GamesBeat

Digini raises round for tools that can broaden game development

Digini has raised a first round of funding to make software tools that let hobbyist, independent or professional game developers be more productive when designing complex 3-D game environments.

The amount of the investment by California Technology Ventures wasn’t disclosed. The idea is to lift the burden from game animators and other artists, giving them a more intuitive environment so they can do less programming and more art creation. While other, more expensive tools are aimed at professional artists, Digini’s tools target the growing community of hobbyist game creators.

The product is called Blade3D and it offers a “what you see is what you get” experience for artists. That is, they can insert objects into a 3-D scene and then step back and see what they really look like. The idea is to do for game development what Adobe did for photo editing said Jon Grande, president and chief operating officer. The easier the tools get, the broader the audience of game creators can be.

Blade3D competes with Torque, a tool produced by Garage Games, and GameBryo from Emergent. Those tools require upfront purchases starting at $300 to $500 for hobbyists and (going way up) for professionals, while Digini plans to charge monthly subscriptions. This model allows game companies to grow into heavier use of the product and to pay more as they get bigger.

I’ve also written about tools that companies are releasing for consumers so that game players can create their own casual games. One of those that recently surfaced at DEMOfall 08 is Sim Ops Studios, while others include Microsoft’s PopFly technology and Electronic Arts’ SimsCarnival.

One of the more interesting features is a marketplace where creators can upload their creations and license them for use by others. The tools are based on the standard C# programming language and can be used in conjunction with Microsoft’s XNA 2.0 game development tools. Thus, they can be used to create a Windows XP or Xbox 360 version of a game simultaneously. The product is in the midst of beta testing with 10,000 users now. Digini expects to ship it in October.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based company was founded in 2004. In early 2008, Digini raised $250,000 in angel funding. It has six employees. The company will charge dirt-cheap prices compared to other high-end development tools such as Maya. Hobbyists pay $14.95 per seat a month, while independent developers pay $29.95 a month and professional developers (those who publish their games commercially) pay $99.95.

The company was founded by Christian and Behnaz Beaumont, who have years of experience making games at places such as Microsoft. Tony Garcia, who founded Microsoft’s games division in 1991, is chief executive. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception the company gets. It has a healthy number of beta testers already. But they’re pitching to a group that likes to get things for free right now.


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