Looking for a low-cost way to get on the Autodesk ladder, or need to kit out an assist station for 3D work? We have good news: Autodesk have released Maya LT, a stripped back version of their popular modelling and animation software.
Shipping now and tipping the scales at £700 ex VAT, Maya LT is a great budget alternative for anyone working on social and mobile gaming, as you get the familiar Autodesk workflow but don’t have to pay for additional features you probably won’t need.
What’s the difference between Maya 2014 and Maya LT?
You can see the full feature comparison here, but the main things to bear in mind are that Maya LT doesn’t include more advanced 2D, 3D and substance procedural textures (though the basic tools are still included). It also loses out on paint effects and advanced software shaders, and there’s a 25K limit on your polygon count, but to make up for this Autodesk are giving LT users access to ShaderFX, a graph-based authoring tool for realtime and hardware shaders that’s not included in the standard Maya 2014.
What are the main benefits of Maya LT?
Well, games developers will be pleased to hear that Maya LT’s viewport is DirectX 11-enabled, so you can view the content you create as it will appear in-game, and you can use FBX file exchange to export your Maya LT files into a range of games engines (there’s out of the box support for Unity 3D and Unreal. But it’s not just about shuttling content around, with plenty of tools making their way down to the LT version. Here’s Autodesk’s official list…
Modelling tools in Autodesk Maya LT
– Polygonal, NURBS, and subdivision surface modeling tools.
– Optimise content for mobile devices with polygon reduction, data cleanup, blind data tagging, and level-of-detail tools.
– Bridge, poke, cut, wedge, bevel, extrude, chamfer vertex, extrude along a curve, mirror cut, edge loop, edge ring, slide edge, and pick-walk tools.
– True soft selection and soft modification.
– Transfer of UV, colour-per-vertex, and vertex position information between polygon meshes of differing topologies.
– Non-linear deformation modifiers: bend, taper/flare, squash, twist, wave, lattice.
Materials tools in Autodesk Maya LT
– ShaderFX, a real-time, node-based shader editor enables the rapid creation of shaders that closely match the target game engine without manual coding, and helps simplify the porting of shaders between DirectX 11 and OpenGL environments.
– Advanced game material effects: crack-free tessellation, vector displacement maps, translucence, reflections, and image-based lighting.
– Workflow for creative texturing: UV creation and editing, auto-projection, interactive relaxation, layout UVs, lattice modification, and smudge tools.
– Multiple UV set support.
– Multiple sets of animatable colour-per-vertex (CPV), pre-lighting, and user-defined normals.
Lighting and texture baking in Autodesk Maya LT
– Bake texture maps from highly detailed models to lower polygon models: normal, occlusion, displacement, lighting, shadows.
– Create near realistic global illumination for game levels.
– Bake illumination into texture maps and vertex maps.
– Implement an array of lighting effects: spotlights, point lights, direct lights, shadows and global illumination.
– Create keyframe animations with a broad range of tools.
– Editable motion trails/trajectories to fine-tune motion animation directly in the viewport.
– Blend shape/morph target deformers for shape animation.
– Automatic biped skeleton generator with interactive editing.
– Easy-to-use, full-body inverse kinematic rigging with the HumanIK solver.
– Skin and pose game characters with near realistic deformations.
More accurate viewport previews in Autodesk Maya LT
– The Maya LT viewport displays assets closer to how they appear in-game.
– Access powerful Microsoft DirectX 11 graphics directly in the viewport.
– View assets with higher quality lighting and shadows.
– A variety of effects available: ambient occlusion, depth of field, anti-aliasing, and alpha channel support, high quality lighting and shadows.
– Support for HLSL (High-level shading language) and CgFX shaders.
Who’s it good for?
If the feature list didn’t give it away, this one is aimed squarely at indie games developers who want a low-cost way to get into the Autodesk pipeline, with the ability to scale up as their operation grows. If this is you, we’d definitely recommend taking Maya LT for a test drive, as it’s a great way to create the kind of graphics you’d need for social or mobile gaming without breaking the bank, and will get you up to speed on the way Autodesk products operate.