Leading the list of new features are increased stability and speed. Among other enhancements are a UV texture atlas for automated complex UV map creation; continuous and discontinuous UV mapping; light and textures that can be "baked," or incorporated into objects; optimized bone deformations; and a soft-body dynamics engine that is now integrated with the interface, enabling interactive simulations. The new version also features an integrated particle system that includes custom nozzles, winds, particle properties, launch behaviors, and collision options.
Mike Hulme, senior artist at the game development firm Namco Hometek in San Jose, is a longtime user of LightWave who has been employing Version 6.5 for a number of personal and professional projects. He cites the product's layered modeling approach, uncluttered interface, UVs, renderer, and overall ease of use as among its best new qualities. With regard to UV mapping, for example, he says that it "offers unprecedented access to every face on an object for tough-to-reach areas like folds on a face, inverted moldings on a vehicle, or even concave surfaces on a complex mechanical apparatus."
LightWave 6.5 runs on Windows NT/2000 and Mac OS operating systems. A beta version of 6.5 for the Mac OS X operating system (itself still in beta at press time) is available for download from the company's Web site. The cost of LightWave 6.5 is $2495. Upgrade prices are also available. (NewTek; www.newtek.com) -JD