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Making a NR2003 3do - Part 1: Tools and Setup

Discussion in 'Advanced Tutorials' started by Mystical, Feb 25, 2015.

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  1. Mystical

    Mystical Always 110%

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    Welcome to the 'Making a NR2003 3do' multi-part series!

    This is a tutorial series I've been wanting to do for awhile now. Since I've gotten back into track making (after taking a long break from it) I figured this tutorial might help others learn how to make custom 3do's for their very own tracks. For those who are willing and able to endure the long and sometimes tedious task of 3d modeling for NR2003 you will be rewarded the power to model anything you so desire for your own NR2003 tracks. While many may consider 3do's a pointless addition to NR2003 tracks consider this: Would Daytona really be Daytona in NR2003 if the grandstands, winners circle, and surrounding buildings didn't exist? No it would not. Eye candy as I like to call it (or commonly known as a 3do) is what makes a track unique. It allows the racer to have reference points when racing on the track and as much as a 3do is useless to the actual racing portion they still serve the very important purpose of being well known landmarks for your eyes to mark out. They create a sense of speed as you drive by, vibrant shapes and colors for your eyes to gaze on, and make each and every track unique with depth. The visualization of a track is just as important as it races. The best way to put it are 3do's are icing on the cake and give a track it's character.

    Before I actually start with the tutorial the preface will go over a few key points so everyone knows who these tutorials are for (and not for). You need to read it all. No seriously, if you can't read even the preface you are only hurting yourself in the long run. I'm here to help but with something as detailed and complex as 3d modeling can be I can't do all the work alone. You'll need to make sure to follow along so when you do have a question or get confused it's not about something I have explained how to do already.


    What is a 3do?: If you are not familiar with track making a 3do is a 3d model that has been converted to work with NR2003's game engine. You've seen them hundreds of times. Any race track you've raced on all of the 3d elements you see on the track are 3do's.

    What is the goal of this tutorial?: The ultimate goal of this tutorial series is to empower NR2003 track makers with the ability to create their very own 3do's. Every track maker should have the right to make 3do's for their beloved tracks and I'm here to provide them with such power. I would love to see more NR2003 tracks made along with unique and cool 3do's. There are few 3do modelers left in the NR2003 community (if there ever were a lot) and before this group of NR2003 dies out I'm here to share the wealth and get the info out there in the best possible way I can.

    Why do this series?: 3do making is not common knowledge in NR2003 really. Even at the prominent Thepits.com site the few 3do creation threads they have are based off of the old method: They use 3ds max 6 and export a PAS file, then compile with make3do. This would be all fine and dandy but these tools are not available for everyone. Even I cannot do this method (even though I know how). You basically needed to have 3ds 6, 7, 8 back in the day and if not you are straight outta luck and can kiss any cool 3do's you had in mind out the window. However, I found an alternative (and non-conventional method) 6 years ago. It's basically the same system I use now to make 3do's but more streamlined and fine tuned. You'll be able to achieve the same results that the PAS exporter can: making a custom 3do model for NR2003 that works in every aspect a 3d object should for NR2003

    Who is this tutorial aimed at?: This tutorial is aimed at any track makers who are wanting the ability to make 3do's for their tracks. You have the knowledge to make a track but just can't get the 3d models made that make your track unique. It is also aimed at anyone who would like to simply make 3d models for NR2003 to help fellow track makers out. I would consult a track builder though first and work with them so they can lay the plans out for you and correct 3d scaling so it fits their track perfectly. So even if you are not so thrilled about track making but want to make 3d objects for NR2003 to help a fellow track maker out then you'll find this series very useful.

    Who is the tutorial NOT aimed at?: Assuming you've read this far it's pretty clear this tutorial series will be about 3do modeling, texturing, and adding into a track. This tutorial series will NOT go over track creation OR sandbox tutorials. While you may see sandbox in a few sections I will not being going over how to use that tool. There are plenty of resources on how to make a track. If people really enjoy my tutorials and want me to make a track making tutorial I could but it won't be for this series.

