CGTalk ... back in the good ol days of (early 2000's)


This used to be my favorite stomping ground - so much information exchanged.

I’ve seen a lot of old posts in searches - What has happened to CGTalk/CGSociety? - or dedicated Forums in general.

My simple Answer:
Many of the people I know who frequented CGTalk in the early 2000’s were in our mid 30’s or early 40’s.
In short we aged out. all consuming careers - family - life in general, etc. Many are in our mid/late 50’s now and there are better things in life than being glued to a monitor for 10+ hours a day. Technology can be wondrous as it is wicked. Trying to stay ahead of the bleeding curve loses its appeal.

Less desirable Answer
The ugly side of CG/FX industries of which there a zillion stories. Me and my friends had a motto “Don’t let your Sons/Daughters grow up to be CG artists”. Shops going under with unpaid employees overnight facing uncertain futures at 40.

Software companies absorbing apps and going subscription or just falling by the wayside into obscurity (former Lightwave user here).

AI is amazing.
Its a formidable tool like anything in the past was… or imminent threat?

To any old CGTalkers that stumble across the bottle in the sea - Hello there.



I think social media also contributed to people getting info more quickly in places like twitter. I was just looking at a post on twitter lamenting the demise of the game anim community there and it reminded me of how good and active cgtalk used to be. Came here just now to see how active it is and low and behold your post. Lol.

I guess it’s still alive, but man, I used to spend hours per day on here I think. I wish it would rise again tbh.


I think I joined or the heard of the site around 2013. I was in College back then but I definitely did my research and tried to find all the active CG Art Communities on the web.

That said, it was fun to still chat with people in the 2010s even if every passing year, the activity was beginning to slow down.

I learned a lot and received great advice from many CG veteran experts. For those who helped mentor me on these boards, your help was greatly appreciated and I officially landed a job and work in the industry now.


There are thriving 3D online communities out there and the number of 3D DCC users was never higher than now. No, an aging user base is imo not a big contributor. There is definitly a shift from text based forums towards video/image based social media communities, but that alone doesn’t explain it as well.
CG Talk/CG Society specifically went to the dogs when management changed and they did not care a bit about SPAM and toxic users. The moderators and forums leaders at the time were left out completely, forum structures were changed with monetization in mind and without taking the actual structure of the user base or their needs into account. Promises were made regarding high profile contributors that never came to be. In the end the forums leaders and mods went on with their lifes, as did the vast majority of contributing users, just not here.


This site has become haunted without the presence of key figures from top studios who could provide valuable insights. Without anyone to learn from or follow, the site has become useless and forgotten, lacking direction and purpose.

The structure of modern websites is designed to maximize monetization by leading users through a labyrinth of pages like a game of roulette. This deliberate strategy is aimed at dumbing down users and keeping them focused on short, easily digestible snippets of information.

Despite this trend, forums are not dead. While many modern websites shy away from coherent structures, there is still value in discussion forums where people can exchange ideas and engage in meaningful conversation.

While YouTube offers a wealth of information and countless courses are available online, there is still a place for forums in today’s world. With the right management, this forum could thrive and provide valuable insights and connections for its users. Unfortunately, the current management has not taken the steps necessary to make this happen


I have this image saved on my PC, that sums up the change in web design. 2000s vs 2020s.

In my opinion, you got the “labyrinth” in reverse. Websites in the past use to have a lot more content to keep passerbys happy. Whereas modern websites are designed for short burst “clickbait”.


I can’t see the image for some reason, but I agree with you that the functionality now favors clicks and more scrolling. I really hated it when the tiling design appeared instead of simple text headings.

I’m interested in hearing your opinion on how computer graphics (CG) has changed over the last decade or so and how it has affected the community.


Hmmm, that’s odd.

Well here’s an imgur version (the first post was using a link hosted by


Thank you, that’s exactly what I was talking about. They don’t consider utilizing space wisely, but rather focus on engaging more and more user interaction. Such sites as Facebook, Tinder, and Instagram all have very bad structure, if they have any structure at all. They are all about you endlessly wandering and doomscrolling


My take…

As I’ve said numerous times, I started doing CG at the age of 15. That was nearly 34 years ago. So, for a VERY long time, forums weren’t a part of my life. Before 1997, it was all “mailing lists” and newsgroups, the sort you’d find on CompuServ or AoL back in the day. 1997 saw the introduction of Planet3DArt. For those unfamiliar with it, Planet3DArt was (iirc) the precursor to CGTalk; Both had Leonard Teo behind the scenes in those early days. I was 23 at the time.

