After being inspired by the topology brush in Silo, and the model rig in the Zbrush previews, I started working on a script to do something similar in Max. I found a script called Spline Pencil that let's you draw splines on a model, and then took that and heavily modified it to get to where it's at now.
I guess I should say what I'm going for. Basically, it's a tool to draw splines over a model, which you can then use to add a Surface Modifier to and convert to polys. The most obvious use would be to take a high res model and draw out the low res model on top of it. You then have a nice setup for normal mapping or using the new Skin Wrap modifier.
There are other scripts for drawing splines on models, but this is specifically for creating a spline cage to use with the Surface modifier.
So what I would like is for people who are familiar with spline modeling and using MaxScripts to give it a whirl and let me know if it seems useful, and what other features you might like to see. Right now I plan to implement some sort of preview so you can see what the poly model will look like while you're creating the splines, and the ability to come back to an existing spline model and add to it. The way it is now, you'd have to complete the model in one go, or start a new spline model after you've stopped working on the current one. That's not too big of a deal though, you just do the model in sections.
Here's the script: drawModel.zip
Here's how it works...
1) Run the script from Max (it's been tested with version 5 and 7, and so should work with 6 also).
2) Click the "Pick Surface" button, and then click on the high res model (for example).
3) Click "Draw".
4) Start clicking on the high res model. Every time you click on the model a spline vertex will be placed. Keep clicking to define your edge loops and whatnot. This is the "cage" that will make up the final model.
Shift-click to start a new spline within the current spline object.
Alt-click to remove a vertex from an existing spline.
Keep in mind that to use the Surface modifier, all splines must connect to form three or four sides.
Right-click to stop drawing.
As you're clicking, spheres will be added to each vertex position to help see where they are since they don't show up if you're not in sub-object mode. The spheres are also there to indicate the snap threshold. Increase or decrease the snap threshold to automatically snap new verts onto old ones. This helps make the Surface modifier work properly.
Set the options to automatically add a Surface modifier and a Meshsmooth/Turbosmooth modifier when you're done.
5) Right-click to stop drawing.
6) If you added a Surface modifier and the geometry is not showing up, try checking the "Flip Normals" option, or changin the threshold in the modifier.
That's it. You can either collapse it to a poly object, or go in and tweak the splines. You can also add a Symmetry modifier if you're just working on half the model.
I'd really like to know if anyone finds this useful. I think it could come in handy, especially if you don't have access to Silo or the new version of Zbrush when it comes out.