Introduction to modding - Part 1 - Setting up

Game Version: FS11 and later
GE Version: ? and later


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Hi everyone

Whenever I go to the chat box, or spend a few moments on the forum, this question is asked over and over : “How do I make mods” ? Then we all reply : “Look on the forum”, “Search”, etc. After looking around, I realized that there weren't any tutorials that would introduce the newcomers to modding. There are some tutorials that will show you how to count nodes, add a front-loader, change the .xml a bit, model a tire thread, etc, but no big tutorial that will help the new modder to find the right software for him, and how to set up his project properly to be able to work in good conditions.

That's why I decided to make it myself, I was bored so I thought “Why not”, if it helps a couple of people around then it will be mission accomplished, if not too bad I would have wasted that time watching p… doing homework anyways ;)

This is the part 1, but I'm not sure if part 2 will ever exist, it will depend if people like the tutorial or not, find it useful or not.

In this part, we will go through everything you need to know before you start modding.

Before we start, I'm sorry if there are some annoying mistakes with my grammar, for all you grammar critics out there, but english is not my first language, so I'm not 100% good at it  :)

N/A.

I. Finding & Downloading your software

This is a question that is frequently asked around, what software should you use when you start to mod ? People often reply Sketchup, because it's the easiest to use for a new modder, but why waste you time learning Sketchup when you could use it learning 3ds Max, Ac3d, Maya or such high level software !

I am not able to answer universaly this question, there isn't one software that will make everybody on earth happy. People have different needs, and this is why I will go through all the programs I know and show you the pro's and con's of each one of them.

A. Google Sketchup

I'm listing Sketchup because I know some of you will want to know. I do not recommend it, it's not professional, and almost always result in extremely high polys models that will make even the NASA's computer crash.

I will not waste my words explaining what is each program, by who it was created and when, Wikipedia will do that for me ;) Google_sketchup

Cost : Free Pros - Easy to use - Large library of materials to rapidly texture your work - Free

Cons - Noobish (not professionnal) - Extremely low number of features, when compared to other freeware and payware - Gigantic polycount

Example of work made with Sketchup (images from Google, not mine)

Sketchup is good to use when you want to make a couple of sheds, fences, pannels, etc, but if you want to make nice moddels, it's the program to avoid.

Download link : http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/download/]http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/download/

B. Autodesk 3ds Max / Maya

I'm putting these two together because they are very similar in term of capabilities. If you can make something with Max, you can extremely likely make it with Maya, the opposite is also true. Similar layout, features, different names for tools but in the end they are about the same.

If you want to do some reading to improve your english http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autodesk_Maya]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autodesk_Maya http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autodesk_3ds_max]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autodesk_3ds_max

Cost : Free (if using student version, 3 years, no limitations) Pros - Very professionnal, used by pro's to make game content and movies - Huge load of features - Stunning rendering to make amazing 3d scene

Cons - Complex layout - Not the easiest to master when you are a new modder

Example of work made with Maya/3ds Max (images from Google, not mine) membres.multimania.fr_psychosemovie_gt2_test_rendu23lo.jpg

A lot of members and modders of Ls-Uk are using one of those two, once you get the hang of it you can do everything you want, thousands of free tutorials to learn how to use them properly.

Download : http://students.autodesk.com/]http://students.autodesk.com/ (register, then click on Free software)

C. Blender

Blender, a very popular and known freeware. Blender is totally free, no trial version or limitation, and is constantly improved. You can do very nice models with it, if you know how to use it properly. Since it's free, you can find a lot of tutorials on how to use it on Youtube.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blender_(software)]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blender_(software)

Cost : Free Pros - Many features - Professionnal - Free

Cons - Less features then Max/Maya

Example of work made with Blender (images from Google, not mine) upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_6_69_engine_movingparts.jpg upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_3_39_lone_house.jpg

If for some reason you don't have access to the students version of Max/Maya and don't want to pay thousands of $ for them, Blender is the way to go. For a freeware, you can't get any better then that ;)

Download : http://www.blender.org/]http://www.blender.org/

D. Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D is another quality software produced by Maxon. You can find all the infos you need here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CINEMA_4D]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CINEMA_4D

Cost: Free trial period, after that it's more then 2500e

Pros Great, professionnal program Easy layout Can get some deadly textures

Cons Limited version, otherwise you have to pay for it Really tricky to use

Example of work made with Cinema 4D (images from peterstewart2345, not mine) a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net_hphotos-ak-ash4_405940_275682459154809_2042515579_n.jpg a8.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net_hphotos-ak-ash4_387936_277964355593286_416513161_n.jpg

Thanks to peterstewart2345 for the informations about Cinema 4d ;) I wouldn't recommend it since it's less popular, less tutorials then let's say blender or max, but it's a very complete tool to use if you know how to, and have the money for it !

