Animated Meshes?

I am in the process of creating a bunch of traps for a game I’m making (think Orcs Must Die style). I have Floor Spikes, Balista’s, Swinging Balls, Scorchers, etc.

They are all animated (Spikes pop up, Ballista’s turn to face enemy, Balls Swing back and forth, Scorchers pop-up a burn enemies, etc). What I’ve been doing is creating 2 separate pieces (Ie: For Floor Spikes, I created the spike part and a “base” that the spikes come thru). Then I animate it with a timeline and set the actor Z (for the something that moves up & down for example) on the part that moves/rotates.

I was talking to a friend of mine and he said that I should be able to accomplish the same effect but with a single mesh if I use bones? Does that sound right to anyone? I’ve never heard of such a thing, but again - I’m a programmer, not an artist… Just trying to learn as much as I can.

Thanks in advance!

You don’t need to use bones. It depends on what program you’re using, but if it’s 3ds Max then just link those objects to a Dummy helper object and then export to FBX, when you import to UE4 make sure it’s set to import as Skeletal Mesh and check the box that says Import Rigid Animations and it will import regularly animated objects without having to rig them with bones. You just have to make sure they’re linked to a single root object otherwise it’ll get split up.

I’m using Maya… I did some research and it appears that a “locator” object is similar to 3DS Max’s dummy helpers. So I created my 2 pieces in Maya, added a locator object to the scene and parented the part I want to be able to move to the locator object, saved it out as an FBX, imported into UE4 as a skeletal mesh and it gave me 6 files, 3 for each piece (Mesh, Physics and Skeleton). I’m not really sure that’s what I was expecting to happen, at this point it’s not really THAT different than having saved them as 2 separate pieces and loaded them separately.

I was kind of hoping I could get a single representation of the trap and then animate just the part that is supposed to move. Perhaps I misunderstood something.