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Author Topic: ForestPack frustration  (Read 3004 times)

Rawalanche

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ForestPack frustration
« on: July 15, 2014, 07:07:31 PM »
Hi,

since Multiscatter was getting slower and buggier with every new release and i did not get proper tech support from iCube, I was forced to buy ForestPack. I remember i stopped at work using it because working with it always caused me just frustration and anxiety, but now, when Multiscatter gave up on me, i have no other choice since there's not much competition when it comes to scattering plugins. I bought myself one licence for home use, and quickly remembered what all those frustrating things were. So in this thread, i would like to list them, and it could possibly lead to some improvements in these frustrating areas:

1, Scene bloatware

Nothing could frustrate me more than some plugin bloating my scene. ForestPack always forces me to have this frozen hidden layer of fake 2D trees i am never going to use in my scene. I can not stand that.

Also, instead of retaining materials on objects that i scatter, ForestPack has a need to completely mess up my material list with introduction of some forest_automat material. I can not understand why. Why it can not just leave my material scene alone. I want to have a clear list of materials i use in my scene, and i do not need ForestPack to anyhow rearrange it.

Why does ForestPack even separate scattered objects from their materials? I do not see any flexibility in this, just huge space for possible errors.

2, Painful pop-ups.

I get constant pop-ups all the time. I do not even finish creating FP objects and it already bothers me with Camera clipping, which i do not want. Same with display density, and so on. Even if i check do not show again, as soon as i create new FP object, entire hell stats over.

3, Crazy defaults.

I remember my colleague almost bursting into tears after 40 hours without sleep finding out why his scene flickers so much and looks ugly. Turns out ForestPack has some own Fake shadow system, that's absolutely unusable for animation. Disabling these fake shadows solved the problem. Why would you ever interfere with rendering? I would really urge to leave things like shading and raytracing to the developers of the particular renderers, and not try to mess with that. You will never make it work as well and optimal as the actual renderer developers do. What's scary though, is that this feature is enabled by default.

Same with Camera Clipping, enabled by default. Can you imagine how painful it is when you finish rendering sequence overnight and realize there are trees randomly popping up and disappearing in the reflections?

4, General usability

Overall, ForestPack feels way too overengineered. I realize every user wanted their own feature and that's why it's became this chimera. But UI is arranged in so visually complex manner it sometimes take several minutes just to remember where particular setting was. Also, something like creating a simple forest with bushes, which takes about a minute with multiscatter, can take up to 10 minutes in forest pack because even such a simple task like adding custom object is overly complicated.

Setting distribution is probably most painful here, as i constantly need to balance distribution map type, density, scale, threshold, max. density, etc... Otherwise, FP will again start to yell at me something about having to reduce viewport display because my distribution has became too dense, even when the actual density of instances is pretty much same as one with different ratio of parameters mentioned in previous sentece.

Now again, compare that to Multiscatter, where i just simply define amount of instances per square amount of scene units.

So now, solutions i would propose:
1,
Give me the possibility of not having my scene bloated with ForestPack objects. Allow me to create empty FP object with New item set to disabled or custom object by default, and add the hidden layer only when user selects Template mode. This way, if i do not ever touch template mode (which I never will, because damn... those trees look ugly! ) i will never need any hidden layer. It would also be appropriate to add some sort of warning that FP is going to bloat your scene, if you select template mode.

2,
Add some silent mode option, which would mute all the pop ups, and would remain saved even for newly created FP objects. I am really not an idiot, i can figure out that my viewport is going slow because of too dense ForestPack display settings, or that I may need camera clipping in some cases. And i do not need to read it 50 times a day, especially when i am immersed in the scene creation, and do not want any distractions.

3,
Fake shadows and Camera clipping should be disabled by default, and properly warned how much harm can these things do when used unwisely.

