Game Changers: Allegorithmic

Game Changers: Allegorithmic
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

August 26th 2010 at 8:00AM

How Substance Redux can crumple texture sizes

This feature is the latest in our series of Amiqus-sponsored Game Changer profiles – articles chronicling the firms reshaping video games development

In concept at least, what Allegorithmic does is very simple. The tech company’s most significant middleware offering, Substance Redux, serves to automatically compress textures for online games.

In reality, Allegorithmic’s creation is incredibly intricate and complex at the backend, but that alone doesn’t warrant a place in the Game Changers series. Why the French headquartered firm stars here is because, to a large extent, Allegorithmic is the procedural texture rendering middleware sector.

While other middleware fields, such as animation and mo-cap, play host to a cacophony of competing companies, Allegoritmic spearheads texture rendering and compression almost single-handedly, with a lead solution that can be implemented at any stage of an online title’s development, from conception to post-release.

Perhaps the field’s relative tranquillity is because texturing doesn’t carry the consumer friendly nature of graphics, and doesn’t conjure up easily romanticised notions like the infamous uncanny valley.

Regardless, Redux’s potential to online game developers is considerable. It can reduce the overall size of a game by 20 to 50 per cent; a factor that can make or break a release that’s financial success depends on how easy it is to download.

Launched in May this year, Substance Redux was actually created when Allegorithmic was trying to license Substance Air – an established middleware solution for texture production - to online game developers in Asia. Many of the studios revealed to the middleware provider that they were interested in a parallel solution to Air for their existing games.

“Recreating the textures with Substance Air was the solution that provided the best results in terms of space savings, but, due to time constraints, they were also very open to a solution for automatically compressing existing assets,” reveals Dr. Sébastien Deguy, Allegorithmic’s president and founder. “Substance Redux is the answer to that issue: it provides a 50 to 70 per cent size reduction of all your texture assets in just a few short hours with no special skills needed.”

While the team at Deguy’s firm provides tools that allow its customers to create textures in a new and improved way, more importantly, Allegorithmic is the only company that has runtime components associated with most of its products.

“Combined with a unique, patented set of technologies, this allows us to be a true middleware and tools provider, fully dedicated to the tricky and expensive task of producing and delivering huge amounts of texture data,” confirms Deguy.

Compiling New Order

Recognising the casual, MMO, mobile, web and free-to-play sectors as key descriptors of what it calls the ‘new order’ for games, Allegorithmic has demonstrated a keen ability to recognise leading trends in the industry and make them its own.

While numerous middleware companies struggle to catch-up with the rush to cater for developers making smaller games for digital platforms, Deguy and his colleagues are forging ahead with offering a solution that can dramatically increase revenues for those creating online games.

“Casual equals instant action for players, which means immediate streaming of data. Therefore, the smaller the data, the faster the access,” explains Deguy. “Casual also means a short development time and lower budgets for creators, which means dedicated, easy-to-use tools and customisable content.

“MMO means a lot of content needs to be created and distributed by the developers and publishers. Hence generative techniques and smaller data sizes are key here.”

Put simply, there’s a range of increasingly prominent platforms and markets that need what Allegorithmic offers. Mobile and web models mean ‘on-air’ and online distribution, leading to the need for smaller, more compact content, while free-to-play demands a direct relationship between the time before play and the success of a game; an area where the fast consumer download times that using Redux can ultimately lead to could prove extremely important. The Substance tool suite really is the key package letting customers produce compact and dynamic textures.

Allegorithmic is also a company not content with resting on laurels.

“We still have a long way to go,” admits a frank Deguy.

“So far, our successes have come from the fact that we have been talking to very smart people in the industry, all from the biggest companies: Funcom, The 9, NVIDIA, Intel, Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes are good examples.

“These companies were able to understand what we had in our hands, even when it was still only a prototype. They saw potential, a unique technology, and most importantly, they have seen that we are a trustworthy company.“

Deguy is also a man prepared to recognise and accept the challenges that his business faces; something that continues to serve his company well.

“The biggest challenge we have faced is bringing a disruptive innovation to the market,” says Deguy.

“By this, I mean that texture artists were not expecting to see a solution like this emerging. We have to create a presence and make the need for this product apparent to those who need it the most. Or, at the very least, make them understand the value of switching from the traditional pipeline to this new way of creating textures.”

Deguy is the first to admit that, even though Allegorithmic’s offering brings a tremendous value to the artists that it serves, those creators still have to change the way they work. Anybody who has spent any time in the industry can imagine just how hard that must be.

“But this is also what makes the challenge so exciting,” adds an upbeat deguy.

“When we succeed, we know the industry will be changed for the best and that our technology will become a de-facto standard.”

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Amiqus Games is a leading provider of specialist talent to the video games industry. The company recruits for some of the world's premier studios for artists, animators, producers, programmers, designers and executives such as studio heads and director level roles.