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  1. Fantozzi liked an article by rsc204, What is Hex... Numbers don't hurt me...   
    So here I'd like to just very quickly explain the differences between the Decimal numbering system, you know, the one we use everyday for money, counting, calculations etc, and Hexadecimal. I suspect, few out there would have need to use the latter of those. But let's say you want to make mods for SC4, at this point Hex (short for Hexadecimal) is something you may need to understand. It's really not that complex, you just need to think differently, because in Hex, we also use letters for numbers. Rather than try to pick that apart badly, I think it's much easier to show you how that works in practise. We'll get to that, but quickly, I should explain the basics first...
    So in SC4, we have three groups of Hex IDs for every object/item used by the game. In many cases you don't need to know anything about them, lots for example are all assigned them automatically, as are BAT models. But, certain objects you might wish to create, will require a reserved range of IDs, which you must request. You will only be able to use those IDs you are allocated, but there seems to be a lot of confusion about how to use these most efficiently. For now, I'm going to attempt to simply explain this. But I hope in future to expand this tutorial a little, along with providing some useful tools to take all the complicated parts of using such IDs out of the equation.
    So let's quickly see which objects will require a dedicated ID range:
    Game Textures for Lots or Transit Networks Prop/Building or Flora Families MMPs (Mayor Mode Ploppables). I plan to update this section with more info and links to reserve a range in due course, bear with me.
    A quick note about TGI's (ID's/IID's)
    What is a TGI? That simply stands for Type, Group and Instance. Instance IDs are sometimes referred to as IIDs.
    Type, Group and Instance numbers for SC4 are each in 8-digit Hexadecimal format. Here's an example of that:
    0x7AB50E44 - 0x01234567 - 0x89ABCDEF
    You can simply think of the three groups of eight digits as a telephone number. The game looks for an object, by "dialing" its ID number. Think of the Type, Group and Instance parts, as much like an International Dialling Code, Area Code and Local Number. Sometimes you just need the local number. Others times you'll need the Area Code as well, sometimes you need all three.
    Usually both the Type and Group IDs are set, that is to say, you have to use specific ones, depending on the type of item. So for example, 0x7AB50E44 as a Type ID, means the item should be a texture. The group ID is like a subcategory, in the case of textures, those for game networks, like NAM's roads use 0x1ABE787D, whereas Lot Textures use group 0x0986135E. But, it's the last ID, the instance or IID we're most interested in here.
    That's a unique instance for your objects. If you are provided a range, almost certainly, you will be using the IID only. One thing to mention here, each 8-digit ID above is prefixed by 0x, I should explain this before continuing. This is just the way that Hex numbers are formatted. Depending on the application used or method of entry, you may need to include it, you may not. I know that seems less than helpful, but it'll make sense when you get there. If you are having problems, always check the format, perhaps you've missed or accidentally included the prefix, either can be a potential source of trouble.
    Why Hex in the first place?
    The answer to why computers use Hex is remarkably simple, it provides orders of magnitude more "space", using the same amount of data. But rather than trying to dwell on that too much, let's jump to an example that everyone can follow.
    When you get assigned a range of IDs for the IID, you will have a "family" or multiple "families" of IIDs. Much like with our phone number example, a family is simply the first few digits that remain the same for each ID. For this section, let's assume you've been assigned the family AAAA####. Where the # characters are digits you will need to decide upon to make your unique IDs.
    Let's look at how that would work, if the last 4 digits were using a traditional Decimal system:
    AAAA0000 - AAAA0009 = 10 Unique IDs AAAA0010 - AAAA0099 = 10x10 or 100 IDs  AAAA0100 - AAAA0999 = 10x10x10 or 1,000 IDs AAAA1000 - AAAA9999 = 10x10x10x10 or 10,000 IDs
    (Note that these calculations are cumulative, i.e. each includes the # of IDs from the previous line in the total) Now, let's look at the difference, just from adding 6 new numbers, i.e. a BASE 16 numbering system or Hex. Because we only have numbers 0-9 in the real world, Hex uses A through F to represent 10 through 16, whilst only using one character. Also note that 0 = 1 in this system, which makes sense if you think about it, 0 is after all a number. Don't focus on that too much, it's not so important.
    AAAA0000 - AAAA000F = 16 Unique IDs, no big change AAAA0010 - AAAA00FF = 16x16 or 256 IDs, look at that, already we've over twice the number of IDs the decimal system would offer. AAAA0100 - AAAA0FFF = 16x16x16 IDs or 4,096, now it's four times as many. AAAA1000 - AAAAFFFF = 16x16x16x16 IDs or 65,536, and we're up to six and a half times the number.
    If we follow this through all 8 digits, in decimal you've have a total of:
    100,000,000 IDs
    That's a lot, but with Hex, we end up with:
    4,294,967,296 IDs
    So for the exact same amount of data or space used, Hex gives us orders of magnitude more IDs to work with. So Hex is a very useful system indeed. Now think about this, each object in the game must have a unique ID. By having so many possibilities, it greatly reduces the chances that two will accidentally end up the same. Almost every time this happens, it's not the computer, its users using IDs they shouldn't have.
    If you have an assigned range for something, use those IDs ONLY.
    If you are working on something without assigned IDs, DO NOT manually create IDs yourself unless you have no other option.
    Mathematically speaking, the odds of a randomly generated ID conflicting are infinitesimally small. You've literally more chance of winning the lottery. But people, unlike random generators, often think alike or like to use similar patterns. So if the option exists to have a random ID, use it. Almost certainly it will be better for you and the wider community. Conflicts can be a big pain to find when they do occur.
    Speaking of conflicts, actually, sometimes those are useful, we may want an ID to conflict with another. Why? Well let's imagine you want to override an object in the game or from another creator, because you've altered it somehow. If your version has the same ID, it will conflict with the original. But SC4 is smartly designed, if it notices this, it will only use the last item loaded with the same ID. I.e., SC4 will override objects where conflicts occur. The only caveats here are that the object must load later than the one you are overriding. Also that some very specific instances will not work this way. For example, that's why the I-HT fix must be DAT-Packed to work, you can't override that particular file.
    How to use Hex efficiently?
    For now I'm going to cut this here... consider this a WIP. But when I resume work on this guide, I will cover all you need to know about using a range assigned to you in the best possible way. Remember that numbers, Hex or otherwise increment from the right side. When the last digit reaches 9, instead of moving one digit left and using 10, we jump from 9-A. Then through B to F, only after F do we use 10, which is actually 17. That seems like a really complicated thing to understand. But try to remember, you don't need to know what the decimal equivalent is in most cases, you only need to input the correct IDs in order. So 9, A, B, C, D, E, F then 10, it's really quite simple when you don't focus too much on the actual decimal numbers.

