Foundations, Decorations, and Overhangs
So now we have a pretty basic building with windows and doors. Looking better, but not complete yet, huh? The first thing we're going to want to add to this building is a foundation, or, well, the illusion of one. It's been my experience that most commercial buildings have concrete slab foundations, so there is no need to raise the building into the air. Instead, we're simply going to put a base around the bottom to simulate building decorations I've seen quite a bit in real life.
To start with, make sure you are on the Create tab, then click on the "Geometry" button. Next, you'll need to click the "Box" button. The difference between geometry and splines is that splines are two-dimensional (flat) shapes, while geometry are three-dimensional shapes. In the left view, create a box of any size (just like you created a rectangle, but instead of just dragging the box, you'll now also have to move the mouse back and forth to give it some depth - pay attention to your front, top, and perspective views to see when you've accomplished this). Good, but "Houston, we have a problem." Now we've got a nice little box (or nice big box, depending upon how large you made yours). It's also probably not in the correct place. Welp, we're going to fix that.
NOTE: This is one of those shapes where gmax doesn't move it based on the center. Instead, gmax will move it based on the "top" (the initial rectangle you created for the end). Just like the Extrude Modifier, you can reverse the direction of this box by making the height negative.
To make something that will show up well in SC4, but isn't overwhelmingly huge, change the parameters of the box like shown. Because this box was created in the left view (and gmax recognizes the initial rectangle you made as the "top"), the length is top to bottom, the width is front to back, and the height is side to side (in the 3d world). How did I arrive at 7.25 for the height? Simple (do you still have that notepad file open?). We don't want the foundation to cross in front of the door because it would partially block it, and I'd be willing to bet that would violate some Sim City Fire Codes. To remedy this, we'll need to figure out the distance from the edge of the doorway to the end of the wall.
The door itself is 2.5 meters wide, and the wall it sits in is 16 meters wide. Subtract the width of the door from the width of the wall and divide by two.
16 (wall) - 2.5 (doorway) = 13.5 / 2 = 6.75
We're not finished with the math yet. Since this foundation decoration is going to go all the way around the building, and we don't want unsightly corners (and to save a little bit of hairy fixing later), we also need it to let it stick off the end half a meter. (The box is centered within the wall, so half of it is sticking out the front. Since the box is 1 meter thick, it will protrude 0.5 meters from the wall.) Because we're going to place it exactly even with the edge of the doorway, we're going to need to add half a meter to the length of the box so that it sticks off the end 0.5 meters.
6.75 (distance from edge of doorway to edge of wall) + 0.5 (how much it'll stick out) = 7.25
The X, Y, and Z were pretty easy to figure out. The wall is sitting exactly on the X axis and protrudes back into the building, and we want the box centered within the wall, so we make Y = 0 (remember, this will be moving it front to back, so we change Y). We also want the box sitting exactly even with the edge of the doorway, which is 2.5 meters wide. Because the door is centered on a wall that is also centered (it's midpoint is sitting on the origin), then we take half the width of the door (1.25) and make it negative because it's to the left of the origin. Last, the box will need to sit on the ground, and it's half a meter thick, so Z will be half of the length, or 0.25.
Confused yet? Didn't know all that figuring went into making those boxes around the base of the building, did ya? (If you're still confused, re-read the Quick Guides to Geometry on the Getting Started page.) If you need to, for now, just make the settings like I show you. It's sometimes difficult for people to grasp geometry in the 3d world (I know it took a while for me to catch on at first), but with time it will become second nature.
Rename the box "Foundation - Decoration".
To save a heck of a lot of math, simply clone your box, change X to equal 1.25 (that'll put the "top" of the box on the exact opposite side), and change the height to -7.25 to reverse its direction.
To continue the box around the building, clone "Foundation - Decoration" (not the copy of it you made - trust me). To put it on the side wall, we'll first need to rotate it. Notice when you first use choose the "Select and Rotate" button that gmax shows the Z rotation as -90? To rotate it 90 degrees more, we'd type 180 in the Z rotation box (I just typed "180" and the BAT changed it to negative - but either way you type it in you'll get the same results). As we need to put this box on the wall, centered within it (just like the decoration on the front), hit the "Select and Move" button, then make X the same as the X for the left wall (-8.0). Finally, because the wall is 32 meters long, you'd change the height to 32 meters so it goes from the front edge of the side wall to the back edge. This next one is very simple. Clone "Foundation - Decoration02" and (using "Select and Move") make X = 8.0 to place it on the right wall.
