Develop quizzes the Foundry about bringing its modelling tool to the Steam marketplace

A new world of weaponry: The Foundry on Modo for Steam

Customisation is the draw for many that are glued to the life and adventures of their own virtual avatars.

Modelling tool Modo is one of the first professional art tools to be repackaged as a dedicated application on the Steam software marketplace, and, with its customisation capabilities, it will allow DOTA 2 players to craft the weaponry that their imaginations’ crave.

To find out more about this edition of the tool, what it means for customisation in Source engine games and how Valve’s digital marketplace is changing the sale of middleware, Develop spoke to Shane Griffith, Modo product marketing manager at The Foundry.

What’s new with Modo Steam Edition?
This is actually a brand new release from The Foundry. We wanted to create a toolset that would let games content creators really easily create professional quality content for Steam at a really affordable price. Modo Steam Edition users will get lots of the functionality of the award winning Modo toolset in a streamlined, purpose-built tool.

Why did you feel the need the create a version of your modelling and rendering tool specially for Steam?
As a company we care a lot about the games industry. Modo and other products like MARI are being used more and more to create assets for games. We wanted to open this toolset up to a wider audience and give gamers and modders a chance to see how much fun and how useful the Modo platform is to use.

Modo Steam Edition has some really core targeted functionality that will be invaluable to games content creators. This is one of the first professional quality, modelling, sculpting, UV’ing and shading application that has a streamlined integration with the Steam store. Right now we have really tight integration with DOTA 2 so that modders and enthusiasts can really easily get their stuff into the game.

With the launch of Modo Steam Edition, the Foundry’s new tool is said to “revolutionise the content creation process in DOTA 2”. Describe how you feel it will do such a thing?
It’s really about two things. It’s about making the process of making professional quality content and then it’s about making it easy to get that content into the game. Before today, it was a tricky technical process to export a file and get the assets into the game, but with Modo Steam Edition, the hassle of that import goes away.

We want to make it easy for content creators to focus on what’s important – just like in the Modo world. The Deathsickle weapon is a great example of the kind of complex content that a user can now create. They have the pro tools that are already being used by triple-A games companies like Gearbox on Borderlands 2 and the support of a company that they know cares about their customers and innovation. While the tight integration is currently only with DOTA 2, users can also make use of Modo Steam Edition to create low-poly content for other games like TF2 and beyond. Users will have the ability to export to a limited FBX. This is of course limited to non-commercial use outside of creating and selling items in Steam Workshops.

And speaking of DOTA, how did you secure approval from Valve to have your technology incorporated for use in user-generated content creation?
We’ve been talking to Value for some time and both wanted to bring a new calibre of tools to the Steam Store platform. We hope that this version of Modo will be a huge success and, of course, Valve shares that anticipation.

Modo Steam Edition sells for $149 (£90) – well below the price your full software release. How have you managed to achieve this price point? Are there any key features you’ve had to do away with?
This is not by any means full Modo. Modo is an end-to-end 3D content creation solution that has very few limitations. It’s used by top-tier product designers, triple-A games companies, film VFX houses and far beyond. We set the price point here because we want Modo Steam Edition to be accessible and we want games content creators to experience the Modo workflows and the possibilities that it opens up.

Steam has been ground-breaking for PC games delivery, and its non-gaming software marketplace is only a year old. How do you anticipate it developing?
It can only get bigger and we are thrilled to be a part of it at this stage in its development. A platform like this demands attention, not just from games developers but from software developers like us too.

Is it fair to say that creating tailor-made versions of development software for popular marketplaces such as Steam and the Apple App Store is changing the way that the Foundry, and other toolmakers, package dev tools for audiences?
I think it absolutely changes the way that we think as marketeers. You now have these new mediums to reach audiences that go beyond the traditional and that’s an exciting prospect. From a development point of view, we’ve built Modo and the architecture that forms it to be extremely adaptable.

As such, we have the ability to create a variety of product incarnations – like Modo Steam Edition – without the need to reinvent the wheel so to speak. So it’s not so much about file limits or compatibility. That’s all technical detail that we have the in-house expertise to work out. The real question and thing that we focus on is creating a toolset that’s actually relevant and useable for a target audience. That’s what we have done with Modo Steam Edition. We’ve given people all the tools they will need to create game assets for Steam for a fair price.

What was the biggest challenge in creating Modo Steam Edition?
The real challenge was in trying to balance features for the use case and price point while not limiting it too much. We want people to be able to do all the things they need. Turning off animation was quite a debate, on one hand there’s limited use cases for exporting animation into games like DOTA 2 right now but it is an important feature set that we know many users would like to see in Modo Steam Edition. We thought long and hard about what the limitations of the software should be and feel we have struck the right balance for the Steam market. Deciding what you put in is a very delicate process that often prevents software companies from doing something like this.

What can we expect from future updates to the tool?
We are looking into doing a Mac version as well and continuing to monitor the feedback for other feature enhancements needed. Of course, multiple platform support always comes with challenges, so Windows comes first as the likely biggest addressable market. We are working hard on that and also want to make the streamlined integration that we now have with DOTA 2 work with a number of other Steam games.

Read more about Modo software here.

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