Is Maya LT the New Softimage Foundation?

If cost was an issue preventing you from trying your hand at 3D content creation, now may be your time to dive in. Check this out!

Maya LT, the new SI Foundation?
Maya LT, the new SI Foundation?

During my animation education, I was given a choice. I could use either Maya, or Softimage as my 3D Content creation software. Maya seemed the best option up front. Everyone knew what it was, and many employers were requesting knowledge of it. Softimage had been around quite a while too. While not as main stream, it was known for being able to handle any animation job, and have the highest learning curve. Most notably, Valve Software was using Softimage for Source engine content. In fact, the official Source mod tool was a modified version of Softimage 4.x. Both were priced at around USD$500 for an academic license.

Softimage did have one huge factor in their favor. They regularly released a version of their software known as “Foundation”. It had every tool a game studio and low budget animation shop could need. In fact, to my memory, all it was missing was the hair rendering (used for all sorts of things besides hair, such as grass), high quality cloth physics, and batch rendering. The price for a commercial license was only in the neighborhood of USD$600. Prices for thees industry standard software packages then, and now, begin around the USD$3000 mark.

More than a few years ago, Autodesk bought Softimage from XSI. As of version 6.5 and up, there was no longer a Foundation edition…

In 2011, Autodesk stopped granting “historical activation” for XSI editions of Softimage. The interface largely hasn’t changed over the years. Many new features have come along; however, the basic workflow hasn’t changed, and the old XSI editions work well with Unity3D.  Thankfully, the last time I had my license activated, I did so on a Virtual Box virtual machine. I did this to preserve the software in the environment it was meant to work on, 32-bit Windows XP. So, I’ve been able to use my single XSI install over the last few computer changes; however, it’s age is finally showing.

As you guys may have noticed, I like to use and mention Unity3D around here. There are exciting new workflows that are only available with modern 3D software, not to mention everyone seems to favor Maya at the moment.

Enter Autodesk Maya LT 2014

Autodesk recently announced Maya LT. This edition is targeted at the indie game developer scene. There are reasonable monthly subscription plans, or you can by a standalone edition for less than USD$800. I must say, they’ve peaked my interest. Since I’ve always been a Softimage guy, I don’t have much more to say about this new edition, other than it will likely be what finally turns me on to Maya. They got the price right for all the tools an aspiring indie animation/game developer needs from an industry standard software package.

I’ll likely continue with Softimage for a couple months. I have a couple of projects to get through, and it would be a bad time to adapt to a new workflow; however, you can rest assured I will be checking this out, and likely making the switch.

I’ll report back when I have a first hand experience.

Thanks for reading!

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