In the past few days I’ve been discovering Modo 401. Here are my thoughts on the new version:
- The flexible user interface is hands down the best. No other application, 3D or not, can come even close. (Okay, maybe Corel Draw.) The layout, keyboard shortcuts, mouse behavior, pie menus, popup panels and menus can be modified in staggering depth.
- The tools and workflow functions are intuitive and generalized. If you learn a procedure in one tool then you can be sure that in similar situations the application will behave in a similar fashion.
For example a weight map based falloff works the same with the move tool, the airbrush or the poly reduction tool.
(There is nothing like in XSI when there is a whole page listing the totally different things the middle mouse button does in different places.)
- Asset browser and repository. It is a generalized way of managing and browsing assets: images, meshes, materials, bevel profiles, environments, light setups. Or even whole rigs like a wheel setup where the wheel rotates properly depending on the distance traveled.
And such assets can be submitted to and downloaded from a central, public repository.
- Preview render viewport: its fast. As in “as fast if not faster than FPrime”. What else could we ask for?
- General baking is flexible. You can bake pretty much any channel you want, because baking was also done in a generalized fashion. If it’s stored in a buffer then it can be baked. Not like in other 3d packages where you are given a certain selection of channels you can bake and if that’s not enough, then tough luck.
So its useful, with the exception of normal map baking which I discuss bellow…
- Scripting. It supports LUA amongst other languages, and it’s internal workings are pretty easy to understand, so scripting is usually quite straightforward.
- Community: friendly, productive and provides inspiration. The developers are present in the forums and often help out or just share wisdom. (Once Allen Hastings replied to a post of mine OMG!!!!111 :D )
Stuff I yet to try
I never really made any animations nor sculpted anything complex. But I hope I’ll have the time to do so soon.
- Normal map baking is still dodgy. The biggest problem is that object-to-object baking generates the normalmap in world space. To make a tangent space version of it, one needs to generate three different normal maps and mix them properly in photoshop. Not very user friendly to say the least.
- The shader tree of hell. Simply the worst part of the application. It’s one thing that the layer based material system is limited and rigid compared to a node based solution. The real problem is the ridiculous amount of bugs. Bugs which are not just annoying inconveniences but full blow pains in the ass.
For example yesterday I ran into the following issue: group masks not masking bump layers, or any layers if a normal map is present in the group.
Most of the issues usually have some kind of a workaround, true. Unfortunately the layer based system is hard enough to manage for complex setups as it is, so when you have to tip-toe around hacks and workarounds, then it becomes practically useless and frustrating.
It works for simple stuff like slapping on concrete, glass or wood materials to surfaces in an archviz project, but beyond that it’s sweat and blood.
I think Modo is an excellent modeling, UV-ing and painting tool. It also seems to be adequate for sculpting and
non-character animations. It’s usually fun to use and can be a valuable part of a game developer’s workflow.
But since shader authoring is buggy and oldschool, I don’t see modo covering the whole art pipeline. (At least I wouldn’t want to spend days finding workarounds for shader tree bugs or decipher someone’s multi level, multi group setup in a production environment.)
But I have faith in Luxology. Seeing their progress, I think modo will become a real, all-in-one package for game artists in the next few years.