View Full Version : Milkshape or Lightwave for game graphics?

12-17-2003, 02:09 PM
I' m thinking about buying Lightwave 3d. It looks very good. I would like to create environments and characters for a game project I' m working on. My question is: since games need low poly models in order to have acceptable frame rates, isn' t Lightwave overkilled as opposed to Milkshape3D to create game graphics? To be more specific, Lightwave can create a very detailed model that I' ll have to cut down in detail if I want to use it in a game. Eventually this model will look like a Milkshape3D model. The difference is $20 vs. $1500 for the same result. I have to be wrong since Lightwave is used (as advertised) to create game content, but I would like that somebody explain to me what I' m missing here.
Thanks for any replies.

12-17-2003, 03:28 PM
I use LW for game content creation. It actually works really well for that. It's got a lot of nice polygon editing functions that are useful for low-poly modeling.

One of the things I like about LW is that I can create my model using subdivision cages and then set my subd level to 2 or 3 and get a low-poly model, or crank it up to 6 or higher and use the resulting high-poly model for cover/website ar, FMV renders or normal map generation.

On the con side, however: One of the biggest downsides to using Lightwave for game content is that it isn't as well supported as, say, 3ds Max or even Maya. Heck, I'm using a game engine right now that has an official MilkShape, Blender, and Max importer plugin -- but no Lightwave one. (Though someone did write one in their free time.) Something like RightHemisphere's Deep Explorer can be useful for converting Lightwave's file formats into something else. LW has a 3ds Max exporter, but I hear it's terribly broken.

Of course, if you plan on rolling your engine or file importer own, this won't bother you much. LW's file format is actually really easy to read and parse, and unlike 3ds .MAX files you can do it without requiring some funky licensing deal.

If all you plan on doing with LW is creating pure game content, then maybe it's not worth that price over a cheap shareware program like Milkshape. However, I own LW because I like the flexibility of being able to do hi-res renders along with low-res game content in the same program. In fact, a lot of the time I use LW to create my UV maps and use Surface Baker, instead of hand-painting them.

jin choung
12-17-2003, 10:42 PM

i work in games and i use lw to model and texture, then export to maya to rig, skin and animate - then export to our game engine.

it CAN be overkill if all you want to do is make mods for games like Q3A or UT or half life or something.

milkshape3d is FANTASTIC as a low end hobbyist tool.

if you have $1500 to throw around, then lw is a great deal.

but if ya gotta save your pennies to save up for KOTOR or GTA, by all means, go for milkshape3d. it will do what you want and do it well.

sometimes, lwers complain about lack of 'support' for game engines.

to these people, i always always always tell them to just freakin get milkshape already and use it as an exporter to whatever game they want support for!

milkshape3d can take lw and many other files from the 'big' 3d apps.

another reason that lw and maya and such cost so much is because they have renderers that can make not just game lookin' stuff but stuff for movies. and the tools are designed so as to facilitate a fast and efficient (though not flawless... no matter how expensive the app) work path for professionals.

but hey, if money is an issue and you don't need to render, substituting maybe a little more sweat to save $1k... that's a good trade off.



p.s. also check out discrete's website for GMAX... it's 3dsmax's FREE LITTLE BROTHER and you can also export to many game engines from that as well.... and hey... it's FREE! (also quite good i hear....)

oh, and p.s. 2, BLENDER is free as well and it has a game engine included and is designed to quickly prototype your own stuff from within blender itself... as i say... free!

12-18-2003, 09:02 AM
thanks for your replies. Do you know if I create a character animation in LW and export to Milkshape (to convert then to whatever standard file format I' m using for my engine), Milkshape is going to load everything or something will be lost in the translation? Are you using commercial game engines (which ones?) or your own?

jin choung
12-18-2003, 05:21 PM
hiya beramic,

as for whether you can export a character with animation from lw to milkshape... errr, i'm not sure. never tried it! but i think i did read that you can on the website... i believe you can.

you can either ask the author himself or ask some milkshape pros at their forums.

as for the game engine, it's my company's...we made a few roller coaster games for disney and barbie stuff.... :)


12-18-2003, 06:57 PM
Unless the recent versions of Milkshape have changed, you can only import Lightwave OBJECTS into it. Not scenes. Therefore, character rigging and whatnot is lost when importing into Milkshape.