    What can I expect out of this tutorial series?: Aside from the fact this series will provide you with all the tools and basic understanding of 3do making you can expect a long haul. Just like with track building, painting a custom car, making a mod, making new audio files, or creating new UI for NR2003 this isn't some 5 easy step process and you're instantly a pro. You will have to work at this. I can only show you the door but YOU must walk through and be willing and able to achieve the success.

    What is this tutorial NOT for?: This tutorial is not for those with short attention spans or unwilling to learn. Did you see how this tutorial is in the advanced section of the forum? It's there for a reason so expect a whopper of a ride. Not to scare people off but it's necessary to weed those out early who may have a misconception about this tutorial series. Simply put this won't be an easy bake process where you can just come in and expect I will go over how to model a bridge, skyscraper, or a grandstand with every single step included. I'll be providing the basic methods on how you can achieve such results but you need to know the tools and how to use them. I don't make tutorials that say "do this, next do this" and then fail to explain WHY I do what I do. This is a HUGE fallacy with some tutorials out there because they just tell the reader to click a button and don't say WHY it's important to do so. I will explain (best I can) how every click and method I do is essential to the learning process of 3do making.

    Are you (Mystical) qualified for this tutorial?: No more than any other 3do and track maker. I will never claim to know all the secrets of 3do making (like the more complex scripting) nor do I claim to be the best at it. Even I don't know all the fine details but after making so many for so long I know quite a bit of how to best model them to work in NR2003. If you have seen or raced on a track called Armory Digital superspeedway then you are familiar with some of my work. Just like with painting cars for NR2003 we all have our own ways to achieve the same results. 3do making is a bit more narrow considering it all needs to funnel down to the same goal of a 3do that actually works in NR2003. There are some guidelines that HAVE to be followed. On the flip side there are certain things you can bend like preferred tools to use or some you may not use since they don't fit your preference. I'll be going over all of that as this series unfolds.

    So are you ready? (For like the 1 guy/gal who is insane enough to actually stay) Alright then my friend we are officially beginning the journey of 3do making for NR2003. Welcome to Part One: Tools and Setup


    The first step and most crucial is getting all our tools together. You need a wide variety to make a 3do. Even if our 3do was literally to be a cube you will soon see just to get CUBE (a dumb box man) into NR2003 as a 3do is a long production pipeline. Many conversions, exports, and files are needed to do so. Just think, a cube is where many have fallen short in the process ... if you've never been afraid of a 3d modeled cube before you will be ... you will be =)

    Below are links and information of the essential tools you'll need for this tutorial. I have marked each one with either being absolutely necessary (as in if you don't have this tool installed you can't do this tutorial properly) to non-essential (as in if you've got a better program or prefer something different feel free to use that instead). The ONE exception to this rule is the 3d program blender. While you may use a different 3d modeling tool (like 3ds max, Maya, zmodeler, xsi soft image, etc) I will be using blender for this series simply because it's free and everyone can use it. It is very user friendly and even has user interface adjustments to allow 3ds max and maya users have the same controls (but I'll get to that later in this series).


    Sandbox is where every NR2003 Track has been made. Its where all the pieces fall into together. The textures, track surface, and 3do's. While this series will not being going over how to use Sandbox you'll need it to test and make sure your 3d models are correctly rendering. Sandbox is a virtual render basically for NR2003's engine. It will show you how the 3do will look when you are racing in NR2003 basically. It's essential you see how your 3do looks before hitting the track or you may be confused why the 3d model is bigger than the moon, doesn't appear, or just looks plain broke.

    Sandbox is FREE and REQUIRED for this tutorial series

    Download link: Sandbox (top link, it's part of the editing tools package)


    WinMip2 is the best NR2003 conversion tool for textures. We will be using WinMip2 to convert our texture images to mips that work with the game. You might have heard or seen this program before in relation to painting cars for NR2003 but today we'll be using it for one of it's great other purposes: texture conversions for NR2003. While another tool (3dsimed 3) can convert textures to mips its better to see the full settings in the commonly used winmip2 so you know why you are selecting certain options for your 3d model textures.

