Author Topic: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".  (Read 2836 times)

Offline jwiede

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #75 on: July 29, 2018, 03:32:37 AM »
Thanks John.

The RTP is missing a lot of the features that are available in the preview in non-RTP mode, but these are planned to be brought into RTP mode this year. Specifically manipulation handles for objects, cameras, lights and shaders which have them, as well as coordinate selection for pasting into numeric fields. You're probably aware that these things exist in Terragen and your concerns go well beyond just those, but I mention this just in case you're not. At the moment you have to go back to non-RTP mode to do many things but the end goal is for RTP to be at least as useful as non-RTP.

I'm aware that many of those things exist, but there are some painful limitations there as well.  For example, the inability to manipulate multiple objects/instances/etc. at once is frustrating in extrema.  Having to iterate manually through dozens or more instances among a population just to do grouped transforms, etc. is highly inefficient and onerous (and prone to mistakes).  For an app so focused around large-population data sets, the current limitations in this regard are, again, highly frustrating.

A related, oft-frustrating issue is the general lack of ability to easily adjust relative positioning, orientation, and alignment among groups of entities (objects, instances, etc.).  Attempting fancier array- or radially-organized (packed or isometric) positioning of large numbers of objects or entities is a painfully time-consuming exercise in frustration.  If/when multi-entity in-view transform/rotation operations are added, please also ensure users are given adequate tools to easily adjust relative positions, alignments, and orientations amongst those selected multi-entity groups.  As a stretch goal, also give users the ability to arbitrary inject jitter/noise into other placement/orientation adjustments of groups, to produce more natural results -- options like poisson and different noise-based or -modified distributions would also be useful in that regard.

The coordinate selection can be helpful for many basic tasks, no question.  However, having better sense of how the scale of the item in question "fits" into the current view during manipulation, as well as generally better signposting as to where the view and entities within "sit" in the overall coordinate space would also make manipulation and coordinate entry much easier.  Some sort of dynamic, multiscale grid/workplane mechanism would certainly help there, as would tools to do easy in-view absolute and relative measurements, as well as (better) HUD-type information detailing positioning/orientation during in-view manipulations of entities.

Just some things to consider.  I certainly don't expect everything I've mentioned to change overnight, but even a sense things are moving towards better solutions and capabilities in some of these areas would be greatly appreciated.

We also have orthographic view modes in the preview, but they are not as easy to use as I'd like. We could do with a quad view.

A quad view would certainly help, as generally would easier in-view abilities to switch between different orthographic and camera views.  Ability to link different orthographic views during view orientation would also be highly useful, and I've not seen any way to (easily, anyway) do so in the current UI.

Documentation is an ongoing battle for us. Work is being done on this at the moment and we will keep pushing this forward. We are going to expand our team this year to move faster on documentation and training materials.

Understandable, and a battle all software producers face.  I'm glad to hear you intend to increase staffing in order to focus more effort on updating docs.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2018, 03:36:13 AM by jwiede »

Offline jwiede

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #76 on: July 30, 2018, 01:09:53 AM »
While I appreciate the support, I don't think the "one man" or "small team" argument is very compelling here. To the buyer, it's about value for money. A possible response that argument is "that's fine that you are a small team with fewer new features, but you should charge less". The current pricing is a weighted consideration of many factors. The truth is that many of our users do see value for money and anticipate return on investment at the current prices. But many people won't. That is actually one of the main reasons we decided to switch to a Maintenance model. Previously, if you wanted upgrade from Terragen 3 to Terragen 4, you had no choice in how much you paid. Users who are using it everyday professionally would pay the same upgrade price as a casual user, and that didn't seem fair in our view. Now with Maintenance you get to choose how often you update your Maintenance. Those customers who are really benefiting from regular updates are paying the $249 per year. While those who are less enthusiastic can choose to pay however frequently they want. I think this is fairer. But it's a complex topic and there are various viewpoints on this. We're listening, and we'll consider making adjustments.

