I'm here to make something MaNGusT asked me some weeks before, but I just wasn't in the mood then (and I feel sorry but I couldn't help but kept away from the forums as I've planned, until today).
He asked me to send him a layered image file, like the ones I've used to work with, with the effects and textures, and some hints on how I've developed the effects.
I'm glad to say that I can do that perfectly, as I rely on very, very basic effects, most of them resulting from combinations of many different simple effects that pretty much anyone can handle. More than attaching a simple file with a few pointers, I'll provide you all with a proper guide on how I make textures, and a few basics about meshes as well.
I'm writing this because I really think that there are some people that like my work, and if I leave this guide, maybe there will be someone that can improve those techniques and provide the community with even better artwork. For this effect, I'll make a complete list, from the very first step, to where I couldn't help anymore.
Without further delay, I'll start explaining how I was producing the content right away. (damn, I can’t add paragraph spacing I’ll add a blank line to separate paragraphs) The Steps Step I: The 3D mesh
This is the first thing to do, as it is the base of the model. The textures are going to be applied into the surface of the 3d meshes, according to the texture maps. Basically, those meshes are composed by polygons, whose vertexes vary in coordinates (X,Y,Z). Those polygons are visible according to their normals (imagine those interrogation room windows), that is, usually you can see through them if looking "behind" the normal, and from the other side, there will be whatever graphics assigned to the polygon. This is "usually" true because there are 2-sided polygons, that act like truly opaque surfaces, with two normals.
To make a 3d mesh, you'll need attached polygons (with common vertexes or edges). Most Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software make those operations quite simple, and usually you’ll start with a tool that creates a primitive object, such as a simple cube, and develop it by dividing and creating new vertexes, moving them around, rotating, extruding, duplicating, welding, etc. To learn those procedures, very basic tutorials on modeling will surely be enough.
After the creation of the mesh (or solid, in case you’re working with AutoCAD), you need to export or save it into a .3ds file, or at least be sure that you can do this later without loosing the texture map. To continue your work, you’ll need a software that supports UV mapping, I think that the best bet for free software is Blender, or, if you have access to a fancy tool like 3DSMax, great! You won’t use any advanced tools, so most CAD software should be enough.
After you have your 3D mesh, we are ready to go into the next step! Step II: Creating a texture map
In this step, we’ll effectively make a map of the model, so that the computer knows which parts of an image file should be displayed in which faces of a 3D model. Imagine that you have a dice, and you must specify where you want each number to go: that’s similar to what we are going to do, but our job is much more fun, because usually 3D models have way more than 6 faces!
The name of the tool varies a little, but is usually called UV mapping, or something with “mapping”. If you are searching for a tutorial on this, and there are no matches for “mapping”, try “texturing”, and you’ll certainly find what you’re looking for.
Basically, during this mapping procedure, you’ll decide from where you’ll start unwrapping the model, and from which angles the polygons are going to be seen when putting them together on a 2D map. Don’t be too fussy about this procedure, because it’s the starting point for the map, and usually for models with many flat, sharp faces, like most in warzone, it’s better to manipulate the map itself rather than configuring the mapping tool to make a suitable map.
My personal choice is to handle each polygon to achieve a coherent map. If you still want to have a suitable map by configuring the tool properly, please refer to a specific tutorial: I’ll move to the next procedure, and that’s the unwrapping part.
Right, now that the software knows where to start “cutting” the model, we are going to unwrap it so that it fits a 2D surface. This step is crucial for the quality of the textures, as it can promote or ruin any interaction effects between the faces, and that’s why I’ll speak about it on a separate step. Step III: Organizing the texture map
Imagine that you’ll have to create a jigsaw puzzle. However, you have the pieces and want to paint the picture on them. How will you do it, imagine how each edge would connect to each other and paint each piece separately, or organize them, so that you can paint the picture as if it was only a big rectangular screen? Crazy folks, gtfo, we are going to organize the pieces.
That’s pretty much about what we are going to do, being the polygons, the pieces. We have good and bad news, first the bad news: You can’t assemble the full “jigsaw” into a 2D surface, because the pieces are irregular, there’s no way to connect all of them as they’re supposed to be while on the model. Good news is, you can stretch the pieces, affectively making them connect to other ones they wouldn’t be able to otherwise! However, we need to be careful because over-stretched parts will look… too much stretched.
