So, one of the oft-overlooked aspects of having divorced parents is lack of communication when it comes to gift-giving. As a result of said gift-giving, I have found myself in possession of both Maya 8.5 and LightWave 3D 9, with one of which I will be replacing Strata 3D CX, which I've used for years now. So this begs the question: which should I use and which should I return? (Barring money concerns, the Academic Superstore discounts make each a few hundred dollars instead of in the thousands.)
From what I understand, Maya is generally seen as a superior product. Along with this, the learning curve is also generally seen as astronomical. This may be abated to an extent in that along with the program I received a guide called "Mastering Maya 8.5."
However, many also seem to see LightWave as the #1 program for modeling and rendering images for computer games. I know that ATMOS used LightWave for Nova, and that Blizzard still (I believe) uses it, although they switched to Maya for cinematics. This seems like a hefty endorsement. One final factor I'm considering is that the majority of the pre-made models that I may wish to use at some point are LightWave files, so in terms of compatibility LW would probably win out.
So, from the experience (first- and secondhand) of the dev community, which program would you recommend for Nova graphics?