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Author Topic: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin  (Read 11049 times)

Offline Randomdays

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Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« on: February 06, 2012, 01:30:58 AM »
The Freedom Force community has shrunk in the last 10 years. Few meshers and skinners are left, and many that are still around are involved in personal projects or real life has taken its toll. But there is some fresh blood coming in thanks to Steam and GOG, and those like myself that have left for awhile and have come back. Hopefully, this will help anyone out there who , like me, would like to mesh or skin, but hasn't the time or talent to do so. I'll be dividing the info into 3 "lessons";
1) Basic info on how FF/FFVTTR works and Blender setup, some general Blender commands and specific info on using it with FF. Blender is a very complex program, too much so for a full explanation here.
2) How to use outside programs to create characters, letting the program do the technical part of meshing and skinning
3) How to bring your creations into the game.
I'll probably make this into a pdf when done, but would like any suggestions, questions and especially corrections before I do so. There's still a few things I'm unsure about that some more info would be appreciated.
Lesson 1
Character basics - each character mesh in FF/FFVTTR has its own directory. In each there will be a minimum of 3 items;
1) A file named "character.nif" This is the 3D main model of the character, as well as any seperate items added to it - seperate weapons, hair, hats, etc. For both games, the file MUST be named as above or the game won't see it.
2) A file named either "keyframes.kf" or "character.kf". The first is for FF and the second for FFVTTR. This contains the animation data for the character. The file MUST be named corrrectly for the game being used or the character won't animate.
3) A directory named "skins", with a subdirectory named "standard". Inside the "standard" directory will be at least one texture file for the character. the texture or "skin" for the character is a picture that is pasted on the 3D model to give it its features, uniform and make it who it is. the file should be either in .tga or .dds format. It MUST be in this location to be seen by the game. It should, but depending on how the character was created, match the main character name. IE for the "male_basic" character, be named "male_basic.tga"
Additional items that may be in the character's folder;
1) A "head.nif" - this is the 3D model used for the talking heads seen in the small windows in game.
2) Some type of .txt or .nfo file, describing the charcter and conditions for use.
3) Additional textures in the standard directory to skin any additions to the main character, such as a weapon, cape, hat, etc.
4) Additional directories under "skins" for alternate versions of the character, or to turn him/her into a different character all together.
5) An additional texture with a basic grid network of the character to help skinners for that 3D model. The wireframe can be placed on top of the texture to grid it.
6) Additional 3D models of the character (rare) giving slightly different versions of the character.
7) Additional textures in the standard directory for lighting - glow, reflect and lightmap. These should be named to match the main texture.

8) A portrait file in any of the directories under skins for the small picture used in game.
Blender is a free 3D graphic program that works with the file format used by FF and FFVTTR, as well as many other programs and games. We'll be mainly limiting talk to how it relates with FF/ FFVTTR.
Install Blender and it's required programs either by following my setup here;
or Ewwyz's setup here;
Run Blender and it should come up with a brief popup picture and then the main screen.In the center of the screen is a pink outlined square. Blender will always start this way.

Holding the middle mouse button down and moving the mouse, you'll see that the square is really a cube in 3d space. Its outlined in pink because it is the active, selected object - the one you would be changing/ working with if there were more than one object on screen.

The cube is called a "primitive" - a basic shape used to create more complex items. Other primitives include shapes like cones, cylinders and pyramids.
With the "Num Lock" key on, the keypad is setup to give some basic views of the item in 3D space;
7 - Top View
1 - Front View
3 - Left Side View
4/6 - Rotate on Z axis
2/8 - Rotate on Y axis
5 - Change Basic Grid View
Middle mouse button down with "Shift" - move the 3d view without rotation in any direction
Middle mouse button, scrolled - zoom
Middle mouse button, scrolled, with "shift" - move the 3d view up and down without rotation
The othe 2 objects on screen on system items, representing camera and lighting. Not really used for our purposes.
We won't be needing the cube so use the hot key "X" to delete it. This removes any selected object.
Next, we'll import an FF 3D model to look at how its setup. Because of the way they were made, most of the default Irrational models won't work in Blender, but altered ones will. In this case, I'll be using Beyonder's "female_basic_boots", which is simply the "female_basic" model with flared bootcuffs on it.
Click on the "Files" button on the upper left of the screen, and then on the popup menu on "Import", then on "NetImmerse/Gamebryo" .This will bring up an explorer type window. Direct it to where your "character.nif" is located, click on it to select and hit the "import" button on the upper right. The next screen is the import options screen. Just use the default settings and hit the "OK" button.

The nif will take a little bit to load and when done, you will automatically be taken back to the main screen with the nif in the center. It will normally appear in a top down view, so hit the "1 " key to go to front view.

You'll see that there are 5 main seperate items that make up the nif.

1) The Bounding Box - used by the game for collison detection, be it environment or other characters. Usually used in FFVTTR, less so in FF
2) The Selection Box - used by the game so you can click on your character and give commands. Usually used in FFVTTR, less so in FF
3) Various Editable Meshes/ Biped objects - Frankly not sure what these are used for - collision, animation, weapon damage. Probably something simple. Anyone?

4) The Armature - the skeleton of the model. When the character animates, you are actually moving the bones in the skeleton. You attach the main character model to the bones in a process called "rigging" or weight painting. Since the parts of the mesh are attached to the bone, when it moves, the mesh moves. Just like real life.
5) The main character model - The 3D model of your character seen in the game, what makes the character who he is.
We'll look a little deeper at the armature and then the model.
Hit the "A" hot key until nothing is highlighted, then right click on part of the armature, turning it pink. Most of the armature is unseen since its inside the mesh.
Hit the "N" hot key. This will bring up the "transform" popup panel with information on the highlighted item, divided into 3 main groups.

The first group of 3 is the X/Y/Z location of the mesh. You'll want the mesh to be at or close to the origin point (0/0/0) so that it will appear in game inside the selection ring at ground level. An outside mesh brought in may have its 0/0/0 point away from the origin, and you'll have to move it there.
The second group of 3 is for rotation on the X/Y/Z axis so you can spin it as needed.
The third group of 3 is for enlarging/ shrinking the mesh in any of the 3 axis. The link button below lets you change the size of all 3 at once. Two things of note;
1) If you resize the axises by different amounts, the mesh will not export. You can solve this by hitting "Ctrl"+"A" and choosing the top choice from the menu. This sets the new size as default with the mesh being 100% of that new size. If you resize the armature, all items rigged to it will also resize, and they may need to be rezeroed as well.
2) Instead of resizing the main mesh itself, you should resize the armature, and the mesh will resize with it. If you just resize the mesh, it won't fit the armature anymore and may give strange results.
Next,at the bottom of the screen is a menu bar. Grab the bottom of the bar with the mouse and pull it up the screen. This area has a number of panels with different functions depending on what mode you're working in. You can change the size of the panels with the +/- keys and move them left/right with the mouse.
Above the panel area on the bottom menu bar, select the button with the word "Object Mode" in it. This is the mode we are in now. We want to change to "Pose Mode". Pose mode is used to check the rigging of the mesh and to set up animation poses. Blender doesn't work well with the way FF/ FFVTTR does animation so we won't be using it that much.

Once you are in Pose mode, find the Armature Panel at the bottom and turn on the "X-ray" button. This allows you to see the bones inside the mesh. In pose mode, you can select an individual bone instead of the whole skeleton. Selecting the right upper arm with the right mouse button, it will highlight blue.

