Being a long time Maya user myself*, it was a thrill to see the on-going release of Autodesk Maya LT!

Maya LT is a cost-effective DCC tool that targeting the indie game community.  Its new affordable pricing and licensing model have been very attractive to me.  For some of you who are new to the lineage of Maya, the new Maya LT is actually a “water-down” version of the powerful Maya.  To quote from the official introduction:

Maya is designed for film, television, and game developers who require a full-featured 3D modeling, animation, effects, and rendering solution built on a highly extensible platform. Maya LT addresses the more focused needs of mobile and indie game developers.

(You can read more about Maya LT here).

I was planning to get a copy of the 2015 version via the online store once it is available.  But, I decided not to do so after using the trial version of Maya LT 2014 for a day.  As a creative individual, I can tolerate with Maya LT for not having PSD file support, Transfer Maps function, and IK Spline.  However, I cannot accept there is no rendering feature at all, whereby you can’t even render a turntable of your asset for presentation and communication purposes (esp. with client alike).  Unknowingly, I “rant” about this shortfall via my twitter page:

Lin Chou Cheng Twitter

By surprise, I got a reply from Mr Frank DeLise*, the Director for Games Solutions from Autodesk, and it was Mr DeLise replied that got me into writing this post.  I would like to thank Mr DeLise for his courtesy in replying to me via Twitter 🙂

02_Frank

In my context, playblast is not an option even though we now have VP2 (Viewport 2.0).  The reasons are simple:

  1. There is no alpha channel in the playblast-rendered sequence;
  2. Unexpected/unwanted rendering glitches (that are hard to be troubleshoot. It might be sorting or clipping issues);

As demonstrated in the following figure, the issue of clipping and glitches in VP2 is a perpetual issue since it’s released.  There are many factors that could cause this to happen: the quality of the model, camera clipping settings, compatibility of graphic cards, shading model and etc.  (For your information, the following screen-cap of the playblast sequence was being rendered with a lower end Nvidia Quadro 2000 graphic card in a HP Z210 workstation.  Perhaps, VP2 can function better with a gaming card, but I haven’t given it a try.  But, I am quite sure it fares horribly with AMD Radeon HD 6490M that found in the MacBook Pro that I am currently using.)

03_Capture_settings

 

Let’s put the glitches issues aside, and focuses on the missing rendering functions in Maya LT:

“Why would an indie game artisan need alpha channel and a batch renderer?” 

Trust me, I do!  In game development, I live and breathe with a mixed-bag of experimental techniques and development tricks, such as rendering a 3D model to 2D sprites and other pruning methods for optimization. Without alpha channel, how on earth you are going to do that with playblast sequence?  Although I still can get the alpha that I need via matte-keying approach in a compositing-software, it might not be that quality perfect.  I do not know about others but rendering is a basic necessity that should not be missing.  I can live without Mental Ray or Vector Renderer, but I think we could use the basic scanline renderer such as the Software or Hardware 2.0 Renderer to churn out a series of promotional materials from the game that we are working on. (Yeah, game artisans are qualified graphic designer too in an indie studio.)

Lastly, most indie developers of today aren’t the indie of yesteryear alike: most of them are former AAA artisans who are fluent with at least two to three 3D applications under their belt.  Surely we can adopt other freely available DCC tools, which provide the functionalities that we need.  Although having said so, Maya LT is still on my shopping list.  I would definitely pick up a copy of Maya LT when it supports batch rendering 🙂

Perhaps, you might find that my personal view is kind of scathing, but I am not the only one who ask for alpha channel 🙂 (See below).  The good news is that Autodesk was serious about this request, and they had patched it during the released of Autodesk Maya 2015 (as reported in March 24, 2014).

Maya Playblast Alpha Channel Request

Nevertheless, I am not sure about Maya LT 2015, as my current written experience was largely based on the older 2014 version.  This is because the latest released of Maya LT 2015 was still not widely available during this write up.   The good news is: the educational version of Maya LT 2015 is now available for download!  I would definitely give a try in near time and I shall share my experience with you in a new post!

Maya LT 2015 Education

To the reader who would like to find out more about the difference between Autodesk Maya and Maya LT, you can visit this official site from Autodesk.

 


*Note: I was from the late Alias | Wavefront Maya 2.5 Unlimited generation.  I would never forget those fortunate days for being able to learn 3D via SGI workstation.  Speak of that, I am still fond of the older days Maya branding and logo; “Maya Unlimited: The only Limitation is Your Imagination.

*Mr Frank DeLise is a highly accomplished game developer who had sold two of his game company to DICE (EA) & THQ.