Autodesk releases Maya LT 3D modeling tool for mobile and indie game makers

Autodesk creates a wide range of products, from consumer-oriented Windows 8 apps like Sketchbook Express all the way to enterprise-level programs such as Maya 3D. The latter is used by movie makers, advertisers, and even gaming professionals to create 3D art and animations. But as mobile and indie game development has been on the rise, Maya 3D has sometimes proven too costly for smaller developers to use.

Enter Autodesk Maya LT 2014. Inspired by Maya 3D but streamlined for the needs of small game developers, Maya LT should potentially make it far easier for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 developers to create 3D assets and scale them across platforms. It’s also far more affordable than Maya 3D. Full details and trailer after the break!


Like its big brother, Maya LT is used to create 3D models, animation, and environments. The difference with LT is the feature set and UI have been designed specifically for game development. Parts of Maya 3D that game developers would never use are gone, freeing up the screen of clutter.

Features that game developers use all the time have been brought to the forefront instead of being buried under layers of menus. Plugins and scripting won’t be supported either – everything is meant to be simple but powerful.

Animation: Maya LT includes a bipedal skeleton generator and Autodesk HumanIK, the company’s popular animation tool.

Lighting and Textures: Mobile developers will especially benefit from Maya LT’s texture baking support. Texture baking precomputes lighting and imitates it in textures for the model. This allows developers to simply look up a baked texture rather than recomputing lighting and shading – a big time and resource saver.

Shaders: Maya LT’s Shader FX tool allows artists to create shaders without the need to learn a shader language. The shader definition can then be exported into cross-platform formats. Other users with the same shader definition will be able to view assets just as they would appear in the game. This eliminates the need to test a shaded asset in the game engine, cutting down on testing time.

Polygon reduction: When developing a multiplatform game, developers often need to create complex 3D models and then reduce the models’ polygons for lower powered platforms like smartphones. Maya LT has built-in polygon reduction, so a model created for a Windows 8 game can easily be downsized for use on Windows RT or Windows Phone 8 with no extra work.


Maya LT can import from various 3D formats, including Maya (MA, MB), MLT, OBJ, FBX, AI, EPS and texture formats (BMP, PNG, DDS, EXR, TGA, TIFF).

It can save and export to two formats. The first is MLT, a proprietary format which contains all of the data and detail associated with a model, much like PhotoShop’s PSD format. The second is FBX, the same type of file that FBX Review for Windows 8 is designed to view.

The FBX format stores 3D data, textures, and animation. It’s already supported in several multiplatform engines like Unity and Unreal Engine, so Maya LT users can export to those engines with no extra work. Developers using their own proprietary engines can request the SDK to add FBX support as well.

Maya LT models exported in the FBX format are capped at 25,000 polygons. That limit is well within the needs of mobile and tablet developers, though it could prove small for retail game development. It’s still perfect for downloadable Xbox One and XBLA games, however.


Now for the big question: how much does it cost? Maya 3D’s starting license of $3700 would probably be too high for smaller game makers. A perpetual Maya LT license costs quite a bit less at $795.

Rental licenses will also be launching soon. The rental pricing:

  • Monthly: $50 per month
  • Quarterly:  $142 per quarter ($42 per month)
  • Annual:  $400 ($35 per month)

In game development, team sizes fluctuate all the time. The rental option allows studios to pay for Maya LT only as they need it. Rental licenses will still benefit from Maya LT’s more frequent update cycle and forum access. Autodesk promises direct interaction with the Maya LT development team through the forums, so users can potentially help prioritize features in future updates.