Next, hit the "R" hot key. In Pose mode, this acts as "rotate" . With "R" selected, you can move the mouse and the whole right arm will move, the bones and the mesh attached to it. If you select the right forearm next and repeat, you'll see that the forearm and everything below will move, but not the upper arm. If any part of the arm was not rigged correctly to the arm bones, it would not move and would stretch to the arm as it does move - as if someone had nailed that part to a spot so it wouldn't move. Also note that the other meshes tied to the arm part of the armature move with it.

In Pose mode, if you were rigging an armature to a new mesh that didn't quite match the old one, you could use Pose mode to match the positions of the 2 meshes to match and even change the length of the bones to match better, but this must be done before you attach the armature to the new mesh, or the mesh would change size with the bone as well. More of that in Lesson 3.
We'll leave the armature and take a look at the mesh itself. Go back to object mode and then select the main mesh so its highlighted. On the "Object Mode" selection box, now select "Edit Mode" to go there. You'll see the mesh change into a lot of points and lines glowing yellow, looking pretty messy. Hit the "A" hot key to deselect all.

Zoom in on the mesh using the mouse wheel. If you right click on one of the points, it will turn yellow, with any lines connected to it turning yellow as well. This is called a "vertex", or "vertex point". This is the basic of any mesh. The more vertex points ,the more complex the mesh.

Holding down the "Shift" key, select another adjacent point. It will also turn yellow and there should be a solid yellow line connecting the two. Last, hold down the "Shift" key again and select a third point. More solid lines will appear and the space in between will turn pink. This is a "face" or as more commonly known, a "poly", short for "polygon" When a mesh is talked about as being "high poly" or "low poly", its referring to the number of polys in the mesh. At the time the game was made, 2000 was considered pretty high and would push the system, causing slowdown. Today, this is considered low poly.

On the upper part of the screen, right of center, is a tally of vertexes, lines and faces for the mesh thats being edited - current selected / max present.
Next we'll take a look at rigging, or "weight painting". For a mesh to work correctly, every vertex in it must be assigned to a bone in the armature. Since this is a working mesh, this has already been done.
Hit the "A" key to unselect all. On the far left of the panels is one called "Vertex Groups .This is where you would rig or weight paint the mesh. Rigging is done by grouping a bunch of vertexes together and assigning them to a bone in what's called a "vertex group"

Click on the selection button on the upper left and you'll see a list of all the vertex groups for this mesh. Select "upper arm right". Now hit the "Select" button on the panel and you'll see all the vertexes, along with the accompanying lines and faces, that belong to that bone turn yellow and pink.  "Deselect" turns the selection back off. The "Assign" and "Remove" buttons above allow you to select a vertex and either add or remove it from the vertex group. Each vertex must be assigned to at least 1 vertex group, but may be assigned to more than one. Vertexes at joint areas like the knee or elbow are an example. Total weight to for a vertex at most is 1.0 (100%) - if you assign the vertex to 2 groups at 1.0 each, it will average them out as if you had assigned them to .5 to begin with.

You can also look at how a mesh is rigged by leaving the "edit" mode and going to the "Weight Paint" mode. This will show you, by color, how each group is weight painted on the mesh. Bright red represents the max weight of 1.0 . you can also select a brush and weight paint an amount from the "N" panel and weight paint by hand in this mode. I prefer doing it in edit mode, but that's a personal choice.

Of the other modes you can use, one is the Texture Paint mode. With this, you can actually change the texture of the mesh by painting on it with a brush in 3D. This would probably very useful for skinners, but I have little experience with it.
Sculpt mode lets you move the vertexes around to change the shape of the mesh, but you have more control if you do it in edit mode.
Vertex Paint lets you actually paint the vertexes themselves with color, painting it without the use of a skin.
Next to the mode button is a small box where you can choose how the mesh is displayed on screen.

Textured - show the mesh with the texture applied. The texture must be in the same location as the mesh.
Shaded - Shows how the Blender lighting affects the mesh.
Solid - default view of the mesh as a solid object
Wireframe - shows the basis of the mesh as lines, without the vertexes showing.
Bounding Box - shows the bounding box as a square, hides the mesh. Not sure of its use.
This concludes lesson 1. Hopefully there was some useful information in it for you.

Lesson 2 will deal with some outside programs that can be used for meshing and skinning.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2012, 05:51:17 AM by Randomdays »

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2012, 01:31:40 AM »
Lesson 2
Character Creators Are Your Friend
In the first lesson, a few basic game and Blender functions were covered. In lesson 2, we'll look at how to make meshes and skins for FF/FFVTTR, even if you have no skill or experience, by using outside programs. Lesson 3 will deal with getting your creations into FF.
There are quite a few games out there that have a very detailed character creation system in them - RPGs especially. We'll look at a couple, how they work and offer some suggestions of other programs to try. These will be quick looks, as most will of these will have their own detailed instructions on how to use them.
Looking at the male and female civilian meshes, you'll see that there are alternate skins for each, basically simple recolors. When the game runs and places civilians on the map, it randomly selects a skin and you get different looking people walking around.
Lets replace the civilians with some new ones with some more variety to them. Starting with the male civilian first, rename the base directory to civilian_male1. Create a new directory with the original civ name, civilian_male. Inside the directory, create the skins/standard directories and copy the keyframe file over from the original male civ directory.
Next you'll need 2 programs;
1) 3D Ripper DX at . This program will run in the background of a supported direct X game. When activated by hot key, it will try to grab all 3D data on screen and save it as file, along with all textures and shaders. More info is on the website link.
2) A program with a character creator. For this example, I'll use "The Movies Game" from Activision/ Lionhead. It came out in 2005, so the polycount is a bit better than FF, but still close enough to be usable and look good. Don't worry if you don't have it, this is just an example and any simular program you might have should work as well. If you like what you see, it's pretty cheap right now and easy to pick up. More info at;
I've tested TMG on my Win7/32 laptop and it runs fine, even though the drive wouldn't recognize the disk in the drive, or the addon disk, and I had to find a no CD patch to get it to actually play.
 I have the TMG Premiere Edition with the Stunts addon pack  installed - if you don't have the full package, your choices might be different.
TMG consists of a tycoon-type sim game and as a way to make your own movies. It comes with a seperate program called Starmaker, we'll run that first. Each character in the game consists of two main parts. A head mesh and a body mesh. In the game, when you are changing your costume, the head stays the same while you get a new body mesh, texture or both.
 Starmaker deals with making the head of your character and should be a seperate icon on your screen. A full featured version of Starmaker came out before the game and is still available on the net for those who want to try it out for free. It's about 120megs I think.
Running Starmaker you'll see the startup screen where you can choose to make a male or female head.

Select "Create Actor" and you'll be asked to input his name. It really doesn't matter, so we'll call him Mr Patriot. Click the check.

The next screen shows you the actor's head, animated - smiling and blinking at you. You can rotate the head by holding the left mouse button and moving it on the head left or right.

