Getting It In Game
Exporting, the PM, and the LE
Well, now, we've got a model all ready to go, but now what? This next part is by far the simplest thing you're going to do in the BAT.
If you haven't already, save the file.
On the Utilities Tab, pick the BAT button, and on the Export rollout hit the Export button. The default for export is "High", but if you're simply doing a test export to see what it'll look like, you can pick from Medium, Low, and Draft. If you pick anything other than "High", gmax will ask if you're sure.
The next step is to sit back and wait. Or, if you have an extremely large or complex model, you'll wait, and wait, and wait, and wait..... While rendering, the computer can run other processes, but I'd recommend shutting down anything else running. The BAT's renderer can be so picky about things, so I prefer not to take chances.
On my computer, this export took about 17 and a half minutes. Yours may take longer, or may take less time, depending on your particular system.
Excellent! Now that you're through with gmax, go ahead and close that program. It may prompt you to save (it always does for me), it's completely up to you whether or not you do that. I have heard that if you save after an export, and then try to change the model later, you'll run into MAJOR problems. I would recommend clicking "no", unless you forgot to save before the export (better to have a few issues than lose all changes, right).
Now, open up the SC4 Plugin Manager. You'll be presented with a window that looks something like the one above. It's actually a relatively simple interface:
1. The Navigation "Tree" - This is where you'll drag and drop your model. Every single possible type of building is listed here. Wherever you "drop" your model is how it will be defined for SC4 and the LE. If you drop it into "Fire Station", for example, the building will be recognized by SC4 as a fire house and react to it accordingly.
2. The Navigation "Window" - At first, this is where all of your models are listed. This is based on what's in your My Documents >Sim City 4>Plugins folder.
3. The Toolbars (not numbered) - Not actually a whole heck of a lot you can do here. You can change how the information shows in the navigation window, "refresh" the screen (if you added something into the Plugins folder after the PM was opened), and view the PM's settings. You can not actually change the settings (and for good reason - you wouldn't want it to stop working, would you).
Since BAT Tutorial, Inc is going to be an office, but surely isn't fancy enough for §§§, then we'll need to make it a CO§§. Scroll down the navigation tree until you see "R-C-I >Commercial Office >(CO$)Medium Wealth". Now, find your building (I named mine "tutorial") and drag it into the medium wealth commercial office spot. The PM will pop up with the next screen.
The Properties Editor allows you to make changes to this building's attributes. Take note that this is the CO window. R, C, I, Landmark, Parks, etc will have different values here depending on what they do. I simply don't have the space to explain them all to you, but if you have a question don't be afraid to ask me. This is a breakdown of what you can do here:
Building Value - How much this building is worth in Simoleons.
Bulldoze Cost - How much it will cost the city to tear it down.
Capacity Satisfied - Actually, pretty complex. This is a pair of values: the first is a hexidecimal code that points to a certain demand or capacity (in this case, CO), the second is how much of that capacity this building satisfies. In the case of this building, the second number is how many people will be employed (this can change depending upon which capacity or demand the hex number points to - check out the Mods section for the hex codes). You can check the box next to "Hex" to display in the hexadecimal format (hex is shown like 0x00000000).
Construction Time - How long it will take for the construction crew to finish.
Exemplar Name - How you will find your building in the LE - also, the name that will show when you query the building.
Flammability - How likely the building is to catch fire (the higher the number, the more likely).
MaxFireStage - How long it will take the building, once on fire, to burn completely down (not sure as to how it converts to real-life terms).
Pollution at center - How much pollution this building produces broken down by air, water, garbage and radiation, in that order - don't get carried away here!
Pollution Radii - The radius of pollution - ie the size of the circle this building will pollute, expressed in "cells".
Water/Power Consumed - How much water and power this building uses, I assume it corresponds to the same units the in-game buildings produce, but haven't tested enough to be sure. Do not get too carried away!
Worth - If this building is levelled by the robot (or any other disaster) how much it will report to the disaster tally - ie, if you have 1000 here, if you lose the building to a volcano, §1,000 will be added to the disaster total.
