As you may know Autodesk Maya®/Maya LT™ and Autodesk 3dsMax® are two game industry standard for 3d software. These two programs are the most widely used in game studios around the world. Of course they are not the only 3d modeling sofware out there, others include Blender, Modo or Cinema 4D.
I myself have been using Maya since 2005.
In 2005-2009 I attended college to study computer animation. During these four years, I used Maya primarily for storytelling and character animation. So my foundation and knowledge of Maya was built on how well I can model, UV, texture, rig, light, render and animate to create 30-120 second short films.
Animation lip sync college project - rig controls
Going through computer animation program made me realize something very important. I never wanted to animate ever again. My passion and love was for creating game environments. So after graduation in 2009 I switched to use Maya only for modeling and UVing game environment ready assets/props.
But during the switch I encountered a lot of problems.
Many of the techniques, methods and principles I knew were not transferable to game environment modeling. There was a period of adjustment and relearning I had to go through from computer animation to game environment design.
Unreal Tournament 3 fan map I created using some custom assets modeled in Maya and where a lot of my re-learning began:
Eventually I began to optimize and streamline the game environment art process. I realized that I was only using Maya for modeling and UVing workflow and ignoring all other features such as animation, rigging, dynamics, rendering, lighting, composite etc.
Maya became too expensive to continue paying for features I wasn't using.
In 2013 Autodesk® announced and released Maya LT, a slimmer, independent game development version of Maya. It wasn't until a year later when I wanted to update to newer version of Maya that I considered switching to Maya LT.
After a lot of research and comparing Maya vs Maya LT I decided to completely transition to Maya LT.
In December of 2014, after almost a decade of using Maya, I switched to using Maya LT for game environment modeling.
The main two reasons for switching were due to Maya LT having the same modeling tools as full version. With UVing & texturing tools being almost identical between both versions; only two things were missing from Maya LT UV/Texturing pipeline - transfer maps and PSD support. But that's ok. I'll take $ savings from Maya to Maya LT by not having these two features.
Maya LT also has the ability to export as .obj and .fbx. Both file formats were important to me as they are commonly used to export/import to a game engine.
Maya vs Maya LT Modeling Comparisons:
Maya vs Maya LT UV/Texturing Comparisons:
As of the time this article was written, I've been using Maya LT for almost 2 years and I have yet to encounter where I wished I was using Maya instead.
In fact, "UE4 The Corridor Project" series and all of its assets were created using Maya LT without any issues:
Unreal Engine 4 Corridor Assets created using Maya LT
Maya LT modeled Corridor Assets used inside UE4 project
Maya LT does offer a very extensive animation/rigging toolset and may be enough for what you require, but you will be giving up a few features not included from full version of Maya.
I recommend spending some time going over all features you need if you are going to be using it beyond game environment modeling. See full comparison chart of Maya vs Maya LT here.
The main take-ways are:
- As a game environment artist, Maya LT is everything I need and contains almost all identical features as full version of Maya
- Maya LT has the same modeling tools as full version and with UVing & texturing tools being almost identical between both versions; only two things were missing from Maya LT UV/Texturing pipeline are transfer maps and PSD support
- I've been using Maya LT for game environment art for almost 2 years now and I have yet to encounter a time where I wished I was using Maya instead; and I've been a Maya user since 2005.
- As a beginner who wants to learn game industry standard software for game environment art, Maya LT is the perfect and cheaper solution. If you ever need to switch or use full version of Maya in the future, you will be able to do so without any issues
- As a game environment artist, Maya LT will contain all the tools you need to model real-time game ready assets/props
Also, just as a side note: I do not have any affiliations with Autodesk. I’m just a user who enjoys using their software.
Learn Maya LT/Maya: You must learn 3d modeling software as a specialist and not as a generalist. Follow this tutorial series and finally be able to learn Maya LT/Maya for game environment modeling and UVing.