The 5 buttons up top will give you their function when you scroll over them
1) Main Menu
2) In Game Attributes - Not important for what we're doing
3) Basic Face Modeling (lit - where you are now)
4) Advanced Face Modeling
5) Info on how to use Facemaker - brings up doc.txt
 The doc.txt gives you full details on how to use Starmaker. With Starmaker, you can age your character, change eye color, choose head shape, choose a second shape and blend the two, choose various eye makeup, facial hair, skin tone, eyebrows, hair style, etc. With the advance options, you can even change the shape of the mesh by choosing a part of the face and adjusting it with a slider bar.
The two sets of head to the left, front and side view determine which head to use from a set of premade choices. The top head is your normal choice, and you can select a second head below and "blend" the two together.
The set of colored circles below that are your eye color choices, and below that is a slider bar for aging the character from 18 up to an old man.

Since we're making a male civ, we'll keep it simple and just give him some new hair. Click on the lower of the two faces on the far left to go to a new screen giving you some basic settings. The Slider bars below the head should be self explanatory. We're just going to change the hair color to brown and leave everything else alone.
Return to the main menu, save your work and exit Starmaker.
The first time you run TMG, parts of the game are locked. As you play thorugh the game, win awards and game time progresses, you'll unlock everything bit by bit. This link; will walk you through unlocking the full game without playing thru it. Since we're working more on meshing/texturing than playing this will save a lot of time. If you already have the game, you've probably unlocked everything already and won't need this.
In Win7, the file worked when I put it here; "C:\Users\*******\AppData\Roaming\Lionhead Studios\The Movies". With WinXP, the normal location works fine.
Next, before running TMG, with 3D ripper DX installed, click on the shortcut to run that first.

On the top line, click on it to open an explorer window and point it to the executable for The Movies Game. For the capture key, I'm using F10. Some games make use of the function keys and you have to find one not being used. This works fine for TMG. Don't worry about the next 2 entries. On the right side, leave everything unchecked except for the "capture to .obj" choice. Click that on. 3DRDX captures to a .3dr file used by 3DS Max. Blender can't use this but can use the .obj format.
   For the frames, textures and shaders, have them placed in the same place. I made a directory called "Ripper" but you can put them wherever is good for you, as long as you know where they are.
Hit the "Launch" button and TMG should run. "Esc" key to skip the movies and bring up the main menu. You'll know that Ripper is working if you see the "ready to capture" message in the upper left corner. Select Game and then Sandbox mode and set your options like in the screen cap. Click the check and you'll be asked to pick a studio emblem, name and owner. Click again and the game will run.

 Once in, scroll till you find the Stage school. It will have a line of applicants in front of it.

Mouse over an applicant and grab him with the left mouse button and drop him on the "Import Star" part of the building. A popup will appear with Mr Patriot. Select him and he'll be in the game.

 Pause the game and scroll till you find the makeover department. You can grab your star by finding him on the map or just grab his portrait in the upper left and drag. Drop him in the makeover part of the makeover department.

A new screen will come up for makeover. Your star will be on the left and all his costume choices on the right. From here, you can change some of the basic Star Maker options like hair style, facial hair, eye color, etc. The right column, "Cosmetics" controls this. The left column, "Clothing" can give you alternate skins for the costume worn, as well as add items like glasses, a watch, etc.

The bottom right area will take you through the costume choices. You can scroll through all, or pick a category, like "military" or "casual"
We're going to give Mr Patriot something simular to what the male civ wears in the game. Select "formal" then scroll till you find "60's Mod Suit". Click on it and he''ll wear it. Add a hat that matches the costume and he's done and ready to be captured.
Notice that there are multiple choices for hair and eye color, as well different colors for the shirt, pants, shoes and jacket. Once the original mesh is all set up to go, you can come back here and do multiple captures, one by one, of different choices in color. Since we already have the mesh setup, all we'd need would be the new textures to go into alternate directories under the mesh's "Skins" directory to have different looks for him. From the choices given, you can have lots of different random civilians walking around. Don't do this yet - wait till the first one is complete.
Since he's animated, we need to wait until he's in a basic rest pose, standing straight with a neutral expression on his face. When ready, press your capture key. A message should appear in the upper left corner telling you the capture is in progress. To check, go to the capture directory. There should be a .3dr file, a .obj file, a .mtl file and lots of .dds and possibly some .vsh and .psh files. The .vsh and .psh files are for shading and won't be used. The .3dr file is for 3ds Max and won't be used. The .3dr, .obj, and .mtl files are named by their capture date and time. The texture and shader files are named by what I guess is a random numerical name.
 Don't change things around and capture again as you might overwrite some of the texture files. Check and make sure the .obj file is good and not 0 bits in size. If its bad, try capturing again. If the file is good, you can save and close out TMG and move on to lesson 3.
Alternate Lesson 2
This time we'll replace the civilian female mesh. As before, rename the original directory to civilian_female1, create a new directory called civilian_female, copy the keyframes in, and last make a skins and standard directory.
This time the two programs we'll need are;
1)3D Ripper DX again - see above.
2) "The Bodyshop" program from the Sims 2. The Bodyshop is a seperate program from the Sims 2 game that combinesTMG's Starmaker and Makeover functions. As with TMG, a character is made of a head mesh and a body mesh. The head has a seperate hair mesh and the body may be composed of more than one mesh.
  A limited version of The Bodyshop was released before the game and is still available free online. If you already have the Sims 2, your choices in the Bodyshop will vary on which expansions you own - and there are many! I have a full install of all packs so I may have choices you don't.
  Run the Ripper as you did before. Each addon pack has its own copy of the Bodyshop program and you'll want it to point to the one in the NEWEST pack you have - the latest made, not the last installed. It 's named "TS2BodyShop.exe" and will be the CSBin directory of the pack. Launch the program thru Ripper. It comes up much slower than TMG so give it a minute or two.

When it finally comes up, click the "Build Sims" button up top, then click on "Build or Clone Sims"

The next screen will have a prebuilt sim on the left. On the right will be 8 slots, 2 rows of 4 sims. 7 of these are prebuilt sims. The upper left green selection with the "+" is for adding a new sim. Click that button.
The program will make a random sim. Using the 3 buttons to the right of the sim, select female on the top, adult with the middle and the thinner of the 2 body types. the button below that is a randomizer. You can rotate the sim with the arrow keys at her feet.


The five buttons at the top let you create your sim

1) Genetics - skin tone, eye color and hair style and color

2) Faces - lets you alter the basic mesh of the face, changing jawline, eye shape, brow, mouth and nose

3) Modifiers - lets you alter all of the above even more.

4) Facial hair, makeup and glasses - Hats weren't included in game, but custom hats have been added by fans to the "glasses" category. We won't deal with this yet, but a good place for hats is at;
there's a blue velevet fedora that might work well on this page.

5) Clothing - from 7 basic types, plus 1 piece or 2 piece combos.. There are lots to choose from, and many of them have alternate skins. The symbol in the corner shows what addon pack it came from.