Huuuuge disadvantage right there, unless you plan on modeling in LW and then animating/rigging in Milkshape. But that'd be kind of, well, silly considering that LW has a much more powerful character animation system.

Jin Choung, your missing the point when you say people like me "complain" about the lack of LW's support. You yourself admit that you use yet another program (Maya) to act as a third party character rigging software. I'm not doing this stuff professionally, so I can't afford Maya + Lightwave. I would VASTLY prefer to be able to do all of my modeling and rigging and animating in one program. Importing my models into Milkshape and then exporting it as XYZ for my game engine is fine and dandy if all I want is a static mesh, but when it comes to characters and animation my choices are more limited. If all I wanted were static meshes, I might as well stick with Milkshape as you suggest.

Beramic, if you are rolling your own engine -- then, well, expect some work ahead as you write your own loader for Lightwave's scenes and objects. Ultimately, not a big deal as it doesn't matter if you were using LW or some other program you'd have to do this anyway. And as I pointed out, LW's format is fairly programmer friendly. I have a LW scene loader and parser working right now for one of my projects where I am writing my own game engine.

But if you are wanting to use a pre-made engine then you're going to find yourself jumping through a few hoops to get your animations and models into a more industry-standard format. I've got that problem right now with a commerical game engine I recently purchased. Due to monetary constraints I couldn't buy something that had LW support build in. (Like the Serious engine or Unreal.) Thankfully, a great community member has written a Lightwave exporter that works just great. You might not be so lucky.

Newtek's doing their dangest to improve Lightwave's standing in the gaming community, and I for one appreciate their efforts. However, I've got to work with the tools I have, right now, and there's still room for improvement.

jin choung
12-18-2003, 07:41 PM
howdy fw,

yup, checked the website and it does look like you can only import objects.

well, as for your complaint about lw not supporting more game engines, i still think in essence that it is a unwarranted one.

maya has lots of export plugins and such because THE DEVELOPERS THEMSELVES used maya to export their art into their game.

then they end up releasing that to the community.

to ask NEWTEK (as opposed to other hobbyists or the game company [which would be silly as well]) to reverse engineer the file format seems like it is simply beyond the scope of their responsibility.

yes, at work, i use lw and maya. but if i were doing it as a hobby, i'd use lw and milkshape.


milkshape is still the foundation for working with games and lw.

lw does support export to a few game engines and milkshape accepts IMPORT from almost all game engines.

so, you may have to jump through a few hoops to get your art into your final game engine but i think it still should be possible to use lw for animation and such.

would it be EASIER if newtek decided to support more game engines? sure. and if they have the manpower, hey more power to you and them.

but is it fair to expect it?

i think not. and that's basically always been my position on this.


12-19-2003, 09:08 AM
Hi Fenrirwolf,
from what you write I' m assuming that you probably have the Torque engine which uses a LW plug in to import files as DTS . If my assumption is right, does it work ok for animation and scenes? If I' m wrong, could you tell me which engine did you buy, since it is something I might start considering. On a more general note, is there another format (besides LWO) that LW exports (DXF, MD2 or other) that MilkShape can import containing scenes and animations? I' m insisting on MilkShape because (as one of you guys said) once I have the model/scene/animation in it, I have a lot of choices for the file formats I could use.

12-19-2003, 11:35 AM
is there any way to get animted bones and meshes from lightwave in to milkshape? It seems that animated .x would be the ticket, but for some !$#^%!#$^ reason animation in the .x import is not supported in milkshape (but used to be according to what I'm reading on Milkshape website?)...... I think there's an md2 plugin to export from lw... but I don't know enough about it to use it right...

also.... does anybody know if you can do a sort of replace thing in milkshape... you can use a plugin to export frames from layout as .obj - it's on flay somewhere I think... can those be imported in to milkshape and then sort of used as a keyframe on frame whatever to be morped in to from same model with same number of points on another frame, etc...?