The little window at the bottom just above the OK button gives you a short description of what the boxes do when you highlight them. Remember that some boxes let you type directly in them, some are drop-down menus, and the rest are lists (you have to hit the "ellipses" button - it looks like it's got 3 dots on it - to change the values). For now, we're just going to change the Exemplar Name to "BAT Tutorial, Inc" (without the quotes) and leave everything else alone. Take note that the PM will assign default values it feels are appropriate for the building based on its volume.
The Common Tab lets you assign the building to a Building or Prop Family (it's a lot to explain if you don't know what they are - the help file for the LE should help you with this), Advanced Tab lets you choose what foundation you want on this building, Plugins Tab tells you what plugins this description file depends on (it will usually only be your model, unless you've done some tweaking in the Reader or DatGen), and the General Tab tells you all kinds of stuff that may or may not be important to you. Note that you can make no changes to Plugins and General.
Once you've made all the changes you'd like to make, hit "OK" and the PM will give you the above window. If you ever want to make changes, you can always come back to the PM, click on the category in the navigation tree, and double-click your description file to make changes. You will not have to re-build the lot or re-export the model for the changes to take effect.
That's it for the PM, so you can go ahead and close it. Next, the Lot Editor. I'm going to explain to you very basically how to put your BAT creation on a lot. If you need to know how to use the LE itself, I'd suggest looking for the guide included with it. It will either be in:
Start >Programs (All Programs in XP)> Maxis SimCity 4 Lot Editor Manual
C:\Program Files\Maxis\Sim City 4\Lot Editor Manual (HTML document)
When you open the Lot Editor, you will need to pick a lot to modify. Be careful what you pick here. The lot you pick must be the same type (ie - CO, CS, R, etc) and at least large enough to accommodate your building. The wealth level (ie - §§§, §§, or § is unimportant. I always pick a lot at least a bit bigger than what I'm looking for.
NOTE: If you get into the lot and can't locate your building, double-check to make sure you are in the right type and the lot is definately big enough to accomodate the building. Sometimes, if I can't locate my building, I make the lot way too big for what I'm trying to do just to make sure it's not that the building is out of scale.
To get your building on this lot, first go to the Building tab, click on "Replace Item", find your building and click on it, click "OK", and create your lot as you see fit. Notice I made this one a 2x3 instead of a 3x3 like I said I would? That's a matter of personal preference, but when I looked I thought this building would look better on a smaller lot. Besides, it's my tutorial and I can do what I want. So there. (LOL)
Once you're ready to save, click the "Save As" button (this is very, very important - otherwise you will overwrite whatever lot you picked to begin with). Give it some kind of appropriate name in the "Select Name" box. The LE will automatically give you the type, wealth level, growth stage, and lot size of the lot you originally picked. You can change them to something more appropriate like shown (I like trying to stick with the already established naming scheme - makes everything easier for me, but you can pretty much do whatever you want here as long as its unique).
We're almost done!
The very last step is to test your lot in the game. I believe this is even more important than getting the perfect-looking lot, or getting that front overhang just so. Nothing in the world is worse (well, there are worse things, but this is an example) than uploading a lot that you say does X, Y, and Z, but it doesn't. This is also part of where the temptation comes to make a ploppable. Ploppables are a dime a dozen, but growables will get noticed. There is absolutely nothing wrong, however, if you make a ploppable version (you may want to look into getting the RCI Plop Mod from ST by RalphaelNinja), but you must test both. What you'll be looking for here is little out of the ordinary things, like the query name isn't right, or the number of jobs is way out of proportion, or things like the circled foundation. In addition, you'll want to make sure that the building turned out like you wanted it to.
Remember how dark everything looked in gmax? It will not quite look the same in SC4. You may notice most (or all) of the textures turned out lighter than you anticipated. I chose some of the textures on purpose to demonstrate this. At this point, you'd probably want to go back to your model and tweak it. Whenever you pick textures, just remember to get it about 2 or sometimes 3 shades darker than you actually want it to look (if you have a high-falutin' program like Fireworks or Photoshop, they can really help with this).