We'll go ahead and build a sim that looks simular to the one in FF. As far as I know, there's no quick way to sort through the clothing choices besides general types, such as "swimwear", "underwear", etc. We're going to select a fromal dress a third of the way on the slider bar. This dress comes in 6 different textures. With 6 dress colors, 4 skin tones and 6 hair colors, you have a base of 144 different combos you could make. some hats have alternate textures that would increase it even more.
 Once we have the dress, hair and skin setup, we can capture the sim as we did in TMG. As with TMG, you can make a lot of different random civ females from just this setup..
Once the capture is complete and the sim is saved for later use, you can close Bodyshop and move to lesson 3.
Notes on "The Movies Game", "The Sims 2" and other programs
The Movies Game - TMG covers the era from the first silent films to the year 2020. It allows you to make any movie you can think of, but has 5 main categories
1) and 2) Comedy and Romance - There are everyday/formal/swim, etc outfits that will work in this category for any year the game covers, giving many choices for typical civilians/ secret identities
3) Action  - Includes  Western - Cowboys, Indians, saloon girls, gamblers, etc,;War - military outfits for most of the major 20th century wars the US has been involved with, with costumes for the other nations involved as well; Thrillers, Detective, etc.
4) Horror - Werewolves, vampires, zombies, guys in hockey masks, etc.
5) Sci Fi  - early outfits that would fit in something like an old Flash Gordon serial, as well as more modern day stuff, as well as a few alien race and monster type outfits.
One of the main limitations of the engine was it was designed for a fixed camera angle, so all models were the exact same height. With Blender though, so can adjust their size to give a little variety.
Most of the fan sites for additional content for TMG has shut down, but there's a few left with added props, costumes, etc
The Sims 2 - The Sims 2 deals mainly with modern day life and has many different outfits to go with it. It comes with a base of 4 different skin tones and 6 different age groups - baby/ child/ teen/ college age/ adult/ senior, as well as different body weight types. perfect for making just about any civ or secret identity type.
Besides the standard choices in the Bodyshop, in-game characters can become plant people, vampires, werewolves, zombies, half aliens and witches.
Two of the main sites for additional material are the "Mod the Sims" site and "The Sims Resource" but with the popularity of the game, there's still many out there.
Maps - TS2 has an excellent in-game lot editor. Residential lots where the sims live allow you to create any house type with hundreds of choices of decorations. Community lots, like businesses and parks, allow you to create places where more than one set of sims can meet. With the "Seasons" add on pack, you can change the time of year between the four seasons and instantly add fall colors or snow to your lot. You can also change time from day to night or back.
   I don't know if it would work, but its possible thay you might be able to grab the entire lot and turn it into a giant nif for FF/FFVTTR. It wouldn't be destructable and the poly count might be too high, but its something to look into.
Other games with Character Creators to look into;
I would suggest looking at games made mainly between 2000-2007 or so. Any game outside that time will probably have too high or low polycount to be used.
1) Fantasy - Unfortunately, the two main ones I hoped would work with Ripper, don't. Neither Neverwinter Nights 1 or 2 seem to work. You can get the models out of it and into Gmax, but that adds another layer to the process.
World of Warcraft does appear to work and looks like it would be a good match for FF style of graphics. Both Morrowind and Oblivion use nifs as base, so it should be possible to grab the mesh from the files without using Ripper.
Dark Age of Camelot is an older MMO, but uses nifs as its base file type.
Other possibles (untried) - Dungeon Siege 1 and 2, The Sims Medievil, Lord of the Rings MMO, Age of Conan MMO, Two Worlds, Heroes of Might and Magic 5, Sacred 2, and The Dark Eye: Drakensang, and Guild Wars
2) Horror - besides what's in TMG, the only suggestion I can make is "Vampire the Masqerade - Bloodlines" from 2004. Perhaps some of the Resident Evil games.
3) Sci-Fi - "Phantasy Star Online" . The Gamecube and Wii emulator, Dolphin, works well with Ripper. If you have PSO for Gamecube, I would check it out. The poly count might or might not be enough to match FF.
Since NWN 1 and 2 don't work with Ripper, I don't know if Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 would, but its possible.
Last, if there's any servers still up for the original Star Wars Online, that might be worth checking out.
4) Animals - Zoo Tycoon 2 and the first two expansions. This game uses nifs that you can grab right out of the installed game. The last 2 expansions use a different file format and are hard to get, even with ripper, due to distortion in the capture.
Wildlife Park 2 also uses nifs as base file type.
5) History - Empire Earth 2 and 3 are RTS games that cover all of history from the caveman days to the future. Hundreds of unit types for soldiers, vehicles and builidings - uses nifs as base file type you can grab from the installed games. Has a mapmaker that might be useful.
  Civilization 4 - As above, but turn based.
6) Superheroes - I haven't tried any of the 3 MMOs - DC, Champions or CoH, but one of these might work. Also Bearded's new Unity project has a character creator in porgress.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 07:09:58 AM by Randomdays »

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2012, 01:32:10 AM »
Lesson 3 part 1 and Part 2 up now - almost done.
Lesson 3 - Finishing up

Now that we have an outside mesh, from wherever it came from, we need to get it working in FF. We'll start with "The Movies Game" capture, then "The Sims 2 " and then go into the "anything else" area
In your saved Ripper directory, there should be 3 things we need.
1) the .obj file that holds the 3D data
2) the .mtl file - used by the .obj data to hold info on what texture goes where
3) the .dds files - the actual textures needed
Open up Blender and delete the cube primitive. Click on the Files menu and select Import->wavefront (.obj). Navigate to where your .obj file is and select it. Hit the "import" button on the upper right.
There are 3 ways to group meshes inside the .obj file when being brought into Blender. Not really sure how everything works on this yet.
1) By material. All meshes with the same material group together. If more than one seperate object uses that material, delete one and you delete all. IE you have 10 cars in the capture and you only need one. If they all use the same materials for their tires, deleting the other 9 cars will leave you with your car with no tires.
2) By group. Each group will come in as its seperated parts. In this case, each car would have its own seperate set of tires and other parts. This way makes lots more objects than the first method because of this.
3) By object - Will import each object as a single object. If the mesh is made of parts, it will be imported as a single mesh. It may also make everything a single mesh, IE in the Sims capture, the sim and the stage and everything else came in as a single mesh.
In this case we'll be using the object method. Once the .obj is fully loaded, you'll see the character and a few extra items, captured with him from the makeover screen. We'll delete these as they're not needed.
Update on this - the second time I tried this I ONLY got the sim and nothing else. Not sure what changed - maybe what was clicked on last, maybe because I was on the base costume select screen, but helpful that it worked out that way.

After import, you'll be in top down mode, but you won't see him because his X/Y/Z origin point is off of center. Hitting the "1" hot key, you'll see he's also facing backwards and he's half underground. He'll have few other problems we need to fix as well.

 If you hit the "3" key you'll also see he's a bit thin. Ripper captures the X and Z axis okay, but has problems with the Y. With the character selected, hit the "N" key to bring up the transform panel and change the Y value from 1 to 2.5. This probably won't be perfect, but will do for now. You'll notice that as you do, so, he also moves on the Y axis as well.

It also looks like he's leaning forward a little bit. lets change his X axis to 3 degrees and his Z to 180 to rotate him around to match the normal view. This will also rotate him around the main origin point to the other side.

Now, lets look at him at front view again by hitting "1" and moving the view to center on him, zooming in as well. He looks a little rough compared to how he looked before.

 To make him look a little better, go to Edit mode, leave everything selected (yellow lines and pink faces) and go up the "mesh" button to the left of the "Edit Mode" button. Click on it and from the popup menu, select faces -> set smooth. Going back to object mode, he looks a bit different.

One last thing to do on the mesh before we move on to the next part is to look at it textured. As you can see, he looks a little strange. ".dds" files have a transparency setting set in what's called an "alpha channel". In this case, some of the textures have this turned on, making them invisible. I don't know how to turn it off, but if you export the texture to a type that has no alpha channel (like jpg or bmp) and then back to .dds or .tga, the channel is gone or turned off. In this case, his eyes and teeth are okay, but the face is transparent. Turning off the alpha channel will fix this.

