This post will talk about the different ways to import assets into Crystal Space, and will present the recent improvements that have been made about that.
CS had until now several different solutions to import the models and scene objects from the many different 3D design tools and file formats.
Blender has always been until now the editor with the best support for CS. The blender2crystal project is a huge piece of software, with many advanced functionalities such as import and export of CS files, CS previsualization window directly embedded into Blender, animation tree edition, etc. Unfortunately, the blender2crystal project is no more active and has been overtaken by the Python 2.6 and Blender 2.5x series, it is blocked to the Blender 2.49b with Python 2.5 version and may hibernate there forever.
Currently, the solution to export data from Blender 2.5x into CS is to use the B2.5CS exporter from Peragro Tempus. It does not yet have support for animeshes, but it is planned to become the official exporter for CS and should therefore be improved in the future.
3D Studio Max had also some rather good support with either the exporter script from the PlaneShift team or the exporter plugin added recently by Mike. And for other 3D design tools and model file formats, CS had several solutions with either dedicated importers and/or exporters for COLLADA, Maya, Cal3D, md2, BSP.
So this was the situation until recently, but a big part of this has now been obsoleted by a new addition made recently to CS, namely the new plugin for the Open Asset Import Library (A.K.A. Assimp).
As suggested by its name, Assimp is an open source library providing a generic interface to load 3D models and scenes from a huge list of different file formats. It can import the meshes, the material properties, the skeletal animations, the lights, cameras and complete scenes. The support for vertex and morph animations is planned but not yet implemented. The support for meshes and material properties is rather excellent for all the listed file formats, while the quality of the import of the animations may vary depending of the format.
The Assimp plugin that has been implemented in CS uses the new guidelines for the preprocess and tool plugins. This basically means that the plugin is integrated completely transparently into the CS loader system: you simply drop any asset file of one of the format supported, and it is loaded magically in CS, without any further need to manipulate or export/import previously the file.
An example has been added in CS with the Seymour COLLADA animated test model. It is composed of one data file and one texture file that have been packed in a ZIP file in 'CS/data/seymour.zip', and the following image is the result of the command:
Technically speaking, this plugin simply implements the iBinaryLoaderPlugin and iModelLoader interfaces of CS, as any other CS-specific loader plugin. Therefore, when the iLoader is used to load a file, the Assimp plugin will be selected if it supports the file format. It will then analyze the file, and import the objects as genmeshes, animeshes or whole scenes depending on the loader interface used and the options that have been set.
Another interesting feature of the loading system of CS is that the definition of an object can be split in several files. It is therefore possible to have your model in its base format and being kept updated by your artist team, while still being able to already use this model in your application and extending its definition with CS concepts such as physics or more advanced management of the animations. These concepts will simply be defined in a separate CS XML file and will add their data ontop of the one loaded by the Assimp plugin.
A problem that has been mentioned about the Assimp library is that it does not yet support the import of vertex and morph animations. To overcome this, some tools have been added to CS in order to load and merge an animesh with its morph targets defined in several different files. Again, this functionality has been made using the new guidelines for the preprocess and tool plugins, meaning that you can activate this process transparently through the iLoader interface. An example of that has been added, using the default model from the FaceGen software. Here is the result of the command:
Lastly to be mentioned, there is the new exporter plugin for the PnP TerrainCreator editor, that has also been added recently by Mike. This last plugin should be presented more closely in an incoming post on the new 'csisland' demo.
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