Take note that if you get the lot into the game and find out that something isn't quite right with the model, then it's perfectly OK to change the model and re-export. At least with all the files I've used, the export will overwrite the old one (which means it keeps everything you had originally changed to the description and lot, so no need to recreate them). It would also be a good idea (and I usually do this) to define the model as a park just so I can plop it down in the game before I finalize a lot or descriptions just so that I can see what it looks like.
To take care of the foundation, you have a few choices: go back and make your building a perfect rectangle, create a custom foundation, or make it so the lot doesn't conform to slope (or does it very slightly). I wouldn't want to go back and change the model at all. I've heard nothing but trouble comes out of the foundations (though, I've never tried it). The best (and easiest) solution would be to simply make sure the lot either doesn't conform to slope, or that it doesn't do that very much. See the LE manual for help with that.
(In the first export, I had to fix a problem and forgot to change the windows back to blue - sorry if that caused any confusion.) I replaced the a couple of the offending light textures with darker ones. I think it looks a lot better! (In case you're wondering, the corners and window sills were replaced with the same texture that was used on the foundation/roof overhangs - the foundation/roof overhangs were replaced with this texture.)
Of course, this little building doesn't come very near Maxis quality, but it'll get you off to a very good start!
Please Note: This texture is not presently available to download... it should be available within a few weeks.
Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting
This page will cover a (very limited) few more advanced tips, some time-saving tricks, and a little troubleshooting.
First, the troubleshooting.
Don't you just hate it when something like this happens? This one is simple, the building was not centered on the origin before it was exported. Simply go back into gmax, center the building (group the whole building and X/Y move it to 0). They get harder, I promise.
What if in the render, or in the LE and SC4 all you see is something like this sitting on your lot instead of your nice, beautiful building? This one's simple too, the LODs are too small for the model. Refitting LODs in the BAT rollout will fix this one. The difficult ones are coming, I really do promise.
If you get something like this, watch out cause your model is done for...
No, just kidding, it can be fixed. Maxis suggested that the above problems could be a lighting rig or LOD problem and suggested that the lighting rig should be deleted, then re-fitted, and the same for the LODs. For me, that didn't work. Instead, I did the following (can be considered a general "fix-all" solution for something really wonky that nobody seems to know what it is):
1. Select your entire model, leaving out any cameras or lights you didn't add;
2. Go to File >Save Selected and give your building a unique name (this is the same as exporting just roof junk);
3. Open a completely clean BAT file (the best way to make sure this happens is close the BAT and re-open);
4. Go to File >Merge and select your building model;
Problem solved! Something like this is just like Maxis suggested, an LOD or Lighting/Camera Rig problem. Since it went all buggy for no apparent reason, it's a good idea to start with a clean slate. Note that first, you may want to double-check to make sure you don't have any geometry or splines unexpectedly sticking way out of the model.
If you export your new skyscraper, and then notice to your dismay that the lights don't seem to go all the way up, it can be heartbreaking. This is usually (not always) a lighting rig problem (ie - the rig isn't big enough for your building). To fix this, delete your current lighting rig by going to File >XRef Scene and removing whatever's there. Next, hit the "Add" and navigate to:
There are four lighting rigs - Rig (default), RigMedium, RigBig, and RigHuge. Maxis seemed to indicate that these rigs should accomodate all possible sizes of buildings, but it is possible to create your own (I'm not even going to begin to get into that - check the BAT help files for more information). My suggestion would be that if the huge rig is still too small for your building, then your building will probably cause all kinds of problems in game due to its size. Scale it.
Suppose you've gone through all the hard work of creating a building, exporting it, and putting it in the game only to find out it's way out of scale? Or, suppose you want to re-use your gorgeous HVAC unit and turns out it looks way too big on your new building? Select and Scale will help here.
- WARNING -
This becomes very tedious. It's always better to try keeping the correct scale in mind at all times.
The first thing you'd want to do is decide exactly what needs scaling. Does the entire building need to be taller? Shorter? Wider? Or maybe that overhang is too small after all? What you'd want to do is select everything you want to scale (most likely it's going to be the entire building) and group them (not absolutely necessary, but it really helps). Next, you'll need to pick one of the scaling options:
1. Select and Uniform Scale - keeps the object's proportions while scaling - so if you make the building narrower, it will also make it shorter and smaller front to back.
