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Q(which?): Maya, Lightweave, Softimage and Max too, oh my!

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Hello hello! I''m in the process of looking at waaay to expensive 3d (modeling/animation/etc.) programs and was wondering if anyone would care to offer any advice.. I''m currently mostly interested in sold polygonal modeling with good export options (or failing that a useable api to write a custom exporter with, but I''d like to avoid that if at all possible.. on general principle if nothing else). I am mostly worried about making (low polly)models for use in game rather than movies and rendered output currently though. I am also a precision freak so being able to specify the location, size and other parameters of things easily and precisely is rather important to me. However, given the cost of these type of programs and given that my favorite artist tends to learn new programs rather glacially slow I''d like to get one good solid 3d program and be able to stick with it for the foreseeable future. So far my thoughts are so: GameSpace(light): Horrible interface, neither artist nor I like it. It does seem to have a nice set of export/import options, as well as good options on primitives.. tedious and hard to get presion it seems though) .. Down right affordable. Maya(PLE): Nice, deep as a well.. good viewport manipulation.. tedious and a touch troublesome mesh editing.. Initial primitive creation seems.. well primitive.. very. 3ds Max(gmax): kind of benchmark.. like the 4 view, nice enough primitive selection and options (bit limited as I recall) .. but apparently 1.5k more than the rest of the options.. I don''t think their brand name is worth that much.. Softimage|XSI: well the website looked nice .. looked pretty promising. But seems there is no demo available.. Lightwave: Like the price basically, and good upgrade path currently.. but seems there is no demo either. It would seem to come with all the goodies.. cloth sim and so on.. their gallery had alot of .. uhm.. interesting models as far as characters go but some nice realistic ones in the back so good results would seem possible. Comments welcome.

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Presion? Do you mean precision? VERY easy to be precise in gameSpace: just use the object info palette (select object, right-click arrow icon). I should also mention that precision is, for the most part, completely pointless in games, as the player's are going to care at all as long as the game looks good. And when modeling characters, you're going to end up w/ verts in locations like 1.239242984, and you've just got to let it go, so long as it looks good. Programmers and their obsession w/ precision...sheesh . 4-view is also possible in gameSpace, as is any other view number - either as floating windows or the more traditional CAD-style 4-view like in 3DSMAX.

You don't like the interface? Interesting; most users really like the gameSpace/trueSpace interface, compared to other 3D software, due to its level of interactivity and easy access to all program features. If your artist is more of a techie person than a designer, I can see them not liking it - those types of people usually prefer the horror known as the 3DSMAX interface (though it is, slowly, improving). I'd recommend giving gameSpace another try - plus, you can rearrange EVERYTHING - the location of EVERY SINGLE ICON - until the layout is of your liking. Let me also recommend turning off the 3D widgets, as they just get in the way, other than the viewport nav widget in the bottom right-hand corner.

And speaking of 3DSMAX, there is MUCH more to the program that is game-related than just their brand. I'm not the biggest fan of the program's interface, but it's tools for game development are, to put it simply, the BEST, though you may have to develop your own exporters - and I've got no idea why "general principle" would stop you from doing this, as it is COMMON industry practice to do so, even if there are other convertors freely available.

What format are you trying to get to? Do you have an engine? What formats does it support? Skeletal or Hierarchal animation? Can it support multiple textures per object/polygon? Consider these kinds of things, more than interface, when looking at 3D programs - it may turn out the only program you can afford/is best suited to what you need is the one w/ the interface you like the least; but once you/your artist has/have defined custom/learned the program's hotkeys, the interface won't matter one iota: I've got the same hotkeys, more or less, in trueSpace/gameSpace and Lightwave & Maya, so I can go from one program to the other, and regardless of interface, do what I need to do.

-Nick "digisoap" Robalik
Web & Print Design, 2D & 3D Illustration and Animation, Game Design

[edited by - digisoap on May 27, 2004 3:17:50 AM]

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I know and use many 3d Programs... but I''m still very fond of Cinema 4d (www.maxon.de). I keep coming back to it.

Granted, it does a lot more than you''ll need it to do, but it has an amazing interface and is pretty versatile. Its also not that expensive.

- T

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Actually there is a demo of softimage and lightwave since I am using them right now you just gotta look harder. They will send you a link to the demo if you register on their website I think that''s how it works if I remeber.
I''ve used most of these programs and my superficial overview of them is:
maya is the best if you want to be able to use it anywhere since it runs on macs,linux,windows not to mention it is one of the most stable pieces of software I''ve ever used.
3dmax is quite easy to pick up and start using right away learning curve really low only problem with it is when you try to do anything overly complex you''ll need a plugin like character studio,shagfur,etc to get it done not to mention it really pisses me off how sometimes it''ll just crash in the middle of a long render for no apparent reason at all!
as far as rendering goes softimage used to look the best since it used mental ray but now I believe 3dmax,maya is also using it so that shouldn''t matter to you.
As far as lightwave goes I could never get used to how the split the program into 2 different programs instead of integrating it all?

If God played dice, He''d win.
—Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos

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Ah yes precision, *blames user error on language* stupid English... Really I''m
more concerned with precision for object placement, not so much were a vert
lies, though at times I''ve found that important as well (like when merging
verts, but yes most programs these days are pretty good about that) ..

