A new toy

One of the more stringently observed rules in development is that you don’t upgrade your software during crunch or near the end of a project. You stick with what you have and what has proven to work. New versions of software packages may play havoc with your already wonky exporters, there may be problems loading older assets, there is no end of possible misery just waiting to slow development to a screeching halt. But once the project’s madness has died down and your bugs are taken care of it’s time to shop around. As such I have finally installed Maya 8.5 and have given it a whirl. I’m loving it.

My hate-hate relationship with 3D Studio Max is not something I shy away from talking, or indeed writing, about. That software is no friend of mine. I was introduced to it as a young development pup and it has caused me grief ever since. In fact, I was always convinced I was rubbish at 3D until I stopped using 3DSMax. When I started using Maya a sudden love for and skill in 3D and modeling bloomed up inside me like an oasis I never knew existed. The open-ended interface, the viewport controls, the modeling, it all felt right, and I haven’t looked back since.

Not, that is, until Autodesk bought Alias and the “Evil Creators of 3DSMax” were suddenly in control of their main rival. From that moment I feared Maya would either die or turn into Max, which is the proverbial “fate worse than”; I’d wake up in a cold sweat about it. And though some decidedly Max-y things have crept into this new version of Maya it is still my old friend.

I’ve only played around with it a little but what I’ve experimented with so far all seems neat-o. Firstly the subdivision in menu sets means I can get rid of all that Nurbs crap I never get to use, freeing up some space or at least keeping it less cluttered. Some of the most used tools are now a few steps up in the menu hierarchy, though previously custom MEL scripts had taken care of that already. An extended set of polygon editing tools, and here is where Max rubs its dirty undead corpse against my lovely clean Maya, do actually help tremendously, though I am not yet convinced of the new way shapes are created; like Max you draw them into your scene, but I kind of liked the world 0 numeric input way Maya had always allowed me to create a new cube. This is small potatoes, though.

The extended Hypershade options, especially the buckets, or container, whatever they are calling the grouping, are a Godsend, as are the improved viewport rendering options. I iwsh I could play around more with dynamics, cloth and fur/hair I never get to use those in the creation of in-game assets, though I would like to use them for texture/surface transferring. I’m not too impressed with the integration of Python; it feels a little like a usurper, making MEL look a little anemic and sad, and when I was looking for scripting/programming languages to study I didn’t end up picking Python, dammit.

Mostly, to the delight of my lazy colleagues, Maya now finally is localized in Japanese. I am not touching the option, of course. I need to learn where all the new buttons are and I don’t want to be squinting at incomprehensible kanji while I do so. Max has been localized for a while now, so I guess that is one of the good things Autodesk is doing with Maya. I may have to reconsider my opinion of them.

Sorry for this deluge of uselessness. Installing brand-spanking new software always feels a little like a treat, especially as the Maya 7.0 to 8.5 upgrade sees some significant improvements, allowing me to streamline my workflow even more. Students and those wishing to become a game artist should, by all means and post haste, download the free Personal Learning Edition. Especially in Japan Maya is fast becoming the standard 3D tool for game development, if it isn’t already. You could do a lot worse.

NOTE: If you’re a big fan of 3DSMax, I’m not interested in discussing the pros and cons of either package or, indeed, which is best. Horses for courses, and all that. Each to their own. If you think 3DSMax is better then good for you! You’re completely deluded, of course, but good for you nonetheless!

13 comments:

  1. I hear you, MAX is the devil. I had a Digital Graphics course in uni, and the software we had to work with was MAX. I got so frustrated that I ended up "cheating" by modeling everything in Maya and then export it as .obj, import it into MAX, apply the textures and then saving it as a MAX file.

    Haven't tested Maya 8.5 yet, but I do believe you can use the standard Maya primitive creation. Just go and search through the settings.

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  2. Personally, I loved 3DStudio MAX. I used pirated version up until 5.0 (I think) and as I have rejected piracy I haven't used it ever since.

    Now I use Blender for my rare cases of 3D creativity eruptions and I love it.

    Never really got to like Maya, though.

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  3. In the create / polygons menu, uncheck interactive creation and you'll have Maya's way of making things back.

