For some time now I've been using Cinema 4D for a while along with VUE and Poser to create 3D models and backgrounds for use in 3D artwork. I always wanted to try something like 3Ds Max or Maya but they were out of my price range. A few years went by and now I would like to create 3D models of characters and other such things with animation for games and promotional videos. 3Ds Max and Maya are still out there but so are a few other products. I don't know if 3Ds Max and Maya are still the best tools for this kind of work. They were always known to have a long learning curve.
What I am wondering is if some new technology has been developed and therefore new 3D development tools that make the creation process faster in such a way that 3Ds Max and Maya are old school? What's out there today that rivals 3Ds Max and Maya with a smaller learning curve, faster creation process, and equal or better product results?