Best Practices for Artists
Use proper and common scale for every model. Coordinate this with your coder. Usually 1 unit in your 3d program = 1 meter.
Keep center of the object in the middle of the mesh or at bottom, not "somewhere". Remember that rotation and moving of the model is related to this point.
|You can do it automatically by clicking the "Centre" button in Editing (F9) -> Mesh tab.|
Moving, rotating and scaling is only for level making. If you are modelling a single object - do not use any transformations. Keep your object in neutral position and rotation. If you did any transformations, then use some option to apply it to the vertices positions.
|Use Transfrom -> Clear/Apply -> Clear Location and Transfrom -> Clear/Apply -> Apply Scale/Rotation.|
In the front view you should see the back of your model. (The CEL camera is specific, if you use this, main characters which use the camera should be facing toward you, then).
Do not use random names Object_031, mesh13_, blackblack_23_, 01_-_material_new2. Coordinate naming with your coder.
When your project will use zone manager or keep all maps in memory at one time - remember don't get duplicate names for anything in your whole game. If you don't change those you will have guaranteed conflicts.
|Be careful about the default naming convention that Blender uses for mesh factories.|
Use png, it's compressed, it's lossless, and it has 8bit alpha.
Do not use jpg (except for textures that really don't require a lot of detail, but note that even in this case it is best to keep the source image as png because otherwise you loose quality everytime the texture is edited). Coordinate it with your coder, he will decide which textures should be lossy compressed, and which not.
Keep your textures hi-res until they are actually an issue, or you are going to release the game. In any case keep the hi-res versions somewhere, they are best in a source layered format like xcf or psd.
Also use textures that are a power of 2. For example 256x128 and not 256x130. In the latter case, CS will resize this texture internally, which sometimes can look rather ugly.
At release time, switch to DDS with dxt compression, I can't think of any case in which dxt5 is harmfull, it can handle layers/mipmaps, 8bit transparency, and more importantly, it's the same format as used by the graphics card, meaning textures load faster.
DDS compression types:
DXT1 opaque - compression ratio 8:1 - most popular for standard textures
DXT3 sharp alpha - compression ratio 4:1 - for textures with explicit alpha
DXT5 smooth alpha - compression ratio 4:1 - for textures with interpolated alpha
As of right now (march 2007), there is no graphics chip which can store a texture bigger than 4096x4096 (1024x8192 is not good). But don't worry about too big textures - if they don't fit in the graphics memory then CS will detect it and automatically downscale the texture.
|You can have image.png and image.dds in the same folder, use the png for blender inthe viewport, at export time, b2cs will pick up the dds in order to use it in CS.|
|DDS plugin: gimp 1.2 (read only) and better one gimp 2.0.|
Every per-pixel lighted material needs a normalmap. If you don't have a baked normalmap for your model, then at least use a fake plain normalmap (just a picture with the color 127, 127, 255).
You can use two transparency modes:
1. Smooth variable alpha.
2. Binary mode full opaque/full transparent.
Binary mode is faster (use <alpha><binary/></alpha>). To tag transparent pixels you can use the transparency support in formats like png or keycolor. For keycolor, usually people are using "crazy pink" red=255 green=0 blue=255.
To avoid an ugly outline (halo effect) in transparent textures - use premultiplied alpha. Find this option in your 2d/3d program.
Transparent billboards should be rendered in per vertex light with a fixed renderstep. Also note that realtime shadows doesn't respect your alpha chanel, it will cast the whole mesh shape. Think about it before designing your game.
|If you are rendering billboards with transparency use Scene (F10) -> "Premul" button.|
Generally when building larger levels you will want to build atomized objects so that the person compositing the levels can easily fit pieces together in the level editor. This means that each object should piece together nicely (often by being a discrete size) and the object centers should be appropriate too. Textures should also tile appropriately over the object.
Be aware of holes between objects and terrain. In objects like a tree/house etc. it's a good idea to prepare an extended bottom about 0.5 m under the ground line.
|To make a tilable texture use the bulit-in "Make seamless" or better Resynthesizer plugin.|
10 objects with 10000 polygons for each - is faster than 10000 objects with 10 polygons each. The same thing applies with materials. For one object, use one big texture with many unwrapped faces, it's better than a couple of textures. Of course sometimes it's impossible because you need one shader effect for glass and another for a car body, for example.
Avoid overlapping faces. In realtime rendering it makes an ugly flickering effect called "z-fighting". Instead of intersections, it's better to add a couple of connecting faces between surfaces.
There is no double-sided surfaces. Every polygon has one side pointed by it's normal. Keep your normals pointing in the proper direction. If you need a double sided surface then just double and flip your polygons. In this case don't worry about the previous rule, the overlapping polygons are perfectly opposite.
|You can double your faces automatically by setting Render -> Twosided.|
Avoid triangle fans and thin polygons. It looks ugly in realtime rendering. The perfect shape should be close to a grid.
|You can try automatically reorganizing your faces to optimal using Edit -> Faces -> Beautify Fill (ALT, F).|
Sometimes because of optimization reasons objects need to be closed. Some shaders (real time shadows with normal maps and everything) also require closed objects to render properly. Coordinate closing objects with your coder.
If you need a visible seam on your mesh then split the polygon's vertices. But if not needed - don't double your vertices.
|To split a vertex into two use Edit -> Vertices -> Rip (VKEY). To clean doubled vertices use Edit -> Vertices -> Remove Doubles (W, 5).|
Terrain ignores your uv's. They are internally generated by the engine. Basemap and Materialmap just fully cover the terrain mesh, and for Splats, uv's make a regular grid. The scale of this grid is set in the shader variable.
If you made a terrain mesh and generated a heightmap, then the result in the game will always be a little bit different to your original mesh, especially at hill-side. Also check the bounds of your Heightmap, sometimes it has unneeded holes.
Heightmap encoding is: red * 65536 + green * 256 + blue
Use the foliage plugin to make grass, it can use a material map to choose where the grass, trees, and rocks will be. Use a material map to chose which texture will be displayed on the ground, at which place, in such a case, more than 4-5 textures will probably kill your framerate.
You can easily make your Materialmap by reducing your Basemap's colors to the number of Splats.
|b2cs automatically renders a heightmap, basing it on the mesh you tag as 'terrain'.|
For geometry Crystal Space uses it's own file format and a couple of popular formats: 3ds, cal3d, md2. If you want to use 100% of the features it's better to use the native CS format. Actually, exporting from Blender is the best supported. If you work in a team and members are using several 3d programs - exchange models between them in any popular format like Collada or Wavefront Obj.
If often switching apps, Obj may be the best option, it's very simple, and it's supported by most programs. Collada is xml based and supports a lot of things. As a downside it is difficult to write a parser for it and, as it's quite recent, all apps do not yet have support for it. However at a later point, it is supposed to be _the_ interchnage format.
|Collada plugin is built-in.|
|Collada plugin: www.feelingsoftware.com.|
Darek, Genjix, Jorrit, Orogor, DistantShores