For game art and animation creation whether it be modelling, FX, or anything in between there are a few go-to software suites that talented artists go to, among them are Maya and Blender. In this article, we’ll break down the pros and cons and put them head to head in a Maya vs Blender run down. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to make an educated decision on which software will work for you, Blender or Maya. Both provide great tools that can be used in a multitude of ways to create stunning game art however both come with their own flaws too.
Before we can compare Maya vs Blender, we’re going to deep dive into each software and provide a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of each software. Maya is an application produced and developed by Alias Systems Corporation and is under the ownership umbrella of Auto Desk. Designed specifically to function across all operating systems including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, Maya provides accessibility that has made it renowned among the 3D artist community.
Maya is used in all entertainment mediums including games, film, and television and offers a diverse range of functions from modelling to FX, making it a regular appearing software in most studios big or small. Maya is known best for its 3D modelling capabilities however it comes with a fully-fledged keyframe animation suite, which means it can be used for the entire production pipeline as it also has a 3D renderer built in too. Maya’s rendering and lighting tools can provide a photo realistic result that makes it sought after and a front runner in the Maya vs Blender comparison.
Maya also boasts a fully customizable interface, which means it can be completely transformed to suit a specific purpose in a production pipeline. Developers are able to change the layout, use plugins, and set up their Maya application to meet their specific needs, which is a powerful ability to possess in a busy studio. Maya uses MEL or Maya Embedded Language, which developers can learn and harness to create scripts and macros for custom functions within the Maya software, incredibly useful.
Modelling and Animation aside, Maya can also provide dynamic effects and simulations, offering realistic fluid and atmospheric animations that can be used in a wide range of mediums. When considering Blender or Maya, it is worth noting that Maya’s capabilities are somewhat endless and depend specifically on what you need to get out of the software and where you want to use it in your production pipeline.
Maya has several licenses depending on your studio size and purpose of use, it is considered more on the expensive side however its capabilities do make it worth its subscription prices.
Maya has endless functionality and is not limited due to its plug in capabilities, this software has endless applications in a studio environment.
Whilst Maya does some things better than others (It does modelling brilliantly, but its dynamics are prone to crashes) artists are able to turn over content very quickly using Maya, especially if they have experience with the software.
As mentioned previously, the interface can be completely customized to suit the user and the purpose of Maya in your production pipeline. However the default interface is easy to learn despite its advanced depth, there are plenty of resources online to teach you your way around the interface quite easily. When comparing Maya vs Blender for beginners, the interface plays a big role and Maya is definitely easier to follow in this regard.
Maya is best known for its modelling capabilities and it stands up to its reputation easily. Modelling in Maya is the industry standard for a reason, the software definitely excels here. In terms of Maya vs Blender Modelling wise.
Maya offers a robust key frame animation function as well as blend shape and dynamic-based animation functions. There aren’t many limitations here either, just opportunities. When looking at Maya vs Blender animation-wise, Maya has the advantage of being more accessible as it has similarities to other 3D animation-based software.
Ease of Access:
Maya can seem complex at first but actually has quite a smooth learning curve and plenty of resources available to help you learn your way around the suit.
- Industry Standard (For good reason!)Photorealism capabilities;
- Almost all 3D formats supported;
- Comes complete with Node based editors for those without coding experience.
- High price compared to BlenderRequires a high end system, less friendly for indie studios;
- Doesn’t come with a lot of documentation despite online tutorials being common;
- Can render quite slowly depending on the scene.
Is Maya better than Blender? Let’s deep dive into Blender and outline its benefits and some of its flaws to assess further. Blender is an open-source and free piece of software that has an incredible amount of capabilities that you’d find in paid software. Amazingly too, it isn’t a large program, offering you a practical solution if you’ve not got a lot of hard drive space on your machines. Blender is a fully accessible piece of 3D software that is capable of pretty much everything that Maya is capable of, from 3D Modelling to Animation, Blender can provide at least basic access to those functions.
