Real-time engine quick reviews 6. – TwinMotion2

I’m evil and mercyless.

TwinMotion is the first dedicated app for GPU archviz, also the most pricey one (2420 EUR + 749 EUR yearly subscription).
Besides of some comments I made in the former post, it has a nice GUI (I’m talking about the ‘look’) and it is capable to deliver superb images.
I don’t really know if the GUI is usable or not (besides its look), because I didn’t enjoyed the ‘usage’ of this app at all.
Why?
Because it is slow.
I mean it is slow like hell.
I tried it in the past, I tried it now on a notebook (Geforce 525M) and a desktop PC and it was slow all the time.
Navigating in the viewport – almost impossible.
I checked the models: it should be fast, even Unity could handle scenes like the ones in the sample files properly, with affordable speed.
Sometimes I travel a lot and those times I have to be able to make adjustments on a model on my notebook (or work on the field with a notebook). It is impossible with TwinMotion – as far as I can see).

Some other thoughts: the sample files are terrible, they don’t tell anything about the capability of the app.
I would never buy it, take a look on this bush from the sample file below.
In real-time archviz the quality of the vegetation is a factor. I can’t state I completely agree with this ‘importance’, but when it comes to vegetation, Lumion3D, LumenRT and CryEngine3 are giving far better quality plants than this bush below.

TwinMotion sample bush - Are you serious?

And now take a look on this, made by Arscom Studio (I know I’m not fair to compare a close-up with this, but I think you see what I mean):

Isn’t it beautiful?
The TwinMotion guys should learn how to sell a product.

So I have to say that I will not buy TwinMotion ever until they change:

– viewport responsibility
– pricing structure (unfair subscription fee what doesn’t give automatic update for the next release if I’m right)
– too high price (take a look on LumenRT)

You can download the trial from here: http://www.twinmotion.com/trial.html

Video:

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Real-time engine quick reviews 5. – Esenthel

Well, it was the fastest review ever.
Great price (199 USD), all the visual features promised I was looking for, terrible website and logo design (I can forgive the logo, but not for the website, because of navigation issues), custom GUI, iOS and Android support.
I wanted to try some samples, but it lacked Visual Studio for compiling. Well, if I buy a car, I assume that it has all the parts for using it.
I don’t have VS installed, because I’m not a programmer.
I can accept if the engine installer automatically installs 3rd party stuff like DirectX, DDS viewer, etc., but I will not hunt for additionally needed stuff , make additional registrations to download them, etc. At least not for now.

So Esenthel failed before real testing.
Sad, because it looked promising.
If you check the video below, it seems to offer better postFX than – for example – Torque (eg. DOF quality). The quality of the soft shadows although seems to be low and I was bothered by the flickering parts of the scene.

When I will have the patience (and time), I will take a look on it again.

You can download the trial from www.esenthel.com

Real-time engine quick reviews 4. – LeadWerks

Another engine for indies with great pricing (199 USD) and Android/iOS support.
I cannot say too much about it.
It was able to import a huge scene without problem (most of the other engines were not able to do that in one step), but then I was not able to recalculate normals (everything looked ‘smoothed’).
I mean it has the function to recalculate normals, but it was not able to save the result.
Giving material to an object was painful; while – as an example – Unity automatically generates materials with a standard diffuse shader (later you can change it) to all Material IDs on a mesh, all of my models seemed to be using only one material. I tried it from Blender, too, but no luck.

UPDATE (May, 2014): Josh Klint, CEO of LeadWerks notified me about asset pipeline upgrades, so the ‘material issue’ is not an issue anymore.  You can check the video at the end of the post.
And some additional info: LeadWerks is available on Steam.

I found a possible bug (or something what seemed to be a bug); after some tweaking I was not able to drag ‘n’ drop any assets to the editor; it recognized left click as a right I think.

