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Minecraft Model Creator Tutorial

2 posts in this topic

Since we have been getting a lot of interest in MCMC, I thought it would be best if I made a rough tutorial.  I tried to write this for a total beginner, but it's also good for people familiar with Techne, but new to MCMC, to catch some of the less obvious tricks and functions.  The tutorial is divided into two parts:   Mechanics, which is a button-by-button explanation, and Key Concepts, which covers some of the key ideas and methods to making a good working model in MCMC.   If you are thinking of applying to make models for TFC2, please also read the TFC2 Model Guidelines post, and contact Darmo.   I apologize for the spoiler issues.  I can't figure out how to delete a spoiler once created (irony)


Basic instruction for anyone wanting to use MCMC. Here I will try to explain things that are not dead-obvious.


When you first open MCMC you'll see the Model Window in the middle, with a grass block that has it sides labeled FRONT, LEFT, etc. Try to construct your model so that the front of the creature is facing the correct direction.



Next you may notice the “Model” tab open on the left side. This is for setting the texture resolution of the model. The pop-downs have several standard selections from 32 to 256. Normal minecraft textures are 64x32. Try to not use a bigger size than necessary. 64X32 should be plenty for anything wolf sized or smaller, and the regular minecraft sheep and cow use this. TFC2 animals are a bit more detailed in some cases, and larger. You may need a 128x64 texture for large mammals like rhinos, hippos, elk, etc - creatures that are very large, or moderately sized but with many parts. 256x128 would pretty much be for an elephant, or other gargantuan animal. Give some thought to your initial selection, but you can change it later if necessary.




Now switch to the “Block” tab. This is where you will spend 99% of your time. At the top of this tab is a field to change the name of the box. You should give every box a uniqe name. If one or more boxes have the same name, the program can start to exhibit weird behavior when altering the number fields.  DO NOT use spaces or hyphens in your name, and also do not use all caps.  This causes problems on the coding end of things.  Camelcase is best, but underscores also work.


Below the name field are several numeric fields, to be explained below. You can change the numbers by selecting the field and typing what you want, but it's easier to click on the field, hold, and drag up to increase the number, or down to decrease the number. This only does so in whole numbers, not decimals. You have to manually input decimals.  Note that some fields will accept decimals to the hundredth. However when you reload the model they will be rounded to the nearest tenth, so do not bother getting precise to two decimals.

Use the “New Box” button on the upper right of MCMC, to create a new box. Notice the box has a 3-legged colored axis with white sphere at the junction. This is called the “gizmo”. This is to aid you in knowing which way the changes you make in the following fields will affect the box - it is effectively the ‘base point’. The gizmo legs are color coded to match the number fields in the Block tab, for those who associate colors more readily than letters. So the blue leg corresponds with the Z fields, red leg goes with the X axis and green leg goes with the Y axis.  Altering the number positively will change the size/position in the direction the arrow is pointing.  Negative number movements, the opposite direction the arrow is pointing.

SIZE Fields – these numbers affect the size of the box you just created. These should be positive numbers, unlike the other fields which can be negative (using a negative number here will result in the box not displaying correctly). These fields *do* accept decimals, but this should only be done sparingly, mostly with features such as fangs and antlers, or thin things like fins.  They can also be 0, in which case the box becomes in fact a 2d plane, with 2 faces. Each face of a 2d plane can have it's own texture.  Faces only render from 'the outside', so even with a 2d plane, you will only see the texture for a give face from one side.  So you will need to give each of the 2 faces a texture.

POSITION Fields – These numbers affect the position of the **box and gizmo together** in the overall model.

OFFSET Fields – These numbers affect the position of the box with relation to the gizmo itself. This is used to get the gizmo positioned where it needs to be, which is especially important for parts that are to move, like legs and heads. When those parts move, their rotation point will be at the gizmo. So DO NOT put leg gizmos down at the foot end, and DO NOT put head gizmos at the front of the head, or at a corner. Head gizmos should go approximately where the spine would connect to the skull, or in the center of mass of the head.

ROTATION Fields – You can enter numbers here, but there are also sliders below. Rotating on the X axis means the box will rotate around the red arm of the gizmo, like a gymnast on a horizontal bar.

TEXTURE COORDS Fields – These fields affect the positioning of the texture in the TEX window (see below). They only accept whole numbers. They'll accept negative numbers, but...don't. Just don't.



