Modelling Tool with Source Engine Support

Hey guys, I’d like to ask you experienced source engine fanatics out there:

What 3D modeling program should I use if I’m going to be focused on skinning/rigging? I’ve been working with 3ds Max 2012 for the past 2 years, but the major function that is broken for me makes it’s practically impossible to use for my purpose. There is this peculiar problem with the skin modifier that breaks envelope editing once you edit vertices within the skinning. I’ve been able to remedy this problem by using certain patches in a weird combination (ex. hot fix 2, service pack 2, product update 12), but I haven’t been able to replicate the solution since. This scratches 3ds Max 2012 off my tools for source usage.

I’ve updated to 3ds max 2013, 2014, and 2015 with the new tool-set Wall Worm model tools, which doesn’t properly support importing of previously skinned characters correctly. Every skinned character I import has rigging that is fubar, not to count that the “helper bones” that it uses are a little harder to get used to. I haven’t been able to import most models without Max crashing nor get them to have even slightly intact skinning. This too scratches 3ds Max 2013+ off my list of tools.

Experimenting with Blender is probably the most alien to me. I’ve been trying multiple times to use Blender to get my projects done with skinned characters, but usage of the program seems extremely backward and un-user-friendly. This is more of a personal problem/ me complaining about change, but it’s practically throwing out all my knowledge of any program to use this one.

Any thoughts about what program I can use to rig? Keep in mind painting weights is out of the picture, but is there any option or solution for tools I can use to continue work on characters in source?

Thank you.

If you can’t use max and blender is out, your only viable option is Maya. Which is good because valve has very recent (2013) plugins that were custom built to support DMX and the newest SFM/DOTA/TF2 branch(es).

Get a copy of Maya 2013 32bit, get SFM, run the batch files in the SDK tools, and warm up to some youtube tutorials and VDC articles on DMX.