Time to dump Orbolt?

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Can we get rid of Orbolt and replace it with something better? I can't seem to be able to update any of the HDA's in H18, and even when it was kinda working it still seemed buggy as hell as far as keeping things synchronized and up to date.

I understand that many dislike change, but Orbolt just feels so outdated compared to everything else. In addition to that, a good chunk of the HDA's haven't been updated in ages, are deprecated/no longer work, or have been replaced by Houdini-native nodes. Also, many new users don't even know that Orbolt is a thing, it's just not talked about.

SideFX Labs is light years ahead in terms of how to efficiently distribute add-ons. Orbolt in comparison is like the alcoholic uncle that for some reason keeps getting invited to the Thanksgiving dinner even though he makes everyone very uncomfortable.

I would vote for a user-maintained/SideFX supervised repository of free add-ons. For anyone who wants to sell HDA's, there are plenty of outlets such as Gumroad.

There's got to be a better way.
>>Kays
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Yeah, there's so many examples now of online marketplaces, with good templates for whats good, featured things, new releases etc (think apple's app store, epic store, steam etc), would love to get that level of quality and ease of use into orbolt, or an orbolt replacement.
http://www.tokeru.com/cgwiki [www.tokeru.com]
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I agree with all of this except the “free only” part… SideFX would have no motive to create such a service unless there was money moving around, and taking a (reasonable!) percentage of sales of paid assets would provide this motive. I'd love to not have to worry about writing my own license manager.

The core idea of Orbolt is good, it just needs an overhaul. A better UX, better curation and ability to discover new tools, the ability to distribute entire packages instead of just HDAs, etc.
MOPs (Motion Operators for Houdini): http://www.motionoperators.com [www.motionoperators.com]
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I also think curation is key. I want to be able to find the best tools as fast as possible and when I download them I can trust, with a good amount of certainty, it will do what’s advertised if its a “featured” tool. Along with the obvious something that prevents people from positing duplicate tools. There needs to be some kind of screening process.

There also needs to be a way to communicate if there is a tool SideFX or the community has collectively decided is worthy of being recognized. If I saw cool stuff and knew I could readily download it I would. Even things like facebook posts about great new tools would be good the same way SideFX posts about exceptional work every one and a while.

I’m not sure if SideFX could commit to there being an “Orbolt Curation Team” that does this kind of stuff but its just a thought.

Random other ideas would be easy ways to get in touch with the developer, maybe like a mini form on the tool’s page where people can comment or seek advice. For developers to easily be able to get in touch with their users when they have updates or bug fixes. Rating system for tools. Being able to type up wiki style docs for your tools if its a suite of tools. Opt in usage statistics so you as a developer can know what tools you have are popular / worthy of continuing to work on, etc.

Not sure how many indie plug-in developers are out there, but I would like it if there was a way to have orbolt work with HDAs and plug-ins then obviously installs all the files in the right place so its wicked easy to get started. One issue I have is people not understanding where to install plug-in files. Also, an API to connect to the orbolt license server through C++.

Finally, about orbolt as brand. Maybe a complete rebrand is in order. Especially when people's mind's jump directly to how bad the current platform is upon hearing the name.
Edited by MattPuchala - April 3, 2020 08:04:13
Matt Puchala
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Who actually runs/owns Orbolt? Is it SideFX or is it a 3rd party company?


What I would love to see for Houdini add-ons is a site similar to AeScripts which I think is quite excellent at how it's organized:

https://aescripts.com [aescripts.com]
>>Kays
For my Houdini tutorials and more visit:
https://www.youtube.com/c/RightBrainedTutorials [www.youtube.com]
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Orbolt is run by SideFX.

AEScripts is a nice start, the curation is there. Needs more visible things like ratings and downloads as well. My best examples for curation / discovery are Steam, the iOS store and the Unity Asset Store.

Unity's store also has built-in communication tools for developers… I automatically get emailed when there's updates to FinalIK or Amplify.
MOPs (Motion Operators for Houdini): http://www.motionoperators.com [www.motionoperators.com]
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Not sure whether this is realistic, but couldn't we just ask the founder of https://www.blendswap.com/ [www.blendswap.com] to double up his page? And perhaps one or two guys from our community would act as moderators?
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MattPuchala
I also think curation is key. I want to be able to find the best tools as fast as possible and when I download them I can trust, with a good amount of certainty, it will do what’s advertised if its a “featured” tool. Along with the obvious something that prevents people from positing duplicate tools. There needs to be some kind of screening process.

i like curation idea. like steam. that would be fun and useful
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Now with the release of H18.5 and SideFX focusing more and more on the content library [www.sidefx.com] I think it's worth giving this another bump.

Is the content library here to replace Orbolt? Will it get a cool little integration into Houdini?
Manuel Köster - Senior Technical Procedural Artist @Crytek

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With Houdini Engine becoming free for Unreal/Unity this topic is more relevant than ever.
Houdini Digital Assets might be making an entry in the Unreal/Unity marketplaces and to me it would make much more sense to have SideFX marketplace since they're often not about Unreal/Unity, but rather about Houdini.

I hope that things are happening behind the scenes.
Manuel Köster - Senior Technical Procedural Artist @Crytek

http://crytek.com/ [crytek.com]
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i dissagrtee with the whole website thing.

The only thing thats lacking is better in app ui working on the rest is a waiste of time.
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+1 Bumping this.

Orbolt is a great idea, but a dated implementation.

