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Umbra rendering the next generation of games

Umbra’s main client base consists of US-based video game companies ranging from CD Project Red to Activision. Pictured is one of Umbra’s projects The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Credits: : Umbra

Finnish technology company Umbra has been leading the way in rendering 3D landscapes for some of the most popular games of recent years, including Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Destiny.

Umbra is the brainchild of the CEO and founder Otso Mäkinen, who started the company as a research project to look at how a game can maintain its fluid look while dealing with content created by the developers.

“Once we started having users and customers, the project turned into something that you could build a business on,” Mäkinen says. “But in the heart it’s a technical product and we want to solve a technical problem.”

The only game in town

With its HQ in Helsinki and another office in Seattle, Umbra has grown from a research project into a successful company. It currently employs 17 people altogether and the number is growing.

According to Mäkinen, no other business in Finland or abroad offers the same service as they do. However that’s not to say they don’t have anyone to compete with.

“The biggest competition comes from the customer’s team, as there is someone in house who is working on a similar problem.”

Technology company Umbra, which started as a research project, was the brainchild of the CEO and company founder Otso Mäkinen. Image: Josh Reid

Umbra’s main client base consists of US-based video game companies ranging from CD Project Red to Activision. One of the latest games to benefit from Umbra’s 3D processing and rendering optimisation is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, from game developer Eidos-Montréal

“I’m a big fan of the Deus Ex games,” Mäkinen admits. “Eidos-Montréal is a typical client for us – a game development studio that has a really ambitious project. We can make the content creation much easier for them.”

Mäkinen sees close co-operation with the gaming companies as being beneficial for both parties:

“We worked very closely with Bungie on Destiny and they know exactly what they want. The collaboration also helped us to develop our product better.”

Virtual reality

Since virtual reality gaming has hit the market, it’s a natural venture for Umbra to undertake 3D processing and rendering games that are more immersive for the player.

“Virtual reality is a big case for us,” Mäkinen says. “In virtual reality it’s even more important to have high frame rates, so that all virtual reality applications will need us in the future.”

Mäkinen is confident that within five years Umbra will be at the forefront of providing 3D rendering, not only video games but for everyday life too, as 3D scanning is bringing 3D graphics into other uses.

The company is also certain that demand for 3D rendering for games will not subside anytime soon.

“Since we’ve already been working on it [VR] for the last 15 years, it hasn’t shown signs of dying out,” Mäkinen says. “Also, there is more and more content all the time, and we are about to optimise all of that.”

Umbra is confident that within five years the company will be at the forefront of providing 3D rendering, not just for video games, but everyday life too. Image: Umbra
By: Josh Reid
29.03.2016