To put the foundation on the back wall, clone "Foundation - Decoration" first and make it's Y = 32 (the same as Y for the back wall). Now, do the same with "Foundation - Decoration01". You now have the picture above. See that unsightly gap between the edge of the doorway and the start of the foundation? We are going to fix that, but it'll take a little explaining.
To fix it, first we'll need to make the boxes the correct length. You could go through all the math like we did for the front wall, but I'm so lazy that I don't want to go through all of that again. Instead, do this:
We already know the back door is 1 meter narrower than the front door. To put the "tops" of the boxes in the correct place, we'll just need to subtract half that distance from X.
1.25 - 0.5 = 0.75
(remember that for one side X is negative)
Since we're moving the "tops" of the boxes in by half a meter inward, we need to add half a meter to the height.
7.25 + 0.5 = 7.75
(remember that for one side the height is negative)
Viola! We now have our foundation in place. Take a serious breather now - I don't know about y'all, but my wee little brain is a bit fried...
Ok, break over. Didn't think I was going to let you sit there and do nothing forever, did you? At any rate, next we will be creating the overhangs on the roof. Don't worry, this'll be far easier than the foundation.
The first thing you're going to want to do is clone the foundation piece on the left wall. Be sure to rename the copy "Roof - Overhang". To place it on top of the wall, use a Z move of 5.25 (we're simply moving it up 5 meters to place it on top of the wall). Clone the new piece, and change X to equal 8.0 (this places it on the exact opposite wall).
Next, we'll need to make the piece for the front wall. Do this by cloning "Roof - Overhang01" and Z rotate it by -90 (rotating it by 90 will make it turn the other way). Notice how it doesn't line up on the right-hand side and how it's way too long for the left? That's a pretty easy fix.
First, change the height to 17. Why 17 you ask? The front wall is 16 meters long, and we need this piece to overhang by 0.5 meters on each side. 16 + 0.5 + 0.5 = 17. Next, you'll need to change X to 8.5 to place the end of the box even with the overhang on the right wall. It's 8.5 because half of the wall's length plus the 0.5 meter overhang is 8.5 (refer to earlier explanations if you're having difficulty understanding this point).
Now that you have perfect placement for the front overhang, clone it and change Y to equal 32. This places it on the back wall.
See, that wasn't so hard, was it?
You know, now that I look, our front and back doors look a little plain. Let's do something about that, shall we?
Most commercial buildings have an overhang of some sort over all of their doors. BAT Tutorial, Inc will be no different. I think a nice, rounded overhang for the front door, and a simple, flat overhang for the back door.
First thing's first, select "Wall - Front" and hide unselected. That way, all that other junk won't be getting in our way. Turn 3d Snap on and make doubly sure that you have the Grid and Snap Settings set to Vertex. Next, on the Create Tab and Splines Button, pick "Arc". Just to forwarn you, this will get a little bit tedious, but I think you should have enough basic knowledge to get into something a little more advanced. I guess Emeril would say we're going to "kick it up a notch - BAM!"
In the front view, snap the arc on the top two verticies of the door frame. Notice that arc is different than creating a line, instead of only clicking the verticies you want to add, you need to click and drag. Once you have the mouse button released and the line created, move the pointer up and down to see how the "curve" gets into the arc. We're not looking to make anything huge, so move the pointer until the arc is just about like I have it and left-click to finish it.
NOTE: If something doesn't turn out exactly the way you want it to, or you accidentally do something you didn't intend to do, Edit >Undo (or keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Z) can save you. There is a limit to how many times you can "undo", but as long as you catch a mistake early enough, it can save you from redoing something all over again. Undo is my absolute best friend!
Next, change the radius of the arc to 2.5 to give it the desired width. You do not have to worry about the "From" and "To" boxes (this is similar to a slice operation, but I'll explain that later). This will make the arc move upwards. The reason for this is because the arc is a almost like a sliced section of a circle, and when you increase the radius of the circle, it moves the edges outward from the center (I'll get into all of that sometime later). The arc is too high on the wall to make a proper overhang, so we'll move it down by doing a Z move to 1.5 (you're actually moving the center of the circle down, but that's not really important right now).
