Autodesk Kills Off Game Engine Middleware

Image: Autodesk

Middleware for games development was once a booming business. Remember Havok and PhysX? Both still exist, but they ended up in the pockets of Microsoft and NVIDIA respectively and well... we don't really hear about them any more. And the ones that get bought and don't work out? Well, they get the axe, as was the case this week for Autodesk's Scaleform and Beast packages.

Scaleform you may have heard of before. Acquired by Autodesk back in 2011, Scaleform allowed developers to create user interfaces in Adobe Flash and proved popular with quite a number of major studios. When the likes of Chrome and Firefox started disabling Flash by default, effectively killing it as a thing, Scaleform didn't stand a chance.

While not as well know, users of Unity will recognise the name "Beast", which was a core part of Unity 4's lightmapping system. Lightmapping is the process of "baking" high-quality lighting information into a game, usually in the form of large textures, saving the performance cost of calculating such information during gameplay.

As far as I can tell, Beast's biggest customer was Unity. Unfortunately for Autodesk, Unity switched to an alternative product — Enlighten — starting with Unity 5 and never looked back. Without a major sponsor (so to speak) there wasn't much reason to continue supporting Beast.

According to Autodesk's announcement, it'll continue to honour existing maintenance contracts and will give customers access to the final source code and binaries. Beyond that, it's basically the end of these products.

Autodesk game middleware products are no longer available for purchase [Autodesk]


    This isn't a surprise, the amount of games using it recently has pretty much become nonexistent and as engines become better at handling pretty much every facet of game development there is little room or need for third party software.

    For Scaleform, the decision to do away with it would have had more to do with the decline of Flash authoring tools than the decisions of the web browsers. Adobe had been pushing people towards HTML5 for a while before Chrome and Firefox turned off plugins.

    And without those high quality familiar authoring tools, Scaleform isn't really any more compelling than any other 2D vector/animation solution.

    Middleware's still pretty popular, it's just the options have consolidated over the years. SpeedTree, WWise and Gameworks are all pretty ubiquitous these days. I still see Scaleform a lot as well, but the pricing was never too friendly so people came up with their own solutions.

    The title of this article should be rewritten as it is a bit confusing.

    I clicked the article, thinking, "Oh no! Autodesk is about to kill all the competing middleware??"

    That's not what the article is.

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