3d Tools Overview

Community Forums/Developer Stations/3d Tools Overview

podperson(Posted 2004) [#1]
Updated January 31st 2008

This is an overview of 3d tools currently on the market. Please add any that I've missed, correct any mistakes I've made, and feel free to comment on their pros and cons.

"Complete" Solutions

Free (Windows, Mac, Unix)
3d modelling, texture mapping and painting, rendering, animation, etc.

Comments: it has a kind of quirky interface, but it gets better with every release, runs well on modest hardware (e.g. I use it on an iBook), and does pretty much everything any other program listed here can do. It may not be as customizable as Maya or easy-to-use as Max, but its price is hard to beat.

$1995 (Windows, Mac, Unix; free crippled version available; more expensive version available)
3d modelling, texture mapping and painting, rendering, animation, etc.
scriptable (MEL)

Comments: generally considered the best all-round piece of 3D software for rendered CGI production on the planet.

Softimage XSI
$495 (Windows, Unix; base version; pricier versions available)
3d modelling, texture mapping, rendering, animation, etc.

Comments: generally considered the second-best all-round piece of 3D software for rendered CGI production on the planet, now at a bargain price (albeit with limited feature set compared to the $2000-ish rival products).

Lightwave 3D
$895, $495 "sidegrade" (Windows, Mac, Unix)
3d modelling, texture mapping, rendering, animation, etc.

Comments: generally considered the most under-rated 3D software for rendered CGI production on the market. Very popular in Europe and Japan. Has a rather odd interface and internal workflow that some find infuriating (basically the modelling and animation portions of the program are separate quasi-integrated programs and some features are only available in one or the other).

3D Studio Max
$3495 (Windows)
3d modelling, texture mapping, rendering, animation, etc.

Comments: originally the upstart product that showed Windows could do 3D as well as high end Unix work stations, Max is now more expensive than its high end rivals while lacking some of their features. Max is probably the most widely used 3D package for game content creation, followed by Maya and Lightwave.

The latest version includes Character Studio (which used to be a pricey add-on).

3d modelling, texture mapping, rendering, animation, etc.
scriptable (Python)

Comments: has a unique interface and is quirky, but offers incredible value for money.

3d modelling, texture mapping, rendering, animation, etc.
scriptable (Python)

Comments: basically a version of Truespace focussed on the hobbyist game developer market. No-one is quite clear where Truespace begins and Gamespace ends.

Cinema 4D
$895 (Mac Windows; more money buys more features)
3d modelling, texture mapping and painting, rendering, animation, etc.

Comments: a very capable program that seems more oriented towards rendering for movies/TV than game development. Bodypaint (a plugin for Cinema 4D that also works with other programs). The base version now includes Bodypaint.

Strata 3D CX
$695 (Windows, Mac)
Modelling, Texture Mapping, Animation, Rendering
scriptable (lua)

Comments: the program Myst (the original) was created with. One of the best raytracers out there, but pretty much useless for game developers (at least realtime-3d game developers)

Cheetah 3D
$129 (Mac)
Modeling, Texture Mapping, Animation, Rendering
scriptable (JavaScript)

Comments: an excellent program with a well-chosen but minimalist feature set (e.g. great subdivision tools but no NURBs).

$795 (Windows, Mac, Unix)
Texture mapping, animation, rendering (bundled with Silo for modelling)

Comments: incredibly good, fast renderer. Can handle enormous polygon counts. Exactly what game developers generally don't need.

Special Purpose Tools

$695 (Windows, Mac)
Modelling, Texture Mapping
scriptable (Perl)

Comments: incredibly powerful modeller with capabilities that are hard to describe (they seem unmatched by any other modeller I've seen).

$489 (Windows, Mac)
Modelling, Texture Mapping, Texture Painting

Comments: an amazing program that defies categorization. It's kind of a cross between a texture painting program, a 3d modelling tool, and a painting program (like Painter).

$649 for commercial license (Windows)
Digital Sculpting

Comments: kind of like zbrush but focused on geometry.

$895 (Windows)

Comments: this was the bee's knees of NURBS modelling tools a few years back, and probably still is -- but in my opinion subdivision modelling has made NURBS modelling pretty much passe.

Silo 3D
$109 (Windows, Mac)
Modelling, Basic Texture Mapping

Comments: a very powerful and elegant subdivision surface modeller -- kind of like a vastly improved Wings3d but without the texture mapping capabilities.

Wings 3D
Modelling, Texture Mapping
Free (Windows, Mac, Unix)

Comments: a surprisingly awesome modeller with an x-windows interface that takes getting used to, but is worth it. The worst feature of Wings3d (which I assume will be fixed eventually) is that you you can't seem to edit a "cage" and preview the effects of the subdivision-smooted model interactively.

Ultimate Unwrap 3D
$39.95 (Windows)
Basic Modelling, Texture Mapping, File Translation

Comments: a once indispensable texture-mapping tool that is now chiefly of use for getting files from one format to another.

Milkshape 3D
$25 (Windows)
Basic Modelling, Texture Mapping, Basic Animation, File Translation

Comments: a so-so modelling tool that had the virtue of being cheap (but now Wings3d is free and substantially more powerful).

Character FX
$15 (Windows)
Character Animation

Comments: a not-entirely-unpleasant character animation tool.

3D World Studio
$79.95 (Windows)
BSP brushes, staticmeshes, lightmapping, terrain

Comments: a map editor which integrates modeling and texturing with lightmapping and exports direct to Blitz3D (and other game development engines).

Free (Windows)

Comments: well, it's free.

L3DT -- Large 3D Terrain [Generator]
Free (Windows)
Terrain Generation

Comments: I haven't used this, but it's a free program designed specifically for generating large terrain models and textures for real-time applications. It uses a combination of random fractal-generated terrain and user choices (I believe in the form of a height map).

big10p(Posted 2004) [#2]
Ultimate Unwrap 3D
Comments: a once indispensable texture-mapping tool that is now chiefly of use for getting files from one format to another.

Uh? You're implying there's now a better unwrapping tool available. What is it?

Also, v3.0 is due out soon which will no doubt be a step up.

wizzlefish(Posted 2004) [#3]
UUW3D is the best, undoubtably.

Gabriel(Posted 2004) [#4]
Seems like you're not entirely objective in some parts. Apart from the UU comments,

Max is now more expensive than its rival products while in many ways offering inferior functionality.

To say it's more expensive than it's rivals is extremely misleading, since Max is now fully loaded and you're comparing it to the cheaper editions of it's rivals, which are missing that functionality. I have no idea where inferior functionality comes from, because Max 7 is now an equal ( or better ) to anything for character animation, which is the only area it was ever lacking in.

It's also the package with the best integration with Blitz3d, thanks to Pipeline, and that is really worth noting, since all the other expensive packages are lacking in that area, and integration with your engine is vital for game development.

If Maya and Softimage are "generally considered" #1 and #2, I'm curious why Max is the most widely used package for gamedev.

podperson(Posted 2004) [#5]
Show me someone who's completely objective! As I said, feel free to contradict me. If you look at the top end animation studios (both for games and cinema), Maya and Softimage still rule over Max.

Simple example: Pixar uses Maya. The developers of Unreal used to use Max. Then they got rich. Now they use Maya.

Max simply can't compete with Maya in terms of UI and workflow customization. The new features in Max 7 were in Maya Complete two versions ago. Maya Complete has features Max can't match -- e.g. integrated texture painting, the ability to paint with geometry, etc. etc. Meanwhile, Maya Unlimited features fur, cloth, hair, motion control that works, and fluid effects. None of these things come standard in Max 7.

Try using Wings3d's UV unwrapping tools and then reconsider your allegiance to UU3D -- Wings3D is both more powerful and easier to use than UU3D. I look forward to UU3D 3.0.

Edwin SI(Posted 2004) [#6]
Nice list Pod.

