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Converting a ship from Lightwave to Starfleet Command .MOD format
a tutorial by Alec Theorhaven
You\'re reading this because you have an interest in Starfleet Command, or at least, wish to get something into your Starfleet Command game (I\'ll call it SFC for short from here on in). Or, you just want to know how to do it for whatever reason. All these are fine of course, and I\'m simply going to try talking you through a conversion of a Lightwave modelling program mesh into something that you can put into SFC. You will be able to adapt this tutorial to encompass other modelling programs as well once you know the basics.
I\'ll start with a basic.
· Get a mesh! Find something that you want to bring ingame.
· Get permission to use it if you intend to release it! I can\'t tell you how many times it was disappointing for me to have to pass by a really nice looking ship simply because I couldn\'t get permission to use it ingame. BUT, it\'ll really really make it easier on you to get permission first to release it. Remember, people love to see their work being used, but noone wants to feel ripped off. And if you build a reputation on ripping people off, you may as well pack it up and go home. Noone will want to see anything from you.
Okay.. have you got those points? Good! Now we start!
Okay, you\'ve acquired the ship that you want to get ingame. It looks absolutely fantastic when you visited the site and downloaded it, and now it\'s sitting in a big lump in the archive waiting to go. What do you do now that you have it?
Here\'s the steps (steps marked with a * are optional, but recommened):
· Open the archive and extract the file.
Make sure that you can open the archive up! Nothing more frustrating than to take time
to download a ship and find that you can\'t open it. If I come across an archive format
that I can\'t currently open, I go over to http://www.tucows.ca and dig through the archiver
section. And here at home, we also use PowerArchiver 6.0 (freeware) on my machine
and WinAce (shareware) on my wife\'s. PowerArchiver used to open anything, but lately
I\'ve been having some troubles with .RAR files, which has me thinking that they\'ve
changed the .RAR format again since PowerArchiver 6.0 was released. Anything else
seems to still be working though.
· Convert the Lightwave mesh to a 3D Studio (.3ds) file
This might be the hardest part of the conversion. I have 3d Exploration to do this job
for me, but there are a number of good utilities out there that will do it, like PolyArc and I
think Ultimate Unwrap will do it as well. The Lightwave mesh has to be in .3ds because
it\'s read easily by 3dsMax.
· Import the file into 3dsMax
Here\'s where the proof in the pudding comes about. If you can see your ship in 3dsMax
and it\'s textured, you\'re off to a great start. If you can see your ship and it\'s not textured,
you\'re probably still okay because the next step may fix that. One thing that you\'ll note
right off is that your model is standing on end, and you\'re probably looking at its right
side on the front view, and down its length in the top view. You need to spin everything
so that you\'ve looking down the ship\'s length in the front view with the top being the top
and that sort of thing. Also, those boxes that surround each object need to go as well.
· *Acquire the material list and mapping from the mesh
This step is a good thing to do for a very simple reason, it\'ll make illumination mapping a
SNAP later on. The easiest way that I\'ve found to do this is to attach all objects to one
object (I like to attach things to a big hull section), match materials, and then go into my
material editor, go to the first material, click the dropper to acquire from the mesh, select
my mesh, and a patchwork series of textures will appear on the material ball. Each one
is a material that you\'ll be able to go into and edit (if you need to)
· *Convert the texture files to .BMP
Believe it or not, at this point, it\'s actually optional for one reason.. when you convert the
mesh to .MOD, the .MOD file will look for a .BMP extension by default. I usually do that
at this point though simply to get it finished so that I know it\'s been done.
The first thing that you need to do is to get the mesh into a format that the export plugins that exist will understand. Generally, 3ds Max (the program I use) is pretty flexible and
will display almost anything once you get it loaded in. SFC isn\'t that flexible. You\'ll need to have the textures for your mesh in a format it can read, and at a resolution that it\'ll
like. I like to use standard resolutions primarily (256x256 and 512x512), but have done a
lot of work where it wasn\'t so cut and dried. (512x32 and such).
(rule of thumb: If you can divide the resolution by 16, you\'ll probably be okay)
· *Go in and change (if necessary) the texture extensions in the mesh
Again, at this point, optional.. but I like to do it so that I can render shots from 3dsMax
and if I have to rebuild the .MOD file at another time, I still have the .3ds file looking for
.BMPs instead of what was originally with the Lightwave mesh (usually .JPG or .TGA
from what I\'ve seen).
· *Save the file as a .3ds file for safety\'s sake.
Again, this is incase I have to rebuild in case of a crash, blindsided by real life, or
whathaveyou, you won\'t lose all your changes to this point.
· *Apply self-illumination maps to make it SFC 2 (and 3)compatible
I\'m putting this as an optional step only because you can convert the ship without
illumination mapping, and it\'ll still be able to fly in SFC 2 or 3. BUT, it\'ll be dark, hard to
see, and probably won\'t be used much by people as is.
Which gets into the whole aspect of self-illumination files. They\'re usually black and
white versions of the original texture, or lit with colored lights. Think of them as this:
If you were to take an AMT model, or a real starship, and you put it in a completely
lightless enviornment.. it\'d be hard to find without lights. (And starships apparently are
always covered with windows in the Trek universe. So your texture in this case would
look like the areas of the ship covered by the texture, as it\'d look with all the lights off.
