What Killed Lightwave?

I mention Blender in here a little.


As a long time Lightwave User, I was really gunning for them to improve. Unfortunately, it is taking too long. If LW 2017 makes a strong showing on areas that’s actually better than the competition, then I will upgrade my copy. Unfortunately, I think they will play catch-up for a while, but I’ll keep an open mind.

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Credit where credit is due: That team has a winner on their hands with ChronoSculpt. I just wish it were more widely known in the industry.

It does look like they are creating a brand new program with Lightwave Next, so I expect it to be a completely new program. So by saying they killed of Lightwave old, is probably an accurate statement as Lightwave Next is going to be vastly different and will break compatibility with Lightwave old.

Wasn’t “brand new” the idea behind Lightwave Core, which eventually was abandoned?

Yes, I still think they should have went with LWCore since 2009. It would be a nice app in 2017.

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The video fails to mention a few key things. First it was the original developers Stewart Ferguson and Alan Hastings, each who had developed Modeler and Layout. And this was not uncommon at the time. Other apps used the same idea, correctly as stated in the video, that is was mainly a hardware limitation of the time.

By the time it was obvious that LightWave needed to be rewritten to take advantage of the current state of hardware and software, the project was started. This was around 2000. And due to a rift in management at NewTek, the original developers Stewart Ferguson and Alan Hastings, along with Brad Peebler, left and continued this project as a new company Luxology. This became Modo. And it has taken roughly 16 years to come to where it is now. This is in fact, if you are following the chronology, LightWave as it would be today. Not the LightWave we have now.

What LightWave is now, is what was left after a bad management decision at NewTek. But they did eventually come around approximately 5-6 years later and start a development project to rewrite the app from the ground up. This was first released as a beta in 2009. But the promised timeline was unrealistic. And so they scrapped it as a separate app and continued to develop it up to the present within LightWave. As of now, the core code has been replaced bringing in Chronosculpt mesh technology and a new PBR render engine while maintaining LightWave as an application with the same basic functionality. Clearly this is no small feat and it is taking a while to reach a releasable version.

So far it is nearly 8 years in the making. Half the milestone of where Modo is today. But along the way it has also gotten new development such as Bullet Physics, Flocking and Instancing, an improved rigging system in Genoma and a much needed manipulator in Modeler and a new UV unwrap tool. Amoung others.

The next release of LightWave will be the foundation upon which other development can then happen.

If it is as promised so far, it will have a geometry engine that will smoke anything on the market. That with some new tools and a PBR render engine.

If they so choose to, they could bring Chronosculpt-like vertex animation to LightWave. The same mesh engine (Hydra) will be there. Will be interesting to see what they do.

The next 3-5 years should bring finally modern rigging and animation tools as well as a merged application with Modeling and Animation in the same view port. But that is speculation. We have to wait and see.

But it is no small project to re-write LightWave. The main advantage they have is new technology that no other apps will have.

Should be interesting.

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That video was cringe-worthy.

Having looked at the Lightwave site periodically, I come to the idea that Lightwave isn’t dead, but…

