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Unity 3D is an amazing tool for quickly creating good-looking, fun games. Unfortunately, its not intended to be used for actually designing your characters or complex levels.

Blender is the general low-budget answer for this, but is difficult to understand when compared to proprietary programs, say, 3DS Max. What else is out there?

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Blender was that accepted answer. I want a non-Blender answer. –  Joe Nov 24 '10 at 21:43
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 22 '10 at 1:23

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8 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If want to save bucks, I tend to recommend a combo of tools, rather than a single one. Indeed, I've worked in the industry and rarely you use just the main package.

  • +1 here for Wings3D. Been my main tool for characters, objects and levels modeling for every game job I've had. Once mastered, allows you to go faster in organic modeler than even with stablished commercial packages.

  • You have as well Anim8or. www.anim8or.com . Is not of the power of Blender, but still, quite capable, and perhaps easier to learn. IMO, Blender is a faster tool once well learnt, even if it's hard.

  • Texturing, 3D painting. http://www.crackart.org

  • 3d Painting is fast, and cool. But you may wish to as well texture, or do part of it (or even all) old school way, with 2d editors (ie: Gimp, Gimp.org )

  • hi detail modeling (kind of what Zbrush does, in a modest way) http://www.drpetter.se/project_sculpt.html

With all above you should be setup for making certain quantity and kind of projects. Still, gotta stress that with Blender you have the zbrush "clone", a 3d painter, great character animator, a very fast renderer (version 2.5x), game formats exporter, etc. It makes it all.

So, as a do-it-all free solution.

  • Blender 2.5 allows me to animate all characters and doing with very advanced control, and the GUI became a lot more friendly. Is yet not completed, but can be used in projects already, with some cautions.

And my personal advice as a do-it-all commercial solution:

  • Cinema4D is a great, very complete tool. Might be pricey, but the render is really fast, and you can go adding modules that excel in quality compared to other tools, free or not. Indeed, is not easy to find something that renders better hair and better sketch/toon render than what the commercial modules for this Cinema provides. And those are about he fastest renders in the market. http://www.maxon.net/en/home.html

As very good commercial specialized task tools (besides Wings3D, imo at the highest professional level, even while is free) :

  • Unwrap3d, it allows very good control for making uv mapping for your models. www.unwrap3d.com

  • Silo. For just modeling. Very good. Some people prefer it to Wings 3D. http://www.nevercenter.com/

  • Mudbox, high detail modeler. (I actually prefer it to Zbrush, but Zbrush is more stablished. ) It's now at Autodesk, as far as I remember.

  • Gile[s] A great tool, now freeware, to create lightmaps (baked game lighting and shadows) for games. http://www.frecle.net/index.php?show=home

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This is superuser material, but still, a good program I've used is Wings 3D. When I last used it, it was strictly modeling-oriented (rather than texturing or animation), but for pure (relatively) low-poly modeling, it's a perfect tool with the most natural modeling controls/UI I've seen.

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It's not that low-budget, but for $1,000 you can get Luxology's Modo which is a good mix of modeling and 3D-painting functions at 1/4 the price of Maya....

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+1 for recommending Modo. Yes it's still pricey but it sure as hell can do the job and more for less than its more expensive competitors. –  Asinine Monkey Mar 22 '10 at 9:11
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Try Rhino 3D.

Maya is also another good choice.

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He seems to be looking for a budget option - Maya is emphatically not that. –  Steve314 Mar 22 '10 at 1:51
    
No, he never mentioned a price. –  Alan Mar 26 '10 at 7:25
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I'm using AC3D which is pretty basic but give's good control of the triangles. Not sure it can be used directly by Unity but AC3D can export in various 3D formats.

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Caligari Truespace went free and open source a while ago. I didn't find it that intuitive myself, but YMMV.

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MilkShape 3D is a great low-poly 3D editor! (shareware, $35)

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I would use wings3d for characters and blender for levels. You either love or hate blender. I just happen to love it. I think the interface, especially before they added all the standardizations, is fantastic. It's kind of life vim. You have to read the manual. You can't guess your way through it. Once you learn it, you're blazing fast. It's not low end. It's got some very high end features.

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