If you've been working in MCG 2016 or 2017, you're in for a breath of fresh air with MCG 2018. In this release, we focused on the following aspects (all the while maintaining backwards compatibility with older graphs):
1. Improved MCG Package Installation Experience
2. Improved Graph Authoring Experience
3. Improved Compiler Efficiency
4. Revamped Learning Experience
5. New Operators and Compounds
With these improvements in mind, if you want to jump right into the sample pack, follow the instructions in the MCG 2018 Samples section at the bottom of this post.
In previous versions of MCG, the package installation process of an .mcg file involved the automatic extraction of its contained .maxtool and .maxcompound files into the user's 3ds Max /Max Creation Graph/Tools/Downloads directory. A consequence of this installation method was that common compounds would often conflict with each other, resulting in duplication messages.
In MCG 2018, we've simplified the package installation process to make it much more robust. You can now install a .mcg file by dragging it into the viewport. All installed packages now reside in the user's 3ds Max 2018/Max Creation Graph/Packages directory, and are evaluated as standalone .mcg files. No more file extraction, no more conflicts, no more problems.
One of the major challenges in previous versions of MCG was keeping track of all the types flowing through your nodes. If a problem crept up, you only knew about it when you tried to evaluate your graph, and that often meant doing some detective work based on an error message as your only clue.
In 2018, the types flowing through your nodes are updated as you wire them, so you know exactly where you're going. If two types don't match up, a red wire will indicate that the connection is incompatible or that the graph is incomplete.
Another challenge posed by previous versions of MCG was the continuous need to use a "Map" node to transform the contents of an array. In MCG 2018, most array transformations can be performed simply by connecting the array directly into the node you want to transform it with. We call these connections "mapped connections", and they greatly improve the readability of your graphs by reducing the need to create functions. See the MCG Help Guide for more information about mapped connections and their requirements.
We've added the ability to Undo and Redo actions in the node editor with Ctrl + Z and Ctrl + Y.
The node color scheme is now aligned to the 3ds Max UI, so we can say good-bye to all those dark purples.
The graph compiler in previous versions of MCG would occasionally repeat unnecessary evaluations in certain loop structures. To avoid these repeated evaluations, the compiler has been improved to delineate portions of a function which can safely (and lazily) be re-used in each iteration. As a result, we've observed an exponential performance improvement in specific pathological cases. This effort has also made the "if" node more reliable, since non-accessed portions of a graph are no longer evaluated.
The MCG 2018 learning experience has been revamped from the ground up. The biggest change you'll notice is that we've renamed almost every node based on a more consistent naming scheme (while preserving backwards compatibility with older graphs).
To help you ramp up on the new names, we've provided a conversion table at the bottom of the "What's New in 2018" Help topic. We've also laid out the guidelines of our new naming scheme under the "X Search" section of the "Editor Tips" Help topic.
Here are a few major naming changes we've made this year:
We've also reduced the number of top-level categories in the Operator Depot, and simplified the Node Properties panel, where you'll now find consistent and informative node descriptions. What's more, you can now click on the "Used in compounds" links in the Node Properties panel to open a new tab in the editor and explore how a node is used.
We've restructured and updated the entire 3ds Max MCG Help to cover the following core topics.
We've also added a set of new operators and compounds. The complete list of new, modified, deprecated, and removed operators is available in the table of operators at the bottom of the "What's New in 2018" Help topic.
We've created a sample pack to get those creative juices flowing, and to help you discover the new tricks MCG 2018 has to offer. In it, you'll find tools, compounds, and animated sample scenes, as well as a collection of standalone .mcg package files if you're only interested in test-driving the sample set. Most of the scenes in the sample pack are configured to render with Arnold, and some even make use of the Data Channel Modifier.