12-19-2003, 05:16 PM
While Newtek has no control over what 3d package that any developer supports, it's certainly within their power to "sweeten the deal" for those companies who might want to use a LW-integrated solution. I see evidence of Alias and Discreet being pretty "gung ho" about game development and attracting a lot of attention to their software. Meanwhile, on Newtek's front, I haven't really seen that much.

About a year ago, I recall something about a special game developer's SDK or version of LW, but AFAIK it never materialized. If I click on the Game Development link on Newtek's site, all I see is mention of LW being used for Serious Sam and the original Unreal.

Don't get me wrong. I love Lightwave to death. I think it's got a killer modeler that's good for low-poly object creation. But it's disheartening to see all these commerical engines out there that have full support for Max or Maya but just ignore Lightwave. I know that isn't entirely Newtek's fault, but I would feel a bit better if I were to see a bit more interest from Newtek on trying to get into the game dev market.

I've made Lightwave work as a game modeler. And I'm happy with that. But at the same time, I see how much easier it is to use Max or Maya and sometimes I just wish it was the same for Lightwave. Call it impossible if you want, but I honestly don't think it is.

@beramic: Yeah, I am referring to Torque. I've been helping the guy who wrote the LW plugin try to work out some issues with .DTS models exported from his plugin. Otherwise, it works great. I can do blended animations and everything. The only thing lacking right now is triggers and a few misc options that the Max exporter supports, but Dave is working on adding that to the LW exporter.

@Meshmaster: Currently, I am using .X files in a roll-my-own DirectX 9 engine. I use Deep Explorer to convert Lightwave scenes to .X files that contain animation frames, and so far I haven't had too much trouble with it. While it's sufficent for the project I'm working on now, there are a few things I don't like about it that I want to fix in my next 3d engine -- and some of the data I have to store as meta-data existing outside of the .X file. For that, I plan on working on my own Lightwave scene/model parser and then just read Lightwave objects straight into my game engine.

jin choung
12-19-2003, 08:10 PM

alias and discrete ARE gung ho.

but it's all a function of MONEY. newtek just does not have the resources to go and [email protected]#$ everybody's [email protected]# over cocktails.

besides, lightwave is NOT really geared toward games....

a lot of things are much harder to do with lw than it is to do in other packages - esp because lw's geared toward rendering (tv, film, etc) and produces geometry that is less than convenient for games.

hard/soft edges or smoothing groups is one such issue, and weightmap assignation and management is another....

unless newtek gets with the program and does things so that it generates data that is more in line with other stuff out there right now, lw is not the optimal solution for games other than modeling.


jin choung
12-19-2003, 08:27 PM
oh and btw,

i think you can export everything into serious sam format and from that, take it to milkshape and then into other formats....

check out their respective websites for more info.


09-27-2004, 12:57 PM
Probably a long shot as this thread is a bit old but if any one out there can help it would really help me out.

Ive got the demo of milkshape 3d but when I export .lwo files (saved as lightwave5) the mesh goes in but you cant see the uv map. Ive tried this with .obj aswell. The only one that 3/4 works is .3ds but the uv is screwed all over the place.

Im pulling my hair out over here

Can anyone help?

09-27-2004, 01:23 PM
Beramic, Lightwave is the way to go. Be aware that you don't necessarily have to pay $1500 for it though. Go to the For Sale section of the forums and you can usually find a used copy for ~$700, a lot of times with extras like plugins and training material.

You can check with Newtek to ensure the seller has a legal copy that you can upgrade when the time comes.

09-27-2004, 02:15 PM

Got the problem sorted. Found it on the milkshape forum. If you use the lowest .lwo exporter in the import list in milkshape it brings your model in fine. :)