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.