CFS3 modelling
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  1. #1

    CFS3 modelling

    I'm making this another thread to keep the sticky above on topic.

    To build for Combat Flight Simulator 3 (CFS3) you need Gmax and the Aircraft, Vehicle and Building SDK for CFS3. The SDKs used to be available from Microsoft but the CFS Insider site is gone so they're all here in the SOH library. If you're building in any other modelling software you'll need to get the model into Gmax to export to the sim, unless by any chance you're using 3ds Max 4.2!


    Build your model like for any MS flight sim and link the various parts together in a proper hierarchy. At the top of the hierarchy is a Dummy object or a very small polygon named after the model: the SDK includes two finished models (P-47 and Ju-88) so you can look at these to see what I mean.

    All animated objects must be named as per the SDK section Modelling Aircraft and Vehicles and pay attention to the keyframe ranges. Some objects use purely rotation animations (rudder, ailerons, wheels, props etc) so the sim animates these for you and all you must do is align the pivot correctly for each object.

    When you're ready to try exporting for the sim, reset scale for the whole model as described in the sticky thread above. Then it's File/Export..., select the CFS .m3d (*.M3D) option and supply a file name and location. Export is pretty quick, but scale errors are always flagged up.

    You'll get a modelname.M3D file and that's all, but a functioning model needs aircraft.cfg, an .air file and a damage and effects .xdp file. All of which take a lot of work, so cheat to start with and borrow an existing set: make a copy of an existing aircraft folder and put it somewhere safe. Rename your model's .M3D file to match this aircraft and place it in the chosen folder, overwriting the original.

    Textures are .DDS, DXT1 or DXT3 if you need transparency. The version of ImageTool supplied with the SDK will convert bitmaps to .DDS, as will Martin Wright's DXTBMP or if you have Paintshop Pro or Photoshop you can use the excellent NVidia plugin (I do). Plain Gmax transparency also works if mapping is not used, eg canopy Perspex. Unmapped models display just fine in their Gmax colours.

    This next bit is really important. In a working CFS3 aircraft folder there is a file with a .BDP extension: It codes information about the model to make loading and running quicker. If you make any changes to a model, its damage file, its sound files or .air file (flight model) you must delete the .BDP file from the aircraft folder. CFS3 will generate a new one automatically.

    Fire up CFS3 and go fly!

    Any more questions, just ask.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by hairyspin View Post
    I'm making this another thread to keep the sticky above on topic.

    To build for Combat Flight Simulator 3 (CFS3) you need Gmax and the Aircraft, Vehicle and Building SDK for CFS3. The SDKs used to be available from Microsoft but the CFS Insider site is gone so they're all here in the SOH library. If you're building in any other modelling software you'll need to get the model into Gmax to export to the sim, unless by any chance you're using 3ds Max 4.2!


    Build your model like for any MS flight sim and link the various parts together in a proper hierarchy. At the top of the hierarchy is a Dummy object or a very small polygon named after the model: the SDK includes two finished models (P-47 and Ju-88) so you can look at these to see what I mean.

    All animated objects must be named as per the SDK section Modelling Aircraft and Vehicles and pay attention to the keyframe ranges. Some objects use purely rotation animations (rudder, ailerons, wheels, props etc) so the sim animates these for you and all you must do is align the pivot correctly for each object.

    When you're ready to try exporting for the sim, reset scale for the whole model as described in the sticky thread above. Then it's File/Export..., select the CFS .m3d (*.M3D) option and supply a file name and location. Export is pretty quick, but scale errors are always flagged up.

    You'll get a modelname.M3D file and that's all, but a functioning model needs aircraft.cfg, an .air file and a damage and effects .xdp file. All of which take a lot of work, so cheat to start with and borrow an existing set: make a copy of an existing aircraft folder and put it somewhere safe. Rename your model's .M3D file to match this aircraft and place it in the chosen folder, overwriting the original.

    Textures are .DDS, DXT1 or DXT3 if you need transparency. The version of ImageTool supplied with the SDK will convert bitmaps to .DDS, as will Martin Wright's DXTBMP or if you have Paintshop Pro or Photoshop you can use the excellent NVidia plugin (I do). Plain Gmax transparency also works if mapping is not used, eg canopy Perspex. Unmapped models display just fine in their Gmax colours.

    This next bit is really important. In a working CFS3 aircraft folder there is a file with a .BDP extension: It codes information about the model to make loading and running quicker. If you make any changes to a model, its damage file, its sound files or .air file (flight model) you must delete the .BDP file from the aircraft folder. CFS3 will generate a new one automatically.