Small comment on Lightwave:

It might be underrated in the US but it's absolutley not in Europe. A funny thing is that most game-engines from Europe have great Lightwave support, like www.quest3d.com , while engines from the US mostly have great MAX support.
Also...personally i don't think the GUI is "weird". It actually makes more sense to me then most tools. When i for example want to extrude a face i simply click the extrude button...not an icon with a blue cube on it with strange red lines and a red arrow pointing different ways.

Modo is also heavily influenced by Lightwaves modeller.

Ah well, i'm just a newtek-junky i guess :-)

AdrianT(Posted 2004) [#7]
In my experience a lot comes dwn to the artists and purpose of the work being done. I've found that a lot of studios use both Max and Maya. Max primarily for realtime modeling. And most often of all for Interiors and scenery.

Maya is often used if animators prefer it. Most studios still use their own engines, or highly modified versions of existing engines that have custom art pipelines you don't get out of the box.

I don't actually know very many developers that use Lightwave at all except for their FMV work. And FMV often depends on who's doing it, quite often its outsourced so who knows.

But for realtime graphics Max is used the most by far and maya is still a bit behind. XSI and Lightwave probably have less than 20% combined when it comes to realtime game graphics and this is a huge improvement over a coule of years ago.

Edwin SI(Posted 2004) [#8]
Lightwave is used in all the Unreal games and Serious Sam.
Also, if i'm not mistaken...some demon from Doom3 was created with Lightwave.
But as you said a lot depends on the work that needs to be done and personal preferences.

Another tool, which is an old one but rather new in the US and EU is "Shade" from Curiouslabs ( www.curiouslabs.com )

It's availible in 3 versions ranging from 99 dollars to 1100. I just tried the demo (which is the cheapest version in fact) and although it works a bit different then i'm used too...it's not bad.
Export is limited int the 99 dollar version though.

Gabriel(Posted 2004) [#9]
Show me someone who's completely objective! As I said, feel free to contradict me.

You're absolutely entitled to your opinions, but I fail to see the point of a thread like this if you can't be objective. I don't suppose anyone is completely objective, but you're not even close.

If you look at the top end animation studios (both for games and cinema), Maya and Softimage still rule over Max. Simple example: Pixar uses Maya. The developers of Unreal used to use Max. Then they got rich. Now they use Maya.

Epic have always used both Maya and Max. Maya was used for level design, while the characters were modelled and animated in Max. The idea that they were only using Max because they weren't rich enough to buy Maya is chuckleworthy. By the way, Epic worked with Discreet regarding the new U3 engine on 3ds Max's new Normal Mapping features.

Max is used by Konami, Ubisoft, EA, Rockstar, Bioware and Blizzard, among others. I guess they don't have enough money to afford Maya yet either.

Max simply can't compete with Maya in terms of UI and workflow customization. The new features in Max 7 were in Maya Complete two versions ago. Maya Complete has features Max can't match -- e.g. integrated texture painting, the ability to paint with geometry, etc. etc. Meanwhile, Maya Unlimited features fur, cloth, hair, motion control that works, and fluid effects. None of these things come standard in Max 7.

I could make a list of Max features that Maya can't compete with too, and they'd be a lot more game-oriented than fur and cloth, but that isn't the point. The point is they're different, they have different strengths and weaknesses, they each have their advocates and both deserve respect. If I were putting together a list of tools, I wouldn't say that Maya's interface makes it unusable just because that was my experience, because I know that it suits a lot of people just fine.

Try using Wings3d's UV unwrapping tools and then reconsider your allegiance to UU3D

Again, with respect, you're missing the point. This kind of thread is only useful if you can forget your allegiances. 3dsMax and UU might not be to your liking ( clearly they're not ) but the fact that they're by far the most popular choices in their field indicates that they're extremely useful tools, and a thread like this needs to recognise that if it's going to be any use.

Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#10]
hehee...I read his :

"As I said, feel free to contradict me"

hmm...sorry, while it's a complete and nice list, the opinions while an opinion is allways biased...are a bit wrong in some points.

max is after some statistics (sorry , was posted by a pro in polycount, I don't have the link) the more used in gamedev yet...Maya wins (and XSI! ) in Films? of course. No discussion. But this is a game dev place ;)

Nope, Max have tools not present in 2 years ago Maya. Normal maps generation inside the tool (I think present now in maya)

I have been working at a company using both Maya and Max..Max gave less problems in game dev.

For me in gamedev..is all about max, sorry. While Maya and XSI can do nice things, too.

Sorry, Silo is *not* a much improved Wings. To me Wings is clearly superior in organic modelling. Other thing is, like in Zbrush 2.0, they attracted cleverly outstanding artists. give em a piece of rock and they'll do wonders...
Still I think that topology brush is useful.

You forgot to mention (i know as I purchased it) that zbrush produces a blur with any "pick" that people cure with repainting..not so good for low pol texturing painting so like Deep Paint3d (also registered user)
And the UI could be better. I'd say just 2.0 rocks for normal maps/displacement generation, and hi res modelling detailling.

XSI has an outstanding character animation system and x export (3v3n the 500$ version) pretty usable for game dev in conjunction with Ultimate Unwrap.

Sorry, ultimate Unwrap is the best uv mapping out there even at a much higher price range. One has to know deeply uv mapping , though. Autouv by no means can do accurate nice, clean , serious game uv mapping yet, while I agree is much more click and go, and is definitely a way to go.

Also, is one of the few ways to convert x animations (any package, like Maya) to b3d...

The lightwave comment..ahem...I have seen some godlike modelling , humans made in cg talk, a guy that learned witha book in a pair of months and did the best humans I've seen till today....

About the wings no interactive cage...well, it doesn't show in the proxy mode while you drag, but after you have dragged...Anyway, I got used to modelling organic the Mirai way, and have my mind built modelling in low cage allways. Is a discipline, u end up controlling that.But i agree would be nice that one, though imho, kills more performance in any package, and yet the other knoledge is so useful.

I see you forgot Blender but yet put character Fx...While the initial learning is way harder, the workflow is much cleverer in Blender, can do at least faked joint pining, has modelling and rendering, can export to *.x (perfectly read now in Ultimate Unwrap with jox modified x exporting plugin) and a load more stuff not in Character Fx.Which got stuck in development long ago.

While I agree Character Fx is learnable, and Blender only with lots of patience and certain abilities, I would leave it out for many type of atists....

Anim8or is gonna be updated, but yep, compared to some of those monsters, not much power. yet is way easy to learn the firts steps.

I mean, the list is nice, just I though I'd mention that *in my opinion* many comments are...well...wrong...With all my respects...

I have done many stuff with Wings3d, Ultimate Unwrap, in a professional environment for AAA games... I had an strong fight to be allowed to do so, as Wings and Ultimate and not well known...Well, the quality and speed left no doubts and they let me continue using them as I wished. And lots of artwork done with those.

Many cg talk pros , Maya and XSI ppl I have seen, use Wings3d as their organic modeller, prefering it even to their purchased software. Not saying it's a big percentage, but some of them, and quite qualified...The Silo's UI does not convince me for organic, and I have used loads of different UIs (including Max, Blender, Zbrush, Amorphium,large etc..splines, polies, metaballs, etc,etc)

Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#11]
...also, Max is also quite good for hi res movies. Some intros made in Max have excell in quality. Blizzard used it in their great intros and trailers...dunno if u watched any of the 2000, 2001 E3 trailers, the ones at 1024 size...dunno, that crow, with "hair" rendering the "liquid" first shot of the eye, the crowd orcs battle....the scenery rendering, particles...true that many effects are plugins, but hey...it does give a game solid result..I am 100% sure it got loads of sells to Warcraft3, and hey, I don't think any Blitz3d user here aims to have such a succesfull game in their belts like Wc3, and if someone does, good look with such a powerful imagination and hopes... ;)

imo, is the best all-round tool out there. And even more with 7, being a huge jump, only comparable between max4.2 -max 5...

blizzard ha sbeen allways Max centric, and produced "tiny" game sells like Diablo, Starcraft and warcraft series, hehe.