Time to create

Do we have any game developers in the house who’d like to work with Maya LT? If so, leave us a comment and be sure to visit the Maya LT website for more details.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Very nice!
  • Looks awesome, wish I could make games, looks fun, I started to go to school for that but I'm not much of a school person, so now I'm roofing. Regrets regrets
  • It's never too late to go back, dude. I suggest taking 1 or 2 classes at a time - that way you don't get overwhelmed, but you'll still be making measurable progress in your life.
  • Paul is right. The key is being persistent with fortitude, and before you know it you will be done. It will take you longer, but at least you will be doing what you enjoy.
  • Totally agree with Paul and Retyler--It's never too late to pursue your dreams. I'm an old guy myself and I'm starting to learn character animation. If it's something you're passionate about, you'll find a way to learn it!
  • You don't need to go to school to learn how to make games. I am a freshman in high school and taught my self how to program ( in 6th grade actually). Though, if you teach yourself, you would probably only be an indie game developer.
  • Most of the best programmers I know were self taught. Not that school doesn't help, but if you are self taught that normally means you're pretty passionate and motivated.
  • Autodesk... Maya... lawl.
    this is why the 3d industry never progress... and autodesk its in the position it is because of 3dsmax and Autocad, so they had enough money to buy the other 2 main 3d packaged (xsi and maya). of course Autodesk now seems they dont support much 3dsmax, and the only ones making 3dsmax as amazing as it is, its the 3rd party plugins like cebas, orbaz, afterworks, etc etc.
    oh and Maya modeling tools arent that amazing anyway. so if you are going to model, there are other better and easier packages. oh and export max 25k polygons! wow wow wow, thats alot /s
    Autodesk didnt even have a booth in siggraph a month ago (you know, being the supposely big 3d company with 3 main packaged owned... you would expect they would be there, but they dont care apparenly ;)). and the conferences they gave, were a mess, I mean if you arent a maya user... they were a mess since they only talked about maya. I wish they would give 3dsmax the place it belongs, but apparently thats how autodesk works. yeah i was a 3dsmax user, so I understand why some people (like the ones in maxundergroud) are frustrated about it. (not to mention the buggy releases from year after year in the development since some years ago)
    its funny of some people will fall into this LT crap branding from autodesk, but it wouldnt be my money so, i wouldnt care much though.
  • I still use 3dsmax and much prefer it over Maya. I know all the schools teach Maya but I got an old copy of 3dsmax years ago and learned 3d modeling on it. I tried Maya and couldn't figure anything out, everything was foreign to me and incredibly frustrating to use. I haven't tried it since. Though I don't do much work with 3d.
  • The consensus among colleagues is that Max is going to be phased out as Maya gets better at modeling. In 2014, Maya has already gotten pretty good. But Max users are so used to having a Stack that they don't like Maya. But Maya isn't that bad. But Max is still a little easier to model in... for now. As an overall 3D package, Maya blows Max away. This LT version looks interesting. I know that Maya can be overwhelming to many people because there are a TON of things that it can do. And most of those things are things game modelers dont want to do. As for the 25k limit, that's enough for small games. Though that may change in 3 or 4 yrs.
  • you have to consider the price... its not cheap, its not cheaper than other full featured 3d programs that dont have limitations. thats why i say 25k polygons is stupid... its not like its really cheap to make such limitation.
    of course maya is "better" than 3dsmax... we dont have proper character animation tools, only CAT but it was so buggy and its still not that worth it to be happy about. 3dsmax doesnt have fluid system, 3dsmax doesnt have a fast viewports (comparing it with older versions). like i said, 3dsmax is not being worked on. not like you would expect for the price of the package. it misses alot of features from othr packaged and without plugins, 3dsmax of course its crap. it wouldnt work as a vfx tool, it would be just as CAD tool, like so many people use it for.
    3dsmax was and is still better to model, the way it does things is better than maya. 3dsmax is not phased out because maya gets better and get more and more features, but its being phased out because Autodesk isnt working on it. and when they do? its more than buggy, that is better to stay at 3dsmax 9.
    so its obvious maya is better than 3dsmax in alot of things, because 3dsmax relies on plugins so much, and autodesk doesnt care, without plugings 3dsmax wouldnt be a nice program.
    oh and talking about siggraph, the excuse autodesk gave why there werent 3dsmax presenters its because they cancelled, all of them... magically that happened. thats how i know they dont care about 3dsmax. well they care about the money people pay for it and suscription, but the program gets worse and worse.
  • To be fair to Autodesk, it doesn't really make sense to have several different products that for the most part do the same thing. I don't think it's a matter of "not caring." It's about trying to focus on making one product good. I eventually expect to see more or Max's modeling tools in Maya. Or at least something similar. Like it's kind of ridiculous that Maya doesn't have a Thicken ability.
  • 3ds Max is still so far ahead of Maya for polygon modeling it's sad. It would be nice if they do continue to move features form Max over to Maya but even some of the basics (like clicking on a vertex and being able to see and edit its position numerically from the main window!) still don't seem to be there. Maya's UI is still far from intuitive for a modeling-ceneric approach as well. I will keep my Max subscription going until it's guaranteed that Maya can do everything Max does as well, which at their current pace is probably 10 years off.
