What are the standard alternatives for the mechanics of attaching turrets and such to 3D models for use in-game? I don't mean the logic, but rather the graphics aspects.
My naive approach is to extend the MD2-like format that I'm using (blender-exported using a script) to include a new set of properties for a mesh that:
is anchored in another 'parent' mesh. The anchor is a point and normal in the parent mesh and a point and normal in the child mesh; these will always be colinear, giving the child rotation but not translation relative to the parent point.
has a normal that is aligned with a 'target'. Classically this target is the enemy that is being engaged, but it might be some other vector e.g. 'the wind' (for sails and flags (and smoke, which is a particle system but the same principle applies)) or 'upwards' (e.g. so bodies of riders bend properly when riding a horse up an incline etc).
that the anchor and target alignments have maximum and minimum and a speed coeff.
there is game logic for multiple turrets and on a model and deciding which engages which enemy. 'primary' and 'secondary' or 'target0' ... 'targetN' or some such annotation will be there.
So to illustrate, a classic tank would be made from three meshes; a main body mesh, a turret mesh that is anchored to the top of the main body so it can spin only horizontally and a barrel mesh that is anchored to the front of the turret and can only move vertically within some bounds.
And there might be a forth flag mesh on top of the turret that is aligned with 'wind' where wind is a function the engine solves that merges environment's wind angle with angle the vehicle is travelling in an velocity, or something fancy.
This gives each mesh one degree of freedom relative to its parent. Things with multiple degrees of freedom can be modelled by zero-vertex connecting meshes perhaps? This is where I think the approach I outlined begins to feel inelegant, yet perhaps its still a workable system? This is why I want to know how it is done in professional games ;)
Are there better approaches? Are there formats that already include this information? Is this routine?