Id Software, too...valve seems to be using XSI...

Anyways, late trends seem to be that most companies use ALL...I mean, many are told to be using maya+max+lightwave or at least maya and max...

in jobs, Blizzard is asking for both maya and max...

Each has its advantages, but i wouldn't ever say maya is better for games...

AdrianT(Posted 2004) [#12]
Best place to look and see what's going on is check out the Game dev AD's on Gamasutra:

Just checked the last 14 days of listings, and most level design, animator, character animator, character modeler, environment artist, level designer, lighter, game designer, and tools programmer positions require knowledge of either Max or Maya.

XSI and Lightwave are barely mentioned at all. Not saying they arent used, With the Game devs I worked at in the past few years/. I used Max in the UK 1997-1998, lightwave and maya at the same company for 2 years in 1999-2001 and Maya and Max 2001-2002.

Maya was pretty poor for level and environment design until fairly recently but had very good spline and nurbs tools. It's caught up with max in this respect and judging by the currently avaliable about 90% of the positions on Gamasutra required either Max or Maya and only a couple mentioned lightwave and XSI as a viable alternaive.

It's unfortunate that game devs don't have the time to train staff in new tools, at the end of the day it's really hard to get a job if you don't have the right skills and at the moment it seems there are only 2 3D apps that will give you a sure shot at the majority of art and design related positions.

big10p(Posted 2004) [#13]
Try using Wings3d's UV unwrapping tools and then reconsider your allegiance to UU3D -- Wings3D is both more powerful and easier to use than UU3D.

Is this a joke? I use Wings3D for my modelling and love it; however, it's unwrapping capabilities are nowhere near as good as UU3D. Are you insane?!

[edit] Sorry, that was a little strong. I was a wee bit drunk when I wrote that. :P

Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#14]
Some people think AutoUv is better because they didn't actually learn how to uv map th standard way realtime 3d models... But I think the case of podPerson is that he's refering to the fact -and yes, that is a fact- that Wings3d Autouv actually includes certain ways of uv mapping that are quite advanced. You have automatic unwrapping methods (stream, ruling lines, spiral ) in UU, but not allways work well...In wings Autouv you can set the edges that will be the "borders" and it automatically unwraps that. It's cool, and have been announced loudly in cgTalk, but...many hi res people don't mess that much with careful uv mapping; (in hi res u have blending materials to hide characters seams, very hi res modelling features, huge materials sizes, etc) also, is different animal, some of the old techniques are not ideal for very hi res models.

The fact is that...well, you don't have the needed control with AutoUv. It does an aproximation, but doesn't provide real great flats... It's anyway, an easy-quick method for some cases... But at the end of the day, you need traditional old m apping to get a pro level human skin template, and much of the needed tools for that are missing clearly in AutoUv. It's slowly improving in that field, and I have huge hopes about it.

But I compare this with...a thought I have everytime I read -for example- that Blender will dominate the world of cg...it'll reach there , they say. No doubt it'll be as good as today is higgh end (or partially). but where will be then the tools that now are already better...? they wont stay quiet. Ultimate Unwrap 3.0, as mentioned, is getting real shape :) I know a bit the author, and he's a great developer. Dan is in charge of AutoUv, and also is a fantastic coder. But...it's so long way the one that Brad has done with UU... There are loads of tiny things so important when uv mapping in UU, that u don't notice till u get some expertise with it. Even loving Autouv, one has to have stuff clear in mind...

For me conversions are important (as many of em, uu is the only to do them: dx8 full animations, 2 uv channels support in mapping and conversions(for lightmaps, composite materials, etc), metasequoia mqo absolutely seamless support...Anim8or an8 (not enough info released for coders to make animation support, though, he told me) format(there's a blender export plugin I think, for torque, even..not sure now)...wc3 format, a load more. I have even edited old UT1 frames of main palyer animations, for a mod I worked at... )

Not to mention its permanent check of loaded texture; it detects any change in the file and refresh it continuously with no performance loss...ideal for 2d painting skinning style...just set the 2d painting tool and uu in mosaic windows, and hit ctrl+s in the 2d tool whenever wanna see the change in uu.

Max uv mapping tools are more game aimed than Maya, for example. And have an advantage over UU, that is the green coloring of the uv edges that are in touch in real 3d. I have handled to get guess stuff without it (so I notice it when I use Max at jobs) but is a real advantage.

UU has other advantages over max uv system, like the ability to treat groups and objects just the same, as selections being able to work on any, at any moment,at same time...and divide as meshes at export time, as u prefer. OBJ plugins do help here, to.

That is: I'd rather prefer that the real revolutionary thing -pelting, already introduced by TS , somehow, long ago- in uv, was added to UU, rather than add all what uu has to Autouv, as there's a long way.

In the meantime, Dan seems really good and fast at it...and is really nice to have some uv mapping in Wings3d.

Blender has now this pelting methods too, and UU author has added a free external tool for it, but can't include inside UU as was basing on a library or something with GNU license.

Imho, Blender/Tuhopou2 is nearer a more complete uv mapping system, and yet so, imho is quite bellow UU, again.

And the fact Wings is so much easier (than both UU and Blender, but specially Blender.)

Autouv does not provide a 100% distortion free flats.(and u have to fix some overlaps, having less tools for that than in UU) If u want my opinion, good flats are does that are made manually, or with the old technique of morphing key in Max, or easier and quicker, chilliskiner plugin ( chilliweb.co.uk ) ...yet though that technique I don't like for organic characters, I prefer other methods like a lot of camera mapping and good editing before and sewing of sheets(Hyper methods, etc)... Eficient uv template use, and all that. Well, all that is required for good uv flats.

Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#15]
Well, I see this has been made sticky...I think then..that if Character Fx and Anim8or have been added, I should add Blender links, as...well, some could dig for the time and big effort to learn it. When there's no money, but a lot of patience, you end up with a tool much more powerful than cfx and Anim8or put together (which curiously are in the other extreme, easiness)

main oficial site


doc (I advice the online one. Learn with it opened. I only used it to consult the meaning of a button or the like(but these days 90% have a tooltip)) which for majority of newbies is essential.

My favourite x (bones, weights, animation, works in Ultimate Uwnrap(sometimes needed flip handedness, or flip z axe, etc)) exporter.As works with uu well, it solves blender->b3d . Is the x exporter with which I have more control and less(once a pair of tries, u have not a problem anymore) problems :

md2 export/import (works fantastic, I have tried, I have even edited importing an existing an md2 and fixing it an exporting again as md2)

md3 export, works perfect with my "single piece" md3 files, the only once I consider as I truely hate chunking my model in parts.Is told to work too witha more q3 compliant model.

doom3 md5 exporter. Said to work perfectly with latest game format definition.

md5 importer, yet no animation, but imports the skeleton, rig, weights...

milkshape exporter. in the way. not released. the guy has it going but yet no animation, is the thread to keep track of it.

forums that can be used to do "SEARCH" for those newer aspects not covered in knowledge base at alysium main site nor in oficial DOC. Please, do searchs as all as been already answered.

beta builds of both blender, bf_blender, and tuhopou(the more advanced/experimental fork of Blender)


tatoo and gile[s] not mentioned? Why? They'r imho pro quality...And lightmaps and 3d painting(Noel may not agree ;) ) are important for games (imho)


I think also Metasequoia(imho much better in the modelling part than Anim8or. Character fx is superior also than Anim8or animation tools.) should be listed, though yep, not allowed comercial use...(though I never had it clear...the shareware version says nothing about allowed use(is only for the LE) and u can open both le and share MQO format (is the same) in UU...so...(share is a bit more advanced, and is the one that is more updated..))


jfk EO-11110(Posted 2004) [#16]
You should mention that Anim8or does not allow to export animated 3DS and therefor its animation features are useless for Blitz Coders.

