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Random Newb Questions pt1

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

Post Mon Dec 04, 2006 8:24 pm

Random Newb Questions pt1

Ok. Deep breaths. Soft music. Hard drinks. Anything to dull the realization that after all the modelling and texturing, to be frank, I don't know what the @!$% I'm doing. Next step in the tutorials (I'm following Drizzt's loosely atm), following the texturing and mapping etc etc, is placing hardpoints. Seems rather tedious and longwinded, but.. I'm suddenly waking up to the fact I'm entirely out of my league here. So a couple of questions if I could..

Will I need to create hardpoints based on geometry already on the model, or can I place a 'free' triangle above or below each Hp, regardless of it's type, and have it work effectively?

I have Hp's already modelled, but they're not a single triangle, it's actually 4 triangles on the face itself. Will this still work, or will I only be able to assign the weapon/mine/blahblah to one of the triangles on the Hp(and have it appear offset)?

If placing 'free' triangles does in fact work, and if those triangles are outside of the actual vessel, will they be visible.. and if so will they require a texture - or will the game interpret them as existing only to facilitate the placing of an weapon/accessory?

Umm, lets see.. size. Will I have to export constantly to determine what is the correct size for a vessel, or is there some standard or measurement by which I can determine this in Milkshape? i.e. the nose of a Defender is approx. this many units from center, a train is that many away, use that as a guide etc.

Thrusters: Can additional thrust trails be added, without actually adding extra thrusters? The vessel I'm working with has 3 engines, and it would be interesting for it to have 3 trails for the engines, and 3 for the thrusters.. but only one physical engine and one thruster. And I have no clue what I just said precisely.

Engine exhaust: Is there a method to modify the size, shape, or color of this, or is it something hardcoded into the game itself and we're stuck with what is offered?

Can't think of anything else atm.. fire away if you can...

Cheers, Visc

Post Thu Dec 07, 2006 12:06 pm

Seeing as nobody else has helped you, I guess it's upto me.

Follow the tutorial until it mentions hardpoints and then skip that entire section, texture and then export your model with the CMP exporter & MAT exporter plug-ins. As a noob it's much easier for you to hardpoint the CMP file in HARDCMP rather than making a mess of your model by doing it the way the tutorial says.**Big Shudder**

In milkshape the hardpoints are nothing more than 3 "Vertices", joined together to make one untextured "FACE", "triangle" or "poly" depending on which term you prefer. The exporter uses this to locate the hardpoint and the nearest part of the model to orientate it, the "Face" isn't exported with the model just the location and orientation.

Some of us have used the cmp importer to get a to scale copy of the pilot model, we then "merge" this with our ship and scale the ship to suit the pilot model. This way our ships are 1:1 scale ie the size you see in milkshape is the size you see it in Freelancer, we then set up the CMP exporter and set the scale to 1.000000. But before you click on the "continue" button use the save settings button, for some reason the scale isn't set without saveing, if you don't you'll end up with a tiny ship save at 92.000000 scale.
In milkshape the measurements are units, these corrispond with the grid squares you see and are 1, 10 and 20 units. The starflier is 13 to 14 units in length, the dromedary is 30 units and if your doing a capship then the Liberty Cruiser is just under 200 units in length.

Can additional thrust trails be added
I don't think so as the thruster exhaust is tied into the Thruster, but I've never tryed it so you never know, that's the great thing about modding, "experiment", don't be afraid to try wierd things, if you don't you just end up with a bog standard mod that's looks like every other basic mod.
In Freelancer you normally only have one engine and this is attached to a "Ghost" internal hardpoint, I say "Ghost" as it doesn't exist in the ships CMP, there are 4 items that use these "Ghosts", the engine, power plant, scanner and tracter source.
The HpEnginexx is the exhaust hardpoint, the size and shape might be possible by editting the effects but again I haven't tryed it so I can't be sure, the colour however is coded some where inside the ALE files and we're still trying to crack them.

