Essentials isn’t designed as a beginner or introductory level product. Essentials is Premium with features blocked or limited. Premium is designed to do so much but Essentials ends up keeping you from doing too many things. Toon Boom should sell individual keys to the blocked features so instead of expecting people to either skip Essentials or upgrade to Advanced or Premium they would be accessing Premium in smaller and more economical stages. Everyone would win because Essentials people would be able to grow and could add capability as the need arises and Toon Boom would get more Premium users and Premium quality animation from their user base.
As it is now I am sure there are people who are discouraged by the initial investment. After delving into Essentials some are discouraged by its limitations and too disappointed and frustrated to invest in an upgrade. Some people would invest if they knew they could get to Premium in more manageable increments. Some people might like to be able to access only the features they need. It may not be possible to modulate the software every way imaginable. Some features overlap.
It has been suggested that some features could be grouped and sold in packaged themes while others might warrant singular status.
I think this would be an original and quite interesting approach. As it stands, Essentials just seems somewhat limited compared to the competition out there (open source and commercial) to compete. And Essentials remains a comparatively expensive proposition for many amateurs and beginners.
Perhaps a free version could be the starting point, with a watermarked export, and a very limited tool set.
The only drawback would be that ToonBoom would have to keep track of a lot of different levels of licenses - and it could become a confusing and frustrating experience for users as well if this is taken too far, in my opinion.
Maxon used to take a similar modular approach, although it proved to be rather unsuccessful for various reasons.
I agree with you about Cinema 4D, hvanderwegen. I started out with Cinema and they had all of these modules and Body Paint was a separate purchase but then it got more and more confusing and convoluted and expensive and I just had enough. I switched over to Luxology’s Modo, and even though it took time for them to build the app up and get it competitive, I did not mind and their upgrade policies did not punish you if you skipped a version or two, or three!
I guess I can understand how Toon Boom wanted to just have one unified codebase that was equally shared among their apps. Toon Boon Studio was based on different code, or so I gather, and that probably would have cost them time and resources to maintain and develop it with their other apps. I do know people that still miss Studio and aren’t happy with Essentials. It is a very difficult situation for all parties involved.
But with my experience with Cinema 4D and their modular approach back in the day, it was a headache. It seems like a good idea to just split off features and functions into separate add ons or plugins but the reality is that it hasn’t worked too well in my experience.
One of the things that I do admire about companies is when they just leave certain features to third parties. In After Effects you can do some wonderful 3D stuff now by getting Elements 3D. In Apple’s Motion you can get mObject to do some 3D work. If you have Adobe Illustrator you can get the various Astute Graphics plugins to make drawing, sketching, building characters much faster and easier. These third party plugins and developers are able to be more focused and bring more powerful solutions to key features because they don’t have to worry about developing and maintaining the whole app.
Of course there are examples of this concept being a disaster but there is simulated amplification software for guitarists called IK Amplitube. You purchase the mother software and add gear to it separately. There are also packages of gear themes like a Jimi Hendrix package. Keeping track of licensing is not a problem. There are far more pieces of gear to add separately to Amplitube than features which will ever be available in Harmony. As a user it simple to understand you have added deformation capability or 3D effect capability. I don’t know what IK/Toon Boom sees but it could be as simple as determining whether a user has a module activated when they need to know for support or sales. If you plan and maintain the plan the idea is manageable.
Speaking of 3rd party software, I don’t see a lot taking off with the OpenFX support. Does anyone know of anything that has been released for Harmony since Toon Boom began supporting the format?