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By (BT)Grafik

Creating games models using Realsoft3D and Milkshape3D

By Frank "The Rookie" Dodd
Many thanks also to Stefan "Beg-inner" Gustafsson and Michael Schmeling


The global games industry is now worth more than the Movie industry and is a very popular calling for 3D Artists. While Realsoft 3D has excellent modeling tools it has several problems in producing 3D models for for real-time 3D games. The most limiting is the lack of support for importing and exporting work to different RT (Real-time) formats and secondly is the lack of game specific modeling tools such as texture baking and polygon reduction.

However by using a combination of Realsoft 3D, Michael Schmeling's Wavefront OBJ exporter and Milkshape3D there is enough available to make a practical interim solution for Realsoft users. Realsoft3D provides the platform for modeling and texturing your 3D Model, the Wavefront Exporter allows you to export the object and its UV mapping to an industry standard 3D format and Milkshape3D provides a solution for rigging, animating and finally exporting the data to a series of popular game file formats such as MD3, DirectX and VRML.

The details involved in creating a games object are beyond the scope of this document, instead this document aims to cover the procedure and to reveal  the solutions to most of the problems you will encounter. However the details are all well explained elsewhere and for further information please refer to the Realsoft3D and Milkshape3D user manuals.


Realsoft 3D: Creating the model

This is where you use your 3D skills to generate the model. Only use SDS Objects and try to work with them in Polygonal mode, as this is an exact representation of the geometry in the game (You will get a result more like that on the right when you use smoothing groups, groups of faces that are shaded to give the appearance of a curved surface).

Remember to keep an eye on your polygon count, you can do this from the 'Spec' tab on the SDS Objects properties form, where it is displayed as the number of faces, this will give you a close estimate of your polygon usage. If your using mainly four sided faces you should double this number as these will be converted into two triangles.

When you are modeling make sure your faces only have 3 or 4 sides, if a face has more break them up with new edges. 

Blob Model Geometry

Realsoft 3D: Texturing your model

There are several ways to texture models in Realsoft 3D but the one you should use is face-wise mapping as this dispenses with the problems of UV Edges wrapping around the texture and is also the same method that Milkshape3D uses  

To use face wise mapping, create a material mapping object (usually creating three parallel mappings for front, side and top is a good idea).

Select some faces on your SDS object and the mapping object itself, now click the Map2Obj tool on the Materials tool tab. From the target list choose 'Selected faces', in the source list make sure 'map coords' are chosen and in destination material choose the material you are using to skin your object.

Only one material can be used in this process as multiple materials will  distort your UV co-ordinates, if you need to use more than one texture for your model you will need to texture the object in Milkshape.

Blob Skin Texture

After you open the UV Editor window right click to open the sub menu then make sure your material is the only material on the menu and that it is selected. Also make sure one of the 'Current Face Material' options are selected.

You can now use the UV Editor to position the faces or UV vertices across the texture. The easiest way to do this is to map a group of faces, move them into position in the UV Editor window and then hide the faces on the model. This will give you a nice clean workspace in the UV Editor.

Important: When you import your model into Milkshape3D the UV coordinates are upside down! So the last thing you need to do is to select all of your UV mapping in the UV editor and mirror it.


Blob in the UV Window 

Wavefront Exporter: Exporting the model

Make sure you save your model in Realsoft 3D format so you have a reliable and complete reference project. Then once you have done this save it a second time under a different filename and this time in Wavefront OBJ format. You can use most of the default settings although you will want to make the following changes: -

  1. Increase the scale. This obviously depends on the size of your model in Realsoft3D but I typically needed to scale mine up by a factor of 100. Obviously this is something that needs to suit your preferences.

  2. You can use 'Export selected objects only' if you wish, but the entire project will become a single object in Milkshape3D.

  3. You may want to clear the 'SDS objects as triangles' option this will hugely increase your polygon count and isn't really necessary.

  4. Make sure 'Export material definitions' is unchecked, Milkshape3D cannot make use of this information and it can cause a crash in Milkshape3D. 

  5. Finally make sure 'UV coords as' is set to 'per face uv coords' (assuming you used the recommended face wise mapping).

The Export settings from Michaels Wavefront Export Tool

Milkshape 3D: Importing

Importing into Milkshape3D is very simple.

From the File / Import menu use the Wavefront OBJ Import option to load the file. There are no settings and the model will appear in the display with all of the view windows correctly scaled to display it.

It is now a good idea to load in a reference model from your target game. This is will give you a good idea as to whether your model is correctly scaled and positioned, if it isn't you can select your models group before scaling and moving it into position. When your happy simply select your reference models group and delete it.

The Milkshape 3D Import Option

Milkshape 3D: Materials

The OBJ file does not contain the material reference so simply use Milkshape3D to create a new material assigned to the same texture as the Realsoft 3D material's texture image. 

You can then assign this material  to the models group and the texturing will be set up. You may also need to select the main object group, open up Milkshape3D's Texture Editor and just tweak the UV points perfectly back into place (after you turned them upside down!). Just select them all and you should be able to move and scale them into position in seconds. 

The Milkshape 3D Texture Coordinate Editor

The Milkshape 3D Material Panel

Milkshape 3D: Rigging and animation

The rigging and animation must be done completely within Milkshape3D as skeleton and animation data cannot currently be exported from Realsoft3D. Fortunately you can save pure skeletons and animation data from Milkshape3D so if you need to revisit your model you will not need to recreate the skeleton and animation, however you will need to recreate the vertex assignments to the joints, this is a very work intensive task so its not going to be something you are going to want to do too many times.

The animation sequences you need to create depend on the games format you will be exporting too. The Milkshape3D tutorials on animation cover the key-frame animation system very well.

Milkshape 3D: Exporting to your game

Finally you need to export everything to your game, Milkshape3D supports a dozen different games formats and half a dozen other common 3D formats. Each of the processes is different and may include: creating special tags for holding weapons, dividing your model into special groups for games animation, converting the image format of your textures and editing model files that specify image locations and sizes. Please refer to the details for your specific format.

Hopefully in the future we will have a skeleton/animation export function from Realsoft3D and the entire process will be a lot simpler. But for now this process does work and its good fun too.

The Blob in a Real Time view

Bonus Features

Finally there are a few bonuses to this integration of Realsoft3D and Milkshape3D. Michaels Wavefront plug-in can also import Wavefront files into Realsoft3D and Milkshape3D has a few particularly interesting tools:

  • The first is the text tool by Craig Musgrave, when imported into Realsoft3D these appear as pure SDS objects perfect for people wanting to deform their text in animation. Once imported you should perform a 'Join Faces' on the object.
  • Secondly there is a terrain generator that provides a very nice mechanism for generating fractal landscapes.
  • Thirdly games models can be extracted from games modifications and imported directly into Realsoft3D complete with UV mapping (and most of them are very impressive too).

Quake 2 Hueteotl Model by Brian "Evil Bastard" Collins Rendered in Realsoft 3D

For Details on Milkshape 3D - click HERE to download demo / learn more.


Page updated on Sunday, 31 August, 2003 . For feedback / model submissions or articles - please email us.
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