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Scooterpb vs. Bioware - Initial Thoughts

Steel_Wind (DragonLance Adventures)

First off - let me say this: scooter did an amazing job.

The Bioware plug-in is more full featured than scooter's but in many ways only superficially so. Scooter managed to get most of the mdl features into the game admirably.

There are only a few options that scooter really missed - lens flares, some more obscure, emitter functions and some interesting flags for super model references. Beaming lights. emitters referencing emitters (although scooter may have had that one tucked away)

A few important points though:

  1. The Bioware plug-in does not import mdl files. They don't need that feature - they already have their files in Max format. As a consequence, we can be certain that scooter's plug-in will be useful until this game is dead in the ground for importing alone.
  2. Here I'll toot my own horn here a little. I suggested the parts swapper to scooter during beta testing (based upon a similar concept in a commercial plug-in for 3dsmax called Creature Creator). Scooter pulled it off admirably and then some. There is no parts swapper in Bioware's plug-in (though they have a similar function to reference animations in parts which does not swap geometry - just anims - such that it has only half of the swapper's functionality). The end result, however, is that the parts swapper is a feature unique to scooter's plug-in. Scooter's parts swapper is a superior implementation of Bioware's half measures - so it's safe to say that on this feature alone - often invaluable for modeling - scooter's util will be a necessary tool till the NWN is dead in the ground.

    I further expect that Bioware is using this feature of scooter's plug-in as we speak. It's damned handy.

  3. Lastly an analogy for the those who don't understand modeling but do understand software applications in general. For this analogy, accept that scooter's plug-in is in many ways similar to Jasc's Paint Shop Pro. It is cheaper, home grown and remarkably powerful. Like the latest versions of PSP - it certainly has complexity and depth - but it remains often simple to use.

In contrast, Bioware's plug-in is like Photoshop. It is more flexible and more powerful because it gets down to very fine controls over emitter objects and other poly and mesh values. But with flexibility comes increasing complexity. The result is as true for NWN modeling plug-ins as for any other software: increasing flexibility is directly correlated to increasing difficulty to use.

Like Paint Shop Pro vs Photoshop, both programs are capable of turning out some excellent graphics. Yes, Bioware's is capable of doing some things scooter's plug-in is not capable of (and vice versa. I might add) - but Bioware's sophistication comes at a cost. It is more difficult to use. In most instances, this added difficulty is without observable benefit.

If I was doing spell effects - I'd want to use Bioware's plug-in. If I am doing a creature or an item or a PC model - in most case I'd prefer to use scooter's. It is straightforward and it works exceedingly well. For many purposes, there is no reason that both can't be used (at the same time) for some features and maximum flexibility.

The greatest revelations in the plug-in package were not in the plug-in but in the docs that came with it.

scooter's plug-in is a remarkable piece of software - all the more remarkable for the fact he did it through reverse engineering as his first plug-in. His implementation is in most cases much, much better than Bioware's. If I had an application or other plug-in I needed to be designed - I would prefer scooter to do it over Bioware's plug-in creator in a heartbeat.

We have a new toy to play with. But the old one is not obsolete and it will live on until this game is dead in the ground.

Migrate Wizard: 
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