3ds Max Basics

By SubRosa


A Basic Overview Of Models And Skins

A model is a 3-dimensional wireframe. Those used by RTW are saved with a .CAS file extension, and can be found in the RTW\Data\Models_Unit folder. Each unit in RTW will typically have up to four model files, and the game swaps from one to the other depending on the level of distance (lod), using lower resolution models when further away to reduce the load on your computer's resources.

A texture or skin is a 2-dimensional graphic pasted over the model. Each model may use multiple textures. This is done when identical units of multiple factions use the same model. Barbarian Cavalry is one such example.

The textures can be found in the game's pack files. When you unpack the .pak files you will find them in the RTW\Data\Models_Unit\Textures folder. The texture files that RTW uses are .dds files. These are actually just .tga files, but have been heavily compressed to save disk space. In fact, it is possible to use .tga files for textures if you desire.

Models and Skins are assigned to units in the RTW\Data\Descr_Model_Battle.txt file.

Animations can be found in the RTW\Data\Animations folder. They are stored in the file pack.idx. You will need the Idx Extractor to extract them.

Opening a Model

Okay, time to get started. 3ds Max does not natively support the .CAS files that Rome: Total War uses. However, there is a plugin that allows it to edit them. Download and extract the .CAS plugin from the pack of RTW utilities linked to above and save it in your 3ds Max\Plugins\Startup folder. Doing this will automatically load the plugin every time you start 3ds Max.

In order to manually load the plugin, first start up 3ds Max. Then click on the hammer icon in the right side toolbar, this brings up the Utilities. Now click on MAXScript.

Click on Run Script, and select CAS_IE_b69.ms

Now go to the drop down menu beneath the Run Script button and click on the arrow to expand it. Click on R: TW Import/Export.

That gets the plugin running. Now to actually open a model go to the right side toolbar and click on the hammer icon to bring up the Utilities box (if you have not done so already). Look down to the bottom of the toolbar and you will see a list of 3 options. R:TW Import/Export, R:TW Export, and R:TW Import. If the toolbox will not fit your screen, then you can left-click on it and drag it up to see the bottom of it. You can also minimize the Max Script box at that point by clicking on the + beside its title.

To open a .CAS file click on R:TW Import, then click on Import.CAS file. To save one click on R:TW Export.

You will see four window panes in the main viewing area. One for the Top, Left, and Right views, and a final pane for a 3-dimensional perspective view. Usually this last one is selected by default when you first start 3ds Max. If not click on it, and then press the Alt + W keys on the keyboard. This will bring up the perspective view full screen, making it easier to work with the model. Pressing Alt + W again will take you back to the 4 pane view.

After the model loads you will not see anything except for a funny-colored ball. Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and you will see that this is actually the model.

Aside from zooming, you can also change the angle of your view by using a series of buttons in the toolbar at the bottom of your screen. Selecting the hand icon (Pan View) allows you to drag the image around your screen. Using the circle with the arrows in it (Arc Rotate) will allow you to adjust the view either vertically or horizontally. To escape one of the view modes and go back to normal simply right-click anywhere on the screen.

You can select individual parts of the model by simply clicking on them. To select the entire model click in the area outside of the model, and holding down the mouse button move it over the entire model. This will draw a square around it.

Let go when you are finished and the entire model will be selected.

You can move the model (or parts of it) around by simply selecting it and dragging with your mouse. You can also delete parts this way, such as weapons, simply by selecting them and pressing the Delete key.

To copy something in the model first click on the section of the model you want to copy.

Now right-click on the screen and in the box that pops up select Clone.

You will asked to name the new addition you have made.

Typically this is done to weapon in a model that only has a primary weapon for a single attack and you want to create an identical second weapon for a secondary attack. In this case you would name the new weapon "secondary weapon". For example, you can do this to Axe units to allow them to throw an axe and also fight with one in melee combat.

To Save a model you have edited go back to the Utilities box and click on the Export .CAS option. This will bring you to a Save As screen where you can either save it under the original name (copying over the original file), or save it with a new name. Unless you export the file it will not be saved!

