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Emilio Le Roux

Notes on A:M --> Gamestudio

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For those interested in using A:M and Gamestudio (perhaps other engines apply too), these are some of my notes. I use to write them for myself, to help keep track of how I should do things to avoid errors. So, please forgive me if using odd grammar :)

 

 

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Notes on Model Creation Workflow

Hash, AMXTex, MED and Fragmotion

 

 

My actual workflow involves exporting from A:M to Gamestudio via MED and/or Fragmotion. This pipeline is not hasslefree, as all of the involved tools show some kind of issue.

 

Since there is a number of small glitches, it became a little hard to track the issues and avoid errors. So, I decided to put it together in this document, in workflow order:

 

Animation Master:

 

A:M, from www.hash.com, is one of the easiest modeling and animation tools. It uses patches, so models can be exported at different polygon ‘densities’. Currently, the only exporting bug I know is the UV mapping of 5-point patches and hooks, so one should be aware of the use of these. Note that this is an internal A:M small bug and not the exporter’s fault – but I believe that this issue will be solved soon.

 

AMXTex:

 

This plugin from www.obsidiangames.com is really great. I have exported lots of models and animations without a glitch.

 

The only little bug I found so far is that exporting Right-Handed or Left-Handed .X models have the only effect of flipping the model’s normals. It does not “mirror” the object as expected.

 

Be aware that AMXTex exports constrains correctly, translating them to bone keyframes. This is not a bug, but a feature: however, if you export a partial animation, it’s best to turn OFF the rigs and constrains that involve other bones you don’t want to keyframe.

 

For instance, say you want to blend two different animations: A running animation (which keyframes all the bones) and a shooting animation (which should only keyframe the arms). If you export the Shooting animation with the leg rigs turned ON, the legs will be keyframed too. When trying to blend from one frame to another, the legs will try to blend to the standing position. The workaround is to turn OFF the rigs, and then delete any bone drivers that are automatically created after turning them off.

 

MED

 

Gamestudio’s Model Editor has been greatly improved in version 6.40. However, there are still some glitches you should be aware of:

 

When importing .X animations, MED replaces the last frame of each animation with a copy of the first frame of the animation. This is often overseen when exporting a walk or run cycle scene, but it’s wrong, and will eliminate the last frame of your non-cyclic animation like shouting or jumping. As a workaround, you need to create an extra frame in A:M and delete it in MED.

 

When an animation scene doesn’t keyframe all the bones (like in the shooting example above), the non-keyframed bones seem to inherit their positions from the previous scene. This gets even updated if you change the scene order. And this reflects badly when using the models in Gamestudio. In Fragmotion this doesn’t happen.

 

Also, when merging your Vertices in MED can weld together undesired vertices, like welding the upper and lower lips of a model if they are too close. It’s better to weld vertices in another animation frame when the mouth is open. Fragmotion has also a better and simpler ‘Weld All’ command.

 

 

Fragmotion

 

This nice tool from www.fragmosoft.com has been updated to version 0.8.5.

 

In overall, Fragmotion feels more reliable than MED. You just import the .X models and export them to MDL7, just like in MED. It works very nicely, but you should be aware of certain issues first.

 

The good news are that Fragmotion imports animation scenes smoothly from .X model files. It doesn’t have the keyframe glitches that MED has, like importing a bad last frame of animations, or passing bone rotations from one scene to the unkeyframed bones of the next. It also has a keyframe editor, which MED lacks, so it’s easy to delete unwanted keys and clean up your animation.

 

A small issue introduced in 0.8.5 (trying to fix another user’s request) is that now AMXTex .X files are imported mirrored left to right. This, however, might not be Fragmotion’s fault, because as I said before, AMXTex Right Handed / Left Handed model seems to do nothing. Perhaps if that got fixed it would be up to the user to export the model mirrored or not. And, on the other side, Fragmotion has a ‘Mirror All’ tool that easily fixes this.

 

Fragmotion hasn’t a Scale Factor at importing, but it has a Scale All tool that can be used to fix model’s scale if needed.

 

A major problem with Fragmotion is how it converts textures to Gamestudio MDL7 skins. It seems that Fragmotion only learned to save 16-bit textures, with no alpha. This can be convenient at times, but if you want your 24 or 32-bit texture back, you are forced to save the MDL7 and open it again in MED, so you can replace the texture.

 

Another problem saving textures and materials is actually a Fragmotion’s ‘feature’. If more than one texture is used in the .X file, Fragmotion clamps the textures together one above the other in the MDL7 file (since Gamestudio MDL7 format can only have one set of UV cords). However, you have to make sure that only ONE material with the texture is imported into Fragmotion. Otherwise, even if two ‘materials’ use the same skin image, this image will be duplicated and put together in the MDL7 file, messing with your UVcoords in an irreversible way.

Also, you must get rid of any unused materials in Frag: if not, big black squares will be generated and clamped together with the texture.

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"Animation Master:

 

A:M, from www.hash.com, is one of the easiest modeling and animation tools. It uses patches, so models can be exported at different polygon ‘densities’. Currently, the only exporting bug I know is the UV mapping of 5-point patches and hooks, so one should be aware of the use of these. Note that this is an internal A:M small bug and not the exporter’s fault – but I believe that this issue will be solved soon.

 

AMXTex:

 

This plugin from www.obsidiangames.com is really great. I have exported lots of models and animations without a glitch.

 

The only little bug I found so far is that exporting Right-Handed or Left-Handed .X models have the only effect of flipping the model’s normals. It does not “mirror” the object as expected.

 

Be aware that AMXTex exports constrains correctly, translating them to bone keyframes. This is not a bug, but a feature: however, if you export a partial animation, it’s best to turn OFF the rigs and constrains that involve other bones you don’t want to keyframe.

 

For instance, say you want to blend two different animations: A running animation (which keyframes all the bones) and a shooting animation (which should only keyframe the arms). If you export the Shooting animation with the leg rigs turned ON, the legs will be keyframed too. When trying to blend from one frame to another, the legs will try to blend to the standing position. The workaround is to turn OFF the rigs, and then delete any bone drivers that are automatically created after turning them off."

 

Very cool idea on using blended actions. Thank you. i beleive the left/right handed model works now in v13 of AmTex, I use it occasionally to add instant variety to our critters without a lot of hassles. Also, I do not trust 5 pt patches or Hooks at all when porting to DirectX any more as a general habbit. Our models try to be completely free of them, and Yes, it is a pain in the buttox to work around them. See my enchancement? Post for more info about AmTex use in game developement.

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