Every node parameter has a number, often a floating point. Full white is 1.0, 1.0, 1.0 which is a standard I applaud. There are no sliders for any parameters (which is inexcusable) but each parameter has little up/down arrows to increment or decrement the values. Most of the time you'll end up typing in a number then clicking somewhere to get the image to update. It works fine when you get used to it, but a slider would really have helped. Notably the Gaussian Blur is very sensitive, often needing increments of 0.001.
Preset values for the nodes cannot be stored or recalled which is less than ideal, but you can copy a node to a new texture, save that and then later include it as a preset. There is no font support either which is a shame.
The vital recursive undo is there and it works well. Presets can be dragged and dropped straight from a folder (or folders) of your choice into the node tree. Very useful context menus make it quick and easy to insert or delete branches or nodes. The main menu is small and neat, and the controls are easy enough to understand without the need to read the help file.
The interface might take some getting used to but ultimately the program can be judged by it's results and Genetica's output is wonderful. Some of the images are simply amazing. The rocks, bashed up wood and even the hedge presets look very very good, certainly better than an artist could hand draw in something like Paint Shop Pro. When versed in the program's use, the textures are easy to create too.
The detail present is simply amazing. You can zoom the texture itself in any single node, branch, or the whole tree to add or remove detail. Of course the program is resolution independent so if you save your textures in Genetica, you can always re-render to a higher or lower degree as your game and it's hardware require.
Masking off/stencilling areas, or creating complex textures like faces can be awkward. The program works best for organic seamless textures like rock, wood (there is a wood grain generator), hull plates, gratings and things like that. It can also produce nice lens-flare light glow or fire effects.
With Genetica some detailed, focused and very beautiful images can be created. Textures are created by 'programming' the shapes and not drawing. The learning curve is quite steep and at first I found myself floundering a little. A graphic artist who is not a programmer might have a hard time learning to use Genetica, but after a day or two the amazing results will convert any scribbler. $135 represents a good investment for the presets alone, but it has to be noted that there are some lower price alternatives like Game Creators Texture Maker.
Could a small studio live without it? Well it depends on how much time you spend on texture design. The seamless tiling is great, but the quality of the output images are a better reason to buy the program. At first I could only see the omissions in the interface, but now I can only see my wonderful textures.
Keywords: review, spiral graphics reviews, spiral graphics software, pc software reviews, game development reviews, dev tools.