One final safety tip. When you are finished editing a model and have Exported it to your hard drive, be sure to remove it from your screen before you edit another one. Otherwise 3ds Max will simply paste the next model you Import right onto the old one. This can cause some very strange graphics glitches in the game. So when you are done select your entire model and press delete. Or go to File, click on New, and in the next prompt say no, you do not want to save your changes. When it tells you it is creating a new scene, tell it to create "New All". That way you start your next model with a clean slate.

Applying A Texture To A Model

Now you have a grey 3-dimensional shape of a unit. To see what it will look like with a texture do the following:

Open up the Material editor by pressing the "M" key, or clicking on the button with the four colored balls on upper left of the screen.

There will be six panes at the top of the window, and under them a drop-down box with "Default" in it. Look further down and click on "Maps". In there select "diffuse color".

Click on the box to the right of that and it will bring up a new window that will allow you to select the texture of your choice.

You will find that most models typically have a texture already set for them in the Material Editor. This is because not doing so can result in a bug in the game, where the texture specified in Descr_Model_Battle.txt will not be visible, and only the gray model will appear in the game.

To set a texture to a model in 3ds Max (not Descr_Model_Battle.txt), or change the one already selected, is to simply add the texture you want, then Export the .CAS file.

RTW will still be able to use other textures specified by Descr_Model_Battle.txt with the model if you do this. However, the game will crash if it cannot find the texture that is set to it in 3ds Max. Normally this is only an issue when using models and textures from one of the expansions in the original game, or vice versa. Such as using a Barbarian Invasion model in RTW. In this case you will have to either reset the texture in every .CAS file you bring over from the other game, or copy the original texture over to your RTW folders so the game can find it.

Pose The Model

You have probably noticed that the models are all shown standing with their arms thrust out from their sides. To put them in a natural pose go to Utilities in the right-side toolbox, then go down and click on R:TW Import, then Import Animation.

Now go to the files you unpacked earlier and find the RTW\Data\Animations folder. You can find all of the animations that the game uses in here and in its subfolders.

The animations also have a .CAS extension. Their naming convention can be confusing. I have found that the last letter denotes the type of unit many are for. So LIJ is a Javelinman animation, LIS is for a Spearman, LID is for dagger, SLG is a slinger, etc...

Once you load the animation, you can run through the various stages of it by using the slider you will now see at the bottom of your screen until you find a pose you like.

Render An Image

To render an image of the model, simply press the F9 key. It will bring up a new window with a preview of what the picture will look like. If you click on the button with the little black and white ball it will show you the alpha channel of the image. While the red green and blue ones show the RGB layers respectively. Clicking on the little button of the floppy disc in the upper left will allow you to save the image as a graphics file. Note that you have to select a file type to save it as (there is no default), or it will not save the image.

To change the lighting and even set a custom background image, open up the Material Editor again, and click on the Options button in the upper right of the window.

This takes you to a new window where you can change the Top and Back light, Ambient Light, set an image file to use as a background, etc...

You can also make some of these changes by pressing 8 (or go to the top Menu bar, click on Rendering and then Environment), and it will bring up the Environment and Effects window. Clicking on the Color box will bring up a new window with options to change the background color. I typically change it to about 128 on the black and white slider to give me a grey background. To change the amount of lighting on the unit itself set the tint level to something higher, such as 1.5.

How To Activate The Alpha Channel On Textures In Previews

You have probably noticed an annoying black border that appears around objects such as shields. You can get rid of this by activating the alpha channel of the texture in 3ds Max. Here is how:

Open the .cas file and go to the the Material Editor. If you have not already done so, assign a texture as normal.

Now look down to the Opacity field, click on the drop down arrow, and select Default. Look down to the Maps field, and there put a check in the box next to Opacity. Then click on the field to the right (which will say "None").

This brings up a new window. Click on "Bitmap".

Now select your texture as usual once more.

Now in the Bitmaps Parameters make sure Mono Channel Output is set to Alpha, and Alpha Source is set to Image Alpha.

Just to be thorough, go back to the Opacity drop down menu up top and select "01 - Default".

This will take you back to the Maps window.

Click on the texture name on the "Diffuse Color" line and once more make sure the Bitmaps Parameters are set as in the example above. Press F9 to render the image.

How to Create Unit Cards In 3ds Max

Look Here for Private Clark's full tutorial on how to use 3ds Max to create unit cards.