Post on 06-Apr-2015
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A Tutorial about making creatures for Morrowind with Blender and Nifskope (By Muspila)
This tutorial is supposed to guide you through some of the steps necessary to make a working creature for the game Morrowind. It assumes that you already have the necessary know-how about the modeling of meshes, UV-mapping as well as the handling of armatures, weight-painting and keyframe-based animations with Blender. Moreover it assumes that you have successfully installed the Blender-Nifskripts and the program Nifskope available at http://niftools.sourceforge.net/.
So this tutorial is a basic introduction for more or less advanced modelers into what it needs to make their critters running, swimming or flying over the surface of Morrowinds gameworld. There are several checkpoints I will go through in order to make it as easy as possible.
1- Training 2- Scene Settings 3- The Armature 4- The Animation 5- Walking and Running 6- Animation Groups 7- Shadow Meshes 8- The Export and the Output Files 9- The Bounding Box 10- Getting the Creature ready in the Construction Set
1 - TrainingIf you haven't read any of the tutorials available at http://niftools.sourceforge.net/wiki/Blender yet, go ahead and read them. In order to make sure that your Nif-exporter is working right and you have understood the basic requirements, make a static, non-animated model and export it. Get the resulting Nif-File into the Construction Set and look if everything works as it should.
The tutorial on how to make a chair-model (http://niftools.sourceforge.net/wiki/Blender/Chair) also offers some helpful informations on how the material settings for Morrowind models should be.
2 - Scene SettingsMorrowind-animations are played with 15 frames per second. It is therefore recommendable to adjust the fps-setting in the scene buttons to this amount. It is, nevertheless, possible to use other fps-settings which will finally result in slightly different outputs ingame compared to what you see in the 3D-view of Blender.
Make also sure to set the frame-length-number of the animation to an amount which equals or lies above the actual animation-length. This setting will be used by the nifexporter to determine the animation length of the output-files.
3 – The armatureIf you're working with an armature, make sure to name it “bip01”, otherwise you may experience problems with walking and running animations of the creature repeatingly returning to their initial position and thus keeping the creature from moving forward ingame. This problem, however, can be caused by several things and is not necessarily the fault of the armatures' name.
If you import a model of Morrowind's stock creatures into blender you'll mostly see an armature being parent of one or more meshes with vertex groups defining the areas being deformed by the individual bones. I have used the same system for my own creature and it worked well but haven't tried out other setups yet.
If you're using the same setup, uncheck “Envelopes” under the deform options of the armature.
4 – The AnimationWhat you basically need to make is a queue of various actions the creature is supposed to make. Take care to have a standard pose for your creature that builds the beginning and ending of each activity.
If you're going to make an arthropod-like creature like eg. a spider that consists of many objects being parented to each other that are moved as whole objects in the object mode, I recommend you only to rotate the objects while using a parent-empty to animate the creature's location.
When I set location-keys for the many appendages of my spider they where shifted by some units up the Z-axis in the exported nif-file. There are probably ways to avoid this problem also with location-key's set, but I haven't figured them out.
As a sidenote: The bottom of the gameworld is the position 0 on the Z-axis. This is where the feed of the creature should rest.
It may be helpful if you check out one of the stock-creatures Morrowind has to offer (open the nif-files in Nifskope or import one into Blender). The 3D-files of Morrowind can be found on a spare CD which usually comes together with Morrowind's game-cd. Otherwise you might want to unpack the Morrowind-BSA-file with one of the BSA-Unpacker's available on the internet.
5 - Walking & RunningSpecial rules apply to Walking and Running-Animations as well as their swimming counterparts.
A – the model needs to be moved forwards (up the Y-Axis) in the object mode in order to make the game recognizing that the creature really changes its position. The way to do this the best, when eg. using a parent-armature, is to only move the armature. For a creature consisting of many objects, one common parent should do the moving. Should you also wish to make backward- or sideward- walking or running animations you have to move the creature accordingly backwards or sidewards.
B – You can vary the speed within the course of a running or walking animation. You can also make the creature walking in S-curves like the scrib from Morrowind does or make it throughout jump up and down making the creature overcome hurdles in its way.
The scrib, a creature walking in curves.
C – Backwards-running animations will (only) be used by creatures that use ballistic weapons or target spells. This however will make them more demanding enemies for player characters with melee weapons. Other than the forward-walking animation neither balkward- nor sideward-moving-animations are necessary to have a working creature. Sidewards moving only makes sense for creatures under the direct control of the player (scripted spells that make the player turn into a creature). Non-Player-Creatures don't use it.
D – The final speed of your running- and walking-animations in the game will be influenced by the stats of the creature and the proportional relation of walking animation speed and running-animation-speed.