From that point on, there was just this whole forum boom that, not coincidentally, coincided with the newfound popularity of CG thanks to 1995’s Toy Story. Everybody wanted to do CG. It was the next frontier for art and, by all accounts, a modern Wild West. Unexplored territory galore and new challenges at every turn. All of the techniques, by today’s standards, were simple enough and accessible enough that anybody willing to put in more than 60 minutes of effort could become internet famous. Low cost consumer apps like Caligari trueSpace made it [CG] that much more accessible.

That right there is at heart of the issue. Low cost (or free) apps and indie versions make CG accessible to everybody, but the state of the art has advanced to such a state of complexity that it has all become that much more impenetrable and daunting. Sitting through days of YouTube videos sometimes isn’t even enough to scratch the surface of some topics.

For a good number of years, I moderated/admin-ed on sites such at CGChat and GameArtisans. Back then, they used to run all manner of small challenges and large contests. Entering and finishing them, even for a newbie, was not only possible, but pretty common. After all, what were your requirements? A few thousand polys, a simple pose, maybe a multi-angle one-sheet, and single texture that was small to the tune of 512x512. No ambient occlusion. No normal maps (yet). Just a single texture sheet with everything baked in. Sculpting wasn’t even widely used yet and the most commonly referenced tutorial of that day was still “Joan of Arc” for 3dsmax. That was pretty much the case (more or less) as recent as 2007.

Flash ahead 16 years later to now. If you tried to hold a modern version of one of those old competitions, the briefs would be so complex that only people with 5+ years of experience could enter or finish. The state of the art today is hardly accessible, which is really why so many people are turning to AI - it cuts out the middle man (ie. core art skills).

I’m almost 49 now. I’m still glued to my screen for 10+ hour days. I still adapt to the changing climate and adopt new techniques all of the time. For my part, I haven’t aged out. I just think that forums, which are highly newbie accessible, can’t keep up with an art form that is itself… not.

We’ve seen all manner of attempts at keeping the conversation going and bringing CG communities back.

  • Facebook has many groups. Most are largely useless. Nobody wants critiques. Nobody knows how to give critiques. Nobody is willing to spend the time writing or reading them. People just want “likes” and that’s it. Improve your social status through flex and followers.
  • Discord channels exist to fill the gap. They suck too. Little organization. Too decentralized. Inhabited, mostly, by newbies trying to look big by “schooling” other newbies. Lots of people talking and nobody really accomplishing anything. Like standing in a full elevator and trying to fill the void for a 50 floor ride.
  • Sites like ArtStation and CGSociety exist, but they’re all about “show and tell” and not at all about community. You certainly can’t give or get critiques. Little sharing of tips. No real community engagement.
  • YouTube has a comments section for its endless supply of videos, but there are as many trolls as there are legit comments. To make matters worse, the actual content is spotty. 10% good content and 90% that’s just ill-informed, outdated, or redundant.

We now live in a “look at me” culture. The idea of CG communities is an old, outdated concept. That implies the exchange of ideas. The notion that a pro can come in and mentor a newbie in such an environment seems quaint and antiquated. If the only things that matter are likes and followers, who the heck cares about legit growth? When every newbie with a high like count is delusional enough to fancy themselves masters, what’s the point of community?

AI really only worsens the problem. Just head over to ArtStation. There’s a metaphorical sea of “artists” who can crank out amazing (derivative) works in zero time. I just saw this page from one member who managed to bang out, maybe, 20 full character pieces in 4 or 5 days. What need to THEY have for community. It’s all about the flex and how they can parlay that into becoming internet famous, enough to monetize that status - bypassing industry work altogether.

Communities like CGTalk, GameArtisans, CGChat, and so on existed as places where you could share ideas, have friendly competitions among friends, and grow. They were welcoming to newbies back in those early days because, let’s face it, EVERYBODY was a newbie at that point. CG as we know it was still relatively new and everybody was able to grow with it. Today, even if you valued the idea of community over social status, joining a forum as a newbie is like becoming a Harry Potter fan 5 books in. By the time you’ve caught up to 5, everybody else is already on to book 7.