    WinMip2 is FREE and REQUIRED for this tutorial series

    Download link: WinMip2 (top link, it's part of the editing tools package)


    3D Sim Ed v3 is the tool that does it all when is comes to NR2003. Created by Dave Noonan it is probably the most underrated (and sometimes not well known) tool for NR2003. It has become quite user friendly over the years. I purchased his v1 back in 2006 and v3 has come a long way. Some of the NR2003 options were things I requested such as reflection map support for 3do's in the program. If you can model something then 3d simed will allow you to properly convert it to work in NR2003. The tool even comes with handy state switches (race only, testing session, etc) so you can even set when your 3d model appears during race weekend. We'll be strictly using 3d simed as a cleanup and conversion tool in this tutorial series. While you can model objects in 3d simed 3 it's a slow and a tedious process. Using a full blown 3d program like 3ds max, maya, or blender is much faster (once you learn the tool). One thing to note is this is the ONLY program in this series that does require you to buy to use. While it does have a 20 day trial if you are going to get serious about spending time making NR2003 3do's then it's essential to have. If you just can't afford the $50 price tag fret not. 3dsimed won't be used until late in this series so you can at least learn how to make a fully modeled object. If worse comes to worse you can model your stuff and have someone convert it for you. You can also convert 3d models via the makea3do program as well but I won't be covering that tool in the main section of this tutorial series. But I highly recommend you buy this program because you can't always model something and assume the first time you convert it to a 3do all will be fine and dandy. Sometimes you need to go back and adjust stuff so it looks right in NR2003.

    3D SimEd v3 is $50 (also has a 20 day trial) and REQUIRED for this tutorial series

    Download link: 3D SimEd v3


    Photoshop is without a doubt the state of the art photo and image editing tool. You've seen it, heard it, and probably even used it yourself at one point. In this tutorial series we'll be using the basic functions in it to show you how to texture your 3d model. While photoshop costs money there are alternatives such as gimp if you cannot afford photoshop. Many of the basic tools in gimp act like photoshop so you should be fine to follow along even with gimp. For this tutorial series I will be using photoshop so just a heads up.

    Purchase link: Photoshop CC


    Gimp is as you guessed the free counterpart to the non-free photoshop. Just like photoshop you'll mostly only be using the basic functions of the image editing tool to get a simple texture out to show you how the 3d modeling process goes.

    Download link: Gimp


    The program while not required for this tutorial series could be useful if you need a 3d program that is good for conversions. Meshlab can import OBJ and 3DS files as well as export them which is very useful if you use a 3D program that cannot export to 3ds as this one can.

    Download link: Meshlab


    While Milkshape may not be relevant anymore but it was my go to tool back in the day when building 3dos' for tracks. While this tool costs a bit of money it has a 3do exporter so you could literally import a 3d model into this program and then export it to a 3do that was compatible with NR2003. While it doesn't have all the great features like 3DSimEd3 at the very basic it is good for getting simple 3do exported if you had no other tool available.

    Download link: Milkshape 3D


    This is the big program where a lot of this tutorial will focus on. Blender is a very powerful, if not the most powerful, free 3D modeling tool out on the market. For NR2003 it will easily suffice every requirement we need to model a 3D model that can be converted into a 3do for NR2003.

    For this tutorial series I will be using version 2.69 which can be found in their archive database here: Blender 2.69

    You are welcome to download their latest version but I cannot guarantee the 3DS plugin you need will work, if it does then great!

    Download latest version: Blender 2.73

    Lastly you will need the all important 3ds import/export plugin which can be downloaded here: Download the zip folder and follow instructions where to place the files (after you installed blender of course)
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2015
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  2. Mystical

    Mystical Always 110%

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    By now we've talked about who this tutorial is for, what tools you need, and now preparing our workspace for part in this series.

