Softimage. It's time to move on. Slowly. Gradually

Posted in Personal on 10 May 2019

softimage xsi splash screen

I found out about Softimage XSI 8 years ago by accident. While trying to create a simple curved satellite dish mesh in a trial of Maya 2011 I was getting constant crashes, weird mesh behaviors and overall was in shock "how hard it was to 3D". I then turned to the internet in search of answers and... found out, everyone was having problems with Maya. Regardless of what you were doing, it was (and still is) a goddamn mess of a 3D DCC package. Particularly for a hobbyist. And especially after it going subscription-only a couple years ago.

well shit

I then started looking for alternatives. Tried Blender... Remember 2011 Blender? Yeah... Let me just say it didn't "click" and the UI as well as the overall flow of production in Blender seemed like something from a parallel Universe. Not the one I wanted to be a part of.

There was Modo and 3ds Max. Modo was kind of weird with its layer-based material creation workflow and was actually not that intuitive to model in (at least for me as a complete noob back then). Max was kind of cool. I remember doing stuff in 3ds Max in college computer class back in the day always finding its interface a bit archaic. I played with it for a while and almost settled, before accidentally discovering a post somewhere on the web talking about about some "XSI" app. There was a screenshot and the author was praising this "XSI" for intuitive UI, ease of modeling and animation as well as a powerful tool-set and even some cool procedural capabilities.

So I tried this "XSI" which turned out to be Autodesk XSI Softimage 2011 and... was instantly hooked! Yes, it didn't have VRAY integration back then, yes, Mental Ray was a pain to work with, but over time other renderers became available: Arnold, Redshift, nowadays there's even "Sycles" - Blender Cycles integraton for Softimage, believe it or not. As well as lots of plug-ins, ICE compounds, built-in dynamics and so on...

I was set.

happy House MD

I purchased Softimage and spent the next 4 years enjoying the app while creating fun projects, animations, even some commercial work, learning rigging and ICE...

It felt so right.

But then... The Universe decided to clip my wings.

When Autodesk announced their plans to EOL Softimage everyone was pissed. Alas, software development is business and maintaining several apps with overlapping functionality (those being Maya, Max and Softimage), I can see the financial benefit of focusing on the most popular of the bunch. Out of which Softimage was the the one lagging behind, mostly gaining popularity only in Japan and in several places in Europe (France mostly, I believe).

So we were all forced to go though this: stages of grief I'm stubborn. Also an amateur, so I have more freedom in choosing my DCC package, so I stuck with Softimage until today. Kept working on personal and commercial projects, began working of a short film and so on. But... There's a thing... Remember this "maintenance" thing I mentioned earler? Well turns out you need this to fix bugs in Software you don't have the source code of. And I stumbled upon a VAST amount of bugs, crashes and other oddities I had to develop workarounds for over the years.

broken Softimage ICE vertex map

And today I feel I've had enough: trying to polygonize a set of particle instances and writing their colors into the resulting mesh Color at Vertices map, I found out that the maps act weird on procedurally generated objects. So much so, that the CAV map was completely broken after trying writing into it via ICE and even painting after freezing the object – the latter would break the Undo functionality of Softimage until next app restart!

sad house

I sat in silence for about half an hour while painfully realizing this issue was somewhat game-breaking for me (again, there are workarounds, but it would be too much hassle to use these for all objects from now on).

"Well...", – I thought to myself, – "I guess it's over."

And it was. Coupled with the death of Fabric Engine tool-set as well and Exocortex Crate, it was really time to close this chapter and move on. I guess the world doesn't really need Software interop. Oh, well.

I would like to thank everyone at Softimage, Co. and Avid Technology. These are the people who made Softimage|3D and later XSI into a monster of a tool over the years.

And thank you, Softimage. For guiding me though the world of 3D creation, animation and programming.

Here's to you!

good bye softimage

Of course, this doesn't mean I will stop using XSI this instant until I find a suitable replacement. Still, it's hard to beat ICE in anything except Houdni, so I will probably come back to Softimage from time to time to do specific tasks I know it's capable of and which I have tried and true methods for.

2 hours later...

...and of course it turned out that the crashes and issues in this specific case were due to a bug in Redshift renderer since it incorrectly interprets Color attributes on subdivided meshes. Arnold and Mental Ray render such scenes smoothly. I've reported the bug to devs, hopefully they will find the time to look into it.

House MD oops!

So, yeah... Well this is awkward...

Thank Heavens I didn't promise to quit XSI cold turkey after all. Dodged a bullet there! Still, less time for XSI experiments, more time for ZBrush sculpting and trying out other DCCs from now on.