Bink 2 Maker Rad tells us about the new improvements to its 3D animation studio

Tools Spotlight: Rad Game Tools

[This feature was published in the August 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

Rad Game Tools is probably best know for it’s Bink video codec, which is widely used in the games development business. Based Kirkland, Washington, the company was founded in 1988 by Jeff Roberts and Mitch Soule.

Rad specialises in tightly focused middleware that is created, supported, and maintained by experienced game coders.

Rad’s suite of development tools is encompasses a broad set of programming and production disciplines, and here we focus on just one of them that is currently due for an upgrade.

Granny 3D is Rad’s animation and data pipeline SDK. In some sense, it is two products built around a common codebase.

Granny is a comprehensive export pipeline for Max, Maya, and XSI, along with a set of powerful tools for optimising game data, and a cross-platform animation SDK for sampling, blending, and manipulating animated characters at runtime.

“The beauty of Granny is that we designed the SDK to fit into your game, rather than requiring you to fit your game to Granny,” Dave Moore, technical lead for Granny 3D, tells Develop of the software that has been used in more than 3,000 games.

“You never have to derive from a class hierarchy that’s out of your control, you get full source to the library and all of our data formats are open. We give you as much functionality as you want, but never require that you take up pieces that you don’t want.”

Granny has been around for over ten years now, but that doesn’t mean she’s not spry for her age. Some of the recent titles Granny has assisted include Guild Wars 2, Forza Horizon, Halo 4, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Eve Online, Sid Meier’s Civilization V, Tropico 4, as well as Bungie’s upcoming MMO, Destiny.

“In addition, we have a substantial number of clients using Granny just for the export and data pipelines,” Moore adds.

“This is a great fit for developers that want to update their art pipeline, need DLC or require maintenance after shipping. The Granny exporters are always available as soon as new versions of the Autodesk tools ship, so the hassle of maintaining the toolchain is substantially reduced.”

The largest change in the last year or two has been the release of the Granny Animation Studio, a graphical animation state editor. Moore tells us that it has been in the works for quite a while at this point, so he’s really happy to finally have it showing up in customer’s games.

Artists and animators like that the fact Rad is moving animation blending and transition functionality out to where they can data-drive it, he says. On the code side, the studio and its underlying runtime have been designed to keep the traditional benefits of Granny, speed and customisability, intact.

As the team prepares Granny for the future, Moore is satisfied that its presence in the games developers’ arsenal exists because of its ongoing performance: “Granny and Rad have years of history doing what our customers need, and then getting out of the way so they can ship the games they want.”

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