The Death of a Giant That Never Was

Tonight I sat down to write a discussion post for class about some random digital content creation software. I fiddled about on the internet for a while, looking at lists of software I could choose from. One finally caught my eye, but as I looked into it I realized it had been discontinued. A little disappointed, I continued to research the software and found that I was getting very interested in the story. I decided to write my discussion on it anyway, even if it was discontinued. You’ll find the post below…

I’m going to discuss the software called trueSpace that was developed by the Caligari corporation. The current version is trueSpace7.6 and it was introduced in July of 2008, after the Caligari Corp was acquired by Microsoft. The software was actually the second series produced by the Caligari Corp, as the first was called simply Caligari and was built for the Amiga platform. trueSpace evolved in leaps and bounds, promising to be the next “big thing” in 3D software. When Microsoft gained control of Caligari it was able to offer the software for free to all users, expecting to allow anyone to make professional 3D models at no cost.

trueSpace is a complete modeling/texturing/animating/rendering software that has been used in many fields including architecture, games, research, and education. The special thing about trueSpace is that it is built to offer “real-time” design, where users can gather in an online “space” referred to as Virtual Earth and manipulate shared objects in real-time. The software allowed you to render in real-time as well, and has been referred to as what a “box of crayons or paints” would be to normal drawing. All the tools you need, and you get out of it what you put into it.

In May of 2009 the company announced that Microsoft was no longer going to provide support for the software. Merely a day later there were services that would no longer function, and the support forums started to collapse soon after. The Caligari website is still live, and there are still portions of the site that are in working order, but it is clear that the software has passed its expiration date.

Rather than discuss pros and cons of the software, as nobody here is likely to ever use a working copy, I’m going to discuss the decline of the software.

trueSpace was hailed as one of the most innovative and intuitive programs for 3D creation available. The developers of Caligari were always pushing the envelope and even the heads of Blender showed awe and respect for their efforts. They aimed to put 3D animation into the hands of everyone, instead of only those that could pay for it. Being purchased by Microsoft gave them the opportunity to make the software available for free.

Unfortunately it was also the death of the software. Just shy of a year later, Microsoft made massive cuts to their supported software and trueSpace was one of those that was discontinued entirely. A letter sent out to users thanks them for their support and advises them to download the installers as backups before they are no longer available. It also urges them to form their own community space for support.

Today you can find very little online for trueSpace that isn’t recollecting or history. It’s a lesson for every software developer today. Caligari could have been the future, but for a hard business decision. It’s important to remember the stones upon which modern software is built even if they can’t be seen anymore.