  • They are racing the clock; Every month that passes without the new Lightwave Next product means its users are using technology that is getting further and further behind what other apps. offer. I’m certain that many fans will patiently wait for the new product, but the longer NewTek waits, the higher the possibility of many users walking out. A secondary effect of waiting is that it also delays a potential windfall of cash for its development (otherwise their focus may have to shift to staying afloat).
  • They don’t have good precedent on delivering the goods; They hyped Lightwave Core as being a truly next-generation app, the result was a canceled product and more releases with the same old cruft (but with new features). This disappointed many users and has lead to a low level of trust in the company (which isn’t good at all for their finances and their chance of making Lightwave a respected app. again).
  • They have to really deliver to regain trust; They have to make Lightwave Next be that awesome application they are saying it is, as it is the only real way to really restore the trust of their users. Otherwise, if they ended up releasing Lightwave 12 or something or it’s subpar despite the new core, they will continue to bump along with little chance of increasing their marketshare (and the community continuing to be centered around longtime fans). In the long run, nothing will change.
  • Many users can’t wait a few years for modern features; Assuming Lightwave Core does get released soon, then its impact on its competitors is not going to amount to much if they can’t catch the competition. Richard Culver talked about how even now, it could take a few years for them to get their animation system up to speed and merge the separate layout/modeling applications, for many, that could be too much when they see the alternatives continue to get more advanced in these areas. By the time Lightwave gets modern tools in several areas due to the new core and the single app, other apps. might then have next-gen tools in those same areas and they will still be on the bottom in that area.
  • It’s all about the price; I don’t know if they will take a risk and raise the price above 1000 USD, but if they do then they will have to make sure that people will want to pay such a price when a good program we know as Blender is free (as the massive gap could then become an opportunity for the BF by positioning Blender as the only production-capable 3D app. with no 4 digit pricetag). They may need to keep the price close to where it is as undercutting competing apps. may continue to be the only way to grow.

Now I do know that situations such as this (where the future of an app. or company is at risk) can end up being a good thing (they finally toss what isn’t working and get smarter on product development and management), but there’s other times where it can even have the opposite effect, Newtek simply cannot afford to make any major mistakes at this point or it could be the end of what used to be the world-premier 3D app.

Modo is made by former lightwave devs and Modo is becoming now what those devs wanted Lightwave to be.



Yeah I see your points. Here is my take on it from my experience and knowledge of LightWave user base over the years as well as my own experience using it in the past and plans for LightWave into the future.

First, LightWave has never had a competing edge on state-of-the-art features as far as animation and FX. It did for a short time offer an alternative to high-end packages, through most of the 1990s. But it built its strength on VFX for TV and film. And it had its mainstay for its bread and butter, the render engine.

Even as Maya took off and pretty much ran away with the Animation market, LightWave hung in there and offered render solutions to a lot of studios for TV as well as film projects like Sin City and of course 300 and animation pipelines like Jimmy Newtron which was animated in Maya. Also it has flourished in Japan. And because of the wide user base there, plugin development has been real strong there. And still is. Many people forget this.

So for a good decade or more already, (up to 5 years ago anyway) LightWave has survived as a render solution (and smaller markets such as Japan even currently) even though there was a great exodus from LightWave users to Maya and XSI.

I am one of them. First to Blender. Then to XSI and finally Maya. For all of the high end features I get from these apps. Blender is still very much in my pipeline with Maya and LightWave.

And this is true still for a lot of people.

So my feeling is that LightWave does not have to hit the ground running with a merged environment or state of the art animation tools.

Even with a highly competitive render market, lots of choices, I still find myself returning to LightWave for a lot of rendering projects. But LightWave’s current renderer is behind the times. And mesh handling is pretty bad. Two things that will get fixed in the next release.

A lot of people lately have moved away from LightWave rendering even in the last 5-6 years.

So I don’t think LightWave has anything to prove. All it needs to do is come onto the market with a new render and mesh engine to attract people back to it as a finishing app. It is still rather attractive for that. And has done well in the past in that role.

So I think this is a smart move by the development team.

Trying to compete with Maya or even Blender for animation and modeling is not going to happen. But it does not need to.

The low hanging fruit of Rendering and new mesh engine will bring a lot of people back. And it can immediately gain back the loss right there.

Moving forward if they can eventually merge apps and make LightWave another go-to app for Animation and Modeling. All the better. But I think the next release will buy them time and resources for that.

My take on it.