Now, make a cloned copy (do not make an instance) of the first arc and Z move it to 1.8.
Make sure 3d Snap is still on and snap a line onto the ends of both arcs. Remember that when creating lines you only click where you want gmax to put the verticies. Also, don't forget it will let you click forever, so hit "Esc" after you've placed the second vertex. Move over to the other side and repeat.
Just like we did when we attached window openings and doorways to the wall, place an Edit Spline modifier on one of the arcs and attach the lines and other arc. They will now become one object. Now, you'd put an extrude modifier on it and change the extrude amount to 3.0. What the...??!!??
Just what in the heck happened there?
Welp, good thing for y'all that I know how to fix it! First thing's first, right-click on the Extrude Modifier in the Modifier List and pick Delete.
Now, I can tell you what happened. Whenever you create an object like this and simply attach the splines together, gmax will only extrude the faces. This is because gmax doesn't see it as a solid object, but instead a series of faces more or less grouped together. To fix this, we'll have to Weld the verticies together to create a solid object to extrude. Don't worry, it's not as difficult as it sounds. First of all, change your selection method to "Vertex" in the Edit Spline rollout.
Next, make sure that you have "Select" turned on and not "Select and Move" or "Select and Rotate", and drag a box over one of the corners on your shape. You can't see it here, but you are actually selecting two verticies (the verticies will show with those funny green boxes attached to them). Now, down in the Geometry rollout (where the Attach button is) hit the "Weld" button. When that's done, the little box down by the X, Y, and Z boxes will say something like above. You'd then repeat this operation for the other four corners (the verticies where you snapped the line). Notice that each time you do that, the "out of x welded" number will change. That is because you created one vertex out of two, thus reducing the total number.
Now you can put your Extrude Modifier on the object and change the amount to 3.0.
Rename the object "Overhang - Front".
Whew, that was a lot of work, but now we've got a nice-looking rounded overhang to go over the front doorway. It looks kinda strange just hanging there in the air holding itself up, doesn't it? We'll take care of that now, and believe me, it's much simpler than making the overhang!
Create a cylinder in the top view (create tab >geometry button >cylinder) of any size. Don't forget that since this is 3d geometry, you not only have to create the circle, but you also have to give it depth, so pay attention to your other views. Move the cylinder to the approximate place that I show it (doesn't really have to be exact) and change the properties as shown. I really only changed the radius and height, but look in the front view to make sure the cylinder actually sticks into the overhang a little.
Rename the cylinder "Overhang - Support Front Lg".
I don't think it would look quite right having just a plain 'ol pole sticking into the ground, so to give it the "illusion" of having more detail than it actually will, clone your cylinder (make a copy and not an instance) and change the parameters like shown. This will put a base on the pole.
Rename the small cylinder "Overhang - Support Front Sm".
At this point, group the two cylinders and name the group "Overhang - Support Front", create a clone, and X move (change the value in the X box) to be the positive of the number currently there (for mine it was -1.445, but yours may be slightly different). That will put a new column exactly on the opposite side. Now would be a good time to save again.
Finite Details Continued
The back door also needs some sort of overhang, but it's going to be a little simpler than the front. First and foremost, switch the top view to back (right-click where it says "Front" and go to Views >Back) and it wouldn't be a bad idea to use the "Arc Rotate" to move the perspective view around to the rear. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it does help when you're doing a lot of modeling around the back of a building. You may now want to hit the "Zoom Extents All Selected" button to re-center and zoom all views on your rear wall. Now, you'll want to turn 3d Snap off (it can get very complicated if you have the object snapping to all sorts of wierd verticies).
Create a box of any size in the top view, and change it's parameters as shown. Next, you'll want to make sure that X is 0 (centers it on the door), Y is 32.7 (puts part of the rectangle in the wall a bit) and Z is 3.6 (puts the overhang above the door). Rename the box "Overhang - Rear".
Looks a little plain, don't it? We'll fix that. First, turn 3d snap back on, and snap a line on the top of the box (notice you will only snap the line onto the two sides and the front - it'd look a little strange with the line showing on the back too). Don't forget to add an edit mesh modifier or this line won't show in the final render. Rename the line "Overhang - Rear Decoration".
Now, clone your line and move it down until it lines up with the bottom face of the box (pretty easy when it's only got four sides).
