Skill Level : Intermediate
Please PM STomnibus if you have any questions about this article.
The purpose of this tutorial is to help lot builders build the most functional lot possible, so that it functions as closely as possible to a Maxis made lot. The most common type of plop made is a commercial lot, so I will use that as an example. Commercial Offices and Services (CS & CO) lots are made almost identically, so the steps are the same. Residential plops will not work properly in game; they tend to abandon over time. This is a known problem, and does not seem to be able to be fixed, so I wouldn't start there. Industrial plops are also possible; the steps should be very similar. Ploppable industrials may not function quite as well as a Maxis lot, but get pretty close. For this exercise, I will make a Cs$ Lot.
To complete this process, I will use four programs; Plugin Manager, Lot Editor, Ilive's Reader and Ilive's LEProp. Reader can do everything that LEProp can do, but LEProp is simpler for some steps. You could also use DarkMatters DatGen, it should work just as well. I started modding using Reader, so am most familiar with it, which is why I'll use it for this. You should be fairly comfortable with these programs before attempting this, as you will do a lot with them. The Plugin Manager and the Lot Editor are available at the official Simcity Site : SimCity.Ea.Com. Ilive's Reader and LEProp are both in the Mods section of SimTropolis.
There are numerous methods used to do this process; this happens to be the method I use, and find the easiest to deal with. It also eliminates the chance of the plop lot "growing" on it's own, which other methods sometimes have a problem with.
A note on lot wealth. It is easy to want to assign your lot to a higher wealth group (Cs$ instead of Cs$). Be realistic here; many jobs out there are lower income, so the buildings should be as well. And demand for high wealth lots is low in newer cities, so only established cities will have higher wealth lots needed.
The process of doing this will be done in stages, as follows :
- Part 1) Build Your Model
Part 2) The Plugin Manager
Part 3) Building the Lot
Part 4) Modding your Lot
Part 1) Build your model
If you haven't figured out the BAT yet, then this is not the place to learn it. Once you have a model of your own, or one you have down loaded and wish to change, then continue. The only thing I will mention here is before you start, make sure your model has an appropriate name. For the ease of everyone involved, start a naming convention along these lines: Begin the name with a "tag" unique to yourself. Generally, a few letter abbreviation of your screen name works well. I use "SG_" as a prefix to all my lots, as my screen name is SimGoober. After that, follow it with a name that accurately describes your lot, and is unique to it. "SG_Store" isn't very helpful when trying to remember what file is what, but "SG_ToysRUs" is. You can edit the name of the file once it is created, but it would be better to rename the model before export, so the name of your GMAX file is the same.
Part 2) The Plugin Manager.
If you are converting an existing lot, you can skip this step. Just be sure the lot you want to convert has a landmark and growable version, as you will convert the landmark using the values from the growable. If you don't have both, you may want to start from scratch. For a new creation, follow along.
Make sure your model file is in the root directory of your My Documents/Simcity/Plugins directory, and not a sub folder. Your directory name may be a variation of that, but it should be similar. If your model is not there, it won't show up in the Plugin Manager (PM). Open the PM, and you should get a screen similar to this:
If you are not getting the full menu of building choices down the side, then you have a problem with the PM, and need to resolve it before continuing. Most likely, you will need to update your game, and reinstall the PM from the Maxis website.
Now, in my picture there is only one model showing, for SG_ToysRUs, so I will use that for our demo here. You may have numerous files showing yourself. If your file is not showing, then one of two things has happened:
1) You didn't put the file where you should have.
2) You added special characters (#,$,%,^,etc) to the name. PM only recognizes numbers and letters.
First, we will make a desc file for a growable lot. If you don't want a growable as well, you can delete this file and the lot we create later afterwards, but this helps to get a baseline for some of the values you will need for your functional landmark lot. You can also open this file later to copy some of these values over, which might be simpler than adding them in on their own. Click on the model file, and drag'n'drop it over the Cs$ branch of the File Types tree. This will start the process of making a desc file. If you just click on "OK" at the bottom, you will get a desc file with all the default settings. Don't do that yet, we need to make some minor changes.