Instead you can use PaceMaker to create Bones Animations for .B3D Files. the light Version is also Free:
(Download URL at the page bottom)

PaceMaker is one of the very few free Animation Tools.

Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#17]
Automatic vertex weighting? (pacemaker) does it allow then custom weight asigning per vertex (u know all the tweak needed)

Does it have joint pinning?

Anyway, I'm xsi user now,(have zero tools need, overall) is just my freakiness doesn't go away so easily ... ;)

Just one note: md2 and md3 do not support shared UVs. That may sound unimportant, but means that if you don't hide well the uv seams in non seen parts(or clothes borders), you'll end with geometry creases, smoothing seams-like.
(still, probably the best for rts and that)

Ricky Smith(Posted 2004) [#18]

Automatic vertex weighting? (pacemaker) does it allow then custom weight asigning per vertex (u know all the tweak needed)

Yes - there are various methods to assign vertex - auto or manual - each vertex can be individually weighted against up to four joints.
The IK tool (and Walk/Run generator) is now more or less completed and it allows you to anchor joints (if that's what you mean by joint pinning). I'm not planning on releasing this version yet as I'm still working on other additional features. I will though be releasing some demos of walk and run cycles created using the generator.

Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#19]
yes, I think anchor joints(to wherever it is in space at that moment) is the same thing...

Quite interesting, already. :) Is not usual. Is not even -really- in Blender.

and..So, both methods, auto and manual... sounds very good.

jhocking(Posted 2004) [#20]
'To say it's more expensive than it's rivals is extremely misleading, since Max is now fully loaded and you're comparing it to the cheaper editions of it's rivals, which are missing that functionality

Not misleading at all. Full versions of 3D Studio Max are $3500, Maya and SoftImage are $2000, and Lightwave is $1800. As for biased, yes it was. While I agree that Maya is the best tool, ultimately that's a subjective decision so throwing in a barb about 3D Studio Max was a poor idea. Moreover, it does have the selling point for Blitz developers of having the best art pipeline (for now...)

As for other tools, here's a big list I compiled recently (it includes all sorts of content creation tools, not just 3D tools, plus it includes tools like Terragen that are harder fits:)

***Recommended tools***
Wings3D (free) - modeling
LithUnwrap (free) - texture mapping
Pacemaker (free) - animation
GIMP (free) - 2D image creation
DeleD (free) - level editing
FLE (free) - terrain editing
Slim Shady (free) - lightmapper
Droplet (free) - entity placement
Audacity (free) - sound editing

Ultimate Unwrap ($35) - texture mapping, file format conversion
CharacterFX ($15) - animation
Milkshape ($20) - modeling, texture mapping, animation
gile[s] ($50) - lightmapper
Terragen (free/$80) - skybox rendering
~PaintShop Pro ($95) - 2D image creation
~SoundEdit Pro ($30) - sound editing
~FT Studio ($50) - music creation

Maya ($2000) - modeling, texture mapping, animation
Photoshop ($650) - 2D image creation
Sound Forge ($400) - sound editing
Acid ($400) - music creation

~ only recommended as an alternative for, not in addition to, the expensive recommendation of the same function

***Other tools***

texture mapping:
MeshPaint 3D
BodyPaint 3D
Deep UV/DeepPaint 3D

modeling, texture mapping, animation:
3D Canvas + Stickman's converter
3D Studio Max

level editing:
Maplet + Decorator
Cartography Shop
Worldcraft/Hammer + BSP Factory

light mapping:
Light Map Maker
Luminescence 3D

terrain editing:
Total Terrain
Terrain Shader
MapTiles 3D

entity placement:

tree generation:
Tree Creator

2D image creation:
Project Dogwaffle
Ultimate Paint

sound editing:
Screenblast Sound Forge
Screenblast Acid
Ableton Live

B3D Tweak
Sswift Shadow System
Lotus Particle System
Texture Maker
Alpha GUI
Night GUI
NuclearGlory Collision DLL
Coldet Wrapper
tokamak + wrapper
Resource Hacker
SnIco Edit

ragtag(Posted 2004) [#21]
You completely forgot...

Animation Master
$299 (Windows, Mac)
3d modelling, texturing, animation, rendering etc.

Comments: Has some of the best, if not THE best, character animation tools around. Uses a spline based modeling system that makes it not play well with others. DirectX .x exporter available for use with games.

It's one of the best price/performance package for character animation for films and TV. Not much used in games, though it was used both for the cinematics and the in game models for "Tak and the power of Juju". http://amfilms.hash.com/search/Entry.php?entry=689


Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#22]
i have that video and it is extremely good...

AdrianT(Posted 2004) [#23]
I used animation for years to model characters and exported them to max 2 I think it was. Since 3DS max had pretty poor organic modeling tools back then and was better suited to Architectural visualisation.

I think the tools you use sometimes depend on the kind of work your doing. Most developers use both max and maya. Maya for FMV and a lot of character stuff. Animators in particualar like it. Max more for modeling, particularly environments (terrains, interiors etc).

A lot also depends on where your tallent pool is coming from. Many people doing game character animation come from a movie background looking for something more satisfying than pre rendered work. Plus Maya has the best nurbs tools. Most people that I talk to seem to prefer max for level building. but outside of that pretty much anything goes.

Dirk Krause(Posted 2004) [#24]
@ragtag: and it was used for the DukeNukem sprites.

Gord(Posted 2004) [#25]
Two more 3d programs are Realsoft 3d and Movie 3d. These 2 are sligytly different versions of the same program. The subdivision routinesw play a prominent part in these programs.

AdrianT(Posted 2004) [#26]
Heh, I used Real3D on the amiga and it ws pretty good then. Just amazingly slow, but it was on an amiga 500 with a ram expansion. did my first little demo reel with it :)

podperson(Posted 2004) [#27]

Thanks for the comments and criticism. When I have time I'll update the top post to add in all the things I've missed (and cases where I'm obviously wrong too ;) ).

Just for the record: I like Max. I own a copy. I know it better than pretty much any other 3D package. The main thing Max R7 can boast about for game developers is excellent support for normal maps.

Here's Max 7's Game Dev page (I couldn't find any feature overview, although there is a nice PDF file discussing the new features in Max 7):


I have no doubt that Max is more widely used for PC and XBox game dev than Maya or Softimage. This is at least in part due to prices two or three years ago, when Maya Complete cost $8000. As a consequence of this, fewer artists have learned to use Maya than Max.

On the other hand, Lightwave and Maya are far more prevalent among PS2 and Nintendo game development. (Consider that the best selling games are PS2 and Nintendo titles.)

Max also has a pretty draconian licensing policy (e.g. when I moved from Australia to the USA I had to get special permission to get a new unlock key when I reinstalled Max). Maya is probably the same (it certainly was back when I worked in an SGI shop). Lightwave has far more reasonable licensing (and pricing).

Lightwave is an awesome product. I did not intend to disrespect it in any way, but it has an unusual interface both in terms of its philosophy and its use of custom widgets (which have been improved in recent versions), and the division of functionality into not-terribly-integrated-parts is annoying (to me, anyway). When I last used Lighrwave, it did not have a dependable UNDO, which is pretty horrifying compared to Max, say, which has both near unlimited undo and tweakable modifier pipelines.

You can buy XSI or Lighrwave for the cost of a Max upgrade. And Lighrwave will run cross-platform. (Yes Max has features that the base version of XSI, in particular, lacks, but few of them are relevant to game developers.)

Some additional links:

Softimage XSI feature comparison

Note that the $500 version lacks polygon reduction tools, game engine integration (you can embed your game engine in a window of the pricier versions), floating licenses, and rigid body dynamics. Aside from that, it has everything a game developer would care about. Of these, Max offers the last for 7x the price, but you have to pay extra to fully enable it.