At this point, forums like Polycount are odd duck relics. Great that they still exist and prosper in spite of it all, but still remnants of a different time. At best, they stand as a monument to all of the people who’ve contributed and learned there over the years - their archived posts marking the evolution of the art and serving as a massive reference for those newbies who can’t get help elsewhere. A self-serve repository of knowledge.

Overall, what I might miss about the “old days” is that accessibility. I was thinking about that a few weeks back after I replayed the original 2000 Deus Ex. The entire art pipeline for that game was, what, 2 apps? Photoshop & LightWave. 3 apps if you include Unreal Engine. That’s it. 2 apps for all of the assets and 1 extra for level layout.

What might it look like today, a full game art pipeline? Photoshop. Maya. ZBrush. Marvelous Designer. World Creator. Substance Painter. Substance Designer. Marmoset Toolbag. Unreal. That’s 3x as long of a pipeline and it could be made much longer through endless ancillary support apps and 3rd party plugins.

How much more do you need to know today compared to 2000 if you wanted to make an indie 3D game? It’s certainly some magnitude well beyond that 3x factor. More people could engage in that sort of activity 23 years ago than today. As I said, the current state of the art has made it impenetrable with anybody with fewer than “x” number of years to even try. This issue of pipeline, comparing then VS now, is really emblematic of greater problem underscoring why forums are less useful or possible.

Even if the world today slowed down and social media died, nothing is as simple as it once was. CG has grown up and forums, which were once playgrounds, aren’t welcome.


Though CG was, as you say, accessible due to low software price, getting CG education was not as easy.
And not everyone was a newbie on forums. Some people definitely had the upper edge, and were world-class professionals, renders and art of whom I still admire (though it didn’t all aged well, just a part of it is still good).
Creating CG was still painfully difficult, and I would say, even more difficult due to slow programs. Long render times, no effective light previews, no viewport painting, seams, little memory on PC. Having the tools of today would be a blessing, even top studios didn’t have. Anyone with such tools would be a millionare.
I agree it had its newness and was uncharted territory, but it was also the pain of it. No proper implementation of even basic stuff, missing features. Today the programs are so more reliable and have more options.
What you say about the pipeline is absolutely correct. I used dozens of apps for different tasks, so I am a master of apps more than an artist, just because it took so much time to learn it all just to have the bare minimum of competency.
And that’s why I look at AI assistance as a good addition to pipeline.
I also agree about your description of social platforms. Their structure is like a running line, where you can have your say, but it will drown the next day. Or, it should have many likes to be afloat. At least, for some time being. I gave up trying to participate there, as the snowflake approach is everywhere.
I want to note, it wasn’t all rosy with forums also. There were just a handful of very supportive people, while the rest were just taking and never bothering replying.
Maybe the running line principle is more appropriate to the amount of people on the net, which increased? If so, it means people have devalued so much.
But I also must admit I mostly find solutions online without the need to ask anyone for the most time. Sometimes I ask the developer.


I was a member here since back in the early 2000’s
(under a different user name)
and I agree with most of the “factors” listed by

Back then you only needed to know a few programs
and could be a 3D/CG “generalist”
today because of the overwhelming number easily accessable tools
it seems3D artists self segregate into communities
the only want to discuss that one aspect of CG
and even then most just want to “discuss” and build youtube & social media following and never actually produce anything.

Look at the Unreal engine ”filmaking” community.
34 second “Short films” on youtube of a guy in a
“Mass effect” styled sci-fi armor walking around an environment.
16K views & hundreds of likes and heaps of praise in the comments section by casual UE users who love discussing the features and produce similar endless “tests”

why participate in any general community when one can get such external validation and even youtube income with very little effort.


@Srek is correct imo. The decline of this particular site had everything to do with burning the community than anything else. Everyone wants to blame social media but that’s just not the case. Social media will prevent NEW forums from taking off, but I’m a member of multiple long-standing forums that are doing better than ever. What’s the key? They were well established before social media ever showed up, and, more importantly, they maintained the community over the years. Letting the old leaders walk was the death knell. Period.