    First thing first make sure by now you have installed the following or have a tool similar to it ready for use:

    Blender + the 3DS plugin
    Photoshop or gimp (or an alternative like paint.net)

    Now that you have them installed and ready to go fire up blender for the first time. Out of the box Blender is pretty much good to go, to warm you up for part 2 which will focus extensively on modeling and shaping your first 3D model for NR2003 you need to know how to navigate around blender first. When Blender first opens you will be greeted by a splash screen, simply click anywhere on the screen to make it disappear. By default (as far as I remember when I first installed blender) a cube will already be generated in your workspace. Click on the cube, then press the delete key on your keyboard to remove it, confirm by clicking delete:


    Congrats! You just completed your first action in Blender. If you want from here you can save this workspace without the cube. Simply go up to File > Save and save it. By default blender always loads up with a cube, so lets say you want a clean workplace each time you load up blender? No problem, after having saved your workplace without the cube go to File > Save Startup File. What this does is the current file you have will be saved as the one blender automatically loads each time blender launches. This will save time instead of having to delete a cube each time.


    9/10 most of the models we make will start with a cube but this is just to show you how to clear objects in-case you make one and don't want it anymore. Things will only get more complicated from here so hang on. The next thing I recommend doing before we begin modeling is set up your user preferences. Simply go to File > User Preferences. In here you can make your control scheme tailored towards 3DS Max or Maya. I am a Maya user so my controls are setup to move around as the program Maya would. This is also the section you can customize the colors for the UI in blender, you don't have to do this but I personally made mine a dark theme with purple so in-case you are wondering why my program looks different that is why.


    So at this point you have a basic work space set up with the controls you prefer. For this tutorial series I will be using the MAYA control settings. If you'd rather have the default bender settings or use the 3DS controls you totally can. I highly recommend going over the online manual to get accustomed to the keyboard and mouse settings you prefer. I can't go over every single thing in blender and most of it has already been well documented. I am not here to show you how to use a 3D modeling program by just showing step by step what to press but rather the tools you need, how to use them, and how to achieve what you need in the most efficient way.

    Now for the fun. In your blank work space let create a cube. How to do this? Go to the top bar in blender and find Add > Mesh > Cube


    A cube will now be generated in your window. As you can see there are a lot of starting meshes to choose from. More than often a simple cube will be a great starting point for a NR2003 3do model. So what to do with this cube? Well we need to deform and manipulate it. But before we can do this you need to learn how to move around the work space before you can properly edit it. If you are using a different control layout than I am you will need to consult the online manual for how to move around but for the MAYA control scheme I've listed below the 3 basic functions you should master before moving forward in this tutorial:

    To rotate around an object: Press and hold ALT + Left Mouse
    To Pan by an object: ALT + Middle Mouse
    To zoom in and out from an object: ALT + Right mouse

    Play around a bit here until you feel comfortable rotating, panning, and zooming in/out of the cube in the work space. With these movement controls you'll be able to successfully view your 3D object from every angle to ensure it's modeled the way you like.

    The next step is to learn how to do basic modification of your 3d objects. These modifiers modify the WHOLE 3d model when you use them. To begin the 3 most used shortcut keys are 'W' 'E' and 'R' keys. These allow you to move, rotate, and scale your 3d models.


    Pressing the 'W' key on your keyboard you will notice your object has 3 arrows on it. These arrows represent the X, Y, and Z axis' of the world space. With your mouse you can click and hold these arrows and move your 3d object around. These are known as 'handles' that allows you to edit your 3d model at a top level. You can even click and hold the white circle in the middle of the 3d objects to move the 3d model on several axis' at once.


    The next shortcut is the 'E' key. This one allows you to rotate your 3d model around. Just like transform you can grab the handles or the one in the middle and this time rotate the object as a whole.


    The last modifier I will be going over in part 1 is the scale key. Pressing 'R' on your keyboard allows you to scale the object to make it larger, smaller, wider, thinner, and so on and so forth. Just like the other 2 modifiers it has handles and one in the middle to allow you to have complete control over the object.

    Once you feel comfortable in the 3d view of blender being able to move around your object and now modifying it you are ready for your first test. Try to recreate something like this using what you have learned so far:

    (protip: to duplicate a shape select the shape you want and press ctrl + D on your keyboard to duplicate it).