Also note cloth, quadruped, and fluid dynamics. Hmm, Max do those yet?

Here's Maya Complete vs. Unlimited:

Again, the missing features are of more relevance to high end animation shops than game developers. Again, the "basic" product has features Max can't match.

Here's what passes for Lightwave's feature list (I can't understand why it has the stuff it has in it -- the top listed feature under animation is "squash and stretch", which is like saying you can make cubes in it...; but then they leave tons of stuff out):


AdrianT(Posted 2004) [#28]
Max had several features before Maya. one of the most important for level buliders was the snap tools.

Maya's were a joke until pretty late in the picture, same with lightwave. Maya actually had a worse renderer than max until I think it was V4, but no one minded as everyone was using 3rd party tools like renderman for movies back then.

Maya had pretty poor modeling tools till fairly recently too, and only really excelled where spline and nurbs tools which is why it did so well in movies but only recently gained momentum in games.

These are just a couple of the most obvious problems I came up with when working on comercial games a while back. Theres a reason that maya only gained momentum in games in the last couple of years despite most FMV work and a large proportion of character animation was being done in the same studios where most people were using Max.

Biggest problem now is pricing, where Maya did the sensible thing and gave themselves the edge and allowed them to break into the gaming market a lot quicker.

podperson(Posted 2004) [#29]
I think I deleted the comment you're demonstrating was wrong, Evak after thinking about it and realizing it was wrong :)

Yes -- Max had features early versions of Maya lacked -- but they were "low end" features that feature film makers didn't care about...

Maya's renderer (at leave as of R1.5) was actually great once you tweaked it... Check out Farscape Season 1 -- all Maya R1.5 as far as I know. (Seasons 2-4 were done by a different post house, using Max, I believe.)

ragtag(Posted 2004) [#30]
It's true that you could get nice looking pictures out of the Maya renderer, but it was a mess. It ate memory, crashed and had lots of bug. I've worked with Maya since version 1 in film and tv production (actually still using version 4 as our current project has taken a few years to complete). It's greatest strength is how flexible it is. You have MEL scripting built in, while not the greatest programming language, it lets you easily add your own functions to the software without having to dig into C++ and the SDK. I think the greatest strength is it's flexibility. It's easy to adapt to your in-house pipeline and to use in combination with other packages (modelers, animation tools, renderers etc.).

MikeHart(Posted 2004) [#31]


MikeHart(Posted 2004) [#32]
Here is a link to some Blender tutorial videos


Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#33]
I agree quite a lot with your last posts, podperson.

Yup, the non integrated interface of Lightwave will shock those used to integrated ones...Funnily, I was used to that with that old 3ds for DOS in '96. I did a course/master. I had 2d shaper, to build splines, 3d lofter, to make birail skinning, just lofting, and otehr ways. Then that went to the mesh editing main thing, and yet u had the IK mode (unconnected parts yet! no weights) , material editor...

But somewhat made an organized flow...
I really did hate when smashed all in one in Max1, and did those rolling menus. SO much... I stopped learning.

Now I'm used to the other way and can't switch back :D

But u'r al th etime doing so...I learnt Blender's UI...I had to learn Max and cs...I'm learning now XSI that I purchased....

XSI 4 foundation has way more than the usual game developer tool. i don't care any of the supposed ripped functions.
hair rendering, but not for games, just as I enjoy that. Could test in a job the lovely shag hair(free demo available) rendering , animation and gravity settings, and I'm told XSI hair is much better.

The joint pinning in XSI, the ik handling and bones building is lovely, really nice. The built in obj import and export, the more seamless I have. The dx *.x import and export downloadable addons, fully working here. :) (no other package that i used fully imports dx anims.)

I'm REALLY happy with it. yet though haven't put mor etime in it that checking i can do all what I needed, previous to purchase. I'm modelling with WIngs, and doing other stuff in ultimate unwrap and other tools, as of yet.(will keep so, probably...)

Polygon reduction..I have an old version of Vizup freeware(before) optimizer, which works quite well, metasequoia, and qslim, all them help me reduce the models, but i rarely do so , and never for games.

the game engine integration..that's a plus that no other package has...but if lacking in xsi, I don't care. besides having already obj and x great support, dotXSI ascii format excels for game engine exports, is quite easy for a coder, tons of doc available, sdk, etc...

Looking a bit more carefully in job offers...seems animators are asked often to use Maya, already, while character modellers, lightwave, Max. And level editing people, in blizzard and other places, I read Max. But non exclusively. Some years ago, Blizzard offers where clear. Max and only Max. Now they say "Max or equivalent package". And as I say, in animation job, they say clearly Maya.

Yet though, animating in Character STudio is so easy...of course, a custom Maya rig would surpass that, but...It depends on the needs. To make several already Max based modellers help with anims in an overloaded team, is quicker and easy teach em some notions bout CS than learn a whole new package like Maya.

Indeed, some of the greatest game animators I've seen, prefer Max bones +ik+helpers+dummies, in complex workflows (more similar to Maya's ways) than CS.

Skullbox prefers Max bones and still use the Character Studio weighting tool, Physique. And I can tell he's a real kickass animating guy...He puts such lovely secondary animation in his beasts...and amazingly quick.

While I do can animate with Max bones, I personally prefer using cs biped for speed reasons (have animated with raw bones&weights in other packages(character FX, Blender, Anim8or)) while skin modifier (strongly improved in max6 and 7) for skin weights.

I have seen in two companies that max simply will cover ANY need in game production. When u'r a gfx slave, that's really apreciated.

For the place where it comes from, Maya imho is making a huge effort to get the shape of something it was not made for . It was made as a real professional tool for film making. Still, I see how a lot of studios (funnily, the price thing may not be so important, many of em are the ones with more money, demanding way more animation quality, and they know several kickass animators are flowing from film industry towards gaming; I guess some houses may have maya to use those guys...Others simple need the flexibility of Maya in animations (nodes relations, etc))

One package I would have REALLY loved to have used in game dev, is Mirai. I wont speak about it, but the ik, the modelling everything is so sweet (Ray Baitts did work on Gollum, and other beasts in LOTR with it)

IMHO, any of these Mirai, Maya, Lightwave, can be used in AAA game developing. Is a matter of...most were not done with mainly games in mind, but higher targets. Max is already customized for that, and to keep in competition, has added a lot of work in postediting, fx, etc...

i see there's a lot of ppl don't know the whole set of features of max..heck, I don't either...is too big :) But I realize...the ui is shocking for many people... others find it easier to learn than Maya.

yet so, I wouldn't recommend using Max "as is" .there's aloads of plugins there. Modelling organic with old Evak times in game dev he refers too, sure was moe painfull. You can get many Mirai like modelling , right click floating menus stuff, edge loop modelling with things like meshtools Script, Orion, Polymagus, Unrapper, etc...Using a "clean" max for organic modelling could be a pain, yet though, I've done so, and I see it quite functional, anyway. Max 6, and mostly 7, has took note of that, and now modelling in Max7 is rather better than ever was.

I think u can model weherever..only I dig for is packages that wont leave me out in the rain for a total lack of a feature. I prefer to do it hardly than not being able to do it at all; is proved that an artist can learn anything. But can't do one thing that the package can't do.
Anyway, a non distracting, quick, flexible UI for modelling is a need. I guess I'll keep using Wings wherever the job I go...it's so quick a powerful for characters. I used max mainly as the integration tool, even uvmapped with Ultimate. heck, I wonder how I never got the sack ;)

Bob3d(Posted 2004) [#34]

a link to just a few of the new max7 features...as I said, the made a big jump in this one. Eons since that 4.2 and not to speak from 3.0...Which is likely to be the ones that made -specially 2.5, 3.0 (golden Id times)- many users upset about it. Max 5 started to look easy to handle to me. Max 6 added several needed qquicker methods (mirror weights at vertex level, etc) do do things better...and max7...heh...

