After a lengthy delay that I talked about last week, today IDV finally made Speedtree 8 available. If you are already a subscriber, you just get access to the new version and use your account login just like you did before.
A Slightly Different Workflow
They appeared to also change the way that the actual Speedtree models work. In version 7, the modeler was a completely unnecessary part of the equation. You could use free or purchased trees and then just drop the .spm files into your scenes. If you were a subscriber, you had access to the modeler. You could also open up any of that purchased content, as well as make your own trees from scratch. Your creations were saved as a .spm format file, which you could then use in your projects.
In version 8, it’s a little less straightforward. You have to use the Speedtree modeler. If don’t subscribe, you create a free account and the modeler works in export-only mode. Load your Speedtree .spm files and export them in a new .st format that Unity 2018.3 recognizes.
It’s Not Just A Cash-Grab
On the surface, it seems like the move is intended purely to drive everybody to use the modeler application. And maybe some of the people using it for export will consider subscribing to unlock all the other features. It definitely is that, but there’s more to it.
With Speedtree 8, it looks like IDV is improving its own workflow. Instead of having separate flavors of Speedtree files for Unity, Unreal, Lumberyard and Speedtree for Games (as well as Speedtree Cinema), they now just have a single Speedtree 8 for Games format. Users who subscribe for a particular engine bring those models into their modeler app, then export content that’s optimized for them.
If improving their workflow means they can spend more time working on trees and updates for the software, then I’m a fan. From what I’ve seen on their site over the last several months, that is what appears to be happening. Not only are there more tree variations available for Speedtree 8, but prices per tree variation appear to have come down.
What Happened to the Free Speedtrees?
Oh, they’re still there. Actually, there are more free samples. The Speedtree 8 modeler includes Conifer and Palm tree models, plus a range of Broadleaf trees and some Bushes. They are updated and enhanced versions of those trees, and they look amazing! Get the modeler and don’t subscribe, and you get to use those as-is. Which is exactly what people got to do with the free Speedtrees before.
Changes to Licensing
They also tweaked the terms of their licensing to bring it in line with what they’re doing on other platforms. As an indie developer/creator if you make less than $100K per year, you are welcome to use Speedtree 8 for Unity (or Unreal or Lumberyard, if you make content on those platforms). If your annual revenue falls between $100k and $1m a year, then they point you at Speedtree for Games Indie, priced at $999 a year and launching next week, is the product to use. And of course if you’re doing more than that a year, you’re probably already talking to them directly about licensing for your teams.
What does this mean for SineSpace?
For now, it doesn’t mean anything. SineSpace does support Speedtree, but version 8 for Unity requires Unity 2018.3, and as of this writing, SineSpace is on Unity 2017.2.x. Existing version 7 trees are on the SineSpace grid, and they continue to work.
SineSpace is working on a big upgrade. No formal announcements have been made yet, but once they get to the point where the SineSpace grid is on 2018.3 (or later), then we’ll get to use Speedtree 8 content in SineSpace!