Matt, the big difference now is that current "perpetual" license owners no longer receive bug fixes without maintenance, so it isn't quite true that "perpetual" are same as before.  In order for perpetual license owners to get bug fixes, etc. we have to pay for maintenance.

Previously, we'd pay for version upgrades, but we would also get the interim fixes and updates throughout the version as part of our upgrade cost.  The upgrade cost still occurs, but us "perpetual" license owners are now actually getting significantly less for that upgrade cost because we're only receiving a year's worth of fixes.  That's less value for cost received.

If the upgrade were significantly cheaper, the annual maintenance cost would be more tolerable.  However, the combination of the relatively-high upgrade pricing (in % of new license cost), and the new addition of relatively-significant (in % of new license cost) annual maintenance cost to obtain ongoing fixes beyond a year is asking a lot.  That's especially true given the annual maintenance cost does not guarantee covering a new version upgrade. 

In fact, based on prior length of version development cycles (and current position in v4's cycle at 4.2), it is actually unlikely my next year's maintenance cost (if purchased now) will include a new version upgrade.  It wouldn't be until the following annual maintenance period a new version upgrade would likely be covered.  That means I'll pay the v3->v4 upgrade cost plus (at least) two annual maintenance period fees to get to the next version -- that adds up to more than the cost of an entire new license, which IMO is asking too much. 

I really hope that helps explain where I'm coming from with my complaint about the pricing structure. 

Also, I'd love to use a Creative license, but it is missing critical (basic, IMO) 3D IO features, thus anyone who needs to interact with other 3D content/apps (like me) is more or less required to purchase the Professional license.  The Creative license is also missing EXR output and image-processing capabilities, and that seriously limits Terragen's ability to produce decent images at all, IMO. 

I use Terragen as a hobbyist, but were I restricted to just what the Creative license offered, I probably wouldn't use Terragen at all.  Unfortunately, that appears to be where the Professional license pricing structure is pushing me anyway.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 01:12:30 AM by jwiede »

Offline Matt

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #77 on: July 30, 2018, 04:51:09 AM »
Matt, the big difference now is that current "perpetual" license owners no longer receive bug fixes without maintenance, so it isn't quite true that "perpetual" are same as before.  In order for perpetual license owners to get bug fixes, etc. we have to pay for maintenance.

Previously, we'd pay for version upgrades, but we would also get the interim fixes and updates throughout the version as part of our upgrade cost.  The upgrade cost still occurs, but us "perpetual" license owners are now actually getting significantly less for that upgrade cost because we're only receiving a year's worth of fixes.  That's less value for cost received.

Our policy is to release critical bug fixes as updates to versions quite a long time after maintenance has expired, and to be generous with minor improvements that don't constitute major features. If 4.1.00 were to fall within a person's maintenance period, then they would also be eligible for any 4.1.xx updates. We have parallel support branches of the code for this purpose. For example, the latest version of 4.1 (4.1.25) was released on July 10th of this year (it's just a coincidence that we also release 4.2 that day), and even those people who pre-ordered TG4 as far back as 2015 are eligible for this update. Our official maintenance cutoff date for 4.2 is January 21, 2018, but we are still releasing 4.1 updates for people who paid over 2 years ago. This isn't something we're advertising, but we've been doing this while we are still working up to a faster development pace. Granted, there weren't any major features 4.1.25, only minor improvements and bug fixes.

Quote
If the upgrade were significantly cheaper, the annual maintenance cost would be more tolerable.  However, the combination of the relatively-high upgrade pricing (in % of new license cost), and the new addition of relatively-significant (in % of new license cost) annual maintenance cost to obtain ongoing fixes beyond a year is asking a lot.  That's especially true given the annual maintenance cost does not guarantee covering a new version upgrade. 

I have a different opinion on whether the upgrade price as a percentage of new license cost is particularly high compared to other software in the industry, but we may be looking at different sources. I will do some more research and see if we've fallen out of step.

Quote
In fact, based on prior length of version development cycles (and current position in v4's cycle at 4.2), it is actually unlikely my next year's maintenance cost (if purchased now) will include a new version upgrade.  It wouldn't be until the following annual maintenance period a new version upgrade would likely be covered.  That means I'll pay the v3->v4 upgrade cost plus (at least) two annual maintenance period fees to get to the next version -- that adds up to more than the cost of an entire new license, which IMO is asking too much.

