vometia

Modelling and mesh wrangling

32 posts in this topic

I'm getting into that fidgety sort of mood where I want to change random stuff because I feel like it, and because it's there, and it needs to be tinkered with.  Trouble is, at this stage, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.  Okay, I usually have no idea what I'm doing, but at this point it's frustrating me!

So far I've found a BA2 unpacker and the v2 beta of NifSkope, which means I can at least peer at the NIFs (maybe I should include links to these if it would be helpful to others: and if I can remember where I got them).  But that's about as far as it goes at the moment.  It would appear that there are really very substantial changes to the NIF format, to the point where, at a casual glance, there seems to be a wider gulf between FO4 and Skyrim than there is between Skyrim and Morrowind.  An awful lot seems to have changed and is done differently: I dare say this is a Good Thing(tm), but for modders who've got a bit lazy and set in their ways, it presents a bit of a challenge.  And a headache, remembering the learning curve I went through to edit meshes back in the Oblivion days when I started out.

As far as I can tell, even the usual black arts of fiddling about with NIF version numbers and copying across selected blocks from a donor NIF as I did with Ego Draconis seems to be a bit of a non-starter this time round, and of course at this point I would assume that import & export from Blender is likely to be a long way off.  Some people have mentioned using 3DS Max or whatever it's called, but it seems that has the problem that it's not only not a freebie, it's Very Expensive Indeed, which puts it out of the reach of casual modders.

I'm guessing that some people have figured out something because I've seen mods starting to appear that include meshes people originally designed for Skyrim, but I haven't a clue how they went about it.  I've done some searching with Google but have been unable to find their repository of secrets.

So does anybody know where to start?

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PM some of the modders on Nexus that have done mesh work..... Most of them seem more than willing to help someone else along. :)

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As far as I know, I don't think 3DS Max has any better support for FO4 nifs than Blender has, so getting Max isn't the answer.

On the modelling front, I know that calyps made one of his mods by moving verts around one by one in nifskope. It's a bit of a hacky solution but I don't know if there are any better ways of doing it atm.

A good place to check for more info would be the niftools forum or their irc channel.

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Thanks, guys. :)  I don't really want to pester them as I'm not a "serious" modder, just someone who likes tinkering.  I'm quite entertained by the idea of using NifSkope to edit the vertices by hand: that must take a lot of patience and determination!

Having said that, I did once create some rudimentary scripts to do very unpleasant things to NIFs: even though I'm only vaguely aware of the format, they did work.  Somehow.  Miraculously.

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Wait Nifscope can edit the verticals?

........I must know how... everything I find on youtube just goes through 'how to download' and 'how to install' then then open file ban dome. >.>;

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As far as I'm aware, the only way of editing the vertices is to expand the relevant part of the block containing them and manually enter new numbers: I don't think there's a way of graphically selecting and moving them.  If there is, I want to know too!

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OK, I asked a few people and it turns out that they use Outfit Studio which outputs Fallout 4 ready nifs. So, as I understand it, you can import your model into OS and then export it as a nif ready for FO4, with no editing in Nifskope. That's for bodies/outfits. I didn't ask about whether there's anything for weapons/statics/etc.

Edit: I'm assuming that it can also import FO4 nifs and export for Skyrim, or whatever, so it can be edited in Blender.

Edited by RabidGears
bleh
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Wow, thanks!  I'd never heard of Outfit Studio before (I'd seen BodySlide mentioned, but for some reason assumed it wasn't what I was looking for so never checked it out).  Seems that it uses a similar approach where I've created models for one game and then wrenched them about a bit so they're suitable for another, though this approach seems to be rather less headache-inducing. :lol:

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I'm pleased to report it works extremely well: it's easiest working with .obj files, which Nifskope can export*, Blender can work with and OutfitStudio can import.  I did have a bit of a false start when I tried to overcomplicate things with an interim FO3 nif for texturing and weighting, but that's totally unnecessary as OutfitStudio does the bone-weight copy for you and the textures can just be swiped from a donor nif using cut & paste (remembering to rename any indexed strings afterwards, since NifSkope's cut & paste tends to lose them in transit).

Predictably with me, there's no particularly useful product of my experimentation, I just had "but I must be able to do it!" moment.  So a few hours later...

I've probably only scratched the surface of what that package can do, but it's been enough to keep me happy.  Thanks again for the suggestion. :)

 

Edit: * I should be clearer about NifSkope exporting obj files: v1 will export them, ie for NIFs from games prior to FO4, but v2 won't export FO4 NIFs (and may not export at all: I haven't checked).  That isn't a problem though, as FO4 NIFs can be loaded into OutfitStudio which can also do the job of writing obj files.

Another edit: actually that was incorrect, Nifskope 2-beta won't import .obj files but will export them quite happily (I still use Outfit Studio, though).  So much new stuff to remember, and my brain's just too small to fit it all in!

