[Sidefx-houdini-list] Autodesk bought Softimage

Dragos Stefan ds_list at dsg.ro
Sat Oct 25 13:27:45 EDT 2008

Andy Nicholas wrote:
 > I'm
 > just saying that it's a mistake to knock ICE based on the fact that it
 > looks similar to VOPs, and therefore can't offer anything new. It 
can, and
 > it has.

I disagree with this. For me it's inevitable to knock ICE based on the 
fact that it looks similar to VOPs.
I liked XSI quite a lot before and I always loved their implementations 
of various stuff, their attention to UI, the shading/lighting part and 
the very nice overall speed of the package. I began to dislike it in 
time because of various reasons (mainly the lack of *real* R&D and 
innovation) but the "breaking point" was when ICE appeared. Of course it 
has some improvements over VOPs in workflow (after all, this is 
something that Softimage does very well), of course it's faster (they 
have a newer architecture, and, more important, they could concetrate 
only on implementation as the whole design and functionality was 
invented elsewhere, 10 years before). But in the end ICE tells me what I 
began to sense some years ago, specifically that Softimage is simply 
unable to do any worthy R&D and innovation by themselves. I'm not 
interested in a package whose most important R&D effort for years is a 
copy of what other package had since 1999, but less flexible overall. 
Did they improve some areas? Of course, this is totally expected. It 
would have been hilarious and even more shameful if they haven't had any 
contribution at all in the end. Then I look at Houdini along the years 
and I see proceduralism, CHOPs, VEX & VOPs, Digital Assets, DOPs etc. 
These are real innovations, new approaches on problems, never available 
before in commercial products.

People bash Maya a lot, because of various reasons and because of 
Autodesk. I don't like Maya at all but if I try to be objective, those 
guys are doing something. When I look at Nucleus, I see original, worthy 
R & D put to work. Maybe as a Houdini user I don't like their solutions 
to problems, but I see they *invented* their solution. They are doing 
something unavailable before, and they have an edge in some areas. They 
give their clients a *real* competitive advantage.
I don't see this at all in ICE. I see a copy of SESI's ideas, with 
additional work on UI and speed (as I said, at least that was to be 
expected). Of course, is nice to have this *in XSI*, instead of nothing 
but in the end it's not something *innovative*, that wasn't available 
By "innovation" and "real competitive advantage" I mean "you can do with 
this product something that couldn't have been done before with any 
other product". SESI does this all the time. Alias/Autodesk does it 
sometimes. Softimage did "you can do what could already be done, but 
faster, or easier, or more 'artist-friendly' (and sometimes less 
flexible)". It's a *very* good thing to have that, but if this is *all* 
that you do then something is not right.

To put it in another way, what do you think would have happened if SESI 
had the marketing budget and the financial backing of Softimage when 
they invented VEX & VOPs, many years ago (at that time XSI wasn't even a 


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