2. Select and Nonuniform Scale - does not keep the proportions - will give it a "stretched" or "squashed" look - whatever you change will be the only scale changed.
3. Select and Squash - seems to do just about what Nonuniform Scale does, but I've never really used it.
Once you have your scaling option selected, and your objects grouped, it's now time to scale! Unfortunately, scaling doesn't seem to be an exact science as shorter buildings in SC4 have been exaggerated to show detail and taller ones have been scaled back so they're not overwhelming (but if you model the way I showed you, this shouldn't be a problem). What you're going to do is type in whatever you want to change in X, Y, and Z. Just like with moving, X will always change left/right, Y front/back, and Z up/down. The numbers in these boxes are percentages, so if you want to increase the height by 10%, then you'd type 110 in the Z box. If you make a mistake, it's easily undone by changing the number back to 100. Just be forewarned, you can spend hours scaling something and still have it turn out wrong. Also, if all you need to change is the building itself and none of it's detailing, you will need to manually move the detailing back to where it should be. See, told ya it can be very tedious.
NOTE: If you change the value for Z, you will have to place the building back on the X/Y plane (2d world), or else you'll lose that part of your model underground!
With enough attention to detail, with just the information I've given, you can model some pretty amazing stuff.
1. Detail, detail, detail - almost every detail you put in will show in the render.
2. Text - for any kind of text to show well at all, it needs to be extruded (just like any other spline) - for something that's "painted on", an extrude of 0.1 or a little less will do nicely.
3. Textures - they need to be at least 2 shades darker than you think they need to be to show like you expect them to.
4. Realistic buildings - avoid faking detail like the plague! Yes, the above model has faked detail, but just like MaxisBrian (I believe it was) suggested, detail should never be added with textures, textures should accentuate the detail.
5. Don't overlook the lot - you can have the bestest BAT building in the whole wide world, but if your lot is grass with a tree or two, people will likely ignore it.
6. Windows - it is OK to place a rectangle behind the glass of a window to give it the illusion something's going on inside - how insane would it be to model every single room of a 55-story office building (note that you can put one huge rectangle behind the glass and use a bitmap with lots of little squares going on)?
7. Window glass - instead of modeling every single pane of glass, why not put one huge rectangle centered in the wall? This is great if you're going to do the night lighting inside modeled rooms, not so handy if you're going to use "nite" to light up the glass.
8. Never release before you're ready - no matter how much other people are pressuring you to release your work, remember that the building and the lot reflect on you. If it's not exactly how you want it, keep working and ignore the beggars! After all, what's most important is that you're happy with it, right?
9. Save often, and in multiple places - you never know when your file will be corrupted or your computer will lock!
10. If you don't know and can't find it, ask - the only way you'll ever know is to ask if you can't find the answer on your own. The only stupid question is the one never asked!
Now that we're just about finished, a few tricks:
If you're creating a taller building, like this 20-story office building (well, the wall of one), array is your best friend. Just like when you arrayed the window openings on BAT Tutorial, Inc, you will need to array your windows across. Unlike the tutorial building, however, you will also need to array the windows up. To accomplish this, you'll set your 1D array just like you would if it were only 1 floor, and change the 2D array (make sure to select the radio button) to the number of floors. Note that here, it's only necessary to make the Z for 2D the height of the floors. A few seconds later, you have a wall full of window openings! (After an extrude, of course.)
Let's suppose that you have something like the upper left-hand picture, but you want it to look more like the night render? You'd need to light it, of course! (I did this one in a bit of a hurry, so it looks like crud - but anyway.) I'm really not going to explain this in explicit detail, but I included a screenie of the settings I used for this particular model. In this model, there are 6 spots and one omni light. Also, if you want shadows to cast onto the ground, you'll need to put something on the ground in the BAT - otherwise no shadows for you!
The lighting above is for example only. Whenever I'm lighting a model, I usually end up playing with the settings and doing test renders over and over. Just remember that for this, unlike the texturing, SC4 has a tendency to make lights darker. That means you'll need the lighting to be a bit brighter than you actually want it to turn out. (For Vu Quest, I think I did about 30 or so test renders, and 4 exports.)
