Maya LT Brings State of The Art 3D Tools To Indie Developers

Ever find yourself drooling over programs like 3DS Max and Maya? I know I have. In fact that’s what I was doing when I stumbled upon Autodesk Maya LT, which was released just back at the end of August (2013). It packs in many of Maya 2014’s new tools and advancements. It actually includes all of Maya’s modeling tools, most of its material tools, a selection of animation tools (including rigging and weight painting), Viewport 2.0 and DirectX 11 viewport technology, among a few other fancy features.

High Quality Realtime Shaders with ShaderFX

A huge draw for those looking to create game assets comes in the form of ShaderFX, a node based realtime shader editor that allows for the creation of HSLS and CgFX shaders without the need for any programing knowledge. This feature is not currently in Maya 2014 (though it does support these real time shaders languages), so it is currently a nifty perk for Maya LT owners. Below is an example of a scene rendered in real time in UDK with custom converted CgFX shaders made in Maya. The ability to view results in Maya similar or the same as those in UDK, CryEngine, or Unity is pretty neat. These shaders can then be exported in a number of formats that suit most current 3D game engines.

obviously the meat of Maya LT lays in it’s modeling capabilities. The program also includes some handy retopology tools and geometry baking (to bump/normal maps), to help convert those high poly models down into something more suited for work in real time environments.

Maya LT Limitations

Perhaps the biggest drawback to LT is that it has a serious restriction on how much geometry can be exported, and the formats it can export in. For a start it can only export in its own native .mlt format and .fbx. With the .mlt format there is no limitation on polygon count, but only Maya LT can read it. With FBX the limit is a mere 25000 polygons! The argument here is that 1) LT is primarily targeting indie developers, who are primarily developing for iOS and other mobile devices 2) Autodesk need to implement some harsh measures to ensure LT doesn’t compete with its premium kin.

The suggested work-around is to export assets in multiple parts, if necessary. It is worth mentioning that there has been some rumbling about the possibility of lifting the export limit somewhat, though Autodesk is still very keen not to get too generous. For the inquisitive, there is an interesting thread on the Polycount forum in which the developers have sought to communicate and collect ideas.

The next big features to be excised are a good number of more advanced rigging features, advanced 2D/3D textures, MEL and Python scripting, and then the rendering features – all gone! To be fair rendering and the advanced 2D/3D textures (for software rendering) would be of little use to games developers. Rigging and scripting are very important to many users, but scripting could be used to circumvent limitations, and advanced rigging tools are one of those premium features (arguably).

So, while Maya LT has many of Maya 2014’s best features, it is sorely lacking in some respects, so this brings us to the all important question, how much? USD $795. Some people will be spitting their beverages at the screen in disgust at this point, while others will be carefully weighing up the pros and cons. To put it in perspective, Maya (and 3DS Max) are roughly 4 and a half times that. It’s also half the price of LightWave and Modo, but significantly more expensive than Carrara 8.5 or Shade 14. What it comes down to is that Maya is the gold standard in game and film asset creation. It is respected and used widely, and for a fraction of the price you can get a good deal of that power.

While it is half the price of the mid-level programs, it is still expensive in that it comes with some hefty restrictions. It is up to the punter to decide if the tool is for them.

Just For Indie Developers?

As far as I know there are no licensing limitations locking the software to indie game development, but with the cut-down feature list it is certainly a targeted product. This is to say that Maya LT may have other uses too. If you don’t mind having to cut your models up for export via FBX to your other 3D programs then Maya’s modelling tools and 3D painting might be an attractive asset to your 3D tool set, whether your a hobbyist with a bit of cash to burn or a content creator for programs like DAZ Studio and Poser. Or maybe there are some software nutters out there that just want to own everything they can get their hands on… like me.

So yeah, I’m personally a little excited by all this. I’d love to see Autodesk increase the polygon limit and include an OBJ export option, but on the whole, I think Maya LT is a solid product.

