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2.47 (Sep 28, 2008)
Well to be honest, I'm quite a n00b when it comes to Blender, but here's something that both sides of the debate might want to consider. I know it's a long, long story, but I hope the critics here understand what I'm trying to say through it.
I remember the first time I decided to use 3D Studio Max. It was after a surgery and I was on crutches and didn't know what to do with all my time. I had no clue about CG, no idea about what Photoshop even was and just suddenly decided to learn Max.
When I installed the trial version and first opened the Max screen, I saw the 4 views and a panel on the right with stuff like "box, sphere, cone, etc." written on it. I clicked a random button and expected something magical to happen. Why wasn't anything happening? I clicked something, didn't I? This program must suck!
Then I started looking up tutorials. I learnt basic modeling and texturing but couldn't figure out what all those crazy tutorials meant when they said I should "render" the image. What in heaven's name is rendering? Why do these guys have to use such complicated terms? This program sucks!!!
Then I finally learnt how to render a single frame. I saw my first rendered frame on the screen (it looked pretty fancy for a n00b) and I was on top of the world. And why not? I rendered a 3D image! Omg I'm a pro!
Then I created an animation. Believe it or not, it took me several days to figure out how to render an animation. All those websites kept ending the tutorial by saying, "Step 10: Render the animation." None of them explained how. At this point I decided that I had put up with enough. I was all ready to give up, but I had told far too many people about how I was an animation "pro," so my ego wouldn't let me give up. I tried and tried and finally a really helpful guy on a blog (God bless his soul!) explained it to me in extreme detail.
From there onwards, I finally got the hang of the software, and while there was always more to learn (and there always will be), I realized for the first time that it's just those first 2 or 3 months that hurt, after which your comfort levels seem to rise.
The software is an unintelligent piece of code written by a bunch of intelligent human beings. The software won't adapt to you. YOU have to adapt to IT.
Today, after over 3 years and 8 months of using 3 Studio Max, both as an obsessive hobby and professionally in a large architecture company, I've realized what an idiot I would have been to give up back then just coz I couldn't figure out how to render an image sequence or a movie file. As yes, I've also realized that after working with Max for years, I'm STILL a n00b!
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the initial resistance to Blender's GUI (or rather the lack of it as some tend to put it) is exactly that - it's INITIAL. The resistance will wear down with time and it's the actual software that you'll see beneath the GUI. I know how frustrating a new GUI can be - I tried switching to Maya thrice and hated it each time. But a few weeks of effort coupled with some serious anger management could reap rewards for years to come.
I'm not recommending Blender in any way. All I'm saying is that just as a book shouldn't be judged by its cover, Blender shouldn't be judged solely on the basis of its GUI.
On a slightly more negative note, I've looked through a large number of images and animations rendered using Blender, and while some are reasonably pleasant, I found that none can even remotely compare with the outstanding realism portrayed by Max, especially while dealing with characters or large scenes. Is this because of Blender's limitations or is it because of the lack of talent, given that Blender is still relatively new? I don't mean to be rude, but I honestly haven't seen a single image made using Blender that looks so realistic that it would make me wonder whether it's a real photograph. I've seen and made hundreds with Max.
I understand that Blender is free, but if, for a moment, we DON'T consider the cost aspect, is there anyone here who has used BOTH suites extensively that can say that they feel Blender is more capable than Max with respect to ultra-realism?
Sorry for the insanely long post, people. :)