The game plays the walking-animation according to what distance a NPC with this stats would cover walking in a certain time. This can mean a slowdown or a speedup of the walking-routine ingame compared to what you see in the 3D-view of Blender. Whatsoever the speed of the running-routine will be modified according to the walking-routine and so it may be possible that a creature runs much faster (or slower) than another creature with the same stats.
E – Running- or a walking animations consist of four parts:
In the course of the startmovement the creature should remain at its initial position. The purpose of the start movement is to make the creature taking a pose that serves as ending- and starting-pose of the loop-movement.
The loopmovement is the movement that will continuosly be played when the creature moves forward. At the end of the loopmovement the creature should end up at its final position. Beginning and end-pose of the loopmovement should more or less equal each other.
In the course of the endmovement the creature should remain at its final position. The purpose of the end movement is to make the creature changing from its running pose to its standard-pose again.
The reset only serves to shift the creature back to its initial position so other actions can be played from there.
6 - Animation GroupsOn the site http://www.preik.net/morrowind/animationgroups.html you'll find a useful overview over many animation groups used by Morrowind-Creatures. Some of them are needed to get a properly working creature, others are optional. The most necessary ones will be shown and further explained here.
The animation groups for your creature are defined in a text document called “Anim” editable in the Texteditor of Blender. If you export an animated model with the Nifexporter this text document will be generated automatically if it's not there yet. Imported models also bring this text document with them offering a useful example of how this document can be set up.
The general syntax of the textkeys is like follows:
[Framenumber]/[Animation Group]: [Action]
Together with animation-groups Sound Notes can be set making the creature play certain sounds when the denoted frame is reached.
There are two types of sound notes:
-The first type is sound notes directing to a sound which is selected by using the soundset attached to the creature in the Morrowind Construction Set. This sound can be dynamically exchanged by configuring the creature's settings later on.
The syntax is here:
[Framenumber]/Soundgen: [Sound] [an optional volume-factor]
The sounds available are:moan – a noise usually played outside of combat.roar – a noise often played when the creature attacks.scream – a noise often played when the creature is hit or dies.left – step noise intended to be caused by the left foot.right - step noise intended to be caused by the right foot.land – noise when the creature collides with the ground.
-The second type is a sound note referring to a particular sound in the game by it's ID.
[Framenumber]/Sound: [Sound-ID] [an optional volume-factor]
The most important animation groups:
Animationgroup: IdleActions: Start, Stop-the animation played between attack-movements in a combat. (needed)-----------------------
Animationgroup: Idle2-Idle9Actions: Start, Loop Start, Loop Stop, Stop-animations played outside of combat if the creature is not wandering. For example the creature looking around and sniffling. Loop Start and Loop Stop are optional. (idle2 needed)----------------------
Animationgroup: WalkForward, RunForwardActions: Start, Loop Start, Loop Stop, Stop-Startmovement between Start and Loop Start, loopmovement between Loop Start and Loop Stop, endmovement between Loop Stop and Stop. The same applies for other move-animations. (needed)-----------------------
Animationgroup: Attack1-Attack3Actions: Start, Hit, Stop-played when the creature attacks without weapon. (Attack1 needed)-----------------------
Animationgroup: Hit1-Hit5Actions: Start, Stop-played when the creature is hit in the combat. (Hit1 needed)-----------------------
Animationgroup: Death1-Death5Actions: Start, Stop-played when the creature dies. (Death1 needed)-----------------------
Animationgroup: KnockoutActions: Start, Loop Start, Loop Stop, Stop-played when the creature is knocked out by a Hand-To-Hand-Attack. The length of the knockout can vary that's why an animation loop is needed.-----------------------
Animationgroup: DeathknockoutActions: Start, Stop-played when the creature is killed in the course of a knockout. The Deathknockout-animation should start with the same pose as the Knockout-Loop Start. The intitial position is usually the creature lying on the ground making its last dying-motions after a deadly strike.-----------------------
Animationgroup: KnockdownActions: Start, Stop-played when the creature is knocked down by a heavy blow. Often happens with two-handed hammers or axes. The creature usually falls down and stands up again after a while.-----------------------
Animationgroup: DeathknockdownActions: Start, Stop-played when the creature is killed while it has been knocked down. Pretty much like Deathknockout.
Example of a Anim-Document
7 - Shadow MeshesMorrowind uses shadow meshes that generate the shadow of a creature.
Shadow meshes are additional meshes that have the same shape and size as the meshes that build the creature's body. They need to be animated as well, but don't need a texture. The shadow bodies of Morrowind's stock creatures, however, always have a plain material with a color (usually gray or brown) assigned to them. I don't know if this material is required or not since I haven't tried it without it yet.