The other thing that can cause this is facing. Each poly is like a flat piece of paper with 2 sides. Normally, one side will have the texture applied to it as skin, and the other one will not. if the poly has been "flipped", the sides will be reversed with the textured siding facing inward. The nontextured side will be transparent and appear to be missing. You can check this be selecting a poly and going to the normals menu under edit and selecting "flip". "recalculate inside" or "recalculate outside" will try to fix facing for the entire selected mesh, as some meshes will import looking like a checkerboard with random groups of polys facing the wrong way.

To see what textures are being used by the mesh, click on the "Window Type" button on the far left. We'll leave 3D view and got to Outliner view. You'll probably have to scroll wayyyy over to the left, by holding the middle mouse button down, to see what we're looking for. Once you scroll over, click the arrow key to open up the mesh info. You'll see the various parts of the mesh by material and what textures are being used for them. These are the only textures we need - the rest in the ripper directory were for the background areas.

Delete the unused .dds files. There's different ways to convert art files, but for .dds one of the best is DDS Converter 2. We'll run the program, convert the .dds files to .jpg and them back to .dds
Now looking at the mesh textured, he appears the way he should. Go ahead and go back to "solid view"
Next we'll bring in our FF source file.We're going to be using a modified male_basic for our nif source, in this case Beyonder's male_basic_boots. Click on the file menu on the upper left and pick import->NetImmerse/ Gamebryo. Find the character.nif location for the mesh we'll be using and hit import. Use the default selections on the import screen and hit "OK"

Once the nif is loaded, we're hide everything but the main nif and the armature. They're not needed right now and will just obscure our view. Select the armature and main mesh on the nif, plus the obj import. Then on the object menu, select Show/ Hide Objects -> Hide unselected

You should see the 2 characters on screen - the imported nif  and the imported .obj. We're going to bring the .obj up to the .nif and match size and location between the two. Hit "Ctrl" +"A" to set your size and rotation to default first. Turn on the link button and adjust him to close where he needs to be.
 Select the .obj and if its not up already, hit "N" to bring up the transform panel. Adjust the location of the .obj by changing its X/Y/Z values until its in the same place as the nif. Next, adjust the X/Y/Z sizes so its as close as possible to the .nif. As you do this, its position may move and you might have to readjust.
 He's about the same size, but still too thin. Note the current position and size on the transform panel. Any other mesh brought in from TMG will probably come in the same size and these settings would probably work for them as well. Move him so he's right on top of the nif and adjust the Y scale alone to match.

This looks like a close match for the Y. Go to front view and adjust the X to make him a little broader.


This looks like a pretty good match for all 3 directions. Take note of the X/Y/Z numbers again for location and size. This would also be a good spot to save.
When you've got it as best as it can get, hit "Ctrl" +"A" to set your new values as default.
Now that they are as close as possible, we need to adjust their poses to be as exact duplicates as we can. Select the .nif and enter pose mode. Turn on X-ray to see the entire armature. Adjust the position of the individual bones with the "R" rotate key. The main body should be all right and just the arms and legs might have to be adjusted. Adjust one limb at a time, doing the upper portion first and then the lower ones. Adjust each limb in both front view and side view. Last, some of the bones might be too long or short to match the new mesh, so we can adjust the length of the bone to extend or shrink the mesh to match. Changing the length of the bones also changes the size of any mesh attached to it. This doesn't matter for the main mesh, but will for the other items. You'll have to rezero the size of any that's been changed with "Ctrl" +"A" You can adjust the length of a bone by selecting it in Pose mode and changing its Scale Y value on the transform panel.
The right arm adjusted down in front view. It appears shorter than the obj arm.


Side view shows its still not aligned. Bringing it down will give a closer match. Adjust first the upper arm, then the lower. If you do the same on the other arm, the left arm bones should sit right on top of the right arm bones in side view, since X-ray shows them both. Adjust the arms and repeat for the legs.



When done with adjusting pose, you need to set the new position of the .nif as default. In Pose Mode, "Ctrl"+"A" sets the new pose as the default "rest pose" Failure to do so means that the new pose isn't really applied. Once you do so, you'll see the nif "snap" back into its original position, but not the armature. Thats okay - its supposed to.

Edit; Looking at the arms, I went ahead and extended both upper arms by changinging their Y scales to 1.1 and readjusting them and the lower arms. This lowered the elbows a bit and brought the hands more in line with each other.


Part 2: Weight Painting Rigging.

 Probably the most difficult part of the lesson, and the most time consuming. We have to set up the vertex groups on the .obj to match the donor and be able to animate with its kfs.

There are 3 basic ways to do this;

Method 1) We can copy the vertex groups from the donor to the obj. You can only do this if the receiving mesh has no vertex groups already.
   Select the obj, then, holding shift, select the nif. Both should be selected and highlighted.
 Go to the Windows select on the far left and go to the Scripts Window.


In scripts, select object -> bone weight copy from the popup menu


Change quality to 3, ignore the other 2 buttons and hit "OK"

It will take a minute, but the program will copy all vertex groups from one to the other. There will be a progress bar at the top of the screen.

You can now delete the nif. The last step we need to do here is attach the obj to the armature and make the armature the "parent"

Return to the 3D view. Next, select the obj, then with shift held down, select the armature. Hit "Ctrl"+"P"

Select Make Parent to -> Armature from the first popup


Select "Don't Create Groups" from the next popup

The obj is now controlled by the armature and the kfs. You can now move the obj in pose mode.


Usually, the transfer does a little better than this. Only part of the upper arm transferred, and none of the lower arm/hand at all. I might have done something wrong since its as if the donor mesh didn't match up well. Tried to correct a few times but always got the same result.
If you check what the vertex group for the upper arm looks like in Edit mode, compared to what it looked like in lesson 1, you'll see what you'll have to correct.

You'd have to go thru a lot of tweeking, comparing the original nifs vertex groups to the objs and adjusting them one by one. In this case, its probably better to reload your save from before you did method 1 and try one of the other methods.

Method 2 -  usually a lot of work as well and I hardly ever use it.

 Delete the nif. As above, select the obj and then the armature

 Hit "Ctrl"+"P" and select "Make Parent->armature from the 1st popup, and this time, "Create from Bone Heat" on the second menu.

A couple of things can happen here. One, every bone has a radius of influence around it. Any vertex within range of the bone "heat" will be assigned to that bone. This includes bones not usually associated with the mesh itself - bones like weapon, Omni, bounding and selection box, etc. You'll have to go into edit mode and remove those groups, and tweek the required groups to have the right vertexes in them.

The other thing that could happen is there's an error (as in this case when I tried) and the vertex groups are created, but no vertexes are assigned to them at all. Then you'll have to add every vertex to each group by hand. This is actually the way I do it usually to make sure I get it right, but by method 3 instead.

Method 3 - Simular to the error method of method 2 above. Delete the nif. Select the obj. With the transform panel up, move the obj away from the armature far away in any direction by changing the X/Y/Z location. Join with "Ctrl"+"P" as above, selecting bone heat on the second popup. You are far enough away that the vertex groups will form, but no vertexes will be assigned to them. Move the obj back onto the armature.

