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B.A.T. Preview by RalphaelNinja
“gMax”, the lesser brethren of Discreet’s award-winning 3ds max, is built for gamers to create their own in-game content of which SimCity 4 is now added to the growing list of gMax ready games.
As with any software tool, gMax is daunting to the uninitiated of 3d graphic programs. However in the hands of a 3d artist we will soon see every imaginable and unimaginable building in the world. Tools like the B.A.T. (Building Architect Tool) basically extend the shelf life of games. With longer shelf life, the game is given time to evolve into a mature product.
For those who are impatient with waiting for the B.A.T., remember that B.A.T. portion is only a plug-in to gMax; providing the final export function to SC4. Learning gMax is mandatory if you wish to create buildings/props for SC4.
As of this preview of the B.A.T., this is the second beta generation. Support for transparency and some night lighting has been incorporated. In this quick preview, we will take you through the steps of creating a transparent window and porting this over to SC4 as a lot. The process may evolve with the next B.A.T. release.
What we get
You will need to get gMax from http://www.turbosquid.com/gmax before you can install the plug-in.
With the second B.A.T. beta, there are three parts to the tool.
- gMax plug-in (self installer)
- SC4 plug-in manager (takes your gMax rendered image and converts it to a building or prop)
- LotEditor (new version that allows you to replace existing buildings with your own).
Running through with gMax
Starting up the B.A.T. shortcut you will see..
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Creating a Transparent Window
Before we can show you how the Plug-in interacts with gMax, we need to create a “sample box” for it to render. There are many excellent tutorials written by the community, so the following is only a quick overview of the process.
Click on the “shapes” icon, select Rectangle and draw two rectangle in the front view.
Select both objects and right click (known as the quad menus) to convert the two rectangles to Editable Spline.
Select one rectangle, Select the Modify icon, then scroll down the command panel until you see Geometry where you will find the Attach button. Select Attach then click on the second rectangle. This connects the two rectangle.
The connected rectangle should still be selected when you Extrude them.
adjust the Extrude amount to about 5 (default is 25).
Go back to the create tab, Shapes, Rectangle and add a window pane.
With the window pane selected, slap a UVW Map on it. This allows us to adjust the opacity of the window pane.
With the UVW Mapping selected from the stack, click on the material editor (red ball), click on New and select Standard for the “New Material” popup window.
Change the opacity to about 70, click on “Show map in viewport” icon and click on Apply to see the transparency effect in the perspective window.
Add the prefix of Night_ to Rectangle01. This is the tag that tells the Render to illuminate this object when rendering.
Adding a box behind the transparent window will provide the visual clue that we are looking through a window. Select the “create” icon, Geometry icon and Box button to create a box behind the window pane. Use the “Select and Move” button to position the box. <br style="page-break-before: always;" clear="all">
The gMAX SC4 Plugin Rollout
A drum roll is heard as we finally reach the pinnacle of this preview; the B.A.T. rollout tools. By clicking on the “hammer” we see the addition of the B.A.T. button which reveal three additional rollouts; Export, Parameters and Preview.
Playing with the preview allows us to see the “Day & Night” rendered image of your building. You can select the direction of the view (ESWN) using the View Navigation and the Zoom from levels 1 through 5. The preview Quality allows you to select Draft, Low, Medium and High (default is low). For a complex building at 4 million polys it takes 15 minutes to generate a low quality preview.
The parameters rollout controls the positioning of the LODs (level of detail). That red box that you see surrounding the Window frame is the area of export. With the latest beta, the refit LOD’s button ensures that your complete model is encapsulated (otherwise you could find a large slice of your building missing).
The Night Window parameter controls the glowing color of your night windows. There are three color choices; Beige, Blue or Green. Basically these are just bitmap images from the Maps directory of which you could probably replace with images of your own choice. Remember that this is only in the current Beta and the choice of how Night Windows are generated may change with the final B.A.T. The Opacity parameter of Night Windows doesn’t really control the opacity (allowing you to see through the window at night) but rather controls how the final brightness of the window.
To ensure that all buildings retain similar camera and lighting effects, the Reset Lights & Cameras repositions any L&C changes that you made.
Exporting to SC4
With the current beta, once you click on the “Export” button, depending on the complexity of your model, you can either have supper or go to bed. At 4,319,100 polys, the building at the beginning of this preview took about 12 hours to render on a P4 3ghz/1gb ram (hyperthread) computer. Maxis is looking into adding a Draft Export mode to allow for quick renders.
Similar to a scanner, images are generated line by line for five different zooms in four different directions. A total of 20 different images are generated and stored as fsh files within a .SC4MODEL file (it is actually a .DAT file with a different file extension).
A short three minutes later, we are ready for the next phase…
SC4 Plugin Manager
The plugin manager creates a SC4DESC file which is the link between your rendered fsh images (stored in the SC4Model file) and your Lot Editor. The generated SC4DESC file can either be a building or a prop.
The left column is all the building types that you can use to typecast your rendered buildings on the right column. By dragging a gMax render from the right column into one of the types on the left column, a building of that type is created. The above illustration shows the Sample box being dragged and dropped into the prop type.
I’ve merged all four tabs into one image to give you an idea of the properties that you can edit. Once you have changed the properties, click OK to generate a description plug-in.
Last Step, Lot Editor
There are two choices to bring your newly created building into SC4.
If you dragged and dropped your rendered building into one of the civic building types such as police, you will need to open an existing police lot and use the building tab in the Lot Editor to replace the building with your own.
The second option is to create a prop of your building of which you can use any lot (including the blank lots from Simtropolis) to add your building.
The illustration uses a R$ blank lot (expanded to 3x3 lot size) before selecting the sample box prop.
The lot is resized to 2x1, from 3x3, after the prop is positioned. Base is added.
Use save-as to generated a new lot.
We are done!!!
Seeing your New Building In game