By and large though I just dabble though I hope to get to the point where I can
model some space ships again.

*fires up gameSpaceLight* .. fiddles around a while, deleting the object a few
time inadvertently(etc.) .. I swear this interface fights me every step of the
way.. did a nice search for text and found the Object Info panel though so that
is a good thing, even if I cannot place it where I want (keep snapping back to
the bottom left corner just above the row of icons.. cleverly covering the
expanded icons from that toolbar up *sigh*) but UI frustrations aside there are
a few things I like about this program..

I don''t suppose there is anyway to get the ''Primitive shape'' and ''Primitive
properties'' dialogs up after the object (torus in this case) has been created?
.. One simple miss click and well, start over. At least so it seems.

Noted about the 3d widgets, which I kind of like, but I''ve also noted them
getting in the way, not doing what I want and in general.. yes.

When I mentioned ''general principle'' I''m referring to the cost of the
programs.. For as much as they cost I tend to think they should wash my socks
too! *wink* .. but that aside I rather expect to have to write an exporter and
such like, if nothing else to parse a existing file format (ever popular .3ds
for example) to get it into a more game friendly format. .. Format wise for
now.. well it really does not matter, this game
is stupidly simple so all I really need is verts and texture cords, though I''d
like to keep my options open and be able to export to Torque, etc. if I feel
like using it for something someday.

I''m a touch paranoid about interfaces from my experiences with various code
editors and how using (for example) a bunch of key combinations becomes second
nature and you no longer thing/remember what to hit.. Then all of a sudden you
get distracted and have no flipping clue how to do something simple. Of course
I think this only partially is a worry with the 3d programs but well, I''m just
a touch paranoid! But as you said, once over the learning curve it is not so


Thank you for mentioning CINEMA 4D, I''ll have to look at that closer.


Thank you for noting there are demos for them.. I''ll have to go find them. Also
thank you for your comments on the programs.


Hum, fun fun!

Thank you all for your insightful comments!

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Me, I'm a Lightwave dude. I've tried Max, and I didn't care for the interface, too. A more artistic friend of mine constantly complains about Max's interface and pines for the way Lightwave does a few things. (Like having bones easily seperated from the geometry.)

I tried out the GS lite dealie, but the interface was a bit of a turn off. I don't like things that intrude into my scenes's view. But maybe that's just because I am spoiled by having two monitors. Since most of Lightwave's tools are subwindows I can drag them onto the seperate monitor and have a nice, uncluttered view of my scene/models.

Maya, I can't speak for, as I've never tried it. But it seems like Maya is gaining ground insofar as being a gaming tool. I hear a fair number of people model in Lightwave but render in Maya, or some other combination like that. Me, I can only afford only one of these big-name 3D packages.

As for the split between modeler and layout, a lot of people usually go "EWWW!" at first. But when I've played around with other 3D packages where everything is integrated as one, their interfaces usually are very cluttered and a lot more confusing to newbies (*cough* 3DS Max *cough*). There's the added benefit in that since objects are entirely seperate (including surfacing), then it's REAL easy to swap things in and out and reuse stuff. Heck, the scene files for Lightwave are just plain text files, so search-n-replacing is all that is needed to swap, say a low-polygon proxy model with its higher-poly cousin.

On the other side, I admit that the Hub does a good job of keeping everything syncronized. This is certainly better than the pre-6.0 days when you had to manually reload models in Layout if you had changed them in Modeler...

- 2D/Pixel Artist - 3D Artist - Game Programmer - Ulfr Fenris
[[ Gaping Wolf Software ]] [[ GameGenesis Forums ]]

[edited by - FenrirWolf on May 27, 2004 2:39:34 PM]

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For a nice polygon modeller w/ good export options, I'd recommend Wings3D. I don't know if it has the precision you're looking for, since I don't usually model that way, but I'd guess it does. Worth trying out, anyway, since it's free.

"Sweet, peaceful eyelash spiders! Live in love by the ocean of my eyes!" - Jennifer Diane Reitz

[edited by - Logodae on May 27, 2004 6:06:12 PM]

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Original post by Raduprv
Why not Blender? It''s free, has a big community behind it, it''s improving constantly..

Because the interface sucks and it''s the most obtuse 3D program out there...maybe that''s why it''s now free?

When in doubt, right-click; this works in tS/gS for just about everything. After you''ve created an object (and assuming the "magic ring" is still active) right-click on the primitive icon. If you''ve already "finalized" the object (e.g., the magic ring - that red/green/blue/yellow widget that shows up around the object when creating), then you can''t make changes to it like that - same as every other 3D program except 3DMAX, more or less.

And to stop the object info panel from snapping to the edge, don''t drag it all the way down to the bottom. And why do you have the icons expanded all the time anyways? They''re made to expand for a reason: to give more 3D modeling/texturing/animation screen real estate). And, I''ll say it again, LEARN THE SHORTCUTS, or make you''re own. I hardly even use the icons any more, and usually have them all minimized (tab, just like in Photoshop, or two clicks on the icon bar to make it shrink to a little box that, when rolled-over, shows all icons connected to it again).

-Nick "digisoap" Robalik
Web & Print Design, 2D & 3D Illustration and Animation, Game Design

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