Download : http://www.maxon.net/en/home.html]http://www.maxon.net/en/home.html

E. AC3D / Others

I'm putting those all together because they have something in common : I don't know them. I haven't use any of those, so I can't really describe them well to you. I will leave this section blank for now, and fill it in if someone wants to help me.  :-\

All I can say is that they are commonly use, some of the modders of some of the most popular's modding team of Ls-Uk are using those programs, they are complex and well furnished in term of features.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC3D]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC3D

Download : AC3D http://www.inivis.com/downloads.html]http://www.inivis.com/downloads.html

Enough with that ! Now you should have an idea of what program to use and where to download it.

II. Tutorials

Now that you have the your favorite software installed, it's time to learn how to use it ! If I make a part 2 someday, I will probably explain how to use some of them, but the best teacher is youtube. Here are a couple of channels you could check to find good tutorials.

Sketchup What ? You chose to use Sketchup ? Oh  :( Anyways, I won't let you down !

I found those that look interesting, but I don't use it, and you probably won't, if you need more, feel free to use the Internet ;)

Maya For Maya, I found a couple of good channels for tut's since I'm using Maya and I've been through that research for knowledge before.

http://www.youtube.com/user/pixelbahn?feature=results_main]http://www.youtube.com/user/pixelbahn?feature=results_main > Excellent tuturials, teached me how to use most of the tools in Maya http://www.youtube.com/user/deepfriedectoplasm?feature=g-user-u]http://www.youtube.com/user/deepfriedectoplasm?feature=g-user-u > This will help you to learn to use more complex features and to create stunning render, along with a 40 minutes UV mapping tutorial ;)

3ds Max For Max, here is what I found

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA12BF2F8CC489A50&feature=plcp]http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA12BF2F8CC489A50&feature=plcp > Excellent instructor, I've watched hundred of his tutorials on PHP, HTML and stuff, 22 videos that will help you with 3ds max http://www.youtube.com/user/3dsMaxHowTos/videos]http://www.youtube.com/user/3dsMaxHowTos/videos[/url] > 160 vids. Can you watch them all ?

Blender I'm not using it, so I haven't deeply search for tutorials, but here is what stand out to me

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL08F12EB42C5FC51B&feature=plcp]http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL08F12EB42C5FC51B&feature=plcp > Many vids, watched a couple, seems legit to me ;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPmsi72S9PE#ws]Absolute Beginners Blender 3D #1A Tutor[/url] > Recommended by hermit, there is a whole serie, great tutorials That's all I can come up with at this time of the night, but again is you search on google and youtube, you'll find you treasure ^^

Others Sorry to all of you “others” users, honestly I don't think that a lot of new modders will choose Ac3d or Cinema 4d.

Anyways, here you go friends : http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ac3d+tutorial]http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ac3d+tutorial http://lmgtfy.com/?q=cinema+4d+tutorial]http://lmgtfy.com/?q=cinema+4d+tutorial

III. Deciding what to mod

The most common mistake with any domain when a newbie starts his career is that he oftens want to do too much. Let's start with a simple example.

Bobby is new to modding. He just downloaded Autodesk Maya, and launch it. Woaaaa, now it's time to make the magic happen. Bobby is wondering what he should make. He always wanted a New Holland TL100 tractor, just like his grandpa's tractor. So Bobby create a new project, scene and make a cube. He move a few vertex.

One hour later, Bobby is crying alone in his room, he failed. See what Bobby did ? He aimed too high. Making a complex machine like a tractor takes time, efforts, skill and knowledge. Even with a divine motivation, Bobby couldn't do it. You can't start with something that complex. You have to stay at your levels.

