As our Canadian focus turns to tech, we look over one of the most prolific tool firms in the business


Number of staff: Not publicly disclosed
Year founded: 1982 (since 1999 in Montreal, since 2006 in Toronto)
Location: Autodesk Media & Entertainment HQ in Montreal, development office in Toronto.
Best known for: Maya, 3ds Max, Softimage, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, Kynapse, HumanIK

Autodesk is the sort of company that needs very little introduction to even those tangental to the games development industry.

Ever since its games debut with the then-monikered 3D Studio Max, the company has continued to expand its influence in the games market, not just with its ubiquitious self-made technology, but also the purchase of Alias (and therefore its popular Maya package) in 2006 and similar acquisition of Softimage in 2008.

But art packages are just part of how Autodesk wants to be known in the games industry: not just as a tools company, but as an end-to-end solutions provider dedicated to believable character performances. It acquired AI middleware developer Kynogon in 2008 and has also self-developed the runtime animation solution HumanIK.

Although Autodesk’s headquarters are in California, the nucleus of the Media & Entertainment team, which includes games, is nestled within the heart of Montreal’s bustling game development scene. For a company that wants to work with developers, there’s no better location.

“There are so many world-class projects within a very small area,” says Leonard Teo, games product marketing manager at Autodesk. “You’ve got Autodesk in the old port developing 3ds Max, Softimage, MotionBuilder, Kynapse, HumanIK and more. A walk up the road, you have EA developing Army of Two. A few blocks further, you have Eidos working on Thief 4 and Deus Ex 3.

“A walk up the hill, you have Ubisoft creating blockbuster titles such as Assassin’s Creed II and Avatar: The Game. These are just some high profile examples and there are more. The sheer number of world-class projects within a relatively small radius in Montreal is amazing.”

And Teo thinks that there are far more reasons to want to be in Canada beyond tax breaks.

“I think that in general, Canada is positioned well for tech companies because people actually want to live and work in Canada, and the business and legal environment is conducive for companies.

“One thing that young, career-minded people need to consider is the standard and cost of living – Canada is amazing for that. You can afford to have a great quality of life, healthcare, education, all while working on some amazing, world-class projects.”

And that’s what Autodesk is continuing to do also, with more products in the pipeline, explains Teo.

 “We’ll keep delivering powerful art tools. We’re also building out our middleware solutions – the focus is on character-centric middleware. We want to make it easier to create amazing, interactive character performances. Our vision is for a unified workflow where art tools work harmoniously with run-time technology.”

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