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GraphN lets you create custom tools for Maya and UE5

Friday, July 30th, 2021 | Posted by Jim Thacker

Polygonflow has released the first public beta of GraphN, its promising visual programming system for creating custom tools for use inside other CG applications.

The initial public release, which comes with a library of 100 25 readymade tools, is geared towards object scattering, but more general procedural modelling and physics capabilities are in development.

GraphN is currently available for Maya and Unreal Engine 5, with UE4, Blender and 3ds Max to come.

The ‘most powerful and accessible’ platform available for creating custom Maya CG tools
First unveiled last year, and available in private beta since January, GraphN is a visual programming environment that integrates directly with its host applications.

Users can then create custom tools via a standard node-based workflow, and choose which of their controls and properties to make available inside the host application itself.

Polygonflow founder – and former Quixel technical artist – Adnan Chaumette describes the aim of GraphN as being to give CG artists “the most powerful and accessible plugin creation platform out there”.

Geared towards scene layout, but with more procedural modelling and physics features to come
In the initial public beta, GraphN’s toolset looks geared mainly towards object scattering and scene layout.

The graph includes nodes for positioning objects, or scattering them across a surface, with support for selection patterns and masking, and for aligning objects relative to one another.

There are also options for adjusting geometry, materials and textures, for decimating assets, and support for basic physics properties like collision and gravity.

The toolset is intended to automate repetitive tasks in game development and visual effects work.

According to the launch video embedded above, “scattering, cables, geometry slicing, asset placement and so many other time-consuming tasks are now a thing of the past”.

Polygonflow plans to introduce more Boolean modelling, procedural geometry and physics features before the 1.0 release of GraphN later this year.

Like Fabric Engine, but for non-technical artists?
The closest thing we’ve seen to GraphN is Fabric Engine, Fabric Software’s now-defunct framework for developing custom VFX and games tools for use in other applications.

But whereas Fabric Engine was primarily for TDs and technical artists – it was initially purely code-based, and only later got a visual programming environment – GraphN is aimed a much wider user base.

That includes non-technically minded artists with little experience of other visual programming systems.

Responding to a YouTube comment asking what the advantage of GraphN would be over the more varied node-based workflows available natively in Houdini, Polygonflow responded that Houdini is “used in large part by people with a good technical grasp of how you can think ‘logically’ around node graphs”.

The software also comes with a library of readymade tools – currently 100 25, with more to come – which users can adapt to their needs, or use as the basis for creating new custom tools.

Initially for Maya and UE5, with Blender and 3ds Max support planned
GraphN is currently available for Maya and Unreal Engine 5: according to the public roadmap, it should support instancing in the Arnold, Redshift and RenderMan renderers by the 1.0 release.

Support is also planned for Unreal Engine 4, Blender and 3ds Max, in that order.

At the minute, tools created in one host application don’t work in the other, although Polygonflow’s goal is to “have graphs sharable between software with ease”.

Pricing and system requirements
GraphN is compatible with Maya 2020+ and Unreal Engine 5 on Windows only. Linux support is planned. The software is currently in beta, with a 1.0 release due in “October-November” 2021.

Support for 3ds Max and Blender is due in GraphN 1.5 early next year.

GraphN is rental-only. Personal subscriptions, available to artists with revenues under $500,000/year, cost $8/month or $80/year. Single-seat Studio subscriptions cost $50/month or $500/year.

Download the free trial edition of GraphN from Polygonflow’s website

See new features due in GraphN in the software’s public roadmap

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