Wall Worm Sends Greetings in 2016
It isn't the norm for me to post new Wall Worm blogs/newsletters in such proximity, but this year I'm going to try to be a little bit more active in this department. My goal is to post a new newsletter every month or two in 2016.
Wall Worm Level Design Contest
If you happened to read the August newsletter, you'll know that I had attempted to initiate a Wall Worm Level Design Contest in 2015 that failed. I'd had high hopes for it, but in the end it failed to get any finished submissions. The fault lies on my shoulders.
So I took several months listening to WW users and thinking about how the next contest should be. Based on everyone's feedback, the new contest is completely different than the last. This time, you aren't even allowed to include model assets or displacements. This should help users focus on the fundamentals of learning to build the basic layout of your level inside Max without the burden of learning more complex aspects such as exporting Models, etc. While I'd like to see users explore more options, you could participate in this contest by simply using Box primitives as brushes and placing a few entities likes spawns and lights.
This contest ends at the end of February. Prizes include the various commercial Wall Worm plugins. First place winner will get a full commercial license of GrowFX from Exlevel! That prize will be valuable as each contest will progress to a little more complex rules (culminating in contests that include levels featuring lush vegetation). GrowFX will be offering that prize for each of the following contests too! The current goal is to do a contest every two months where the skills learned in each contest carry over to the next contest (which will add small levels of complexity).
New Educational Videos
I am always trying to share new videos to help teach the users to use the various tools in Max and Wall Worm. Here are a few of the newest videos that answer some of the most common questions I get about making materials and textures:
On the Grid in 3ds Max. This video has some documentation as well as another video (in link to left) that you should read and watch in the event that you have a hard time understanding how the Grid and Snaps work in Max.
I started working as a contractor for Black Mesa in 2015. That's been a great experience as I've gotten to know several talented and devoted developers. As an added bonus to you, Black Mesa has allowed me to include inside Wall Worm itself some of the tools they are paying me to build for them. Currently, there is now a new displacement shader inside Wall Worm for Max 2015+. This new shader, which is still under development, lets you preview blendmodulation and other material traits inside the Max viewport. You can learn more about this in a new document called Displacement Alpha Blending.
3ds Max 2016 Review
Normally I'm pretty quick to adopt each new version of Max that comes out. This year was the longest it took me to migrate because there were some serious bugs that affected many users, including me. The main flaw was that until Service Pack 2 came out, Max had such a bad memory leak that you'd lose all of your RAM in a few minutes if you navigated the viewport at all.
That bug is now gone and I've finally moved to Max 2016 full-time. As of today, it's the best version of Max yet. Viewport performance is improved again, which is something that always makes me happy. Stability is great. And all major plugin developers have added support for Max 2016. So I now give my personal thumbs-up for the WW crowd to move on up. Here on out, most WW development will be in Max 2016 and less in the older versions--although I'm still semi-regularly testing in 2015.
My only real complaint with 3ds Max 2016 is that I hoped/expected for it to update to the latest Substance engine to be compatible with Substance Designer 5. That did not happen, but according to posts on Allegorithmic's forums, Autodesk did purchase rights for the new Substance technology recently--so hopefully it means we'll see that in Max 2017.
I'm not happy about the new license model coming to 3ds Max at the end of this month, but that's irrelevant to the viability of Max 2016 and its state as a tool for artists. I am actually gathering information and quotes on an article about the licensing change, so if you are interested in sharing your opinion for that, please answer these questions in an email to me. I've already received many interesting quotes from prominent names in the film/game industry.