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Rocket Club Developer Pages

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Developer Pages:
Texture Assets
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Synthetic Reality

So, you've decided to make your own universe...

Rocket Club is really a thinly-designed excuse for people to chat while designing 3D models to drop around the universe and then blow up.

These Developer Pages are my attempt at greasing the axles of development. I expect the REAL information will, in the end, come from YOU, gentle reader :)

In an emergency, you might also consider pressing the F1 button while playing the game and see if the answer you seek is in there. This would be a forlorn hope in the current release of Rocket Club, but the future holds wonderful mysteries.

You're not alone!

Many have come before you, and many are sure to follow. You should all keep in touch! In addition to sharing your wisdom on the Rocket Club Forum, you can also find tools and words of wisdom on these web sites:

MilkShape Site The source of the preferred 3D modelling program for Rocket Club
MapZone Site The source of a great free Texture Image creation program
Gimp Site The source of a great free Paint Program

If you're inspired to add to the collective pool of wisdom, be sure to email me with a URL to add to this list!

Table of Contents

Notice that the left column (blue as I write this) has a miniature table of contents for these Developer Pages. You can use that to quickly pop to any page. And let me apologize in advance for any missing pages (as I write this, just about every page is blank!)

  Overview   This wonderful page you have already met!  
  Asset Sharing   How Assets get sent between players  
  PLAN Assets   Format of a PLAN Asset  
  MODEL Assets   Making a 3D Geometry Model File  
  TEXTURE Assets   Painting pictures on your models  
  Particle Systems   Smoke, fire, weapons effects, etc  
  Compound Objects   Snap-on weapons and engine modules, for example  
  Factories   How objects get created, given a PLAN and the raw elements it calls for.  
  Economy   How objects get priced for sale.  
  Inverse Kinematics and Animation Keyframes   Animal objects can walk around, following rules of skeletal animation.  
  Artificial Intelligence and Behaviour   Objects can think for themselves a bit, along the lines that you define. Monsters bite, factories build, ships extend landing gear...  
Getting Started - Know Thy Computer!

These developer pages are going to go on and on about files and assets that you'll need to provide, or edit, as you make your plans. If you don't know what a file or a folder is, then you should find out a bit more about your computer before attempting to craft an object.

The FIRST thing you'll want to know about your computer, is just where you installed Rocket Club. I'll be referring to the "RC Folder" a lot. If you accepted the default installation, it will be at "C:\Games\RocketClub" Otherwise, I leave it to you to know where it is.

Inside of your Rocket Club folder are other folders, but the one we are most interested in is called "Assets". Everything you create for Rocket Club will be an asset of one type or another, and will live in the assets folder. It won't live their directly, it will live in your VERY OWN PRIVATE subfolder of the assets folder. That folder is given the highly exciting name of 'your serial number, expressed in hexadecimal'.

Hence, if your serial number were 4B237865, then your assets would all live in this folder: RocketClub\Assets\4B237865.

Your Personal Asset Folder

Kinda chokes you up inside, doesn't it? Seeing your number up in lights like that. Please note that if you have a Golden Soul (Sometimes referred to as a Golden Star in the Rocket Club context, but the same activation codes work for WoS and RC).. anyway, say you have the id GS 1000. You might think your asset folder would be called "1000" or perhaps "00001000" since you noticed that all asset sub-folders must be exactly 8 characters long. But you would be WRONG. You show signs of decimal thinking, to quote Star Trek. If you were GS1000, your asset folder would be RocketClub\Assets\000003E8. You should invest in a good hexadecimal calculator asap..

In any case, this is what we'll be referring to as Your Asset Folder from time to time. You only own the contents of your own asset folder, so if you want to play with other people's assets, be sure to MAKE A COPY and put it in your OWN asset folder, and RENAME IT appropriately and play with the copy and not the original.

Here's another tip: BACKUP YOUR ASSET FOLDER REGULARLY. It's easy to make a mistake and you could quickly lose a lot of your work.

In fact, you will probably want to develop your assets in a completely separate folder, and then copy them to your asset folder when they are ready to be used by other people.

Folders and Files and Assets, Oh My!

Inside your asset folder are even more folders. One folder for each asset type. These are:

  • MODELS (hold's your 3D geometry model files, exported as .txt files)
  • TEXTURES (holds graphic textures to be applied to your models)
  • PLANS (holds the blueprints of individual objects you have designed)

Again, you might find it educational to make a copy of someone else's stuff (the Assets/00000001 folder is filled with my stuff, the only assets which ship with the game. You can feel to copy, or directly link to these assets with some expectation that they will be available to everyone at all times)

Your serial number is also your Designer ID and is what credits you as having created a particular asset. The idea is for your serial number to be UNIQUE, so try to avoid sharing serial numbers, Golden Souls, etc. Just as you would do NORMALLY (I see you out their, mister GS thief! Shoo!)

Assets get shared using 'peer to peer' technology. When you warp into a Star System, or encounter a new player or object.. the assets you need are automatically downloaded to your PC. Likewise, when you warp into a star system that has never seen you before, it will ask you to upload your assets to it. This is all done automatically in the background, of course.

Over time, every star server gets a copy of every popular asset. Every asset file is tagged with it's designer's ID and can only be stored in that designer's personal asset folder. RC is not Kazaa. Don't use copyrighted materials without permission in your assets.

The Birth of a New Object

Say you want to design a cool little spaceship object.

