Maya 2015: A Game Development Perspective

December 29, 2014 1:37 am

Tags: Autodesk, Game Development, Maya, Maya LT

Maya 2015 is the latest release of this 3d modeling and animation package from Autodesk. This article may come late to the party since Kurt already wrote a very good review on Maya 2015, but I decided to check how some the features found in this new version work with game development. Maya can be bought as a stand-alone software, or part of an Autodesk Suite that includes other packages, such as MotionBuilder and Mudbox. You can also get Maya for $185.00 a month.

One thing to keep in mind is that most, if not all, of the things touched on this article would also work on Maya LT (the “game development edition” of Maya). However, Maya LT is not included as part of a suite, so you’d need to get Mudbox and MotionBuilder separately if you need them.

One of the things I’ve found most time consuming to deal with is UV mapping, and sometimes I’d even send my models to Softimage for UV mapping because the unfold tools in that app are better. Maya 2015 now includes a different unfold tool, which provides pretty much the same results as the unfold feature in Softimage.

A nice feature of this improved UV mapping toolset is the ability to check for UV stretching or compression. Leaving too much space (or too little space) between vertices in your UV shell can lead to weird texture artifacts, so being able to check if areas of your UVs are too stretched or compressed is very useful.



Previously, Maya had introduced the Modeling Toolkit, a collection of tools that can help increase efficiency when working with polygons. Those tools can also be used to remesh models, and now it offers some improvements to make it easier to create quads when performing a model’s retopology. What’s interesting in this version is that you can even use a Geometry Cache as a live surface to draw polygons onto, improving viewport speed when working with higher resolution models (for example, models that were 3d scanned).

When it comes to real-time characters, retopology can be very useful when you need to fix some geometry problems due to 3d model requirements, or in case you need to rebuild parts of the model.



Another case when retopology is useful is when you need to build a low polygon version of a high polygon scanned 3d model. For example, say you scanned someone’s face (or entire body) using a 3d scanner, you can remesh that model using Maya’s toolset. You can then use Maya to extract maps (normal maps, displacement maps) to add finer details to your models.

Now, the default viewport renderer is the Viewport 2.0, so you can get higher visual quality when you are working. Viewport 2.0 also allows for higher quality hardware real time shading. Maya includes ShaderFX, a shader authoring solution you can use to make real time shaders so you can know how your model would look inside the video game engine.

ShaderFX is similar to the Hypershade, meaning you can create those shaders using nodes and connections, but the end result is hardware-based, not software-based. The issue here is that the shaders are not compatible with other real time applications (including game engines), so there’s no way to use the ShaderFX shaders in a game engine like Unity. To be fair, this is not a problem exclusive to Maya, since I’ve used other real time shading applications to create shaders just to realize I can’t use them in the game engine I want to use.

The upside is that those shaders can be used to make very cool effects and looks, and that you can render your scene using the hardware render. This can also be very useful in case you may want to make a “2.5D” game, where you use 3D rendered sprites for a 2D game, as the hardware renderer will take a lot less time to output all of the required frames.



Maya 2015 offers other features like a new dynamics solver and procedural generator, but those features have been covered in Kurt’s review and are not really useful for game development.

As I said before, the Maya features that would be useful for game development are also found in Maya LT. If you’re only using Maya, it makes more sense to get Maya LT since it already includes the features you’d need for game development. However, if you rely on other Autodesk applications as well, you’d need to check if getting Maya as part of a suite would be more cost effective than getting every application separately.

From a game development perspective, Maya’s new features seem small but they can help a lot, but this version’s biggest features are reserved for the production and pre-rendered animation side of things (not that there’s anything wrong with that, since most people using Maya for game development would use Maya LT anyway). Now, if Autodesk could work on a bridge that could easily send ShaderFX shaders to Unity, it’d be great, but as I understand it is not so simple.



Editor's Note: Be sure to check out all the valuable resources available right here on Renderosity, for all your artistic endeavors, starting with the following related links:

Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.




December 29, 2014

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