  2. Fantozzi liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with Paeng   

    ST: When did you first get SC4, and what do you remember about your first experiences with the game?
    Paeng: I got it right off the shelf on release. Then I got annoyed with it and put it back on the shelf. Until RH came out, now that was quite the day...

    ST: Was SC4 your first involvement with SimCity, or did you already have a history with the sim games?
    Paeng: Nah, I played on and off since the very first version... but it was always more of a seasonal thing - none of the early versions could put me in a trance like SC4 does... not even the fabled SC3000 ;-)

    ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    Paeng: In the beginning it was clearly the region play, then with RH the network stuff... Then, later again, MMPs and all the green stuff...

    ST: Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    Paeng: Maxis defaults are quite underrated - actually I like most of it... well, after some cleaning up, I'll admit ;-) The main reason why I don't use much of it any more is the inconsistent scale. I guess I like their grungy industrials best, and still use them a lot, too.

    ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    Paeng: Nope. Actually I was off the grid for quite a long time in the early 2000s, until about 2005 or 6... lots of RL, two sons in puberty... you know ;-) So basically I slept through the early custom content era... and when I woke up to it, I started downloading with a vengeance.

    ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    Paeng: Well, by the time I was getting interested in city builders again, I quickly realized that there had been a lot of batting, modding and lotting going on - behind my back, so to speak LOL... so I started some in-depth research that quickly led me to places like ST, SC4D, SimPeg and many other fan sites and repositories in all corners of the world... I pretty much stayed in lurk mode then - there was so much to catch up with, so many different 'philosophies', opinions, emotions... So for the next year or two I dug in quietly, reading tons of material in all the forums, while polishing up on my playing skills and building up a first collection of custom content - really without any plan to ever start producing stuff on my own.

    ST: Describe your progression into the world of SC4 custom content. Was it a particular lot or BAT that inspired you to take the first step?
    Paeng: No, it was more a lack of particular lots and Bats - when I started building cities using more and more custom content, I kept hitting snags and dead ends, where I just could not build things the way I envisioned them. I spent endless hours on the exchanges looking for that one piece that would fit. On top of that I was already drifting away from large city vistas, tinkering with more rural settings.

    ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?
    Paeng: Tehehe... I had this sleepy rural town, and there was supposed to be a bus stop with a pedestrian overpass - fit for small town... but all the textues, props and lots I found were too urban for my liking... that's when the bubble burst, I hit the forum wailing: "How the hell can I get this the way I want it?!" You guessed it - all answers were like "Get the Lot Editor", "Use The Reader", "Learn how to Bat"... So I started with the easiest obstacle to overcome - the Lot Editor.

    ST: Your first STEX upload was a in June of 2009. You started your now famous ‘Mountainview/Paengia’ City Journal about a month earlier. What prompted you to begin sharing your creations with the SC4 community?
    Paeng: Well, the moment I started lotting, I knew this is just my thing... so I started to look around for stuff that I can turn into lots... the security fences were basically a lotting exercise, and the fence props were there, hardly used - because they were "just" props. Then someone said, hey - this is a useful little set, you should put it up at the Stex... So I did, and to my surprise folks started downloading and indeed found it useful.

    ST: You have created and shared a wide range of lots over the past 6 years, but they all share some common characteristics. For one, you have a keen eye for the right details and a knack for eye pleasing designs. You also tend to focus on sets that have modular capabilities. How did this ‘Paeng’ style come about?
    Paeng: I strongly dislike the grid. I hated the fact that everything is forever bound to squares and rectangles. Now I can't change that basic SC4 principle... but I can do a lot to at least break that appearance. I can combine a couple of 1x1s with a 4x4 - it is still made up of squares, but it appears to be an irregular shape. That is the simple approach I took, and it continues throughout almost all the lots I created. Not everybody uses them that way, but if you look closely, most of my pieces can be combined any which way with other pieces, even if they come in seemingly unrelated sets... That's why I also use as few "dependencies" as possible - basically I use the same set of "essentials" in all my releases... Of course there are exceptions to that, certain specialty items would just suffer if I don't add special ingredients as well... but I rarely 'splurge'.
    As for my keen eye - thanks :-) Indeed I'm a stickler for details and not satisfied before I get that tickle in my gut...

    ST: A large number of your lots are influenced by the prolific BATer Pegasus. How did you come about to work so closely with one of the top SC4 custom content creators?
    Paeng: As mentioned I was drawn early on to rural settings... so the style of Pegasus held high appeal for me, aside the fact that he is a fantastic Batter (and taught me the ropes with the Reader). Add to that the fact that the Simpeg community is smaller and generally more quiet and relaxed than others - something I need for my mental make-up, I'm over 60 by now and the brash vigor of the very young does not always sit well with me ;-)... you can see why Simpeg.com became my home base. My early work is based on the 'Mountain Theme' - I probably turned every Bat and prop of that set inside out at least once...

    At some point Peg and I worked close together on a re-launch of the Simpeg site --being a (former) web-developer, my skill-set happened to match the needs-- and during that time we decided to finally tackle the Agricultural Mod - something that had been a long-time topic with some members of the Simpeg community, like Rebecca and Craig, plus a host of others volunteering for work and input and beta testing. The result was the - Pegasus doing the Bats and most of the modding, Becca and Craig most of the lotting, myself doing some lotting and modding as well as the documentation and packaging. Many addons followed, like Becca's Irrigation Canals, my Access Roads, Craig's Agri Industrials and many more...

    Regretfully, Pegasus has since retired from producing Custom Content - but he left us the simpeg keys... So Craig and I are sort of commissary webmasters, fortunately supported by a whole bunch of great people to help. Visit Simpeg and you'll know who they are :-)

    ST: I think most custom content creators would consider their work a hobby, but like anything in life, some parts are more fun than others. What do you consider your least favorite part of the Loting process? Your favorite?
    Paeng: I start with my favorite... The greatest fun is to work with other people having a similar mindset for custom content. I seldom lack ideas - but it's all so much richer and rewarding when you can do it with a bunch of people who enjoy it as much as you do.
    Brainstorming, throwing ideas around, solving problems together, continuously learning from each other, or just generally shooting the s*hit - that's what makes it worth all the time we sink into this... passion. Hobby does not really fit :-)

    Then of course the actual lotting process - slowly seeing your idea taking shape, pulling together all the right ingredients until there is harmony - very zen.