**shuffles of with a new headache**

Post Sat Dec 09, 2006 5:27 pm

Thanks a ton for the response All of this is new to me (save for the modelling part), so every bit is a huge help. Strangely enough with all the tedious you-know-what you have to go through, I'm having a lot of fun with this.

re: hardpointing
I actually had a lot of success placing the hp's in Milkshape, though I did have to go through HardCMP to orient them correctly (lights not appearing from certain angles, the 'faces' on the triangle were faced out the way they should be, but the hp itself was oriented in some obscure direction.)

re: scale
Good tip that.. it worked fairly well I think, tho it turns out the model I'm on is far too large to use a real cockpit, so I'll be redoing the 'bridge' with capship windows etc. Scaling that ought to be fun too Ooo, another part that can glow.. hrm.

re: thrusters
Hrm, I haven't tinkered around yet with the engine thrust shapes, but may do that tonight. Stinks about the .ale files, wish MS in their infinite wisdom had provided some modding bits. Seems virtually any game nowadays is modded up the wazoo, methinks the game companies are seriously missing the boat. Reason I asked, is I've seen 'ghost' thruster trails on certain mods, and I thought perhaps there might be a HP for it. It's occured to me though, that what I was seeing was actually extra thrusters, only with no thrust value or drain, and somehow made integral to the ship (Internal? I dunno.) Might be thinking of Evolutions... hrm.

Cheers, and thanks again

Visc

Post Sun Dec 10, 2006 5:51 am

about the extra trails..if your ok with a basic approach add contrail lights to wherever ...put lots and it will look quite nice...

Post Sun Dec 10, 2006 7:05 am

Since I got use to creating and placing hardpoints unsing milkshape, it's become second nature to me.
One little trick I learned was the creation of (what I call) hard point mounts.
They are like some weapon mounts you see on the vanilla ships. These are simple 1 stack/4 slice cylinders that have the "referencing" vertex for the actual hardpoint to mount on. At least 95% of new hardpoints I've created and oriented to the mounts this way will be correctly oriented when placed on the reference vertex when viewed in HardCMP.
In some experiments, I created the "physical mount" along with the "hardpoint" already mounted. Then placed both in the position and orientation I wanted them in. If it happened to be on a "wing", all I had to do was duplicate the individuals and mirror the duplicated set to the other side for a perfect match. All I had to do then was rename the new duplicated harpoint.
Then fine tuning the rest of them using the HardCMP editor.
I've progressed to the point where I need to do very little in fine tuning.
Such as orientations of some fixed points such as lights and contrails that dont use my mounts.
Then Adjusting Min/Max angles on Revolute hardpoints.
I guess it isn't for the faint of heart to learn.
Simple spelling errors will show up in HardCMP, but the hardpoint won't show up in game. (sometimes with critical results)

Edited by - Rankor on 12/10/2006 7:40:17 AM

Edited by - Rankor on 12/10/2006 7:42:46 AM

Post Sun Dec 10, 2006 10:37 pm

Thanks for the replies

re: Hotwire

Yeah I'd considered that, tho I'd like to have the actual thruster. I think the workaround is to create a dummy thruster with no stats, and pre-mount it on the vessel, in the package. It's making it un-mountable that's part of the headache, or tying it in with the buyable thruster itself so it mounts(and is destroyed) as a group. I just don't have the experience yet to tinker there, ugh.

re: Rankor
Oddly enough, I'd grouped the actual hull parts of the hardpoints separately, yet placed separate triangles for the hps themselves. It works, tho seems a bit sloppy. Just a bit curious that the 'face' is pointed exactly where it ought to go, but orients at some oblique angle when opened in HardCMP. Easy to fix tho, thankfully

Have a few more noob questions tho..

.sur exporter: How on earth do you use the thing? Haven't been able to find a readme regarding it, and the ship I've modelled has no comparable ship to borrow the sur from. I'm not looking to create destroyable components, just a mesh that will register hits/collisions. It's a fairly complicated model too, with some 185 separate groups following hardpointing (was easier to texture.. question below). Thoughts? Ideas? I am so out of my league My first export turned out a .sur so complex (102k) and, I think corrupt, it froze the game on undocking, and my 2nd attempt (regrouped all the hull components into one group) turned one out at 52k, and appeared to work.. save for the bit about being able to fly through it. Tiny problem that (the 2nd attempt seems to show two meshes.. one that matches the hull, and another that's a bubble. Dunno if that helps. I assumed one to be the hullbox, the other the shield.)

