What Killed Lightwave?

I like talking about LightWave. I miss it, in the sense that I miss the potential it once had. And I miss being able to use it and thinking that it had “everything I would need”.

But mostly I miss the community that is long gone. Driven away by the company that depended on them for survival of the product.

Good people, creative and helpful people. Mostly professionals or talented hobbyists. Those people and the dynamic they took with them has dissipated into various places. Maya, XSI, Modo, 3DMax, Blender.

But the truth of the matter is that, as with all discussions about LightWave on the forums there, it comes back to Blender. Everything points to Blender. There is nowhere else for the last few LightWave people to go. The last hangers on will fall off eventually and land likely here, probably in larger numbers than any other software even Houdini or Modo.

Regarding change it has more to do with necessity than anything else. In fact it has nothing to do with anything else at all.

The last LightWavers will wait until a few years after VzTek pounds the last nail in the coffin.

And then they will be here wanting to know how to convert decades of LightWave files into Blender so that one day, they won’t be in the position they feared would happen if LightWave went subscription, and they won’t be able to open the files anymore. But in reality it will be because, potentially, the years old perpetual license of LightWave, with no more support, won’t even open on the next version of Windows or Mac.


The same is true of Photoshop and Fruity Loops but they are well known and respected in their industries.

I’d like to know what other programes a typical LW user also uses. People who refuse to consider switching often also refuse to use other tools in-conjunction-with their preferred tool. I was just looking at a friend’s resume and he lists:

Substance Designer
Unreal Engine
Marmoset Toolbag
Motion Builder

I am certain if his financial situation changed drastically he’d have no problem adding Blender to his workflow and using it heavily.

Isn’t softimage xsi also dead?

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2002 (when Blender did not even have undo) - Blender is a toy
2021 (with Eevee, fluids, geometry nodes, sculpting, Ngons, highly polished bevel and boolean tools, Cycles, overrides, active tool system, industry standard control option, ect… and with core optimization work underway) - Blender is a toy.

Guess we will need to rebrand Blender (while getting away from the GPL) and give it a 4 digit price tag (as FOSS has proven beyond a doubt it is a failed concept). I am not serious of course, but it seems the word still has such a stigma that even if something like Zootopia was made in Blender 9.3 a decade from now, people still won’t use it.

Though the Lightwave website still talks about how the near defunct app. is battle tested and proven in production, it used to be back in the day, but someone new to the world of 3D wouldn’t know that when find the store still active.

Forums and users are alive and well.


But the historical point I was making is that this was one of the first places people fled to from LightWave. It was a logical choice. Many of the best LightWave artists went there. By my recollection this started in 2008. Pooby comes to mind.

I was not making nearly any money in 2008 so my only option was Blender. That is where I went.

By the time I showed up on the XSI scene it was 2011. I remember getting a warm welcome from people who knew me from LW forums… “Ah… great to see another former LightWave user…”

And the feeling was this was inevitable.

Post XSI it became Modo/Hourini/Maya.

And now it will be primarily Blender.

Was zootopia made in a single program? I’d be surprised if it was. You cold probably do 100% of the non-simulation animation in Blender today. You could do probably 91% of the object and character modeling and 80% of the rigging and (random numbers) 70% of the lighting and 80% of the materials and rendering and maybe half of the compositing could be done in Blender today. Or am I totally wrong?

But mostly I miss the community that is long gone. Driven away by the company that depended on them for survival of the product.

Me too. Many, like you, have come here now, which is great.

I remember you, Howard. I remember a lot of names from bygone times.

It died because it was no longer a cash cow, when it couldn’t pay the bills (even the developers - huh?). At some juncture, the milk was aplenty and complacency set in. The code was seen by others that probably wanted to do something with it. Probably became clear that was an inefficient idea. If not insane. Management … well… I dunno. Choices weren’t as good as they could have been.

I see a lot of LW names over here. I presume there are a lot more I don’t recognize.

Blender was a great choice for my purposes. And now that I’ve learned it, things come together SO MUCH QUIKER than ever. And there are no workarounds to keep in mind. (Chuckle, it’s much worse: you gotta pay attention to modes, where you are and all kinds of stuff. Blender ain’t free and this is the bill.)

I am enjoying the switch. Schadenfreude is all I get when I visit the forums anymore. Very glad that my rose colored glasses broke.


Exactly, that’s a correlation and has no causal connection to the abilities of the tool.
Many amateurs and hobbyists want to to use the tools the pros use in an erroneous believe that it will make their work better (which it most likely will not).
The opposite is also true. A pro can do great stuff with almost anything.

If you want to see the adoption rate drop and the amount and intensity of criticism increase…
If they would made Lightwave open source (with active development) I still wouldn’t use it, not even if they paid me money to use it on top of my salary, I still wouldn’t.
And if Blender would have a 4 digit price tag, I would probably pirate it. :laughing:

That’s not untrue, but also marketing speech and it says nothing about quality.
As an end consumer I refused to watch Babylon 5 and other shows back in the 90s because I couldn’t get over the quality of the VFX. I hated the look of many shows produced with LW.
Yeah, I know pretty superficial, and it kinda contradicts what I wrote earlier, but I always associated LW with low budget and saw my precognition/prejudices confirmed many times.
(Sorry LW artists - I know it was probably not your fault).
It also speaks volumes about my perception bias, because I am sure I enjoyed many shows that used LW without me even knowing.

I always felt a slight hint of guilt and shame when beating on that dead horse, but seeing ex-LW users join the beating makes me feel kinda good about it.
I think most of us can agree that rampant capitalism can be and often is the death knell to creativity and greatness.

I was actually considering switching to XSI at version 6, I think. They had this guy in hoodie as marketing material. I think I was inspired of all the other Lightwavers going over to XSI at that time. I didn’t come long in my endeavour as AD bought it and I decided to not go the XSI route and stayed with LW some more…

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Yeah I remember that had that hoodie guy. Also at the same time there was XSI Foundation or something like that for around 600 USD. I think that was what pulled a lot of LightWavers off. If I recall a full version of XSI was well over 5K maybe around 7K?

Anyway they had the right idea to attract new users that way.

Not to get too off topic here, but XSI had Face Robot, or some such, that was really cool… did AD do anything with that tech or did it stay with XSI when it went bye bye? Maybe other tools have surpassed it?

Anyway… it’s a shame LW is slowly dying, but like Romanji said, even if it went open source I still wouldn’t use it.

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AFAIK there was no further development, it died with XSI. I am not aware of any toolsets coming from Autodesk that targeted this functionality.
XSI had a crowd system, it had ICE and face robot, all 3 of these were ahead of its time, but were slowly surpassed by specialised dedicated tools. Weta developed Miarmy (for Lord of the Rings), Houdini was doing its thing and most big VFX houses probably had their own custom facial animation toolsets.

Yeah I am not aware of any further development either. I think the capture aspect of Face Robot has been surpassed. But the rig for manual animating (with wrinkle maps) could easily be replicated in Blender. In fact I built an entire face rigging system loosely based of of that for our use at my studio driving image maps for wrinkles. And BlenRig 5 has some very cool features as well. In fact BlenRig5 comes pretty close if not surpasses Face Robot for rigging/animating features. I decided to build something simpler using only Shape Keys. But you could easily build a wrinkle map layer above BlenRig5 if you wanted to.

Is it just me or did they remove the videos of Rob and Lino demoing this product?


Turn on the cookies. Works for me when I do that.

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