Now, worry not, most of the model (finished wireframe shots below) should be fairly straight-forward to rig as far as function is concerned. I've a fairly solid idea of how to rig the mantle, eyes, gills and siphon - but the most obvious part of the model provides me with some difficulty, which is ofc the arms and the webbing between them.
So rather than go about saying "how do I rig this?" I'll put forward what I've in mind thanks to some research towards the matter.
What is needed is this:
1) The arm has to be manipulative enough to look like its handling objects, and have enough bones so that it doesn't seem to have a vertebrate structure underneath.
2) There must be a noise function to induce some form of random movement that can be turned off by the animator if need be.
3) Any control system by maxscript must allow a reasonable amount of control
4) Any animation system/contraints MUST be compatable with UDK or can be replicated within UDK.
Now the aim for each arm is to have a staggered bone layout, decreasing in size from the base of the limb so that the final 1/3 of each arm has 5 bones, so that it can be extremely manipulative. Then, I was thinking of a simple spline IK/FK blend system - but am instead thinking of a "Ribbon" setup, which would allow for some limited stretching of the limb and twisting, which isn't really possible with a spline IK. Sadly however how to do this for 3DS max is not very well documented (and yes, I have searched), although I am looking at how to translate what I've found for Maya into max.
Rigging the webbing is a another thing I'm having problems wrapping my head around. I'm thinking of perhaps having a setup of one or two bones between each leg and have them manipulate the mesh so that each section stretches and "folds" if need be. I've also been told by my supervisor that I could have intersection problems between my suction cups when the arms roll in on themselves - and suggested perhaps a morph target setup, although since this is going into UDK I'm not entirely sure how that would or could work.
I'm also thinking of having a maxscript dialog for each arm so that I could give animators rough control over the first 2/3 of the arm and finite control (FK/IK blend maybe?) over that last 1/3 so that each arm can manipulate objects. Not only that, have sort of noise modifier so that there is some random movement for when the character is in motion.
But that's what I have in mind - can I ask for any advice on what I'm thinking of, or perhaps some alternative method for what I'd like to achieve?
Thanks to all.