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Tutorial- How to Skin

Here you can discuss building custom ships, texturing and 3D modeling in Freelancer

Post Sun Aug 21, 2005 1:32 am

If it's white, then several things may have gone wrong:

1. You didn't give your Materials / ship parts totally unique names.

2. You have Materials with "glass" in their names, but you haven't edited the CMP with UTF Edit (per the instructions above, in this Tutorial) yet, or didn't edit them properly.

3. You may not have made your textures the proper size or data format. Freelancer can only use the following texture formats, to my knowledge:

TGA - 32 bit
DDS - DXT1 and DXT3 for 2D textures, DXT3 for cubemaps.

... and that's it. If you try to use 8-bit or 24-bit TGAs, for example, they won't work right in HardCMP, and will most likely make FL crash- the same goes for DDS types that aren't supported by the game engine.

There are other things you may have done wrong, of course... but basically, you need to read through this Tutorial and follow the steps very carefully the first time you're trying to make your Materials- if you go through each step as indicated, you'll be OK... skip steps or fail to follow directions... and you're going to have lots of trouble

Post Mon Aug 22, 2005 2:56 pm

Thanks for your help !!! But the problem now is with the texture of the ship is not in the good position... In my hardpoints editor all is done, but when I make test in freelancer, the texture is like inverse of the direction of the ship. ;-)

Post Mon Aug 22, 2005 3:19 pm

Are you using .tga or .dds?

If .tga they need to be inverted, .dds does not require the same..


Post Tue Aug 23, 2005 2:53 am

... and use DDS if at all humanly possible. There are almost zero reasons to use TGAs.

Post Wed Aug 24, 2005 2:03 pm

I use TGA's file, and I have in my photoshop inverted the file, for paint. But I think, I do inverted a second time for the finitions.That's right ? Thanks for your reponse ;-)

Edited by - Jah-Warrior on 8/24/2005 3:05:21 PM

Post Thu Sep 01, 2005 10:30 pm

I had an issue come up the other day. The UTF Editor kept adding a character onto my file names for my Dt_name and Et_name. After the ".tga" it would put some other random character on the end and FL couldn't find the file.

The name of my texture was "jay_ship10.tga". Through several hours of trial and error I finally figured out the UTF Editor doesn't like numeric characters in the file name. I dropped the "10" from the name and they editor let me update the Dt_name and Et_name correctly.


One request:

Argh, could you give us an idea of what the difference is on the Oc between 0.000000->1.000000 and on the Ec between the three lines of 0.000000->1.000000? I've been playing with it, but I'm having a hard time seeing the difference if I pick a low number or a high number for each. Thanks!

Post Sat Sep 03, 2005 6:32 am

Argh, could you give us an idea of what the difference is on the Oc between 0.000000->1.000000 and on the Ec between the three lines of 0.000000->1.000000? I've been playing with it, but I'm having a hard time seeing the difference if I pick a low number or a high number for each. Thanks!

Oc stands for "opacity channel". An Oc value of 1.000000 (remember folks, the number of zeroes is important) means that the object is not transparent at all. Lowering it towards 0.000000 gradually increases the transparency. Using this with a TGA file or DDS DXT3 file (both of these have their own alpha channels) requires some care, because it's going to be hard to see what transparency is being caused by the alpha channel, and which by the opacity channel.

Ec stands for "emissive channel". "Emissive" texturemaps emit more "light" from each polygon than do normally-shaded polygons. Hence, since the FL engine doesn't support emissive objects (a feature found in high-powered raytracers, not computer games at this time) we're talking about a difference between the shading rate between polygons that are not being lit by other sources very strongly.

In a perfectly-lit world (iow, where there's a globe of RGB 255, 255, 255 light surrounding your object), emissive objects won't seem to "do anything", because everything is already lit to its maximum value. In anything less, the effects of Ec become more and more obvious.

The reason why there are three values, instead of one, took me awhile to figure out... but here's the scoop: these are RGB values! If you structure your Ec like so with an object that's pure white, per its texture:


... and then put it into total darkness... then the object will be YELLOW, because color 255, 0, 255 is pure yellow!

Now... that said, it's not as easy to manipulate the Ec channels as one might expect. This is because the FL engine actually allows users to boost overall values past the "pure white" level... and doing so will cause an error to show up in Spew. This probably isn't very harmful, and is probably just client-side... and I've never seen the engine crash because it happened... BUT... getting errors down to a bare minimum is a good idea. Short version: don't use Ec values of 1.000000. Use a maximum of 0.800000, and you're not likely to see the error show up in Spew... but the glowing effect will still be plenty strong, trust me

Post Sat Oct 01, 2005 11:25 pm

About the Freelancer Texture formats and File Types

Basically... FL uses both TARGA and DDS textures, for various things.

TARGA (TGA) was the original format used for everything. I think that when the game was originally being built, DA was going to use 8-bit compressed TGAs for things like ships, and 32-bit TGA for things that needed a 16-bit alpha channel.

But then DDS came along... DDS, which has the compression levels of JPG, but has native support for mipmapping and 8-bit alpha channels. Pretty darn good format... and DA went with it. The FL engine supports DDS DXT1 and DDS DXT3 formats.

All FL Material nodes that actually make use of TARGA formats are listed as MIP0, MIP1, MIP2, etc., when you look at them in UTF Edit. If you look at some of the textures used for certain things where different mip levels was actually needed, DA used as many as 8 different mips.

If a texture is listed as MIPS, however, then you're looking at a DDS file.

The two types of DDS both have advantages/disadvantages:

DXT1 has the best quality and compression ratio. You can make 2048/2048 textures at about 1MB in size, if you leave out the mipmaps... try doing that with a 32-bit TGA! But... DXT1 does not support any alpha channel data, at all.

