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kam1su2

Max, Maya, or XSI

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kam1su2    122
I am a c++ programer getting into 3d programing. I have a friend who is already getting into the 3d graphics field. I wanted to know which software would better suite us and our travels into the 3d game programing world. The almight MAX, the ever loving Maya or the holy sword of XSI???? Not taking into account the learning curves on them, just purely features and compatability with opengl / directx apis. and other things "game programing".

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Daaark    3553
Don't worry about compatibility. You can export your work into any format you want. All three of those programs have free cripled trial versions.

There are a few other programs you missed too that are cheaper.

TrueSpace, Gamespace, Gamespace Light(free)
Lightwave
Blender(free)

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kam1su2    122
How crippled are the XSI and Maya trials... as for the lower priced onces, i used to use truespace some years back, never did anything for me. But do any of the other ones have anything over lets say truespace and how do they compare to the bigger software packages?

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Daaark    3553
Quote:
Original post by kam1su2
How crippled are the XSI and Maya trials...


Truespace and Gamespace have awkward, ugly interfaces. I always found them to be a pain to use, just like blender.

Gmax and Maya PLE are restricetd in that you can't use your work. They save to their own files and aren't compatible with anything. (gmax has some exceptions, but it's for mod work)

I don't know about the rest. After gmax came out, they all slowly started rolling out their own 'light' versions. You can't do anything serious with any of them, they exist to let you try them out and hopefully buy them.

You should take advantage of those if you are going to shell out the huge amounts of money those programs charge for a single user license.

There are cheaper alternatives just for gaming related stuff, Milkshape, Fragmotion, Deled.

Expensive
3DS Max
Maya
Softimage?

Medium
Truespace
Lightwave

Cheap
Gamespace Light

Dead Cheap
Deled
Milkshape
Fragmotion
Cartography Shop
OpenFX

Free
Anim8tor
Blender (full package)
Deled Lite
Wings 3D
Old Versions of Truespace


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tolaris    288
Quote:
Original post by kam1su2
But do any of the other ones have anything over lets say truespace and how do they compare to the bigger software packages?

Of the ones mentioned, Lightwave can be extremely convenient and fast with its straightforward approach to modeling and UV-map edition. (i think it was also the first out of the 'big guys' to introduce concepts like baking results of raytracing into image maps etc.) Well worth checking out.

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Teknofreek    331
Honestly, any one of those three programs will work just fine for you. They have all copied each other's features over the years enough to the point where they can all do pretty much the same thing, in a fairly similarl way. However, here's my opinion of their strengths and weaknesses:

Max
+ Probably the best of the 3 for modeling.
+ More game houses use this than the other programs
+ Has a great scripting language
+ The SDK will let you do a lot
- Probably the worst of the 3 for complex character animation
- More expensive than the base versions of the other programs
- The SDK feels a bit awkward and the documentation for it is horrible

Maya
+ Probably the best at creating complex interactions between objects
+ Well rounded modeling, texturing, and animation tools(Not great, not bad)
+ The SDK is pretty cleanly designed and the documentation is decent
- No DirectX support(At least the last time I checked)
- The SDK is closed off in a lot of ways
- The scripting language is awkward and not as powerful as the other programs

XSI
+ The best for complex character animtion
+ Newer than the other programs, so probably cleaner design
- Not as good as the others for non-animation tasks
- Pretty buggy from what I hear(Though I think it's been steadily improving)

I have the least amount of experience with XSI, so I can't comment as much on it's scripting/SDK. And I should re-iterate, all of these programs do most stuff pretty well. So, when I say that one program is the best or worst at something it's not necessarily worlds apart from the others, it's just not the best.

Well, hope that helps!

-John

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kam1su2    122
good stuff... i'll try those trial versions or "learning editons" and see how it works out. Right now Maya is looking prett :-). Anything related to halflife2 might need a second looking *cough*softimage xsi*cough*

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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
So what about Lightwave? Seems to be pretty easy to use.

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GDKnight    302
I belive this depends soley on what exact field your friend is intending to get into. I'd research what software is used for the field he is most intrested in; and go from there.

I know for movies such as Pixar related movies Maya is used, 3ds max tends to be used alot in game modeling. It really depends on the area in my personal opion.

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Teknofreek    331
Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
So what about Lightwave? Seems to be pretty easy to use.


IMHO, Lightwave kinda sucks. It's horribly outdated and quirky in it's design. The modeling and animation systems are two different programs! I would use any of the other three long before I used Lightwave.