You should get a screen that looks something like this
There are five tabs across the top, but we are only concerned with the "required" one. This is where we will do all of our changes. On this screen, I will go down the options one at a time:
Building Value : You can ignore, or change to your liking.
Bulldoze Cost : You can ignore, or change to your liking.
Capacity Satisfied : This is what tells the game how many occupants (in this case jobs) the building supplies. It will be 2,4, or 6 numbers, depending on the wealth level (Cs$, Cs$, or Cs$). These numbers are paired; each pair set to a lot wealth. The first number tells the game which lot wealth these occupants go in, the second how many. Don't mess with the first number in each pair, only the second. You can edit the 2nd, 4th, and/or 6th numbers to what you like. The PM generally puts fairly accurate numbers here, but they may differ from what you want.
Construction Time : Generally ignore, unless you want to change.
Exemplar Name : Edit this, and add "_Grow" to the end. This is not necessary as the game goes, but makes it easier to tell which desc file is which later, as they all share the same names for the same model. Trust me, just do this for simplicity sake.
Flamability / Max Fire Stage : Generally, leave as is.
Pollution at Center : Generally, leave as is, though edit if you feel it is necessary for your lot. The third number is the amount of Garbage this lot produces, and the PM tends to make it pretty big; you may want to reduce it.
Pollution Radii : Generally ok as is.
Power Consumed / Water Consumed : Edit if necessary, the water value tends to be high.
Worth : Generally, leave as is.
This info will help you make a lot that functions more realistically in the game, as you will apply this information to your landmark desc file as well. You can now hit Enter to save this file.
Ok, now we will make the landmark desc file. Go back to the top of the left hand menu, and click on your model file again. Now drag'n'drop it over the Landmark branch of the File Types tree, and you should get this screen :
I'll Go through these options as well. Several of these could be edited to match the growable now, but it is easier to do in the Reader later, with fewer keystrokes. That also reduces the potential for mistakes.
Budget Item Cost: Generally, Landmarks have a cost per month, but Commercial buildings do not. You can edit this if you like, or ignore it. We will fix that later.
Bulldoze Cost : Edit as you see fit. Personally, I generally make that 10% of the plop cost, but it can vary a lot.
Exemplar Name : Again, edit this name, and add _LM to the end.
Flammability : Ignore for now
Item Description/Name : These are fairly self explanatory, just be brief with both. The name should be just that, and the description a brief tag line. You can get creative here.
Landmark Effect : I'd leave this alone, as you probably won't want it on a functional lot. We will remove this property later.
Max Fire Stage : Ignore for now.
Mayor Rating Effect : Similar to Landmark Effect.
Plop Cost : Edit this to a reasonable amount. The default is 110,000, which is fine for a big fancy high rise, but for a local gas station it's a little unreasonable.
Pollution at Center / Radii : Ignore for now.
Power / Water Consumed : Ignore for now.
Wealth : This is an easy lot killer, as if you mess this up, your lot will crash the game. For a Cs$ lot, it is low (1), Cs$ is medium (2), and Cs$ it is High (3). Make sure this matches what lot wealth you have picked. This was the final bug for me to figure out, and a simple one to overlook.
Now you can save this file (hit enter), and we are on to building the lot.
Part 3: Building the lot
Before building your lot, it is a good idea to clean out your plugin directory. Temporarily move any down loaded lots, mods, and the like to a "storage" folder, only keeping those with props or textures you REALLY want to use on your lot. There are two benefits to doing this
- 1) The Lot Editor will load faster, and the lists of props will be much shorter and more concise.
2) The props you use won't be from a lot that someone else may not have, which is what is referred to as a "dependency" . Those props depend on another file being present on everyone's system.
Open the lot editor, and choose any Landmark lot, which will begin with the letters "LM". The Sphinx lot is a good one to use, as it has very few things on it to remove. Under the lot tab, increase the lot size to accommodate the building you have created. If in doubt, or you building doesn't show up later, make it bigger. You can always make it smaller once you building is on it. Under the building tab, click replace building, and navigate to the one you want.
