About This Book


About This Book

To the seasoned game artist, some of the structure of this book may be unexpected. Once you know the basic fundamentals of game character development, all the different stages tend to blur into just a few. When you know what to look out for early onwhere polygons should be placed so the character deforms correctly, and so forthyou can preempt what would normally be done further down the line. I have tried to separate each step of the character development process into its own chapter, to help you, the reader, learn and understand each individual stage. Once you've worked through the book and gained some experience, you'll find the boundaries of each section merging into a continuous process.

You may also wonder about the scope of the book; it covers a great deal. Those actually employed in the games industry tend to work in one specialized area, such as modeling, texturing, rigging, or animation. To date I have worked for five companies, and at each I have been called upon to perform a number of tasks. It's sometimes just not economical to employ five people to cover five separate areas, when one or two can cover them all just as easily. From my experience, you are less likely to be offered a position if you are not flexible in your skills. Yes, specialize in one area if you like, such as character or game world development, but learn what you can about every stage. You will no doubt be called upon at some time to perform a task that's not in your job description, so it's helpful to have at least some of the relevant knowledge.

All that said, if you already have a development studio in your sights, it's best to check out how they work so that you can focus your skills accordingly.


    On the Included CD

    Supplied with this book is a CD-ROM that will work with both Windows and Mac systems. Throughout the book, keystrokes that are different on each platform are expressed in Windows/Mac format (for instance, Shift+Ctrl/Cmd).

    The CD contains many tools and files associated with the book's contents. There are four primary directories: Maya, Morgue, Project Files, and Software. The following sections describe these directories and give instructions for loading and setting them up.

    NOTE

    The scripts available in the Maya/Scripts directory are free, shareware tools and are not necessary for working through this book. The shelf, however (found in Maya/Shelves), is an important part of the book's projects and should be installed following the instructions below.


    Maya/Scripts/CreatureTools_v5

    Creature Tools is an automated character rigging and animation system for Maya. With Creature Tools installed, you will be able to generate a full skeleton and rig for your character in seconds.

    Inside this directory you will find two subdirectories labeled Manual and Scripts. Place all the files found in the Scripts directory into your My Documents/maya/6.0/scripts folder (for Mac: {home}/Library/Preferences/Alias/maya/scripts). Replace the 6.0 in this path with the version number of Maya you are currently running; if you're using the PLE included on the CD (described in "Software" just below), it's 6.0PLE.

    When you start Maya, you'll see a new menu called Creature Tools; if it doesn't appear, open the script editor and type crToolsMenu to load Creature Tools manually.

    For information on how to use Creature Tools, refer to the manual found in the Manual directory.

    Maya/Scripts/Misc

    In this directory you will find a selection of scripts that I use regularly. To install these, simply place them into your My Documents/maya/6.0/scripts folder (for Mac: {home}/Library/Preferences/Alias/maya/scripts). Here again, you need to change the 6.0 in the path to match your Maya version.

    To run the scripts, type the filename (without the .mel extension) into the script editor and press Enter.

    • instanceSplit.mel converts instanced objects into unique ones.

    • notePad.mel places a note into the current scene. When the scene is reloaded, notes are displayed to remind you or a colleague of anything you have put into the scene.

    • showMaterial.mel is a handy little program that opens the Attribute Editor, displaying the material assigned to the selected face. This saves you the effort of searching through the Hypershadea useful shortcut if your scene has hundreds of textures.

    • resBatch.mel simply alters the way your textures are displayed in Maya's views. It scales the size of all the textures, not physically but temporarily, speeding up the real-time display as you work.

    Maya/Shelves

    Please make sure you install this shelf (shelf_GCDM.mel) before you begin working with the projects in this book. It contains tools that are usefuland sometimes essentialfor completing the example tasks.

    Copy the shelf_GCDM.mel file into your My Documents/maya/6.0/prefs/shelves directory (for Mac: {home}/Library/Preferences/Alias/maya/6.0/prefs/shelves). A new Shelf called GCDM will be available the next time you launch Maya.

    Morgue

    In The Morgue you will find a selection of files taken straight from my own library. Feel free to use these to help develop your own skills and characters, but they are not available for commercial use.

    Project Files

    All of the Maya and texture files you will need for the book's projects can be found in the Project Files directory. Each subdirectory name corresponds to the associated chapter number.

    Software

    You don't actually need your own version of Maya to work through this book, because on the CD we have included the Personal Learning Edition (PLE), a free version of Maya. Although it is essentially the same application as the full version of Maya, the PLE does have some restrictions. For example, you can load the .mb files supplied on the CD, but you are only able to save them as .mp, meaning they will only work with the PLE.

    Refer to Maya's help directory found in Help > Maya Help (F1) for further details on the differences between the full and PLE versions of Maya.

    If you would like to keep completely up to date with the PLE, you can download the absolutely latest version from the Alias Web site; you'll find a link on the CD.

    In addition, the CD contains a link to the Adobe Web site's download page. Here you will find a demo version of Photoshop. Of course, if you already have a graphics program you're comfortable with, feel free to use that.

    Now that you know the where's and why's about this book and you have your environment set up, let's move on and dive into the world of Game Character Development with Maya.