[Student Thread] Velocirascal - Lord Hayden


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Posted (edited)

Hey there! So, to get started, it's best to get all the programs we will need set up for the workflow. Depending on what you have access to and what kind of workflow you have, the texturing process can vary, so I'll cover it when we get to it. 

Your Blender version is 2.77/2.78, so it's compatible with the Blender exporter in my tutorial thread about exporting statics from Blender. Just open up Blender and go File -> User Preferences and select Add-ons from the top bar. You can then click on 'Install From File' at the bottom of the window and browse to the .zip of the .nif exporter. I believe you can also go into your Blender directory and unzip the files there manually, but I find the first method easiest. Now you should have a 'NetImmerse/Gamebryo (.nif)' option in your Import and Export options.

The programs in the tutorial thread cover just about everything you will need to go from Blender to Skyrim, although one extra tool you will find useful (and will most likely need) is BSAOpt, a program that can decompress .bsa files. A .bsa is a Bethesda Softworks Archive, pretty much a compressed file that contains scripts, models, textures, etc. Kind of like a .zip file, except you need a special program to open it. You won't have to worry about creating .bsa files as we just use loose files most of the time for modding. The only times .bsa files are distributed would be for full releases to the public, and even then that would be handled by the team leads. What you will want to do is use BSAOpt to extract some of your vanilla Skyrim files into a working directory (this can be anywhere, My Documents for example) where you can find them. The .bsa files you will want to extract from your Skyrim Data directory (.../Steam/steamapps/common/Skyrim/Data) are Skyrim - Meshes.bsa and Skyrim - Textures.bsa. These are both the meshes (.nif files) and the textures (.dds files) used in Skyrim. These are useful for not only looking at the models and getting ideas on how Bethesda got around the geometry and texture use, but also for opening up in NifSkope and figuring out how the file structure works and what everything means (I will go into detail about this when we finally export our own model)

For texturing, we will most likely be using Adobe Photoshop to save out our textures to a .dds (DirectDraw Surface) file format, although this isn't included in the default Photoshop install. The best .dds plugin around at the moment I believe is the Intel Texture Works plugin, so get that installed and ready.

To sum up the main programs and plugins you will be needing:

  • Blender 2.77+ and the .nif Exporter
  • BSAOpt
  • NifSkope
  • NifUtilSuite
  • Adobe Photoshop and the Intel Texture Works Plugin

It might sound like a bit of work, but all this stuff only needs to be done once, and sets you up perfectly for the rest of your workflow. If you wanted to test out if you installed everything correctly, you can try importing one of the vanilla .nif files you extracted into Blender, and open up a .dds texture file in Photoshop.

Once you've got all this done, let me know and we can move on to your Iliac Bay claim ;) Or, if you're running into any troubles, just either post here or send me a message and I can help you through it. :)

Edited by Lord Hayden
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Posted

Ok!

I've installed all of the applications and plugins you mentioned but there are two caveats:

  1. The link to the newest version of BSAopt didn't work when I tried it, but I was able to click over to the Files tab and download the version that was posted there (1.6.3 released 6/7/12)
  2. I am using Photoshop CS5 which doesn't seem to be compatible with the Intel Texture Works Plugin, but my friend who is dabbling in modding Skyrim provided me with a different .dds plugin that I was able to install instead.

That said, everything I have (including BSAopt and the .dds plugin) appears to be functional so far, so I'm ready for the next step unless you think we should spend more time making sure I have a specific version of BSAopt and/or a specific .dds import/export plugin for Photoshop.

Also, I'll be taking a trip out of town this weekend, so I'll be available to respond to posts and mesages but it'll be Monday before I can continue actual work.

I'm looking forward to my first claim!

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Posted (edited)

I believe the nVidia .dds plugin will also do what you need it to for now (I'm assuming that's the one you're using). The only possible problem that might pop up is the .dds format we save as. The nVidia .dds plugin was the default plugin used for saving out texture files for the old Skyrim engine (using DXT5 compression) until the release of the Special Edition, this is when Skyrim was able to use newer and better .dds compression methods that are only available through the Intel Texture Works plugin (BC7 I think the new compression method is called). You can check out this Reddit thread if you wanted to go into finer details about how and why, as well as see some examples.