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Autodesk Maya LT 2014

Huge Dawn Promo Render Challenge – Great Prizes

HiveWire 3D – Dawn still free

First and foremost I should point out that Dawn is still a free download from HiveWire 3D (just untick any/all the other bundled products). Maybe you’ve just come out from under a rock and have no idea what Dawn is? Not likely but, but to enlighten those in the dark, Dawn is the new Poser/DAZ Studio figure in town. That’s right she swings both ways… or at least there are two versions available – one version for each program.

Dawn was released back on the 11th(ish?) of August (2013). Since then more than 250 items have been released at the supporting brokerages such as HiveWire 3D, Renderosity, Runtinme DNA, YURdigital, Poser World etc. Renders featuring Dawn have been popping up in every major DAZ/Poser group on deviantART, and community forums everywhere.

The Dawn of a New Era Render Challenge

It seems that Dawn is an assured success, but to push Dawn right out into the spotlight, HiveWire 3D, in conjunction with PoserWorld, Renderosity, RuntimeDNA and YURdigital, are hosting an epic render competition with all these names and more sponsoring the event.

Each of the above communities will be hosting their own separate competition at the round 1 stage. Round 1 winners will then be pooled for the 2 stage of judging. So, if you prefer your spot in say Renderosity or Runtime DNA to posting at one of the other communities, then you are free to submit there. All entries will be anonymous.

3 submissions per community are allowed, and one very cool feature of this competition is that you can enter into any and all the various community competitions. For the ultra productive, this means up to 12 entries can be made, though each entry must be unique (no submitting the same image to multiple communities).

The contest has already opened. Round 1 entries close Oct 29, 2013 (don’t miss it!). In some cases, at least at HiveWire, a submission process hasn’t yet been revealed, but we are informed that all will be in order well before the deadline – just focus on making those render the best possible.

Now, the best part – prizes! [Is that the lizard brain speaking?]
This is one of the biggest community contests of its kind that I have seen. Up for grabs is a combined $1250 cash, 3 copies of Poser Pro 2014, 3 copies of Reality 3 for Poser (or 2.5 for DAZ Studio with free upgrade to 3 when released) and hundreds of dollars worth of gift certificates. Phew, that’s hardly a poke in the eye, but I’d take it anyway.

For full details and contest rules you can find the contest announcement page at your preferred community, but here it is at HiveWire 3D forums.

I expect the various competition judges will have their work cut out for them with a huge stack of high quality submissions. So, participate or admire (or both), it will be a spectacle to behold.

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MechaNation: Nanopunk Animations Baked LuxRender Style

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Flying vehicle over rainy Lobar city - MechaNationSo I know this guy from my time hanging around deviantART. How this meeting came about, I don’t remember, but over the couple of years I have known him I’ve admired a good number of his beautiful renders. LuxRender is his weapon of choice, backed up with DAZ Studio and Reality 2 point something.

This guy had a kid (well his wife did anyway) and all was quiet for a time. Suddenly he turns back up months later ranting about this crazy idea about making an episodic animation with LuxRender. Any sane guy like me (yes, like me) would be dubious about such outlandish claims, but with a little digging about and a look at what Jean E Dugas (about time to introduce our Texan protagonist by name) has been up to, you start to get the feeling that this might just work. He has a clear and reasoned understanding of where he is and where he needs to get to, and the awesome amount of work required. Just watching the trailer for his project shows a sharp progression of skill and technique.

So, what’s Jean cooking? Well, maybe this is another element that piqued my curiosity; for some years Jean has been working on a series of nanopunk novels under the title, MechaNation. In recent times the denizens of MN have been dying for the animated life, and thus here we are about to talk to Mr Dugas himself.


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DAZ Studio and Poser Sci-fi Content Roundup

Looking for more sci-fi content articles?
Ok, so I’m biased. I know no content theme has been the topic of more of my posts here, but this is the stuff that gets the grey matter infused with that delightful creative juice (in my case anyway). Maybe it also has something to do with seeing Elysium today. Not a bad movie, thought the plot was somewhat disappointing and predictable (especially last half). Good CGI, reasonable to good acting with Sharlto Copley playing a seriously vile character very well.