    Fire up CFS3 and go fly!

    Any more questions, just ask.
    That is an excellent summary of the process. Thank you Tom.
    Milton Shupe
    FS9/FSX Modeler Hack

    My Uploads at SOH - Here
    Video Tutorials - Gmax for Beginners

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by hairyspin View Post
    Any more questions, just ask.
    Hauksbee here. I'm back for another try at making some buildings for CFS3/Wings Over Flanders Fields. As you can see from the picture, I did manage to export one building as an .m3d that RAF_Lou was able to insert into the game. (It's the big grey shape) Obviously, I had a scaling problem, but I did manage to install the SDK and export in the correct file format.

    Now I have a second attempt, a small French village building. This one is scaled in meters. There are no textures. I have colored each piece of geometry in G-max so that the three .dds files will be empty. My difficulty now is that when I try to export the model, .m3d is not offered as a choice. Only Plasma.p3d and 'All Formats'. I even went so far as to re-install the SDK but...no go.

    Where to from here?
    .
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails SOH GRAPHIC.jpg  
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  4. #4
    You need the plugin for CFS3 in your Gmax plugins folder for the correct option to show up.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Hauksbee View Post
    Hauksbee here. I'm back for another try at making some buildings for CFS3/Wings Over Flanders Fields. As you can see from the picture, I did manage to export one building as an .m3d that RAF_Lou was able to insert into the game. (It's the big grey shape) Obviously, I had a scaling problem, but I did manage to install the SDK and export in the correct file format.

    Now I have a second attempt, a small French village building. This one is scaled in meters. There are no textures. I have colored each piece of geometry in G-max so that the three .dds files will be empty. My difficulty now is that when I try to export the model, .m3d is not offered as a choice. Only Plasma.p3d and 'All Formats'. I even went so far as to re-install the SDK but...no go.

    Where to from here?
    .
    That looks good. I always take interest in anything WWI. I work mostly in CFS2 but I've dabbled a bit into the CFS3 world. I've been trying to think of some thing that you could check. This is what I've thought to look at.

    So the CFS3 sdk is in the Gamepacks folder, correct?

    You are using a shortcut to the "discreet gmax (with CFS3 Game Pack)"?
    Target is... %GMAXLOC%gmax.exe -i gamepacks\CFS3\gmax.ini -p gamepacks\CFS3\plugin
    startin is... %GMAXLOC%

    Make sure that it says [Combat Flight Sim 3 game pack] on the top the window when you run Gmax. It should if you shortcut is correct.

    If everything is correct there, then look at your plugins in the gamepacks\cfs3 folder. make sure you have the cfsexport.dle.

    Lastly you could look at the .ini files. See if everything looks like its set correctly. I can post a copy of mine if you'd like.

    Outside of that I don't know.

    I actually have fs2002, Fs2004 and CFS3 sdks in my Gmax without issue. If you would like I can try to export the model. Atleast it would let you continue your work.

    Oh one last thing. What OS are you using? I'm still using XP for all of my Gmax work.

    Let us know if you find anything.

    'til Later,
    John
    "Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose."-Tom Krause

    My works Here: http://www.thefreeflightsite.com/JFortin.htm

  6. #6

    CFS3 modeling

    Quote Originally Posted by hairyspin View Post
    You need the plugin for CFS3 in your Gmax plugins folder for the correct option to show up.
    To begin with, it would appear as though I don't have the CFS3 Plug-in in the Plug-ins folder. I do have a CFS3 folder in Gamepacks and it has a folder inside it labeled Plug-ins. Is that the Plug-in I need? Should I transfer it to "Plug-ins" or should I transfer the whole CFS3 folder?

    Blood_Hawk23: Yes, the CFS3 SDK is in the Gamepacks folder. And the cfsexport.dle.plugin is in the gamepacks\cfs3 folder.

    Concerning the following: You are using a shortcut to the "discreet gmax (with CFS3 Game Pack)"?
    Target is... %GMAXLOC%gmax.exe -i gamepacks\CFS3\gmax.ini -p gamepacks\CFS3\plugin
    startin is... %GMAXLOC%
    I haven't a clue as to what I'm making a shortcut of, or how to go about it. (I'm a real noob at this; trying to get my feet on the ground.)

    Check the red arrow in the bottom illustration. Is that where it should say [Combat Flight Sim 3 game pack]? It doesn't at the moment.

    I am using Windows 7 Premium Home Edition.

