TL;DR: Rigged the model in Blender, miraculously imported it properly into UE4 and played my first in-engine custom animation.
Blender has some really esoteric UI elements, mysterious buttons, and the list goes on. Between “NLA strips” and “Orphan Data”, the animation aspect of Blender can be pretty intimidating. Additionally, there’s an infamous Blender/UE4 import bug where models show up 100x smaller than expected. Fixed it, but not intuitively in the least bit.
On the bright side, rigging is pretty straightforward. Add the bones, name them according to the vertex groups to assign them and make sure to add the suffix “L” or “R” to indicate that it’s for the left or right side of the model. Blender can mirror keyframes from one side to the other if the naming convention is right, which helps for symmetrical animations like the walk cycle.
Not doing IK rigging yet, as Blender’s Auto IK feature does the job.
At this stage, I just wanted to test the Blender to UE4 pipeline and learn the little quirks of using them together. Ultimately, it boils down to: 1.) rename the “Armature” objects to fix the 100x scale bug and 2.) import into UE4 with a -90° Z rotation so the X vector faces forward. Besides that, things are going smoothly so far.
The scary part right now is figuring out how this mech is going to walk without looking like a frog.