Again, we come to another release season, but this year things are a little different. Maya 2017 is not released as usual. Instead, we are releasing Maya 2016 Extension 2, which is also being called Maya 2016.5. Some people may ask, where is my Maya 2017? Well, Maya 2017 may come later this year.
Does it mean there are not many improvements of Maya at this point? The answer is absolutely “No”! Maya 2016 extension 2 includes many updates for both features and the SDK. In fact, to support all these improvements, Maya 2016.5 is even not binary compatible with Maya 2016. It can be installed side by side with Maya 2016, and for plugin developers, it means you need to rebuild your plugins to support the version of Maya 2016.5.
Before we talk more about the latest SDK updates, I’d like to introduce a new initiative that was first launched around the end of last year. The program is called “Limelight”, it is currently open for all Maya & 3ds Max Beta customers. We will be posting the detailed information about the new SDK changes to the beta forum after API is frozen. A recording of the introduction will also be provided there if appropriate. The main goal of this “Limelight” program is to help our plugin developers to get the necessary information at an early stage, so they can prepare/migrate their plugin to the latest version to make sure everything works as good as they expected, and release it as soon as Maya new release comes out. So, if you are interested, please visit the Maya beta forum here to check the details.
Now, let’s take a look at Maya 2016.5 SDK updates in brief.
First of all, the good news is that we did not upgrade the build environment between Maya 2016 and Maya 2016.5. It is essentially the same as Maya 2016. For example, the Windows platform which I use most of time still uses Visual Studio 2012 update 4, and that means no extra effort needed.
The rendering feature contains most of the improvements of this release. But this time, we do not add any big SDK features, instead, the improvements cover areas including Selection, Drawing, Post effects enhancements, Shaders, Geometry, Textures, Render Override, Tools and Context, Profiling, and Performance. We also have provided many samples to demonstrate how to use these new improvement. Please refer to here for the details.
We also made many improvements for Animation feature, as you know, last year, Maya 2016 introduced the evaluation manager to support multithreaded evaluation, and provided the support of GPU override to deformers by MPxGPUDeformer. We continue improving the SDK features in some of these APIs within Maya 2016.5. If you are working on this area, please also read the doc to make sure you are on the right path.
There are also some improvements on Modeling, Python 2.0, UI, etc. I won’t list all of them here, but I do suggest you to go through the doc before you start your work on Maya 2016.5, it’s definitely worth reviewing.
Our engineering team is working hard on the next Maya release, and you will see it come out later this year.