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Making new Area Graphics with 3D Studio Max

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#1 Seifer


    The best Anti-Paladin weapon is a tin opener...!

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Posted 18 August 2005 - 02:13 PM


I'm assuming in this tutorial, that you know nothing about how to use 3D Studio Max. This tutorial will provide the VERY basics to making new, fully rendered areas for the Infinity Engine games. It covers creating geometry, texturing, lighting, setting up cameras, and rendering. Also make sure you check out the tutorials included with 3DSMax. They're the best ones available!


Okay, first things first. Every scene will use geometry of some type, be it a wall, a stair case, the ground, or trees. Creating geometry is easy, but creating complex geometry can be very challenging. So right now, let's just go over the basics of creating it.

To get started, fire up 3D Studio Max R3 or R4. This tutorial should apply to either of them.

Now, once everything loads, you should be looking at 3DSMax's interface. Pretty bewildering at first glance, isn't it? Well, let's go through some steps for creating a simple teapot.

Look over to the right-hand side of your screen. The Create Tab Posted Image (a mouse button) should be clicked, and Geometry Posted Image (a gray sphere) selected below it. Standard Primitives should be selected in the drop-down list below that (note that you can change what you're viewing in the Geometry tab by switching the selection in the drop-down menu). So make sure you're in the Standard Primitives tab, and click Teapot.

Now move your mouse over to the Perspective viewport (viewports are what you do almost all of your modeling and... well, everything in). Click and drag to create your Teapot. The more you drag, the larger it will get.
To focus on the Perspective Viewport alone, look to the far bottom right of your screen and click Min/Max Toggle.

A nice teapot should be created. By clicking on the Modify Tab Posted Image (the purple thing to the right of the Create tab), you can modify the general stats of the teapot. Try changing the size to a nice integer rather than something with 3 decimals.

Let's just practice zooming in and out and moving in the viewport now. To zoom, look near the bottom-right side, and you'll see a magnifying glass. Posted Image Click that, then drag in the viewport to zoom in or out.
To move in the viewport, click the hand Posted Image (popup text displays "Pan"), and click and drag in the viewport.
Zoom out and move the viewport into an appropriate position so you can see the teapot once you're done.

Make sure you save your scene so if 3DSMax crashes, you don't lose everything.


Did you ever wonder what made the Baldur's Gate I areas look so cool? Most of it was not geometry, but great textures. Everything has a texture, otherwise it just looks... weird.
So let's start off making a nice surreal, procedural texture (I'll go over what that is in a minute) for the teapot.

First, hit M on your keyboard. This brings up the material editor. If you're using 3D Studio Max R3, you should see 6 colored spheres pop up. In R4, you should see spheres that are all the same color.
Click on the first sphere. This will be what we build our texture on. Once you click the sphere, you should see two drop-down lists appear, Shader Basic Parameters and Blinn Basic Parameters. You can change the type of shader you use by selecting from the drop-down menu in the Shader Basic Parameters, but we'll just leave it at Blinn for now, as it is the most commonly used shader.
Note: If you are using 3D Studio Max R4, your spheres might appear a bright pinkish color. If this happens, and even if it doesn't, click the two Locking buttons (one is on the left and one is on the right), then change the Ambient color swatch to pure black.
Scroll down and open the Maps rollout. A whole new list of possible maps you can use should appear. Click Diffuse Map, this is the map that colors or paints the object. Select Cellular from the list that pops up. Your sphere will change colors based on the colors in the cells. Click a color swatch to change the color. You can also change the cellular values such as Spread, Size, and the type of cells shown. I changed mine to: Spread: 1.0; Size: 10.0, and Type: Circular with Fractal checked.
Let's go back to the parent texture now so we can modify some of the other types of maps. To do this, look directly beneath the Material Spheres, and to the right; click Go To Parent, an arrow pointing upwards.
You should be looking at the list of Maps again. Click and drag from the Diffuse Map slot to the Bump Map slot. When it asks what kind of Map you want to make, select Copy. Hit Go To Parent again, then change the Bump Value. Play around with it until it looks like something you like. I used 100.
Note: Bump Maps read colors in grayscale. If you use a positive value for the bump, the darker a surface, the deeper bump will appear. If you use a negative value for the bump, the lighter a surface, the deeper a bump will appear.

