Further research on the tools and software I plan to use to build my prototype. I have considered a lot of software specializing in 3D modeling, animation and texturing, and I compared between them to figure out which will be most useful to my project. In the following lines, I list my findings.
Firstly: Animation and modeling software
In this area, I compare between Autodesk Maya, Blender, and 3DS Max. Focusing more on Maya, and Blender, because of my familiarity with both of them.
According to https://www.autodesk.com/ Maya is a 3D animation, modeling, simulation and rendering software for film, games and TV. It helps organizations and animators develop 3D models, animated videos, movies and visual effects. It is used by some of the leading movie production companies to create animated videos, and VFX.
According to https://www.blender.org/ Blender is a free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation pipeline.
According to https://www.autodesk.com/ 3DS Max is a 3D animation, modeling and rendering software for games and design visualization.
Comparing the three:
This video from InspirationTuts discuss the early stages of 3D software and looks more into the future of 3D software currently available on the market. It doesn’t go through a lot of comparison, but it definitely lists blender as one of the competing software that is definitely on its way to becoming an industry standard, even though it’s free.
Even though blender is free, and most likely it will remain free based on what Ton Roosendaal, the creator of blender said in an interview with Andrew price on his YouTube channel “Blender Guru.” He said: I was never interested in money. Money doesn’t mean anything. It’s not interesting. (Source: https://youtu.be/qJEWOTZnFeg?t=1435) How ever it is really compelling to use blender especially after the blender 2.8 update (Source: https://youtu.be/MyxWDHy4ppY), even long time Maya users are starting to look into the new powerful tools that blender provides.
Based on this, I believe the most reasonable choice to go with would be either Maya or blender.
I will continue comparing the two.
I found a comparison on techjockey.com that seemed very interesting. The author Anurag Vats Compared the key aspects of both software in the following table before diving into further details, and forming a conclusion
He then compared both software based on the following points:
⦁ User Environment
⦁ Usability and Application
⦁ Rendering Engine
⦁ Animation Rendering
⦁ Keyboard Shortcuts
Maya was better in terms of: User Environment, Usability and Application, Tools
While Blender was better in terms of: Pricing, Animation Rendering and Keyboard Shortcuts
So in other words, It’s a tie!
His conclusion was:
⦁ Simple tools for visual effects and modelling.
⦁ Simple and intuitive UI.
⦁ Completely free.
While Maya offers:
⦁ A plethora of visual and 3D effects and modelling tools.
⦁ State-of-the-art rendering engine.
⦁ Customized scripting options.
⦁ User guides, courses, and books readily available.
There is also another comparison I found on https://www.educba.com/maya-vs-blender/
What I found after this research is that for the purpose of building a prototype for my project, both Blender and Maya will do the job, but Blender’s learning curve might be more challenging than Maya’s, also I personally have a stronger background in Maya than I do in blender which makes using Maya a lot easier for me, also the fact that blender is free doesn’t help here, as Autodesk does provide free student licenses for its products.
Secondly: Sculpting and texturing software
According to https://www.autodesk.com/ Mudbox is a digital painting and sculpting software.
According to https://pixologic.com/ ZBrush is an all-in-one digital sculpting solution Designed for the pursuit of art.
Comparing the two
Here we will look at 7 main points:
Interface, Learining process, Mesh, Brushes, Texture painting, Retopolgy and Baking maps
Mudbox’s interface as a lot simpler than that of ZBrush. It also looks a lot more familiar for someone who uses Maya or 3DS Max
Due to its simple interface, Mudbox is a lot easier to use than ZBrush.
Here ZBrush offers a better tool that cannot be found in any other 3D sculpting software which is Zspheres, which gives the user the ability to quickly construct a model inside the sculpting software with out having to import it from a modeling software.
Mudbox however, will let the user use one of the premade base models inside the software or have a model imported from a modeling software
ZBrush has a wider variety of brushes
ZBrush lets you paint directly on the model with out having to worry about unwrapping your model first.
Mudbox, however, offers a layers approach both in sculpting and painting which makes it easier for users who are familier with 2D software like photoshop to use it.
Since I need to animate the models I make, I’ll have to make sure that the models have good topology and both software have similar retopology tools, so it’s a tie on this point.
It is a bit cumbersome to bake maps in ZBrush as opposed to Mudbox, as Mudbox is a lot more flexible when it comes to using maps.
Based on the above comparison, ZBrush is better in terms of Mesh building and Brushes, while Mudbox is better in Interface, Learning process, Texture painting and baking maps, so I will be using Mudbox for sculpting and texturing, but I do plan on trying out Substance painter for texturing as well, in order to make my textures seem as photorealistic as possible to aid in immersion.
Adobe Substance Painter
According to https://www.substance3d.com/ is a texturing software that offers smart materials, smart masks and integrated bakers, and a state of the art real-time viewport.
It may be considered the industry standard when it comes to texturing in PBR (Physically Based rendering) according to cgcookie.com (Source: https://cgcookie.com/course/the-blender-substance-texturing-workflow)
It will be a smart option to use Substance Painter besides Mudbox in this MA.
Thirdly: Game engines
According to Wikipedia, Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies, first announced and released in June 2005 at Apple Inc.’s Worldwide Developers Conference as a Mac OS X-exclusive game engine. As of 2018, the engine had been extended to support more than 25 platforms.
Unity Technologies state that Unity is the world’s leading platform for creating and operating interactive, real-time 3D content, providing the tools to make amazing games and publish them to a wide range of devices. The Unity core platform enables entire creative teams to be more productive together.
According to Wikipedia, The Unreal Engine is a game engine developed by Epic Games, first showcased in the 1998 first-person shooter game Unreal.
Epic games state that Unreal Engine is the world’s most open and advanced real-time 3D creation tool. Continuously evolving to serve not only its original purpose as a state-of-the-art game engine, today it gives creators across industries the freedom and control to deliver cutting-edge content, interactive experiences, and immersive virtual worlds.
Comparing the two:
Here we will consider 4 aspects: Interface, Visuals, Platform and Team size
Unity’s interface is simple and straightforward, while Unreal Engine’s interface can be a little bit cumbersome.
Unreal offers high-fidelity visuals straight out of the box, whereas Unity – while still able to produce high- quality visuals – takes a lot more work to get your assets looking close to the same level as Unreal. And even then, it won’t produce quite the same quality.
If we’re creating a project to run on lower-powered devices, such as mobile phones, then the high processing power demanded by Unreal isn’t necessary. This is where Unity really comes into its own. Originally designed to run on devices like consoles and phones, Unity enables us to create complex projects for low-end devices without requiring such a powerful PC setup as Unreal. If, on the other hand, we’re creating an experience for high-end devices, then either Unity or Unreal will do the job.
Unreal, though not necessarily, requires a large and specialist team that’s dedicated to different parts of the process. Unity, on the other hand, is much easier for developers to get to grips with straight away – making it a good choice for one-man bands and smaller teams to create an effective experience.
Comparing the visuals
Lastly, It’s worth saying that because of the visuals artists tend to support Unreal Engine over Unity, while developers well opt to use unity for its simple programming language which is C#.
Based on the above comparison, it would make more sense to use Unity in order to build the project’s prototype because of the engine’s simpilcity; however, because of the powerful visuals that Unreal Engine provides, it would be foolish not to expirement with it, and that is what I plan to do. I will attempt to build the prototype on Unreal Engine in order to provide the best visual output to aid the immersive experience, but if the process becomes too cumbersome the I will fall back to using Unity. After all, I do have a good background in Unity.