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Guide to exporting Spore Creatures into Blender

Posted by ballightning on August 6, 2009

Eochaid1701 from the official forums has found a way to use different file formats to create a fully rendered creature into Blender through the use of the Collada exporter from spore.

Trying to get your Spore creatures into Blender? This is where I will put the known Blender methods in one easy spot for your convenience. Thanks to scozdawg, KCDJedi, MaxisEditorDan, MaxisCHecker, and everyone else for helping find all this.

Changing Formats

Blender cannot support Collada 1.4.1 reliably yet, so a different format is needed.* There have been two main methods for doing this, the Wavefront .obj and the 3DS Max .3ds.

.obj format gives you (mostly) working textures, but no rig. Recommended for textured renders, especially where a lot of the body is visible.
.3ds gives you the rig and textures on the parts, but no body textures. Recommended for procedurally-textured renders, where the UV’s don’t matter.
Research is pending to combine the methods and get the best of both worlds.

* Caveman79 was able to modify the base files for the Collada importer to get a successful model. In my experience, this merely broke the importer permanently and it will require reinstallation to fix it. His method is here: http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/285/37155.page

1. Download the .fbx converter here: http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/item?siteID=123112&id=10775855. There is a different version for each OS, so be sure to pick the right one.
2. Put the .dae file from Spore into the left-hand pane by dragging or using the menus. Don’t change anything on the right-hand pane. Click the convert button in the bottom-right.
3. Put the .fbx file the program just gave you into the left panel in place of the .dae.
4. In the “Destination Format” menu, select either .3ds or .obj.
5. Click the convert button again. Done.

Getting the file into Blender

You can’t just open a file other than a .blend file in Blender. You must import your creature and create a .blend.

1. Open Blender.
2. Select the cube with the right mouse button (RMB) and press X to delete it.
3. Go to the “file” menu and choose “Import.” Then pick whichever file format you chose in the conversion.
4. Navigate to the file and select it. Deselect “Load UI” on the bottom of the pane.
5. Click “Import” and answer the popup window.
For .obj the following options should be selected:
NGons as FGons, Lines as Edges, Keep Vert Order
For .3ds, use defaults.

Fixing the model up

The model is there, but there is still some stuff to do to make it render well. At any time during the following, you may select Render/Render current frame to see why we do what we do.

1. The model is laying face-down, so type ry-90 and hit return. R means “Rotate,” Y specifies which axis to rotate on, and -90 is the number of degrees.
2. All of the polygons are explicitly visible. Look in the lower tab and notice the button with the square on it. Select it if it isn’t selected. This gives you the mesh editing tabs. (You may return here at any time by clicking the aforementioned button) In the “Link and Materials” tab, select “Set Smooth” (the “H” may be cut off so it says “Set Smoot”). Now your model looks like it does in-game. This step made Blender give you four times the number of normals per vertex, making each face round instead of flat.
3. Render the creation to see how you’ve done. It should be facing to the left of the frame and be smooth-looking.
4. Read on to find out how to handle the textures.

Applying the materials

Your model is still a default gray color, because your material didn’t come through. Now we’re going to reassemble the material. This is the most complex step, and will likely get you nowhere with a .3ds file.

1. In the “Editing” pane, look where it says “1 Mat 1” Click “New” underneath that. This gives you a new material.
2. Select the lower-panel button with the gray sphere. This gives you the “materials” tabs.
3. Go to the far right tab. In the vertical row of rectangles, select the top one. This creates a new texture for the material.
4. Select the “Map input” tab. Select “UV.” This tells Blender to apply the texture according to the UV layout the game included with the creature. “Orco” simply drops the texture over the creature like a blanket – not cool.
5. Click the leopard print button to get the textures tabs.
6. Select the newest “Tex” box from the stack of rectangles (like the one from before, but wider). Under the “Texture Type” chooser next to it, select “Image.”
7. In the “Image” tab, click “Load” and pick one of your texture maps. (you should have three per critter: Name_specular.tga, Name_normal.tga, and Name_diffuse.tga) For the diffuse map, look in the “Map Image” tab and deselect “UseAlpha.”
8. Go back to the “Material” pane using the button with the red sphere on it.
9. Select the “Map to” tab. “Col” should be selected. You want different options here for each map . For the diffuse map, leave “Col” selected. For the normal map, deselect “col” (Very important) and select “Nor.” For the specular map, deselect “col” (Very important) and select “Csp.”
10. Repeat steps 3-9 for both of the other maps.
11. Return to the “Editing” tab. Press the “tab” key. This puts the mesh in Edit mode, where you can see and deal with all the vertices. Press “a” to select all.
12. Click the “Assign” button in the lower pane.

You should now be ready for non-posed renders.


One Response to “Guide to exporting Spore Creatures into Blender”

  1. […] Guide to exporting Spore Creatures into Blender « Sporedum […]

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