    Thanks for the help so far.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails PLUG-INS FOLDER_GAMEPACK.jpg  
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  7. #7
    The shortcut John is referring to is supplied with the SDK, although I never used it. I just copied cfsexport.dle to gmax\plugins folder. I'm using Win7 too.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by hairyspin View Post
    The shortcut John is referring to is supplied with the SDK, although I never used it. I just copied cfsexport.dle to gmax\plugins folder. I'm using Win7 too.
    Thanks Tom, that worked just fine. I went to 'Export' and there was 'CFS3 .m3d' right at the top of the list. Problem is, now the file name will not appear. Is there a way to shake it loose?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails NO FILE NAME.jpg  
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  9. #9
    You type the name in yourself. Is the dialog not accepting this?
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by hairyspin View Post
    You type the name in yourself. Is the dialog not accepting this?
    How very odd. I've never had to do this before. The name of the document being exported always appears.

    However; I typed the name in and tried to export to the desktop. And got the error message below...which you can't close. Whether you click on 'OK', or try the white 'X', makes no difference. Either gives you an annoying 'twang' sound and the message stays. Neither can you close the document or close out of G-Max. I had to CTRL_ALT_DELT and use the Task Manager, and even then it took several tries.

    This is weird. I recall that last time I did this, it went quite smoothly once I got the SDK files in the right folders.

    Any ideas?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails NODE CYLINDER.JPG  
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  11. #11
    I think you have to reset the scale as described up above.

    When you're ready to try exporting for the sim, reset scale for the whole model as described in the sticky thread above. Then it's File/Export..., select the CFS .m3d (*.M3D) option and supply a file name and location. Export is pretty quick, but scale errors are always flagged up.
    "Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose."-Tom Krause

    My works Here: http://www.thefreeflightsite.com/JFortin.htm

  12. #12
    When exporting the first time there is no file name to reference, so I've always had to supply it first time around. Next time, after further work, there will always be the compiled model to pick the name from.

    The error message is quite straightforward: an object in your model has scaling applied and scale must be reset before the model will compile properly. If the message is not going away, you may have multiple objects – all with the same name? – with the same problem. Select the culprit(s), go to the Hierarchy panel and click on Reset Scale. They should export fine next time.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  13. #13
    That seems to have done it! I opened the Hierarchy Tool Bar on the far right. Then using what I think is the Hierarchy button on the top tool bar (over the modeling windows)...the icon with a 'list' graphic and an arrow, I proceeded to select each in turn and click 'Reset'. Then I'd try to export. And every time there was another shape with scaling. After many attempts and no little frustration, I selected everything and unGrouped repeatedly until I had a list of 133 boxes (in sequence) and three cylinder objects. I Selected All, hit 'Reset' and exported. It worked just fine. Then I reGrouped all into one object and exported again. Worked again. I'm not sure if this exactly what you had in mind. but it got the deed done. Thanks all!

    ps: I just e-mailed the file to RAF_Lou. When I attached it, it said the file was 0 bytes. When I check Properties in G-Max, it says 268 Kb. Have I exported an empty file?
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Hauksbee View Post
    I just e-mailed the file to RAF_Lou. When I attached it, it said the file was 0 bytes. When I check Properties in G-Max, it says 268 Kb. Have I exported an empty file?
    Could someone check this file out for me?
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  15. #15
    I turned it upside down, shook and rattled it. Nada. Nil. Zilch. 'Tis empty indeed.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by hairyspin View Post
    I turned it upside down, shook and rattled it. Nada. Nil. Zilch. 'Tis empty indeed.
    Thanks, Tom. At least I know where I stand, even tho' the news is bad. It then begs the question:'Where did I go wrong?' Was the 'Select By Name' button the wrong place to go to find the shape and remove scaling? Was selecting all at once wrong? And when does 'Scaling Applied' happen? Is it simply when the Scaling Tool is used? Because just about every shape created needs to be scaled and adjusted.

    I re-visited Blood_Hawk23's post and followed the link. That thread is rather difficult to follow because it appears that there were some screen caps at one time, but they're gone now. I checked out the Track View possibility. I opened the first ten shapes and in all cases the scaling was 100% on X,Y, & Z. I presume the rest were the same. It would seem that the model is ready for export. So where did the Kb's go?
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Hauksbee View Post
    Thanks, Tom. At least I know where I stand, even tho' the news is bad. It then begs the question:'Where did I go wrong?' Was the 'Select By Name' button the wrong place to go to find the shape and remove scaling? Was selecting all at once wrong? And when does 'Scaling Applied' happen? Is it simply when the Scaling Tool is used? Because just about every shape created needs to be scaled and adjusted.

