3D Studio (Max)

Edit on Github | Updated: 27th May 2024


3D Studio started life as a prototype called MODEL created by Tom Hudson for Yost Group back in 1988 and evolved to become one of the most used 3D Modeling programs in the games industry.

Version History

There is an excellent article on BeforeAndAfters about the history of 3DS (Max) which is available here: https://beforesandafters.com/2020/06/04/a-visual-history-of-3ds-max/

This section will guide you through the main releases of 3D Studio by year so you can get an idea of what it was like for game artists at a certain period in time.

3D Studio Prototype (Nov 1988)

Tom Hudon released a video on Vimeo where he goes back to his earliest prototype version that he had access to, runs it in dosBox and provides interesting commentary on how it all works 1.

Many of the menu items, especially under the Program menu were not yet implemented such as the Materials/Lighting/Camera but are in the menu to show off what it aims to do in the future.

3D Studio Release 1 (1991)

Edward Clay has uploaded a video 2 that shows off the first release of 3D Studio, it was created for a NAB conference in 1991 and shows 3D animation and stills created in 3D Studio, which are very impressive for the time.

3D Studio Release 2 (1992)

Advertising such new features as Boolean sculpting and postscript font support the Demo Reel created by AutoDesk was uploaded to YouTube and you can view it below 3:

World Creating Toolkit

Shipped along with the main product is what AutoDesk call the “World Creating Toolkit” which was about 500MB of royalty free 3D models and other resources. Or in their own words:

The World-Creating Toolkit on CD-ROM, included with 3D Studio, provides more than 500 MB of prebuilt objects, meshes, fonts, animations, and backgrounds–all royalty-free.

There is a CD on Archive.org for “Autodesk 3D Studio Release 2 World-Creating Toolkit” , you can find it here: Autodesk 3D Studio Release 2 World-Creating Toolkit : Autodesk, Inc. : Internet Archive.

3D Studio Release 3 (1994)

Requiring MS DOS 3.3 or Later, the third version of 3D Studio was released in 1994 and cost a whopping $2,995, you can view a demo that AutoDesk created for R3 below:

It goes through and shows all of the main features, if you are interested in what it was like for early 3D artists this is the best video to watch, thanks to DOS Nostalgia for uploading it!

The Video covers:

  • The 3D Editor and the 4 different views, Top/Front/Left and User
  • The 2D Shaper - create 2D shapes in a Vector like tool using basic shapes and boolean operators such as Union
  • The 3D Lefter - take the 2D shapes and make them 3D
  • Camera placement and lighting
  • Materials Editor

You can also read more information about 3D Studio Release 3 in Game Developer Magazine June 1994.

3D Studio Release 4 (1994)

The software was becoming much more mainstream by Release 4 and even has a few books published about it:

A user called GansVFX 4 has uploaded a video of him running Release 4 in DOSBox which you can view below:

3D Studio Max (1996)

In 1996 3D Studio was rebranded to add the Max suffix to represent the move to Windows 95+ and started the numbering all over again.

You can view a product demo created by AutoDesk in 1996 5 below:

The video even shows Character Studio which is a tool to help create 3D animated characters and has built in animations for common walk cycles.

Retro Games that used 3DS Max

Game Studios don’t tend to advertise which 3D modeling program they used for the creation of specific games, and models tend to be compressed into game specific formats when released. So it can be hard to tell what games used 3D Studio (Max) but the games we know about will be placed in the table below.

Game Name Game Developer Notes
Monopoly CD-ROM Westwood Studios Article from 1996 issue of CGW confirms this CGW: Feature: New Tools for 3D Gamers (12.96)
LEGO Racers High Voltage Software Found 3d files that use the .max extension LEGO Research Realm
Premier Manager (PS2) Runecraft Issue 20 of PSi2 Magazine shows very low resolution screenshots of 3d modelling the statium which looks very similar to 3ds Max.

If you know any games that used 3D Studio for asset creation and have a source to back it up, please contribute by editing this page!

Premier Manager and other games by Runecraft

Based on issue 20 of PSi2 Magazine it looks like they use 3ds max for 3d modelling along with photoshop. Upscaled screenshot of Runescape interview

Retro Movies that used 3DS Max

Movies are even harder to tell what software was used to create them as there are no left over artifacts available in the retail product. But occasionally an interview with an artist who worked on a movie will surface and confirm the tools that were used.

Movie Name Studio Notes
Jurassic Park: the Lost World DreamWorks Article from 1996 issue of CGW confirms this CGW: Feature: New Tools for 3D Gamers (12.96)