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Monday, September 27, 2010

Looking for an alternative - I.

As I mentioned, I've been looking for an alternative for 3DS MAX for few years already.  Here at work and at home.

I currently work as an art director at PUC-PR university in Brazil.  Our team is responsible of producing educational computer games for children. Primarily from grades 1 to 4 (ages around 6 to 10 years old).

Out of a multitude of features 3d software has, what we really use in our games production are:
  • Polygon modeling
  • Image planes for references
  • UV mapping
  • Texture painting
  • Material editor (just for preview and different material attribution, since material is redone inside the game engine)
  • Hierarchy of objects
  • Bones system
  • Animation
  • Mesh and animation export
Although in the first years of our project, there were pre-rendered cut scenes, or intros where you're free to use many more tools like particles, rendering freatures, etc.  Today, all the cut scenes that we use are "in-game" and real time rendered.

As you can see, it is a relative small (not limited at all) list of features.

In the first year of our project, we got 3DS MAX for our modeling and animation tasks.  And again, as I mentioned, we decided that we didn't need the upgrades since then (v9), specially because upgrades had mostly new features that we didn't need, stability didn't increase, system requirements asked for hardware updates (i.e. more ram and graphics cards).

The addition of the Graphite Modeling Tools is a great addition for poly modeling, but we would have to put on a scale and see if it is worth the price for us, as we would also have to update our computers.  Although I see a lot of comments on american or european blogs about RAM is cheap these days, etc... That is not a reality on all parts of the world, and on different work places and conditions.

Any ways, according to the price list on Autodesk's site:

1 licence of 3DS MAX is US$ 3,495.00 in the U.S., that is roughly R$ 9,500.00 of our currency down here, and that is not counting with VAT, that I don't know how it is charged for software, but for example, electronics equipment can get up to 100% on the price tag.

On a second post, I'll start to list all the other software that we gave a try, to see what would fit our pipeline and our thoughts about them.