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[TUTORIAL] Skinning for Beginners

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Modding Tutorials & Reference' started by Saketh, Aug 24, 2006.

  1. Saketh

    Saketh Brutal banana

    Joined:
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    I felt that the forum needs a new skinning tutorial, since the old one has all the goodies buried inside too many posts.

    Step 1: Unpacking the resources


    Download the PakBuild program. PakBuild is a helpful utility that lets you unpack the .fpk files in which Vanilla Civ stores its resources.

    Start up PakBuild. Go to PAK-Unpack... (or hit Ctrl-U). Navigate to your Vanilla Civ Assets folder (mine is C:\Program Files\Firaxis Games\Sid Meier's Civilization 4\Assets). In it, you will find four different FPK files (or one if you're not using the latest patch). Double click on the first one, Assets0.fpk (or Art0.fpk, again if you're not updated).

    Select a folder that you want to extract the files to. This folder will be a skinning library for you, so I would recommend that you keep it in an easy-to-locate place, like C:\CivSkins or something. This is completely your choice.

    Now wait for the FPK to unpack - this takes a long time on my computer. After it's done, go to the next FPK file, and unpack it to the same folder that you selected above (such as C:\CivSkins). Do this again for the third FPK, and again for the fourth FPK. You should now have a folder with one subfolder, 'art', which contains all the resources we need in order to skin.

    For Warlords, all of the resources are contained within the Warlords Assets folder (mine is C:\Program Files\Firaxis Games\Sid Meier's Civilization 4\Warlords\Assets). Your skinning library for Warlords is, therefore, different from the one you use for Vanilla.

    Optional: An NVIDIA convenience

    NVIDIA has created several useful texture tools specifically for DDS files (DirectDraw Surfaces). They are very helpful in making DDS an accessible file format. The one that you will find most helpful is the texture previewer, which lets you view thumbnails of the DDS files in Explorer.

    After you install it, navigate to a subfolder in our skinning library which has DDS files in it. Go to "View-Thumbnails," and you can now preview the DDS files. Keep in mind that you have to do this for every folder for which you want to view the thumbnails.

    Step 2: Getting the GIMP

    We need something that can actually manipulate the images, so download the GIMP , then install it. If you're new to graphic editing, don't be disheartened by the strange-looking interface - you'll get used to it.

    There are plenty of tutorials on the internet.

    Step 3: Setting up DDS files with the GIMP

    The GIMP cannot natively import/export DDS files, so we'll need to add that functionality to the application. Fortunately, there is a GIMP DDS plugin which does just that. Download it, and read the readme.txt file to figure out how to install the plugin.

    After you've installed the plugin, try opening a few DDS files to test it out. You might get a heart attack because the skins look like someone literally peeled the skin off of someone, but remember that the skins have to look like that since they're getting wrapped around a model. You can open them in two ways:
    1. Navigate to the file manually using File-Open.
    2. Drag the file into the GIMP's toolbox window from Explorer.
    I haven't figured out a way to associate DDS files with the GIMP so that you can just double-click, because the GIMP uses a different syntax for command-line arguments.

    Step 4: Getting NifSkope

    Previewing a skin without running the application is often a skinner's dream. NifSkope is a wonderful utility that lets you view NIF files with their textures. Download and install.

    Step 5: Let's actually do something

    You probably want to get your hands dirty by now, so let's modify a leaderhead. Pick a leader that you hate. I personally am not too fond of Victoria, so I chose her. In your skinning repository, under "Leaderheads", navigate to the "victoria" directory.

    Let's test out NifSkope. Right click on victoria_nonshader.nif, go to "Open With", and choose NifSkope. The NIF should load and you should see the leaderhead.

    Why non-shader, you might ask? Well, there are two version of textures for each model - shader, and non-shader. The shader one uses in-game lighting calculations to make the model look realistic, while the non-shader one uses textures to make the model look realistic. Lazy skinners like me normally modify the nonshader file and use that only, so that's what we'll do too. You can also edit the "diff".dds file if you want to be proper, but that's almost twice as much work.

