GDC has been crazy so far with developers saying it's alright to piss off gamers to indie developers saying that Japanese games suck. Where's the real news though? Where's the mind blowing announcement that nobody saw coming? Oh, Nintendo just licensed Gameware for all Wii U developers? Close enough.
Autodesk and Nintendo announced today at GDC that they have entered into an unheard of agreement that will see Nintendo offering Autodesk Gameware to any developer who wants to work on Wii U games. Why is this unheard of? This is a major console manufacturer and publisher ponying up the funds for game tools that should encourage game developers to work on their console. To be more direct, any developer who works on a Wii U game is going to get free support from Nintendo in the form of Gameware.
What's that? You've never heard of Gameware? You might not have heard of it, but you've surely played games that use it. The Gameware suite has been seen in games that use Unreal Engine 3 (Gears of War 3), CryENGINE 3 (Crysis 2), Havok's Vision Engine and Unity.
Back to the license agreement, any developer working on Wii U games will have access to three of the products in the Gameware suite from Nintendo - Scaleform, Kynapse and HumanIK. I know for a fact that many of you have at least seen the Scaleform logo on a few opening screens for games, but what do these middleware solutions actually do?
Scaleform is a tool that lets developers create user interface environments using Flash. You know how awesome the HUD was in Batman: Arkham City? Yeah, that was built with Scaleform.
Kynapse is perhaps the most important of the three as it provides a middleware solution to one of the most challenging concepts in game design - artificial intelligence. What Kynapse, Nintendo is providing third-party developers with the tools to create compelling enemies (and allies) that use the latest in artificial design technologies.
The third middleware, HumanIK, is a character animation engine. It allows character models to interact seamlessly with the environment and other characters. You know how fluid Ezio moves in Assassin's Creed II? That's HumanIK at work.
“Autodesk Gameware technology is used by the industry’s elite development teams and has been adopted across the industry. Through our relationships with key companies like Nintendo, we can put our solutions into the hands of more game developers,” said Marc Petit, Autodesk senior vice president, Media & Entertainment. “Adopting Autodesk Gameware helps streamline the production process, freeing more resources for innovation in new areas. This shift in development focus will help make the next-generation of titles more compelling than the last.”
While this may not seem like the biggest news to a lot of gamers, just trust me on this one. This is a brave new step for Nintendo as it shows they're getting serious about third party support. It seems they really want to buck this trend of their consoles only doing well for their own games while leaving third party developers out to flop in the cruel world of games retail.
Nintendo will be showing off more of the Wii U console at E3 in June. You can be sure that we'll have all the details then.