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Interview with Bradley W. Schenck, Senior Artist for Taldren

This interview was arranged by Hawkmoon from a Taldren Forum thread for easy reading and was edited by Brad Bowermaster.

Question: Do you know what the range of the poly counts are on the SFC3 models?

Bradley W. Schenck: It depends quite a bit on the models. In most cases we tried to keep the non-break version of the model at or below 1500 polys; many of them really didn't need that much and came in around 1000. One of the biggest, against all intuition, is the Cube.
Offhand I don't remember just what we used on shuttles; it's a few hundred polys, I think.

Question: Thanks. So you say the models are exactly the same as SFC2 and OP?

Bradley W. Schenck: The model format is the same, but there are no individual Level of Detail (LOD) models or LOD textures. (However),there is one additional mapped effect: progressive damage. This will make more sense when you see one, but the damage map is a sort of charcoalized version of the original image map; its mixed in at the point where a weapon strikes the hull. Damage textures have their own illumination maps and are not added to the ship's material in Max; they're named to match the corresponding image map and are loaded automatically.
     There is a global (not mapped) specular level for each ship, which is set in a .gf (text) file in the model's directory. The .gf file also contains the x and y coordinates for the hardpoint icons on the tactical, ship configuration, and vessel library UIs. The model's directory also contains true color (24 bit) graphics that appear to represent the ship in the UI. An additional text file contains the ship's name and description for use in the UI.
     There are also external glows on ships. These are applied with an editor we created and the characteristics of the glow are recorded by that tool in the model's .gf file. Again, this is not set in the 3DS Max file the model is based on.
     Because of the difference in LODs and the many additional features, it will be a minor project to convert SFC I, SFC II, or OP ships for SFC III. The dynamic LOD system also wants a little more disciplined modeling than earlier SFC's did. Making your models seamless is now much more important and duplicated vetices and polygons aren't as easy to get away with. 

Question: Will modders have the ability to create our own UI maps so that we can bring ships like the Enterprise-A into SFC3?

Bradley W. Schenck: Yup, that's what it means. There's a schematic view for Tactical, another for the Ship Configuration/Vessel Library, and a beauty shot for the Ship Configuration/Vessel Library. The .gf file tells the game where to place the hardpoint icons on those images.

Question: When can modelers have access to the SFC3 modding specs so that they can start modding ships into SFC3 format? Specifically, when will the details of the .gf file and the new damage textures be released?

Bradley W. Schenck: I have written a modeling manual for SFC3 that describes all of these features. We'll be making a pdf of that available. It includes some step-by-step images for the way we've made our own damage textures, though you could do anything you like. If you substitute these for the normal textures, your ship will look like something out of "Night of the Living Dead." Also, in the models directory for SFC3 is a folder called "modinfo" which contains backdrops to use in UI images and some source Photoshop files to help with hardpoint placement. The only parts of the manual that are not yet included are information about adding glows, which were added to the game after the manual was written, and instructions on how to actually add the ship into the game, which I don't know how to do. Those should be added by release.

Question: Is the warp effect hard coded or is that moddable too?

Bradley W. Schenck: Sorry, its a real-time engine effect, no practical way to make it moddable as far as I know.

Thank you Bradley for posting this information on the forums. See more of Bradley W. Schenck's work at Long Playing Computer Graphics and also some of his Celtic Artwork.


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