jmlares

    You can't render scenes in this version. Blah. You can't have it all. Would be nice to save the $2,000+ otherwise.

    • philnolan3d

      Sure you can have it all. Get LightWave. High end, capable software at a low price.

      • jmlares

        I'm just too happy with Maya though. :(

      • http://kindesigns.com Paul Kind

        @philnolan3d - I was a Lightwave user for many many years. Great tool, really is. But, when it comes to game dev, Maya LT really does a lot more to cater to that niche. For example, Lightwave can't do normal map transfers natively. No realtime viewport like vp2.o etc. Nothing even remotely close to Shader FX either. For games, Maya LT is king, Autodesk did their homework on this one.

  • philnolan3d

    No thanks autodesk, I learned my rental lesson from Adobe.

  • RTWright

    Sorry but I wouldn't want to do any major 3D development on a Smartphone or Tablet, that is what my PC is for and I'll stick with Maya over this. It's a nice idea, but only if you had Android on a Desktop would I even consider this. Then at that point, I'd end up sticking with what I have now....

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      You jumped to the wrong conclusion. This is a software package intended to develop FOR mobile, not ON mobile. It's basically Maya (for Windows or Mac) with a lower price tag and lacking a few features that probably won't be missed, if that's all you're doing.

      • RTWright

        Thanks for pointing that out, I did pretty much miss that mark. Just everything is trying to go mobile lately and I just don't see why. Even games are becoming huge in mobile and none of the mobile devices out can handle them efficiently for any great length of time without excessive heat, battery drain, etc.... Mobile has come a long ways, but I still feel it's got a long ways to go before they can be the one thing does all device.

        Now simple games and such yeah, they do great for. But heavy duty superior 3D almost lifelike animations and scenery really run these systems to extreme heat in short periods of time. So seeing this I was like oh, this could be bad. But as you pointed out it's just a downgraded version of Maya ( Which I love to use ). Anyway, thanks for correcting my view on this.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

          I'm with you on not wanting to see developers try to make games too big too fast. It's a difficult line to avoid crossing, particularly when the tools make it easy. Fortunately, each generation of CPU/GPU is getting closer to the expectations of sensible gamers (anybody who doesn't expect an N7 to match the PS3). I expect it to take about 2 more years for a good parity to be found between graphical quality, hardware performance, and battery life.

          I'm still happy to see really respectable companies like Autodesk stepping up with tools like this and a more accessible pricing model.

        • http://kindesigns.com Paul Kind

          I see a lot of games where 3d makes good sense on smart phones. Some great 3d puzzle games, intractive ambiance games, etc. 3D isnt only First person shooters. =)