Ive always seen that 3dsmax had a "node" based material editor from its inception. It just didnt have a graph interface to go along with it. Instead it had an older tree view along with a "UP" and "OVER" buttons to jump around.
The idea of a graphical node interface to deal with materials seems obvious, but its also a large design project as in how it works and what it's workflow is. To me, it fell short, and like everything else in 3dsmax, it will be abondoned and ignored, instead of tuned and improved.
I've been building more complicated composite's in my shaders layering mudbox bitmaps over each other to dial in my looks and tonight I thought I'd give that old "Slate" material editor yet another try. As I undergo the task of jumping around bitmaps and shader settings to dial in my creatures skin for a render, I'll see if this tool can asist me in a journey i am already familiar with.
One of the big reasons I dont like this tool is the branding. "Slate" material editor. It's got a fucking name? WTF? Am I to belive that this technology is so god damn brilliant that not only was it patented and given awards, but it's got its own name too.
I open the "Slate" material editor. Ok, good start. Lets grab the material I already started. Oh, eyedropper icon, I got that. Ok, lets look at what I have. I had a composite shader, with 3 bitmaps connected to the diffuse component. As I look at the screen, it occurs to me that while the old interface shows the maps stacking bottom to top, the "Slate" material editor has them in opposite order, top to bottom? Oh great. so which "layer" is on top? immediate loss of confidence that anything is right from here on out.
I accept this flaw, just as the modifier stack is opposite of the track view's take on the modifier stack. But still, a good design should dictate he proper view on data. I see that everything is names "Map #44" or whatever so i decide to rename things. This goes fine for the bitmaps, but over the composite material, I right click to "reanme" the layers and NO. This is rename for the node itself! You must rename the layer using that other interace. The rightside up one. Ok, I get it. This composite material was made a while back and doesn't know how to talk to the new "Slate" technology. Lame...
Ok. Whatever. Im a trooper, there could be some amazing thing that improves my workflow here. Right? Ok, lets add a couple other bitmaps i made in mudbox. OK, lets clone this bitmap here and replace its path with a different bitmap. NO. No copy and paste in "Slate" material editor. Wait, let me double check that. Yea. I dont see a way to copy and paste a node anywhere. What about dragging a bitmap over to the material pallette area? You know, the one with sliders on the side that show the tiniest window of materials?
And whats the the damn bitmap icons in the composite material? First of all, they don't apply 3dsmax system gamma properly so mine always look super dark. It's also really slow. Like those images are rendered live everytime you see them. As I jump around that shader map always has to re draw it's icons. How about an option to turn off the icons then? I can name my stuff and deal with it that way.
I don't blame the engineer for these problems. I can't even blame the designer that worked on it. I could only assume that to do this toolset right, would have taken more time than the company would allow for.