Despite the Autodesk hegemony over 3D modelling packages, thereâ??s still plenty of variety when it comes to choosing innovative features, reckons Jon Jordanâ?¦

Modelling round-up

With Autodesk now owning almost all the market when it comes to game modelling tools, thanks to its control of 3ds Max, Maya and Mudbox (not to mention animation package MotionBuilder), its competitors are having to act smarter in order to find niches in which to apply advantages. (Well, we say competitors – as we go to press Autodesk has announced the acquisition of Softimage from Avid for $35m.)

For Softimage, the switch comes with the introduction of its Interactive Creative Environment; something the company hopes will see it evolve from a 3D application company to a technology platform company. It’s a move which certainly fits into wider trends where smaller players such as Luxology and Nevercentre are promoting their packages (Modo and Silo respectively) as highly flexible tools that will fit into any workflow. Of course, to all intents and purposes that now means an Autodesk pipeline makes the situation easier for everyone, although it will be interesting to see whether completely open standards such as Collada thrive or wither in the face of Autodesk’s similar FBX file interchange format.

Perhaps most significant, however, is that price deflation continues apace. Compared to even a couple of years ago, in relation to the depth of features each contains, the cost of packages – especially when it comes to Modo and Silo – is little short of miraculous.

3ds Max
Technology: 3ds Max 2009
Clients: Blizzard, Bungie, BioWare, Creative Assembly, EA, Epic, Midway, Mythic, Rockstar, Ubisoft
Host platforms: Windows XP
Price: $3,495
Contact: +44 207 851 8000

Due to a reset of the 3ds Max release schedule from autumn to spring, the 2009 version (actually released in April 2008), only received six months of development time.

The focuses included UI tweaks, more flexibility for rendering, new workflow for the Biped animation system and new materials for the mental ray renderer. The support for file formats such as OBJ and Autodesk’s cross-application
exchange format FBX were also improved.

Technology: Maya 2009
Clients: A2M, Blitz, EA, Factor5, Radical, Rare, Rockstar, Secret Level, Sony
Host platforms: Windows, Mac OS, Linux
Price: Maya Unlimited ($4,995), Maya Complete ($1,995)
Contact: +44 207 851 8000

One of the key additions to the latest version of Maya is nParticles, which is an extension to the Maya Nucleus unified simulation framework.

It works in conjunction with the original nCloth release, enabling simulations using liquids, gases, and cloth. Other features include integration with products such as MotionBuilder, new muscle and particle features, better scene segmentation and support for multi-threading.

Technology: Softimage|XSI 7
Clients: Bizarre Creations, Capcom, Crytek, Konami, Namco, Pandemic, Ubisoft, Valve
Host platforms: Windows, Linux
Price: Essentials ($2,995), Advanced ($4,995)
Contact: +44 1753 655 999

The big news when it comes to the latest version of XSI is ICE, or the Interactive Creative Environment. It’s an open platform that enables artists to extend the capabilities of XSI using a visual, node-based dataflow rather than coding or scripting.

The first release of ICE focuses on particle effects and deformations, but the next version will include kinematics. The XSI core is now also fully multi-threaded, making the application even faster than its competitors.

Technology: modo 302
Clients: EA, id Software, Massive, Sega, Sony
Host platforms: Windows, Mac OS
Price: $895, upgrade $395
Contact: +1 650 378 8506

Combining a rich set of features such as modelling, rendering and painting, as well as animation and 3D sculpting, modo 302 also brings more flexibility for studios who want to integrate the pipeline art package into their tools, thanks to the release of the software development kit.

Other changes from modo 301 see new natural lighting capabilities, additional layered Photoshop file support, an animation Track View, and additional modelling tools.

Technology: Silo 2.1
Clients: Available on request
Host platforms: Windows, Mac OS
Price: $99-$159

Silo is designed to be a streamlined modelling package which provides the ability to switch between organically sculpted high-polygon subdivision models and precisely controlled hard-edged surfaces.

Highly customisable, you can change the mouse, keyboard, and graphical interface to emulate other packages. The pro version comes with advanced UV and displacement painting tools, while the Topology tool enables you to directly draw new topology onto an object.

About MCV Staff

Check Also

22 fantastic winners and the lovely things people said about them – from last night’s IRL Awards

[Apologies but we don’t yet have the photos back from our photographer, so I’ve stolen …