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Maya LT is Autodesk's new indie- and mobile-focused modeling tool
Maya LT is Autodesk's new indie- and mobile-focused modeling tool
August 28, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

Today at Unity's Unite conference, Autodesk announced Maya LT, a new, slimmer version of its popular Maya modeling software designed to be affordable for smaller developers.

Maya LT, which comes out today, is available on Mac and Windows (though not Linux, unlike the mainline Maya) at $795 for a perpetual license or soon in a monthly, quarterly, or annual rental plan, at $50, $125, and $400 respectively (That's the U.S. pricing, with plans similar pricing elsewhere.)

Autodesk's Maurice Patel tells Gamasutra that because "projects are short lived, and projects can ramp down," there's a lot of interest in short-term pricing options.

As for the tool, the company recognizes that more developers could fit 3D into their workflows if they had a more accessible version of Maya. "Accessibility, learning curve -- there's a lot of reasons people aren't using 3D," says Patel. However, when Autodesk investigated the issue, it found that developers, even small developers "who made the switch were satisfied with the efficiency."

This led the company to "dust off Maya and look at whether we could create a specific version for casual mobile gaming," he says. "Our first release is very, very focused on creating assets for casual mobile games."

Maya LT. Click for larger image.

LT has the lion's share of the functionality of Maya, though some functionality has been stripped out -- notably for rendering, though some advanced animation tools are gone too. Maya LT can create and modify assets of any size and export FBX files containing up to 25,000 polygons per object. "The primary focus of this is to create assets and environments for games," Patel says. "Where the tool makes sense in the Maya workflow, we've kept it."

"When we did a lot of our testing, and started with full Maya, and looked at what these people are using... it was a very specific subset of features in the product," says Autodesk's Greg Castle. "So we focused on those, to be able to offer the product at a price that was really fair, and in line with their budgets."

In fact, Unity was a major source of inspiration for Autodesk with Maya LT. "Unity has done a phenomenal job," Castle says. "We really are enamored by a lot the amazing things they've done to support indie game development. We looked at them, we looked at what their price point is like and how they sell their product, and we spoke to developers and did a lot of focus groups and research to talk their developers and find out what their needs are."

"We're very keen on what's going on with indie developers and we want to do whatever we can to support them," says Castle. "Our tools weren't well positioned in the space. Indie developers have their own set of needs -- they need flexibility, they need affordable price points, they need specialized tools."

"The goal in the long run isn't to reduce Maya," Patel says. "The goal is to start building workflows. The Unity and Unreal workflows were already there -- we want to continue to expand on the capabilities for casual and mobile."

Developers who license the product will also gain access to a new developer community on Autodesk's site catered to users of Maya LT. "We don't have all of the answers; Unity doesn't have all the answers. So it's important to get that community going. We are very much interested in fostering the community of indie 3D artists," says Castle, who describes the community as "a huge part of our plan."

You can download a free trial of Maya LT now at Autodesk's site or visit its new community site to find out more.

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Wyatt Epp
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I don't know enough to comment on the feature set, and not having an equivalent version for my OS is kind of uncool.

But I DO appreciate that they're offering a perpetual license and not simply doubling down on subscriptions like Adobe.

Daniel Dobson
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Beneficial to indie devs, and smaller studios, yes.

Dusty Hunsaker
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Cool, but why wouldn't I just use Blender? "Because it's not industry standard" isn't an acceptable answer. Unity wasn't an industry standard at first, now look at it. I also feel like Blender cascades information in a more clear and less overwhelming way than the full version of Maya. There's also already a huge community around Blender that doesn't exist for Maya LT, but I guess I'm just not the "early adopter" type...

Stacey Kaminski
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How about "because there are a number of pipelines built around Maya already"? For some it may cost less to pay for Maya than refit the rest of their tools to work with Blender. Also, I don't expect there to be a large community around it, as there's already the greater Maya community.

Dusty Hunsaker
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That sounds awfully similar to "Because it's not industry standard." No doubt there are plenty of tools already built for Maya. The bad news is, they probably won't work with Maya LT. It doesn't support MEL or Python scripting, and there is no SDK to work with. With Blender, you can save your .blend files directly into your Unity project, and Unity will turn them into FBX's for you. That's pretty nice when you make a change to your .blend file, and the change is reflected instantly. If Maya LT really wanted to grab my attention, they'd have to offer a license similar to Unity or UDK, where it's free until you make a certain amount of money.

Joseph Mauke
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Maya is a more familiar tool for people, I'm surprised that this hasn't happened sooner considering the state of the industry right now.

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I read somewhere else that Maya LT has: "No MEL support, and currently no plugin support or SDK."
This seems like a huge con to me being that a lot of 3d engines use Maya plug-ins.

Rudy Gjurkovic
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Hello. This person summed up the answer to your question the best

Brandon Fogerty
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Maya LT now officially offers limited MEL script functionality. While not officially supported, Maya LT is also capable of python scripting since maya's own scripts use python.

Leszek Szczepanski
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I'm curious if it is really such good deal. Specially compared to Blender.

Michael Derry
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It seems to me that this is an attempt, in part, to capture customers before they latch on to Blender. Small indie teams come out of school after learning Maya (or Max) and want to stick to what they're familiar with, without breaking their budget. When they look at the price of the full version, sticker shock sends them looking for other options. If a cheaper version is listed right there on the site, it gives Autodesk a fighting chance to keep a customer.

Most developers know Blender and other software alternatives are out there but far fewer have researched them in detail or have given them a try.

The mere thought of attempting to learn a new program from scratch (even if it turns out to be easier than expected) can be daunting to many people and/or businesses. The article lists other benefits but this is just one more option for people who don't want to step out of their comfort zone.

Leszek Szczepanski
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That's partly what I am wondering about: Does this offer anything more than familiarity, compared to other solutions (similarly or better priced).

Although I know that familiarity is a big deal for many artists.

Jennis Kartens
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What Michael Derry wrote initially crossed my mind too. I think that is the main gap where Autodesk wants to get a grip onto people who have some education with their products but can't afford a full license...

So far, most people still learning Blender in their own time and often enough already coming from an Autodesk background. So it might be more convenient now to rather get another tool you can use with the knowledge you already have, instead of investing time into learning another one.

I too spent comparable much on Autodesk student software once, because it is kind of counterproductive in a learning phase to switch between tools in a complex environment such as 3D.

Gil Salvado
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"Although I know that familiarity is a big deal for many artists."

That's why I find this news interesting, but still wouldn't consider to buy it, because I'm so used to MAX. I'd rather use Blender than Maya - not because the latter is a bad program, but because I don't like the feel of it.

A full license of Maya or MAX may be expensive, but there is the option for a subscription fee as well. In my opinion it's about 100 bucks per month, which is actually quiet cheap if you consider the included support and updates.

Logan Foster
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MayaLT is an interesting entry onto the market. The fact that it can complement a regular Maya seat is pretty beneficial and could allow some smaller studios to be cost efficient in using LT for modeling and regular for animation. There are also a few interesting new features in it that are not to my knowledge in Maya yet (such as ShaderFX). In the end time will tell if supporting indies was worthwhile or if it will just amount to a lot of noise from a lot of hobbyists begging for free things.

nicholas ralabate
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I would think that having to model, texture, rig, skin and animate everything versus just drawing a spritesheet is the the main reason tiny teams avoid 3D... not "accessibility, learning curve".

Gil Salvado
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That is true, if you just stick to a pure 2D pipeline for a spritesheet, but if you want HD renders for whatever reason, realtime 3D can be easier and faster to pull off.