" As a matter of fact I prefer multiple objects. I rather have a grouping that "joins" multiple objects (nurbs, curves, emptys and meshes alike) and treat them as one with transformation tools.
This makes me think that smooth/hard edges is a games thing. Where certain game engines have a certain approach.
Surely blender can have features that fit perfectly to those approaches, but I don't see how they bennefit animators, and blender is an animation package."
My english is not very good, and often I don't understand paragraphs as I would in my own language. But I deduce you believe then that game meshes must be single object only...Well, while is true for some engines, and is true that the zbuffer fighting occur in certain situations, I have done in past jobs many several-meshes models...Nope, that's not the key. You can use several or single piece objects (unless you're tied to certain limited engine) ...the smooth shading, (that is, I mean: the freedom to produce a hard edge or a continuous smoothing there where one needs it) is a precious helper fo rachieve realism in games and..in any realtime graphic's stuff. We must consider also this applies just the same to real time 3d interactive worlds, to machinima films (dunno if u know what's that all about: real time graphics, even done with game engines, to actually produce films, to tell a story without the need of rendering or expensive rendering packages. Some times very good stuff is produced. After all, I think the value of being able to tell a story imho is something to consider... )
The fact is, whenever you need a hard crease, yep, you can do it with somewhat quicker operation, and be able to check it real time in viewport..Why? because is so constantly needed in rt and game graphics...And u need to achieve a very accurate compromise between the nº of polies you only have, the realistic effect you're after, the shading (low pol meshes in most engines, with no hard edges, do produce often darkening in certain areas, also...)
Say you need an axe to have sharp borders in certain lines, still be smooth , round wooden made in others...this is very much needed, for the nature of real time 3d, how it ouput stuff visually. (dunno really how vrml worlds deal with this, btw)
So, no matter if it's one mesh, or several, you'll keep needing hard edges: You just can't afford extra polies like in subdiv modelling to actually produce a crease, and to break the mesh to produce a hard edge, is often a problem for most realtime engines(you can do that often, but sometimes not, depends on the situation or even on the engine)... Then there's the other disadvantage...you need it be as quick as possible, as you're gonna be tweaking that all the time... Well, this feature is not only in Milkshape...indeed, imho is only comfortably done in Maya and specially, Wings3d.
No, please, I don't mean now go grab every feature from X package. But grab what is minimally needed for game artist go use Blender as their main tool. Any game artist using LW, Max, Maya, XSI (I do have this one, and also have this(I haven't installed the linux version they give me, though, yet)) (and surely every tool out there) would expect hard edges, muliples uvs, baking to texture specially (the lights (lightmap) )
And in the part is not seen where would benefit animation...Well, what you can produce with lower meshes, and with help of good smooth shading+smooth shading creases, will benefit your render times, usability of the whole scene, etc...I have friends working at a 3d series company, an small one, but for TV, and well, they cut CPU times in the scene there where they can : They go as lower as they can while it does not get noticed...render times are a pain even in huge machines...
Sorry, too long post. I hope some part was of some use, for someone
BTW, I am not doingat this moment free 3d projects(if I would, would be using other tools, btw), my today's work is pixel art, and don't even have time to dedicate much to 3d at home, besides have my own 3d tools, so I have zero interest on all this...other than I would like that game artists would beguin to use Blender with required capabilities for games...And that I do think is a very good stuff for Blender.