Manufacturing

Anark Puts On New Game Face

23 May, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Well known name in game development announces a greater focus on CAD and PLM.


Anark, a familiar name in the computer and console game development circle, is selling off its entertainment portfolio. The company is tight lipped about the identity of the buyer, but one big clue points to NVIDIA. On its home page, Anark is redirecting all inquiries concerning Gameface, its user-interface (UI) authoring software, to an e-mail registered to NVIDIA (gameface@nvidia.com).

With a new round of financing to supplement the cash from the transaction, Anark also announced that it plans to "focus entirely on its rapidly growing enterprise 3D CAD-PLM [product lifecycle management] and visualization division."

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Anark bids farewell to its entertainment portfolio, including Gameface (above), to focus on CAD and PLM with products such as Anark Core (below). figure

In this interview (edited for length and clarity), Anark's CEO Stephen Collins explains why, at a time when other CAD giants like Autodesk and Dassault are looking at interactive entertainment as the next frontier, Anark is relinquishing Gameface.

Anarkronology
  • 1994: Company founded, as a game development firm (noted for the AI-driven 3D game titled Galapagos, distributed on PC and Sega platforms)
  • 1998: Shifted focus to content creation
  • 1999: Launched Emotion 3D
  • 2001: Launched Anark Studio 1.0 ($995), billed as "a powerful content authoring solution that allows digital media developers to integrate real-time 3D and 2D graphics, video, audio, and data into an engaging interactive experience"
  • 2003: Released Anark Studio 2.0 ($995)
  • 2004: Launched Gameface at SIGGRAPH
  • 2005: Released Anark Studio 3.0 ($3,499), billed as a major upgrade, enabling "intuitive and rapid creation of interactive 3D applications ? that address a multitude of business needs" utilizing "CAD or other 3D assets"
  • 2006: Released Gameface 3.6
  • 2007: Launched Anark Core, described as "a new breed of CAD Transformation System," and Gameface 4.0.
  • 2008: Sold entertainment division, including Gameface, to an undisclosed buyer
Kenneth Wong (KW): When can you discuss the details about the sales publicly?
Stephen Collins (SC): At the present, we don't know. But customers [those using Anark's entertainment products] have been notified long before the transaction. There's a path to getting support. You can see that on our home page.

KW: Does this mean you no longer have access to Gameface?
SC: What we did was to create two distinct product lines based upon our Anark Media Platform; one is Gameface, the other is Anark Studio and Anark Client. They both started with the same base code, but we added in Gameface some functionalities specific to developing game console UIs. We're still very much behind Anark Studio and Client for real-time 3D visual applications for the enterprise, and this transaction has not lessened our ability to serve it well.

KW: Autodesk is expanding its entertainment portfolio (the latest acquisition was AI developer Kynogon). Dassault is moving into interactive entertainment with 3D VIA. Why is Anark selling off its Entertainment Division now? It seems like the opposite of what these two CAD vendors are doing.
SC: We see industry leaders such as Autodesk investing in game and entertainment technologies to play in that market, while it seems to us that others as Dassault are investing in entertainment technologies more to use in enterprise 3D visualization applications to complement their CAD and PDM (product data management) offerings. Game developers and CAD users are two different audiences, but sometimes technologies stemming from the game market can serve both well. Being a smaller company [compared to those mentioned above], we feel straddling the fence requires a lot of duplicate efforts to manage multiple properties, sales efforts, and marketing communication programs. Gameface has been — and still is — a great product, but we feel that, to have a clearer message about what we do, we needed to focus on the market in which we feel we can make the biggest impact.

The collective visions of leaders such as Dassault, Adobe, and Autodesk regarding the reuse of 3D data across the enterprise are spot on. Anark's combined product offering of Anark Core (for 3D CAD transformation) and Anark Studio and Client (for real-time 3D visualization) provide us with a potent toolset for empowering much of this vision. So we're very much in this space. We're complementary to just about every CAD package or PDM solution and every downstream application, like technical publication or visualization.

KW: Is the 3D content creation field getting a bit crowded, especially since Adobe has entered it with Acrobat 3D?
SC: You go and look at the Web sites of some of the companies in this space, like Right Hemisphere, SpaceClaim, or Proficiency, and you do feel like it's getting crowded, because they kind of sound the same. But there are very different usage scenarios for each.

So where do we differentiate ourselves? With Anark Core, it's not just about translation. It's about automated transformation of 3D CAD data. You can do all sorts of optimizations, like part removal, feature removal, and tessellation. We view our approach as complementary to what Adobe and the other larger players are doing. We feel there are still lots of underserved segments where well-portioned companies like Anark can add real value.

There's currently a solid path you can use [to move CAD data] through Anark Core into 3D PDF. It's going to get stronger with upcoming releases of our product.

KW: What can you tell us about the new round of funding and your plans for the future?
SC: We have customers that are asking for very specific feature sets in Anark Core. So we'd like to accelerate [the delivery] of those. On another front, we'll be expanding our sales and marketing efforts. We'll increase our channel relationships and aggressively pursue partnership strategies.

There are certain companies for whom the transformation of large CAD repositories is an important part of their strategy. So there are some unique partnership opportunities that have emerged since we launched Anark Core. We are evaluating whether it makes sense to embed our product into their solutions. Our geographic expansion targets are Europe and Asia. It's not for product development [as in outsourcing the development of new Anark Core features to overseas talents] at the present, but more for sales and other market expansion opportunities.

We'll be reaching out [to the media] more so people can understand what Anark Core does and what its value propositions are.

KW: To the game developers who will miss Anark, what do you say?
SC: Ultimately, larger companies who serve a market better will acquire products and technologies from a smaller, innovative company, so this is what happened with Gameface and other Anark entertainment technologies.


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