Sorry but, where is Blender in this? Blender was never helthier than now!
Lightwave is a commercial application, if the users don’t buy the software, they have no money to pay the developers and they lose terrain, it became even more un-popular, then they fail.
(example: silo)

Lightwave was, indeed is, a very decent package and I doubt it is “dead” per se. That said, I abandoned ship a couple of years ago when it became obvious that many things they promised were unlikely to appear any time soon. Each release was met with, “oh, THAT will be in the next release”, which it never was. Then the whole Core / LW10 / 11 debacle took place and I pretty much decided, after being on the Core Beta and getting stuffed, “you know what? Give up mate, they are changing tack more than a sailboat in a headwind”.
So, after being a LW fanboy & loyalist since LW4.0, I jumped to Blender, gawd, did I ever struggle doing that, but I stuck with it and now, I think there are, at most, 3 or 4 tools from LW I actually miss. Overall, the power and flexibility of Blender 2.78 far outweighs what LW had up to LW9.6 / Core when I gave up throwing money down the drain.
Now, I would actively encourage anyone to start with Blender, the work you can produce, from start to finish, is just getting better with each release.
Those tools I miss? Template/Solid Drill and the interactive Taper & Bend tools, though with HardOps, it narrows it down to the interactive falloff.

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Yeah I did pretty much the same thing. But gradually over time I like what I am seeing in recent development. I was real bitter when I left. But I just hunkered down and learned Blender. Then XSI and then Maya. And I have enjoyed having some high end tools in my pipe. But bottom line now. I think that LW 3D Group is gradually winning back my support. I upgraded to 2015 and I really think this next release will be promising.

But I have stopped looking at things like one app has to be the end all answer for me. Would be nice, but I have not been able to do that. LightWave is just another tool to take advantage of. And it is about to get a whole lot better.

As I am now limited financially, even if I trusted Newtek to produce what I wanted, it’s simply no longer financially possible. That said, as someone who started with Povray & Moray 3D, well, let’s just say I appreciate how lucky we are Blender is free. :wink:
I still have LW9.6 on my PC and it will always stay there, even if I normally only open it to tweak objects so they are suitable to pull into blender. :slight_smile:

Totally understand the financial situation. And yep Blender is a god send. Bailed me out for sure. Too bad you have to live with 9.6 though. 2015 is worlds better. Hope things improve with your pocket book. But regardless. No argument from me about money. Completely been there more often than I care to remember. :wink:

NewTeks biggest plus side currently is, that they offer perpetual licences.
Those clips are imo terrible since it only taints the reputation of the Blender community.

I can see those who still consider themselves among the Lightwave faithful coming back (they are still big fans of everything Newtek, but had to leave Lightwave or reduce their use of it for one reason or another). They don’t have to do near as much to win back their support (and for the core users remaining on their forums, all that is needed is new releases with more features and tools).

However, it’s a bit of a different story to win back those badly burned by the outcome of Lightwave Core and those who have gotten accustomed to the overall more advanced tools of Maya, Max, C4D, Houdini, and Blender (that is where they have to really deliver and show to those people that they have taken on a new way of management, a way that is capable of producing everything they are promising and is capable of keeping the hype realistic).

Sure, it might be easier for them if they focused on the segment who still consider themselves ardent fans, but they won’t be able to stay afloat on them forever (especially if they want to expand). The pressure to deliver may also apply if they ever want to start clawing back marketshare in a big way for the TV market.

I don’t see it quite that way. I see tools as tools. And I think most people do. When LightWave is released it will be evaluated not based on brand loyalty or anything else - primarily - but based on what it can offer in the way of tools. Exactly as it is now. Same with Blender. It is just a matter of the status of tools.

If it offers a workflow that has advantages over something else it will make it into pipelines. And I predict that it will have a lot of advantages. The two main areas of improvement will actually add something to pipelines that don’t yet exist together currently in any finishing package and that is significant.

They will not be trying to win people back, they will simply be offering a workflow. If that workflow proves successful, LightWave will succeed accordingly. If not, it won’t.

You’re wrong about early competition. At the time Lightwave was available on Amiga, we also had Imagine, Real3D and Cinema 4D (still going strong to this day).

The lock in to the Toaster in the early days didn’t help Lightwave, and by the time they removed the dependency, users had already settled on one of the other packages, and migrations and new developments had started on Windows machines.

It was always nice to boast about 3D graphics on the likes of B5 being Amiga based, but even that wasn’t strictly true since the Toaster was practically a machine in its’ own right.