Posted by Ken Pimentel, 4 February 2012 7:00 pm
Hey you all, I guess it’s that time of year again! As usual, I have to preface my comments by saying that I can’t state explicitly what is going on. I certainly can’t talk about the possible features or timing if there were a new release coming out.
Now, I do try to tell you what I can under the rules I live by. Some of the things we’ve talked about in the past are classified as research (like XBR, Helix, Geppetto, Pandora, etc.) and you cannot assume you’ll get these specific features in any specific timeframe (if ever). We can show or describe research that we’re pursuing as long as you don’t use that to base your purchasing decisions. We can also do sneak peeks (become a fan of our Facebook page, Shane will be posting some vids there later today) which are more actual peeks at selected capabilities of real software (versus research efforts). We can only do sneak peeks when we are in a position where we won’t violate revenue recognition rules. Some of you will understand what that means…
XBR is the restructuring project we embarked on a few years ago and we’ve given yearly webinars around this time. If you’re wondering why we haven’t announced anything, it’s because we’re trying to move it later so that it occurs when we have more freedom to talk about the latest and greatest progress. Otherwise, we have to be super careful not to leak something or make a mistake or even set expectations too high. We haven’t settled on a date, but I think we’re looking at March/April timeframe. We’ll be sure to publicize the event as widely as we can.
There’s probably speculation about “what’s coming”. Here’s some expectation setting from us.
Remains a big concern and those that viewed last year’s XBR review will understand our bigger picture (search my blog for “XBR” to see some links). Unfortunately, doing anything in the UI is so freaking sensitive with users (as we’ve learned to our regret) that we can’t do it unless we’ve got our “reviewers” 100% behind it. Some of our ideas had to go back into design, but we hope to share those ideas in our next XBR review. So, UI remains a priority, but we couldn’t achieve everything we wanted and we have to make sure we don’t duplicate any prior mistakes (you have the list). In our XBR review, I expect we can share our refined ideas.
We introduced MassFX and mRigids (based on PhysX and our partnership with Nvidia) in 3ds Max 2012. It was a start on our march to a more unified dynamics experience. We’ve continued that effort with Nvidia and we think you’ll be pretty pleased with the results in general. We’re not done, but definite progress in the right direction, we hope you’re pleased with it.
As part of MassFX, it was clear we had to do something about Particle Flow and making sure it is on a trajectory to support our unified story. I can now say that we recently formalized a multi-year relationship with Oleg (creator of Particle Flow) so that he can be much more involved in our roadmap. To set expectations, don’t expect immediate results in the coming year and you shouldn’t be discouraged. This is definitely a longer-term effort and Oleg will continue to offer his solutions via his channel for a long time to come. We’ll announce more at the appropriate time. My point in mentioning this is that we see particle flow in particular as an area of investment and research.
Introduced in 3ds Max 2012, this revolutionary and new viewport system is still a work in progress, but distinct improvements have been made in various areas as we go through the legacy code. For example, we’ve had to replace the software-based picking process with a hardware-based system. You don’t always see these kinds of things in the features list, but it can take a lot of effort to replace deep legacy code with new code. You should see the results as faster viewport response when selecting in complex scenes with lots of objects. This will hopefully move us beyond some of the “lags” a few people ran into with certain hardware.
In general, we’ve tried much harder to get you all involved in the feedback and prioritization process. A year ago, we introduced a feedback mechanism that allows you to add ideas and others to vote on it. Here’s the result looking at data from just the General Feature Requests forum:
- 1,270 people signed up/voting
- 535 ideas
- 2,700 visits in the last week, +30%
- 325 active ideas, up 61%
- 206 active users, up 40%
Personally, I’m super pleased with this initiative and there will be consequences based on the priorities we see in it. Of course, we don’t use just this tool to drive our agenda, but it is something that helps us make decisions about what you want. It’s not just about features, we actually focused on the “Small Annoying Things” forum and tackled about 15 of the highest priorities (see Facebook video).
We’ll be introducing a new program we call, “Customer Care Program”. It’s goal is to use CER data to focus on the people using the product the most and having the most problem with stability. So, turn on your CER system if you want us to see what is going on with your efforts to use max. We won’t be able to reach everyone but a select few will be invited to participate based on your CER data.
I can truthfully say we’ve done more to bring a broader user base into the product than at any time in the product’s history. We have 70,000 people tracking us on Facebook and roughly 1M active users based on CIP (though not all are paying customers…). Over the last year, 3ds Max has experienced a significant increase in commercial seats and revenue. It’s an impressive result in tough economic times. We've seen a noticeable increase in the adoption of 3ds Max in games lately as one specific area of growth. Might be related to us winning the “best art tool” twice in the last 3 years as surveyed by Game Developer magazine. As a business, 3ds Max remains the number one professional 3D animation solution by seat and revenue. We have the largest active community (over 1M views on Youtube of our learning videos this year) and the biggest third-party ecosystem. So, we're doing very well, thank you very much. Of course, it varies by geo, so your own personal experience might give you a different perspective, but overall, thumbs-up!
Before some of you pile on and tell me how far from pleased you are about where max is at, I’ll agree that we have much, much more we want and need to do and that we’ll continue to upset some of you, but I think we’ll also continue to satisfy most of you. We’ve got some crazy, far out stuff we’re working on too, I hope to share that sooner than later.
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