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Exporting rigged body parts from Maya?

First off, I’m not a 3D modeler, I’m a programmer… But I’m asking on behalf of our company’s modeler, who has only recently started working with the UE4 ART Toolkit in Maya. Our goal is to have exchangeable body parts at runtime, and our problem is figuring out how to properly set this up in Maya. We have successfully created, exported and imported a character rig using ART + Maya, and now it’s time to attempt separate body parts.

Every tutorial, video, wiki article, forum & answerhub post I come across regarding this topic goes into detail on how to set things up in UE4 to attach and swap body parts, but none of them go into detail on what needs to be done beforehand in a 3D modeling application (aside from stating it needs to be the same skeleton).

So what steps are necessary to create a skeletal mesh that can be exported from Maya + UE4 ART, but only exporting certain body parts, and using the same skeleton (so that it properly deforms & animates when attaching them in UE4)?

First off it requires a lot of planning ahead: What types of meshes is the character gonna wear? Which ones can be worn in combinaiton with others? The character mesh might need optimization for each type of coverage . e.g. deleting the toso skin geo if the character is wearing a t-shirt, or the legs when wearing long trousers, etc. etc.

In maya have a skinned version of your naked character, and copy the weights over to all costume geos. Edit the weights where necessary to remove intersections. For specific types of clothing you might need additional joints and controlrig. But thats fine, the engine can handle that.
Its important that all those things are skinned to the same core skeleton. Individual components can have more bones then if needed on top of the base skel. When importing to the engine youll make sure the skeletal asset is set to be the original character skeleton.

Then you need to set this all up in a costume mananging blueprint in the enigine for all mesh components.

Thank you for your reply! Well for now, we’re just interested in getting a naked model with swappable body parts into the engine. We’re not so concerned about clothing until we’ve successfully accomplished this.

I believe the main issue we are facing is figuring out how to, for example, export just a head mesh rigged to the same full-bodied skeleton. Or a different torso utilizing that very same skeleton, etc. Is there some sort of built-in functionality to keep the same skeleton? Do we need to export the whole skeleton along with each body part (if that’s even possible), or is there some sort of way to only export part of the rig?

We’d like to know the proper steps to take in the ART Toolkit to accomplish this.