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I have read a lot individual information about three key 3D Graphics Authoring Applications: Softimage, 3DS Max, Maya.

To me, it looks like each of them has its own way to accomplish the same goal, which brings me to the question, is any of them better than the other ones?

In other words, if am free to decide which one of the three tools to use as my primary graphics development tool (for games graphics, web, commercials, animations..) and if I depend to nobody, which application should I decide for? What criteria should I evaluate those three applications in accordance to?

As I have read a lot about Softimage, which is so far the most attractive to me because of its user interface and ICE, I came to question: Is the future of Softimage bright? is it not going to be merged or vanished over time? Lastly I checked, Autodesk offered Softimage as part of its key two packages: Maya, Max. It was not offered as standalone and competitive package to Max and Maya anymore.

share|improve this question
Since when was Softimage not offered as standalone?… – DMan Jul 13 '11 at 21:08
@DMan: I checked couple of months ago, where it was possible to purchase Softimage only as a part of a Maya or Max suite. As I see in your link, it is clearly possible to purchase it now. Well, anyway, this is not the key point of my question, but thanks for clarification. – Bunkai.Satori Jul 13 '11 at 21:12
As for your question, you will never get a concrete answer. They are all popular, and all owned by the same company. The criteria you decide for depends if said application does everything and if you like it. – DMan Jul 13 '11 at 21:19
@DMan: yeah, so the decision is basically as easy as to going for an application which I like the most. Anyay, I would like to see the opinions of others. They might reveal some new areas, I haven't considered yet. – Bunkai.Satori Jul 13 '11 at 21:21
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The Pragmatic Programmer devoted a section to this:

We think it is better to know one editor very well, and to use it for all editing tasks.... Without a single editor, you face a potential modern day Babel of confusion... Choose an editor, know it thoroughly, and use it for all editing tasks. If you use a single editor (or set of keybindings) across all [model] editing activities, you don't have to stop and think to accomplish [geometry] manipulation: the necessary keystrokes will be a reflex. The editor will be an extension of your hand; the keys will sing as they slice their way through the [models] and thought. That's our goal.

Actually they were talking about text editors, but it's not different. All the tools you have named are fine tools - none of them are the Windows Notepad of 3D asset creation (nor is Blender).

Pick one, use it, learn it well enough you don't need to think about it. One day you'll probably find yourself in another program, and you won't use it as well, but that's OK - time spent not mastering ten editors is time spent learning the task at hand, and that will pay off far more when your next job is using the eleventh one anyway.

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+1 I like this answer (and I like Lightwave btw, I know it well and it's awesome - perhaps just because I know it well ;) – Oskar Duveborn Jul 13 '11 at 22:06
@Joe: +1, Hi Joe. thanks for your answer. I have to say, that I like it very much too. If I like Softimage at a first glance, it will be fine if I go for it. I am affraid about few things: Softimage offers the lowest userbase (nobody on IRC channels), and I have impression that it is viewed by Autodesk as a supplementary pakcage to its two flagships: Maya, Max. I hope, Autodesk will not devote it less attention in the future. – Bunkai.Satori Jul 13 '11 at 22:10

This question doesn't have any direct answer. It depends a lot on other parameters.

You can google to sort out something, but other then that, either this is gonna be a huge comparison among features(which wont make any sense at all) or a straight forward answer to pick x or y. But, in short, XSI's ICE is very tempting for VFX but other then that 3ds Max and Maya is vastly superior. 3ds dominated gaming industry and Maya the movie industry. From my experience its easy to do easy things in 3ds max and easier to do hard things in maya.

You can even try out Blender & see if it fits your need. Houdini offers procedural modeling solution. Which is awesome too!

Another thing is that you are trying to find out the best solution for almost everything, but differnt situation demands different solutions. For gaming blender can provide an excellent all around solution. The latest installment of Duke Nukem, the developers are using blender(don't know on how extent) for rigging & animation.

The basic functionality remains same across all the applications.For modeling you need some basic tool like extrusion, beveling, splitting edges etc etc. All this features are available in all tools. It's just a matter to get used to then. Unless you become a high level user the output wont different for using different software.

Its all vague, but if you ask which one is best to start with, I would say Maya. You can switch to anything later on, depending on what the time and situation demands.

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+1, Hi, iamcreasy, and thanks for your advices. Very valuable ineed. I must say, that the comparison is a bit vague, but, I have to start anywhre. To do the majority of stuff, and if I miss a particular feature, I will probably use the other package offering it. At least temporarily. Iamcreasy, if Softimage is exceptionaly attractive to me, because its workflow and ICE, woudl it be in your opiniont good choice to start with, despite, you recommend Maya? – Bunkai.Satori Jul 13 '11 at 21:59
@bunkai-satori The latest installment XSI 2012 has introduced ICE modeling(Houdini's procedural modeling). It looks interesting indeed. You can go for it. The fun part of XSI is it has a mod tool, which is available for free to use for non-commercial purpose with some certain constrains. The main purpose of suggesting Maya is, it the monster among these 3. So, if you are adapt with it, then other may seem a little easier for you. And skill with 3ds Max or Mays is always far more valuable then XSI. – iamcreasy Jul 13 '11 at 22:06
thanks for your valuable advices. They sound very logical. So you say, that Maya has more to offer comparing to Max or Softimage? Is it not basically the same function set in a different coating? – Bunkai.Satori Jul 13 '11 at 22:13
@bunkai-satori Same functionality(with more customization) and more features that are makes it(Maya) more widely adoptable in any situation. But, from a distance they look same. The thing is that, for me, time is more valuable then anything else. And skill with Maya will be carried over to anywhere(any institution or application) in the future, but in case of XSI this might not happen. – iamcreasy Jul 13 '11 at 22:21
thank you. Can I kindly ask, what is your primary job? Are you graphics artist, or freelance game developer, or do you work for a company? – Bunkai.Satori Jul 13 '11 at 22:33

It depends on what kind of assets you want to create. Some 3D packages excel at low-poly modelling, while others provide sculpting and other sophisticated high-poly modelling tools.

It's quite common that artists use different modelling packages for different jobs. ZBrush is widely used to sculpt high-poly models that are then imported in other 3D packages (where you bake the high-poly model to a normal-map of a low-poly model). Some people like Wings3D because it has excellent (low) polygon modelling tools.

Blender has very good UV unwrapping features. I already heard of people that take their models to blender just for unwrapping.

So what I'm trying to say is: People tend to use the right tool for the job. They don't pick a modelling package and stick with it. If you're new to 3D modelling, then basically any 3d-modelling software will do to get you started. All the packages you mentioned provide excellent modelling and animation tools, where Maya and 3DS Max are probably the most popular packages.

The underlying basics of 3D modelling packages are all the same so it doesn't matter that much which package you decide to choose. Once you know one software, it shouldn't be that hard to learn another tool (much like learning a new programming language isn't that hard if you have experience in another programming language).

share|improve this answer
+1, very clever idea, so at the end of the day, I will most likely finish by knowing more than one package. – Bunkai.Satori Jul 19 '11 at 20:09

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