Website : www.megascans.se
Quixel (www.quixel.se) just recently released their Megascans part of the Quixel suite via the website www.megascans.se. This was something that this reviewer was personally very interested to see as it promised a great deal through its glossy teaser videos and the word of mouth that had been spreading and therefore an impulse buy of nearly $20 later (per month) I was ready to start checking out the goods…
So let’s start out with what Quixel Megascans is and what it is not. Megascans is a library of assets created by the clever people over at Quixel using their own special hardware to perform scans on surfaces and a team of modellers and texture artists to clean it up for us afterwards. If that was all there was then that would be exceptionally cool however the Megascans subscription also brings two pieces of software with it; Megascans Studio, a software tool for combining and blending the detailed scans of the materials to create an infinite range of detailed surfaces and Megascans Bridge, a tool that (supposedly) can send your surfaces and 3d assets to your preferred application.
Prices start (monthly) at $19.99 for an indie licence which gives points access to the library and access to the toolsets.
I think it is important to look at the pros and cons right away with the software alone – Megascans Studio is a polished and fantastically useful application for the creation of complex surfaces with minimal effort. Once you have got used to its simple interface, you will be able to push out materials with ease ranging from green meadows to ruined road surfaces onwards. There is a lot that can be done with it.
That’s the good points. The points for me however that I think it misses out on are non ground based surfaces – you can work on ground surface or you can work on nothing. The simple ability to change the preview to a wall or ceiling does not strike me as something that would take forever to integrate, however we are stuck with working with a floor plane, which I understand for the sakes of things such as the adding of water layers when making puddles however I cannot understand why we cannot have it and just have the water layer disabled. Or allow us to tinker with the water to get a good damp wall effect (something that took me 2 minutes… although my wall was sadly lying on the floor).
This is by far a minor nag however, the tool itself is fantastic and in my humble opinion an essential artist tool for anyone finding themselves needing quality detailed surfaces for architectural visualisation, for VFX and indeed for game development. In fact it is in game development for me that this toolset really shines, being able to create ranges of materials and textures way more quickly than I could using the traditional methods.
Now here I add a note – I am colour blind (note the UK spelling there by the way, I realise that is one to many of the letter U) and this studio is a lifesaver combined with the Megascans library as I am able to assemble materials safe in the knowledge that they are not going to be weird alien colour combinations that remind people of 1970s David Bowie fashion. This is obviously another important time saver and again one of the many reasons that I do like what Quixel does a lot.
Ok so on to Megascans Bridge. As of the time of review I am using 1.0.5 because 1.0.6 was having some difficulty with a json error that caused crashing. I am sure however that the team will address this issue as I have reported it to their bug tracking team. The crashes are a minor annoyance however for me the major annoyance is that Bridge feels unfinished, incomplete and a little lacking in a lot of places. Rather like an application that is more of a concept than a realised product. Bear with me as that seems harsh and I do use Megascans Bridge a lot, however I do not use it the way that I would like to use it, let me explain;
Megascans Bridge automatically gathers all the assets you have created in Megascans Studio as well as gathering base assets downloaded from Megascans.se and allows you to export them to a list of applications which at the moment includes Marmoset presets, Maya presets Unity and Unreal. The surface exports seem to work fine – to be honest I was expecting that it was going to export them in a more packaged manner, interfacing with the program in question, however it does allow you to export chosen surfaces to your application of choice by writing the materials into a folder in a format of your choosing. The Megascans Bridge also includes examples to show you how to plug in for example your VRay shaders using the exports however it is still quite a manual process.
Where it falls apart for Bridge is when it comes to 3d assets. The 3d asset exporter seems little more than a cosmetic thing that was tacked on to Bridge. You cannot export multiple LODs at the same time for your model which means having to repeatedly export the LOD level AND the textures over and over again even though the textures remain the same. What is more maddening is that you do not even need to use Bridge for this as you are not editing the 3d model scans at all. There is no option to combine your meshes – which I can understand as it would be a HUGE undertaking – however that leads me to wonder what the point of having an exporter is at all for the 3d models.
When I open the ZIP file that the 3d model scan comes as, inside I see all the textures that I need – albedo, cavity, displacement, various LODs for normal maps, LODs in FBX for the model, the ZBrush model and the high detail fbx as well as brush tif files. Fantastic! It really is full of everything you need and there is so much to get busy with – and you do not NEED the Megascans bridge especially to export it when you can just drag the textures and fbx assets you need out of the ZIP file and into a folder to use in your app of choice. I realise this seems petty however that is why this is a review and not a cheerleading practice.
So let’s talk about the Megascans Library at last! My $20 gets me 30 points (more on those in a minute) per month and a non commercial licence. In addition I can download 2k resolution for my surfaces. As I am really using this for my own projects that is fine, especially as money is tight at the moment. For an extra $10 a month I get 50 points, an indie commercial licence, a 4k res and for $125 I get a multiuser licence, limited commercial access and lots of points.
What do those points do? Well firstly they let you download surfaces ranging from snow and grasslands through to rocky surfaces, mud, scrub, grasslands, and volcanic fields (and lots more added all the time) at one or two points a surface. You put your downloaded zip into the designated area for Megascans Studio and it reads it and it is ready to go right away. The quantity of quality assets is intense and you will need to spend time deciding which assets you need to curate for your collection carefully if you are working to a budget. All the surfaces look crisp and very professional no matter how you use them with appropriate normals and displacement maps included in the surfaces. I honestly have nothing bad to say about them at all!
Neither is there anything bad to say about the 3d scans of the rocks, tree branches, tree trunks and awesome looking ground rock piles. If you loved The Vanishing of Ethan Carter for the quality of the scanned assets you will be in HEAVEN with the quality of these, although you have to realise the cost of a scanned larger 3d piece can be 6 points or more so again you should take time curating your collection. Megascans includes small collections of branches for scattering, mushrooms for growing and all manner of ground debris for your … we… ground.
And here we start to hit the one major problem. There is a whole lot of ground and rocks; As I mentioned before in the review, I would like to make walls, I would like to make pillars, I would like to make things that are not the ground covered in rocks and while I know that things like that are no doubt coming soon, they are not here quite yet and I honestly wish they were.
It is in fact the thing that stops me giving this a higher score as a complete suite. I love Quixel Megascans and Megascans Studio and I even kind of like Megascans Bridge however I want a little more and perhaps that is greedy but hell, I’m a busy artist and I want to reduce my workflow as much as I can!
I would recommend this to everyone as an essential part of your toolkit for making realistic surfaces and yes, you can use it to make walls, ceilings and just about anything else – the niggles I have are cosmetic or merely just impatience driven and I know that Teddy and the team at Quixel will be working at full steam to bring the community more, my advice is that you should step in now if you can afford it and start building your library.
Megascans Overall Review ScoreWell worth the money!90%