Wednesday, May 8th, 2024 Posted by Jim Thacker

Download Vue, PlantFactory and PlantCatalog for free

Current owner Bentley Systems has discontinued development of e-on software’s digital nature tools, and made perpetual licenses of the applications available for free.

The free versions of environment-creation software Vue and plant-creation tool PlantFactory are licensed for commercial use, as is procedural 3D plant library PlantCatalog.

Bentley has released both Vue 2023 and PlantFactory 2023, the current stable versions of the software, and its work-in-progress final development versions, Vue 2024 and PlantFactory 2024.

The releases include the 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, LightWave, Maya and Unreal Engine plugins, while PlantCatalog plants can be exported to most DCC apps, including Blender and Unity.

Below, we’ve provided a brief retrospective of the tools, plus our FAQs on the free versions.

e-on software’s 2010 customer reel. At the time, Vue was widely used in VFX and animation.

Why was Vue significant in the VFX, animation and motion graphics markets?
Originally released in the 1990s under the product name Vue d’Esprit, Vue was one of the first off-the-shelf tools for creating 3D environments.

As its toolset grew, it enabled users to generate 3D terrain, dress it with 3D plants, add a sky and clouds, and render the results, either in Vue itself, or the DCC applications with which it integrated via plugins, ultimately including 3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D and Unreal Engine.

By the 2000s, it was used in a range of industries, including animation, visualization and VFX, by studios including DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light and Magic and Weta Digital.

In the early 2010s, Vue was joined by PlantFactory, a new application for authoring 3D plants.

What has happened to Vue and PlantFactory recently?
In 2015, e-on software was acquired by engineering tools developer Bentley Systems, which now distributes its real-time architectural visualization software, LumenRT.

Less popular e-on software products, like scattering plugin Carbon Scatter and atmosphere-creation plugin CloudFactory Ozone, were discontinued two years later.

Updates to Vue and PlantFactory became more sporadic, not helped by a 2017 cyber attack on the product website and online asset store Cornucopia 3D, taking the latter permanently offline.

The next year, Bentley made Vue and PlantCatalog rental-only, with $990/year Enterprise subscriptions also ultimately including the PlantCatalog library on its release in 2020.

Why has Bentley discontinued Vue, PlantFactory and PlantCatalog?
In a statement on its website announcing its decision to discontinue development of the digital nature products, the company writes:

“For over 39 years, Bentley’s focus has been to serve engineers and other professionals responsible for designing, constructing, and operating sustainable infrastructure.

“To keep our focus, we have decided to end sales for Vue, PlantFactory, and PlantCatalog. [They] will not be further developed, and support will be limited to critical security patches.”

How do the new free perpetual licenses of Vue, PlantFactory and PlantCatalog work?
The new perpetual licenses of Vue and PlantCatalog remove the need to activate the software online, and will never expire.

Both applications are licensed for use in commercial projects, and 3D plant models authored with PlantFactory can be sold commercially online.

PlantCatalog assets can also be used in commercial projects, including embedding them into games, but the new EULA prohibits reselling the models themselves.

The free download does not include PlantCatalog Exporter, used to export PlantCatalog assets to other DCC applications, but this can be done with PlantFactory itself.

Do the free versions of Vue and PlantFactory include DCC plugins and network rendering?
The free downloads include the Vue and PlantFactory integration plugins for 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, LightWave, Maya and Unreal Engine, but not the Connector plugins for live sync with NVIDIA’s Omniverse, due to the “high frequency of changes” to the collaboration platform.

Bentley has also removed restrictions on network rendering, making it possible to install Vue render nodes on an unlimited number of machines.

None of the products will receive support or hotfixes, although if Bentley “discovers a critical security vulnerability in one of the products, [it] may release a patch at [its] sole discretion”.

The software has not been open-sourced, and the EULA prohibts other developers from decoding or reverse engineering it.

Users with legacy accounts have until 30 August 2024 to request a compatibility key to unlock their software to make it possible to install on new machines.

Which versions of Vue, PlantFactory and PlantCatalog are available for free?
The downloads include both Vue 2023 and PlantFactory 2023, the current stable releases of the software, and work-in-progress builds of Vue 2024 and PlantFactory 2024, which were evidently quite far into development when Bentley decided to discontinue the products.

You can discover the new features in the 2024 releases in this story.

The PlantCatalog downloads include every release between PlantCatalog 2019.1 and 2023.3.

What are the license conditions and system requirements for the free versions?
Vue and PlantFactory 2023 and 2024 are compatible with Windows 8+ and macOS 10.14-12.0.

The integration plugins are compatible with 3ds Max 2019-2023, Cinema 4D R20-2023, LightWave 11.6-2020, Maya 2019-2023 and Unreal Engine 4.26-5.1. PlantFactory 2024 also supports Unreal Engine 5.2-5.3.

The software is free to download, including for use on commercial projects, via a custom EULA.

PlantCatalog 2023.3 assets can be exported from PlantFactory in standard 3D file formats including FBX, Alembic and USD, for use in other DCC applications and game engines.

The plant models can be used in commercial projects, including games, but not resold online.

Read Bentley’s FAQs about discontinuing development of Vue, PlantFactory and PlantCatalog

Download Vue, PlantFactory and PlantCatalog for free from Bentley’s website

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