Lessee, .mat files. the .mat for my freighter is 6.5 megs, is that far too big? Seems so, but it's gonna be one *major* hassle to remap and retexture (2048x2048, but with some fair sized white bits unfortunately, and there's a few extra textures in there also, but they're tiny.) I took K's texture guide, and interpreted 256x256=6, 512x512=7 to mean that 2048x2048=9 mipmaps. Seems excessive to me, but it's a big tub, and closeup the lack of detail would be really noticeable. Seems any .mat exported using DDS textures that weren't DXT3 would lock up the game, or CTD.

Extreme Angles: The freighter disappears at certain angles, and only shows the engine trails. Mostly, or entirely, when it's at the edge of the screen. Not sure if that means the LOD is haywire, or I've missed something. Likely both.. my search on the forum turned up a piece on using an app to set the radius(flmodelresizer?) and another one on re-ordering the parts to show the largest shown groups last(which I haven't done, it's a right pain).

LOD ranges: I've tweaked these values back and forth, and can't settle on one that displays the freighter consistently. Seems it only appears inside of 2k, no matter what values I enter. Does this correspond in any way to the mipmap amounts in the DDS textures I've used? (note: one texture has more mips than the others, for what it's worth.)

.cmp exporter: Should I have regrouped my entire mesh(except for the hp's) into the textured groups before exporting? The bulk of the ship shares the same texture (there's 7, including 3 glowmaps). Have this sneaky suspicion that some of the above problems are related to this. I also have an abnormal shading/lighting situation on the 'tails' on my freighter, and the tips seem to glow on the opposite side when viewing in turret mode and pointed at a star. Rest of the vessel looks fine

OK, definitely established that I'm a newb I appreciate the responses greatly, I'd likely as not have scrapped everything otherwise.

Cheers, Visc

Post Mon Dec 11, 2006 3:15 am

meh a thing we could all do to look smart is do like me: get someone to teach you hot to texture in gmax...get the original FL textures and make your hardpoints so that they LOOK like the hardpoints in FL..it can be done, theres a special hardpoint texture....

also about the dummy thruster, it might work but i think 0 values wont do much

i use 8 thrusters on my racer, they work fine *evil laugh*

Post Mon Dec 11, 2006 6:03 am

>make your hardpoints so that they LOOK like the hardpoints in FL..
Hrm, they do.. kind of. I did the texture for my freighter before I stumbled onto the tut for extracting textures from the vanilla .mat files. What I came up with wasn't so bad.. wasn't sure I could get away with cutting and pasting in the stock image into the main texture I made (copyright infringement I would think..).

>also about the dummy thruster, it might work but i think 0 values wont do much
Ahh that's basically the idea, the mod I play on uses only the single thruster on each ship, and I'm just shooting for the exhaust effect itself. I shaped the engine nacelles specifically for that idea, kind of a two stage engine where the thrusters are tucked in behind the exhaust face and never shown(or destroyed, I suspect, but that's ok.). Afterburners of a sort.. only on a glorified garbage scow. Pushing the envelope, you bet... *halo*

>i use 8 thrusters on my racer, they work fine *evil laugh*
Hehehe.. it's the 1000 speed/engine kill bug that scares me off, and I suspect the extra thrusters wouldn't fly with the creators of MU.. tho the dummies might. Least, that's the idea.. I hope.. there's some screens in the WIP thread of what I've been working on if you're interested

Cheers, Visc

Post Mon Dec 11, 2006 10:03 am

I've come real close to making a custom "fit to match" .sur file for a certain custom ship yard. It looks identical to the ship yard, but with about half the vertex count in a simpler wire frame.
The only quirk that seems to be stopping me from completing this is some kind of odd hex error.
(I got a message in the model tool that said to check the hex...or something like that)

@ VIsceral:
If you have more than one group sharing the same texture, just select them all and regroup them into a new group. The mat file you export will have all the information it needs. (Just make sure that when you do, that you re-export the "new" cmp and mat files)