Another thing: developing is not fast if the user have to wait a lot for compiling (it is true for other engines, too). Working in the ‘real game’ like in CryEngine SDK could be a real timesaver.
I didn’t really spent too much time with it: for me the slow pipeline workflow meant ‘no’ for archviz purposes.
On the other hand the developer seems to be a really dedicated man (and maniacs like me appreciate it), so I will take a look on it when the next version comes out.

By the way: developers should understand that as a user I spend time with learning anything new only in the case when I feel that I can achieve something superb with the invested time.
So put into the gallery the best screenshots, the best videos (and another tip, because I saw it on other sites: use antialised screenshots!)

Here you can download a trial: http://www.leadwerks.com/

UPDATED pipeline workflow is here.

Real-time engine quick reviews 3. – Torque3D

Torque became open-source and free, so I didn’t have extremely high expectations. The work-flow is acceptable for importing meshes.
Sometimes it messes with the imported faces (flipped normals, etc).
The material assignment as a process is OK (but check Lumion for a speedy solution).
I didn’t used it for any special task, so I didn’t do any programming.
It has a massive user base, it has samples/tutorials.
I missed porting opportunities for mobile devices and a similar quality webplayer what Unity has.
These are not so important features, but an ‘ideal’ app should have these options, at least with IOS support.

I missed a cutscene editor (it could be bought around 100 USD, too pricey for a simple tool), but what I definitely missed is the good quality post-processing and the fast operation of its panel. All the post-processing effects could be handled from PostFX options (sometimes it is great), it uses sliders (great for rapid work), but the quality of the effects and the speed when I was setting up the properties of these effects was something terrible. DOF, SSAO is definitely a shame in quality.

Another thing: the tree textures are massively flickering when the camera moves and it is ugly. I was not able to find the reason (I set AA, played with filtering, switched off SSAO, but no luck).
On the other hand Torque gives us some very useful features like built-in animated sky system (clouds, day/night cycle).
If I were in university again, I would give it a longer trial period.

You can get Torque3D here: http://www.garagegames.com/

Real-time engine quick reviews 1. – Forewords

While I was working with Unity3D as a GPU renderer (and became quite frustrated), I checked some new/old engines with similar (possible) capabilities. For this kind of job there are dedicated apps like Lumion3D, LumenRT and TwinMotion, but archviz guys used to use UDK and CryEngine, too.

I checked  these apps:

Dedicated apps:

– TwinMotion
– Lumion3D
– Fibix Editor

‘Game engines’:

– UDK
– CryEngine3
– Torque3D
– S2 Engine
– NeoAxis
– LeadWerks
– C4 Engine
– Esenthel
– Shiva3D
– BGE (Blender Game Engine)

My tests were not “dig as deep as you can’ types, just quick overviews and mostly based my regular and expected workflows based an almost 20 years in the CG world. When I stucked, I tried to follow  tutorials (it also gave the opportunity to check how well is an app supported with tutorials).
I have to say that most of the apps pathetically failed in areas like quality, GUI design, stability and efficiency.
I also checked the available videos (showcase quality), templates (quality, etc.).

Most of the programmers should never work in the industry, but I know that it is true for the 2/3 of the human kind in their own profession: they just should sit at home watching tv, get food for free and denied to procreate.

Or they should admit that they need someone who has good suggestions on development.

Typical mistakes:

1. Marketing features with ‘We-also-offer-this-functionality’ implementations

Examples:

– SSAO quality in Unity3D and Torque3D.  DOF in Torque3D.
Shame.
Torque3D has gone ‘free’ and OSS, so I can forgive for it, but Unity…

–  Giving ‘AAA’ title for an engine what is not even close to that. AAA mostly used for visual quality in this field (UDK, CryEngine3 if I want to mention the most known and outstanding visual quality engines).
Unity3D never offered  ‘AAA’ quality out of the box and as far as I can see – with its new development method what puts the real job on asset store contributors without quality assurance – never will.

2. Pricing

I don’t like capitalism , so I believe that the price of a product should reflect the ‘knowledge’ of the ‘ideal’ product, not the comparison with the existing concurrent products.

