Article first published as Software Review: ‘Poser Pro Game Dev’ Character Creation Software on Blogcritics.
Smith Micro’s Poser program has been long used for various commercial human renderings, and with Poser Pro Game Dev, the publisher has finally offered viable tool for video game development. The 3D character creation solution space has become particularly crowded recently, but Poser’s long history and large user community, have greatly benefited the program and its users. While many artists and animators have loved the quality and significant third party support for Poser, game developers have previously been frustrated by the prohibitively resource intensive end products and asset licensing ambiguity.
Poser Pro Game Dev is built on the framework of Poser Pro 2014, which is now a native 64bit application for both Mac and Windows systems. Poser Pro 2014 combines a powerful 3D character creator toolset with animation tools, and includes a good amount of pre-made content. In addition to the robust 3D character creation tools, the program also includes including clothing fitting, morph target creation, weight mapping tools, network rendering along with the full collection of Poser 10 features. The integrated Go-Z support plug-ins allow for content integration with Lightwave, CINEMA 4D, 3ds Max, Autodesk’s Maya, and Z-brush.
In addition to everything included with Poser Pro 2014, Poser Pro Game Dev offers specific tools for game developers. The most significant additions are the FBX import/export tools, along with those for polygon reduction. While Poser has been a great standalone tool for creating content, the program wasn’t well known for integrating with other modelling and game development programs. With the addition of FBX support, work done in Poser Pro Game Dev can be easily exported, with default settings for 3DS Max, Unreal Engine, and Unity 3D.
While being able to export models to an FBX file, or Collada, which is included in Poser Pro 2014, the vast majority of Poser content is unusable for game development. This is because most of the Poser models have polygon counts that are from ten to a hundred times what is optimal for current video game platforms. To solve this issue, Smith Micro has included a few polygon reduction tools. These include figure combining, unseen polygon removal, and a smart polygon reduction tool. As smart as the polygon reduction tool is, I do recommend using it incrementally. Reducing a 200,000 polygon figure to 2000 polygons in one shot, is unlikely to produce good results.
Along with that FBX file support, Poser Pro Game Dev offers a number of animation solutions. Exclusive to the Game Dev edition is the Kinect for Windows motion capture system. This option is in addition to the previously included Walk Designer that automates biped walk and run cycles. Even more detailed interaction can be achieved with the Talk Designer that can even animate blinks and head nods. Those faces can also be made more specific with Face Room, which allows photo matching of imported photographs. Existing Pro 2014 users can upgrade to the Game Dev edition easily, with a nominal fee on the Smith Micro website.
Poser Pro Game Dev is deep character creation and animation solution and can’t be mastered overnight. Luckily, the user interface does make sense, even if it is significantly different from other modeling programs, and there is quite a bit of help to be found. Smith Micro has created a number of tutorial videos and webinars for Poser, and if that’s not enough, their third party partners and the Poser community at large have stepped up, to fill in the holes. Besides creating them from scratch, there are quite a few character creation solutions out there, but none of the standalones are quite as robust as what Smith Micro offers here.