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.