I'd love to see SideFX give it love in several ways:

Update the website so it doesn't feel so dated, I know this seems purely cosmetic but unfortunately I think it makes a difference when users are comparing buying assets from Gumroad or Artstation then you see Orbolt... and it just comes across as almost abandoned. Please look at other modern digital stores, I like artstation & gumroad a lot, epic marketplace as well.

Needs a way for sellers to easily refund users (maybe I missed it?)

I also find it harder to prepare & sell an asset on orbolt than gumroad, even an HDA. If I sell on gumroad I can package a zip file with anything, multiple hip files, hda's, pdf documentation etc. With Orbolt I have to do things like stip the HDA version number because Orbolt gets confused and will think a different asset version is a different asset. I couldn't get the orbolt tools built into houdini to even work.

Maybe I'm missing it but it also doesn't seem like there is an easy way to edit an orbolt listing. I had listed three videos on my Orbolt page and it ordered them last to first on the asset page. I wanted to change the order so edited the page and it acts like you are uploading a new asset version.

----------------------

All that said, I think it would really be best if SideFX takes an approach like valve does with steam - let us upload & sell assets with orbolt, handle the licence conversions and licensing.... but also give us asset keys like steam does to allow us to sell orbolt managed & hosted assets though other asset stores such as artstation & gumroad.

Steam does this and it has only helped them because it ensures that even if you can do all your own promotion, hosting etc. you still might as well put it on steam and sell steam keys because valve doesn't even get a cut from a steam key.

I think sidefx / houdini & orbolt are a perfect use case for this steam / steam key type approach.

Thank you for reading!
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I was recently giving the Orbolt site some thought, and so I'll dump my notes in the hopes that it is useful to SideFX, because this definitely needs to be addressed.
The experience should be something along the lines of: New user installs Houdini, user follows some introductory tutorials, user goes to "asset store", sees a list of "featured" or "essential" HDAs and installs those to improve the "out of the box" experience. One of the big complaints I've seen about Houdini (and made myself) is that it feels like there's a lot of simple and obvious functionality that's missing from the available tools. Of course the answer is "build it yourself", save it, and now you've got that tool. But that's wasted effort in many cases when there are good assets to fill in some gaps (and learn from). SideFX Labs is a fantastic demonstration of that, but we need something that is broader than Labs (or the new name of it) but is still as easy to install and use, and doesn't feel like a weird hacked on sketchy download that might work in my version.

To overhaul the Orbolt site and increase contributor engagement, here are my thoughts on the current site (subjective and only from my experience which may be overlooking things).

- Don’t put “Most Recent” as the main selection on the front page (big turn-off immediately)
- Either put “Featured”, “Top Selling”, “Most Downloaded” or “SideFX Picks”
- Put a few categories
- Featured Tools
- Featured Effects

- It’s not clear if this is an official marketplace
- C4D link at bottom may be deprecated
- It's weird to have a Houdini ad near the bottom ("Hey person browsing Houdini assets, I think you would be interested to learn about Houdini")

- Put the “Browse Categories” at the top of the page

- The rating system is killing the perception - so many have 0 ratings which looks bad, or 1 3-star rating

- Put the price on the thumbnail for paid assets and say "Free" for free assets

- Clear out the cruft (dispose of anything that isn’t supported in 16+)

- Offer “credits” or make “competitions” for developers to produce high quality content (e.g. if a free asset gets downloaded >1000 times, you get $10 of marketplace credit to buy someone else's paid HDA)

- Curate the marketplace (as others have said) - if it’s something that adds no real value (or one extremely specific use case) over existing tools, clear it out. Or at the very least make the GOOD stuff a lot more prominent

- Learn from (http://sidefx.com/tutorials) - it’s not the greatest implementation, but it has a lot of submissions. I wrote this point not knowing about the Content Library, actually, which is basically the tutorials browser for assets. Not sure how to feel about the Content Library implementation

- Use social media and youtube
- Best HDAs of the month

- Take enough cut of sales that sideFX can invest actual resources in the marketplace. If you have to take 30% to actually maintain the site until it gets to a reasonable scale, I think that's justifiable (unlike some other stores)

- Call it Houdini Marketplace or HDA Marketplace (Orbolt doesn't mean anything to me, and Content Library seems like a different thing - a library is for assets and examples rather than functionality and tools) - Houdini is kind of unique in that the tools are the assets

- Advertise in the target spaces (Unity, Unreal, Maya, Max) - this is for them too! (and encourage creators to share their assets in these places too)

- Make a lot of noise about Free access (I don't know if I have the details correct here, but this should be highly visible and without ambiguity)
- You don’t need a Houdini License to use many of these assets
- Houdini Engine for Unity (or XYZ) is FREE (for Indie, < 100K)
- You can sell assets for Full Commercial Houdini on the marketplace even when created with Indie
- In many cases, it’s the hobbyists, educators, freelancers, indies that are willing to share tools freely, or who would be most interested in some passive revenue from their existing efforts. Therefore, investing energy to make this widely understood pays dividends.

- The “requests” feature needs to be more standardized and formalized, it’s just a big list of people saying “hey, can anyone build me this thing that I will try to describe”
- Form for: Brief title, description, category, houdini version, similar to (link)
- Quick closed/fulfilled/already exists status updating (by moderators or requester)

Anyway, some rambling points, but I don't think the value of a robust, well-maintained, and high quality marketplace should be underestimated. Especially when those assets end up in other DCCs - many people who think of Houdini for movie VFX would try some Engine HDAs for their Maya or Unity project and then decide to learn how to make their own HDAs. New Houdini user!

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
TL;DR - the current marketplace(s) is/are obscure, unappealing, and stuffed with fluff. Investing resources in this space will pay off.
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