Edited by vometia
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Just found one "gotcha" which drove me nuts, mainly as I decided "I'll do it later" and then forgot: if you create any new meshes, they must have a bgsm file in the materials folder.  I'd been using a non-existent placeholder here, and sometimes I got lucky and it worked, and other times I'd have a CTD as soon as FO4 loaded.  Just putting the texture paths into the relevant NIF structure really isn't enough.

Just to complicate matters, the bgsm file is in a binary (ie. non-editable) format.  There are tools to work on it, but beware: one converts it into json format, which FO4 is apparently happy for you to rename to a bgsm file even though it's now not in the correct format.  But it appears that NifSkope does not like that at all and will immediately crash if you attempt to add a bgsm-that-is-really-a-json, so it would appear it's safest to use a bgsm editor that writes the files in their native format.  You can work around it by renaming the materials directory while NifSkope is running, but I think that's probably just asking for trouble really.

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Finally got my head around the final rather gnarly problem of physics-enabled clothing.  Not much innovation on my part, it's really thanks to the authors of Bodyslide/Outfitstudio, but I'm pleased to have finally got to grips with it.  The physics-enabled outfits have a bunch of extra bones in their armature which need to be copied to Outfitstudio's skeleton nif: this is actually very tedious for several reasons: one is that there are many of them, some meshes having over 60, and they need to be copied one at a time (unless there's an easier method I don't know about) and renamed after each copy as NifSkope doesn't preserve string data.  The additional tedium is that there's no real naming convention (and possibly no positioning convention) so there's potentially a new skeleton required for every physics-enabled outfit!

But after that it's fairly straightforward, just doing a copy from the original mesh (though obviously if it's substantially different, there's the usual fun and games of manual weight painting: some of this may be required to clean up meshes anyway) then loading up the CBBA body as a reference so that the sliders work properly.

Ugh, all this for some new shoes.  But y'know, shoes! etc.  Admittedly my main goal was to remove the ugly man-shoes from the female tux, but I got carried away, as I do, and the lively clothing was a challenge I needed to accept, even though it drove me nuts.

Here's the tuxedo with less ugly but also less practical shoes, but then again it's also fairly impractical for taking on gunners and supermutants.  They were originally created for Oblivion, I was too lazy to make new ones.  Oh, and the picture was obviously posed: the target was nothing in particular.  Actually, it was a car, which promptly blew up in my face.  Awesome.

 

fo4-vometia255.jpg

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Wow Vom, I`ve been watching this and your progress is just awsome. You say "..just shoes.." but, it`s good to learn with smaller items I think.

Nicely done, congratz. :clap:

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Thanks!  I'm always eager to get started with some minor tinkering when something new comes out, and in this case I seemed to be treading a narrow path between sheer determination and sheer despair. :lol:

Hopefully I've detailed enough of my haphazard journey to give others an idea where to start if they want to try their hand; if I've managed to be unclear about everything (which is likely!) I'm happy to try to explain, even if I may just confuse matters further!

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I'm still trying to get to grips with getting the weighting "just right": some of the outfits are really tricky, particularly things like one of the lab-coats where the lower part of the coat is a separate mesh and is split down the front, meaning the halves should hang separately.  It requires a bit of effort to make sure that there's no overspill of weighting (e.g. you don't want the weights for the left side dragging the right side in their direction too) so there's some clean-up required, and having the top and bottom halves separate just invites our old friend the unwanted seam (or worse, gap).  Another problem is that the resolution of the labcoat isn't really sufficient to accurately weight a new mesh, and though not disastrous, the results can be a little ugly.

But another discovery about OutfitStudio is that, unlike Blender's bone weight copy script (at least inasmuch as I understand the latter), OS can do multiple passes from different source meshes: so one can select the physics bones from the original labcoat and only copy them to the new mesh, do a spot of cleaning up, then set the standard body as the reference model which is much more detailed and copy the rest of the weights from that (and then do a second clean-up to remove most of the leg weightings from the lower coat, for example).  I haven't manage to get a perfect result yet as my weight painting skills were always a bit lacking, but the outcome is something I'm reasonably happy with: the results are well within an acceptable range, I think, in that you have to really look to see any imperfections.

This is the first time I've worked with .obj files and although there's a certain degree of fiddliness loading them back into OS and then having to use NifSkope to correct the textures, the process isn't really all that painful and it's certainly a vast improvement over early modding Skyrim outfits with the necessity to do so via FO3-formatted intermediary nifs and having to do it twice over (and not get the vertex count muddled in the process!)

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That's cool - it sounds like retopology, but with weights. Very good work Vom! :trophy:

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I don't have a lot of experience with that, but yeah, it sounds somewhat similar!  As much as I've done is repairing some gaps between neighbouring cells of adjacent Oblivion mods when they don't always line up.  I think that was enough for me to realise it wasn't really my forte. :D

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My mistake there...it sounds like baking, not retopo. Baking takes the lighting info from a high poly model and transfers it to a low poly model.