    My least favorite? Probably the time between packaging and release. That time when you're all alone and need to check every lot one by one to tweak little things, finalize LTexts and Descriptions, remove the ballast, make icons, write the readme - the nitty-gritty stuff... that's time-consuming and concentration-eating WORK.

    ST: Since this is a sort of hobby (in the sense that custom content creators are not paid for their work), what keeps you motivated to continue releasing new creations for the SC4 community to enjoy? How much do comments in the download section mean to you? Do you get a thrill seeing your lots pop up in CJs?
    Paeng: The motivation - that this game is still alive after all these years, still attracts new players, and is still not depleted as far as new discoveries and new techniques are concerned... and that it still attracts people to pick up Custom Content Creation and come up with amazingly unique stuff...

    Comments - I had to learn not to let them get to me... I have spoken to producers who were about to leave it all behind (and some who actually did), just because some jerk made a snide remark, or because some troll pulled the ranking down... On the other hand it's uplifting when a comment is really "speaking" to you, taking the time to form at least a full sentence. But I can fully understand that not everybody has the time or is in the mood to do this all the time.

    So naturally - seeing one of our items pop up in a CJ is always thrilling - it's the best applause we can get.

    ST: You have been loting amazing creations for almost 6 years now. Is there any one of your creations that you are particularly proud of? Are there any fun stories or facts relating to some of your works that we don’t know about?
    Paeng: Since you ask for one personal favorite, then it has to be my & - if only for versatility and size, it has something for everybody... and there are countless hours in that one, both for me and any player ;-)

    Though most credit must go to those who provide us with a sheer endless stream of models - they are the true heroes. Personally, I can't Bat if my life depends on it.

    Funny stories you don't know about? Not really - It's All In The Lots... LOL

    ST: Has your experience with loting had any influence on your personal or professional life? Are there any skills that you have developed over your SC4 career that have helped you beyond the world of this game?
    Paeng: No.

    ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first Lot/BAT?
    Paeng: Go into Lurk Modus. Get a feel for the community. Read up on the tools - everything you need to know is out there. Search for answers yourself. If you have questions left, ask them in a precise manner. Download lots of files and analyze them inside LE. Don't upload your first lot to the Stex. Have Fun!

    ST: Simtropolis is organized into ‘player’ and ‘builder’ categories. Regarding the ‘player’ section, do you have any favorite CJers that you enjoy following? What are your favorite SC4 ‘scenes’ (i.e., towering metropolises, urban sprawl, rural landscapes, etc.).
    Paeng: To be honest - I basically rely on BTT + 10... without that fantastic resource I'd probably miss out on a lot of CJs... so if you look at BTT plus its yearly top 100, then you know what I'm looking at - as much as time permits.

    Well, it's no secret that I much prefer rural settings. Once in a blue moon I get the urge and build up some "Towering Inferno", though even that will usally be a seaside resort, or a rich enclave in the middle of nowhere LOL... But mostly I like to zoom in on bucolic settings.

    ST: On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following? What was your most recent download from the STEX?
    Paeng: Same as on the player's side... I'm an avid collector, and with the roughly 15Gb I have collected so far, I daresay I have seen most of it - so I know who the good Batters are, if they put up something on the Stex, it's an automatic download... If I tried to list them all, I'd surely forget half of them.

    Of course I have a soft spot for all these guys who concentrate on the smaller buildings - mid- and lowrise COM and RES, so guys like MattB or Madhatter come to mind, or the guys who make great series of props, like NBVC or Murimk or Shokthrpy... but again - I can't really single out anybody, there are just so many who make fantastic content available to us...

    My latest Downloads are -

    The latest

    ST: SimCity 4 has been out for over 12 years now. Are you surprised that this community is still going strong all these years later? What do you think is the secret to its longevity? Do you think there will still be new content being created 12 years from now?
    Paeng: No, I'm not surprised - we have to remember that this game's history goes back much farther than SC4... all in all we're talking about what? Almost a quarter of a century? There is a reason for this long-time appeal - something no ego shooter can ever get near... probably because it is constructive, not destructive?

    12 years from now? Hard to say - there may still be small groups of afficionados everywhere, but the community as a whole will be totally different. Just imagining what technology can do in 2027 is kinda... mind-boggling.
  3. Fantozzi liked an article by RalphaelNinja, Preview: B.A.T.   
    Please PM RalphaelNinja or STomnibus if you have any questions about this article.
    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..

    <br style="page-break-before: always;" clear="all">
    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