LOL My background has been mainly lightwave, but I was schooled in 3Dstudio and 3DsMax. From my experience, Messiah has a huge speed advantage vs maya and lightwave, but I honestly don’t know for max.
While most of the time bones work, there are times when adding bones seems to be a struggle. What I’m referring to is weightmaps for bones. In maya, and many other apps you have to paint those weights to help set up your character for better bone control. In messiah, it is an option to use weighting and set up your own weight, but the bones usually rock and have a great influence on the rig/setup as a whole.
Now there are those moments where when you do want to add some bones they get a little tricky with movement in its 3d space (but it doesn’t affect the movement of the bones when animating). If you’ve played with LW then you’ll know what I’m referring to for set up and bone placement.
But I’ve been quite happy with messiah. I run the studio version, and the renderer is still being worked on, but that may change since they just stated that ver. 2 will be out soon. <-- WOOT!!
Also it is very kew how messiah plugs into your host app. Bone data isn’t transfered but the deformation occurs on the fly/realtime. I’m still amazed at how interactive the host app and messiah are.
Since messiah communicates with multiple apps, if rendering is your thing, you know have many more possibities. You could model in maya. Then animate in messiah, and render in lightwave. Of max would work (and just think of all those different rendering engines not availble directly for maya and lightwave).
I personally would say keep learning maya. Since alias has made it a package in most studios, you can’t go wrong with the technical, but as we all know the tools are just a minor part, skill can be transfered from one tool to the next. Also, I recall project deadline massivly crazy (or way back in the day for me), so throwing in another app on top of all this could become quite insane.
I do encourage you to go dl the demo [www.projectmessiah.com] because of the fun and ease, and the HUGE smile it puts on your face. The main reason is, you get to try it without buying it. There are a few tutorial, and a growing community of people, including myself who would help you learn/play with it ~ hell many of us continually play with since it’s just a baby (but a very powerful baby).