4,
You know what? I would be willing to pay double! Yes! Twice the price, for a stripped-down ForestPack version that would have LESS features. That would look something like Multiscatter, but would perform as incredibly well as ForestPack (seriously, the speed of viewport display and responsiveness when editing complex Forests with many dependencies is stunning, really great job done on that!). I want a simple scattering plugin. With ForestPack, i am getting a lot more, but on the other hand, the complexity makes day to day tasks take up to 5-10 times longer. So i am serious.

I would really not have any problems paying even twice as much as i pay for ForestPack, just to get version without pop-ups, fake shadows, camera clipping, template presets, loads of different distribution maps, tree editor, and overcomplicated starship control deck display settings, which would by default scatter directly scene objects, without need to create some container, that needs to be set to contain scene objects first.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2014, 07:12:09 PM by Rawalanche »

Rawalanche

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2014, 09:39:46 AM »
I think i can live with most of these things, even if it makes usage of ForestPack a pain, but i beg you, add at least options to disable pop ups. I snapped yesterday when i had to dismiss like 100th damn pop up window that day :( :(

iToo

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2014, 11:46:48 AM »
Hi,

First at all, thanks for your feedback and suggestions. We really appreciate it, because is the best way to improve our software.

I will try to reply all your questions:

Quote
Nothing could frustrate me more than some plugin bloating my scene. ForestPack always forces me to have this frozen hidden layer of fake 2D trees i am never going to use in my scene. I can not stand that.

Although we could try an alternative mode to store the 2D trees (or create them only when needed), the templates layer is used as well to store the 3D models loaded from the library. So at end, it is necessary for most of scenes.

Quote
Why does ForestPack even separate scattered objects from their materials? I do not see any flexibility in this, just huge space for possible errors.

The Geometry->Material parameter is optional. If you set it to blank, Forest uses the material assigned to the source object.

Regarding forest_automat, this is the only way to consolidate all materials used by Forest, which is compatible with all modes and renderers.
In any case, you can ignore them. These multi-subs uses instances of the source materials, so you can modify them instead.

Quote
I get constant pop-ups all the time. I do not even finish creating FP objects and it already bothers me with Camera clipping, which i do not want. Same with display density, and so on. Even if i check do not show again, as soon as i create new FP object, entire hell stats over.

Since Forest has tons of options, we added the suggestion pop-ups as a help for the newbie users.

Theorically the "do not show again" option should prevent to display the pop-up within the Max session. Even the display density choice is persistent (stored in the registry, and resetted only when reinstalling Forest). We'll check if this stuff working correctly.

A global option to disable all pop-ups is a good idea. I add it to the wishlist.

Quote
I remember my colleague almost bursting into tears after 40 hours without sleep finding out why his scene flickers so much and looks ugly. Turns out ForestPack has some own Fake shadow system, that's absolutely unusable for animation. Disabling these fake shadows solved the problem. Why would you ever interfere with rendering? I would really urge to leave things like shading and raytracing to the developers of the particular renderers, and not try to mess with that. You will never make it work as well and optimal as the actual renderer developers do. What's scary though, is that this feature is enabled by default.

It's strange... did you use 3D objects or billboards ? Fake shadows are generated only with billboards, except if you turn on "Cast opacity mask for Custom Objects", which is rarely used and disabled by default.

As you pointed, has no sense to use Fake shadows with 3D objects. This feature was designed only for billboards, and is very useful in this case.

Quote
Same with Camera Clipping, enabled by default. Can you imagine how painful it is when you finish rendering sequence overnight and realize there are trees randomly popping up and disappearing in the reflections?

Camera clipping is disabled by default, except clicking yes to the pop-up which suggests it. The "Limit to visibility" checkbox has no effect if there is not a camera assigned or "Auto assign to active camera" is enabled (default values are "none" and off respectively).

On the other hand, the pop-up to enable Camera Clipping is shown only when assigning a large scattering area.

Quote
Overall, ForestPack feels way too overengineered. I realize every user wanted their own feature and that's why it's became this chimera. But UI is arranged in so visually complex manner it sometimes take several minutes just to remember where particular setting was. Also, something like creating a simple forest with bushes, which takes about a minute with multiscatter, can take up to 10 minutes in forest pack because even such a simple task like adding custom object is overly complicated.

