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

Binding your Geometry to your Skeleton.

UT2003 only supports Smooth bind for Maya character models, so we're going to use smooth bind. Duh.

If your character has any metal parts, or pieces where you don't want any deformation to occur, you should bind these pieces to a single joint, ideally the closest joint to that piece. Here's how you do that:

1. Select the piece of geometry you want to bind, and Shift-Select the joint you want to bind that piece to.
2. Make sure you are in Animation mode. Then choose Skin --> Bind Skin --> Smooth Bind Option Box.

3. In the "Bind to" pull down box, choose "Selected Joints" then click apply.

4. Rotate the joint to test and see if the geometry was bound exclusively to that joint (then undo your rotation to preserve bind pose)

For deformable geometry, you'll want to select your root bone and use the "complete skeleton" method. You will then adjust the vertex weights using the paint weights tool. Try visiting the polycount forums if you need some help using the paint weights tool.

Binding geometry is a pretty complex process, and you're bound to make mistakes the first time through. You may have unparent certain joints from your hierarchy in order to get things bound correctly, then re-parent those joints back into the chain. I always save a file with all my geometry unbound (with history deleted) and my skeleton ready so I have a backup to go to in case I screw up. You really should take the time to bind your model correctly and paint weights carefully for proper deformation. If you don't, you'll be in for a big headache when you begin animating.

IK Handles: Yes, you can add IK to your skeleton. I think UnrealED only needs the location of your joint a certain point in time to record animation, so you can use IK to help position your joints. Go ahead, don't be shy...

By the way, save off a file of your character fully bound in its bind pose. You'll need it later for exporting the PSK.


Ok, so your character bound up and moving well. Time to animate. So where do you start? Well, I think now's a good time to get acquainted with UnrealED. Open it up. And go to the animations browser. It's the big black A on the top toolbar. You should see something similar to the pic below:

UED likes to load up the Juggernaut animations by default. You should a Jugg model in the 3D view, and big ol' list of animations to the left. Click on one of the animation sequences on the left, then hit the play button located below the 3D view (use the mouse and mouse buttons to navigate the 3D view; different button presses do different things). The Jugg model should move. That's animation.

So now I'd spend a few minutes going through all the animations, playing them back, thinking where they woud be used, which animations you see in game most often, etc. Notice the number to the right of the animation sequence name? That's the number of frames that the animation is compsed of. To the right of the 3D view, you should see a bunch of tabs. Click on the sequence tab, then click on the + sign next to Sequence Properties. You should see the frame rate for the selected animation sequence.

So what does all this mean? Well, this is basically the information you should use as a template for your animations. This doesn't mean your RunF sequence "has" to be 20 frames; make it 30 if you want. But the animation browser is an excellent guideline on how you should animate your character for UT2003. In order to get your character working properly in-game, you're going to need to animate your own version of EVERY sequence that is listed. Some animations can be reused for certain sequences if you like. It's a lot of work, but you've come this far, so don't turn back now. Here's a few tips to help you on your way:

-DO NOT animate the scale properties of your joints. UT2003 will only read the traslation and rotation data. I know, this sucks, but learn to live with it.

-Write down every animation sequence you complete, with the sequence name, number of frames you used, and the frame fate you want UT2003 to play it at. This is important for when you have export each sequence one by one.

-Study an animation set that best fits your character. You can open up the other default character animations from the animation browser (File --> Open). Look at how the characters move in game and choose an animation set that best fits your character's style and personality. For example: I thought the Bot animations were generally smoother and more fluid, so I chose to use that animation set as a reference for my Mechanatrix model (another robot-type character).

-Look at the start and stop poses for animation sequences. It seems like most animations in UT2003 start in the "crossing position" (where the legs are somewhat together) or somewhere close to that. I initially found this to be kind of strange since I'm used to starting animation cycles in their "extended pose" (legs farthest apart), but if you think about it, it makes sense. No one starts running from their extended pose, so if the engine is transitioning from runF to runB, it should beging with the feet close together, in effect, the beginning of the run. Make sense?

-Spend more time animating the sequences we'll see the most in-game. This includes run cycles, jump cycles, crouching, idle poses, and the pelvic thrust. Because everyone loves the pelvic thrust. You can probably get caught up animating a cool flip for WallDodgeB, but unless you're a wall dodge freak, it just ain't gonna be seen that often. Put more time onto those run cycles, and your character will shine.

-Save each animation set into a seperate file (ex: all run sequences in one file, all walks in one, etc). Sounds tedious and stupid, but it makes things easier when you need to go back and tweak something. And you probably will have to go back and tweak something. If you are really cool, you can save each sequence in a seperate file. Whatever's clever, I say.

-Keep your character's hands in the SAME POSITION for all your animations!!! Probably the best way to do this is to move your arms into a suitable "holding a weapon" position, save that file off. Then always come back to that file for each new animation sequence. If you have to move your arms (and you should, for good animation) try your best to get your hands back into the right position (copy and paste keyframes for start and end keys). This is all for weapon placement purposes, and if your weapon hands are different each sequence, you'll see a lot of ugly "weapon pop" in-game. Really, this is soooo important, so try to be diligent about it, or it will come back to bite you in the arse big time.

Sorry, that was an essay on animation with little visual reference. Well, we're about ready to export, so you'll see lots of pictures on the next page...

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