Now, a few tips about editing your splines.
Let's say you want a nice, bendy shape like this one? All you have to do is put an edit spline modifier on a spline (like a rectangle), use the selection method of "Vertex" in the edit spline rollout, and move the verticies up.
If you move those little green boxes around, you can change the curve of the line.
You can also delete verticies to create interesting shapes. If you delete a vertex, gmax will connect that side between the two verticies that the deleted vertex used to lie in the middle of. Be careful, though. If you delete all of the verticies, they will disappear, but the spline will still be there.
If you want to create a quick and simple arch (this can be a little tedious if you don't have a good eye for it) you can simply edit the spline. All you have to do is apply an edit spline modifier to the rectangle, and (using the selection method of "Vertex") pick individual verticies to move the green boxes around until you get a pretty good curve out of it.
Lastly, if you don't want the sides to be curved, but don't want to mess around with changing the curve of the line, an edit mesh modifier is for you. Slap an edit mesh modifier on your spline, choose vertex or face in the rollout, and move until your heart's content. There will be no curvature to the faces, they'll just use the shortest possible distance.
That looks complicated, don't it? Well, I'll explain it. Let's suppose you wanted to make a roof like what's on top of Vu Med farther up the page. You'd follow these steps:
1. Set Grid and Snap Settings to "Vertex" and "Grid Points".
2. Assuming you already have an extruded rectangle on the roof, snap a pattern of lines like so (note that you have to complete each side - ie, the shapes on all four sides are complete polygons). When you snap that last vertex, window 7 will appear. Click "Yes" so that the shape becomes one poly.
3. Put an edit mesh modifier on each of your roof sides, and you can either use the "Vertex" or "Face" selection method in the edit mesh rollout to move the tops of them up like so.
4. Snap a rectangle into the opening in the top, and move it down a bit. Also, in this step, you'll need to snap rectangles in the empty space between the rooftop and the upper edge of your side roof pieces (4A). For these, the rectangle will be made facing you. So, if you snap the rectangle in the left view, the rectangle will be facing left. So you don't have to go through messy extrudes, simply rotate the rectangle 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. Clone and/or create new rectangles until you have all of the empty space filled.
5. So there's some kind of edging to this roof, snap lines with the Generate Mapping Coords and Display Mesh boxes checked. Note that for this, you only snap the lines where you don't already have one - you don't want them to overlap.
6. SUCCESS! You now have a complex-looking, but pretty simple to make, rooftop for your new buildings.
Remember when we deleted part of our bend pipe for the back of the HVAC and I said I'd show you how to fill in the empty spaces later? I didn't lie, it just took me awhile to get to it. (Go back to Minute Details if you don't remember about this.)
OK, I took a cylinder, put an edit mesh modifier on it, and using select "Vertex" deleted all but the outer 3 rings. This will leave the back part of the object empty and see-thru. To fix that, you'd need to pick "Edge" selection in the Edit Mesh rollout, and rotate one of your viewports until you can clearly see just the back part of the cylinder (like the picture with the yellow circle on it). Very carefully, select the edge that's over the empty area (it will turn red). Next, in the "Edit Geometry" rollout, change the Extrude to the negative of the height of your shape and hit the Extrude button (ie- if your geometry was 120 meters tall, then the extrude would be -120). Do this for all the remaining edges until the back is filled in.
Remember also that if you fill in the back of the cylinder this way, the back will be one face. This means that if you put a texture on it, it will be stretched across the back face. Just thought I'd warn you so you didn't get the same nasty surprise I got.
When you're done, you will notice some very strange shading on the geometry. Do not worry about this at all, it doesn't show in the render.
Well, I could go on and on and on with tips and tricks, but I suppose that's about it for now. Using all of the methods I've shown you, some pretty impressive buildings should begin to appear on the STEX.
Remember our deal, though, NO DUPLICATES OF BAT TUTORIAL, INC. Please - I don't wanna get in trouble with Grampa Al or dirk.