Agreed that Forest has tons of options. Not that the first version of the plugin was launched 14 years ago, and we must keep the compatibility with existing scenes. In the past we tried to remove some of the lesser-used options.... unsuccessfully, because always there is some customer that uses it.

Anyway, we'll check if it's possible to hide options dinamically using a Basic/Advanced selector, in the same way as VRay 3 (i guess they had the same problem).

But why not use the library to store your presets ? Once defined, you can create complete sets with a single click.

Quote
Setting distribution is probably most painful here, as i constantly need to balance distribution map type, density, scale, threshold, max. density, etc...
[...]
Now again, compare that to Multiscatter, where i just simply define amount of instances per square amount of scene units.

We cannot modify this without rewritting the plugin completely. In any case it's not our intention to make a clone of Multiscatter.

Quote
So now, solutions i would propose:

1,
Give me the possibility of not having my scene bloated with ForestPack objects. Allow me to create empty FP object with New item set to disabled or custom object by default, and add the hidden layer only when user selects Template mode.

Besides using a library preset, you can define a default preset in the General rollout, which is used for the new Forest objects. Just set your preferred settings and save it as "default".

The question about the templates layer is replied above.

Quote
It would also be appropriate to add some sort of warning that FP is going to bloat your scene, if you select template mode.

Do you want more pop-ups ? :) (sorry, just a joke)

Quote
2,
Add some silent mode option, which would mute all the pop ups, and would remain saved even for newly created FP objects.
[...]
3,
Fake shadows and Camera clipping should be disabled by default, and properly warned how much harm can these things do when used unwisely.

Both replied above.

Quote
4,
You know what? I would be willing to pay double! Yes! Twice the price, for a stripped-down ForestPack version that would have LESS features.

Well, we cannot remove existing features or change completely the Distribution system. But definitively we'll think how to simplify the interface a bit.

Carlos Quintero
iToo Software

Rawalanche

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2014, 11:54:14 AM »
Thanks a lot for detailed answers. I think i can live with that. I completely forgot about presets, so i will just make on with defaults i like.

Only real problem remaining is those pop ups. That's why my original post was so written in such offensive tone. I really just lost it after having dismissed so many popups that day.

So thanks again.

Rawalanche

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2014, 07:05:03 PM »
By the way would it be possible to have version without any templates at all? I asked all the guys around our studio, and it seems i am not only one aggravated about having scenes infected with that ForestPack layer. And it also seems that no one ever uses those low quality templates which come with ForestPack. So maybe, in installer, you could include option not to install any templates at all, and therefore not introduce any hidden layers in scenes. I believe there is a lot of people who use ForestPack just as a scattering plugin, not one click foliage solution.

iToo

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2014, 07:53:29 PM »
Templates are not added specifically by the installer, but created on the fly by the Forest object.

We would modify the plugin to create them only when used, although as i said in my previous post, the hidden layer is not used only for templates, but also to store the models loaded from the library. So, if you use the library, it will be created anyway.
Carlos Quintero
iToo Software

Rawalanche

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2014, 09:09:02 PM »
Yep, that's fine. I would be happy if the layer was added only when library is initialized. Therefore, if i would not touch library, i would avoid the layer :)

Rawalanche

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2014, 10:02:41 AM »
Hi,

are there any news on this? I have again experienced complete hell the other day when setting up ForestPack in the scene. I had to click way too many pop up boxes and had to change way too many wrong defaults. And again, UI complexity made task, that should take about 10 minutes, take about an hour. :(

iToo

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2014, 10:16:00 AM »
We are fixed some of these issues (as the pop-ups) in the upcoming Forest 4.3. But we continue working on this version yet, implementing new features.
Hopefully the first beta will be ready in the next weeks.
Carlos Quintero
iToo Software

Shawn Olson

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2014, 06:39:25 PM »
I just wanted to chime in here. Mainly, I wanted to share a view replying to the complexity of Forest. In my opinion, all of the options have their place and value. I would not like to see any features stripped. Also, if making the UI dynamic slows down the Modifier Tab, I would be against that option (as I know from developing MAXScript over the years that many things can slow down the Modify Tab that you wouldn't expect.)