I'm pretty sure 4.3 will be released in 2018, and probably 4.4 too. I realise that the timing from 4.1 to 4.2 would make you skeptical though. Because of this we added a grace period of a few months for 4.2 eligibility (it includes anyone whose maintenance was still valid on January 21 - this date is based on when 4.2 first went into alpha testing).

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I really hope that helps explain where I'm coming from with my complaint about the pricing structure.

Yes, I think it does. I doubt my responses above will change your mind, but I hope I've given you a bit more insight into the kind of maintenance policy we're trying to enact.

Quote
Also, I'd love to use a Creative license, but it is missing critical (basic, IMO) 3D IO features, thus anyone who needs to interact with other 3D content/apps (like me) is more or less required to purchase the Professional license.  The Creative license is also missing EXR output and image-processing capabilities, and that seriously limits Terragen's ability to produce decent images at all, IMO. 

I use Terragen as a hobbyist, but were I restricted to just what the Creative license offered, I probably wouldn't use Terragen at all.  Unfortunately, that appears to be where the Professional license pricing structure is pushing me anyway.

Our aim is to find an ideal set of features to differentiate Creative from Professional without taking too much away from Creative. Right now we have a fairly even balance between sales of Creative and Professional, but Maintenance is biased toward Professional. We're listening to feedback on that, and I'm sure there will be adjustments in future as we get a better picture of what people want. We are considering the possibility of bringing more IO/inter-app features from the Professional Edition to Creative, but if we do that, what features do you think should be Pro-only to keep the non-hobbyists choosing Professional?

Matt
« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 04:58:04 AM by Matt »
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Offline N-drju

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #78 on: July 30, 2018, 06:11:38 AM »
To be absolutely honest with you... I also think TG is ridiculously overpriced and I would have probably never used it if it was not a gift.  ::)

700$...? Pleeeaaaase.... Some people in my country don't even earn that much in a month. ::) Matt, believe me when I say it's expensive. Don't compare with other software. Compare with people's wallets...

I yet have to see the "gravity" making a debut in Terragen. ::) Because, through all those years, trees still point directly upwards instead of being aligned relative to the planet's core-to-surface line.

Then you need to ask yourself a question - is it right to charge such a cost onto someone who, for example, rarely even uses blue nodes? I know it's impossible, but to be idealistically just, one should be able to pay 30% of the original price if they don't bother using certain stuff. Why should they be charged for it?


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Offline Matt

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #79 on: July 30, 2018, 08:08:47 AM »
N-drju,

I was commenting on the price of upgrades as a percentage of initial price, not the initial price itself.

I know $699 is a lot of money, but that is for the Professional edition, and there is a market at that level where it is reasonable IMO to compare with other software. But that isn't the only version of Terragen. I'm not sure it's fair to pick out the most expensive version without mentioning the Creative edition. At $349 that's also expensive for many people, but it's a lot less than $700 so let's start there. We are looking for ways to make Creative better value for money.

About paying for "blue nodes", I get you. I think it would be great if we could offer a version that doesn't allow you to edit them for a lower prices. While developing TG2 we envisioned a modular product system that would allow you to choose which features were important to you and to pay only for what you wanted to use. Both Vue and Mojoworld tried that. I don't know how well it worked for them or their users, but it looked very complicated to me. Even a simpler version of this for TG3 (just treating animation as an optional module and the "pro" features as another), we found it difficult to handle in practise so we simplified things for TG4. I don't see many CG software vendors doing the modular approach these days, and I understand why.

Having said that, I still really want to produce a version of Terragen that lets you work without a node network and/or a version that has the network minus the ability to edit blue nodes.

Matt
« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 08:33:06 AM by Matt »
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Offline Marander

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #80 on: July 30, 2018, 06:49:25 PM »
The initial pricing of TG Creative / Professional is absolutely OK in my opinion. This is a specialized software.