Bring up the list of all the vertex groups and delete the ones that don't belong. Then select any one you're comfortable with, and start adding vertexes to it by right clicking on them with "shift" held down. Rotate the view around. Some vertexes are inside the mesh and are hard to see, and some might have to be clicked on multiple times to make all lines radiating from them turn yellow. You can open a second Blender and import the nif there for reference. Putting it in edit mode, you can use it as a guide for what the vertex groups should look like. When you think you have the group complete, hit the "assign" button to add them to the group. Repeat till all groups are added.

What a corrected upper right arm group looks like. It probably will need to be tweeked still. The lower arm is still in place since it hasn't been assigned to its group yet.

This paricular armature has 29 bones that deal with the mesh, and you'll have to set them all up. With practice though, this could only take an hour or two.

While you're adding vertexes to a group, turn and rotate as needed to make sure you get all the vertexes in the area. Keep an eye out that you don't select a vertex behind the area you're working on. Make sure all of the vertex group polys are pink and there are no pink vertexes or black lines in the group.

As you finish each group, you can test it in pose mode by selecting that bone and moving it. this should show you if you missed anything or assigned a vertex from another area in error. Try to conpare left and right groups and keep them as mirror like as possible - IE the left upper arm group should be equal to the right.
The pic below shows a vertex missed on a finger and another from the jacket assigned in error.

For an joint area, you can either have the two vertex groups meet or overlap at the joint. I find overlapping the groups a little seems to help the animation.

Hands - The hardest part of rigging is probably the hand. Each hand consists of 5 bones;

1) The hand - covers from the wrist to the first knuckle

2) Finger 0 - Base of the thumb to the joint

3) Finger 01 - (thumb) From the joint to the fingertip

4) Finger 1 - From the knuckle to the first joint of the fingers

5) Finger 11 - Fingers) From the first joint to the fingertip.

Since you are bringing in a different mesh, sometimes no matter how you adjust you'll still wind up with a "claw". If you can't get it right, I use a simplified version;

Don't use finger 0 or 01 - assign the thumb vertexes to the hand.

Don't use finger 11 - assign all finger vertexes to finger 1

This still looks good in most poses.

I'm at the limit for word count in the post, so I'll have to finish with Lesson 3 below.

« Last Edit: November 17, 2012, 05:40:28 AM by Randomdays »

Offline spydermann93

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2012, 02:08:00 AM »

Fantastic work, RandomDays!

I look forward to the rest! :thumbup:

Offline Helix

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2012, 05:05:42 AM »
Nice job, Random! I will be referring to these lessons often! Thank you!
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Offline President Raygun

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2012, 07:35:35 PM »
Pretty cool Random, thanks.

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2012, 02:05:50 AM »
Lesson 3 - Part 2

When the mesh is rigged, it's time to see how it looks in the Character viewer.

In object mode, unhide the hidden objects. Hit the "A" hotkey to select all.

Hit the File menu on the upper left and go to export ->NetImmerse/ Gamebryo

Use the explorer to find the new male_civilian directory you made and tell Blender to create a "character.nif" there. Hit the export button on the top right.

On the export options screen, leave everything at default. The only exception is turn off the "force .dds extention" button. This will make the nif look for .dds textures even if it uses .tga. Hit "OK"

If you've changed the length of any of the bones, you'll be getting errors during the export. The editable meshes assigned to the armature will have changed length as well and are now uneven in size. You'll need to click on each one in object mode and hit the "Ctrl"+"A" hotkeys to reset their values. If they're hard to see, you can hide the main mesh again till you're done. You can also go to outliner view, select the mesh to be resized and return to 3D view. Once you've reset the values on the editable meshes, go back and export again.

A second error you might get is if you've missed any vertexes. You'll get an error message and Blender will put you in edit mode with all unassigned vertexes lit up and selected. note where they are and select them one by one and assign them to the vertex group where they belong. Go back to object mode, select all, and try to export again.

Assuming you finally get it exported, open up the Character Viewer and view the mesh in the male_civilian directory.

There he is, but he's not responding to the kfs. It seems like I assumed that male_civilian would use male_basic kfs, and it looks like I assumed wrong. Close character viewer, copy some male_basic kfs into the male_civilian directory and try again.

As you can see, he doesn't look too bad in idle mode, but in action, he needs his vertex groups at the joints adjusted. Yours might look different, but in any case, go back into edit mode and try moving vertexes from one group to another, adjusting how much adjacent groups overlap each other, and export as many times as needed till you're happy with the way he looks.

Two last things when you're done with tweeking. First, you'll need to copy the textures from your ripping directory to the skins/standard directory. Make sure transparency has been turned off. Check in nifskope to make sure the texture location and file types are correct. I was still having problems with the .dds so I went ahead and converted all the textures to .tga and that fixed it.

Second, set up some alternate skin directories and go back into TMG with Ripper on. Put Mr. Patriot back into makeover and select some different color combinations for his outfit. Capture, copy the new .dds files in to the alt skin directory, and repeat for all the combos you want to make. Now, when you open up the Character Viewer, you should see the new alts available for use.

That completes the TMG transfer and setup. Read on for the Sims setup or skip on to the "Other" and "Odds and Ends" section.

The Sims 2 Capture.

Bringing in your capture from the bodyshop is almost the same as from TMG, with a few differences at the beginning. Import the object file into Blender using the middle choice, by group. After the import is complete, you'll be looking at the object in top down view. The object includes the female mesh, the stage and a back wall. Hit "1" to go to front view and then rotate the view 180 degress with the "4" or "6" key. 180 degrees is equal to hitting the key 12 times.

We only need the female sim, so lets get rid of the rest. She's in a few parts, so right click on part of her and then, holding down the "shift" key, all of the other parts you can see. Use the "hide selected" function to remove her from view. Repeat with any parts of her you missed till she's totally hidden. Hit the "A" hot key to select all the items making up the room and then "X" to delete them. Unhide the sim and she'll be on screen by herself.

We want to bring all the pieces together and make her a single sim. Hit "A" to select all, and then "Ctrl" +"J" to join all selected pieces into a single mesh.

The procedure after here follows the one for TMG above. Bring in your female_basic mesh, move and resize the sim to match, pose the female basic to match the sim, delete the nif mesh and weight paint.

Other file types and odds and ends.

"Ctrl" +"Z" will undo your last action.

Ripper won't work with every porgram, but Blender can import many file types besides .objs and .nifs. Some types come with the basic Blender install and some can be downloaded and added. There are many sites out there with free 3D models to download. If you see something you want to use, chexk the file type and do a Google search for it and "Blender". One huge site is Google's own 3D Warehouse for their sketchup program.

kf compatability. Why does a character animate with one set of kfs and not another? The kfs have a series of steps in them to move bones to certain positions. Since the vertex groups are tied to the bones, the figure moves as well. the kf file moves the bones by name, and the vertex groups are moved by name as well. If the bones or groups are named different than what the kf is looking for, the figure won't animate.

To get a figure to animate to a new set of kfs;

1) Import the figure you want to change kfs for. Delete everything but the main mesh.

2) As in the TMG procedure above, import the figure with the kfs you want to use. Move the 1st mesh to the second and have the second mesh match poses. delete the second mesh.

3) Use Method 3 from the TMG example above for rigging by moving the mesh away from the armature and then hitting "Ctrl"+"P" to parent the armature to the mesh. If you go into edit mode and check vertex groups you should see TWO full sets, the original set with vertexes assigned to them, and the groups from the donor mesh with no vertexes assigned to them.

