As of October 6, Autodesk has pulled "gmax" from availability.
For those who don't know, "gmax" was a feature-limited version of "3D Studio MAX" meant for the mod community to use. When you saved an object out in "gmax," it was either saved to an encrypted "gmax" format file, or directly to the supported game.
The thought process behind the creation of "gmax" seems to have been pretty simple...
1. Modders have no money.
2. "3D Studio MAX" costs lots of money.
3. Modders are either pirating "3D Studio MAX" or getting the academic version for pocket change so they can mod.
4. We want to reduce piracy, while increasing usage of "3D Studio MAX."
5. We can't release a file-format compatible version of "MAX," because if we do, normal users will buy one copy of "3D Studio MAX," and then have all their peons use "gmax" instead, so we'll make an incompatible file format.
6. Rather than support the game developers who invest in and use our products, we'll charge developers for the right to distribute "Gamepak" export plugins.
So, what were the issues with this plan?
1. Game developers didn't have any real motivation to support "gmax." By the time the asset pipeline had been fixed, they weren't going to derive any cost savings from using "gmax," and they were going to have to pay for the rights to distribute the "Gamepak" anyway. It was free for them to distribute their own plugins.
2. Users who made kick-ass assets in "gmax" couldn't take them with them into "3D Studio MAX." They either had to export them to a game format and then try to extract them back out using an asset converter, or recreate them from scratch when they did move to "MAX."
3. The pirate users didn't care and still snagged pirated versions of "MAX."
If anyone wants to learn a lesson from this, it's pretty simple. It's one thing to expect a customer to pay for a feature that benefits them. It's another thing to expect a customer to pay for a feature that primarily benefits you.
*cough* Visual Studio Team Edition's MSDN bundle requirement *cough*
Anyway, sorry to see the tool go. The mod communities who were using "gmax" really were doing some amazing things with it...