Still in the top view, create a cylinder of any size and change its parameters as shown (you could reduce the number of sides if you wanted, but its not really important for this). Line it up with the overhang (I didn't change X and Y, I simply moved the cylinder into a place that looked about right), but do a Z move to 3.8 (makes it stick out of the top of the overhang).
Rename the cylinder "Overhang - Rear Support".
It's supposed to be a support, but it really won't support much just sticking straight up in the air, will it? We'll need to rotate the cylinder so that it sticks into the wall. Make sure you pick "Select and Rotate", and do an X rotation of 50 (rotates it clockwise 50 degrees). Perfect! Now, just clone the cylinder, be sure to switch back to "Select and Move", and change the value for X from negative to positive (to place it exactly on the opposite side).
Whew! I'll bet you didn't think that all of that went into some of the detailing, did ya? Don't worry, if you need to take a break, by all means do so!
Roof Junk and Whatever Else Comes to Mind
Let's take a minute to review.
You should now know how to create a wall, with the appropriate openings, using extruded splines. You should also know how to create windows, doors, their appropriate frames, and add some detailing to a building. It's starting to look more like an actual building, but there are some very important things missing. Whenever I get to this point, I try to think of things that a building like this might have. Roof junk like HVAC units (stands for "Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning" or "High Volume Air Conditioning"), ducting, and piping is the first thing that comes to mind. Since the perspective in SC4 shows more of the roof than anything else, roof junk is critical to a realistic building. This doesn't mean that should be your only focus, however. Other things like corner decorations, window sills, light fixtures, electric meters, and pavement (under the overhangs) can also lend themselves greatly to creating the perfect building.
Remember at all times that the motto of Vu Industries Construction Division is "Details, details, details." The more you add to a building, the better it will look in game. There does become a point where the detail is too small, but you'll learn where those limits are the more experience you gain with the BAT/gmax.
Since the roof junk is the most critical, we'll start with that.
I'm going to start by making a simple HVAC unit. Because it will be easier to model this whole thing "on the ground", hide everything before you start. In the top view, create a box of any size and adjust the parameters as shown. Next, move it to be exactly in the center by adjusting X, Y, and Z just like so. At this point, "Zoom Extents All Selected" can come in very handy.
Rename this box "Roof Junk - HVAC Base".
Now that we've got a solid base, we're going to need somewhere to put all the "mechanicals" this HVAC unit will need. Still in the top view, create another box and adjust its parameters as shown. Since we want this box to sit on top of the other one, we'd adjust X and Y to 0 and Z to 0.25 (the base will stick into the box a little). The reason why X, Y, and Z are so easy here is because we created the box in the top view, so gmax looks at the bottom of the box (the initial rectangle) as the "top" and uses it to establish where the coordinates put something.
Rename the box "Roof Junk - HVAC Mechanical".
I believe it's absolutely critical that you understand why gmax moves objects around the way it does. It can save a lot of guesswork for you later if you understand these concepts (making it easier to manipulate objects in 3d space and save on modeling time). If you don't get it right now, don't fret about it too much. Once you've modeled for awhile and re-examine the movement system, you will really understand why everything does what it does.
Ok, enough of my preaching. *Puts soapbox away.* On with the tutorial!
So now we have a nice HVAC box, but that wouldn't look very good in the game, now would it? Next, we'll need to add vents to the front. In the top view, create a cylinder and adjust it's parameters like so. Notice that I checked "Slice On" and made it "Slice From" 0 and "Slice To" 180? What this does is tell gmax to cut the cylinder in half. The "Slice From" and "Slice To" fields are degrees on a circle. See the diagram below. You'd also want to move it to the X, Y, and Z shown to put it exactly on the front of the mechanical box.
NOTE: If you uncheck the "Smooth" box, then gmax will show the individual planes that make up the faces of the cylinder. With that box checked, gmax attempts to smooth out the surface. It is not able to do that when its given too few faces, however. If you have a complete cylinder (no slicing done), 18 sides is the minimum to show a completely smooth side - at least from my experience. Anything less than 18 and the sides start to look a little flattened. I wouldn't add too much more than 18, however, as the more you add, the more to texture later (and it will increase the export time).
Rename the cylinder "Roof Junk - HVAC Vents".