Below the number fields are three check boxes, as follows:

ISRENDERER – When checked, this allow the box to be rotated on it's own, and have it's own animations. If the box is not checked, the Rotation fields and sliders above will be greyed out, as will the other two check boxes.

NO BOX – This creates a 'box' that is invisible, having only a gizmo. You can use this 'box' as a parent for other boxes, to give them a common rotation point (see below).  In most cases this is not necessary, as the base point of the parent box is usually sufficient.

MIRROR TEXTURE – When check this causes the box to display the texture in reverse. This is useful for legs, ears, and other bilaterally symmetrical parts, if you want them to use the same texture as the opposite one, but the texture has features that need to face inward, and so forth.



And Finally, the right-most tab is the SETTINGS tab.   As of this writing, the tab has only one option - a checkbox for camera recentering.  When checked, every time you select a box the camera will automatically re-center on the box.  Useful if the box is not in your current view.  But sometimes you want to select another box in your view, without changing your view field.  In this case, have the box unchecked.



Next a brief aside on the 5 buttons that are above the model window. New, Save, and Load, should be self-explanatory. EXPORT, like, exports the model in java format or something. Coders use this. If you are not a coder do not use this. The TEX button pops up the TEXTURE window, which is explained below.



At the lower left of the model window are two buttons, one a camera shape, and one a dotted box outline with red X.  The camera shaped button, when clicked, will re-center your view on the selected box.  This is only useful if you have the “camera recentering” box in the Settings tab *un*checked.  

The box with dotted outline and red X allows you to unselect all boxes.  Useful for seeing your model without having any of it being red and translucent, as happens when you select a box.




When you click the TEX button it'll pop up a little window, which you can position wherever you like. This window shows you where on the texture each box gets the specific graphics it will display. You may notice the large red question mark in this window. If your boxes are showing random red bits on them, this is why; they're catching parts of the default red question mark texture. Within the texture window are red/blue/green shapes.  Each one of these corresponds with one of the boxes in your model, but “unfolded” and laid flat.  The blue faces correspond with the front/back, the red with left/right, and the green with the top and bottom faces.  Note that these are relative to how the box was created.  When you rotate the box they do not change their association.   Below the texture window are three buttons:

ZOOM 1x, 2x, 4x. - When you first pop up the window it is at 1x. Too small to do much with, but gets it out of the way. 2x and 4x increase the size of the texture window, so you can actually see what's going on.

RENDER TO TEXTURE – this button exports a png of the texture window map. You should only do this once you think you've gotten the texture mapped out how you want it, with each box having it’s texture in a logical position, not overlapping any other box maps unless appropriate.  The red question mark will not be part of this export, nor will any image you may have loaded (using the next button) only a white background with the blue/red/green box maps will be exported.

LOAD IMAGE – This loads a texture. You can load the exported texture map from the previous buttons, and your boxes with have the colored sides of the exported map. This will help you get an idea which regions are associated with which.  Another tactic for the early stage is to make a generic blank texture, which will get rid of the red bits that the default red question mark texture causes.  But once you have a refined texture, use this button to load it up and see how it looks on the model.  Note that the blue/red/green box maps will still show translucently over your loaded image.


Finally, on the right is the box hierarchy panel. This is a list of all the boxes you've created in this model. At the time of this writing, you are NOT able to drag and drop boxes to change their order. However, this is where you create hierarchies of your boxes, which is done by dragging the box name in the right panel and dropping it onto another. This is an extremely important concept for making a good model, and will be explained below. To the right of each box is a blue D and a red X. The D will duplicate the box (and any children). The X will delete the box (and any children).





Creating 'child' boxes is a way to group boxes together, so that you can manipulate them as a group. It is very useful for building the model, but is imperative for the animation of the model, so you need to get this correct. You 'child' one box to another, simply by dragging the right side menu name of the intended child box, and dropping on the right side menu name of the intended parent box. You should then see the child box appear below the parent box, indented to the right. Child boxes can have children of their own. Parent boxes must be ISRENDERER, and if you drop a child onto a box that does not have ISRENDERER checked, MCMC will automatically check it for you.