As far as things like challenges go - I think at least for me, I got tired of the explosion of “on trick pony programs” you needed to know. I just want to fire up C4D or Max or Zbrush and maybe an image editor like PS. I got burned out on seeing people talk about their submissions and it would go something like "I blocked it out in Max, then I took it into zBrush, then I sent it to marvelous designer, then I launched Houdini, then after that I ran it through road kill (if anyone here gets that reference you’re old like me lol), THEN, once that was all done, I simply textured in substance, baked my maps and exported to Marmoset where I rendered out the various layers, exported them as open exr and brought them into Nuke for compositing. Once that was done I opened the final in PS for some color adjustments and BAM. Completed image. Simple. lol

As a professional, I get that workflow to a point. In my personal life, I’ve lost interest in maintaining so many different programs and am way more interested in seeing what I can do as though it were the old days and all I’ve got is 512mb of ram a diamond viper video card, XSI Foundations, and a case of Mountain Dew code red lol


Exactly mate!


Here’s the thing.

In studios, despite having these established pipelines where everybody agrees on one set of company approved apps, the prevailing motto at the end of the day is, “whatever gets the job done.” In that spirit, we’ve seen the rise of specialty apps designed to do only one thing, but extremely well. Each app makes itself (seemingly) indispensable because they are best in class. These apps cater to specialist or specialist mentalities. That’s perfectly fine… if you’re in a big studio.

The problem is that far too many individual artists have bought into the notion that, to be the best at what they do and to be highly employable, they MUST master every single specialty app. It’s created this seemingly impenetrable barrier for entry, terrifying new artists in the process. The logic is flawed though.

These competitions demand(ed) that you create this finished product from whole cloth, pitch to polish, much as one might create a portfolio/reel piece. For those with the skill, that’s fine. What’s not fine is adopting a studio style pipeline designed for specialists when you’re being asked to perform like a generalist. That’s both expensive and imposing, asking you to not only master skills, but programs (plural).

As a generalist, which is who these competitions really targeted, you need to adopt a generalist type pipeline. “Whatever gets the job done” may be fine for studios with multi-million dollar budgets and countless artists separated by function, but it doesn’t work when you’re a one man band. “Whatever gets the job done” has to get replaced by a “good enough to get the job done” mentality instead. This is really something that has been with me over the past year as I’ve been neck deep in a solo game project.

Over the past mumble years, I’ve managed to accrue a fairly large number of skills across an even larger number of apps. Consequently, my pipeline had become rather obscene in size. I was doing generalist work with that specialist pipeline, studio mindset and it was crippling to a degree. I’m not even talking about the cost of maintaining 12+ apps. There’s also this fatigue, of sorts, that sets in when you are juggling that many programs - each designed by teams with different UX priorities, capabilities, and having their own specific quirks. Switching back and forth seems trivial at first, but it does weigh heavily on you over time.

I reached a breaking point. Thankfully, it was at that point that I also had a moment of clarity thanks to, of all things, a song lyric. “The only baggage you can bring is all that you can’t leave behind.”

Specialty apps are best in class for a reason. No other app does what they do as well because they’re built to purpose. HOWEVER, are there other ways of getting the job done that are “good enough” that can also help you streamline that pipeline and make it more generalist friendly? In other words, are you already using another app that has similar functionality that is currently being unused that you can better exploit?

Figure out what you really need to get the job done. That’s going to be vastly different than what you only think that you need. Do that needs analysis. What features and tools are essential? What can’t you actually live without? What’s crucial and what’s just a creature comfort? I ruminated on that for a while. I was so stuck in that studio pipeline mindset that I forgot that I could actually do more with less.

All of those specialty apps kinda blinded me to the fact that I had some general purpose apps with specialty plugins. I could do more with fewer apps, which has actually saved me time since I could stay in the moment and not leave that singular experience. Those plugins or “extra” features of the general purpose apps might not be 1:1 replacements for the specialty apps beloved by studios across the globe. However, as a generalist being asked to do more with less, “good enough” was almost certainly more than enough.

I think that this is ultimately what wasn’t understood by competition entrants OR forum leaders. The art of CG grew so quickly that everybody pretty much assumed that adopting a studio type pipeline full of apps designed for specialists was the right way to go. “BlahBlah app is the best at BleepBloop. Gotta use that if you want to win. There is no other path.” The thing is, when you have a community largely dominated by generalists, that’s a big ask. Those old school competitions appealed to generalist, not specialists.

