I think I've finally found some definitive rules for making sculpties (in Maya). The way it works is that you export a UV map of your 3D object using a special script (linked below), and then import the bitmap into Second Life as a sculpt object. The UV map that you import has to be perfect. In other words, it needs to look like a grid of UV points that fills the entire top-right portion of the map. When you import it, it looks like a square rainbow.
You can't create an object in Maya and then go back and make it's UV map perfect. You have to start with a perfect UV map and keep it that way. To do this:
1) Create a sphere primitive.
2) Go to Edit UVs > UV Texture Editor
3) This is how you want it to look when you export your map. Though, I'm not sure about this, but I think you may want to select the second-to-top and second-to-bottom (right before the pointed triangles) and move them onto the edge of the box, so you have a perfect grid. Otherwise the bitmap you import into SL will have some weird deformations along the edge.
4) In the Channel Box, add however many subdivisions you want to the sphere. The result is the number of vertices you must maintain while modeling to preserve the perfect UV map. If you add or delete any vertices, the object will be deformed when you import it into SL. This means no duplication or merging. So I guess you have to get used to not having perfectly symmetrical models.
Basics of Creating UV Maps (Maya)
Creating UV Maps and Textures (Blender)
Modeling Sculpted Prims for Second Life in Maya (using polygons)
- also covers making perfect UV maps
- best tutorials for learning just about any program the school has; login through the portal for free access
- lots of examples of professional 3D models and rigs, some are downloadable so you can see how they work
Summary of Animation Overrides
Second Life Tips & Tricks
- some useful scripts and info on animation overrides, cameras, etc.
Basic Animation Override Script
Creating SL Animations with QAvimator
From Nurb to Sculpture
- text and video tutorial available
Sculpted Prims: 3D Software Guide
- info on what programs are supported and how to import models into SL; just about all searches lead back here
- a script for making a lever object; you might be able to use this to change a prim's pivot point