-John

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RobTheBloke    2553
Quote:
Original post by Teknofreek
Max
+ Probably the best of the 3 for modeling.
+ More game houses use this than the other programs
+ Has a great scripting language
+ The SDK will let you do a lot
- Probably the worst of the 3 for complex character animation
- More expensive than the base versions of the other programs
- The SDK feels a bit awkward and the documentation for it is horrible


Xsi is better for modelling. The max sdk is pretty grim.


Quote:

Maya
+ Probably the best at creating complex interactions between objects
+ Well rounded modeling, texturing, and animation tools(Not great, not bad)
+ The SDK is pretty cleanly designed and the documentation is decent
- No DirectX support(At least the last time I checked)
- The SDK is closed off in a lot of ways
- The scripting language is awkward and not as powerful as the other programs


In what way is the SDK closed off? I've never found a problem doing anything in the maya api, yeah mel's a bit cack, but then it's only intended to be used for the GUI side of things. Out of all the packages, the API is by far the most powerful.

The lastest Dx9 sdk comes with an X file exporter. You can also use the fbx format if you need to get data easily.

Quote:

XSI
+ The best for complex character animtion
+ Newer than the other programs, so probably cleaner design
- Not as good as the others for non-animation tasks
- Pretty buggy from what I hear(Though I think it's been steadily improving)


Buggy it is not. It used to be around version 1 or 2, but the latest versions are very stable, and very fast. Xsi scripting can be done in any scripting language that supports COM (most people use VB or Java script), that's basically the same for the SDK.

I'm not sure what you mean about non-animation tasks? Could you be a bit more specific. In my experiance, xsi is by far the most powerful and easy to use straight out of the box - In fact, it's so powerful that it's the only one i've never needed to write a plugin for !!

The only issue i have with it, is that unlike Max and Maya, you really need to know XSI pretty intimately before you can do much with the SDK. Having said that though, the dotXSI FTK is very easy to use to access all data in XSI, and the FBX file format also works with it.


There is one package not yet mentioned that is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest for complex character animation, and thats Endorphine. The downside is that endorphine only does animation and it costs a lot. The upside is though that what would normally take days in any other package, takes seconds in endorphine.....

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tolaris    288
Quote:
Original post by Teknofreek
IMHO, Lightwave kinda sucks. It's horribly outdated and quirky in it's design. The modeling and animation systems are two different programs! I would use any of the other three long before I used Lightwave.

Outdated? Guess that's why 3d Max has been directly lifting editing tools from Lightwave for 2-3 versions now, each time touting them as 'great improvements in 3d modeling for game content creators'...

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Teknofreek    331
Let me start by saying that in my original post, I did mention that these are just my opinions, so please keep that in mind :)

Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
Xsi is better for modelling. The max sdk is pretty grim.


Maybe it is now. The last time I took a hard look at all three, Max was ahead for poly modeling. That was around Max 5/6, Maya 5, XSI 3(?) time frame. Perhaps things have changed since then?

At any rate, at the time I looked into it, it wasn't that Maya or XSI lacked any extreme functionality, but there were some subtle things that made the workflow of poly modeling in Max better...at least to me :)

Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
In what way is the SDK closed off? I've never found a problem doing anything in the maya api,


The Maya SDK is closed off in a lot of areas. For instance, at one point in time, you couldn't create new primitive TYPES. So, for example, if you wanted to create a new set of primitives that were bezier-patch surfaces, instead of NURBS or polys, then you were out of luck. This may have changed over the years...I don't know.

There are a bunch of other areas where you can't get into the cracks with the Maya SDK as well. For example, one of my friends who works at ILM has told me that they've had problems customizing the way skinning works in Maya, as well as doing things like adding new IK solvers. There's also been problems in the past with external renderers trying to hook into it. I realize there's things like MTOR, but I believe that circumvents the problem by just basically dumping out the scene to a rib file.

However, to be fair, most of the time these things aren't a big problem. The people who wrote the Maya SDK did a very good job of making a very clean API, which is great. They also did a very good job at deciding precisely what you can and can't get at. That's fine most of the time, but it is most definitely more closed off than Max. I'm not really familiar with the XSI SDK, so I can't comment on that.

Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
yeah mel's a bit cack, but then it's only intended to be used for the GUI side of things.


Yeah, and that's unfortunate. In Max, and I assume XSI, you can do quite a bit with the scripting language. That comes in extremely handy for tech-artist types who can do a lot, but aren't quite comfortable writing full on C++ plugins.

Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
Out of all the packages, the API is by far the most powerful.


I'd conceed that it may be the cleanest API of them all. But I'm unconvinced that it's the most powerful. That being said though, all three of these programs have an SDK that's certainly powerful enough to handle most(all?) of the functionality you'd normally want to add for making games.

Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
The lastest Dx9 sdk comes with an X file exporter. You can also use the fbx format if you need to get data easily.


Ahh...I should have been more clear. I was actually referring to being able to easily view D3D shaders in the viewport. I'm pretty sure there's decent DX exporters for all three of these programs. At the studios I've worked at though, we've always bought/written custom exporters anyway.

Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
Buggy it is not. It used to be around version 1 or 2, but the latest versions are very stable, and very fast.


That's good to hear! I figured they'd tighten that up over time.

Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
I'm not sure what you mean about non-animation tasks? Could you be a bit more specific.


Well, basically the whole rest of the program. The UI itself feels a bit awkward to me. The giant windows with huge sliders that have arbitrary limits on them feels weird and not as stream-lined as Max/Maya.

Also, some of the workflow for poly modeling, spline creation, and texturing seemed a bit rougher around the edges to me than either Max or Maya. Now, some of this could simply be that I'm not as familiar with the program. That could definitely be the case! It's also quite possible that these areas have improved since the last time I looked at it.

And again, these are just my opinions...and I concede that I'm not as familiar with XSI as I am the other two.

Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
In my experiance, xsi is by far the most powerful and easy to use straight out of the box - In fact, it's so powerful that it's the only one i've never needed to write a plugin for !!


Sounds like a pretty ringing endorsement! I've really wanted to check XSI out more. Some of the stuff it has does look really neat. I just haven't had the time/inclination to really play around with it again. Maybe I'll check it out again some time soon.


Quote:
Original post by RobTheBloke
There is one package not yet mentioned that is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest for complex character animation, and thats Endorphine. The downside is that endorphine only does animation and it costs a lot. The upside is though that what would normally take days in any other package, takes seconds in endorphine.....


Along that same line of thought, from what I've heard, Modo is supposed to kick some serious ass for poly modeling. From the people I've talked to, it sounds like it blows away all three of these. But alas, all it does it modeling. So, I'm not sure how tough it'd be to fit into a serious production pipeline. Might be worth taking a look at though :)

-John

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Teknofreek    331
Quote:
Original post by tolaris
Outdated? Guess that's why 3d Max has been directly lifting editing tools from Lightwave for 2-3 versions now, each time touting them as 'great improvements in 3d modeling for game content creators'...


All of these packages copy each other and then have their marketing department spin it like they just invented the wheel. That's not the point.

The point is that it's the ONLY program who has their scene layout and animation tools in a seperate program from the modeler. It's the only program that saves out each object to seperate files(They still do that, right?). Have they gotten around to letting you edit your model in a shaded perspective view yet? I can't possibly go on enough about all the things that just seem bizarre to me about Lightwave.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've know some guys over the years who could model up a storm with it. And, to be fair, it does have a pretty decent built-in renderer(Although that's somewhat moot now that everyone includes Mental Ray for free), but to me at least, it seems like a terribly dated and awkward program.

-John

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tolaris    288
Quote:
Original post by TeknofreekAll of these packages copy each other and then have their marketing department spin it like they just invented the wheel. That's not the point.

Indeed; by definition though, outdated program would have nothing still worth copying that others haven't already copied from it by now, or replaced with their own, more modern equivalents. If the copying still happens, chances are it's because the particular program is actually ahead of the curve in given department... not behind.

Quote:
The point is that it's the ONLY program who has their scene layout and animation tools in a seperate program from the modeler. It's the only program that saves out each object to seperate files(They still do that, right?).

I think you are mistaking 'dated' and 'working paradigm' then. Yes, Lightwave uses separate interfaces for animation and modeling. (they're linked and changes in one update automatically in the other) However, this is as old approach as is using the *same* interface for both -- both date back to times where these programs were created. If then one approach is "dated" then so is the other ... the only possible difference is, you are more comfortable and more used to one of these modes, so you find it the "right" way and everything different is "dated" because they didn't switch to 'your' way 'yet'.

And given how often in games you have the physical mesh logically detached from universal skeleton and animations which are then reused for wide range of monster/player shapes, and how often levels are built from repeated individual parts which are then saved to separate files to avoid repeated loading of the same geometry... i really don't see why this paradigm is actually such a bad and 'dated' thing when it comes to game content creation. If anything, it follows _closer_ the game content creation workflow.

