View Full Version : Status Update on LightWave v9, from Jay Roth, President, NewTek 3D Division

04-21-2006, 08:56 AM
Dear LightWavers,

It’s been a while since I have checked in with you, though if you have been participating in the Open Beta program, you may have seen me post there from time to time. There is much anticipation about LightWave v9, the Open Beta program, and so on. We are getting close to our release date, and I know that many of you have a lot of questions, so let’s get right to it.

I want to say upfront that we won’t ship until we think LightWave v9.0 is ready. We are getting much closer, but we are not there just yet. We still need to do some polishing up. As a result, we are extending the Open Beta period until the end of May, 2006. Open Beta customers will soon receive information that allows them to extend their beta licenses.

For those of you who have yet to participate in the program, please do so. It has been so rewarding for us, and we see so many ways that we can improve the process for future releases, that we have decided to standardize on the Open Beta concept from this release forward. The Open Beta program is such a success that 87% of participants surveyed said that they would want us to do this again -- and over 50% of the participants replied to the survey!

LightWave v9.0 is now in code freeze, and that will be evident with the next Open Beta build, which the Open Beta group will receive early next week. With that build all of the features that we plan to ship in 9.0 will be active. With the exception of bug fixes and performance tuning, no new features will be added. For the next several weeks, we will be concentrating heavily on fixing bugs and optimizing the performance of our existing features (like Catmull-Clark).

Bugs are being prosecuted vigorously. Many bugs have been reported in the Open Beta process, and we view this is a success, as we want to catch as many bugs as we can before we get to final release. As of this writing, over 800 bugs have met their demise since version 8.5.

Our primary goal with LightWave v9.0 has been to rebuild the foundation of the application into something strong that can carry us into the next decade and beyond. I have already written about our development philosophy for the v9 series. If you haven’t seen that, or would like a refresher, try this link: >>> LightWave's Future Development <<< (http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/lwfuturedev.php)

LightWave v9.0 development needed to concentrate on the foundation of LightWave itself. We chose to address the features that would affect almost every LightWave user out there as our first target. LightWave v9.0 reflects that approach. That’s not to say we have hit everything for this release – we have not. This is a first step. But we think it’s a doozy.

We focused on power, by offering a completely new node system for displacements in Object Properties; you can now render ZBrush-style displacements and normal maps, a previously unannounced feature. The new Node Editor for surfaces allows you to create virtually any type of look that you can imagine. Hundreds of node choices give you the power to mimic the original LightWave procedural textures, as well as create completely new looks from scratch. New nodes give you the power of sub-surface scattering and other shading models, another unannounced feature. New Modeler features such as Catmull-Clark Sub-division Surfaces, edges, and more refined tools give you even more power.

We focused on performance, by significantly improving OpenGL speed in Layout by an order of magnitude. Rendering speeds have improved by as much as 20 times faster, and the more you throw at the rendering engine, the faster it gets. You can tweak models in Layout without the absolute need to go back to Modeler – we will be constantly upgrading this ability as we continue through the LightWave v9.x development cycle, and we will be adding our OpenGL improvements to Modeler in a subsequent version of LightWave v9.x.

We focused on value, by improving the LightWave staples such as HyperVoxels, which now require 40 times less RAM than previously. We killed almost all of the HyperVoxel bugs that have been reported for the last several years in this single release. For those of you using renderfarms, the increased rendering throughput means that we have effectively multiplied your renderfarm capabilties by an order of magnitude or more in many cases, with the simple cost of an upgrade, or a very reasonable MSRP, as we announced back at SIGGRAPH.

We focused on reliability. Here’s an illustration: LightWave v9 has become so reliable, even in its beta state (where there is still room for improvement) that almost all of our production studio participants have standardized on LightWave v9 as their working platform of choice. That’s Beta software, folks.

We have made improvements to workflows, and many more improvements will come throughout the v9.x cycle. LightWave v9 now includes a studio production configuration, generously supplied by Richard Morton, with many, many LightWave credits to his name. His configs have been known by a variety of names over the years, and are now standard in LightWave v9. You can use the default configs or the studio configs out of the box (I would choose the studio configs myself, and we will standardize on them as the default in subsequent releases) or, you are free to make your own, of course.

We have made improvements to our documentation and educational materials in LightWave. The new manual has been an effective rewrite, and has been reformatted to better reflect the workflows of today. We still have many improvements that we want to make to the documentation, and like the source code, this is only the beginning. Also, the help system for LightWave has received similar attention, and currently weighs in at over 250MB of quality information.

If you have visited our website at all in the last few months, you will have seen that we have constantly been adding videos that showcase the new features. Some are rather mundane, and give it to you in a “just the facts, ma’am” style. Others go into more depth on the theories behind some of the new features. We intend to keep producing those videos on up through product shipment, so please stop by every few days to check out the latest. By the way, the videos have proven so popular, as have our forums, that we have had to significantly upgrade our servers and bandwidth!

Future work we still have to do will focus much more attention on Modeler: we will continue to consolidate similar tools, and include more modeling functions in Layout. This will require changes to the way that Layout handles selection, as well as giving Layout the ability to make sub-object selections. This turned out to be a much bigger task than we thought, which is why the v9.0 implementation is limited.

We have a ton of work ahead for character animation, and everything related to that. We are going to beef up the scripting engine, which should make many people happy, especially you TDs out there. In an effort to continue our pledge to have LightWave “play nice” with other applications, we are going to put a lot of work into data interchange and standardization. And, of course, we are going to continue our work on core reliability improvements. Things may not occur in the order I have listed here, and likely won’t occur in a single release, however, I can tell you that we have some very cool new stuff planned for SIGGRAPH (hint-hint). Don’t forget, LightWave v9 licensees get free upgrades throughout the lifespan of the product, unlike any of our competitors.

So, there you have it! In short, with LightWave v9, you can do much more for much less, in a shorter period of time. And we accomplished all of this in one release. We still have much to do, and this will take time. We have many areas to improve, and many of you have helped us to prioritize what those should be, and for that, we thank you.

We also thank you for your incredible support, especially during some particularly difficult times in LightWave’s history. I believe those times are over, and I will let LightWave v9 speak for itself.


Jay Roth
3D Division President
NewTek, Inc.