e-on Acquired by Bentley Systems

LumenRT_ALDOTAccording to a fresh press release, a big company that does something has acquires e-on. It seems that Bentley Systems REALLY likes LumenRT, so much so they decided to buy the whole house. So far, it seems everything will be business as usual from the perspective of the average user of e-on products. e-on will continue to exist as a subsidiary of Bentley.

Sales and support of all e-on software, except the higher tier versions of LumenRT, will still be available through the e-on website. Those higher tier versions of LumenRT will be sold and serviced directly by Bentley. So, Bentley get LumenRT and a well known brand, and it seems that e-on’s software will see greater investment, both from Bentley directly, and through exposure to some big clients.

It’s nice to think that this will lead to better Vue, Plant Factory etc for all, and given the wide CG industry usage of e-on products there is no reason to think the e-on name is going away any time soon.


E-on Software Release The Plant Factory PLE

E-on is well-known for outrageous prices (though that depends who you ask), but they are also known for providing their software for free under their Private Learning Edition licensing. It was unclear at the time of release if there would be a PLE version of The Plant Factory, so many will be very happy to see the software join E-on’s list of PLE software.

Basically, what E-on is doing here is giving away the full featured version of their software for free on the strict condition that the work is non-commercial, and should be used only for personal education, so great for students, enthusiasts, and evaluation for potential commercial purchases. Of course there are some limitations in the software: Renders carry a logo and will be water marked after 30 days; exporting mesh removes 1 in 5 polygons; importing full featured files into Vue is limited to PLE versions, and can’t be exchanged with other users.

But what is The Plant Factory?

Obviously not everyone that stumbles upon this post will know what The Plant Factory (TPF) is, some will not know who E-on is, or have ever have heard of Vue (pushing it there?). I’ll leave the later names and products to the investigation of interested parties, but TPF is a modeling program (stand-alone or plugin for Vue), that allows users to create a huge variety of vegetation. TPF has also been used to create other sorts of objects, but vegetation is by far the primary use. Yep, the name is a dead giveaway.

Plant Factory includes three modeling methods – node based procedural, snap ‘n connect components, and shape painting. The three methods can be combined at any stage. Any variety of plants, from grass, to succulents, shrubs and trees and vines can be created. TPF includes technology to grow plants on objects – especially cool for vines and other climbing plants. Plants can be animated and exported fully rigged and UV mapped in many popular file types for use in just about any 3D program. You can find a list of full features here. Access The Plant Factory Personal Learning Edition here.

The Plant Factory Pre-Release II Sees Relaxed Feature Restrictions

The Plant Factory - e-on softwareE-on Hoses Down Fire On The Plant Factory Blog

The tune has certainly changed over at The Plant Factory’s blog. Whether it is a sensible distillation of the overwhelmingly blood curdling response from the blog’s angry mob, and the probable torrent of emails, or whether it was the more mild-tempered feedback from pre-release adopters (or some combination of the two), but E-on has relaxed a number of the harsh feature restrictions.

Changes for The Plant Factory Pre-Release II

TPF Studio users will now enjoy full node and graph capabilities that were previously restricted only to Producer. Essentially this means that users of Studio can now produce the same content they would be able to with the Producer version.

Plant Factory Designer replaces Plant Factory for Vue

With all the features of the previously announced PFfV, Designer users will now be able to export static objects as FPX, OBJ, and 3DS formats.

Pre-Release II will be available on Monday, 10th of June and the new price will be $595 for one week after release – still a discount of $400.

A move in the right direction

E-on have undoubtedly won many users with their alterations. Many will be happy that they no longer have to fork out almost $1500 for a product they spent months reading about with every teasing post. Being able to settle with a fully featured TPF, just without the fancy compositing/rendering capabilities, for $995 (or $396 if you grab it now) will settle a lot of bad blood. For some, the final price tag will still be much too high, which I tend to agree with, especially considering that objects created with any version of TPF cannot be distributed outside Cornucopia 3D. Given the price of the software one can still only ask, WTF?