Quote:
Have they gotten around to letting you edit your model in a shaded perspective view yet? I can't possibly go on enough about all the things that just seem bizarre to me about Lightwave.

Err.. this was already possible in version 6, which (estimating from quick amazon.com search) appeared on the market around year 2000. If your information on the program is so (pardon bad pun) outdated you aren't even aware of developments that took place 5 years ago, perhaps you *shouldn't* "go on enough about all things that seem bizzare" ... since it seem you might have no idea about the program in its current state whatsoever? It would be like me criticizing 3d Max based on its 3d Studio predecessor, or complaining about quirks of the first Maya... rather silly thing to do, don't you agree..?

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tolaris    288
Quote:
Original post by Teknofreek
Along that same line of thought, from what I've heard, Modo is supposed to kick some serious ass for poly modeling. From the people I've talked to, it sounds like it blows away all three of these.

Ironically enough, Modo is enhanced stand-alone version of Lightwave's modeler module, written by the very same people who created its predecessor for LW and quite similar in the approach to the task... :s

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Teknofreek    331
Quote:
Original post by tolaris
Err.. this was already possible in version 6, which (estimating from quick amazon.com search) appeared on the market around year 2000. If your information on the program is so (pardon bad pun) outdated you aren't even aware of developments that took place 5 years ago, perhaps you *shouldn't* "go on enough about all things that seem bizzare" ... since it seem you might have no idea about the program in its current state whatsoever? It would be like me criticizing 3d Max based on its 3d Studio predecessor, or complaining about quirks of the first Maya... rather silly thing to do, don't you agree..?


Touche'. You're right, I really haven't tried to use it in years. And you're right, half of what I didn't like about it was it's paradigms. The modeling in it actually looked pretty decent, but everything else seemed a bit odd to me. But I was a bit harsh, wasn't I. Perhaps we can just agree to disagree :)

Quote:
Original post by tolaris
Ironically enough, Modo is enhanced stand-alone version of Lightwave's modeler module, written by the very same people who created its predecessor for LW and quite similar in the approach to the task... :s


Yeah, their modeling stuff does look good. As I mentioned before, the only thing I question is how easy it will be to fit that program into a full production pipeline. It does sound like they're trying to make it as easy as possible to export to other programs. However, there are still lots of times when you want to do things like tweak a model that's already skinned. If they can get the integration with other apps to a point where things like that are easy, then they might be on to something.

-John

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Kwizatz    1392
I bought XSI Foundation last december, I think is the best option for game development, it is the cheapest ($500) of the big guys, and it is feature rich.

I did some javascripting in it, and found that to be fairly easy (it also allows you to write vbscript and python scripts).

However, the SDK API is COM based, which although great for supporting multiple scripting languages, it complicates writting plugins in C/C++, specially if you like using MinGW instead of Visual C++ like me.

All in all its a matter of getting used to it, the trueSpace API is way too easy to use, so I guess I got spolied by it [smile] I do need to get my Map exporter ported to XSI.

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tolaris    288
Quote:
Original post by Teknofreek
Touche'. You're right, I really haven't tried to use it in years. And you're right, half of what I didn't like about it was it's paradigms. The modeling in it actually looked pretty decent, but everything else seemed a bit odd to me. But I was a bit harsh, wasn't I. Perhaps we can just agree to disagree :)

Definitely, there's nothing wrong with everyone finding different things odd to work with... just thought the original poster could use getting some more up-to-date info in response to their question ^^

Quote:
Yeah, their modeling stuff does look good. As I mentioned before, the only thing I question is how easy it will be to fit that program into a full production pipeline. It does sound like they're trying to make it as easy as possible to export to other programs. However, there are still lots of times when you want to do things like tweak a model that's already skinned. If they can get the integration with other apps to a point where things like that are easy, then they might be on to something.

Not sure if you mean Modo or Lightwave now... how Modo does it, i dunno. With Lw tweaking is rather trivial -- if you work on animation and decide the model needs some touch-ups you hit the 'Modeler' button, the module opens and loads currently selected object. You can adjust maps, geometry and whatever, and as you do it the animation module detects the changes and updates view automatically (since the modules are linked through network with central hub, it's possible to even have different persons to work both on the model updates and the animation/level building in the same time... if props used in level get updated at some point, they're automatically reloaded so the level designers always get to see most recent version of how it's all going to look in game)

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