GBR recently had a chance to catch up with Sebastien Deguy, CEO of Allegorithmic to learn more about what his company is working on these days.
GBR: Allegorithmic seems to have really come into its own over the past couple of years. What do you attribute this recent growth to?
SG: The past two and a half years have been amazing, and a great experience to live through! I would attribute it to three main factors: first, the rise of PBR (physically-based rendering) for photorealistic lighting in 3D environments in game development made it clear a couple years back that game devs needed to adapt their workflows and tools. A few texturing applications were ready at the time, but Substance Designer clearly stood out. This first wave of interest mostly came from AAA studios.
Then, we successfully launched Substance Painter, which immediately gained traction among the entire 3D artist community. In retrospect, it appears that the industry was really in need of a new-gen, specialized 3D painting app that was also fun. Substance Painter might be the fastest growing creative tool the industry has seen in years. A success comparable to that of ZBrush, maybe.
Finally, the extreme care we show our community. The level of support we offer has been noticed and appreciated. Our users feel like they can trust that we’ll do everything in our power to fix their problems, listen to their feedback and make their lives better.
Communities are the power center of everything we do today, they are really driving the process. And without communication none of this works; 3D artists don’t feel comfortable with faceless corporations (big or small). They want companies to be knowledgeable and connected; the demand for this has never been higher. So we make sure to have a two-way discussion, and listen a lot. We’re as passionate about 3D content creation as they are. Something else to consider is, that although we have been successful lately, we’ve still been growing 40% a year for 10 years now. It’s the classic “hockey stick development curve” situation, we’re just farther up the curve now.
GBR: What recent accomplishments are you most proud of?
SG: It’d be easy to say Substance Painter, since this tool has been successful from the start, and transformed a rather unpleasant task into one of the most fun part of the pipeline. But what really speaks loudest to me is seeing our community grow and produce more art than ever before. 5 years ago you couldn’t find much art produced with our tools, at least not publicly available. The community has grown rapidly since, and their feedback is so amazing (we have conducted a survey showcasing “Banana Nation”-type results when it comes to user satisfaction!). They are very vocal about the fact they use Substance as their main texturing tool. Together, we’ve built a system of trust. This special link is what I am the most proud of.
GBR: Substance Painter really does look like an amazing product. What makes it innovative for texture artists?
SG: Many things, but let’s focus on two. The first is parametric help, which means you can use “smart features” to help you in your creative process. An example would be the particle-based brushes, which use a particle-based system to drive a painting process (think: particles flowing down with gravity, leaving stains on an object, or how a laser impacts on a space ship hull, when size and spread depends on the angle at which we throw the “laser-simulating particles”). The second is the fun and modernity of it. Substance Painter has been developed with all the latest advances in mind. The UI looks very familiar and the tool is easy to grasp. It is also extremely fun, so when artists try it out, they usually cannot go back to their old way of producing textures. It is too cumbersome and boring!
GBR: With the impending release of your new Substance Share platform, you’ve effectively added another way for artists to trade assets. Why do you think it took so long for an idea like this to come to the gaming world?
SG: Oh, you could find it in many places actually, either via organized platforms like Steam, or less organized spots like forums. One of our biggest inspirations was Stack Overflow actually.
We just have been a little slow to put it in motion. We were constrained by resources basically, but also wanted to make it right. We have great hopes for Substance Share, and I can’t wait to see the content that is uploaded by our community.
GBR: What trends are you seeing in 3D game content and how do you see Allegorithmic addressing them?
SG: I will focus on one in particular, the biggest trend in my opinion is PBR (physically-based rendering). We’re already addressing it as much as we can. With all major game engines out there focusing on it, game developers have to produce PBR materials and textures to stay relevant. And this is not an easy task. Tools as well as people need to adapt.
GBR: We noticed that you changed your pricing model to a rent-to-own system. What led to the development of Substance Live and how has it been received?
SG: It has been a blast. We have been thinking a lot about subscription and how to ensure recurring, less “release date”-dependent revenue that aligns with company goals. Prices tend to go down for products like ours; so setting up a system that benefits everyone should be on the list of any sane software company out there.
We also wanted to find something that made sense to our community. 3D artists are passionate people who don’t like to be told how they should use their time or money. They don’t like to be held prisoner by policies. They want access to new technology and the advances that hardware and software provide without unfair restrictions. Part of the fun, for them, is to optimize their workflow, and see how that new Titan X will accelerate their viewpoint and make their process more fluid. If a third party somehow tries to control their productions by locking them into a specific arrangement or policy, they’ll rebel. So we thought long and hard about how to offer something that worked for everyone. We found a good solution in our rent-to-own system and decided to take a risk. Now we let our users choose how they want to interact with our payment system. Not only can they still acquire our tools the “old fashioned way”, but they can also spread their payments out and actually OWN the license at the end. The feedback has been tremendous.
GBR: Where do you hope to see Allegorithmic in the next two to five years?
SG: I certainly hope to see Allegorithmic continuing to grow and innovate, producing new products and exploring new markets (we see a new generation of creators in fields like design and visualization, for instance). We have started venturing into new areas (both in terms of R&D and markets) and I believe we are onto some interesting things. More soon hopefully.
GBR: Anything else you’d like to add?
SG: Yes -we’re HIRING! Passionate and talented coders out there, please contact us. We have several offices in the world, we’d love to hear from you.
Additional Allegorithmic offices are in Venice, California; Korea; China; Paris; Lyons.