    After you feel confident in editing your object at a top level and you can control your camera movements around blender's 3d veiwport it's time to edit the object on a more finder scale giving it definition and detail. This will be the last part we go over in part 1 of this series, it's a lot to take in so no need to go too overboard.
  3. Mystical

    Mystical Always 110%

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    This is the real meat of 3d modeling: editing your objects in fine detail. This is where it all really happens and how you can shape you object to make it actually look like a grandstand, building, wall, or whatever you desire to make for your NR2003 track. The sky and your imagination is literally the limit here.

    So how do you edit the object at a base level? To start in blender you need to do what is called go into to 'edit mode' . Edit mode switches the program into a different paradigm and gives a new set of tools to work with. To begin make sure you have a new workspace and a simple cube on your workspace. Now on the bottom toolbar find where it says 'object mode' and switch this to 'edit mode'.


    You are now successfully in edit mode. If you noticed all the tools on the left panel have changed. We won't be going over them all but you need to know some of the basic ones for sure to model NR2003 3do's successfully. However, there are more than just those tools on the left. If you notice when you select your object with either the transform, rotate, or scale you now can edit the object by the edges, faces, and vertices. So how do you switch between these modes to use your modifier tools to shape the object? Right click anywhere on your object and you will see 3 options: Vertex, edge, and face. All of these allow you to modify the object in different ways.


    Vertex - Vertex mode allows you to select one or many points on your object and move them around:


    Edge - Edge mode allows you to select the edges of an object to modify:


    Face - Face mode allows you to select multiple faces to modify:


    Play around with these 3 edit modes using a combination of the transform, rotate, and scale tool. Once you feel confident you have mastered these edit modes try and recreate something like this with what you have learned:


    Still with me after all of that? We're not done quite yet! There is yet another subset of edit tools that you will need to master so you can truly modify a 3d object to make it look like a building, grandstand, or tree in NR2003.

    First, clear your workspace and make a simple cube again. Next go back to edit mode so you are prepared to learn these next tools.

    So how do we do this cube to the next level? Well simple: those vertices, edges, and faces you just modified you need to add more in order to give you more freedom to shape the object as you see fit. In order to add more detail you will need to use these simple tools: 1) Extrude and 2) loop cut and slide (also known as edge loop in programs like maya). If you notice when you are in edit mode the left pane has a lot of new options and tools. For now all you need to focus on are the 'add' tools:


    With extrude and loop cut you can add more faces and edges to the object giving you even more power to shape the object. These are the most fundamental yet powerful tools for a 3d modeler. It may not look like much but like an artist with just a pencil and paper can make a beautiful drawing a 3d modeler can use extrude and loop slide to make complex models. Now for NR2003 you don't need to make anything too detailed but you will need to grasp the concept of how to extrude and loop slide an object to get more vertices on your object to edit.

    For extrude go into edge or face mode. 9/10 you will go into face mode to extrude. What extrude tool does is 'pull' geometry from your object literally duplicating it inwards or outwards:


    Select your cube in face mode and then choose a face. Next select extrude > region from the pane. You will see it's added a new face and edges to your object you can move around. If you click in the workspace it will place the new geo (geometry). A nifty tip is when you extrude a face press the 's' key then click in your workspace. What this does is scale the new extrude on the face you selected to extrude. From here select the face and use the transform tools to pull out the new face manually. I find this is much better than letting blender automatically extrude the piece out in space where I don't want it.

    The other tool is the loop cut tool. To use this tool effectively go to edge mode on your cube. Next select the loop cut and slide tool. Select an edge on your cube and release. You will see a new edge has been made:


    A trick with loop cut is when you select the tool and then choose an edge on your cube don't release your mouse button just yet. Instead slide it around and you will see the edge you made moves with your mouse. This will give you control to slide the newly made edge around before you place it.

