Maya ----> UT2003 Character Model Tutorial
By Sundeep Dass
Written March 2, 2003

PART ONE: The Beginning, and Maya

-What this Tutorial is about
This tutorial will attempt to cover getting a fully custom model into UT2003 using Maya. What do I mean by fully custom? A fully custom model consists of:

1. an original 3d mesh
2. an entirely new skeleton built in Maya (i.e., not Biped)
3. A complete set of entirely new animations done in Maya that correspond with the animations needed to get a custom model working in-game
4. Original painted textures
5. A custom ragdoll

Software you'll need:
-Unreal Tournament 2003, which comes with:
UnrealED 3.0
KAT authoring tool (for ragdolls)
*You should probably also download the latest patch from

-Maya, version 3.0 to 4.5. For this tutorial, I will be using Maya 4.0. I don't think I will be using any features that aren't avaliable in Maya 3.0 or Maya 4.5. If there is a procedure documented in this tutorial that isn't avaliable in Maya 3 or 4.5, please email me and I will try to find a work-around.
*****A NOTE ABOUT MAYA PLE: UT2003 also ships with Maya Personal Learning Edition, which comes with a custom plugin for getting character models into the game. For this tutorial, I will be using the ActorX plugin for getting work from the full version of Maya into UnrealED. MayaPLE users may find a significant portion of this tutorial useful, since MayaPLE seems to be the full version of Maya (but it uses janky, non-Maya-compatible file types) For moving your character into UT2003, I'm afraid you are going to have to rely on the documentation for the custom PLE plugin, which seems adequate....(like I would know)

The ActorX plugin for Maya. Find it here

-A texture painting program. Photoshop is the general standard, but some people prefer Paint Shop Pro, or Corel Painter. If you are fancy, you can use something like Deep Paint. The only perequisite for the Paint program is that it must be able to export 32 bit targa files. For the purposes of this tutorial, I will be using Photoshop 6.

What you need to know:
The tutorial assumes that you will have a basic working knowledge of Maya, and whatever paint program you are using. If you don't know how to model a character in Maya, you may have some difficulty following along. There's a ton of online tutorials and videos on how to use Maya, so I'm just not going to cover the basic stuff. I "will" go into detail on certain steps that are important for getting your model to work correctly in-game, but I wont teach you how to model in Maya, that would just make things too complex.

Also, I recommend you read a lot of the documentation provided at the Unreal Developer Network site, especially the stuff about character creation. They'll get into a lot of the nitty gritty engine details that I probably just wont cover, for the sake of not repeating info that's already out there.

Starting your model - Some friendly advice

Ok, so you have the coolest idea for a model running through your head, and you can't wait to start modeling it in Maya, so you run to your computer and...

Hold up. Slow down.

If I were you, I'd probably make a quick sketch of that great idea before I start modeling. Even if you can't draw well, you still shouldn't ignore this step. And if you "can" draw well, the point of concept art is not to post it on forums and expect people to salivate at your skills. The concept art will likely your best, and quickest, way to get an appealing silhouette. What the hell is an appealing silhouette? Read on:

You see, UT2003 is a fast game. Players move very qucikly. No one really walks in the game. So with so much speed, it can be hard to see the detail you put on your model. The trick is to put all the detail (and polygons) into an appealing silhouette, that is, the outer edges of your model. If you were to make a model of Superman for UT2003, why use up 400 polygons modeling his "S" symbol on his chest, when you can use those polys towards a badass, flowing cape? No one is likely going to see the work you put into modeling that "S" on his chest when the game is running at a fast rate, so that's why you need to think about silhouettes.

So your concept art doesn't even have to be detailed. It can be a big black blob (a loose definition of a silhouette) if you want. It's just gotta communicate the proportions and the important parts of the model. If you do this step, I guarantee you will save hours of modeling time. And that's my rant on concept art...

For the purpose of this tutorial, I will be re-importing my Mechanatrix character model. This time, it will call her "Freak." It's a simple name we can all relate to.

My character's inital concept art, and....

....the finished model.

Next Page: Modeling and Texturing your character....

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