Retopo's one way to get the low poly model. But I digress...ignore me!  :lmao:

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But I like digressing! :D  My mistake for not looking up the term and assuming you meant landscape topology.

Anyway, I'm happy to be gradually refining my technique even though it means I may need to go back and redo some stuff (admittedly, for values of "need"!  Is there such a thing as a rather lazy and sloppy perfectionist?) but I can carry it over into other projects too.  The main lesson I've learnt from weight-painting and similar things is that it's much better if someone else does it, so having a good source model to work from is really important.

I think it's really pretty incredible that people have actually got these tools together already, though: before the CS/CK/whatever has been released they've already figured all this stuff out.  Even as a bit of a hacker and tinkerer myself, I'm not really sure how they managed it so soon.

Edited by vometia
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So now I have outfits figured out (well, largely: I'm still rubbish at weight-painting, and I think the only way I'll realistically learn is by experience.  But it's not the sort of experience I wish to, erm, experience, so I'll have to stick with copying from a donor outfit and binning anything that doesn't work) I obviously need another challenge so I seem to be trying to figure out things like hair and earrings and stuff.

Actually, I feel a slight fraud for saying it's a challenge as, again, it's someone else who's actually done the hard work: these are things I did in Oblivion, FO3/NV and Skyrim thanks to the work done on the Conformulator, all I had to do was find out that it existed and then figure out how to use it!  So now I need to find the utility du jour or be patient enough to wait for something to be updated... which isn't too big a burden considering the CS hasn't even been released yet.

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You might not need any special tools for doing it. For hair in Skyrim, you don't strictly need .tri files (what I assume you used the Conformulator for) for custom hair to work. Maybe there's an issue when replacing a vanilla hair which is expecting the tri. I always make .TRIs with AnimationToolsN2 and then edit them in Blender. I never found that the Conformulator worked properly.

Anyway, if it's like everything else FO4, I suppose all the old rules have gone out the window. I'll be interested to hear what you can dig up on this. I haven't got the game so I can't poke around through the game assets.

Edited by RabidGears
typos
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Thanks; the main problem I've noticed is that I haven't yet figured how how to get head meshes to agree with the head-shape so far, but other than that they do at least move around properly.  I figure I need a source of relevant sliders for OutfitStudio, which won't yet load the head tri files for some reason (I guess it's just a matter of time).

I did get the Conformulator to work with Skyrim, though I have an imprecise recollection that the nif may have required some position adjustment either before or after.  Someone mentioned what needed to be done, mainly to compensate for the changed head positioning compared to Oblivion, but I think I failed to take notes!

AnimationToolsN2 is a new one for me, I'll see if I can make it do anything interesting...

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I had a quick look at some of the hair mods on nexus. The author of one of them mentions using Outfit Studio, so it must be possible to use it for doing hair.

Animation Tools N2 is a more general tool for working with TRIs, and not game specific. It's a command line tool, but it's pretty easy to use. It works with .obj files that you can export from nifskope.

I remember that there were some dummy files you could use with the Conformulator that allowed it to work for skyrim heads. TBH, I never really understood what the Conformulator was supposed to do. :lol: As I understand it, it's more useful for beards and other face parts?

 

 

Edited by RabidGears
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It mainly allows scaling, so that stuff like hair would automatically be resized to fit the head in question, much the same as OutfitStudio's sliders, I guess.  It also did some other stuff like allowing the hair length to be altered and what-not, but it's the sliders I'm interested in at the moment.  I tried loading the character generator's head tri into OS but it wasn't having any of it, so I guess I'll need to try another approach.  Or probably several, and maybe I'll learn some new words in the process! :D

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It probably won't import a tri. You could maybe try extracting the tri with Animation Tools N2 so that you get a separate obj for every morph in the tri and then see if it'll work with one of the morphs.

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Anybody know what's Bethesda's current stance on reusing assets from previous games?  I'm assuming the answer is "don't, at all, ever", but I figured I'd ask on the off-chance they'd relaxed their rules a bit.

I'm asking as I added an outfit for the Elizabeth Companion mod (itself sadly deleted, though it used the voice files from Bioshock Infinite so yeah, until they get a voice actor to redo them, it's not happening, which they've said) and figured after I went to the bother I might upload it.  There's nothing exciting about the outfit, it's a mangled version of the pre-war dress and I did my own retexes, the only slightly dodgy bit being a photo of the official bird brooch which I'm not too sure about.  But what might be a problem is the boots I've included with it, which are based on the texture of the leather boots in New Vegas (possibly FO3, I don't recall where they originated) which though heavily modified is still based on that.  They're easily enough swapped for something else, or I could even turn my hand to retexing it myself even though I'm not very good at it, but I really don't know what's the current situation.

For the record, this is the outfit in question.  I've managed to apply the uncertainty principle to it in that I'm simultaneously pleased with it and also disappointed because it's not as good as the Bioshock original.  But it's still passable as a reasonable outfit; though it only works on really skinny characters.

 

fo4-elizabeth8m.jpg

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