Update: Microsoft has taken down the Caligari website and terminated trueSpace. Don’t bother looking for it, trueSpace is dead. If you are looking for a free powerful 3D modeling package, try Blender 3D.
I couldn’t believe it at first, but after the acquisition of Caligari, Microsoft has released the fully-featured 3D authoring package – trueSpace for free. Simply put trueSpace is a 3D modeler and seems a pretty good one looking at the features it supports. It may not dethrone Maya or Max anytime soon, but for nada it packs a lot of punch, especially if you are an indie game studio or a budding 3D artist and can’t or don’t have the finance to invest in something along the lines of the top modelers mentioned above. I am not saying trueSpace is the best, quite frankly I haven’t even given the package a complete look through as yet. It takes a considerable amount of time and a sizable investment in effort to fully grasp any 3D authoring package. Well, it takes probably a lot more before you can become truly productive at it. trueSpace is no different. I haven’t personally gone and modeled anything with it as yet, nor do I currently have the time to invest in such an endeavor (maybe after the game ships).
However from the looks of it a free trueSpace seems to be something that can’t be ignored. The next thing I wanted to look for is whether the modeler could be integrated with a dev cycle for a game. That would require the package to have some sort of scripting system and/or allow an SDK, using which custom export scripts and engine functionality can be integrated with the authoring system. I was browsing the website and from the looks of it, C++/C SDKs and Python scripting is in fact offered by trueSpace. Again I haven’t had a good look at it, but the fact that it’s there should be a good enough reason to have a look at it if you are interested. The most important factor in selecting any authoring package is the availability of tutorials and that’s also another reason trueSpace stands out. The documentation and the video tutorials are also made available along with the package. Yes, I know it seems too good to be true. Video tutorials are invaluable while learning any 3D modeling. I remember years ago it was Blender video tutorials that really got me going with Blender. While my 3D skills leave a lot to be desired, most of the current game wouldn’t have been possible without those tutorials.
All of the above points make trueSpace a serious option to consider if you are a beginner or an indie game developer. While not the best, trueSpace is very attractive given the feature set and the price (which is 0). To be fair, I have only given the package a fleeting glimpse and that’s not how I would like to evaluate trueSpace, or for that matter any 3D package. So make your own assessments about the strengths and weaknesses of trueSpace by using the package yourselves. I would recommend having a go at the videos and tutorials first.