Are shapekeys a trap?

I’m a hobbyist beginning to transition from creating meshes to rigging and animating them. I know that if you want to apply any modifiers you’ve created on a mesh that has shapekeys, you must apply them as a shapekey themselves. This seems like something that could potentially trip me up, but I don’t know how. Are there some situations where I’ll be sad if I can only apply modifiers as shapekeys? For example, if I wanted to use an animation in Unity3D or UnrealEngine, are there any modifiers that I would need to apply (not as a shapekey) beforehand? I’d just like a heads up on what the potential pitfalls of this are so I know to avoid them before I get really invested in creating a bunch of keys that I might end up having to delete in order to apply a modifier.

Shapekeys are useful. Yes, Blender’s support for shapekeys + modifiers is poor, much poorer than it needs to be. Yes, there will be times when you’re like, damn, I wish I didn’t make all my shapekeys yet because I want to apply a modifier. So it is an issue.

Some export functions work well with shapekeys-- doing what’s smart, applying the modifier to all shapekeys and then joining as shapes. I’m not sure how .fbx export works. You should test.

I would expect that the most routine modifiers you’d want to apply for game work, where you’d be “%!#! now I have to recreate my shapekeys!” would be mirror, triangulate.

Most of the problems can be avoided simply by working through things in the proper order. Don’t make your shapekeys until your model is done. There are things you can do to repair shapekeys, but they’re a pain, unless you want to script.

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I like to switch up working on different parts of the project before finishing the first completely just for variety, but sadly it looks like that’s not an option here. Looks like I’ll have to get the models into a completely finished state before I move on to shape keys. Thanks for the answer!