But as said, any highend tool will do :) .Is more which hands handle it ;) Coming from using free tools, ANY of those will be a dream come true(if like me, u pursuit professional standards work), trust me. :)

RifRaf(Posted 2004) [#35]
Hi, im not sure if im on topic, i think it fits here. but FLE is undergoing some improvements. Object dropper with lightmapping on each object saved also.

You can also autodrop selected models based on settings you specify , such as density, max and min, slope, and height. with undo abilities as well

Terrain scaling to match your object scales.

AutoTerrain textureing upgraded , now there are sliders to adjust MAX and MIN height, and slope allowances per texture.

still being improved on.
here are soms WIP shots

How it will be released if at all is to be determined but ill post when i know.

jhocking(Posted 2005) [#36]
Perfectly on topic. You'll notice FLE was among the recommended tools on my list. Definitely grab the free version if you are doing anything with terrain in Blitz. I haven't tried the pro version so I can't speak for that, although the additional features sound useful.

podperson(Posted 2005) [#37]
I got interested in this topic again (I recently got a copy of Softimage|XSI), so I tried to find information on the market share of the various high end 3D programs.

You might like to check this link:


As you'll see, almost half of the jobs in 3D (according to these data) are for Maya operators, and over one third of the remaining are for Max. Softimage and Lighwave are roughly equal third.

Another interesting place to go is:


If you visit their 3d tools forums, you'll see that Max has about 1.5x as many posts in its forums as Maya (and everything else is in the dust). Again, if you visited a predominantly European or Japanese site, you'd see different statistics.

I should also add that I agree with all the posts saying that it's the user and not the tool that determines the quality of your output. Anyone remember the photorealistic images Ron Cobb put together using Pixelpaint Professional (think "Deluxe Paint").

Max is purportedly dominant in Video games (although you do see a lot of game companies migrating to Maya when they hit the motherlode), so I don't know if this means that a lot more artists are working for broadcast and film than games, or what (in terms of raw numbers, video games are quoted to be two to three times as "big" as film, but this ignores DVD and video sales, TV-rights, and merchandising ... so it's reasonable to assume that the total film economy is still significantly bigger than the game economy).

Bob3d(Posted 2005) [#38]

the game moved money is huge.And dunno, but for the average joe artist, looks to me it's easier to get into game jobs than film.

Max ,for games, just have everything, there, were film tools havent go yet that polished,cause they'r adapting a new field and needs, at forced rythm. And the concept 'hey they'll catch up' is not so valid to me...where will be Max then? If you look at the huge jump in Max 7..BTW my idea is Maya and Max have balanced power in games, if u look at more sources and see what the companies are using,and advantages of both...though , in very game art job specific I had, Max was more neck-saver...

I too purchased XSI (nice to find other users) and while all seems to be better thought from start (I prefer xsi bones and ik to max ones, at least for now) , there's many stuff u acces not so quick and direct like in Max. For example , lightmaps.

For me that concept is very important.
Max have fully covered every game art need.Not yet in the others.

Even things inherited from film field, become an small issue....like the 1280x1024 minimum (I know.. layouts, shortcuts, etc)

I think Maya is so much purchased for its uber powerful animation system, which I dont discuss (but then again, cs biped is ready to go, good to put the modellers in a team learn the basics during a project to make rigs or simple anims of thwe grunts....learning curve is important in a production environment.)

BTW, I am loving xsi, but even the five dvds and the other video tuts , are starting to get short in some areas...I'm very happy with the purchase, though is a really dense and complex package(but I could be animating for games since the first days with the trial...not in an advanced features way, though...)

AdrianT(Posted 2005) [#39]
you have to remember that render com isn't about games. If you want to make movies then you probably are better off with Maya. If your making games, Max or Maya are the standard tools used at the moment, mostly depending on which kind of 3d artist you are, followed by XSI and lightwave.

The statistics you mention are for movies and TV rather than games though. If you looks at Job postings for games like I often do incase someone moves closer than 70 miles from my home, you will find that for every 5/6 max or maya jobs there is only 1 XSI or Lightwave job going.

If I had the choice between XSI and lightwave I'd choose XSI in part because it has a closer workflow to Max and Maya than lightwave. not to knock Lightwaves tools, but having layout and modeler seperate becomes a pain when I want to work quickly.

Bob3d(Posted 2005) [#40]
Also, Max and Brazil have been used for rendering certain stuff in the recent film The Incredibles...being it a game focused tool (more than any, and since longer) tells you once again about its versatility.

Max Final Render or Brazil, or even good native skylight and good scene set up together with Render To texture Max 6 feature (yet need to play a bit more with xsi system for this a bit more; as far as Im seing, Max keeps being quite easier, direct) , as I havent yet tested Max7 trial.And I do this as..till date Ive beenn ALLWAYS demanded to use Max at game companies. The offers I can apply in the future (companies I have in the spot(even tv related)) all require Max.Though they allways say Maya knowledge or "other of the main packages" would be considered.Why they say this? Man, I could be animating with basic ik ,bones,weights and constrain in xsi in no time.Ive used many packages. (Maya a bit, too) All the rest of the xsi software Im finding not as easy to catch up.(even watching the dvds)But anyway, I'm learning it, and dedicate it really little time..

For some reason, I allways find Cinema demos very easy to use.

fall_x(Posted 2005) [#41]
(but now Wings3d is free and substantially more powerful).
... and a lot harder to use than milkshape due to it's very frustrating interface.
I don't like this list, it's giving bad advice based on opinions.

jhocking(Posted 2005) [#42]
I never exactly know what to think when people complain about the interface in Wings. That's half the reason I like it so much: I find the interface in Wings much more efficient and easier to handle than most other tools. My best guess is that people would rather click on buttons than use right-click menus.

Morover, all the modeling tools just function better. For example, cutting polygons in Milkshape is a huge pain, involving some annoying Divide function. In Wings however you just select the edges you're cutting across and Connect. Oh, and compare extruding polygons in Milkshape to Wings.

More generally, if you don't like the advice then ignore it and try the tools listed for yourself. This thread is certainly useful just for the list of tools to try.

fall_x(Posted 2005) [#43]
My problem with wings is that it's interface is very unlike other windows programs, requiring me to learn how to work with it. It's probably pretty easy once you get used to it, but personally, I don't know where to look when I need a certain tool.
Anyway, I didn't mean to bash wings, it's probably fantastic. I was just trying to make a point; some people will prefer milkshape to wings. The danger of this list is that someone might look at it, and think "oh this or that tool is no good", whereas for them it might be the ideal tool.

Bob3d(Posted 2005) [#44]
fall_x u don't know wings3d,u even admit it.
and the list is quite correct.
I have milkshape(and know for example u cant select in the 3d view..if u never used other tool , you dont know what an advantage that'd be for you..and many other lowdowns) and can model whatever with it,used it in mods. Like can model with blender, amorphium, zbrush, max,metasequoia and a long list of 3d tools.

nothing personal but u posted an not well informed rant.

fall_x(Posted 2005) [#45]
I have modeled with a lot of programs as well, not as many as you, but that doesn't mean I'm not well informed. I used Imagine3d, Bryce, Cinema 4D, and Max, ...
All I was saying was that the original post contains subjective opinions, and I just don't agree with them. That's not a rant, that's just my opinion.
I personally like milkshape, and I'm sure a lot of people will find it quite useful, so I just didn't like the fact that this description had nothing positive about it.

BTW, can wings even export b3d files?

Bob3d(Posted 2005) [#46]
nope. I use Ultimate Unwrap as any export of b3d, as it imports weighted x animations. My xsi, Blender, etc, export in x and I use it as a converter.That when I just don't do anim with cfx, also with b3d export.