    Copy the whole "victoria" directory to the CustomAssets folder, My Documents\My Games\Sid Meier's Civilization 4\CustomAssets\art\. Or, if you're running Warlords, My Documents\My Games\Warlords\CustomAssets\art. Note: Copy it to the folder which corresponds to the folder in the skinning library. In our case, it's CustomAssets\art\leaderheads. Otherwise it won't load in-game.

    Here's the part where we cheat...delete the victoria.nif file, copy the victoria_nonshader.nif file and paste it as victoria.nif. Now, we can just deal with the victoria_nonshader.dds file, and not have to worry about victoria_diff.dds. This goes for all leaderheads - you can be lazy and still get good results!

    Open the CustomAssets version of victoria_nonshader.dds (you don't want to accidentally modify your library version!). Now take the black paintbrush, and paint lines all over the face, or something similarly distasteful. Save the file.

    Open it in NifSkope again - you can now see the changes that you made! If you followed my directions, then you can now run Civilization and see the changes in-game. If you don't like it, just delete the victoria folder in the CustomAssets section.

    Good luck, and happy skinning!

    Appendix: Some useful information
    • The rainbow-colored textures, the "nrml".dds files, decide whether the model should be slightly raised or lowered at that point. This is useful for hair and fabric.
    • The "spec".dds files are for specularity, which basically means shininess. The brighter it is in this file, the shinier it is in-game.
    • You can edit the "bg".dds files to change a Leaderhead's background. Keep in mind that some leaderheads have animated background parts, so they may look strange if you reskin the static part.

    Appendix B: Useful source sites
    • Camopedia: This sites has patches tons of camoflauge uniforms from all over the world over modern times.
    • Wings Palette: This site has tons of great pictures of air units from around the world.
    • Jet Aircraft Product Articles: Airplane Modeling database with reviews and color pictures of kits/decals/instructions.
    • Air Combat Information Group: Articles and color pictures of air units from historical conflicts.
     
  2. woodelf

    woodelf Bard

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    Terrific write-up for beginners. Well written. :thumbsup:
     
  3. Saketh

    Saketh Brutal banana

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    Just a note: The NVIDIA texture previewer won't work on 64-bit systems.
     
  4. Thorn

    Thorn King

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    Thanks! It's nice to have someone go back and put all of this together for us!
     
  5. Xipheir

    Xipheir Chieftain

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    That's a good tutorial. Thanks a lot.
     
  6. thecommonnate

    thecommonnate Theocrat

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    Can you define 64 bit system? I'm not sure if the texture previewer is working or not, I did get it to install though...I'm confused.
     
  7. thecommonnate

    thecommonnate Theocrat

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    Nevermind.
     
  8. Davinci Fan

    Davinci Fan Chieftain

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    I have no fpk files on my computer. Am I doing something wrong?

    I do have the game installed, to forestall any cracks from the peanut gallery.
     
  9. Liberace_2211

    Liberace_2211 Chieftain

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    Excelent!! ... This tutorial will guide me to my future MOD :D ... Thanks a lot :goodjob:
     
  10. ewu.7waker

    ewu.7waker Benin Monarch

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    when i try to open a skin on the gimp it doesn't work even when i dragged it to the toolbox window, and can you specify on the toolbox window because i probably did it wrong.:p
     
  11. dutchking

    dutchking Deity

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    Ok, I didn't read this tutorial at all when I started out skinning, and I have a few recommendations about using the nonshader thing and ignoring the diff file. If you just copy the nonshader file and just completely get rid of the diff nif, then it'll look rather crappy in game with a graphics card that is above specs. Nonshaders in my opinion are strictly for crappy graphics cards and you should aim at editing the diff file. Or if you really are that lazy you can just go into nifskope after you've edited the nonshader nif and open the regular diff nif and just click block list and click on the leader's body, and then look for the little block that says "*_diff.dds" and change it to "*_noshader.dds" then you can have the shading elements that the game creates and you can have a decent nonshader with half the work.
    Otherwise, nice effort on the tutorial. :)
     
  12. Vespa Jester

    Vespa Jester Chieftain

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    Okay, so I have a question.
    I can both model (using blender) and skin. But I used old tutorials really and did this mostly a while ago during some spare time visiting my girlfriend in the states.
    So I feel i'm either out of touch or simply looked at the wrong tutorials.

