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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 - Training If 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 Settings Morrowind-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 armature If 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 Animation What 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 MorrowindBSA-file with one of the BSA-Unpacker's available on the internet.
5 - Walking & Running Special 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 3Dview 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: -Startmovement -Loopmovement -Endmovement -reset
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 Groups On 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: Idle Actions: Start, Stop -the animation played between attack-movements in a combat. (needed) ----------------------Animationgroup: Idle2-Idle9 Actions: 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, RunForward Actions: 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 moveanimations. (needed) ----------------------Animationgroup: Attack1-Attack3 Actions: Start, Hit, Stop -played when the creature attacks without weapon.