    I re-visited Blood_Hawk23's post and followed the link. That thread is rather difficult to follow because it appears that there were some screen caps at one time, but they're gone now. I checked out the Track View possibility. I opened the first ten shapes and in all cases the scaling was 100% on X,Y, & Z. I presume the rest were the same. It would seem that the model is ready for export. So where did the Kb's go?
    Every shape is scaled when you adjust its size. Not to dissuade you but for a building, your model may be to complex. You will have to go through every element and remove the scaling. The more complex the model, the longer it will take. Now having said that, if you group all of the object that have the same material, you may be able to rescale them by the group. Thats a guess.

    I can send you one of the Ships I've been working on. You can use it as an example. Its a CFS2 model that I've been converting to CFS3. It may help to see what I'm talking about.

    OH, just a though, right click on the .dle file. set the perms for admin. Its merely a guess. I'm wondering if Win7 is restricting it from compiling. Again, just a guess.

    'til Later,
    John
    "Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose."-Tom Krause

    My works Here: http://www.thefreeflightsite.com/JFortin.htm

  18. #18
    The relevant screenshots are back up on that thread. Scaling happens when you scale the object but you'll find resetting scale as per the thread instructions works well.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by hairyspin View Post
    The relevant screenshots are back up on that thread. Scaling happens when you scale the object but you'll find resetting scale as per the thread instructions works well.
    Thanks, Hairyspin. It looks like I've gotten past the scaling problem. First, I moved on to a different model. (I'm convinced there's something hinky with the French House model and it may be easier to simply re-build it.) This one is a French Chateau...just some quick geometry cobbled together. I did the export (as .m3d) and sent it to RAF_Lou. This is his reply, (in part):

    "...I loaded up your chateau model and while the sim appears to recognize it, (i.e., no error codes or little yellow smiley face in the landscape indicating a missing facility), it is not visible."

    Lou's day job requires some traveling and he's off for a week. I thought, in the meantime, I'd post the model here and see if anyone can get it to load. Bon chance!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails fghjkl.JPG  
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    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  20. #20




    This is your model in CFS3 model viewer mode. It needs an .XDP file created before it'll show in CFS3: the easiest way to do this is pinch one from another model and alter the ModelName entry. Alternatively name your .M3D file the same as an existing model after backing up the original – that's what I did.
    Last edited by hairyspin; October 9th, 2017 at 14:13.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  21. #21
    Your post has been lost with the server failure, sorry! You wanted to know why the château model was the wrong size despite grid spacing being set to 1 metre. The grid spacing doesn't decide the model's size, that is set by the System Unit in Preferences and must be set to 1 unit = 1 metre.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  22. #22
    I checked Preferences and 'System Unit Scale" is set to 1 Unit = 1.0 Meters. What is '1 Unit' if not 1 Grid Square?
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  23. #23
    Okay, check Customize/Units Setup... and see what units are set there. These ought also to be set to an actual value like Metric - meters or US Standard - decimal feet: these are the units used in the viewports but the default for Gmax is Generic Units which afaik adopt the System Unit.

    However if you've modelled something, later remembered Oh, must set the System Unit to metres for CFS3... then exported to the sim, it's entirely possible the model was built to the wrong size without realising it using different original units.

    If you're using the Grid to size things then see what the Grid spacing is actually set to – Customize/Grid and Snap Settings and use Home Grid tab. Is the Grid Spacing set to 1 metre?
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  24. #24
    OK, I checked "Unit Setup". It was set to 'Metric' and I have re-set it to 'Generic'. However; in the Generic Window, it says 'FL = 660'. It has always said this and I suspect this is not what I want.

    Grid and Snap Settings>Home Grid was set to 10.0. I re-set it to 1.0, but when I close the document and then re-open it, it defaults back to 10.0. There is no Save or Apply button.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails UNITS SET-UP_GRID SNAP.jpg  
    Website: www.robertgkelley.com
    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

  25. #25
    I must have my Reverse Polish head on (obscure developer's joke.) Set the System Unit to 1 metre always. Set Units Setup to an explicit measurement of feet, metres, millimetres or whatever suits your data for building the thing. That way the dialogs will give sizes in feet, metres, millimetres or whatever you have set – instead of plain numbers.

    Imagine travelling to visit the grandchildren and the road sign says Lancaster turning left, 200. Two hundred what? Yards, feet, miles, pieces of string? Make things easier for yourself! And don't worry about FL=660 unless using Custom units.
    Tom
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

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