For simplicity sake, remove all the props, overlay textures, and base textures, by deleting them. For the best results, start with a blank slate and add things to it. Make it a practice to always delete an overlay or base texture before applying a new one. On occasion, the one "underneath" may not get deleted, and may show through in game. Add whatever props, textures, flora, etc you want to get the desired affects.
Once you have set the lot up the way you like it, do a "Save As", and rename your lot. I am going to stress again using a naming convention; the lot name should be very similar to your model and desc file names. This makes organization much neater and easier. For my lot, the model was SG_ToysRUs_xxx.sc4model , the desc file SG_ToysRUs_LM_xxx.sc4desc, and the lot file SG_ToysRUS_xxx.SC4lot . The xxx are the numbers Maxis assigns while creating the file. There are many benefits to doing this from the first lot on; just trust those of us who have learned the hard way. You may also want to include the lot size in the name, for quick reference. I have taken to doing this recently, ie : SG_2x3_ToysRUs_xxx.Sc4Lot
Now is also a good time to make another copy of this lot, in case you mess up the conversion, and need to start over. Do another "Save As", and add "Backup" to the end of the name. If at any time you need to start over, you can delete the faulty copy, and make a new one quickly from your back up. Exit the lot editor after this.
Now, Test your lot in game. It will not be functional yet, but it should show up as a landmark. You are not testing for the affects of this lot, but just for appearances. Test it under day and night conditions. If you want to go back and change anything, now is the time. Do not progress to the modding stage until you are happy with it. After it has been modded, sometimes the lot editor will have problems reading it. Also, if you go back and do another save from the lot editor, you may lose some or all of the modded content, and it is not always obvious what is or is not missing. I learned this the hard way also.
Now, once you have the lot looking the way you want it, it is time to build a growable version. If you don't plan on releasing or using it, make it very simple : add the building only to the same size lot and do a save as. You'll need some of the values from this file to get the plop to work better.
To make a growable lot, open the Lot Editor, and scroll to any file that begins with "Cs$". This will be a growable, low wealth commercial services lot. Note that medium or high wealth look very similar, they just have more dollar signs. Be careful to choose a lot from the correct lot wealth, and make sure it is an "s" (services) lot, and not an "o" (Office). The numbers after that describe that actual lot, but it doesn't matter which one you pick, as you will change everything. Open it up, and edit everything just like the Landmark you did. Then go back to the main "lot" tab before saving.
Now before doing a "Save As", look at some of the informations here. The two main things are the lot sizes, and the growth stage. You want to use those when naming this file. The game won't care what you name it, but it makes things a whole lot easier for yourself and the community at large to maintain the naming convention that Maxis started. This way, it's easy to tell at a glance that this is a growable lot, and what growth stage it will appear at.
Name your file as such : "Cs$" + the growth stage number then the width x depth, then your tag, then the lot name. It should look something like this : Cs$2_3x4_SG_ToysRUs . This tells us at a glance what type of lot this is. It will also make a lot of us happier when we download your lot, that you payed attention!
Part 4: Modding your Lot
This is where we will use the Reader program, available from Ilive.
Ok, now open the Reader program. Open the file for your lot, and you will get a list of different file types. Click on one of the Exemplars, there are usually two. One is a Lot Configuration file ,the other is the Building file.. You can easily tell which is which by the second property "Exemplar Type". The Building exemplar will look like this:
Note : The very first property is the Parent Cohort. In the past we edited this field, to make the lot behave as the other similar Maxis lots. We have since learned that this is not necessary, and can actually cause problems. The original list of Parent Cohorts used actually also ties this lot to a building family. This resulted in you building occasionally showing up on the wrong lot! Also, when these values were first determined, we did not have access to the Plugin Manager. With that program, the need to change this field has become redundant. Leave it alone; there is no need to edit anything here.