You must create a parent-child group any time you want several boxes to move as one, either when building the model, or when it's animated. So for instance if your mob's head has horns, a big nose, and a beard, these should all be children of the head. Then when the head is animated to rotate, all the parts will move with it. You can have groups inside groups. So an elephant will have a head, with child ears, tusks, and trunk. But if you want the trunk itself to rotate, you will have a trunk base, and then that base will have several child pieces. This will make the trunk move with the head, but also allow the trunk pieces themselves to animate, and still move with the head. It's also useful for complex antlers, like an elk or moose might have. The antlers aren't animated, but you'll want to be able to move the antlers as a group when you're building the model.



Z-Fighting is when two boxes in your model have faces that are exactly aligned. It will appear as flickering striated lines as you rotate your view, and even when still. The program cannot decide which texture to display, so it displays them both in quick succession. This is bad, and will have the same effect in game. You must avoid Z-fighting at all costs, if it will be visible (interior co-planar faces are not a problem). Usually this can be done by moving one of the boxes by one tenth (.1) using the POSITION field, or by slightly rotating one of the boxes.


It's ok to have your mob elevated above the turf block when working on it, but in the final version for insertion into the game, the mob must have it's feet on the turf block (Or if it doesn't have legs, it must otherwise be in the relation to the turf block that it needs to be in game)



You can make textures transparent. This can be useful for making fanned tails, bird feet, whiskers, hanging hair fringe, and other details that would look clunky if they had thickness. You do this by simply deleting the texture in the pixels you want transparent in your editing program. Most image editors will have a checkered background that will show through, and this is how you know it is transparent. By using a box with 0 thickness in one dimension, you can simply copy the image for each side, and it will look identical from each side. Or you can have them different. Note that if the image is not symmetrical, you'll need to mirror it for the opposite side.

Transparency can also be used in conjunction with a 'dual-nature' model.  This is a model constructed to show two states of an animal - for instance, a turkey.  You can make one model, that contains a box to show the tail furled, and a separate box (or 2d plane) to show the tail fanned out.  You make two different textures for this same model.  One texture has the furled tail area transparent, the other texture has the fanned out tail transparent.  Code can be used to switch the texture at some given point, making the turkey change it's appearance, without having to have two separate models.  This is the mechanics used to shear vanilla sheep - the 'wooly' box is still there after you shear them.  You just can't see it because the texture was switched to a version that is transparent in the area of the 'wooly' outer body.


This sections is for suggestions and tips that some of us contributors think might be helpful to those attempting to model with MCMC whether for TFC2 or not.  They may or may not be useful for you



The first thing you might want to consider for your model is the head.  Specifically, the eyes and how they will be placed on the head.  If your mob has two front-facing eyes (any humanoid or predator), then your head is almost certainly going to need to be a bare minimum of 6 pixels wide.  This allows two beady eyes, two pixels between, and a pixel on either side.  If your mob will have standard minecraft derpy-eyes, with a black pixel and a white pixel, and they are front-mounted, then your head needs to be 8 pixels wide.  If you do not allow for this, then you will have problems when making the texture.  Design the head first, and then the rest of the mob to be in scale with it.  The mob can always be scaled in code, so don't worry too much about if the size is a bit larger than ‘realistic’ (if for TFC2, only A BIT, keep guidline 4 of the Guidelines post in mind)

If your mob has side-mounted eyes (prey animals) then you probably will have more leeway.  But examine real life pictures of the animal, and get a feel for how the eye sits in the head, and how many pixels long and tall the head needs to be to approximate this.

By designing the head first, you avoid doing a bunch of work on the body and legs, finally getting to the head, and realizing that in order to fit the detail you need, the head has to be a certain size and looks out of proportion to the body. By working from the head backward, you're much less likely to have to go back and re-size a bunch of body and leg blocks to fit with your head.



You may not be great at textures, and that's fine. You can still do models for TFC2 or whomever. However, you will be better at modeling if you at least understand how textures work. You'll find fewer or no willing texture-ers if you can't even properly arrange your box maps within the texture map. Experiment, and try to understand how the program arranges things.  Try putting some eye spots, maybe some stripes on your model, to see if you've made the boxes large enough for the detail level you imagine. A mouth and nostrils if the animal has them. This will help you design the head better, especially.  Once you're familiar with the way the texture is mapped onto boxes, it's not terribly hard to make your own texture.


Edited by Darmo

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The tutorial section is great, but I just thought I would let you know that none of the pictures on the Catalog Drawings of Old Blacksmithing Tools link from Tim Livelys site will show up for me.

Kris M


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