Look what other options are on the market. There are basically two alternatives, one is a much more expensive landscape package at its full version (about $2k with 1y maintenance), maintenance renewals need to be purchased within 30 days after expiration and uses node locking. On the other hand it offers more functionality or lower versions without these pro features. The second software alternative for procedural landscape rendering is a very complex complete 3d solution and rental only. Other landscape software produce mainly height maps. They are a great additions for Terragen and not competing products in my opinion. Best is if you can use a combination of different landscape solutions, each have their pro's and con's in my experience. So overall, a fair price to me.

There are various more expensive hobbies (and 3d software), compared to that TG is very affordable.

Also I find it OK that the additional export options for workflow integration / compositing are in the Pro version only. If these features were in the Creative version, I might not have chosen Professional. It would then be more or less a difference about with or without animation features and for that the price difference would seem too large to me. It's the same in the other landscape package, some of these workflow features are also only in the Professional line of products.

What would be interesting is a discount offer a for maintenance renewal when purchasing as early bird or quick upgrader within a certain period (couple of days when maintenance expires). That would make it more interesting for users that keep the software up to date / loyal customers.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 07:07:40 PM by Marander »

Offline KlausK

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #81 on: July 30, 2018, 08:34:04 PM »
"What would be interesting is a discount offer a for maintenance renewal when purchasing as early bird or quick upgrader within a certain period (couple of days when maintenance expires). That would make it more interesting for users that keep the software up to date / loyal customers."

That`s quite a good idea to consider, I think.
CHeers, Klaus
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Offline pokoy

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #82 on: August 01, 2018, 02:50:15 PM »
Just to add my thoughts - not that they're worth anything ;)

I was a bit surprised by the fact that TG now has a maintenance model, I must have missed the announcement for some reason. Also, the price of TG seems to be higher than back when I purchased. With that said, I'm using TG professionally so I'm personally fine with the price for the Pro version, but still, the maintenance fee feels a bit high. On the other hand, I'll always support small shops with a vision and I think that you guys need to be able to make a living while giving us continued support so I really don't want to complain too much.

Matt, you said:
Quote
Having said that, I still really want to produce a version of Terragen that lets you work without a node network and/or a version that has the network minus the ability to edit blue nodes.

I'm really not sure if this is a good solution. TBH this is one of the main reaons I left the world of Vue. It may leave your users with the feeling that their software flavor is left incomplete by purpose. Also, maintaining documentation for 5 flavors of the same application can be very complicated for you, and very confusing for your users. I remember I got frustrated heavily with Vue after I found out that their documentation didn't mention that my crippled version didn't support a few things that I desperately needed, I abandoned Vue a few weeks after that with the feeling of being told lies about the abilities of the software I purchased. I wouldn't want to see the same happening with TG; if you still want to do this, make sure people are aware of any limitations en detail upfront.

Offline jaf

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #83 on: August 01, 2018, 07:28:59 PM »
"I'm really not sure if this is a good solution. TBH this is one of the main reaons I left the world of Vue. It may leave your users with the feeling that their software flavor is left incomplete by purpose. Also, maintaining documentation for 5 flavors of the same application can be very complicated for you, and very confusing for your users. I remember I got frustrated heavily with Vue after I found out that their documentation didn't mention that my crippled version didn't support a few things that I desperately needed, I abandoned Vue a few weeks after that with the feeling of being told lies about the abilities of the software I purchased. I wouldn't want to see the same happening with TG; if you still want to do this, make sure people are aware of any limitations en detail upfront."

I would agree with you.  I think most complaints were not that the program is too complicated, but that the UI could make some tasks simpler without impacting creativeness.  Maybe attracting more users could lower the maintenance renew cost a bit.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2018, 07:31:31 PM by jaf »
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Offline Yanik

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #84 on: August 02, 2018, 04:09:58 PM »
Hi. I bought Terragen Professional this week so I am very new to the application, but I have been following the updates.
I do environment design as a hobby and use a variety of tools.

I bought Terragen for its ability to generate clouds, overhangs, planets and because it's quite easy to setup renders.