Blender originally was far more complex with its interface not being particularly user-friendly, and due to its open-source nature, provided little documentation on how to effectively use it. The benefit of this is that the community had to work together online to create user-friendly assistance-based content that new users can use as a guide when learning Blender. Currently, there has been a lot of work done to make Blender more accessible and its user interface easier to use and this has been achieved to quite a successful degree.
Blender provides some interesting modifiers, and these deliver you the ability to cut down on the manual work required to model complex assets. The structure of these is interesting, you can apply them to your mesh but they do not change the object itself, the program instead keeps a sequence allowing the original mesh to remain the same but the output to be heavily modified – this saves an extensive amount of time during production cycles and allows for non-destructive experimentation, something that gives it an advantage over Maya.
Blender receives regular updates that include content requested by the community. Blender 3.2 for example includes new features and tools specifically designed to make tasks simpler for users.
As an example, 3.2 includes Light groups, which allows the user to create lighting passes and colour arrangements without re-rendering, which saves an incredible amount of time. This update also includes volume motion blur which helps with things like gas simulations.
3.2 also introduces a new rendering engine for Blender, which so far has tested faster than Maya’s rendering suite. Cycles X renders user projects in minutes, whereas before its introduction, a render could take hours. Blender is fluid, its consistently being updated to be made easier to use and faster use, the fact its updates come from user-based feedback makes it a very dynamic piece of software that is made by the artists for the artists, making it a very desirable piece of software.
Despite its incredible amount of depth and lightning-fast render, believe it or not, Blender is 100% free to use.
Blender has an amazing amount of functionality and can provide the same tools as Maya, however, it has been reported to be unstable at times depending on what you’re doing.
Render-wise, Blender is very fast and with the latest update is said to be faster to render than Maya. However, its interface is still complex, production time could take longer because of this.
Despite Blender’s ongoing updates to make the UI/UX better, Blender has a complex user interface that isn’t as accessible as Maya.
Blender’s modifier-based system allows for complex modelling that doesn’t change or effect the original mesh, dynamic and clever it is a huge time saver.
Hit or miss, the animation suite in Blender is overly complex to use, and whilst you can achieve great results the documentation provided for this part of Blender is minimal.
Ease of Access:
Free to access but the software itself could be more accessible, the good thing is that they’re consistently trying to improve the user experience.
- 100% free to access;
- Open Source, this means you can modify it to suit your production needs;
- Real-time rendering, a massive time saver;
- Wide ranging functionality, its diverse software;
- Saving and transferring the scene with all texture sources to another person makes it easier to view the file. No need to transfer the texture pack to view. Everything is already saved in the program itself;
- The ability to fly around the scene like in Unreal Engine, which makes it easier to view large scenes;
- Tons of free tutorials. Much more than any other program have.
- The user interface can seem complicated if you are switching to Blender from another graphical editor;
- Not industry standard, your skills in Blender wont translate to big studios that use Maya;
- It’s a jack of all trades but master of none;
- Updates often come with bugs, its testing is less thorough than Maya due to its open source nature.
Now we’ve laid down all the information, we can correctly compare Maya and Blender and see which is better. You won’t be surprised to hear, that neither is better than the other, both provide a diverse set of reliable tools that can achieve incredible artistry, however, both provide different experiences that may suit your needs more or less.
At Pingle studio we have extensive experience in both Maya and Blender, so if your game needs assistance using either of these software suites, we can provide you with talented artists that will be able to create amazing content for you. As an example, we created a series of fantastic high-quality 3D models for Egosoft’s X4 franchise and developed 18 original plot-based levels for the DLC for the hit game Golf with Your Friends.
Pingle studio is made up of talented game artists that can provide you with stunning visuals that will set your game apart from others. If you have any questions about the services that we can provide you and your production team, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll assist you. At Pingle studio, game development is our passion and you’ll quickly discover that when you get in touch.