  • I am learning Blender at the moment, I wonder how much easier Maya really is? Blender is pretty awesome and free.
  • Maya: Will it Blend?
    Whirrrrrr!!! Crunch! Grind! [cut to smile] Crunch! Whirrrrrrrrr!!
    Maya-smoke. Don't breathe it!
  • It depends... Blender interface have been always meeh but it has amazing features for being free. features other 3d packages miss, and i mean expensive packages.
    now why learn maya? because if you are work in 3d industry, thats one of the most used softwares, even if you model like a pro in blender, if you dont know Maya they wouldnt probably hire you (yeah thats how this industry works most of the time, for example, Iknow a school that changed from 3d package to maya only because studios ask for more maya guys). maya easier? in somethings it is, in other things Maya is "good" becuase they have a programmer that will make magic with the scripting stuff, so its not easier but some guys make magic with it.
    But there are other 3d packages better for modeling. in fact maya tools are meeh most of the time compared to other 3d programs. it also depends on what you model of course.
    Maya is popular, but its not that awesome. of course Blender is a good start, but you will have to move on from that someday if you will work professionally.
  • Blender's interface has improved significantly. It used to be a complete mess. The important thing when you're learning is to master the fundamentals. And by that, I mean concepts. Not necessarily the tools. If you have the concepts down, you'll be able to transition to different 3D packages somewhat easily. Maybe a month of adjustment.
  • Blender makes me cry, but what other free alternative is there?
  • I should take another look at it, but yes, last time I used it I determined having my foot in a bear trap was less painful than blender's UI.
  • There are more powerful and better supported free open source programs out there.
  • I'm guessing you haven't used Maya extensively. It's an industry standard for movies and its price, whlie excessive , makes up with the best animation tools. Hardly what indies use as most indies lack dedicated animators. Now we have LT, which looks like a desperate angle for indies. LT is probably a solution for smaller studios.
  • lol I dont know whats worse, the guy the states as a fact that there are better and open source tools. or the guy that says Maya is good becuase its used in movies (in other words because its popular) (like if it was the only software used exclusively on it for everything and other software werent involved in that). of course Maya is popular... but that doesnt make it the best as you make it seem.
    do you know why studios have closed in last recent years? becuase they have tried to emulate big studios expensive pipelines, thats how popular autodesk softwares are, yeah, but it doesnt mean other tools are not as good or even better (and cheaper). and it doesnt mean they are fast, you know, you have a deadline, if you dont make it... you will be in trouble.
    and "LT is probably a solution for smaller studios." did you even read the limitations? there are alot of limitations... but fbx format is limited to 25k polygons export which is the dumbest limitation.... even the old XSI mod tool exported 64k triangles and it was FREE (of course it was discontinued by autodesk but you can get it in 3rd party sites). why FREE in caps? because this Maya LT brand, costs $750, and you only can export crappy 25k polygons. with $750 you could almost get a really good 3d package, good featured with good modeling tools with no limitation that you can use for other things, not only mobile games.
  • I have used Maya, im not comparing Maya to open source freebies, im comparing the articles content to open source freebies...
  • Agreed. Maya is to animation as Photoshop is to graphic design. Yes, you can do the work with something else, but very few places will want to hire you if you don't know it.
  • Name just one.
  • Blender has more robust features and is more powerful than this Maya LT.
  • Wouldn't you need to use Maya LT to know that? And whether it has more features or not, LT is designed for game developers and should potentially suit their needs better than a more generalized program.
  • Ah, I was thinking Maya. Not LT. But if LT is anything like Maya, then Bel der might have more general features, but it's not going to for into a production pipeline as well. Maya's biggest strength is its easy extensibility and how it can work with other tools in the pipeline.
  • not to be a jerk. but you should read the whole limitations in this LT version. its not only the fbx format.
    so in other words, what you say "extensibility" and work with other tools in the pipeline (just like other 3d packages i know). cant be done with this version, it doesnt have SDK so no plugins, and it doesnt let you do scripting so no mel or python. and other limitations that may be logical for the kind of version this maya LT is,  but for the price... it doesnt sound good. like i say its $750! you are paying alot of money for a really weak and small featured 3d software. cant see how blender would be bad if you want something free and good featured. (of course compared with this version)
  • Really? Well, that's lame. I haven't investigated LT since I have Maya already. But if it's really as gimped as that, then the money would be better spent on Zbrush and a retopo tool.
  • I know.. after you read the FAQ you will be like "and this costs $795??" (i said $750! my mistake until i saw the price again, and i was like... wait... its more!! haha)
    and thats a serious question... since you can save a little more and buy a real 3d package with no limitations. like i said "crap LT branding" that doesnt seem to support many things.
    here is the pdf if you wanna check it out:
  • Tried to hold back, but after reading so many of your posts I have to say: it's "a lot!" There. Back to more important stuff! :-)
  • Just so everyone knows, if you have a .edu school email, you can get any of Autodesk's programs for free.
  • Not "any". Sketchook Pro isn't on the free list.
  • But I got sketchbook pro for free with my edu account... For 3 years.
  • I think this is a recent development. It used to be free. I last checked a month ago and it wasn't there.