Paper unit designing tutorial
- HPItools: for extracting unit files and textures.
- Total Annihilation: for the necessary files and game.
- 3dobinstall202: needed to view .3do files which are used as reference later.
- A 3d program that can handle background images (like Rhino3d). Preferably a CAD program, but you can use what you are comfortable with. The tutorial will assume you are using Rhino3d.
- Metasequoia: Can be used as the main 3d program, but it is mostly for cleaning up the model and texturing.
- Paint, Paint.net or GIMP: for editing textures and other images.
- Pepakura Designer: for unfolding and printing the model. You do NOT need to buy the full version, as you can print the unfolded model to a .pdf, but you can’t save the unfolded model for later use.
You should be fairly experienced with your 3d program and the image editors, the other programs will be explained when needed.
Step one: choosing a unit and preparing for the 3d model.
For this tutorial, I picked the Core Raider, because it is easier than a kBot or other unit types. Install all the above programs. We start with creating the ‘blueprints’ by which we are going to make the model.
- Open HPIView.exe and load ‘totala1.hpi’, this contains all the files needed for this tutorial. After it loads, navigate to ‘Objects3d’, then to ‘corraid.3do’. Right-click and select ‘Extract’ and save the file in a directory on your desktop.
- Open 3DObuilder and load the ‘corraid.3do’ file you saved just now. This mostly is just a model viewer, but TA third party unit designers use it for texturing. By default, you should have the same view as you can see in the following image.
Double-click on any of the 4 view to make them larger, use F7 and F8 to zoom in and out. Select the ‘flare’ object in the tree to the left and press SHIFT+DEL to remove it (it is not needed and centers the model in the views). Use the zoom keys to fill a view (like the top view) with the unit (as in the next image), then press ALT+Print Screen. Open Paint/Paint.net or GIMP and paste the image.
- In Paint, select the area inside the dashed outline or from the unit extremities and crop the rest. Now save as ‘corraid top.png’. Repeat with the Front and Right views and save those as ‘corraid front.png’ and ‘corraid side.png’. You should now have the following 3 images:
- Open Rhino3d and a new template file (Centimeters/Millimeters). Activate the ‘Top’ view and select ‘Place Background Image’ from the menu, then ‘corraid top.png’.
Now click somewhere in the topview and move the cursor and create a box large enough, roughly centered on the center axis (like in the screenshot). Repeat for the front and side views.
Hide the grid for all the views (Document Properties window, Grid tab), change the Snap spacing to 0.01 while there. Activate the top view again and press the ‘Move background image’ button I marked on an earlier image.
Then zoom in on the center of the background image (should be the center of the unit and the axis from 3dobuilder) and click once, then move it to the 0,0,0 coordinates in Rhino. Do the same to the other views.
- Now we are going to make the side background image the same scale as the others. Create a rectangle in the Top view the same size as the background image. Repeat in the Front view (if correct, it should be the same width as the in the Top view).
As you can see, the side view background image is too small. Activate the view port and select ‘Scale background image’. Put the first point on the center, the second point on the bottom left corner of the background image. The last point goes on the intersection of the two rectangles we created earlier. The side background image should now be correctly scaled to the other two views, as you can see in the next image (rectangles are red for clarity).
- Save as ‘Core Raider.3dm’. You can safely delete the rectangles. We are done preparing now, on to Step 2.
Step 2: creating the 3d model.
- Create a new layer and give it another color. Any object you create on this layer will get that color, so give it a color that has a high contrast to the background images.
- Activate the Front view and select the button marked on the first image below. Then create the box by following the instructions in the images. Don’t worry about it being not long enough, we are going to change that soon.
- Select the box you created and type ‘mesh’ in the Command line. In the following pop-up window, select ‘Detailed controls’ to get the advanced options (see first image). Change the settings to those in the next image and press OK, then delete. This will remove the old box, but leaves a workable mesh that can be edited more freely.
- Select the mesh and activate its control points (Command line = PtOn). There should now be 8 squares on the corners of the box, those are the control points. Select the 4 on the rear of the box by clicking and dragging a box around them in the Side view.
- Select ‘Move’ by either typing it in the Command line or with the button. Click on the lower control point and then on the far edge of the background image. If you keep SHIFT pressed before the second click, you lock the angle and keep the box straight. Now select the lower control points and right-click. This activates the last used Command again. Move the lower controlpoint back untill the vertical line of the box meets the slanted line on the background image.
- Turn off the control points (Command line = PtOff) and create a new box in front of the previous. This will become the ‘nose’ of the hull, so it should be directly against the other box. Now mesh it, using the same settings. Activate its control points and Move them until you get the shape of the nose. Repeat this with the other hull and track shapes (see next image).
- The basic model is now done, but it isn’t ready for unfolding just yet, as it is just a collection of boxes. So we are going to Explode the model, IE making each face in the model its own object that can be selected. Best to do this with what later will be single parts of the model, like the tracks and hull. Hide objects if needed.
- Select the boxes as seen in the image below, then Explode them. The tracks and top box are hidden. Deselect the exploded boxes, then select all the faces that are inbetween the boxes. Those will not be necessary to build the model, so delete them.
- Select the remaining faces and tye ‘meshjoin’ in the Command line. All the faces are now joined into a single object, which should be easier to unfold and create. Repeat with the tracks. Remove the bottom face of the top hull box, then join the remaining faces together.
- Now, create the boxes needed for the turret. But we now run into a little problem, part of the turret clips into another part of the turret.
- To fix this, we can use the Split command. But that doesn’t work on meshes, so we have to change it to nurb surfaces by using the ‘meshtonurb’ Command line on the three boxes (the ‘prongs’ and the center box’). After that, hide them for now, we need them later.
- Move the center box very slightly down and make sure the two other boxes only go trough one surface of the centerbox, otherwise the Split command doesn’t work. Now select those two boxes that we need to Split and press the Split button. The Command line shoud say ‘Select cutting object’ now, so select the other center box. Rhino should have split the two other boxes now, as in the image.
- Delete the objects shown, they are not needed anymore. Then unhide the two mesh boxes we hid earlier (use the ‘Show Selected’ command) and activate the control points of one. Now comes a little trick: open the Osnap pop-up and tick the ‘End’ box. Any object you move now, no matter the command, wil snap to the end of a nurb surface or line/curve.