    Cheerio!
    Fredrik "too lazy to create an account" S

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  4. I used to love interactive creation in Max and hated how everything appears at the origin in Maya, but these days I'm quite fond of just pressing a button and having a cube. I've also learnt a fair bit of MEL to write exporters and a couple of simple function (inserting points into EP curves for example, which is lacking in Maya 8 for some reason, and insert knot doesn't take care of it) so customising the interface is less of a pain in the arse as it was when I started using Maya.

    The only thing that really bothers me about Maya is that it's slow. Most of the time it's ok, but on both computers I've used it on, the menus and dialogue boxes are slow to appear, and some of the functions are also very slow. I think some of the problems are caused by MEL, as most of the program is written in MEL afaik. Also, the new polygon tools are good, but not as fast as MJPolyTools. Insert edge loop is great though, and being able to insert multiple loops is wonderful.

    There are plenty of other little things that irritate me about Maya, but these days I've learned to accept it and can pretty much do everything I could in Max.

    YMLL

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  5. I really need to cut down on the comma (mis)usage.

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  6. Anon #2 (comment #4), cheers, I hadn't seen that yet. Much obliged!

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  7. I have used Maya for the last 3 years and I still don't quite like it as much as Max. I'm still on version 7.0 and although I've seen videos of the latest version, it seems it still lacks some basic stuff. Has Autodesk made any modifications to Maya 8.5 regarding:

    - Keeping vertexes, polygons and edges selections on while working with e.g. materials?

    - Snapping tools still very primitive (specially with UVs where they are pretty much useless)?

    - Useless grid? Does it automatically resize its size when zooming in and out?

    - Select elements within one polymesh?

    - Automatic Pivot point alignment with vertexes, polygons and edges?

    - Any kind of nice automatic UV mapping tools? Pelt mapping like perhaps?

    In all fairness, Max & Maya are very different programs and have different ways of doing things. The more technical people might find Maya to be not very precise and the more artistic will definitely like Maya's workflow.

    Note: I do like Hypershade in Maya and its node tree view of materials (Max should definitely have it).

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  8. Weird talking about this on the Japanmanship blog, but here goes:

    - Keeping vertexes, polygons and edges selections on while working with e.g. materials?
    No. unfortunatly, it still loses the selections. :(

    - Snapping tools still very primitive (specially with UVs where they are pretty much useless)?
    Work the same as before.

    - Useless grid? Does it automatically resize its size when zooming in and out?
    No. Never did if I remember correctly.

    - Select elements within one polymesh?
    You mean.. like.. faces or vertices? Of course. Autodesk also added a fantastic combine / seperate function. So even if you have combined two polyobjects you can seperate them even after history is deleted. Great stuff.

    - Automatic Pivot point alignment with vertexes, polygons and edges?
    Not automatic, but they added a way to change the pivot to align to edges which is very helpful.

    - Any kind of nice automatic UV mapping tools? Pelt mapping like perhaps?
    Autodesk added a much needed UV unfolder. The automatic mapping works very similar to pelt mapping from what I understand.

    Cheers,
    Fredrik "still too lazy to create an account" S

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  9. Thanks for your answers mate. From what I can see, Autodesk is doing a nice job with Maya by adding some professional tools. Nice.

    They just need to start making Maya's menus a bit more user friendly and it would be almost perfect.

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  10. In 8.5 they really are, well, moreso than previously, with the added bonus of customisation in that area. Nice!

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  11. Aside from being able to insert edge loops, I personally find Maya clunky as hell. At very least Max's help file is actually useful beyond telling you; "You will find this feature useful IF you are an experienced user.".

    I liken the difference in interface to such;

    Max is like constipation. You click on something and it brings up all your attributes in a very small area that you need to peer in and poke around.

    Maya is like diarrhea. You click on something and it spews stuff anywhere there's an available space.

    Different strokes for different folks of course. But for me Maya has been less than impressive since day one.

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  12. Max is wonderful for modelling. Intuitive and all in the same place. Also using polyboost makes everything better. Maya lacks of simple things and it's all scattered around. If you don't have a plugin called Nex, you're screwed. Maya is good in everything else though

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