We talked to Alexis Vaisse & Marianne Calva of Wysilab about the adventure to provide artists with an ultra-fast terrain-generation tool created using innovative technologies, and they had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alexis Vaisse: Everyone in our families and relatives is in good health, so far. The main concern is more about how we all have been stressed by an unpredictable, global, out-of-control threat.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Wysilab.
Alexis Vaisse: I co-founded Wysilab backed with a strong career of over 20 years as an expert programmer and project manager, mainly at Ubisoft, in software development for digital creation in the video-game industry.
I have presented my work and research on several occasions to the international community, including at the Game Developers Conference US and Europe. I thrive on performance and challenges, and Wysilab gives me scope to innovate in close coordination with the development team.
Marianne Calva: After a career of over 15 years in software companies and 10 more years at Ubisoft as an associate producer, I co-founded Wysilab to lend my experience to innovation. I manage project organization and tracking, technical documentation, web and community development, and within-project communication.
The idea of our software Instant Terra started when we witnessed artists struggling with their regular tools to generate and update 3D terrains for use in the decors of the new generation, open-world video games. The new ambitions pushed the existing tools to their limits and introduced heavy latencies and delays in daily work. This challenge was the starting point for Wysilab.
How does Wysilab innovate?
Marianne Calva: Armed with solid careers in the gaming industry, we embarked on an adventure to provide artists with an ultra-fast, terrain-generation tool created using innovative technologies.
At Wysilab, we started with fresh, new ideas about how to create a new generation tool based on innovative concepts to propose a high-performance tool to artists. The entire first two years were dedicated to building the technical bases of Instant Terra by taking the best advantages of the GPU and CPU for each kind of calculation. Then, we continued and added feature upon feature, ensuring each time that the feature benefits from real-time performance, which is Instant Terra’s signature.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Alexis Vaisse: We have been affected by the pandemic in different ways.
First, the two main international events where we exhibit were cancelled: the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and the SIGGRAPH at Washington. These major events are a unique opportunity to meet our users and to demonstrate Instant Terra to a very large and new audience. They are our major source for new leads. We tried to compensate by bringing more internal efforts to digital marketing, but this means extra costs for a less efficient result.
We also noticed that the decision delay in the large studios is longer than before the pandemic, which may be a one-side effect of the massive work-from-home situation, at least at the beginning of it. This seems to be improving now.
We were also working from home for several months. Like everybody, we missed social interactions, even if daily video meetings have helped reduce isolation. It was more difficult for the newest members of the team, who still needed close support. Some of us also had a limited Internet connection compared to what is available at the office, introducing frustrating delays. It also proved not so easy to arrange online demos from home. However, we released two new versions of Instant Terra during the lockdown period, and are very proud of what the team has been able to achieve under these conditions!
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Marianne Calva: We had to delay the arrival of new team members. We found it too difficult to hire a new developer or a new technical artist during this period. Therefore, our priorities were re-discussed. We have all become more agile and more creative than ever.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Alexis Vaisse: We communicate a lot internally. We have succeeded in keeping a good team spirit because we support each other. We know where we are going, what we are building, and the release of these two lockdown versions helped us feel much better.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marianne Calva: We have two kinds of competitors: tools focusing on terrain creation, such as Instant Terra, and generalist 3D tools that can be used to create terrains among other assets.
Our main difference is the real-time performance that Instant Terra offers, even on very large terrains. Working in real-time makes it possible to try many solutions over a short period and improve the quality of the final result.
We have a very ambitious backlog. In the short and mid-term, we will add material and vegetation media to Instant Terra, and always with the same very high performance.
Your final thoughts?
Alexis Vaisse: The pandemic has challenged all of us, affecting our private and professional lives. Because of the situation, our comfortable lives have been overturned, forcing our minds to open up. To adapt to the new situation, new solutions have emerged.
We have developed new skills to become more flexible and reactive. Let’s hope we’ll all keep up this positive energy!
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