Some of my collegues at work are Cinema 4D users, one of them is highly motivated to learn new softwares and decided to try out max, as it’s the main software we use for 3D here, for now at least. I told him a good reason for knowing max is the much wider use in industry, in fact Maya or Max are very important tools for every 3D artist to have at least a little knowledge.
However, he couldn’t stand with max for more than 2 days. It was really funny (sad to be honest), and I wanted to share how it was and why. He did a sequence of a lot of questions that I hardly could give answers without having to use words like “but”, “however” and the like.
-The pain really started opening max. Max 2010 takes so long to open that he thought the computer stopped responding. It takes longer than windows to start, and that’s no joke. Even after opening it once, it’s waaay too slow in 2010. Cinema 4D on the other hand is one of the fastest program to open, only losing for Blender.
-As his main task here is modelling, I explained that he should use Editable Poly for that. Then he asked: “Why there’s an Editable Mesh and Poly?”, so I said:“Back in the day…bla bla bla…Editable Poly is a newer and more advanced way of manipulating geometry in max…”, we all know the story.
-Right after that he asked: “How to subdivide the mesh like HyperNURBS in C4D?”, then I told him: “Well, you have Turbosmooth and Meshsmooth”, then he said: “Why two?”, me: “Well, back in the day…bla bla bla…their ‘optimizations’ on subdivisions is a new modifier that results on a mesh and not on a poly like meshsmooth. Turbosmooth is what you will use the most, BUT it’s buggy and can cause some problems sometimes, then you should use Meshsmooth that is more stable BUT slower.”
-After that he created a cube, converted to poly and applied a Turbosmooth on it. Then he asked: “Is there a way to see isolines in Max?”, me: “Yes, in Turbosmooth turn ‘isolines’ mode on, BUT we can’t model with them, only to see’”, he: “But what’s the use of isolines then???”, me: “Good question…”. He did turned on, the option didn’t work (that never happened to me), so I said to apply a Meshsmooth instead of Turbosmooth, then it worked. He closed max, opened it again, and 1 minute later we continued…
-So we went deeper into poly modelling. I thought he would like since now with polyboost there are lot’s of cool stuff. The very first tool he asked about was Tweak, like in XSI or Maya. Then I told him: “Max doesn’t have a tweak tool like Cinema, but we can ‘fake’ one: Change the selection mode in Editable Poly to Multi, use Alt+RMB and set the coordinate space to screen and press X to turn the move gizmo off.” Even with all those steps, he tried to not create obstacles and found ok. Then I continued: “BUT the preselection highlight doesn’t work with show end result on, so you can’t see symmetry or turbosmooth when using it, but the tool still works, so you will not be sure of what it’s going to move (a vertex, edge or face)”. Then a friend and veteran max user too that was freelancing here said: “Hey, use Edit Poly, it works there.”. The Cinema guy said: “Funny, but if it works that’s fine.”, but I said: “Yeah, BUT Edit Poly is a lot slower then Editable Poly so it may become slow for more complex stuff and by default the shortcuts are completely different from Editable Poly, then it’s best to first match the shortcuts for both Edit and Editable Poly”.
-Trying to find something cool to show him, since up to now his max first impression was pretty bad, I decided to show him the Swift Loop and Loop Tools from Graphite, that I find really great. What a mistake. When he moved the mouse to open the graphite tools for the first time, it took almost the same that Cinema 4D itself to start. It was configured with the 3 main tabs appearing only. He quickly asked: “Does it always take this long to start???”, me: “No, just the first time you open it.”. He then started looking at the tools in there. Finally I showed him Swift Loop: “This is one of the most useful tools IMHO, you cand select, add, remove and slide loops only with this tool. BUT now in max 2010 the slide always slide the entire loop, and not only the selected edges like the old Polyboost.”. He liked quite a lot too anyway, especially because Cinema doesn’t have a slide loop like max (but there is a free plugin for that matter). While still trying to find the best method for viewing the tools, he wanted to try out Swift Loop again, but couldn’t find it. Not even me was able to find it at first, then when I did he quickly said: “Strange, I could swear I’ve seen the name of the tool before.”, then I told him: “Yeah, it changes layout so depending on the context or amount of tools the names may or may not be displayed.”, he said: “So we have to memorize the tools and icon positions depending on layout or context??? WTF!”. He lost almost completely the interest to even look at Loop Tools by then, but I showed him anyway. He found really strong and cool, but was completely scared about learning max. I told him that the best way to work with max is a heavy customization, especially on shortcuts. Creating custom quads too BUT as they cannot be saved individually, it’s complicated to load them in newer max versions, as they usually add or change stuff on them very often.
-Anyway he downloaded the demo at home to try it out with time. But the next day he came to me and said: “Man, I gave up on max, it has some nice tools but the workflow is too wonky and it crashed 3x only this night.”.
I think it’s valid to share this experience, as it shows quite well a lot of what bad features implementation can cause to new users and how they mess up our workflow everyday. This is and always was my biggest gripe with Autodesk and Max developent. The lack of planning on feature implementation and productivity overall makes me sick, not to mention when they change stuff that works fine, making things worse. And that have been happening progressively since max 8.
Graphite is the gratest and most severe example. I mean, in 10 seconds I’ve seen things that are so wrong in anything about interface design that I was shocked. And they plan to make the whole max interface like that! How long max will take to start then? 10 minutes??? They clearly haven’t even take a look on how other softwares approached their interfaces. If you ever have used Cinema 4D you know what I’m talking about. It has an incredibly flexible and smart interface and is very very fast. Max interface is the most “rigid” and the least flexible of all 3D app out there, desperately needing a huge update, and all the biggest company in the world of 3D apps was able to bring us is a ribbon like interface, Graphite??? C’mon…
I will finish speculating about what I THINK XBR is all about. My guess is that it’s a strong modification on .max file format, allowing to open in previews max versions and other things like command line access. I think it relates to plugin development too, like plugins don’t having to be recompiled all the time. And for the last it’s about the “ribbonization” of the interface. I expect those 3 things to be deeply related to XBR at least…