All those solutions do suppport smooth weights, while Milkshape doesn't.

In organic modelling Wings 3d is clearly superior to Milkshape.

you'll say that's an opinion.Ok, then.

fall_x(Posted 2005) [#47]
I don't want to keep discussing this, because my point was actually only "hey, milkshape isn't as bad as the original post makes it look".
Feature-wise, wings probably is superior for modeling, that's correct. But for some people, milkshape is easier to use, and if you need to buy ultimateunwrap to convert to b3d, and another program for animation, the advantage of wings being free means nothing.

Tom(Posted 2005) [#48]
No one's mentioned 'second hand' prices & availability.

I bought Lightwave3D 7.0 (upgrades to 7.5d are FREE), for £400 ($620?) off Ebay. Newtek have no problem with licence transferal, definately a plus point and something to consider.


Nacra(Posted 2005) [#49]
Tom, was that for an academic license? I was checking out those auctions and had to look closely at some to tell if it was a commercial or academic license. Seems like you could tell by the price, everyone was doing the same and bidding up the commercial higher than the academic.

Picklesworth(Posted 2005) [#50]
Hm, Modo looks pretty great :)

puki(Posted 2005) [#51]
Well, I have 3D Exploration - it is technically a 3D tool - from the same makers as DeepPaint.

I would say that 3D Exploration is pretty powerful and handy - especially for format conversion. I compliment it with Milkshape for format conversion.

Caff(Posted 2005) [#52]
Free level and world modeller:


Cold Harbour(Posted 2005) [#53]
Anyone got anything to say about Hexagon?


taumel(Posted 2005) [#54]
Well i'm not a modeller guru but as far as i've used/tried out some of these tools:

Maya (6) has a great production chain (especially for tv) but the gui is programmed so badly (from a speed point of view). Also the exporter to sw3d is rubbish as there's so much junk included.

xsi (4) was a little bit different for me to use but the output is great! For me the best rendering output i've seen.

3dsmax (7) is the one i can use the best. But that doesn't obvioulsy mean that it's the best. I'm just used to it. The interface is fast and the sw3d exporter is the best of all tools.



bradford6(Posted 2005) [#55]
here are my choices:

3DSMAX 6 with B3D Pipeline is the best right now.

Unwrap3D is absolutely essential.

Photoshop (not 3d but you need textures, right!?)

Russell(Posted 2005) [#56]
Ah, someone finally mentioned Blender! And the fact that it's free (including source) is a huge plus.

I have Realsoft 3D, and, although its interface can be considered 'unusual' (it has improved 10 fold since the 'Real 3D' days), it certainly has a lot of power under the hood. Character animation is the area it lacks in the most, but that is being addressed as we speak. For rendering quality, I've seen very few examples from any other package that can compare...especially for the money. Radiosity, caustics, very complete shader language (VSL), SDS, NURBS, B-Splines, CSG (analyticals), javascript integration, cross platform...There's a lot to like!


Boiled Sweets(Posted 2005) [#57]
Forget my ignorance - I am new to 3d modelling and would really appreciate your help..

I know this has been discussed before but I REALLY would like to know the easiest and cheapest way of producing objects for my game, for example a realistic looking bomb.

OK I know there are various 3d modellers out there, blender, 3d Studio etc - so I create a 3ds object but how do I texturise it so that when I load it into Blitz3d it looks real?

A lot of objects just look flat.

Blender can export to .x but Blitz3d doesn't seem to be able to load them correctly.

Is there a simple step by step guide for creating realistic looking objects for BLITZ that are textured and look correct / nicely shaded without having to use extra lights etc to make them look good. I do not want to do bones, and other advanced stuff just create nice looking models of real world objects. Ideally all in one package that allows me to build models from primitives, texturise and light them and export to a blitz friendly format....

John J.(Posted 2005) [#58]
Blender can export to .x but Blitz3d doesn't seem to be able to load them correctly.

I've been using blender successfully with Blitz3D with an unofficial DirectX 8 exporter that always works perfectly with Blitz3D.

podperson: Why don't you put Blender3D in your list also? It's a "Complete Solution", FREE, and my favorite modeling program.

John J.(Posted 2005) [#59]
Boiled Sweets: Download THIS (the "DirectX Exporter Mod"). It works perfectly in Blitz3D for me.

Edit: For it to work with the latest Blender version, you must comment out these two lines in the python script file:
if obj.getData().getMode() & NMesh.Modes['SUBSURF']:
	subsurf = True

, like this:
#if obj.getData().getMode() & NMesh.Modes['SUBSURF']:
#	subsurf = True

Remember, to install the exporter, simply place the .py file in ".blender/scripts/" with all the other exports/importers/etc.

podperson(Posted 2006) [#60]
I've added gile[s], 3D World Studio, and Blender (which I've been using on and off for the last year).

I really ought to do a more thorough reworking at some point :-)

P.S. I just skimmed the posts since my last post. Let me make some quick observations:

1. Joe Hocking is right (as usual ;) ) -- think of this as a list of stuff to try out. Almost all of it is either free or can be downloaded for free to try out.

2. IMHO Max is the most intuitive of the seriously useful tools, but in terms of raw power, all the top end stuff does pretty much everything you need. All of it is programmable and extensible, so with effort or visits to user forums you can probably fill any gaps.

3. Blender is free, incredibly powerful, runs on almost anything, and is pretty easy to use. Not as easy as Max, but pretty easy. Start there first -- it's free.

John J.(Posted 2006) [#61]
I'm glad to see that Blender is on the list now.

You also might want to add L3DT to the list under "Terrain Generators" if you want to include that category. It's a really nice terrain generator, and it's FREE! :) It makes some really nice looking terrains (and it's almost no trouble at all to get one working in Blitz3D).

Here are some L3DT terrains from the L3DT gallery:

RifRaf(Posted 2006) [#62]
ack.. soo many images.. net slowing...
i would like to see those terrains rendered in blitz.. can you get a shot or two of that ?

edit : 643k tris ? wow. wonder what kind of texture ram requirements that beast has

I posted some shots in graphical showcase of the latest
mapcrafter renders .. links again (i wont force images to
load, click if you like)

Vram requirements for the texture on the terrain is 12 megs.
MC gives triangle output options, but at the highest
possible output a terrain has about 32k triangles.

Those shots you posted look pretty good, but im curious
how they look in blitz3d. and what you have to do to get
them in. You can email me ( gamemaker04@... ) if you
dont want to drag this off topic.

Steve Elliott(Posted 2006) [#63]
As far as 3d packages go I wanted something that could model, animate and render. I also wanted one of the big name packages and Lightwave is my choice. If I had twice the budget then I probably would have gone for Max - I haven't so that is the choice I made. The choice of package is irrelavent if you can't afford it!

John J.(Posted 2006) [#64]
i would like to see those terrains rendered in blitz.. can you get a shot or two of that ?

edit : 643k tris ? wow. wonder what kind of texture ram requirements that beast has

The 643k tris is just when viewed in the L3DT viewer. In Blitz they work very nicely (remember blitz's terrains are LOD, so there's rarely more than 3000 polys used, and it still looks fine. If you want to see some L3DT terrains running in a Blitz3D game, try playing BattleTanks II.

RifRaf(Posted 2006) [#65]
yep, i know about about the lod terrain system, limited in alot of ways though, and i wasnt sure what the L3DT export was like (mesh or hm). would still like to see shots of those IN blitz3d.

John J.(Posted 2006) [#66]
would still like to see shots of those IN blitz3d.

Like I said, if you want to see L3DT terrains IN Blitz3D, there are plenty of screenshots here:
BattleTanks II

RifRaf(Posted 2006) [#67]
ah.. somehow missed that.. as i expected though they loose the wow factor in b3d. at least from what i can see in those shots.