I should've asked this earlier, do you have the original Skyrim and/or SSE?

That being said, a lot of teams are still using the original Skyrim to mod and have not jumped over yet to the Special Edition, although I think a lot of them plan to do so at some point. It's not a problem if you're unable to get your hands on the Intel plugin, but just to be safe, I'd keep a backup of all your texture files in the highest resolution you can in a lossless format such as .tga, that way you'll always have the original files in the case someone needs to create SSE versions of your texture maps.

Regarding BSAOpt, it hasn't been updated in quite a long time, so I think that's the correct version. If in doubt, you can always try to extract a Skyrim.bsa to see if it throws up any errors.

Your Claim

Now, regarding your claim, we've got a clutter claim that's only been partially completed that will be used throughout Hammerfell (keep in mind that clutter sets like this can also be used all throughout Beyond Skyrim wherever it might be appropriate, so the chances of your models appearing in other provinces all over Tamriel are quite high!). Here's a link to the Beyond Skyrim: Iliac Bay Trello board post. Most provinces use Trello as their planning and organisational website for a lot of art related stuff. This is where we post concepts and screenshots of some of our claims. 

The board should be public, but in the case that it is not; here is the concept we have for the clutter set:

up1.png

At the moment, everything along the bottom row has not been started or claimed except for the blue plate on the left. I'll have to see if anything is still available along the top row as well, but for now, the bottom row can be our starting point. 

If you like the look of the style and this claim, let me know which one you would like to start with (I'd suggest the vases or bowls just to start). I'll pick a similar object in the claim, that way you can follow along and we can focus on getting the workflow down, and getting the model in-game. If you're not a fan of the style or anything, feel free to have a look over the board and find something that grabs your eye. The left hand side board shows all the current members who have claimed what on the board so you can see what's avaliable, so once we've confirmed your claim I'll add you in there. :)

EDIT:

Also, no rush if you're away for a weekend or a couple days here and there, I've also got studies to attend between as well so it can be a little bit of time between when I can get tutorials out, although I'll always be able to jump in and keep you updated/give you feedback on your work. :D

Edited by Lord Hayden
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Posted

I've got the original Skyrim, but it's no problem to get the SE if necessary. I also have access to CS6, but the license is only good on my Mac which I don't use as often. I'll try the plugin on there so I can use it when I have to.

 

I'll pick a claim when I get back in a few days.

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Posted

Quick update before I head off to work this morning,

I got a new computer this week, so I spent some of my free time grabbing those apps and plugins and transferring them onto it. Also nabbed the latest version of Blender and finally figured out how to work BSAopt. I tracked down some meshes similar to what I'll be working on, extracted them, and imported them into Blender successfully. I'm trying to get a feel for the level of detail Bethesda put into their clutter to give me an idea of what I should be striving for. I'll have to spend some time another day figuring out how to get extracted textures to work with the models so I can get a better sense of how those are handled as well.

We can start with the top Sentinel style bowl as my first claim.

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Posted

Alright excellent! BS has a little bit of wiggle room in terms of polycount so we can go a little bit over what they did for the vanilla meshes. If you're confident in your modelling you can go ahead and start it whenever you like, but if you'd like me to walk you through the modelling process too just let me know and I can post up a tutorial covering it. :)

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Posted (edited)

Ok - so I finally got around to making this bowl! Since you said there is a bit of wiggle room, I went ahead and made it with a bit more polys than the vanilla Skyrim bowls have ... hopefully I didn't go overboard. I still have to work on UV unwrapping it and once I do that, actually creating a texture for it. Making the texture is the thing I'm most concerned about at this point, since I have much less experience working in 2D than in 3D.

Any feedback or advice at this stage?

Edit: I have continued work on the model. I made it thinner and made the geometry around the outside more subtle. I also finished UV unwrapping it and used the concept art to make a place holder texture until the final texture is complete. New image added to show progress.

sentinelbowl1-wip1.png

sentinelbowl1-wip2.jpg

Edited by Velocirascal
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