My positive impressions so far:

- The UI is easy to learn. Visually not so attractive, but it doesn't bother me. I love the node based workflow.
- The clouds and atmosphere look great. Much much much better than VUE.
- Easy to place nodes by grabbing the coordinates. Very easy to inspect the scene.

My negative impressions so far:
- The pricing is too high, but luckily not as high as the overpriced Vue.
- The documentation is very poor.
- There aren't much tutorials to be found. The ones of Vladimir Chopine aren't that good. Learning this application will be very hard me.
- I also use Clarisse and really like that renderer. The lighting/shading in Terragen has this cg'ish look as if ambient lighting is used. It throws me off a bit. I hope the new path tracer will come out soon.
- The shading workflow is quite slow. You often have to make many test renders.
- Frame buffer is quite limited. It also hangs a while after each render.

Things I'd like to see added/changed:
- While experimenting I often play with the values. I'd love to reset values to their default state without undoing.
- Quicker ways of exporting out to different applications.
- I'd like to have the ability to randomly scatter heightmaps. The Crater node looks very cool, but it's of no use if you can't scatter it. The Shader Array is not what I'm searching for, it should be random.

So far I'm liking Terragen. I need to figure out what all the nodes can do. I see many handy function nodes, but have no clue how to use them. I would like to use the Voronoi or Perlin noise nodes for displacing or coloring surfaces. I'd love to see information on building own shaders.

*** Edit ***

I have been playing some more with it the last few days. I have been testing many of the blue nodes to see what's possible. My impression is quite negative regarding blue node workflow.

Things which hugely let me down:
- I don't see a way to combine nodes into one node(macro) and expose certain parameters. Just try making your own noise function with a few octaves and you get unreadable spaghetti. The group or clip system is not what I want. Macros can help your community to grow and make the application more popular.
- Value remapping. There are no remapping functions you have to build them from scratch and create more spaghetti. Also a curve editor is missing to remap values with a bezier curve. You're stuck to basic math functions.
- Artistic utility nodes are missing. From basic color correction tools like HSB, Levels, Brightness & Contrast. These are basic functions which you often use. Why not give us the possibility to do this in 1 node instead of having to add so many nodes?

The whole blue node workflow is quite counterproductive and frustrating.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2018, 02:02:30 PM by Yanik »

Offline jwiede

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Re: High ongoing cost, relatively low "improvements".
« Reply #85 on: August 10, 2018, 06:39:15 PM »
In fact, based on prior length of version development cycles (and current position in v4's cycle at 4.2), it is actually unlikely my next year's maintenance cost (if purchased now) will include a new version upgrade.  It wouldn't be until the following annual maintenance period a new version upgrade would likely be covered.  That means I'll pay the v3->v4 upgrade cost plus (at least) two annual maintenance period fees to get to the next version -- that adds up to more than the cost of an entire new license, which IMO is asking too much.

I'm pretty sure 4.3 will be released in 2018, and probably 4.4 too. I realise that the timing from 4.1 to 4.2 would make you skeptical though. Because of this we added a grace period of a few months for 4.2 eligibility (it includes anyone whose maintenance was still valid on January 21 - this date is based on when 4.2 first went into alpha testing).

I'm talking about when v5 will be released.  Effectively the "big payoff" for maintenance subscribers is to have a version upgrade happen within the maintenance term, and that seems unlikely to happen for Terragen in the next year (maintenance period).  That's what I'm referring to when I cite upgrade cost plus two years of maintenance:  If the next version doesn't come within the next year of maintenance (and by your statements above, that seems unlikely), then customers like me who purchased during v4 initial presale are typically going to wind up paying upgrade (v3->v4) plus (at least) two years of maintenance before the next "version payoff" is covered by maintenance (in this case, v4->v5).

Anyway, I think I've made my point clearly enough.  Thanks for the discussion.

P.S. Your antispam filters are set much too sensitive, even previewing a post twice after making a change caused them to stop responding to the connection.  It's making it next to impossible to properly edit forum posts.

 

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