Rigging and Skinning are an important part of getting a game model to be believable in the environment. The modeling and texturing while important, won’t be believable if the mesh does not deform properly when the creature moves about.
In the top image we have our character, nice and creepy looking, ready to come to life. In the bottom image, we see the skeletal rigging, which all of our animation files use as a base. We need to bridge the gap between the two.
No matter what tool you are using, it is paramount to get each part of the character (vertex mesh) to be affected by the correct bone in the skeleton. I tend to use the skinning envelopes in 3DStudio Max as a basis, and then go from there using a tablet to paint the weights in manually. For problem areas, like where two folds meet, using direct selection is sometimes more desirable since it gives a bit more control, even though it may be more tedious.
It’s important through out the skinning process to test the character’s range of motion. This is to make sure you don’t have a vertex on the other side of the mesh that is affected by a bone it should not be tied to. Just select one of the bones and move it around while observing how your character’s mesh deforms. Once you’ve ironed out all the errant vertices, you’re ready to export and view the skinning on the finished model.
He’s pretty adorable, if not terrifying in his mechanized machinations.