This part requires the creativity of the artist. As we are going to apply the effects into a 2d surface, and the connection between the pieces is given by the way they are disposed on the map, we NEED to organize it according to the effects we want to apply. If two faces are meant to be adjacent and share an effect (like a pipe or window or whatever thing that crosses one face’s edge and enters another one), you must make them adjacent, if you don’t want unnecessary work and waste of time, and do want quality.
When organizing the map, select the faces you want to be connected, on the model view, and then take a look at how they are disposed in the map. Manipulate them with the tools at your disposal, break, weld, rotate, align, mirror, stretch, rescale… master the shortcuts if you ever want to do this without loosing too much time, or even loosing your line of thinking.
After you are happy with your map, and think that it is ready to be used to apply a texture into the mesh, you should export a template. This one will be an image file: It’s preferable that you save it in .bmp, .png or .tga formats, with high quality (there’s no need to have a high resolution. In most cases, you can use a 512x512 page for an entire model of the size of 1 tile and the result will be more than enough detailed), so that you can make accurate selections in the next steps. It’s exactly like a real map: you don’t want it to look blurry because you depend of it to know where things are. If your map is confusing of blurry, you won’t be able to make a good texture because you won’t be able to know which part of the texture page is going to be applied into with face.
It is highly recommendable that the person that is going to make the textures is the same person that’s mapping the model. A good knowledge about the way the model was mapped is fundamental for creating a high-quality model with nice effects and that feel that it has more polygons, smoother and more detailed shapes than it really has. Especially because we are working with a RTS game, the secret of a good model is a good texture. Geometry can’t be too complex, or the performance impact will be too high, and a laggy RTS is a true nightmare. Actually any laggy real-time game is a nightmare.
Having this in mind and thinking carefully about the effects you are planning to use while mapping the model, you are ready to go on to the next step towards a good model. Step IV: Creating the texture page
Now this is the part where creative graphical work must be carefully done, with no hurry. Take a deep breath and go get a cup of coffee, because if you don’t do a good work here, the model isn’t going to achieve its full potential. Schematics help a lot for you not to forget which effects you want. Don’t even think about making a non-layered texture page, because you WILL loose your time if you do so. In layered images, you can make shadows, relief, reflection, transparency and shapes in a way that the spectator will be surprised when looking at your model with and without textures. In the best results, people will even think that you are cheating, and made additional geometry.
For making this layered image, you can use the famous Photoshop, or other software that can work with .tif or .psd or whatever layered image file you want to work with. If you don’t already know what a layered image file is, be sure to learn before going on, it is crucial. After opening the image creating and editing program, you should copy & paste, import, or do whatever is necessary for the texture map’s template to be added as a single layer. Not the background, leave the background at a separate layer, as you can change its colors separately, to easily spot visible seams, this way.
Start with the most basic of features, and always keep your layers organized so that what is meant to be “below” is indeed below in the layer order. First of all, paint the texture with the color you want (at least most) your model to be. Remember that you can always apply effects in separate layers to change the color, so that you can change them later. By all means, don’t avoid creating additional layers: it won’t affect the final file size as it is going to be flattened when saved as .png files again. But keep the similar things close so that you can spot the group of effects, and then the single effect that you are looking for.
To apply those effects, my personal, amateur, method is to create a new layer with the shape I want the effect to be applied. In photoshop, I paint it all black and go into “blending options”, under the layer list. Then, I set the blending method to “screen”, and whoa, the layer is now invisible! This way I can use it as a mask to apply the effects, but also use coloring tools to change the visibility in certain areas (if you paint the layer with white, you’ll notice that it is visible again, because a white screen effect makes the things lighter).
After that, there are no secrets other than using many simple effects. The ones I use most frequently are: Bevel and Emboss
If you explore those effects properly, changing the settings to see what they are capable of, you know everything you need to create texture as good as, or even better than mine. Remember to use smooth effects and combine them frequently. The key to a high-quality texture is the cohesion of the effects, the interaction between the polygons. For some tips about making camouflage patterns and metal plates, please refer to the Tips section.
