Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why not use the best tool in the world?

Why not use the best tool in the world?

There was a discussion about the best game programming tool to use, and the consensus is that Unity3D is the best one around. I won't disagree. A quick read of a Unity book convinced me that it is on par with UnrealEd. However, what gets me is that some uppity new kid on the block starts to rant and rave when I say that I don't use the tool, nor do I plan to use it any time soon. Then the person starts to make some disparaging remarks, implying that anybody who does not use the best tool in the world can't be too good. This, of course, reminds the saying "A fool who does not know he's a fool is truly a fool."

The natural question that should have been asked is "How come you don't want to use the best tool in the world?" That is a good question, and had that been asked, I would not have distrusted that person. However, that question was not asked, and that continuing the conversation, I conclude that the other person may know Unity3D well, but not my stuff well. In fact, my stuff is currently unknown.

And for good reason. I'm not currently publishing it, or reporting it in anyway. But that's not the point here. The point is that this person thinks that his stuff is better than an unknown. Wait a minute. How can you tell that your stuff is better than mine if you don't know how good my stuff is? I know how good your stuff is, since I investigated it, but you didn't investigate mine how can you know your stuff is better?

The reasoning given is that his stuff is better, because it is best. How do you know it's best? Because it's number one? Why is it number one? Because it is best. Well, I'm not the smartest cookie in the world, but I know circular reasoning when I see it. I also do not care about the statement that I need to use such-and-such tools because "everybody is using it."

Let me give you a couple of examples.

3DMax, of course, is the top choice for computer game professionals. Maya is the top choice of movie makers. Both are certainly at the top of their world. I use neither. Why not? Because whenever 3DMax is mentioned, all I can think of is how the program would crash every 30 minutes. I think the longest run was about 90 minutes or so. How can I work with that? I can't. So, 3DMax is out. I'm sure the reason why it crashed is that my workflow isn't standard, thus confusing the program. I'm not going to blame 3DMax for it. But still, either I change my workflow, or I use something else. I decided to use something else: Lightwave3D. Newtek Lightwave3D is popular among TV studio. It's not the greatest, but (1) It's available (2) It fulfills my needs (3) IT DOES NOT CRASH! It is very stable. Sure, rendering could be better, and modeling could be faster. But it works! And that's all that mattered.

How about DreamWeaver? It is not only the top web editor in the world, it is the ONLY web editor worth its price. I haven't checked out Rapid Weaver, but Chris Crawford did, and he wasn't too impressed. I have never used DreamWeaver. Oh, for sure I know what it can do. Lots of people remind me of it, and they really, really want to see me use it. I always say no. Why not? I worked on the web since before DreamWeaver come into being. I have my own scripts and Text2HTML converter. With DreamWeaver, I can process 50 web pages per day. With my scripts, I can easily process 500 web pages per day. There are times when I got bored, I'd go to Project Gutenberg and download their free e-text, converted it to HTML, and make buttons for it with POV-Ray. Just for fun. I still remember I did Little Women in about 2 days, including images. Would I have done that with DreamWeaver? Not a chance!

In short, the reason why I do not use the number one tool in the world is because: "I have something better."

Actually, I hesitate to use the word "better", preferring instead to be more specific. How about "faster", "cheaper", "lighter", "more efficient", and other words that would specified how it would be a better fit to my needs.

"I don't use DreamWeaver because it is too slow for my needs." That is a true statement, and you don't know how many people would not believe that! Just about everybody who is a DreamWeaver user (and that is just about everybody, after all, DW is #1) will not believe that I have something better than their cherished software. But I do.

My system was based to templates, and basically is nothing more that a glorified Mail Merge + Text2HTML converter, so to speak. Some specific work done on blogs and message boards, but those are trivial to implement. Nobody would believe me that my system is better.

Nowadays? Just look around! Any website provider worth their salt will have their custom web page creator. What do you see? Templates! Templates! Templates! Finally, I've been vindicated at last. Do these naysayers admit their mistakes and finally tell me that I'm right after all? Not a chance! You see, they're not really interested in me. They're just interested in themselves and want me to idolize them. They do it by, you guessed it, following the crowd, get everything that is "number one" and expect the masses to worship them because they have "the best."

Excuse me, kid, that's not how it works. You don't become the best by doing what everybody else does. You become the best doing what nobody else is doing. You certainly do not become the best just because you're own the tool that everybody else have.

Every time I drool over newfangled fancy tool, I'm always reminded an old observation: "Michaelangelo sculpted David with nothing more than a hammer and a chisel. Given $100,000 3D scanner and $100,000 3D printer, can you do better?" Um, no, I can't. "What is the power of the sword, compared to the hand that wields it?" The true power lies not in the tool itself, but in what you can do with it.

As I am routinely engaged in cutting, sometimes bleeding edge of technology, I have always kept working on the next generation of tool. I have been doing this close to 30 years now, and have become very good at it.

Suddenly, I realize: I don't want to buy these tools. They represent the best that yesterday can offer. I'm not interested in those anymore. I'm always looking toward the future. Therefore, none of these tools can fit my needs. I'm a visionary, futurist, and yes, toolmaker. I will make my own tools.

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