When it comes to the big 3 apps (3D max, Maya and Softimage) I'm a max guy. It fits well with me and I know it very well. What's less well known is I actually stated in 3d (if you discount Bryce etc....) in Maya back in version 5 I think it was. After a brief flirtation for 2 weeks with 3dmax years earlier and famously throwing it at a wall in my flat and tell a mate 'it'll never catch on', when I came back to 3d I went for Maya.
Why did I choose Maya? It has a very simple and very stupid reason as its answer: because It was used by ILM lol. As I was (and still am) a massive star wars fan, if ILM used it, then to me 'not knowing a thing at the time' 3d mind, it must be the best. So I went on to use it for about 3-4 years and became back then rather proficient with it I like to think. So I can hear your brains asking...why did you move to 3dmax then? well actually I didn't I moved to Softimage 1st, because I'd worked out that while knowing 1 3d app was good, if you knew all 3 big apps you were far more marketable as an artist.
The move to 3D Max came only after realising that it was the only one of the big 3 left that I'd not went in-depth with, and I had kept putting it off until I had no choice. I still had bad memories of it back before there were any tutorial on the internet about 3d max (if there were I never found them!) To put this into focus, back then the internet was seen as for star wars fans, porn and scientists...in that order.
So although I use max more than any other app (yes including Mudbox), I have also kept a hand in with the ones I use less often, because only an idiot learns something only to let his skills fade away. Maya when it comes to films is seen as king of the hill. Part of this seems to be that clients ask firms to use Maya as they probably think like I did that if ILM uses it 'then it must be the best and do shit nothing else can'. So firms use it because their pipeline has evolved over years to be based on Maya and that's not an easy thing to change, and maybe because everyone else also uses it.
Maya and me are like brothers...in that at least twice a week I want to tear its throat out lol. Maya can do some crazy things at times that seem to be for no rhyme or reason. Yes it does a lot of things well and to be frank I'd far rather be painting skin weights in Maya or Softimage that 3d max, ut there are still many things that make you want to shake it until it bleeds to ask why it does crazy things that are so easy. (Don't get me started on its 'selection highlighting that doesn't highlight until your bloody actually ON a vertex...near won't cut it...it has to be ON, which negated the whole idea of a visual selection aid really. So bottom line is that in many ways like my brother, from time to time Maya drives me insane. The rest of the time we get on nicely and it does its job.
The viewport support for PTEX is a very good idea and one 3D Max should steal blatantly for a future release. As mentioned weight painting in Maya is far more painless, and it works far better with a graphics tablet than the max ui does in my opinion. With MEL and python you have powerful control over scripting to help your pipeline and even develop your own tools using that or the SDK. Also a side effect of this is that it's easy to get help or information if you're stuck on something with MEL as there are a lot of people with high end knowledge of it.
Maybe it's just me, but the UI seems 99.999% the same as when I used it back in version 4 or 5.... there is an argument for 'if it isn't broke don't fix it, but some tweaks would be nice guys. I also far prefer Mayas control of render passes over max's, some stuff more complex passes are far easier to do (althoughn3d max scene states also help vastly in this for max users).
When people ask me which big app to learn I always say 'all three' as in this financial climate you don't want to make yourself unattractive to an employer as some places still refuse to let the artist choose their app they use. So I would say to the Maya dev team listen to your users biggest complaints and address them as you are able to, this is advice for app dev teams really. it's far too easy for heads to go down and almost a siege mentality of 'us against the users' to start. ...and that never ends well for anyone.
Maya has some nice viewport controls and although some could use further refinement its nice to see some parts of it heading in the direction I personally would like it. But not everyone may want Maya to head in the direction I want, I'm only 1 bloke sitting here typing , not a demigod. So while there is nothing to make me want to change for max to Maya 2012, if your a Maya user then it's all probably good...baring that crazy shit it does every now and again of course.
The next review's will be Renderman and Zbrush, (and I won't be approaching it in anything other than an even handed way I can promise you that)