In terms of the forest layer. It's never really bothered me personally. However, it could be interesting to see if you could implement XRef Objects instead. But if so, I'd suggest testing performance differences in various scenarios--because XRef objects on the network vs objects in the scene are likely to perform differently. If the performance in negative in various ways like network rendering, etc, then using this (if tried) should be a new option (for another pop up warning :) ).

Just some feedback.

iToo

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2014, 10:32:20 AM »
Shawn, thanks for your feedback:

Quote
In terms of the forest layer. It's never really bothered me personally. However, it could be interesting to see if you could implement XRef Objects instead

I'm afraid that XRef Objects will not help here, because they also require to create a node in the scene.
Carlos Quintero
iToo Software

Shawn Olson

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2014, 06:36:26 PM »
I'm afraid that XRef Objects will not help here, because they also require to create a node in the scene.

I see. What about XRef scene, then, as the nodes in the XRef scene are still accessible to scripts for copying, etc? I wrote some tools this last year that deal with accessing nodes in XRef scenes that were pretty useful, though they never needed to instance such nodes.

Again, just sharing ideas. I'm personally not affected negatively by the forest layer. But I know that some users of my tools also complained over the years for functions that auto-generated layers of any kind. So in my tools, I made ways to avoid it in 99% of the scenarios.

Rawalanche

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2014, 10:38:57 AM »
Yeah, ForestPack will probably always remain ForestPack. Hopefully, soon, a plugin will be released that will combine simplicity of Multiscatter with viewport performance and flexibility of ForestPack ;)

Shawn: I know everyone has different taste, but if you expand Main Command Panel in 3ds Max as much as possible on 1920x1200 monitor, to display 9!!! columns, and it is still not enough space to display all of the expanded roll-outs of a plugin settings, then you  can be sure there is something very wrong with usability design of your plugin ;)
« Last Edit: September 01, 2014, 10:41:37 AM by Rawalanche »

Shawn Olson

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2014, 07:20:59 AM »
Shawn: I know everyone has different taste, but if you expand Main Command Panel in 3ds Max as much as possible on 1920x1200 monitor, to display 9!!! columns, and it is still not enough space to display all of the expanded roll-outs of a plugin settings, then you  can be sure there is something very wrong with usability design of your plugin ;)

We all have our own opinions.

But you said you want flexibility. With all of those options come the flexibility. Some of the options probably cannot be simplified. For example, the Geometry, Areas, Surface, Transform and distribution map rollouts are all essential and straight-forward that cannot be stripped down while remaining robust. If you don't need those options, don't open the rollouts. But, for example, what good would the transform rollout be if you excluded the various Translation/Rotation/Scale options?

I just don't see the problem with having the options. I haven't used the Shadows rollout except to test sometime in the past. That I don't personally use it doesn't mean others don't. I just don't open that rollout.

Simpler, one-click solutions are still possible in Forest provided you create a preset library.

Anyway, I'm just sharing my own opinion... which is that the UI in forest is logical and fine. Perhaps a good compromise would be a robust pre-existing collection of presets that comes installed with forest. That would probably make many people happy. I'd use it as starting points, probably.

Another option is a MAXScipt floater that simply contains basic parameters to control some of the params in the selected forest objects. But I'm sure if you asked 20 Forest users what the basic controls would be in a stripped controller UI, you'd get 20 different answers.

Rawalanche

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Re: ForestPack frustration
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2014, 09:24:13 AM »
The problem is you usually need to open almost every roll out just to set up basic tree scatter for example. So you need to dig through them. And most of them could definitely be simplified without any loss of flexibility ;)