4) Pick one of the original vertex groups and hit the "select" button to see the vertexes, lines and faces for that group. Delete that group. Now, with everything still lit up, pick the new vertex group of the same area from the second mesh. Hit the "Assign" button and the vertexes now belong to the new group. You've just reassigned a vertex group ffrom one armature to another.

5) Repeat with the rest of the vertex group. When you're done, the mesh should now animated with the new kfs.
6) Check with character viewer to make sure he works. This will probably NOT work if the second donor mesh had the skin breakage problem described by Ewzzy, so check and make sure the donor is good before wasting time and effort. This should also work for any nif pulled from any other game. Some tweeking of vertex groups will probably have to be done, as well as texture type/ location and lighting in nifskope.

Capturing with Ripper in some games gets a little complicated since it might capture an entire level or complex scene. If you can move the chracter to an easy to find spot on the map, like an entrance or large object, it will make it easier to find. Use the Sims 2 method to isolate the figure and delete the rest.

I've also noticed that some maps are tilted instead of being flat. The figure will be upright, but the feet might be at an odd angle. try capture the figure in front, back or side angle to the floor to see if that helps.

Changing vertex count up or down - You may want to increase the vertex count in a area and move them around to create bootcuffs, horns, spikes or anything else. You can go into edit mode and select some vertexes to highlight one or more faces, then choosing the subdivide option under "edges" in the drop down.

You can decrease the total mesh count in edit mode by selecting "A" in edit mode to highlight everything and then choosing the poly reducer option under "scripts" in the drop down menu. Choose the amount you want to decrease by - default is .5 (50%) - and hit go. 

When a mesh is made of multiple parts and then joined into a single mesh, there may be places where yo have have multiple vertexes in one spot. You can select the "remove doubles" line under vertexes in edit mode to get rid of them. This may change things for the worse though so make sure you save in Blender before hand so you can go back to the way it was before.

When you apply the texture to the mesh, portions may seem missing. Each face on the mesh has a front and back to it with the texture normally applied to one side. The missing parts of the texture may mean some of the faces have been "flipped" and are facing inside out.

The End - Lesson 3 complete.

This concludes all lessons. Hopefully things were explained well enough to at least get you started with working on your own.

Questions, comments and corrections welcome.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2012, 12:24:07 PM by Randomdays »

Offline spydermann93

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2012, 02:37:40 AM »
This is great.

I really look forward to more :thumbup:

Offline spydermann93

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2012, 03:20:08 AM »
This is just getting better and better.

Can't wait for the rest. :D

Offline cmdrkoenig67

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2012, 06:17:00 PM »
Holy carp, RD...This is amazing work!  Bravo!


Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2012, 12:19:30 AM »
Lesson 3 complete. I have to fine tune it a bit and add a couple of more screenshots, but just about everything is there. Questions,  comments and corrections welcome.

I'll try to get it into a pdf form later, but I suggest that if you find it useful, do a complete page save to grab the lessons and the pictures. You can never tell when imageshack will want to delete something and the pictures are fairly essential to the lessons.

Offline oldmanwinters

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2012, 12:38:00 AM »
This is a very cool looking tutorial!

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2012, 11:49:45 AM »
Small update to the tutorial with a couple of things I've picked up since then.

In Object Mode, you can select "transform > object data to center" and it will move the selected mesh to the 0/0/0 position. Manually moving the mesh will not move the meshes center point, only the mesh.

If the textured mesh look "patchy" with pieces missing, some of the polys might be facing "in" instead of "out" - only one side of the poly is textured. If the poly is flipped the back side is completely transparent and will appear to be missing in object mode. In edit mode, try selecting all with "A", then select" normals > recalculate outside". If this doesn't completely fix the problem, you may have to flip each poly one by one.

Picked up from reading the forums - try to always adjust the new mesh to the size of the donor. shrinking the armature will increase some of the animation speeds in game. To shrink the mesh, use nifskope and select the handle to shrink. Shrinking the scene root is the same as with blender and will increase speed.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 07:13:35 AM by Randomdays »

Offline Epimethee

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2012, 10:11:00 PM »
How did I miss that the first time around? Really inspiring tutorial, RandomDays!

I wish the FR forums had been part of a larger site with a wiki (such as the old FR World Wiki), blog etc. where this kind of useful material could have been fronted.
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Offline SickAlice

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2013, 07:01:39 PM »
This is a great tutorial. The best nif in Blender I've seen, thank you for this. Two notes for you.

- These are the proper import settings for the 3d Ripper DX .3dr plugin for any program. They will
correct the size issue on import and save you a bit of time

- I've found the character modeler for Tony Hawk's Underground 2 makes for nice meshes for FF with a relevant polycount to boot. On the net one can find a patch made by modders for the PC version that breaks the scale limits as well allowing for one to make hulking characters and such.

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #15 on: December 23, 2013, 10:05:46 PM »
Thanks for that. Should be useful.

I've been meaning to update with a couple of things that I've found since I wrote it;

1) The knee problem on the example above is due to the fact that I set the knee/ thigh overlap area where the knee is on the mesh. It needs to be set where the actual bones meet on the skeleton. This may make your knees look a little higher than they should be, but the leg distortion should go away.

2) When adjusting bones length on the donor to match the new mesh, strange things seem to happen. Making a bone longer makes the mesh shrink for some reason, and vice versa. Likewise, raising an arm in pose mode and then accepting it will actually lower the arm when checked in viewer.
    I usually don't adjust the bones anymore. To make the donor fit as well as possible I'll adjust the donor's x/y/z size separately to match the new mesh.

3) Most of us have seen in the character viewer meshes that appear broken and separated. Sometime I'm able to fix the problem while I'm wirking on a rig
    1)The rig needs to be balanced if possible. check left/ right sides of you rig when done. If the left foot vertex group has 80 vertices the right one should also. If the mesh has something extra on it like a belt pouch rhen that could make a difference.
    2) I've had a completely rig mesh appear broken and I didn't bother to add the small clavicle groups in. Setting these two groups up on vertices already assigned to spine1 fixed the problem.
    3) and sometimes nothing I do can fix the problem, but it looks good in game.

4) Adjusting the size of the mesh can change the animation speed. If you check out the Speedy Gonzales I did, making him small really increased his animation speeds - which worked out really well.

5) Unusually sized/ shaped meshes sometimes has a height problem in game, either appearing to float or be sunk in the ground. Sometimes adjusting the height in nifskope will work and sometimes it seems to make no difference. Also, a short mesh might appear to work fine, but the weapon fx's appear at normal height instead of lower down where it should be. Not sure on how to fix these problems.

Offline SickAlice

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #16 on: December 26, 2013, 04:32:21 PM »
I've had some motion with this now. Some very gruesome looking results but results either way. I have two questions if you don't mind though. I'm running into two problems with doing all of this.

1. If I import an object that originally came from FF/FFVTTR into a nif, go through the tutorial and export, it fails and gives the error " Layer does not exist. Check console. " then doesn't export a nif. This is the only case scenario I've run into that. Importing any other type of 3d model into a nif hasn't triggered that, regardless of file type nor origin. So for example I imported an extracted male_basic body into a female_basic nif, adjusted it accordingly and hit export. Won't work. Any idea what I'm doing wrong, or what steps need to be added?

