This information may change over time so it may not be up-to-date.
They are both high end pieces of software that is used in many applications for creating models and environments. 3DS Max is usually seen as the easier of the two packages, but both have their own benefits. For example. in 3DS max it is more focused towards creating environments, although it is possible to create character models and organic pieces of work, Maya lets a lot more freedom with the lines and lets the user create softer lines easily. Another positive to the Maya software is that it is generally more intuitive when it comes to animation too, which also explains why it is more common to create organic models with it. Both packages aren’t just for gaming, although it is a large segment of use for the software, they are also commonly used for film/animation and even architecture. There is a platform difference between the two software packages, 3DS Max is only able to be used on the Microsoft Windows platform, whereas the Maya package is available to use on not only Windows, but on OS X and Linux too. 3DS Max is generally more intricate with the texture mapping which also helps with static models and environments.
3DS Max is a professional piece of software, but at the same time it is simple enough for a beginner to use it, this in turn makes it usable by a wider audience, giving it a larger popularity. You use polygons to create models to go into a game, the software removes the need to use equations and does all of the equations for the polygons behind the scenes so that you don’t get distracted from your work. If you would like to edit the code manually then it has a view type were it is possible. 3DS Max is used by people such as; game developers, motion graphics artists and visual effects artists, but is also used by architects, engineers and visualisation specialists. It also allows a user to render an object so that an artist can see what there model looks like in an animated situation, this extends the capability of the software and cuts down the work time by instantaneously rendering.
3DS Max also lets you animate models so that you can see what they would be like in an interactive scenario. The software has been used to create films like ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and ‘Fantastic Four’, it has also been used for games such as ‘Dance Central’ and ‘Assassin’s Creed II’. In the 2014 version of 3DS Max it has a Render Pass System and Photoshop interoperability which gives flexibility when completing renderings in Adobe Photoshop. There is a new option which lets you export your renderings in a layered .PSD format which keeps it’s opacity, blend modes and layer order. Artists can also set up and execute multiple render passes from a single file more quickly, another things is that individual passes can be modified without the need to re-render the whole scene, incorporating this feature decreases work time and increases work flow and productivity.
Autodesk Maya’s original author was Alias Systems Corporation, but more recently the developers have been solely Autodesk, hence the name. It was originally released in February 1998, and is commonly updated annually since then, so the latest release at the time of this overview was released in April 2014. Maya uses 3 different languages, C++, MEL and Python and has been for some time now. It is available in a few different locales: English, Japanese and simplified Chinese. Autodesk 3DS Max has had several names and platforms in the past from when it was first release in 1990, but it’s current name and platform is ‘Autodesk 3DS Max 2015’ and it’s platform is Windows. The latest release of the software was released in March 2015. Both packages use quite a few different plug-ins to help with creating and texturing, such as ‘Character Studio’, ‘nCloth’, ‘nParticle’ and a lot more. Both software uses a modelling method, Geometric Theory. It is basically the name for using triangles and polygons to create objects in a scene, it is used because the platform (Computer) calculates/renders images in triangles.