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Autodesk's 3D Software Shapes Innovative Interactive Games

Autodesk Inc.'s 3D software was used to develop the GUITAR HERO II, VIVA PIÑATA (Xbox 360) and HAPPY FEET games. Leading game developers Harmonix, Rare Ltd. and A2M relied on Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya 3D animation, modeling and rendering software to create interactive virtual environments for these family-friendly games.

"More people than ever before are experiencing interactive entertainment. Game developers are diversifying beyond traditional first-person shooter games to create imaginative titles with Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya," said Marc Petit, Autodesk's Media & Ent. vp and GUITAR HERO addict. "Through their highly creative use of gaming hardware and Autodesk's 3D software, Harmonix, Rare and A2M have invented novel ways to appeal to our fantasies. Their games are breaking the age and gender barriers typically associated with the game-playing audience, attracting entirely new markets to the fun of playing videogames."

A passion for music drove Boston-based Harmonix to create an accessible, authentic rock and roll experience on a gaming platform. Recently acquired by MTV, the studio has used Autodesk 3ds Max since it first began to develop games. The original GUITAR HERO game struck a chord amongst a new group of gamers that were attracted to the unique combination of music and game play.

GUITAR HERO is now on its way to becoming a cult classic, due to the widespread appeal of performing some of the greatest rock hits of all time with a guitar controller in your own living room. The game's overwhelming success inspired a sequel featuring more music, new characters and venues, and a player-requested practice mode. Now shipping, GUITAR HERO II is offered on both Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

"Autodesk 3ds Max is the de facto standard at Harmonix. It's automatically what we use," said Ryan Lesser, Harmonix art director and VFXWORLD reviewer. "We enjoy working with the scaleable architecture of 3ds Max and how it allows us to link into our proprietary engine and toolsets. The software is ideal for modeling objects with rigid forms like the guitars and characters' accessories, such as spike belts and shoes. Using Polygon Modeling within 3ds Max allows us to have a lot of control over the fine details of the game and the iconic characters."

Based on Warner Bros. Pictures' animated adventure of the same name, the HAPPY FEET game for Nintendo's Wii console extends the gaming experience beyond traditional input methods. With the motion-sensitive controller, players physically move with the penguins, in order to help the game's fuzzy hero master tap dancing. Developed by Montreal-based A2M with Autodesk Maya, HAPPY FEET is also available for the PC, Nintendo DS, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Game Boy Advance and Sony's PlayStation 2.

Created with Autodesk Maya by U.K.-based game developer Rare Ltd., VIVA PIÑATA is now available exclusively for the Xbox 360 videogame and entertainment system. This unique game challenges players to grow a lush garden that will attract colorful piñata animals to live in the gamer-controlled virtual Eden.

However, VIVA PIÑATA'S uniqueness extends beyond its original game play. Unlike most traditional titles that only reveal sections of worlds at any given time, which is much less demanding on the game console's resources, VIVA PIÑATA allows viewers to see their entire garden landscape. This presented Rare with the development challenge of having the entire world loaded at once. Additionally, there are more than 60 species of paper-furred piñata in the game and numerous varieties of artificially intelligent plant life. Rare explained that the Maya software's open architecture and customizable toolsets were key components to creating the landscape, plants and piñatas' fur.

"With Autodesk Maya, everything we created for VIVA PIÑATA was under artist control," said Lee Musgrave, head of art at Rare. "The artists were able to custom create the piñatas' paper fur with Maya's open-ended MELScripts, Also, the plants and trees inside VIVA PIÑATA are all organic and grow in different ways depending on where they are planted. If the player plants a tree, and then plants another one beside it, the plants stunt their growth to avoid merging into one another. To do this, we ran each plant through a script in Autodesk Maya that told it how to grow and interact with other organisms. Not having to create the plants' growth patterns manually saved us a lot of time -- about a months' worth of repetitious work."

Autodesk Inc. (www.autodesk.com) is wholly focused on ensuring that great ideas are turned into reality. With seven million users, Autodesk is the world's leading software and services company for the manufacturing, infrastructure, building, media and entertainment and wireless data services fields. Founded in 1982, Autodesk is headquartered in San Rafael, California.

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