With the recently announced killing off of Softimage (take a moment of silence if you'd like) the question among many 3D artists is which 3D application might be next? Among the two remaining Autodesk powerhouses that are Maya and 3ds Max, the first concern is 3ds Max. There are a few reasons why people think Autodesk will kill off 3ds Max next, maybe because Maya is just slightly more popular among the industry or that there seems to just be more support for Maya.
Whatever the case may be, the question now is whether or not these concerns are viable concerns to have as a 3D artist, and if your favorite 3D application is truly next. Now, before you get upset about the subject matter of this article, take a moment to read through it, because you might be surprised. We were/are huge fans of Softimage and 3ds Max, but after the recent announcement, we could only think "what's next?"
Let's take an in-depth look at why this concern has come up among 3D artists, as well as some of the key reasons why we do think 3ds Max is here to stay.
The question of if 3ds Max will die next is not one that has been brought up out of the blue. According to some 3D artists there have been several signs that may give key clues to the future of 3ds Max as well as Autodesk's plan for this 3D application and whether or not they feel the need to continue to support it. Let's take a close look at these "signs" so you can determine for yourself if these are truly signs of the end time for 3ds Max.
The most obvious sign that might point 3ds Max as next on the chopping block is simply the fact that Autodesk is no longer supporting Softimage. If Autodesk is killing off Softimage, what is stopping them from doing the same to 3ds Max? And is this all part of their master plan to have only one "ultimate" 3D application?
Arguably, Maya has also seen more features added for each yearly update to the programs. From things like the integration of XGen, or the Bifrost effects platform, as well as the push for Pixar's Open Subdiv engine, or their recent enhancements to Maya's modeling tools, getting it on par with 3ds Max when it comes to modeling. To some 3D artists, this could be a telling sign of the potential demise of 3ds Max. However, this could simply be Autodesk improving Maya and making the tools better for Maya users, and is not part of a secret agenda, but then again only the people at Autodesk know.
Maya has also seen a recent push for video game development, as well, with the release of the very inexpensive Maya LT designed for indie developers. This definitely raised a few eyebrows because 3ds Max has typically been known as the go-to app for the game industry, so the concern now among 3D artists is that Autodesk is trying to close this game development gap between 3ds Max and Maya, and make Maya more appealing to game studios.
Another sign that has come to the surface is the fact that 3ds Max is still just a Windows only application, meaning it can't be accessed on Linux or OSX. This definitely narrows the availability of 3ds Max to just studios or users who work on Windows systems. As more studios switch to a Linux operating system because it's a very fast and stripped down operating platform, it could pose a problem to 3ds Max in the future, if Autodesk doesn't integrate cross-platform support.
How Would Killing 3ds Max Benefit Autodesk?
Now, with all these "signs" how would killing off 3ds Max actually benefit Autodesk, and what could be their reason for doing this?
One viable reason is that they could put all of their development focus on one 3D application, creating one single "master" 3D application. This would definitely make it easier on Autodesk because they wouldn't have to split their development resources between both Maya and 3ds Max, and they could focus all of their attention on Maya.
3ds Max and Maya have generally been competing software, with obviously a lot of debate between which one is better. However, these competing applications are developed and owned by the same company. Being that these competing products are from the exact same company it would make sense to get rid of the competition and double expenses all together. Taking the best features of each application and combining them into one would cause a lot of pain, but potentially open up a lot of feature growth - or even help supply Mudbox with more resources to better compete with ZBrush.
Why 3ds Max Is Still Going Strong
So with all of these things considered, is 3ds Max really going to die? The answer at this point is likely a simple no, at least how it appears now, and definitely not anytime soon. 3ds Max and Maya are two industry standard applications. Each application has its key features, Maya is traditionally known for animation, and 3ds Max for modeling. There is a place in the industry for both applications, because both applications have their strengths. And each program has its own workflow that caters to different types of 3D artists and studios.
3ds Max is not only a huge part of the video game industry, but it's also a strong part of architectural visualization and design. Killing off Softimage caused a pretty big uproar in the community, and you can only imagine what Autodesk would have in store for them if they did the same to 3ds Max. Taking 3ds Max out of the pipelines of thousands of developers and studios is probably not something Autodesk is eager to do.
If you still consider the idea that Autodesk may be planning on combining the best features of 3ds Max into Maya so that they can focus their resources on one single application there are a few key things you must consider.
It would take a huge amount of development time, especially considering 3ds Max is a Windows only product, the things involved on the back end to create a single, 3D application would be substantial, and would be a huge undertaking for Autodesk. It would require them to basically build an entirely new 3D application from the ground up.
One reason why Autodesk stopped support for Softimage is so that they could focus on 3ds Max and Maya, so it would seem that they still plan on supporting 3ds Max for the foreseeable future. While the development of Softimage has stopped, and likely made a lot of 3D artists a little more than upset, for 3ds Max users it allows Autodesk to narrow their focus on the two key applications in their arsenal. So really, the phasing out of Softimage could also be seen as a sign of Autodesk's dedication to 3ds Max and not their apathy.
Softimage was an application in Autodesk's library that has steadily seen less and less use among artists and studios. While Softimage did find its place in the hearts of many 3D artists, including our own authors, there just wasn't the user base there to spend the time and money required to support it. We're still interested to see if they can spread ICE to other applications, though Autodesk commented there wouldn't be any direct port. 3ds Max on the other hand still has an extremely large user base, so killing it would really make no sense at the moment, because it's still one of the most widely used 3D programs on the market.
It's also interesting to see the response to the Softimage announcement. As much as Autodesk is trying to support Softimage users and help them transition to Maya or 3ds Max, software like MODO and CINEMA 4D are chomping at the opportunity and artists are listening. Could you imagine what it would look like if 3ds Max users were faced with a similar decision?
If you're a 3ds Max user, there is really no need to be concerned at this point. Both 3D applications are extremely vital to the industry and from the current outlook, Autodesk is fully dedicated to 3ds Max. Of course, you can never predict the future and things can change, but only Autodesk knows what their plans are for 3ds Max. One thing is for certain though, if Autodesk does choose to combine their resources into a single 3D application, you definitely wouldn't want to be on their customer support team! If you want to learn more about 3ds Max and Maya and some of the differences, be sure to check out our 3ds Max vs. Maya article, and share your thoughts on this article in the comments below.
Long live 3ds Max!