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furrycat's introduction to Maya

People wishing to make mods for SWAT: Urban Justice are going to need to learn how to use Maya. Maya is an immensely powerful program with more cool features than you could shake a stick at. It is also a very complex program.

Let's face facts: Maya is hard.

Let's face some more facts: you probably have a warez version of the program. OK, that's cool. We could debate software piracy until the cows come home but it won't change two things: Maya is still hard and you've still got a pirated copy. If you promise not to ask me where to get a copy, I promise not to ask why someone who can afford a US$2,000 program can't afford to get professional training instead of coming here.

A beginner's guide

I've been learning Maya from scratch. At time of writing I'm not yet as comfortable with it as I am with 3D Studio MAX but I already know which I prefer. I'm writing this tutorial as much for my own benefit as yours. I want to consolidate my knowledge and there's rarely a better way to do that than to explain the stuff you are studying to someone else. Therefore it's in my interests to make the best tutorial I can for you, and I hope I can do that.

Following along with me

The ways I'll show you how to do things won't always be the best ways but they'll be the ways I've found to work. Feedback will always be welcome. For best results you may want to set up your copy of Maya the same way I set up mine. This will make following the tutorial easier. It's more important, however, that you learn how to use the software effectively rather than simply mimic me. Therefore you should assume that what I say is right except when you find something different, in which case you are right.

Maya's unix roots

Maya was first developed for IRIX, a unix OS running on SGI machines. No doubt you are using the Windows port. You'll find a few unix characteristics have carried over from IRIX. Things like the ability to tear off menus and windows. The existence of a (case-sensitive) scripting language. The high degree of configurability. Most of all, you'll notice that Maya likes the middle mouse button.

Personally I don't have much time for mice with scroll wheels but I know the rest of the Windows-using world loves them. When you use Maya you'll find that a LOT of actions are carried out with the middle button. My main complaint about wheel mice is that I find it hard to locate and use the wheel button (which is effectively the middle button) reliably, due to its small size and inconvenient location right underneath the bottom of my middle finger. As someone who uses unix and Linux professionally, I find having a big convenient middle button to be a huge improvement over a a tiny button which happens to scroll. If you find using Maya difficult for this same reason, consider buying a three-button mouse. They are cheap and if you also use a USB wheel mouse you can run both together.

The other assumption unix software tends to make is that its users have huge monitors. Even on my 17" LCD I found that I simply didn't have enough room on-screen for the menus and views that Maya lets me tear off and position to my liking. So I bought a new one and run them side-by-side. If you are serious about Maya and you have the cash to spare on a bigger or a supplemental monitor, I almost guarantee you won't regret getting it.

Move out!

And now let us embark upon some Maya 4 adventures!

Jump to a section

| intro | part 1: Setting the layout | part 2: Editing basics | part 3: Vertex manipulation | part 4: Face manipulation | part 5: Materials, texturing and UVs - (i) | part 6: Materials, texturing and UVs - (ii) | part 7: Materials, texturing and UVs - (iii) | part 8: Final notes |