John J.(Posted 2006) [#68]
they loose the wow factor in b3d

Well, I think that's because I'm not as good at designing terrains with L3DT as the authors of the first screenshots (the ones I posted were some exceptionally good-looking terrains from the L3DT gallery).

podperson(Posted 2006) [#69]
I added L3DT -- mainly coz it's free and looks intriguing. There's a whole bunch of stuff I ought to add from other folks' posts too.

I noticed on skimming back over messages that someone mentioned Pixar had used Max + Brazil for some scenes in "The Incredibles". This seemed farfetched to me since they have a very specific workflow based on Renderman, so I googled it:

It comes back to this article in CGW:


For some of those backgrounds, the crew even used 2½D matte paintings. "The second unit created 'digimattes' using 3ds max and Brazil," says Sayre, referring to Discreet's 3D software program and SplutterFish's rendering software. "It was great fun, ... liberating."

It seems to me that with the acquisition of Alias by Autodesk (i.e. Maya is now owned by the same company as Max) the two products may become more specialized rather than continuing to try to be all things to all people.

Sanctus(Posted 2006) [#70]
3D Max Rullez over all other crapy programs like Maya and Blender (and not to forget Cinema 4D)
Oh and most of the comercial projects involve 3D max
One that is also good if you do't have that much money is Truespace

podperson(Posted 2006) [#71]
"3D Max Rullez over all other crapy programs like Maya and Blender"

That, sir, is a troll!

Wayne(Posted 2006) [#72]
What about?
Google SketchUp

D4NM4N(Posted 2006) [#73]
"3D Max Rullez over all other crapy programs like Maya and Blender"

Yeah if you got a couple of grand spare. And no, it doesnt rule over Maya at all, it competes with.

BTW blender is far far superior to truespace, although ts (for now at least) may be better for doing animations that work in blitz.

Sanctus(Posted 2006) [#74]
Hmmm I didn'r really meen it but #D max is still the best
Maya is good but the way it works is inferior to the max way.
Blender is good but the interface is the worst ever

gburgess(Posted 2006) [#75]
Lightwave 3D is now $795. And, to my knowledge, there is no Unix version anymore, just PC and Mac.

jfk EO-11110(Posted 2007) [#76]
I did some research on (mostly) freeware Lightmapping, paste it here since the thread is sticky:

Giles 2 ( www.frecle.net/index.php ) seems to be pretty good, but for perfect lightmaps you need to take some time and adjust a ton of settings. It“s one of the very few solution that supports adaption of smoothing groups in lightmaps. Not for free.

Slimshady cannot handle alpha and masked textures, makes it useless for me. (Tho I still use the nonpublic version 0.5 to position and merge meshes, then export with lights for giles import). www.melog.ch/slimshady/

lmmaker039.exe (mentioned in an earlier posting) is recognized as malware by Antivir, not sure if it“s really dangerous, but I wouldn't run it.

Maplet (from Blitzresearch) has excellent lightmaps, but cannot import meshes and is limited to the primitives of the CSG modeller (no spheres, cones etc. one way export path)

Any fullfledged 3D modeller like Blender may be able to do lightmaps, you only need to work out a converter path to B3D. That said, blender has a hard learning curve.

There's DeleD ( www.delgine.com/ ) , that contains a lightmapper as well, although some people say it was "inadequate", but decide for yourself.

Then there“s FSRad, not tried yet, but looking promising:
orig: www.paulnettle.com/pub/FluidStudios/Radiosity/FSRad-004.zip
(some say not easy to use, no smoothing as giles)
(orge mod:) www.horza.de/OgreFSRad.shtml#overview
(other modded version:) www.geocities.com/dxlab/tmp/fsrad.html

Then threre“s IrrEdit, very promising. Allows to import a lot of formats, but lacks of useful export formats, maybe somebody“s gonna write a B3D export plugin? :

then there“s NVIDIA“s gelato, can be used to lightmap,tho probably only on NVIDIA GPUs
as discussed here:

Then there's 3delight:
also discussed in the mentioned forum thread.

Then there“s kerkythea:
Excellent radiosity, tho not sure if it can export anything at all.

Then there“s halos/leadwerks 3D world studio. not for free.

Then there“s nitrogen (promising!!)

Then there's "World", made for the DBPro ppl, but may be useful too:

lightbulb has vanished, as well as the several releases of elas_t, where Phosphore featured radiosity, but he had to stop working on it for the sake of his medical study - good for our health, bad for our toolpark.

Beaker(Posted 2007) [#77]
$25 (Windows)
3d modelling, animation (IK), texture mapping and painting.

Comments: Takes a little time to get used to the very customisable interface (scriptable), but has a lot of power once you can find all the tools etc. Very inexpensive. Doesn't do sub-division (box) modelling, only simple poly modelling. Is best used for animation, or just converting between file formats (B3D included). Great tool at the price.

chwaga(Posted 2007) [#78]
I Think Max is great, 3ds max 8 rox my sox, haven't tried out 9. Max beats maya in multiple areas, and vice-versa. The UVW unwrapping/mapping in max is great. The texture-painting in maya also rocks. I haven't tried much rendering on maya, but in my opinion, max is better at rendering, the Mental Ray, Indirect Illumination, Caustic Photons, Global Illumination, Rendering Effects, Radiosity, Lens effects, Flame effects, etc. are very useful (take a look at these renders, all made and renderred in 1 hour together, all on max clicky). Max also has a dynamic cloth system, huge amounts of space warps, reactor Havok physics engine, Flexible hair and fur system, and a great renderrer. Max is, unfortunately, more expensive.

podperson(Posted 2007) [#79]
I might add that Cheetah 3D 4.3 ($129 / Mac only) has very good light mapping functionality and very good UV Unwrapping (and is quite a good all-round 3d tool for game development). Unfortunately, it won't output B3D (it exports to FBX; is there an FBX -> B3D path?)

For lightmapping, gile[s] is cheap (and runs under Windows), but if you have a Mac, Cheetah 3d is a lot less painful to work with.

Subirenihil(Posted 2007) [#80]
Lightwave 3D
$1795 (Windows, Mac, Unix)
3d modelling, texture mapping, rendering, animation, etc.

LightWave costs $800, not $1800

podperson(Posted 2008) [#81]
LightWave costs $800, not $1800

Lightwave's price has plummeted since I originally wrote this article. I think you can "sidegrade" to it for $600 (from a copy of Photoshop, for example.)

Oh -- and it's $895 ... which I'd call $900 if I were ballparking.

"Max and Brazil have been used for rendering certain stuff in the recent film The Incredibles."

From the sourcing of this information (http://www.computerarts.co.uk/in_depth/features/inside_the_incredibles) this isn't so much an endorsement of Max or Brazil as Pixar's pipeline. Like all Pixar's work, almost every pixel you see was generated by Renderman.

taumel(Posted 2008) [#82]
Such a list could be useful if it would be up to date in terms of features and prices.

AdrianT(Posted 2008) [#83]
3ds Max is:

$200 for students.
$110 a month for lease with free updates.
(need a registered business to lease LLC = $70)

$3400 for individuals (upgrade between versions $1300).

It's actually better to just lease it since it costs the same and includes upgrades and is tax deductable.

It's not that expensive if your making money with it when compared to mobile phones, cable tv and internat packages etc.

jfk EO-11110(Posted 2009) [#84]
Just a note, lately some excellent tools became freeware, so seek for:


_PJ_(Posted 2010) [#85]
I didn't see this on the lists above, so here's somje details for :

Product: EarthSculptor
Version: 1.05 (As of 2010, last updated 2007)
Classification: Terrain/Heightmap Generator and Sculptor
Price: Single User License $59.00 USD (As of Aug 2010)
With Free Trial Version
More Info: http://earthsculptor.com/

Simpler but easier to use than Terragen/Brice buitstill with plenty of capable features.

skidracer(Posted 2017) [#86]