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Old November 4th, 2006, 05:22 AM

shinigami shinigami is offline
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Default Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

Hi folks!

Since there wasn't a thread just for this subject I decided to make one.
I'd like to see this thread be someplace where a shipset designer can go for info or to share their experiences when making shipsets. Hopefully we can pack it with some good info and discussion.

There are 103 individual files in each major empire's folder, that includes AI stuff and all the stock vehicles.

That number can be a bit daunting at first but if you approach it one ship at a time it's not so bad. I'm only going to cover the ships themselves and let someone more knowledgeable take a stab at the other stuff.

What you need:

A 3d modeler.
A model converter that can import and export a file format that your modeler can use, and can import and export directx models. If your modeler can do .x files (import and export) natively great, you can eliminate one entire step in the process.
An image editor that can handle .bmp's and .jpg's.
A way to skin your model. Some 3d apps can unwrap a model and export the map to an image editor, if your's doesn't you'll need a separate program to do this.

I'm not going to tell you which programs you should use as it can be a matter of preference or taste. Google is your friend!

You'll note that I want you to be able to get an .x file into your modeler. The reason for this is two-fold; one, I've seen two different converters lay the same model out along two different axis, if you import a stock model you can see right away how your software will do it and it will save you from having to go back and rotate your model.
Two, by importing a stock model you can get a feel for how detailed you can get with your model, use some stock models to see how many polies (or tri's if you can, directx uses them exclusively) they use. I can already tell you, not many. If your model is too detailed (high poly) then it will slow the game down.

Skipping ahead...
Now that you have your model done and skinned (quick note on textures- the stock game uses 256x256 pixel bitmaps for textures, you don't have to, you can use a 512x512 jpeg if you wish which has a smaller filesize and no noticeable quality loss, you may be able to go even larger but I haven't checked) what's next? Save it in your modeler's native format so you can go back to it if you have to (you've probably been doing this all along) and convert a copy of it over to an .x file for testing. Make a test mod with this structure "Test Mod\Empires\Abbidon" (you can use any empire you want from the stock game) and put your .x file and texture file into the folder. Rename the .x file to abbidon_frigate. Run a quickstart game, design a frigate and use the simulator to see how it looks!

When you know your .x file is good then you can go back to your modeler to render some pics.
You need the following for each ship you make:

a 500x704 jpg top-down (with the front of the ship at the top of the pic) for the inventory screen - should be grayscale

a 42x42 bmp top-down (front at top) for the Empire_Shipset.bmp file

a 512x512 jpg (3/4 front view) this is your Empire_LargePortrait_Ship.jpg

a 128x128 bmp (3/4 front view) this is your Empire_Portrait_Ship.bmp

a 64x64 bmp (3/4 front view) for the Empire_Vehicle_Main_Texture.bmp file

Once you've got all those you can move on to the next ship. (There is another file, Empire_Unit_Combat_Texture.bmp, but I've not had occasion to use it yet. So if anyone else can fill in the blank..... )

Whole set done? Wow! You're quick!
In order to make the _Shipset.bmp and _Vehicle_Main_Texture.bmp files it may be easiest to just make copies of an existing empire and paste your 42x42's and 64x64's into the correct places.

Now for an issue I've run into.
I decided that I wanted to add escorts back into the game. I made my ship and all my pics but ran into a snag when I came to the _Vehicle_Main_Texture and _Shipset files, how could I add an entirely new ship to these files?
The Main_Texture file seemed to put all the vehicles into alpha-order but there wasn't room for a new ship. What I had to do was extend the picture an additional 64 pixels downward, then cut and paste the small pics until I had opened the right spot for my escort. Cool, that one was easy.
I took a similar approach to the _Shipset file, except that I didn't have to add another row and this file appeared to put the ships in order by their size. So I did the cut and paste thing to make a hole at the beginning of the pic and inserted my escort in. From there I just had to change some text files, _Ships_XFileClasses.txt (in the empire's folder) and the VehicleSizes.txt (in the Data folder.) For both files I just copied the stats for the frigate, pasted the copy above it, and edited the copy to turn it into an escort.

That's when I ran into this line in VehicleSizes.txt: "Vehicle TopDown Picture Index "
Since I had inserted my 42x42 pic into the beginning of the _Shipset.bmp I had to change this line for every single vehicle entry in the file.

And that is the real problem.
By having "Vehicle TopDown Picture Index" in the VehicleSizes.txt file shipsets that add more ships and units are going to be locked to the mod they were written for (well, if you want the pictures to match, that is.) What I would like to see is remove that line from the VehicleSizes file and put it into each individual empire's _Ships_XFilesClasses file. Unfortunately, this would require patching the game.

Can anybody else come up with a better solution?
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