WTF indeed

In a post on the blog, one responder pointed out that free redistribution of TPF products would be commercial suicide for e-on. If people could just go out and buy plants from any old back alley brokerage, then why would anyone need to buy the software in the first place? How would e-on be compensated for their fabulous software development?

Umm… are we serious here? This sort of thinking plays right into the hands of e-on, and simply just doesn’t fly. Clients and content consumers are always hungry for new varieties and unique content. Artists always want/need to create new from scratch. If free distribution of content killed sales of content creation software then why is there so much software out there, and why are these suicidal developers constantly updating it?

E-on are certainly heading in the right direction here, but are they more concerned with creating tools (to sell at enormous cost – think upgrades here too people), or with establishing themselves as a content distribution service which? If the latter, it would be greatly appreciated if they dropped the price of such software.

Plant Factory Pre Release To The Sound Of An Angry Mob

E-on’s Plant Factory Pre Release

After months of mercilessly teasing prospective customers e-on has finally announced pricing and offered up a discounted pre-release version. There is still no sign of a full release date, which is likely causing all sorts of anxiety for hungry users in and of itself. As many expected, e-on have released their much hyped product in various versions ranging in price from the quite affordable to the quite expensive. So, what’s the problem? Many e-on customers are not happy with the restrictions that come with the software such as:

  • Not being able to exchange plants/products between different versions of TPF (you/your business has licenced for all but the $1495 Producer)
  • 1 million polygon limit to the $995 Studio version of the product
  • 100K poly limit for $99 Converter product
  • Not being able to sell/redistribute content outside Cornucopia3D – could preclude game/environment applications
  • No render nodes or compositing information on versions under Producer
  • Artist and For Vue users unable to export trees as mesh – extra features with the freedom to export them revoked!

If you can afford the premium 1495 dollar version, you will have access to a very good program indeed, with the caveat that you can’t redistribute your trees. If you’re an individual or small studio on a tight budget you will be extrememely limited, especially if you don’t own Vue. The inability to export trees over 100K polygons as mesh for under $995, and then limited to 1 million polygons will likely be a deal breaker for non-Vue users, or those that heavily use other programs. The promise of a robust standalone program is looking pretty hollow to all but those with the funds to purchase a piece of software convenience priced as high as a fully featured mid-range 3D modelling/animation/VFX suit.

Do e-on expect the average user to embrace this new product with open arms? Will they? Of course, some will, but with draconian usage and feature restrictions, arbitrary version features, and a minimum buy-in of $995 for something that approaches the promise of the product, there will be a lot of disgruntled, disgusted users looking for alternatives.

One thing that is likely to win some users in the short term is the offer of a heavily discounted pre-release version of the $995 Studio version – 60% off at $395. If I had a lazy few hundred lying about I’d jump on in in an instant, but I don’t… so I won’t. Another question that comes to mind: will e-on relax the restrictions and alter the version features (in favour of something more generous) if the backlash grows, or if people simply and quietly don’t take it up? My guess is no. I think there will be enough takers to carry on as usual, but one can hope. Perhaps future versions will be more friendly to less cashed-up users – better to quietly right past wrongs than to lose face and do it upfront, right?

Alternatives time

For me, I’ll be sticking to something simpler and cheaper/free for the time being. LightWave users looking to add some green to their renders without hurting the bank can check out:

Also worth checking out for users of just about any 3D program is the GNU Arbaro – tree generation for povray (which can export as OBJ). Of course these programs don’t have all the lovely features of TPF Studio or Producer, but they will let you quickly add greenery to your scenes. And then there are the more flexible and feature rich alternatives such as Xfrog (currently 50% off) and SpeedTree too.

So, while the dream of a feature rich and affordable Plant Factory has come crashing down and made a good number of potential buyers angry, a new and exciting program has been added to the 3D-o-sphere (for those that can afford to take full advantage of it). For the rest of us it is business as usual getting by with what we have or picking up the cheaper alternatives.

Update: Since first writing e-on has removed the 1 million polygon limit for TPF Studio. One little victory for users!

Know of a neat and affordable/free plant generator? Add a link in the comments for helping of warm kudos.