3DS Max Product Manager Frank DeLise interview
By Dave Baker, Neil Blevins,
Pablo Hadis and Paul Roberts
A number of changes have taken place at Autodesk since last year’s restructuring plans were announced. The change of 3DS Max product managers among them. With layoffs reaching 500 jobs, including a number of engineers, 3DS Max users have been worried about how this may affect future software development. The announcement that Frank DeLise was appointed as new product manager was well received, but doubts remained.
In order to find some answers regarding which direction 3DS Max development will be taking we talked to Frank DeLise, who kindly agreed to reply to our questions. Since he participated and led the design of 3D Studio MAX in some of its early versions we also took the chance to ask some questions on the subject, as well as how his video game development experience may influence 3DS Max in the future. Below are the results.
How did you first get involved with 3D Studio? How did you become 3D Studio Max’s lead designer in its early years?
So I was an early adopter of 3ds dos in the early 90′s. I was luck enough to have it in college for my computer graphics degree. During that time I made some 3D logos for various broadcast companies and posted images to the bulletin boards back in the day.
One of the ADSK sales guys found my work and asked if I would be interested in working with sales support as an AE. So I joined ADSK and travelled to companies around north America, teaching workflows, converting customers and learning a lot.
After a couple of years during 3ds max development, I was asked to join the design team to help with 3ds max 1.0. My job was to help define and design some of the core 3ds max features and vet them with customers.
However during this time, I still used the product heavily and even got involved in some high profile projects as an artist. Also during this time I produced 10+ training videos on how to use 3ds max.
I did this for 3ds max 1, and 2 and 2.5. From there I moved up to product management and led 3ds max 3 and 4 and some of 5.
Tell us about your experience in video game development. Which studios did you found/work at and which video games did you help develop?
After 5+ years, I decided I wasn’t quite done being an artist yet. I had a burning desire to build a video game. So I set off to create a modern military game based on the an EA game called Battlefield 1942. I wanted to convert all the WWII assets into modern day tanks and plans, change up the gameplay and make a fast paced modern experience. I called it Desert Combat. I created a website, grabbed some people online and started my fantasy project for fun. A group of about 10 of us got it off the ground and before we knew it over a million people were playing it online.
To our shock, we decided, hey we might have something here.. so we pitched to EA to use this as a tool to create a bigger online experiences by releasing the mod tools we developed to make the game. EA agreed and paid for all our max tools and website to teach others how to mod Battlefield. This helped launch a small studio in NY where I was able to get more work and even do military training applications.
Soon after, the developers of Battlefield hired us to help design the next Battlefield franchise called Battlefield 2. Our job was to prototype future gameplay for the franchise using the desert combat work.
When our work was complete, DICE the makers of Battlefield acquired my company.
In 2005, I decided to create another company called Kaos studios in NY which I eventually sold to THQ and grew to over 100 employees.
In 2008, I become a consultant for various game companies and technologies and spent some time raising a new family.
In 2011, I rejoined ADSK as a Senior product manager, bringing experience as an artist, designer, developer and GM of various studios and projects to help drive new and existing products.
I am very excited to be back at ADSK as I believe they have a great future and exciting new changes coming.
You have ample experience in making actual artwork with Max, how do you think this experience will help you in your role as head of the 3DS Max team?
Yes, I have used max extensively and still use it today. I am in a good position to drive 3ds max as I know how to use the product, but also know the inner workings.
I have missed out on the last 4+ releases, but I am catching up on the changes Ken and Shane made to the product since I left.