Also, remember to apply the texture into the model frequently to see how it looks like. A nice trick, to know the positions of your effects and view how they are going to be positioned in the model, is to draw red (or whatever contrasting color) shapes when applying the textures. The next step explains how to apply the texture into the model. Step V: Applying the textures
Now we are going to use the map to tell the rendering software which texture it is going to use, and which parts goes where (you don’t have to solve the jigsaw, you’re going to see how it looks like when already solved).
For that, you’re going to apply a material to the model. For that, open the materials dialog, and create a new one, of the simplest type, or just modify the “default” material, calling it whatever you want. After that’s done, you must find where are the material’s “maps” listed (should be easy to find). You need to change the diffuse map, which applies a texture, in color, tone and shape, directly into the model’s surface. Change it to “bitmap”, “image file” or whatever is the name of the map type that allows you to select a proper image file. Then, search for your texture (which you should save in .png, flattening it) and select it as the material’s diffuse map. After that, you just need to apply it into the mesh and render it: if the model was mapped properly, the texture should be applied just like the map was organized. After that, you can close the render dialog, modify the file, and render it again: the software should reload the file automatically.
After all this, you can export your model to the .3ds format, so that you can export it to .pie via the “3ds2pie” exporter (search around the forums: there is a topic specifically about that). You should be asked either to preserve the texture coordinates or not, and of course you want! This way, the .3ds file will remember the map, so that you can assign the texture page to it in any other program, and the textures should be applied according to the map you’ve made. The Tips Tip I: Camouflage
I’ve developed a nice method for making camouflages, for using as a base for the other effects. It makes the model look less “empty”, and promotes the military feel of the model, especially units. For creating them, just have the area painted with a single color of your choice, nothing special. Then, you must use the “texturizer” tool (it’s called like that in Photoshop), or whatever tool that can create bricks relief.
When applying the bricks relief, set the light position to left or right, it doesn’t matter, but the important thing is that only the small edges are visible in the effect, and a little roughness all over the area. This should be applied with a good intensity, and the scale should be set so that the width of the relief is somewhat like the width you want for your camouflage spots’ outlines.
After applying the relief effect, apply the “sponge” effect, which will make your reliefs look like splattered spots of the same color but different tones. If this stage already pleases you, it’s ok! However, if you want more “stripy” patterns, you should apply a “angled strokes” effect, then you can apply additional sharpness so make the spots more visible. I’ve attached a sample camouflage map that I’ve created using this technique. Tip II: Metal Plates
A good way to create metal plates is (brace yourselves) paintbrush. Well, not for the final effect, but for creating the shapes for you to use in a proper tool, like Photoshop, in the same way I’ve mentioned in “Step IV: Creating the texture page”, using Bevel & Emboss effects (specially with “chisel hard” setting).
When you’re at paintbrush, select black as primary color (left click) and white as secondary (right click). Then, go to the “Line” tool and select the fourth thickness option. Then, select the “Rectangle” tool and then the option with border and filling. After that, have fun making rectangles with alternate left/right clicks, making interesting shapes.
After making those shapes (always remember that you can create perfect squares or vertical/horizontal lines by pressing the shift key while clicking), copy & paste everything to your original tool and separate the black/white parts into separate layers, then make both of them black, setting the blending mode to screen. After this, just configure the bevel & emboss effect until it looks good enough!Tip III: Bumps & Scratches on Metal Paint -
This is as far as I dare to explain about making models for Warzone 2100: Modifying resources, compiling, altering batch files, and this kind of stuff is just out of my knowledge (sort of, I don’t feel confident enough to explain what little I know to anyone).
I really hope that this helps the artists to create good quality content for warzone, and even help those who already do so, to improve their work. I’ve attached a .tif texture page for anyone to take a look at how I organize my layers and how I set up my effects. Anyone is free to edit and use this walkthrough and its attachments in any way, it was made for you folks anyway!
If anyone wants to know how I create any other effects, please post the question here and I’ll add the answer to the "Tips" section as soon as I manage to answer it. MaNGusT can provide you with the Mantis .3ds mesh so that you can apply the texture and see how It looks like.