sup everyone, i guess some wiki about normal maps would clarify some of the minds here...the bump map technique u mentioned is the nvidia plugin for photoshop and gimp, that usually works good for hatches and small details. the high poly/low poly normal map capture is always the best option for a quality model.
I use XSI from softimage at work and home, and its really nice and easy to make the tranfer of all the maps from the high/low poly models(ultimapper).
cl10k i strongly advise u to grab xsi 30 days demo fully working, and give it a shot with ur maya models. u can find a short video tutorial on their homepage inside the new features area.