So the shadow meshes of a creature should be more or less a duplication of the body-meshes that throughoutly do the same in the course of the animation. Usually they are lowpoly-meshes to save performance.
A shadow mesh needs to have the following proporties in order to be recognized as a shadow mesh by the Morrowind-game-engine:-The name of the object containing the mesh in blender needs to start with “Tri Shadow ...”.-The drawtype of the object in the object buttons must be set to “Wire”.-The shadow meshes all use the same (or no) material.-Body meshes and shadow meshes are to be kept in seperate objects.
Shadow-meshes are not needed to make a creature work in Morrowind. They however raise the overall-quality of the model and make it blend in better with Morrowinds stock-selection.
Sidenote: Creature-models don't need collision-objects. The bounding box will fulfill this task.
8 - The Export and the Output Files
In the export dialogue make sure to select “export nif + xnif + kf” at the upper-right corner. If everything worked fine, you should get three files after exporting.name.nifxname.nifxname.kf
All three files are needed by Morrowind and must be positioned in the same folder under the meshes-directory.
The first file contains the whole model including animation. The xname.nif-file only contains the model without animation and the xname.kf-file contains the mere animation.
The game builds the creature from both the xname-files while the first file only serves as a pointer to the latters (and as helpful reference).
Sidenote: No matter what export scale you choose for your creature, all proportions, also regarding the distance the creature covers in the move-animations, will remain proper.
9 - The Bounding Box
As a last step towards the completion of your creature, you may want to give it a bounding box.
A bounding box fulfills various tasks in order to make your creature work correctly in the game. It acts as a collision body for the creature and it's center acts as a point of origin for spellbolts fired by the creature (and it does other things besides this). It's not possible to set the bounding box up in Blender unless you're using the latest version of the Blender-Nifskripts. You will need Nifskope for it.
However, you can make a useful prearrangement in Blender by adding an empty that can be used as a base for a bounding box in Nifskope. This empty should be called “Bounding Box” and can be positioned somewhere below the creature (it's mostly 0/0/0 ). The empty should not be child nor parent of another object and it must not be involved in the animation. Should you accidentally set key frames for this empty, you will have errors within the game as soon as you encounter the creature.
After successfully exporting the model the next step will be to open the name.nif and the xname.nif in Nifskope.
The Bounding Box in Nifskope:
In Nifskope the bounding box-empty will show up as a NiNode with the same name. After selecting this block you may look after it's “block details” (mostly at the bottom of the window) and search for the field which says “Has Bounding Box”. Set the value of this field to “yes”.
Having done this you may configure the actual bounding box in the sub-tree below this field. After setting a radius the bounding box should show up as a red-lined box in the 3D-view of Nifskope. Now you can play around with the radius- rotation- and translation-values of the bounding box until you are pleased with its shape and position.
Make sure to do the same in both the name.nif and the xname.nif-file.
10 - Getting the creature ready for the game in the Construction Set
This last step is a minor issue, compared to the rest. Should you not be familiar with the Construction Set yet, I recommend you to read a tutorial on it until you have a basic grasp.
So, I will only mention a few aspects that may be interesting to note beforehand.
-As “Animation File” for the creature choose the name.nif in the file-dialogue. The xname.nif and the xname.kf should be in the same folder.
-You can make a new sound-setup for your creature in the “Sound Gen”-Dialogue found under the “Gameplay”-menue. If you have own sound-files (WAV) for the creature, you need to register those in the “Sound”-dialogue first.
-Don't use “biped”(al) as Movement-type unless you are having a model which is based on the same skeleton as the people in the game (like Dremora, Golden Saint eg.).
Some final notes:
This tutorial was mainly written with the intention to give an overview of the thing's I needed to figure out when trying to make my creatures in Blender work for Morrowind. Thus it may be that some information's given just seem very trivial while others offer a rather complicated view on the matter.
It may also be that not everything you might need to know, is covered here as I have started with a certain knowledge and certain premises that may be different to your's.
So, when you have question's or additions about the things explained here, you are free to give me feedback by writing me a pm in the Bethsoft-Forums. I'll try to answer as soon as I can.
You are also allowed to edit this document in order to optimize it for the common use as long as I stay credited for the original content's.
Finally, I hope that this document will be a helpful reference for those who still plan to model Morrowind creatures in Blender or may have got stuck trying it.
The usual odd thanks to:
-The people who made the nifskript's for Blender. Thanks to them I was able to make dozens of models for Morrowind.-Tamriel Rebuilt for getting me to learn making creature's and not only static models.-Bethesda for their Construction Set.