    Play around with the extrude and loop cut tools until you feel comfortable with them. Now clear your workspace and create a simple cube again. If you have been following along this whole time and really spent the time understanding the 3 modifiers, 3 edit modes, and 2 edit tools you should be ready for the final test in part 1. Attempt to create the below object using all you have learned. Remember: You don't need to use all the tools at once or even some of them. You can achieve the exact same results moving only vertices for example or just edges and so on and so forth. Don't forget you can resize edges or faces separately after you extrude them as well so don't be afraid to play around. If you realize your cube didn't turn out so well don't get discouraged and try again. It takes a lot of time, practice, and skill to get used to 3d modeling. Find what works the most efficient to recreate this object and go for it.


    This concludes what we will go over in part 1. Take what you have learned and try to recreate some simple race track objects. For example a building on the side of the track, a small grandstand, or even a billboard. Just keep on practicing and fine tuning what you have learned. The better you get the more prepared you will be for part 2.


    You started out with a cube and by the end have learned how a 3d program like blender can take simple primitive shapes and transform them into anything you desire. As you can see I was not lying about that little cube and how scary it really is. There are a lot of properties to just a simple cube. This is why the utmost respect should always be given to modders in the community who can model 3do's and mods for NR2003. It is not something anyone can do and can take hours, weeks, and months to perfect a model. It is indeed a skill as well knowing how to extrude faces and make edges that will shape what you want. Just like anythign in life you have to keep working at it to improve and making a 3do for NR2003 is no different. I hope you enjoyed part 1 of this series, it is a lot to take in but there is still so much to do in the upcoming parts.

    What you learned in part 1:

    - How to setup the proper tools for NR2003 3do creation
    - How to setup blender for 3d modleing purposes
    - How to move around the 3d veiwport (workspace) (Pan, zoom, rotate with camera)
    - The basic modifiers of an object (Transform, rotate, and scale)
    - How to go into edit mode and use the 3 edit modes (vertex, ede, and Face)
    - How to use 2 editing tools to shape your 3d model (Extrude and Loop cut)

    Whats coming up next in part 2:
    - Creating a simple 3d model for NR2003
    - Additional tools/tips to use to make a 3d model
    - Unwrapping the UV's of the model for texture preparation
    - Adding textures to your object
    - Cleanup and optimization of your model in preparation as a 3do for NR2003

    How to prepare for part 2 and tips:
    - Keep practicing and modeling various (simple) objects you'd like to make for a NR2003 track
    - SAVE. I mean it SAVE OFTEN. If there is one thing you take away from part 1 is to save your work in blender OFTEN. You can never save too many times. If you made something cool but don't want to overwrite your previous file then SAVE AS. Either way save a ton as it's easy to delete old files but can take forever to remake something if you lost the model and ran out of undo steps (or program crashes or something).
    - Lost your model in the workspace because you moved the camera in the wrong place? No problem, press 'F' on your keyboard and the camera will frame to your object.
    - Want to get more advanced in blender and use more tools to model? Make sure to check out the blender website tutorial section to get a head start for part 2.
    - Less is more. In the case of modeling for NR2003 having less geo and edges is always better. Keep your models simple and don't overdo it with unnecessary edges. While I will go over the cleanup process later in this series for now just remember if a texture can give the model detail over having actual 3d geometry it's better to have the model have less definition as that adds to the poly count.

    Need help or have a question?
    - Please DO NOT pm me with questions or help. My inbox can't take it and it's more stressful having to deal with help in a pm chat than on the open thread. Please post your questions, comments, and help in THIS thread. That way when I answer a question everyone else who is following this tutorial series can gain help at the same time. It also saves me from having to repeat myself over and over again. It's a win win for everyone.

    Stay tuned for the continuation in this series: Making a NR2003 3do - Part 2: Creating and Texturing a NR2003 3do

    I will post a link when it is released (not sure how soon or late it will be, will depend on the demand really).

    Thanks for taking the time to read this tutorial, I really hope it has helped. Thank You to all those who are willing to contribute to the NR2003 community in making more 3do's for NR2003 track makers. We all sure could use more creativity and content and it's always great to have more people in the community getting involved.

    Last edited: Feb 26, 2015
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