Tuesday, March 8, 2011

'tis so frustrating....

The mysteries of 3D design. I can't describe how dumb I feel when I look at any 3D design program. Long ago, I mean, really long ago, I learned some basics of Cinema 4D at my art school. "Learned" is a little bit of an exaggeration here, I managed to import some models and combine them to a scene, and that was it. In the meantime of course I forgot even that again, and it doesn't really matter anyway, because Cinema 4D is probably the least commonly used program for what I'm attempting to do. So far I've only seen it at advertising companies, used by artsy Mac-Users to design toothpaste tubes and boxes for ads. Fascinating.

No no, the whole world out there uses the Autodesk products, and mainly for game stuff you actually can't avoid 3dsmax. I have absolutely no clue whatever to do with such a thing, and it's a bit hard to get my hands on it too, given the ridiculous price. 30day trial you say? In 30 days I might learn how to navigate inside a scene, but surely not how to do the stuff I want to do. Okay, scratch that.

There's also Blender. Blender is actually an incredibly powerful tool, it's free and can do pretty much everything the other big players can do too, as it seems (see movie still above), at least for my needs... but... Jesus Christ, I'm crying like a baby once I look at the screen. What the hell are all these things for? This is nuclear physics, no less.

Okay, paddle back... Why am I doing this? Because I'm sick of hitting walls in my attempts to make some custom content in NWN2. "Make" is a little bit much, I'm mainly just retexturing things in 2D. It took me an eternity to get the basics of NWN2's normal maps, alpha channels in texture maps and all that already, but I managed, at least I was able to make my reskins for Jester's nudes and create some undies for them by manipulating textures of preexisting clothes. But I'm hitting a wall. Some things I totally want to do are just not possible with the models I have access to, also, some texturing work never turns out to be satisfying, mainly due to doing normal maps not in a 3D application or having a too plain base.

Often when I have no inspiration for Middleforest like now, a little custom content work got me back to it. You know, having made a nice new outfit you want to see it in game... you open the toolset again and load the mod and think 'ah well, now I added the blueprint, could as well make a new shop'.
Well, lately both Middleforest and custom content were more frustrating than ever, everything I did was pretty ugly. The module scares me off with all it's details that don't work, and with clothes I hit the said wall where it's no fun anymore. Mainly because of the lack of model bases, and me being horribly scared of 3D stuff.

Okay, after a long time of avoiding it I thought I'd at least give it another try, if only for converting stuff from other games. I tell you I have no clue what I'm doing, one day was already wasted on getting Blender and the import/export scripts to work (wrong Blender releases, wrong 32/64bit version, wrong install paths, outdated scripts, etc.). Inspired by a sour comment of Mr.Nixon on his fallout blog, I thought I'd stubbornly try to get an outfit from Fallout to work, actually a splendid idea because there are so many outfits and other models at the Oblivion/Fallout Nexus vaults that just wait to get used.

Using two different versions of Blender (older, stable 2.49 32bit for using the .nif import/export stuff and a newer 2.55 64bit - 2.56 is again unusable - for using the .mdb plugins... headache anyone?) I was at least able to get everything into one scene, and with some pointers from Jester's tutorial included in the .mdb plugin, even managed to apply the textures. Hooray!

So... here we are. I have a body base from NWN2 (that's one of Jester's) and a nice outfit from Fallout 3 right next to it in one scene. Hooray. Uh... what now? Yes, that's it. I have no clue what now. I probably have to... make it fit, combine somehow with the Fallout outfit fitting the base nicely and making use of it's skeleton... avoid clipping... uh... clean some stuff up... uh... figure out how to control polygon counts... I... I have just no idea what to do.

At this point I'm again wondering if I should use a 30day trial of 3dsmax because apparently everyone knows how to use that one. That they know does absolutely not mean they are willing to share though, let's face it, the few people in NWN2's community who are skilled in 3D are locked away in their ivory tower and only sometimes throw an awesome model out of the window down to us mere mortals. No bad feelings, they are busy with the serious stuff... just saying... :)

And 30 days for all the stuff I'd like to do? Can I even save useable files? I have no clue... mastering Blender is a dream, oh my god, what could be done if I had any clue what I'm doing in this... (at this moment it takes me 30 minutes to find the right button to change the view). Or... just forget about it, drop everything because I'm just too dumb to use this?

*cries like a baby*

Edit: Oh, and Happy Birthday mom.


Ben Harrison said...

If it helps, I'm pretty decent in 3ds max, and Blender's interface melted my brain as well. Never even got past the pan/zoom/rotate controls, just too alien for me.

I... guess that doesn't help.

Have you tried going through some tutorials for Blender? Even if the usual "basic" tutorial stuff seems really boring and awkward, I've found following those (for Maya, gmax, max) slowly and carefully helps things to sink in.

Casa said...

Heh, actually, when I look at the tutorials for 3ds Max, the interface is no less intimidating than Blender's. The only real advantage I see is more people using it. Actually, I remembered Frank doing a very nice creature tutorial on his Faithless blog:


This requires at least two commercial tools though, 3ds Max and Z-Brush (which seems to be awesome for making quick changes to base models).

I'm still hoping to get into Blender though, at least I already learned some basic navigation in it, was able to import and export things, and I know it can theoretically do all I want for free. Working on it.

Nessa said...

Blender's interface is.. well I can't describe it simply without expletives. (And I don't cuss. Ever.) Every other graphics app on the planet regardless of OS uses the LEFT mouse button to select something. I guess that was too good for Blender so they opted for the right button. Way to be "out there" Blender guys! Everything from resizing, to scaling to even selecting freaking vertices requires a lengthy list of key commands. In general using the app for simple things feels like I'm arm wrestling the damn thing. (See? I'm cussing! That's how bad it is!!)

The good news is that it's highly customizable. (But then, so is max.) And there is the FREE factor which is big I admit. Weighting vertices is in general a pain and I much prefer Max for that. And... well... doing anything remotely complex like splines or NURBS... give me max PLEASE.

There is one gem about Blender however. Two really. The lattice object and the fabulous ShrinkWrap modifier. LOVE shrinkwrap! That will conform one mesh to another very nicely. Though it does flatten your mesh. The lattice works somewhat similarly except it won't flatten your mesh. Short story is... the combination of these tools allow outfit makers to rapidly fit clothes to different bodies. Useful.

I keep intending to try a similar plugin for max which would of course negate the need for Blender. Just haven't gotten to it yet.