Unity3D, Lumion3D, TwinMotion are far overpriced, compared to 3D creation tools like Modo or Lightwave, even compared to 3Ds Max (which is quite overpriced, too).
This factor is even more noticeable when you see some ‘one-man-behind’ projects in CGI software development like S2 Engine or the Corona renderer.

3. Sample contents/Tutorials

Most of the 3D engines on the list above offers terrible ‘showcase’ demos. Since ‘Far Cry’ was announced, everyone makes a f…ing tropical island what offers almost worse visual quality in 2013 then the original CryEngine offered in 2004 (almost 10 years ago)*.

Developers should take a look on CryEngine or UDK sample files and see the difference when it comes to immersive tropical nature.

(*Human sensation is based on ‘comparison’, not an measuring absolute values. For example technically the Torque3D engine today gives better result than Far Cry offered in 2004, but in 2004 this FPS had an outstanding visual quality among the games. In 2013 CryEngine is still  on the top and makes it meaningless to build similar sample worlds with less detail and quality in another engines. Marketing guys should keep this in mind.)

Torque3D:

CryEngine3:

The quality of the content sells the product; in case of the FPS games and archviz the visual quality must be on the top. Besides of the formerly mentioned UDK and CryEngine3, only Lumion3D, LumenRT and TwinMotion offers superb visual quality ‘out of the box’.

I see potential in S2 Engine (it is under ‘beta’ development and free).

4. GUI/Workflow

Dear Developers!
Please do not design GUI if you don’t know, how to do it well.
Ask someone to make it who has the skills!
Do not invent unique pipelines, if you don’t know, how to do it well!
Different doesn’t mean better.

Honestly, in the most of the cases it means ‘worse’.

It is a generic problem, it is true for almost all of the products on the list.
A good GUI follows the traditions of the widespread ones and/or offers far better workflow. Not just better, FAR better. ‘Cause then the user will feel it immediately.
Just an example: I expect the mouse scroll to zoom in/out in orbit mode, rotation and screen navigation on the same buttons in every app, selection on left click.
I don’t want to see the same function on different names.  ‘Grab’, ‘Translate’,  ‘Move’…  God bless you, please make it uniform! Same with the coordinate systems, generic (base) units.

Lumion3D offers a completely different GUI (I don’t like it, but I accept that it is for architects, not CGI guys).
And it is fast.
And the  workflow is extremely fast, too.
And it could handle extremely huge scenes, while in Unity I have to wait for 10 seconds until the pressed button makes the task (mean it recognises that I pressed).

Yep, most of the GUIs are slow. This is true for Blender (BGE), Unity3D, TwinMotion, Torque3D, etc.  Slow, irresponsive, laggy  GUIs.
Makes me frustrated. Makes everyone frustrated.

And stupid, unefficient workflows: I spent hours with NeoAxis to import a simple model. I gave it up at the end. I don’t want to set billions of values to make a model appear in the scene. In Unity, Lumion, Torque it works easily and fast.
From Blender aspect: check out the Grease Scatter tool! Typical case to show how to implement a good feature in an inefficient way. The user have to type in the name of the group for scattering, instead of picking/selecting it.

Give me 2 level of property adjustments. One for rapid prototyping and one for the final adjustments. Give me sliders, buttons for the first and let me to use numeric input for the last one.
Use the right button of the mouse for functions. Don’t force me to scroll for seconds to find the value I would like to set.

5. Stability, support

Don’t come out with unstable products, especially if it costs money. Unity3D, Fibix definitely belongs here. Fix the bugs in the released versions, not in the upgrades!

UPDATE:
I thought that it must be declared again: these ‘quick reviews’  are not similar to the tests I used to do with involving week, sometimes month to explore the possibilities of a package. I could be wrong in some features (because I was not able to find them or set them up correctly quickly). So – if you are one of the developers -, I suggest to make a better, more intuitive GUI, better and regularly updated tutorials for teaching the usage of all the new and cutting edge features.