After seeing this running in Codea, I went ahead and bought the essential version (on sale still for $60). My initial impression is that I quite like it. Your mileage may vary, I am not exactly an artist (much less an animator). Even basic usage of this tool combined with the spine runtime opens up a lot of options when it comes to procedural animations, and even with my meager art skills there’s a lot there to play with. As far as usability, the tool strikes me as incredibly polished; there was a lot of love put into it.
The fact that it works on Mac, Windows, and Linux (the license allows for installation on 2 machines, for 1 user) is awesome. Also, as far as I can tell, there really isn’t another tool out there like this for 2D animation with a focus on games…especially not one as widely supported as this (seriously…they provide a ridiculous amount of runtimes and their source, and there are tons of unofficial runtimes). It was pretty simple to get this running in Codea, but it was even easier in Love2D.
On the other hand:
If you are an animator, you will probably really, really desire the “pro” features. Those include “ghosting” (a.k.a. onion skinning), “Auto Key” (ugh), and various other “advanced” (though some are a lot more like convenience) features. Unfortunately, those come with a much steeper price tag (normally $299, on sale right now for $250). Unfortunately it seems like it would be hard to tempt an animator to take a serious stab at the trial, when they’d essentially be throwing that time away since they can’t save any of their work. So yeah, I totally agree with you on that point @aciolino, it’s really lame that you can’t save at all with the trial. I would definitely be interesting in an actual animator’s impressions of this tool.
As an aside, I think some of these “pro” “features” seem kind of mean (namely, Auto Key and Ghosting). It goes without saying that the developers deserve to be paid for their work, but it almost feels like they are intentionally making the workflow worse if you aren’t willing to cough up the extra dough. I think the upcoming deformable polygon features alone would justify the more expensive price tag, I don’t see why some of these had to be excluded from the “essential” version.
To conclude: as a programmer, with next to no art skills, I am willing to spend $60-75 on the tool, and find it to be worth it if you are serious about using skeletal animations in your games in any form. However, I cannot give an honest impression as an animator, so unfortunately I cannot say whether it is worth it at any price