Okay, lastly, we have to apply this texture to the Teapot object. So left-click the teapot to select it. Then, still in the material editor, make sure the material sphere you've been working on is still selected, and hit Assign Material to Selection, a button directly below the material spheres and slightly to the left (a blue sphere pointing an arrow towards a white cube). Now you've made and applied a texture to an object! Give yourself a reluctant pat on the back!

Posted Image

Note: You will NOT see the texture on the object until you render.

Also save your file so you don't lose everything... just in case there's a crash.


Lighting can be easy, but can also be complex. Complex lighting and shadows can help an area look more interesting greatly. Right here I'm just going to teach you how to make a basic light and change the parameters, but something called Global Illumination is very important, and I'll put links to tutorials on that at the end of this tutorial.

Creating a lights are easy. Under the Create tab (the mouse remember), click Lights Posted Image. Then click either Target Spot or Omni.

Directions for Target Spot:
Click Target Spot in the Lights section, then click and drag in the viewport. The wireframe cone-like shape is the source of the light, while the wireframe cube is the target. The farther away you move the light source, the larger the spot becomes.

Directions for Omni:
Simply click Omni, then click where you want it to go in the scene. You will almost definitely have to move it using the Transform gizmo (refer to tutorials that came with 3D Studio Max for what that is and how to use it).

Once you've got one of these ready, move it wherever you think is the best position. By clicking on the Modify panel, you can change the light's colors, whether it casts shadows, and a whole lot of other options.


This shouldn't be too painful. If you haven't already noticed, the IE games use a type of view which really doesn't have a perspective, and never shows the sky. This is called isometric view, known as Orthographic for 3D Studio Max. To get this effect, we need to set up a camera.

Under the Create Panel, click the Cameras Tab Posted Image, then hit Free Camera. Click once in the viewport to create the camera.
Now we need to modify the camera's properties and positioning a bit. So click on the Modify Tab, and check Orthographic Projection. Then, with the camera still selected, left-click on the Rotate button above the viewports. Right-click the Rotate Posted Image button now, and a box should pop up with options.
Under Absolute World, you should see X, Y, and Z coordinates. Change the values in the X and Z boxes to 45, then close the box.

Now, the camera's angle is set up. Hit C on your keyboard to shift to the camera's view. Zoom (Called Field of View for cameras) in or out with the camera so the teapot is in your line of vision. Pan (called Truck Camera when in the camera's view) so the teapot is centered in the viewport.

Once that's done, hit P on your keyboard to go back to the Perspective view. Try to avoid modeling or doing anything but rendering while in the Camera's view, otherwise problems could occur. If you don't see anything once you hit P, try zooming out, as the shift back to perspective returns your view to wherever the camera is located.

Feel free to play around with materials or other objects and textures before moving on to rendering.


Rendering takes the objects, materials, perspectives, lighting, and effects in your scene, and applies them using mathematical operations to create a bitmap. Doing test-renders throughout your modeling and texturing is important to make sure everything is working properly.

To bring up Render Options, hit F10 on your keyboard. What we'll focus on here is the Output Size. Simply put, this is how big your image will be, in pixels, after rendering. Keeping it at 640x480 is fine for now, just for this teapot. However, once you start making larger scenes, you'll have to modify the output size in proportion to the size of the area. Note that the image aspect should just about always be 1.333. Keep all your sizes in that proportion (4/3).

To actually render the scene, just hit Render at the bottom of the Render Options pop-up, or to do a quick render, hit F9 on your keyboard. To render in the orthographic view, hit C to go into the camera's view, then render.

how come you always look so damn cool in every photo I see you in?!?

Speaking of modding, I listened to IER 3 yesterday, so you can have another quote for your signature: how come you sound so damn cool, as well as look it? It's unfair. Seriously.

Still a cyberjock, still hacking the matrix, still unsure of what that means.

TeamBG member - http://www.teambg.eu

#2 -Guest-

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 02:54 PM

my max crashes when i click go to parent.. does anyone maby know why?