This is basically how gmax assigns the degree increments to the circle (I didn't show all 360 degrees - I'm sure you can fill in the blanks). Keep this in mind, it can become very handy for you later. So, the reason that the slice above worked as it did is because we told gmax to remove everything between 0 and 180 on the circle. Take note that you can enter degrees down to the thousanths (or x.xxx), so you can get pretty darn exact with it. Also, if you wanted to slice from 0 to 270, you could either type it in as "From: 0" and "To: 270" or "From: 0" and "To: -90". I find it a little difficult to keep track of what I'm doing when I put negative degrees in the spots, so I usually stick to the above. This is independent of the view you are in, it's based on the top of the cylinder. You also might notice that when the cylinder is sliced, what's remaining still has 9 sides (see the last picture). Keep that in mind as you're modeling - if you got just the right look for something and slicing it made the object come out all wrong, you'd need to make adjustments to the sides.
I know what you're saying now, "Enough of the geometry, let's get on with it!" Alright, alright, don't push...
We've got a good start to an HVAC, but it has no ducting! Well, to take care of this, we'll put some on the back. First, create a cylinder in the left view, and change the parameters like so. Since we're only going to want an "elbow" joint, be sure to slice as shown. This will give you that nice 90 degree angle cut that you want (you could have also sliced with different degrees and simply rotated it - but I believe in keeping everything as simple as possible). Now, make X, Y, and Z like so to put it in a good place.
Rename the cylinder "Roof Junk - HVAC Bend Pipe".
This next part's gonna get a little tricky, just thought I'd warn you.
What I want is a nice elbow joint without being one complete piece (ie - I don't want the whole thing just to look like it is a section of a cylinder). To do this, I'm going to do something that seems impossibly complicated at first, but once you get the gist of it won't seem so difficult (make sure your cylinder has "Cap Segments" of 5). First, apply an edit mesh modifier to your cylinder and make your seletion method "Vertex" in the edit mesh rollout. Next, change your selection method to circle (next to the "Select Object" button on the toolbar, there's the button that looks like a box with dots around it - hold that button down so you can pick the circle) and drag to select the inside two sets of verticies, which will turn red. Now, hit the "Delete" button on your keyboard and gmax will get rid of the verticies and any "faces" that were attached to them. This is how I wanted that pipe to look.
NOTE: The bottom and back of this shape is now empty, meaning that if you look behind or below it, you'll just see empty space like it's not even there. That could be fixed, but since you're not going to see it from that angle in the game, there really isn't any point to bother with it (though I will get into fixing things like that on a later page).
Since we're going to need two ducts (one for the inward flow, and one for the outward), you'd simply clone your object and X move it like so. The reason it's not simply 0.25 (the first one's X was -0.25) is that gmax is going to move this object based on it's top and not the middle of the object, just like the roof overhangs. So, to move it to the exact opposite side, we'd change X to the opposite of the first X and add the width of the duct, giving us 0.75.
Well, now, the HVAC doesn't do us any good if it blows all of the air onto the roof, now does it? To attach your ducting to the building, create a box in the back view (not the top view this time) and change its parameters like shown. To put it underneath the bend pipe, make it's X, Y, and Z thus. Notice how it sticks down below the bottom of the base unit (and will therefore stick into the roof)? Do not worry about that at all, it's perfectly OK for it to do that. Even in a building with all transparent windows, it will not be visible from the view in the game unless its extremely close to the edge of the roof.
Rename the box "Roof Junk - HVAC Ducting".
To place another duct, clone your existing one and change the X to -0.5.
Congratulations! You now have a completed HVAC unit ready for texturing. Before you get too deep in celebration, it would be a good idea to group all of your HVAC pieces (Group menu >Group) and name it "HVAC". Next, unhide all and move the group like shown. The reason I had to group them first is so gmax moved them as a single unit and not individual pieces. If you didn't group them first, then tried a numeric move (typing values in the boxes), then it would have made the X, Y, and Z of each individual object what you typed in - meaning they'd have all been piled on top of one another (and the only thing you'd be able to see in perspective is the larger mechanical box). Definately not what you'd want to happen! There will be more than one HVAC on this building when we're done, but to save some time on the texturing later I'll leave just one there for now. After it's textured, you can clone it or array it.
Now would be a good time to save your file.
Jump over to part 3!