Windows are usually white circles or squares, there\'s floodlighting on the ship\'s registry,
the deflector dish is all glowy, that kind of idea. If you\'re still confused, watch TNG\'s
episode Best of Both Worlds, part I and watch the scene where the Enterprise-D is
hiding in the nebula. There\'s a scene where the ship is all backlit against the nebula, and
you see all the windows glowing and such. That\'s exactly what self-illumination looks
· *Save the file as a .MOD file as a test and backup
Optional, but recommended as it gives you a second backup of the ship in the format
that it will eventually be in. The .MOD format I\'ve found is reasonably robust in that I\'ve
successfully used it to transfer geometry and mappings from Max 5 to Max 3.11 without
· Join all objects in the mesh to one object
Needed now, as the game only reads .MOD files that have a single object, this is one of
the more common reasons that I\'ve seen why .MODs won\'t come up ingame. Again, I
like to attach everything to the hull, but it\'s just me. Also, a Defiant Class ship
really shouldn\'t be the size of a small planet, now should it? Good time to scale it
against stock Taldren ships to get it about the right size.
· Save the file as a .MOD file as a test and backup
Now is a good time to check and see if you\'ve gotten things right at this point. If you
haven\'t already done so, now is a good time to convert over all your textures to .BMP
and make sure that they show up in the ModViewer. If they show up there, they\'ll show
Okay, now that this is all done.. we\'re ready to wrap up the conversion process and get this into the game and looking professional. At this point though, you can probably fly your ship in SFC.
· (check it ingame or in the ModViewer).
Note that I didn\'t make this one an option. (grin). There is nothing more annoying than
to have to post in someone\'s thread,\"Dude, downloaded your uber-ship and it is so
cloaked it\'s not showing up ingame and it\'s causing my game to crash.\" Makes the guy
feel bad, and look bad because he didn\'t check it out first.
· *Import a suitable UI from a stock Taldren model for damage and hardpoints
I\'d say that this one is only marginally optional until you get good at hardpointing and
damage locations. You can run the ship without them, but then when the ship takes
damage, it shows up all over the ship. And nothing looks weirder than to see a ship
firing a phaser from the very center of the ship, or out its shuttlebay.
· Save the file as a .MOD file as a test
Now is a good time to playtest the ship. See how it looks ingame, see how it flies. You
might have to flip polies and such, you may have other issues like textures not showing
up. If things look inside out, you\'re having to flip polies. Textures not showing up
probably is either the textures not being a standard size like mentioned above, or they\'re
not mapped in your mesh. And sometimes, you have a material color assigned on the
mesh, and not a texture. That\'ll have to be fixed.
If you followed all this, your new ship should now be showing up ingame, and looking sweet!
Congratulations, you\'ve learned one of the more difficult skills in modding for Starfleet Command!
You should be able to follow these steps now to get Lightwave and .3ds meshes into the game now in the future.
Hope that this tutorial was of help to you, and if you have questions.. drop me a line in the Taldren Models forum, or the SFC3 forums (I\'m usually in both places). Or via email at:
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|User Comments |
The following comments are owned by the user that posted them. SFC3 Files is not responsible for their content.
Total comments: 9 | Last comment: 01-21-2006 at 08:54
|Guest (adsl-65-68-100-168.dsl.tpkaks.swbell.net) |
Joined: December 31st, 1969
|I have the modding tools and so on but I can not find lightwave or anyother program that I can build meshes in. Where can I get lightwave and what are the requirements? |
Joined: May 11th, 2003
|Hi does anyone know how i can make the defiant ship in the game smaller so it won't look like half the size of a sovereign cl***** ship? It's too big i need it smaller. I saw it in a picture once. Thanks for the input! |
|Guest (0-1pool212-245.nas7.albuquerque1.nm.us.da.qwest.net) |
Joined: December 31st, 1969
|hello, what is a mesh? i like star trek but i would love to get the andromeda in both sfc online gameing and single player.. how do i do this? my email is firstname.lastname@example.org any help would be greatly appreicated, thanks.. Earl |
|Guest (81-174-202-160.ptc-gw1.dial.plus.net) |
Joined: December 31st, 1969
|a mesh is what u make in a 3d modeling program, it can be anything, in this case it is the ships. |
as far as 3d modeling programs go there kinda of expensive
lightwave (i think about $1500)
3ds max (i think about $3500)
but discreet( the people who make 3ds max) have release gmax, i think its a cut down version of 3ds max, made for the gaming community, and its FREE
From: (Hopewell NJ)
Joined: November 18th, 2003
|Cool 3D from Ulead supports 3DSfiles. It cost about 100 dollers but I think it should work. |
" You Guys are Genisus"
Joined: June 22nd, 2004
|How exactly do you get it on there . |
I did it once without all these extra stuff by just uzipping it. But now I can't do it again. Can you explain it to me. I am getting
Joined: November 17th, 2004
|Can I open the mod files with Wings 3D? |
It would be much easier...
Joined: January 31st, 2005
|Is there a .mod plugin for gmax? |
From: (Calgary Alberta)
Joined: January 5th, 2006
|how do you pin the arcs to specific areas of the ship? |
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