DXT3 supports an 8-bit alpha channel. This is OK for things that are basically either clear... or opaque... but is crappy for things that require subtle amounts of transparency. However, it still has better compression than TGA by a long shot, and supports mipmaps.

Basically... the ONLY REASON to use TGAs in your MATs... is if you have something that absolutely requires delicate transparency levels. IOW, use as infrequently as possible. If you want insane levels of detail... use DDS DXT1 !!! If you need a simple black/white alpha layer, use DDS DXT3.

I'm adding this to my "How to Skin" Tutorial... and someday, somebody needs to alter Drizzt's Tutorial, because neither he nor Kasdian really understood texture formats very well... nor how important they are to the overall final finish on a ship in the FL engine.

Basically, folks... 95% of the time, you should have a final ship with ONE MATERIAL. One large texturemap is more efficient, come render time, than multiple smaller ones, even if the overall memory size is smaller! People get into the bad habit of using lots of small textures- when you can avoid it, do so- it will save a lot of FPS. And that texturemap, 95% of the time, can be DDS DXT1, no mipmaps... for maximum beauty, utility and efficiency

Post Sun Nov 20, 2005 12:02 pm

Warning, the model you have loaded contains out of range UV coordinate data. What does that mean?

Edited by - Weeman0000 on 11/20/2005 12:03:22 PM

Post Sun Nov 20, 2005 1:10 pm

"Out of Coordinate" means just that - the UV coordinates of the normals exceeds the size of the map. This mainly happens when you're dealing with models that you've imported from elsewhere (a stock FL model, for example) that uses tilemaps. Basically, the short version is that you'll just map the object's Groups as normal, assuming that the Groups are set up correctly for your planned projection types.

With FL models that you've modified slightly and are planning to re-import into the game engine, you're going to have either choose to do a whole new map from scratch, rebuilding Groups where necessary, or keep the FL tilemaps and work with the original texture coordinates (although you can bump the resolution on the maps up, and should). My suggestion is that unless you're very experienced with working with tilemaps... rebuild the Groups for better projection mapping and go from there.

Sorry if that all seemed a bit technical, but basically, what you're looking at is, in most ways, a technical problem, and if everything I just said went "whoosh" over your head... um... start from scratch. Act like this model you're using (no matter where it came from) is brand-new, has no Groups set up, and set up your Groups from start.

Edited by - Argh on 11/20/2005 1:12:12 PM

Post Mon Nov 21, 2005 4:13 pm

where can i get a dds export plug-in for photoshop 7? if it comes standard usually, i dont have it

Post Mon Nov 21, 2005 4:52 pm,

Edited by - Weeman0000 on 11/22/2005 5:10:17 AM

Post Mon Nov 21, 2005 5:39 pm

what i now do not get is how do u go from saving ur dds file to 3 groups in ms3d?

plus, what about the utf editor? not to be harsh or anything, but i think the tuturial is missing bits and peices of information.

and what do u want me to do weeman?

Edited by - Silent_Shadow on 11/21/2005 5:40:11 PM

Edited by - Silent_Shadow on 11/21/2005 5:41:18 PM

Post Mon Nov 21, 2005 10:49 pm

1. Um... please don't litter this Tutorial with random posts... questions are fine... back-and-forth spam between yourselves (and things like requesting me to do one-on-one training with you via a chat proggie... which I do not do, sorry...) kind've defeats the purpose of the Tutorial.

2. I am not referring to UVMapper Pro. UVMapper Classic is freeware. Get that.

3. Yes, I'm sure there are small areas where the Tutorial isn't completely idiot-proof, and there are a lot of advanced UTF editing concepts I simply don't cover, in the interest of keeping things simple for first-time skinners. When I get into talking about using UTF Edit in the later Q & A in this Tutorial, I answer some common questions... but basically, I'm assuming that people will figure most of this out themselves. Some things aren't so obvious- like how to reduce the total number of textures in the final MAT file... I should really cover that at some point... but newbies should be able to complete a skin if they just start with my example files and work from there. So... no, it's not perfect... but quite honestly, it's a lot easier to follow than Drizzt's was, and also combines many of the things I picked up (and refined) from Kasdian's Overhaul Guide as well.

4. Um... the DDS Plugin and the Groups have zero to do with one another. If you're confused by that part of the Tutorial, where I'm literally taking you screenshot by screenshot through my example model (which you did download, right? ) ... um... I dunno how to help you. Really, guys... multiple people have all gone through this Tutorial and are now making skinned models at this point, so I know that it can be done. This ain't rocket science- just follow the directions, and use the example files as a guide, k?

Lastly... using the word "crack" or any other variant of "steal" will not make me friendly towards you. I paid for my 3D app., for MS3D, and I got PS7 from my parents as a gift (they updated to CS and gave me the license). If you cannot afford PS, GIMP is 100% freeware, and there are plenty of freeware 3D applications- the only thing you must buy is MS3D. Which is cheap.

Post Wed Nov 23, 2005 1:54 am

I find it very easy in milkshape to select the faces I don't want to be part of a group and hide them (Ctrl+H). You then select what's left over and regroup them into their own group. It don't take too long to regroup the whole model this way. You can also use UV Mapper to break groups up a bit. Say for example I had two cylindrical shaped engines in one group. I would select the group and remap it (Planar) so that they were side by side and not on top of each other. Then I would highlight only one of the engines and remap it cylindrical so it would lay out flat for easy painting. Highlight the other and map it the same. Resize it so that it is exactly the same size as the first and lay it on top. Now it would appear that there is only one cylindrical shaped object mapped but in actuality when you paint it the texture will wrap around both objects.

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