Configuring the Max 8 Environment

Here are some final adjustments you should perform in 3ds Max 8 before you begin placing reference art and modeling your game character:

1. Customize keyboard. The keyboard shortcuts that are mapped by default in Max are somewhat scattered. Over the years, I've found that remapping the most commonly used functions on the left side helps me speed up my work. Having simple operations like move,

rotate, and scale on one hand while I move the mouse with the other makes modeling swift and efficient. I've created a list of common shortcuts and remappings for Max and Photoshop in Appendix A, "3ds Max 8 and Photoshop CS2 Keyboard Shortcuts." I highly recommend becoming proficient at using them. You can also load the Custom.kbd file on the CD-ROM by clicking Customize, Customize User Interface, and clicking on Load to load this file, which contains my personal keyboard setup.

2. Set up units. Video games are commonly designed using the metric system as a system of measurements. Therefore, when you're creating any 3D objects intended for a game, you model them as if you are building them in real life. For instance, the character I show you how to make in this book has a height of 1.83 meters, which is exactly 6 feet tall. The grid you see displayed in Max is ruled according to the unit setup you have specified. To tell Max to use the metric system, click Customize, Units Setup, and choose Metric under Display Unit Scale (see Figure 2.2). Also, click the System Unit Setup button and change the System Unit Scale to 1 Unit = 1.0 Meters. Now you can manually enter the dimensions, in meters, for objects that you create, and you can use the home grid as a metric reference.

3. Enable grid and snap settings.

Choose Customize, Grid and Snap Settings, click on the Home Grid tab, and change the Grid Spacing value to 1.0m.

This provides 1-meter squares in the home reference grid in your viewports.

4. Enable Transform Gizmo. The Transform Gizmo is a moveable device with handles that appears for the X, Y, and Z axes when you attempt to move, rotate, or scale an object. Clicking and dragging the handles makes it easier to move an object along these axes. On the main menu, enable this gizmo by clicking Views, Show Transform Gizmo.

Figure 2.2

Change the Units Setup in Max to meters so that you can create your character using the metric system. Most video games base their dimensions in metric values.

5. Zoom into grid. With the new metric grid settings and spacing, click on any of the viewports and use your mouse wheel to scroll, or zoom, into the grid so that only two square meters are visible. This is the working space for your game character.

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