Some days it really doesn’t pay to get out of bed. A couple of my computers are on the fritz at home now and my fan for my Viper 770 is making a noise that could wake the dead. Sheesh. To top that off, my nice big 21″ monitor is dying a horrible death and suffering from a bad case of the wigglies so the only resolution I could find that doesn’t make my eyes go buggy is 1280×720. Not exactly the best aspect ratio. So now my text is nice and skinny and all the blueprint dialogs are pretty weird looking. I can’t tell what’s normal anymore. Sigh.

Anyways, I wanted to get into a nice long explanation of the 5 stages of object creation, and how it related to blueprint and The Sims. Pay attention kids. They’ll be a test at the end of class.

The 5 stages of object creation are Identification, Creation, Editing, Staging and Export.

Identification is the part where you select a base object to clone your new creation from. All objects must be based on something so you select a similar object from the game to do this, much like you clone an object in Transmogrifier today. If you were building a new chair, then you can pick pretty much any chair from the game to base your new one on. If you can’t find an object from the game that’s the same, then pick something close. For example if you were building something that the Sims can look at, pick one of the sculptures. The attributes, behaviours and animations are all cloned from the base object into a new one for you to edit, so keep this in mind when picking the base object. You can always change your mind later though. The difference between Tmog and blueprint is that you don’t use a paint program to replace images in the object with, you define the object via 3D meshes and let blueprint do all the work for you. Which brings us to…

Creation. Here’s where you define what your object looks like. This is the creative part. Import 3D meshes from various formats (either meshes you find from around the net, check the 3D resources forums for links or something you create with your favorite 3D program if you’re so inclined). If you don’t have any tools or don’t want to use pre-built meshes, blueprint provides some tools for you to create objects using some basic shapes. It’s not 3D Studio MAX but it’s amazing what you can build with a little creativity and patience. You also apply materials and textures to your objects, set up lighting and generally whip the display up into a 3D frenzy.

Once you’ve done the creation part, you need to define the attributes of the object as far as The Sims is concerned. This is the editing stage and where you flex your literative talents, editing descriptions, setting values and naming your object (actually, naming is done at the Identification stage but you can change it here if you want). There’s also extended attributes you can edit like what type of object this is, where it will appear in the menu system in the game and other details. Change as little or as much as you like then get ready for staging.

Staging is where blueprint works it’s magic. Any object is made up of several images (or sprites) that define what it looks like. The trouble is, this is an entirely visual thing so while blueprint can tell what camera angle to use for generating an image, it can never know what should go into the making of that image. The staging dialog allows you select sprites from the object, choose what components from blueprint will make up this sprite and in the case of animations, what animation frame from blueprint to use. This is all done visually (a screenshot is forthcoming on this all important process) so you can preview what your object will look like compared to what it looks like now (based on what’s already in the IFF file). For example, if you were to build a new TV set you would need to be able to create a series of meshes to represent the different screens but you don’t want all these screens to show up at once. So you would select the sprite that represents say the horror channel, create a 3D plane and apply a new texture to it with a pic from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in the staging dialog, set only that screen to be visible when creating that sprite. This is pretty difficult to explain but once you get into the mix you should be able to figure it out.

Once staging is all done, its time to export. So now blueprint knows what object to replace the sprites for, what sprites are going to be replaced (you don’t have to replace them all) and what those images are going to be. You choose export and the wonderful export dialog will create the sprites for you, all without pushing a single pixel in photoshop. blueprint even creates the alpha channels and z-buffers for you so you’re object is ready to go in the game now.

Sounds pretty simple huh? I hope so. Otherwise, I really didn’t do my job.