Every few years, another new game console or computer system is released that is more powerful than its predecessors. With this increase in power comes better graphics capabilities. This lifts the game artists' restrictions, giving them freedom to add more detail to their geometry. But it also adds pressure to create yet more detailed and visually stunning characters, not only on paper but also in the game engine.

As the emphasis on graphics grows, so does the size of the development team needed to create a single game. Back in the early 1980s, a team comprised a single programmer who would no doubt create his or her own graphicsall that was needed were simple shapes formed from a few pixels on screen. Today's gamers demand much more from their games and, as a result, team sizes can run into the hundreds.

With teams becoming so large, good organization is very important, and smaller subteams usually are formed to cover specific areas. On the art side, you will often have three primary teams: characters, environment, and animation. Possibly another, smaller team would cover the front endthe main startup menu, the onscreen display, and so on.

If you desire to join a character team, this book is just for you. As you work your way through each chapter, you will learn the processes of generating an in-game character, from concept to modeling, optimization, texturing, rigging, and finally animating. Along the way you'll be introduced to the Maya interface and its many tools.

    Why Maya?

    "But why Maya?" I hear you ask. "Surely 3D Studio Max is the more dominant 3D application in the games industry." There was a time when this was true, but Maya is fast becoming the industry standard.

    In 2002 Maya was used to create six of the top ten best-selling PlayStation 2 titles. Characters in the Tomb Raider series, Jak and Daxter, Legend of Zelda, and Halo 2 have all been lovingly crafted using Maya's extensive toolset. A recent Alias Systems press release states that in an independent survey performed by Acacia Research, 46 percent of North American games development studios said they used Maya. Within the top eight studios in Japan, 50 percent of their 3D software licenses are now Maya licenses.

    All over the world, games development studios are turning to Maya. In North America, Infinity Ward, Ion Storm, Sony Computer Entertainment, Polyphony, Nintendo, Namco, and Square-Enix, to name but a few, have made the transition. In Europe, Digital Illusions, Blitz Games, Bizarre Creations, Lionhead Studios, and Electronic Arts all utilize Maya as the main tool for creating artwork for their games.

    As you can see, more and more companies are switching to Maya, and this is mainly due to its continued focus on the games development market. This focus shows resultswith each new release of Maya comes more features geared toward games development.

      Why I Wrote This Book

      Back when I started out in the games industry, there was nothing to refer to. You had only your own enthusiasm and desire to create interactive entertainment. In the run up to achieving my first position, I spent weeks working away on my Amiga 1200, drawing 2D graphics and creating animations for games I had designed myself. These graphics won me a position at a company called Freestyle Software, a place that gave me a chance and set my foot on the ladder of this industry.

      There were no books or Web sites then about how to create games, so you had to be disciplined enough to teach yourself the latest 2D package or, as time went by, the current 3D package. Now there is a wealth of knowledge available, so getting into the industry is a little more difficult due to the intense competition. Today you have to prove you have a good understanding of the tasks involved in creating game-related artwork. Here in this book I'll share some insider knowledge and techniques that will enable you to get a leg up into the games industry.

      As the games market has grown over the years, the developer's job has become more recognized as a true career path and not just a hobby. Universities now offer courses dedicated to games programming, artwork, and animation. But there is still a shortage of books on the subject. Plenty of books have been written about creating high-resolution characters for films, but only a scarce few cover the restrictions involved in working with game models, and there are none that cover creating console resolution models from concept through to animation.

      Not everyone gets the opportunity to further his or her education formally; this is why I want to share what I've learned over the past eleven years. I am not saying that my methods are perfect, and there's no requirement that you have to work this way. I'm simply showing you how I work. With that information, you can branch out and form your own, improved techniques.