Mirye Software has unveiled Shade 3D for Unity: a free version of Shade 13, its modelling, rendering and animation software, intended for use with the popular game-development platform.
Strictly speaking, only the Windows version of Shade 3D for Unity is actually new: the Mac OS X version was released three weeks ago, along with Shade 13 itself.
The fact we missed both releases at the time is apt, since it illustrates the problem Shade has had in getting mainstream attention in the West – and why reinventing itself as an indie games tool may be a smart move.
Big in Japan – just not anywhere else
First released in 1986, Shade is actually one of the oldest continuously developed 3D applications out there. Although it had a strong presence in Japan – where it is developed by one-time Poser owner e frontier – it never really caught on in the West, where support (and often, actual English-language releases) was patchy.
However, new US publisher Mirye Software has been promoting the product more consistently, with a greater focus on the growing indie game market, culminating in the new Shade 3D for Unity edition.
“It’s really great that Shade 3D is reinventing itself as a tool with great relevance for the game industry,” said Unity CEO David Helgason. “That Shade 3D also has a free app for the Unity community is just wonderful.”
The feature set
We can’t find a comparison table between the features of Shade 3D for Unity and the commercial editions of the software, but the announcement thread on CG Talk lists the following features:
- Import/Export integration with Unity 3D
- Advanced 3D Modeling Environment
- Polygon Mesh Editor
- UV Editor and Image Management
- Design friendly Bezier Spline Modeler
- Powerful Object Instancing Features
- 3D Object Hierarchy Browser
- Material Setting Features
- Material Parameter with Texture Map Settings
- Animation Setting Feature
- Draft Ray Tracing Preview Renderer
Users will also be able to “import, modify, animate and customize” character rigging and animation data, including the option to paint bone weights and manipulate keyframe data.
Shade is “optimized” for use in an FBX workflow, and imports other standard 3D formats like Collada and OBJ.
A win-win situation?
For advanced tools, including image-based modelling, hair and particles, you’ll have to upgrade to Shade 13 Professional – so potentially, Mirye gets to expand its paying user base considerably; while the indie games community gets a useful free tool.
That’s the theory, at any rate: it will be interesting to see how many users Shade 3D for Unity can tempt across from existing free alternatives such as Blender.
Shade 3D for Unity is available now for Windows XP+ and Mac OS X 10.6+. The free Shade 3D Loader import utility can be found on the Unity Asset Store.
Read more about Shade 3D for Unity on Mirye’s website
(Includes download links)