A group of game developers decided they would rather make tools for game developers and 3D artists rather than develop games themselves.
So four developers founded Marmoset in January of 2012, a computer software tools company that makes a 3D rendering software for game development and product digitalization/visual effects for film.
“We’re making the software tools that others use to make their 3D art for games, film and 3D visualization in general,” Marmoset co-founder Mark Doeden said. “Our four founding partners were all originally in Iowa and we’re now entirely a distributed, remote team of 13 covering four coasts and a few other countries.”
Doeden is based in Cedar Falls and started developing games after graduating from Iowa State University in 2005 until 2011. He said the team had experience working on various video game titles for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 over the years before founding Marmoset in 2012 after the team got tired of, “Playing the investment pitch game” they founded Marmoset.
The other co-founders are:
- Joe Wilson – based in Iowa City
- Andres Reinot – based in Minneapolis
- Jeff Russell – based in Austin
Marmoset is the second of a three-part series on the Northeast Iowa video game community.
Developing a flagship product
The Marmoset flagship product is Marmoset Toolbag, a suite of rendering tools that 3D artists use to develop their assets that are found in video games and film.
“Our full-time development is on that product,” Doeden says. “With game development and the high-end 3D games, technical requirements and graphics standards improve and change quite rapidly. So our tools are constantly evolving to stay ahead of the curve.”
Doeden said the Marmoset team is made up of 13, with ten full-time employees. He says the tool bag is one consistent project and it allows them to not jump from project to project.
“Often times when a 3D artist is producing an asset to go into a film or game, the end result is in a large game engine,” Doeden explains. “It’s a big chunk of software that most artists don’t want to deal with. So our toolset is able to match the look and feel of their end goal, so they can work in our software and get good looking results without a lot of technical knowledge.”
He says artists don’t need to know how to write graphical shaders or worry about fancy rendering because it’s all taken care of by their toolset.
“They can get their final looking renders immediately without having to wait for any help from a technical staff or programmer,” Doeden said.
To reach customers and potential clients, Doeden said they would post the toolbag to forums with large artist communities.
“Just sharing out tools on the message boards got us a grassroots following,” he says. “Get our trial software in their hands and the artists kind of find where that will improve their daily workflow.”
The Marmoset Toolbag is on its third iteration and Doeden says the team has added animation support and advanced customization and scripting options for technical artists.
“We keep a keen ear to our user feedback and requests to better understand how they are using the Marmoset Toolbag in their daily work and where the holes in their art pipelines still exist,” Doeden says. “That feedback loop is kept quite simple with the immediacy of communication via Twitter, running beta tests through group pages on Facebook and being able to openly discuss industry standards and expectations with our professional peers.”
He said the team will keep it “business as usual” for the rest of 2018 but there are plans in the works to expand into the visual effects field.
“Some of our future product updates we hope to expand into those user bases,” Doeden says.