The best way to improve is to test your knowledge, to make simple models, a bowl, a wine glass, a chair, anything that you feel you have the knowledge to do. Then you improve it and make it better. Eventually, you'll have the knowledge to make more complex models.

Now that you have downloaded your software, installed it and watched hundreds of thousand of tutorials, it's time for you to start modding. Above I said to start with a bowl or a glass, but you're probably not that bad, you could make a fence, a pannel, a road, a little shed, all those things can be made quite easily when you put the time.

Here are the 3 questions I ask myself before starting a new project

1- Do I have the skills/knowledge to make that ? 2- Do I have the ressources (pictures, sounds, information) to make that mod ? 3- How long will it take ?

First off, you need to ensure that you don't aim to high, just like Bobby did. Secondly, to make a good mod for FS, you need pictures or blueprints, video, sounds, measures to scale it, etc. A LOT of infos are needed in order to make a quality model.

Finally, do you have the time ? Making a great mod takes a lot of time, and you will need to spend hours making it. Do you have only a couple hours a week to mod ? If you don't have access to your modding software for a long time each week, I suggest that you start with smaller projects.

The reason for that is that achieving your mod and uploading it will be a great accomplishment. If you spend hours and hours and hours and weeks on the same mod, you won't see the progress and you will become depressive   :'( Jokes appart, making smaller things first is a great way to encourage yourself and to motivate you.

IV. The gathering

No, this is not the title of an upcoming movie, it means that's know that you have your modeling program, your knowledge and your idea, it's time to gather all the ressource you might need.

Before you start, make a folder on your desktop, or where you want, and name it … you're old enough to find the title yourself.  :P Put all you files in it, .txt files containing infos and urls, pictures and videos.

First off, you need pictures. You need to be able to visualize the completed mod, to see what the final product will be like. To find pictures, google is your best friend. It might also be a good idea to get a few videos showing the tractor, machine or brick wall in action !

When you will try to get your pictures, you will encounter a problem : it's almost impossible to find a front, size and back view of your model that are the same scale. How to work with them if you're front view picture is bigger then the back view ? You have to options to make sure the images are the right scale.

1) You do some complex stuff with perspective lines or scan lines, whatever it's called, sorry for my lack of knowledge with that but I don't know that method well. I just know that if you draw lines on your pictures with a program such as Photoshop or even paint, you can eventually scale it.

2) Easier solution ! You can make a box in your program, Maya, Max, etc, and make it the exact size of your implement or machine. Then, when you import the pictures/blueprints in your software, you resize the pictures until they fit in the box. To make this, you need to cut off the extra “air” on the image of your machine, the picture needs to be the size of the tractor, so you cut everything in the picture that is not the mod itself.

If it's not clear, I'm sorry boys and girls, this is not my main field of expertise, I will try to make a more detailed tutorial to explain that. Alternatively, if you know about those methods and wants to explain, feel free to comment or to shoot a PM, and I will edit this tutorial when needed ;)

Okay, now you should have some pictures that are the right size. It's not needed if you are making something simple, but when you're making more complex mod, it's almost a must to have blueprints to import with your software to guide you.

To find sounds, you don't have many choice. Either you record them yourself with a good mic', or you take them from another mod already uploaded, with the owner permission of course!

You can also browse the internet for sounds, you can find decent sounds on Youtube's videos of your mod and try to download them, although it's quite hard to obtain great quality sounds that way.

Finally, to find measures, it's really easy. All you need to know is what you are making  :D If you have a brand and model number, you can find all you need on the maker's website, exemple deere.com for JD, newholland.com for NH, and so on.

You can also look here for tractors : http://www.tractordata.com

It's also important to find the weight and power requirement for you implement or tractor, in order to make it as realistic as possible ;)

Take note of everything that you find important, it's always good to have more information than not enough ^^

Ok, now you should have everything you need in order to start modding ! Be patient, it takes a long time before you actually end up with very nice model, but keep trying and watching tutorials, you will get better ! :)

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading this, I enjoyed making it, and I hope it will help a couple of you that wants to start modding. If the tutorial is popular, I will consider making more parts, UV mapping, exporting, scriptings, everything you need to get it in game and working !

If you see mistakes or you want to add some informations, feel free to comment or to PM me, I'd rather have negative feedback than no feedback ;)

Have a good time modding,


Original Author: Marxtai | Date: June 24, 2012

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