But, I’m not here to talk movies. I’m here to talk content. I know just about all the content I post about here comes from DAZ 3D, but I hope to change that in the future. I am but one man. Maybe I’ll even branch out and post about content that isn’t sci-fi. Maybe.

DAZ 3D Premium Sci-fi Content For Your Runtime

So, a lot of good stuff released over at DAZ 3D to create and fill those sci-fi themed renders. I don’t own most of these, but those that I don’t are on my wishlist. Let’s start with a D3D favourite, Stonemason.

Featured content

The inspiration for Desert Outpost is blindingly clear to any Star Wars fan, but as if there was any doubt you only need to read the opening sentence from the product description: “You will never find a more deplorable colony of trash and knavery than the Desert Outpost. Home to thieves, smugglers, and anyone who has ventured south of the law”. Stonemason not only know how to put a spectacular environment together, but he also knows how to sell it. His promo images always inspire awe and tempt the imagination to find a home for his creations.

DZFire’s Tenshi immediately grabbed my attention when I first saw a prerelease image posted on the artist’s Facebook page. Tenshi is a texture and prop expansion set for the artist’s Cyborg Version 4, which I am quite fond of. I have been a big fan of Dz’s cyborg/android creations, and am very happy that there is another similar, but suitably different product that should be released in the near future.

Sci-fi clutter

Technological clutter is always in need for those workshop, lab and construction scenes that are so often the setting for sci-fi renders. Empty scenes don’t look convincing and we all know it.

Thanks to artists like Nightshift3D, we need for nothing. His latest offering, aptly titled Sci Fi Gear Bundle (beneath left) brings together 3 sets of medical instruments and industrial tools that will fit many situations. Lazarus Containment Cell Crates (beneath right) is another great addition to the DAZ store.

Future fashion and battle wear

Midnight_Stories is another favourite of mine his Sky Chaser for Genesis (beneath right) is simply  beautiful. Sky Chaser also has an expansion pack that adds a helmet, jetpack, and weapon. On the left we have The3dwizard’s sexy Vinyl Jumpsuit for Genesis and V5 will find itself put to use in many sci-fi settings, and perhaps even edge into more “contemporary” renders. Heroine, fashion portrait, cyberpunk street fashion – got you covered.






This is another one that immediately grabbed my attention. Great anime sci-fi outfit, that has many possibilities if you are the retexturing type. Tech Soldier: Special Forces for Genesis, V5, and M5 was a an instant grab with the use of the monthly PC coupon.


Need something different? Design Anvil’s Black Dragon Clothing set for Genesis and V5 might just be it. “Just because danger lies around every corner, doesn’t mean you don’t need to look sexy! This futuristic Sci-fi suit blends sleek looks with practical armor…”

As a warm blooded male I’d buy that – well all except that nonsense about practicality 🙂

Scenes and environmental props

Why, oh why did I not buy Shantara City when it was first released with 75% off? While this majestic city does not fit into my typical sci-fi ideas, there are undoubtedly situations where this would be perfect. Sci-fantasy scenes come to mind, but with many of the large building being free to move at will, the possibilities to mix and match with other sci-fi city sets explodes open the possibilities. Throw in DAZ’s instancing abilities and the potential for huge and varied cityscapes is limitless – depending, of course, on how much geometry you can stack onto your graphics card.

Sometimes you need to blow things up, have an apocalypse or an earthquake. Thankfully there are a lot of good props on DAZ 3D’s store that fit this role. Stonemason has many good props in this category as does the DigiVault. Many of this items can be found in the previous sci-fi content articles.This one in particular is the work of Dreamlight, who is well known for his environmental props, light sets, and training material. In The City: Destroyed Bridge will fit the needs of just about any city in chaos.