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Niagara Feedback [Preview 5]

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    [EDITOR] Niagara Feedback [Preview 5]

    This might still seem early, but as 4.20 is likely just around the corner I'd like to share some feedback on Niagara based on my experiences so far. Mostly, I've been trying to wrap my head around it by re-creating my existing particles from Cascade in Niagara, as that seems like the best way.

    Niagara is obviously extremely powerful, I can already see huge potential for it and my biggest benefit is that I no longer have to make huge engine customizations to fix or add modules for my VFX work - so I'm eternally grateful for the flexibility. That said, Niagara seems to be very unstable at the moment. I've filed a few bug reports during the previews, the majority of which have been responded to or already fixed so that's great - but there are quite a few crashes.

    UI / Complexity
    My first bit of feedback is in regards to it's complexity. I feel as though right now, you need to have already used Cascade to be able to use Niagara. The interface is quite overwhelming in terms of the sheer amount of information on screen at any one time. For an advanced user this is probably great, so take this with a pinch of salt - but I do think it's complexity is going to scare people away at first. The "Modules" panel in particular is very complex, and at first glance seems to have a lot of text and a lot of wasted UI space. There are also a lot of *very* small UI elements such as drop-down arrows which you have to click often - and this can make it feel very fiddly to use.

    One way to circumvent this IMO would be to add a toolbar to the top-right of the "Selected Emitters" panel, which toggles the visibility of Emitter Spawn, Emitter Update, Particle Spawn etc. categories. Collapsing the categories is possible of course, but there is still a lot of information on screen and using those tiny arrows can be quite frustrating. Reducing the amount of visual clutter so I can focus on what I'm working on at the time would be great. I realise the UI is a work in progress of course. In general though if I'm working on an "update" modules, I'm not really interested in the "spawn" modules at all.

    One thing I've been struggling with a little is the terminology of the "Distributions". The names of these are very confusing and IMO they need more "friendly names" and it's not obvious what they do until you drop one in and try it out. More use of symbols here as opposed to names would be greatly beneficial and again reduce the visual clutter IMO.

    Missing Features
    There are some things I miss from Cascade that aren't currently present in Niagara.

    1) being able to hide the background mesh / preview world items and set a solid background colour. This is really handy for my game where the game world looks absolutely nothing like the Epic courtyard (my world is very, very dark). Most of the time the preview window is useless to me and I have to place a system in the game level instead.

    2) Seamless looping! This bugs me quite a bit, as right now you have to drop a system into the world to have emitters loop seamlessly. In the preview, all particles are killed off when the sequencer track ends. Looping / timing in general feels quite hard to control or gauge.

    3) Thumbnails! I really want to be able to save particle thumbnails again. Pls bring that back

    So far I've found Niagara to be quite unstable - but it has improved as preview builds have kept coming and this will no doubt improve over time. One of the most frustrating issues right now however, is that Emitters seem to just randomly lose data when you close and re-open them, almost as if properties haven't been serialized and just revert to defaults. This seems to happen to me quite often, and I hope this is solved soon.

    Anyway - just some early feedback. Hope this is useful for the team.

    We really appreciate you taking the time and effort to both give Niagara a try and give us good feedback about your experience. We've been focusing heavily on crashes and take any data loss issues very seriously. Our desire is to keep improving in the Dev-Niagara branch even after shipping 4.20. Keep all the good feedback coming, we really want to make this a tool that the VFX community loves.


      Thanks Shaun Kime - My project is very VFX-heavy and I made a lot of additions/modifications to cascade for it which I'd like to leave behind... so I'll be getting a lot of use out of it for sure!