    I want to be able to skin the standard models in the game the standard .nif models. I used the old shortcut of just using the non_shader.nif file and noshader.dds file. But I would like to do it properly with shaders.

    I recently downloaded the Queen Dido model and skin (by C.Roland i think) and adored it. So I used the base files (the edited isabella.nif) and edited the isabella_diff.dds. It seemed to come out fine and worked well. Now if I just have say, the original Elizabeth, how can I skin that to have shading/lighting using the proper .nif? Is it as simple as just skinning the xxxxx_diff.dds? Or am I missing something? I tried it with a new skin I've done of Musako Hojo (probably the most powerful and influential female japanese leader in history- and the japs could do with a female option!) and anyway it seemed to work fine. Did I miss something, because it seems less work then changing to the non_shader etc? Any answers would be great, thanks.

    p.S if anyone could point me to how C.Roland made that Dido (i.e. an edited Isabella/crown removed/necklace etc) and got it to have full graphics/shading/lighting etc? I thought that wasn't possible yet? Oh and I do have my own crownless Isabella but I was just editing C.Rolands out of curiosity and the skin shading, so I hope that is not a problem.)
     
  13. Gooblah

    Gooblah Heh...

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    I feel stupid asking this, but...
    Can you elaborate on Step 3 somemore? Where will I be getting the DDS files from? I unpacked the .fpk files, so the DDS files are in there? Thanks for the tutorial, though, its all good!
     
  14. Vespa Jester

    Vespa Jester Chieftain

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    Gooblah (sorry I saw your name and whilst writing this have forgotten the spelling - but I don't care :) )
    The DDS files are in (once you have unpacked the fpk things - in the folder you unpacked them too)
    Art/LeaderHeads/name of leader
    It is that simple - they are not in a special folder,
    So if you want to skin Peter, just to the art folder, go into leaderheads and go into the Peter folder, and in there will be all the files you need, the .nifs are the model, and the (in this case) peter_dif.dds (sometimes peter_diff.dds - not sure why , i think the single 'f' is a warlords things) is the shader skin, the nonshader.dds is obviously the nonshaded one.

    I think that is correct.
    Have fun and merry xmas!
     
  15. Ekmek

    Ekmek on steam: ekmek_e

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    I open the dds file in gimp (with plug-in) and then save the dds but i get a ton of option what should i set i to sho win game?
     
  16. Vespa Jester

    Vespa Jester Chieftain

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    Ekmek (whatever your name is)
    Don't worry about it, edit the .dds as you want, and then just click save - it may say it hasn't done it etc, some error message about mapping and so on - it doesn't necessarily mean that hasn't saved - it probably has - just check it with nifskope (make sure you have it) to see if it has worked.

    So when you see options to save (if any at all) then just click okay - you shouldn't have to do anymore then that.
    Then place the files in your

    My Documents\My Games\Civilization IV\CustomAssets\Arts\Leaderheads\

    For Warlords \Warlords\CustomAssets\Art\Leaderheads\

    Then it should show up.
    Hope that helps.
     
  17. Ekmek

    Ekmek on steam: ekmek_e

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  18. Huayna Capac357

    Huayna Capac357 Deity

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    I am a noob.

    Where is the Assets folder.


    I apologize for my retardedness.
     
  19. dutchking

    dutchking Deity

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    C/Program Files/Firaxis Games/Sidmeiers.../BTS/Assets
    for Vanilla you have to unzip them.
     
  20. Huayna Capac357

    Huayna Capac357 Deity

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    I have Vanilla.

    How do you get to that?


    I once again apologize.
     

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