Looking back, I wish that the mindset had been different. I wish that more people were told, “Make the most of the ‘meal’ in front of you first before you pile more onto your plate.” Instead, they/we all followed trends and kinda did the opposite. Communities and competitions designed with generalists in mind should really have leaders and (sometimes) guidelines helping to promote that generalist mindset. Being a generalist and chasing a pipeline/workflow full of specialty is almost a losing game. The target keeps on moving and the demands keep on increasing. Brad Bird had it right when working on “The Incredibles” … … “Every part of the buffalo”

Related (sorta)… I was looking at some old post-mortem retrospectives of classic games. It was interesting. You had these beautiful (for the time) games that had so few specialty apps involved. None sometimes. Games that were made using only 2 or 3 art tools. In chasing specialty trends, I think that we lost sight of how much can be done with so little. If more forum leaders and competition entrants had realized that back then, I think that there might have been fewer people afraid to compete and willing to abandon those communities.

OF COURSE… There are many, many, MANY factors other than mentality and pipeline complexity that contributed to the declining popularity of forums and competitions. This is just one particular factor that had been banging around in my head for a while. … Or maybe I just like to hear myself talk. :stuck_out_tongue:


I personally don’t find it so daunting learning new apps. I will explicate why:

  1. Competitive apps appear once in 3-7 years, if not more seldom
  2. Most of my special-purpose apps are quite easy to master in a matter of 1-2 weeks for a couple of hours
  3. The major players exist for more than a decade or two: 3ds max, Zbrush

Some programs do take a lot of time to master. For example, Zbrush, Mari and other complex beasts… But once again, such matchless powerhouses appear once in 10-20 years.

What I find difficult is being a generalist, so I decided to specialize, because I realized I just won’t have enough lifetime to master many dsciplilnes, yet to sustain any competitiveness in several areas.


It’s going to be a big change in the coming years; interesting to see how the progress of AI.


I started dabbling in Text to Image programs in Late Sept/2022
(currently Midjourney and Leonardo AI)

My experiences are very reminiscent of learning 3D in the early 90s. Its very easy to get into, burn late nights. Very easy to get into, but there’s a lot to learn just under the surface. Its all in a nascent state with a lot of possibilities that will eventually become complex. Definitely disruptive technologies, but tools just the same.

There’s much to discover. Odd thing. I find myself posting tutorials on Discord groups. Hard to break some habits.


AI is such a touchy topic. Can it be a tool? Sure. It can also be a crutch. That’s not really what I’m going to rant about though.

I will, however, say that AI has to be trained. ATM, it’s being trained using art made by skilled human artists who’ve spent days, weeks, or even months creating these labors of love. 99% of the time, it’s sampling/studying these pieces without permission. In effect, that makes anything you derive (in any way) from AI systems fruit from a poisoned tree. Those people using AI in this manner are then likely infringing on multiple IPs without even realizing or intending it.

IMO, without that illegally sampled art, the AI is worthless. Without any real traditional/digital skills outside of knowing how to manipulate the AI, I would also not call its users artists and CERTAINLY not lump them in with those of us who’ve gone through our 10k+ hours. I can readily apply my hard earned skills to other apps or physical IRL mediums. A person without such skills or mostly dependent on AI… cannot.

Don’t get me wrong. Knowing how to make AI dance to your tune is a skill in and of itself. It takes practice and ingenuity. Even a bit of Photoshop sometimes. HOWEVER, it kind of pisses me off when somebody with not even 30 days of experience cranks out a half dozen gorgeous pieces of “art” in as many days. “Art” that is derived from the hard work, sweat, and frustration of those with decades of experience.

I see AI as being a perfectly valid pre-production tool. Definitely. I’ll just be damned if I’m going to call a person who uses it as the core element of their final product workflow an artist. It’s insulting and AI content creators, as well as those hosting/developing the AI need to have their feet held to the fire for copyright infringement.


I came for a look here again after coming a cross a demo of Wonder Studio, which seems to be some sort of AI-based, browser-based, subscription based (ugh) software for automatically compositing characters. And thought “I wonder what CGtalk thinks of this!?”

So logged in to have a look, and found this thread.

Where did all the industry experts go? Reddit and facebook groups are full of amateurs, which is well and good but not a great source of industry insider knowledge like this place used to be.

Do the pros hang out on Discord or something now? That discourse has to be somewhere surely.