Edited by - Rankor on 12/11/2006 10:06:43 AM

Post Mon Dec 11, 2006 3:50 pm

First up the textures, don't bother with mip maps as you don't have different LOD's built into your CMP to use them. Every vanilla ship uses 256x256 or smaller (even the CAP SHIPS), it doesn't matter whether you UVMap or Tile Map as the texture co-ordinates are applied to what ever size of texture you give it to us. You could map it to a 2048x2048 and then shrink your texture to 256x512 and it'll still fit, you have to remember FL is 4 years old and is a low poly, low detail game. I have several ships from people that used 2048x2048 textures and I've reduced them to 512x512, there is no difference in game as to how the ships look, the only difference is that the game loads a little quicker as it doesn't have to unpack those F*CKING enormous MAT files any more. DXT1, DXT3 & DXT5 are the DDS formats you want to be using and of those preferably the DXT1(no alpha) for any ships.

LODranges = 0, 2000 <<-- The actual distance that you can still see a ship in FL is around 1500, beyond that all you see is the ships reference point, CAPSHIPS use 20000 but at that range all you see is a pixel on screen.

There are 3 ways to get a SUR, you take a vanilla SUR and resize it with FLModelTool, you use DEV's SUR splicer and basic simple SURs from the Exporter. Or you spend the next year learning how to really make a model work with FL and the SUR Exporter.

AFAIK everybody gave up on the SUR Exporter as they got the same results as you, CTD's or it didn't work. AFAIK I am the only person that's gotten anywhere with it, as it stands I can create a 90-95% SUR file, only destructables don't work right (YET). The secret to the Exporter is getting your ships models correct, and YES I did say "models" 1 for the CMP & 1 for the SUR, both built as multiple components set to export as Groups and Subgroups, with the equipment hardpoints in the exact same place on both models. But it also depends on the actual shape of the ship, I could probably get your ship to work but then again I might have to completely rip it apart and rebuild it (like I've had to do to some others) before I started on a model for the SUR.

Unless your really desperate to make a SUR with the Exporter I'd stick to the first two methods, as getting a SUR as good as the ones I'm finally creating takes a sh*t load of work.

@ Hotwire, learn to use a decent program as GMAX is a crappy program that Autodesk gave out to try and drum up some business for 3DSMAX (another crap program IMHO).

**shuffles of with a new headache**

Post Tue Dec 12, 2006 8:36 pm

One thing.... and its only a small point,

Just to add a little to Bejaymac..

With the larger style texture panels you can still use 1024 x 1024 and 2048 x 2048.. the trick here is to save them WITHOUT mip maps.. and unless you plan to use transparency and or glows.. also save them WITHOUT the alpha channel, as they are not needed in panels of that size.. it will also reduce your overall matfile sizes by a fair margin..

If I tilemap a ship I will use the smallest sizes that work, often building them us a 'grid' style map with say 4 similar panels at 128 x 128 (to make a panel 256 x 256) - this is similar to how many of the rheinland ships are textured - particularly the Banshee - and by using different sections of these panels variety of detail is obtained.. (do hope you follow this..) .. one point - they must be saved as .dds (they dont need to be flipped).. if you use .tga you add file size and the texture may look.. umm.. like rubbish (they need to be flipped)

If I map a ship in max or lithium unwrap.. then I will normally use 2 only 1024 x 1024 panels for the upper and lower surfaces with the detail and side views arranged around the outside (or in spaces 'between things'), for cockpit glass I use a single 128 x 128 panel (as I map them sometimes and apply 'texture' to glass).. the main advantage with the larger sizes is the 'clarity' of decals, lettering, fancy paintwork, lines. logo's etc., the higher the res for these the 'crisper' the image 'in game' this keeps the .mat file at about 1.5 megs.. hardly huge.. 2048 x 2048 are used ONLY for VERY large ships and again only 2.. and I may map some areas with tilemapping.. it means larger matfiles, (of course) but ppl like to get close to and fly alongside larger ships (least the ones I know do anyhow) and the detail levels suffers.. check it out sometime.. the liberty battleship uses one texture map for the docking bay doors, and some of the interior shots... as that's what you see closest.. however they do use a lot of tilemapping..

Hope this helps

Harrier


Retreat[![! ---- I'm too badly messed up now[![!

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