2. Speaking of textures and 3d ripper DX, while 3d ripper DX exports a model, which I know is not the native model from the game but in fact a new one based on screen capture, and of course the texture files to go with, still never has the texture coordinates set right. So for example I play the game " Batman Saves Christmas " on my pc and screen capture it, then open the file in a 3d program, the model itself will not actually be aligned to the texture it's supposed to and attempting to assign said texture to 3d model will result in a mess. This seems to be the case no matter the type of format the initial screen capture was saved in, be that .obj or .3dr, regardless of what game and regardless of what computer I've done this on regardless of OS, video card, ect. Naturally this problem seems common and I've searched the net for answers, but none seem provided. The most common answer given is it must be ones video card isn't compatible, but like I said I tested against this and know it isn't the case. Any idea here would be appreciated though note it's more for ripping models to drop on various 3d model rip hosting sites than a Freedom Force use question.

Thanks for your time and any help regarding.

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #17 on: December 26, 2013, 10:59:31 PM »
For the 1st problem, I've never really seen that. In Blender, have you tried to set your import/export to default to see if that helps?

With Blender, I've had models from FF1 or 2 not import properly from the start - most of the default FF models won't import right and all I wind up with is the skeleton by itself. From what I read this is due to something that Max supports that Blender does not. Luckily, when Beyonder and the other pioneers made all their variants back in the day, like adjusting male_basic to male_basic_bootcuffs, this fixes the problem a lot of the time. If there's a particular base I want to use, I do an import and export right back out and check it. If the export is frozen or distorted when I check it, I know I can't use it.
 One thing I've done that fixes errors sometimes is import the nif, combine pieces with join if there's more than piece, and then export it as an obj file. Then I import the obj and use that to rig and work with. The obj file strips away some of the nif properties that could cause problems.

For the second problem, I've only run into that once or twice and couldn't fix it either. Its been rare and actually only occured with a couple of nifs from a game where all the other ones worked fine. This has been very rare for me so far.

One thing you is another program called is called Ninja Ripper. It will rip the model in T, so its easier to work with. It needs Max 9 or higher to work, so i can't use it since I have Max 8. I think a lot of the models on thefree3d site uses this since they are in T pose.

Sorry I couldn't be more help.

Offline SickAlice

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2013, 07:50:39 PM »
It's very helpful thanks. Essentially if I'm reading you right I could just perform the operation in Max then?

No avail with the ninja. Installed and tried using it. No 3d data was ripped, only texture files and the plugin fails in Max 9. Still that's closer to goal so thanks. I have a few more rippers I can try out I suppose. I think, not sure though, that 3dxml comes out accurate? I haven't got the hang of working with the file type but it's rips are set up as scenes proper so it's a possible solution.

I look forward to any and more information you bring up regarding the process either way. Thanks.

Offline SickAlice

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2014, 12:27:29 AM »
Well hooray! Had a breakthrough tonight and got a mesh from a different game into a nif without any physical problems using your tutorial. Thank you for all the training and of course for the previous help with Skaar too. Now I just have to fix the texture issues, or more lack of and it's finished. Eitherway it looks really nice. Thanks again, this is a valuable asset to have that should open many new doors and resolve many old issues for myself.

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #20 on: January 04, 2014, 12:55:47 AM »
Glad you got the rigging part to work. Good luck on the texture problem

Offline SickAlice

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #21 on: January 06, 2014, 03:37:03 PM »
I figured out the issue pretty easily. The mesh was " dark " in NS which indicates
a problem with the way the texture is assigned in the initial 3d object. I went back
and rechecked and assigned the alignment and made it more agreeable to how FFVTTR works.
Here's Superior Spider-man from Marvel Heroes assigned to a male_basic for further proof
of your concept.

What's really awesome about your method if anyone hadn't realized it is
one doesn't have to use prefab meshes if they don't want and rather could use this to make
fully custom built 3d objects into animated nif files with little or no fuss.

I'm asking at this time if you would want me to host your tutorial on my site. I'd like to
preserve this and I'm finishing a tutorial on my end as it is. It would take awhile either
way, dial-up and what not so uploading is a bit slow. Up to you but I'd like to get this a solid
home page.

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #22 on: January 06, 2014, 04:38:52 PM »
Host away. Glad you finally got things figured out.

A lot of meshes out there have usable parts if you don't want the whole character - weapons come to mind off the bat.

While its not perfect, when I got things figured out when I first started, it opened up thousands of options. Besides games that already use nifs, games that can be captured and sites like Googles warehouse, there's almost no object you can't bring into the game. Specific characters are a different story of course, and that still takes skopers and skinners with talent to make.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2014, 06:12:31 PM by Randomdays »

Offline SickAlice

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #23 on: January 21, 2014, 02:12:09 PM »
Got any protips for fingers? Those little nubs of justice are a bane to my existence.

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2014, 11:26:09 PM »
Fingers are very difficult to do and I usually bypass them.

If you're lucky enough to have an import in T Pose, try to align the import to the fingers of the FF mesh. I've found messing with the FF mesh's skeleton gives strange results. Check the FF vertex assigment on the fingers and try to match them to the import as close as possible. The imports can have a big variety of complexity compared to FF which makes it hard.

This might help - I used this when I was learning to work with Blender -

Has some info on bone weighting and a tutorial where she imports Tommyboy's Black Panther into "The Movies"

Now that I have a better feel of things, I'll curl the fingers of the import a bit into a loose fist and then assign them to the hand. It looks good in most poses compared to an open hand, both as a fist and for grasping a weapon.

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2014, 02:33:35 AM »
I just had a thought of something that might be a possible solution that would work in some cases - try to Frankenstein your mesh for a quick fix;

1) Do the normal process as above till you get to where the donor mesh is no longer needed and is going to be deleted.

2) Select the donor mesh and hide everything else if they're in your way. Goto edit mode.

3) From the bottom left menu, select the vertex groups for the left and right hands and fingers - select the groups so the vertices are highlighted

4) From the edit menu, hide the selected vertexes. Hit the "A" key to select all the remaining vertices and "X" to delete them

5) Unhide the hands and fingers and exit edit mode. If you were to export now you would have a pair of floating hands in the character viewer

6) Hide the hands and do the normal rigging of the new mesh. Instead of rigging the new hands and fingers, delete them.

7) In object mode, "J" join the old hands to the new body.

8) In edit mode, you may have to move or meld vertices for a smooth join.

You should now have the new mesh with a pair of perfectly rigged hands. The only problem I would see with this is you would need 2 skins until you reassigned the old hands to the new skin.  I'm going to try this on some of the old Star Trek meshes I did when I started when I get a chance. Since Kirk and the boys have long sleeve shirts it should work out well for those.

Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #26 on: February 03, 2014, 01:20:21 AM »
Warning to all - imageshack redesigned itself not too long ago and today I see a message that my "free trial" only has 16 days left. Since I won't be paying for image hosting, I don't know what will happen to all my pics on the forums when the time runs out. Since this walkthru is image intensive it may not be much use without it. I suggest saving it on your hardrive with images if its something you use, just in case.

Offline Cyber Burn

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #27 on: February 03, 2014, 11:02:54 PM »
Ouch, it looks like your pics have already been pulled. I think I have all 3 Lessons already saved to a Word Document, I'll double check, and then go from there.
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Offline Randomdays

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #28 on: February 04, 2014, 12:30:00 AM »
Still showing up for me, at least for the moment

Offline Cyber Burn

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Re: Meshing and skinning for those who can't mesh or skin
« Reply #29 on: February 04, 2014, 12:47:24 AM »
Cool, I'm seeing them too, must have just been the other computer I was using.
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