Let's do one minor house keeping thing first. Change the property "Exemplar Name". Right now, we are actually working on a copy of the LM desc file we made, copied into this lot file by the Lot Editor. Since this lot will no longer be a Landmark lot, we should change that suffix from "_LM" to "_Plop". This way, if we use the Lot Editor to make another lot with the landmark desc file, we can be sure which version we are using. It can be confusing in the Lot Editor, as if you opened it up again right now, and went to the change buildings tab, there will be two listings for this building! One is the desc file, the other the lot. Unless you know the Instance numbers, you can't tell them apart. Actually, if you won't be making another Landmark lot with this building, it is best to now delete that desc file. It serves no further purpose.
Now we begin the editing process. There are numerous properties on a Landmark lot, that are not necessary, or not wanted, on a functional commercial lot. There are also numerous with values different from our growable, and we want them to match. So what we will do is delete a bunch of properties, and then copy and paste them from the growable desc file. This is much simpler than adding them one at a time, or editing them each, and reduces the possibilities of entering the wrong values.
Please note that almost all values shown for the properties in Reader are in Hex format. That is why they look weird. You don't need to understand that format to use it, as Reader will translate any new data to Hex, if you do it right. Basically, any time you need to manually enter a number, do it one of two ways:
1) Enter it decimal format. When you hit apply, the Reader will change it to Hex.
2) Enter the full hex number, starting with "0x". This is what to do if you are making a minor tweak to an existing number.
First, let's delete the unwanted properties. Select the first property to delete; "Pollution at Center". Now, while holding down the Ctrl key, very carefully click on each of the following properties, as shown in this picture :
Now, very carefully, right click over any of those properties, and select "Delete Property". If you have difficulty Deleting these as a group, it can be done one at a time; it's just a little more tedious.
You will be asked to confirm. Do so, and they are gone!
Now we need to add in the correct values. We can do this one of two ways. If you right click over the properties area, you can select "add property", and add properties as necessary. Then you add what you want, as well as the values you need. For what we want to do here, there is an easier way. We will copy the properties we want from the growable desc file we created earlier.
Open the growable desc file, and select the exemplar file. Don't worry, Reader can have several files open at once, and they are all listed down the left side. We want to select several properties in this file, and copy them to the lot file. First select the Exemplar file, then select the properties; do this by clicking on one of them, then while holding the Ctrl button down, select the rest as well. Select the properties as shown here:
These are the properties, and a brief description of what they do :
- 1) Purpose : Describes the type of lot this is. In our case "Services".
2) Capacity Satisfied : The number of occupants (jobs or residents) this lot holds, in each wealth category.
3) Pollution at Center : Pollution types. Easier to copy than enter manually!
4) Power Consumed : Again easier to copy
5) Flamability : ditto
6) Query Exemplar GUID : The type of query this lot uses in game. This is the default commercial query in our case.
7) Construction Time : Optional. Use if you want this lot to appear under construction when plopped.
MaxFireStage : Again, copying is easier.
9) Pollution radii : Ditto.
10) Worth : The lot worth. For use in case it is destroyed by a disaster.
11) Occupant Types : Types of Sims that work here. Ties to Capacity Satisfied, and Occupant Groups.
12) SFX: Query Sound : The sound that plays when the lot is clicked on.
13) Crane Hints : Related to Construction time.
14) Water Consumed : Another one to copy.
15) Building Value : The value of the building, for calculating taxes.
Once they are selected, right click over one of them, and select "copy properties". This is a real handy tool, which helps keep everything neat and simple, and reduce errors.
Then go back to the lot file, select the "Building" exemplar, right click over the properties area, and "Paste Properties" into your lot. This is the easier way. Again, you could add these properties in one at a time, but this way reduces chances of errors.
Now there are just a few clean up things to do. First, lets look at the "OccupantGroups" Property
For Landmark lots, there should be three values here. The second two are not necessary, and we want to add a new one. Double click on this property and a window opens up with the details. Select the second and third values, and click on remove.
Now open it again, click on add, and type in the value "0x00013110". Click the first apply button , and you should see two values in the top and the bottom. Hit the bottom apply button, and this window closes and the changes take affect.