You make a PLAN file for it which is the overall description of the ship. The PLAN indicates that it is a spaceship as opposed to a monster, calls out the model file(s) it uses, and the texture files it needs, along with a bunch of other bits.

All told, let's say your ship needs three assets, which are then stored in your asset folder like this: (here we assume you are serial number 4B237865)


Note that your serial number is part of the actual filename. This seems a little redundant to the fact that it also lives inside a folder with your serial number as its name, but it is how we keep everything straight in the peer to peer universe. For example, the game will refuse to overwrite an asset in YOUR asset folder if you run into some other player who claims to be willing to supply one. So your assets SHOULD be safe from being overwritten by accident.

If you try to stick someone else's file inside of one of YOUR asset folders (but it still has THEIR serial number in its name), weird things might happen. Leave their asset where it was and just call it out by name in your PLAN file.

Also note that I used 'viper.txt' for two different assets. This was to illuminate that PLAN assets are stored in a SEPARATE FOLDER FROM MODEL assets, etc. These two files would NOT be 2 copies of the same file. a PLAN file has entirely different stuff in it than a MODEL or TEXTURE file has.

Anyway, assuming you have some way of BUILDING an item from a plan, other people will start getting copies of your assets as soon as they encounter them in the universe. This is very similar to Skin file propagation in WoS except that in RC it is actually reliable and works through most firewalls (and, of course, is completely secure - inasmuch as nothing executable is transferred and nothing is allowed to arrive to or be sent from outside the Rocket Club folders.)

What Kind of a Designer Are You?

In general, try to credit anyone you borrow from. In most cases, a little credit from you is the only recompense these people get. And now that YOU'RE a designer, too, you'll be wanting people to give YOU a little credit, as well!

I figure Object Designers will fall into 3 basic levels:

The full service designer, who makes their own 3D models, their own textures to paint on top of the models, and their own PLAN files to describe new objects for the universe. This person will need to invest $25 to buy a copy of MilkShape probably.
The talented 2D artist who makes textures to be painted on existing 3D models, and makes PLAN files to describe new objects for the universe. The person needs a paint program of some sort.
The talented product developer who makes PLAN files to describe new objects for the world based on pre-existing Models and Textures. This person only needs a text editor.

Clearly there is more variety than that, since we have sound assets to make, Monster AI scripts and who knows what else. I just felt like pointing out the re-use of assets using this table. The only thing which absolutely has to be NEW for a new object is its plan file. The plan can call out any number of pre-existing assets (from other people's asset folders). But the plan must live in the asset folder of its designer.

Editors You Will Need

You will depend on several tools as you design assets for Rocket Club. Much of what you will do will be in the form of text files which you can open with the editor of your choice. Textures are image files which you can manipulate with the image editor of your choice (note, unlike WoS, RocketClub is a 24 bit color game, so you have a variety of formats available to you. However, you still want to keep files as small as possible so as to minimize file download time).

The model editor. I have selected MilkShape as the preferred model editor for Rocket Club. A free demo is available, but the tool requires a license after a certain amount of use. Hence it will be costing you $25 to become a full-fledged Level I RC object designer (and then I am going to still hope you'll donate $25 to get a Golden Soul... um Star... so this is getting expensive already!)

MilkShape is cool in many many ways, but one of those ways is that it has a built-in AVI movie generator. You might think this is so you can make movies of your models walking around, and perhaps it can do that as well. But the real reason it is there is so that you can make your own 'tutorial' movies where you give spoken instructions (on the sound track of the movie) and the images are the MilkShape program with the mouse moving around as you do stuff. This was a brilliant idea. As a result there are tons of tutorials out there explaining how to use MilkShape. This is great news since 3D modelling is a pretty arcane science.

If you have some other way of generating compatible model files, that's your business (they are, after all, 'just text' so you could make them by hand if you wanted. But man, that would probably be a big pain).

Now, I say they are text files, and yet once you get your copy of MilkShape you will notice right away that milkshape files are actually binary with the file extension .ms3d That is the format you need to be able to EDIT the file with milkshape, and you should keep all your models around in some folder with this format.

But to be used by Rocket Club you have to 'export' your model as a text file (This function is built into Milkshape, which can export to a zillion game formats, so you can make models for half life, etc. Select 'Milkshap Ascii' from the export list and let the file have a '.txt' extension)

Rocket Club uses the MilkShape ASCII exporter as that felt like the most common ground (and meant that you could make one manually, someone could easily make something that generated the same format files, etc.)

Personally, if you have any interest in learning about making 3D models, and can't afford 3D Studio Max (thousands of dollars) and don't want to steal illegal copiez of it (good for you!), I strongly recommend MilkShape, and you should tell your folks it will prepare you for a lucrative career later in life. Just don't let them see that naked mole rat monster model you've been working on!

The Texture Editor. I suggest MapZone (free) for generating interesting texture 'tiles' (images which can be laid end to end and not show an obvious line between them) for your models. MapZone definitely fell through a crack from an alternate universe, being both simple and complex at the same time. Then I suggest Gimp (free) as a way-too-powerful image editing program, which amongst other things lets you add an alpha channel to your images (important for the particle system). See table above for links. Unlike 3D models where Rocket Club *only* supports the MilkShape Ascii file format, you can use any image editors you like, so long as the final output is something RC can use, like jpg or png.


OK, you now officially know little enough to be dangerous! Remember: BACKUP YOUR WORK and ONLY MODIFY COPIES OF OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK.

Time to have some fun!

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