Thanks, Matt. As always, much appreciated!
Ah, Babylon 5. A goodly amount of inspiration for some of our artists and writers came from that show.
I think Nova holds up as a good example of what amateurs can do with it. I've yet to see any good amateur Maya work, mainly because it was always so darned expensive!
I've used both, for the same purpose. If you're looking to make models and visuals for computer games, LightWave is both easier and quicker to use.
If ultimate flexibility and extensibility are your goals, then Maya is probably your better bet, but it truly sucks to use. Requires a totally different mindset than most 3D tools.
I recommend LightWave.
I've remained silent on this matter because others have been assisting, but I now feel it's high time to speak up. As you've no doubt surmised, "extracting" ships and graphics from a plug-in is a non-trivial exercise. It speaks volumes that anyone is doing this for you at all.
You will get, I would wager, a plug full of ships that have ID numbers that don't interfere with stock Nova. If you can buy them by default in the plug, you'll also consider yourself fortunate.
Beyond that, I doubt you'll get support for any other TC.
Sorry I didn't look in on this thread earlier. If you need me to come and look at something, the best way to grab me is via a PM here on the boards.
We ran into exactly the same problem in LightWave when imported our first DXF files, way back in the late 90s. The problem comes about because of the way LightWave interprets point data and polygon data. It determines flatness in the same way as OpenGL; that is, a polygon is "facing" in one direction or another based on which way around its points are connected. If they're connected clockwise, it'll face one way. Counterclockwise, it'll face the other.
Most modelling tools don't care about this kind of facing direction, but LightWave does. There are some very valid technical reasons why, but I won't detail them here.
Setting the polygons to doublesided is only a temporary patch, too. It won't fix the underlying problem, which is that some polys really aren't facing the right way. You need to fix these up manually. Sorry, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles.
I model inside LightWave, which fixes the problem. It is neither an easy tool to learn, nor a simple one to use. However, the results do justify the extra time spent, if maximum quality is what floats your boat.
More to come, probably in a different thread.