What this does, is add the property "Building:Cs$" to the Occupant groups. I got the value for this from the field directly above the OccupantGroups one : OccupantTypes. The very last value here (in this case, there is one, but for higher wealth lots there are more) is 0x00003110. To get the corresponding occupant group, add a 1 to the fourth position, making it 0x00013110. This field is a minor detail; to my knowledge it only affects the way the in game My Sims function, but it may have other affects as well not understood. It is done in the Growable desc file this way, so I do it this way here as well.
The last item to look at is the "Item Order". This could be skipped, but is worthy of a note. This property sets up where the lot will appear on the landmark menu. All Maxis lots will have a value of "0", and custom lots default to "1". There is a thread on the SimTrop forums by BigRedFish that explains how to use this value; I would suggest reading it. Here is a link to it : Item Order Exemplar. I use a unique value here myself, and all my lots should group together on the menu. As long as no one else picks my value, it will stay that way. Most custom lots on the STEX maintain that "1" value, and are mixed together.
The very last step is the most important : SAVE. None of these changes will take effect unless you save the file before exiting.
Now we will make a couple minor edits to the Lot Config exemplar. These changes allow the lot to function a little better in game, and also prevent this lot from trying to grow. By modding the landmark lot into a functional plop, we have made it very similar to a growable lot. On occasion, the game will forget the difference, and try to make this lot grow. We can fix that by editing a couple fields.
First open the Lot Config Exemplar: (Note this section has been added, so new files were used for the pics. The values are not the same as the above lot)
Depending on the size of your lot, and the number of props used, your version probably has a lot more of the "LotConfigPropertyLotObject" properties.
We need to directly edit three values, and optionally add a fourth. The first value is the "Growth Stage". It defaults to "0x01", which is stage one. Although this lot shouldn't grow at all, we can guarantee it won't grow by changing this. Double click on this property, and in the bottom box, change this to "0xff". Hit the top apply button to change it, and the bottom apply button to exit. This changes the growth stage to decimal value 255, which doesn't exist, so the lot cannot grow.
The next two values to change are : LotConfigPropertyWealthTypes & LotConfigPropertyPurposeTypes. For a landmark lot, these are usually left blank. For our purposes, we want to have these the same as the growable version of the lot we made. Open that lot, and get the values from there to change these two properties. In this case they are "0x01" and "0x02".
The last field is the optional one. If you want this lot to appear to go through the construction phase when plopped, you need to add one property here : LotConfigPropertyDoConstruction. Add this by right clicking on the properties side, and select "Add Property". Then use the scroll down list at the top until you find this property. At the bottom box, enter "0x01", and hit the two apply buttons.
Time to save again, you should be done!
Once you have saved, you can exit and try your lot out in game. Don't forget to move all your lots in storage back into the plugins directory.
If your game crashes while using this lot, especially after clicking on it, you probably missed or messed up one of two things : The Capacity Satisfied fields / Lot Wealth relationship, or the query. If the lot wealth doesn't match the types of jobs assigned, the lot may crash, or show "0/0" for jobs. If you have the wrong type of query selected, the game might look for information to fill in this query which this lot doesn't have, and crash.
You are now done converting your lot. There are many more custom things you can do, but that is not in the realm of this tutorial.
One quick and easy custom thing to do is add a custom menu icon. You can do this easily if you are good at editing pictures. Open the lot with LEProp, and "save" the menu icon at the bottom of the screen. You can then edit it in a graphics program. MsPaint that comes with Windows can do a fair job for something simple like this. Once you are done, you can "import" your new icon back in, in LEProp again. Also, in LEProp, you can edit the description and name of the lot. One quirk of LeProp; if you save the file from this program without adding text to these fields, It may save blanks here. Actually, it creates text files with these values to use instead of the name and description you added in the PM.
LEProp can also add other basic custom content as well. Play around with it, and you can change what menu the lot appears in, the descriptions, query sounds and other things. I would suggest just experimenting a bit to see where it goes.
Thanks to Cerulean, Deadwoods and Vlakhaas for help with the original version of this tutorial. For the updates to it, the information was learned mostly from GrampaAl, with a few points from Swamper77 as well. Actually, a comment from Swamper77 started the whole process of "re-learning" this process. Thanks to all!