Guidelines for Asset Development

Asset Development includes the creation of models, with their accompanying textures and sometimes animations.  Our guidelines are listed below and assume a certain base level of knowledge.

General Guidelines

Before we get started on the particulars, there are a few things you should know:

  • Concept art has its own guidelines.
  • Sound assets are also a different category with their own guidelines.
  • Modder’s resources (that is, meshes and/or textures that someone else has created that you think might work well in TR) should be posted only in the modder resources thread.
  • Ideas & requests for new assets should be posted in the asset browser.
  • Copyright is important! Read this to know more about how copyright affects TR and you.

If you make or have models or textures you’d like to offer to TR, make a thread in the asset browser, and upload the pictures and files.

The Life Cycle of an Asset

Assets are generally developed first as concept art or an idea, and are then created as models with textures. So, as a modeler or texturer, you can either check through the active threads for inspiration, you can post whatever you feel like making, or you can search for requests. Requests and needs are often posted on the Modders Wanted page and in the Asset Browser.

Assets in development are are open to anyone who wants to try their hand at them. Never delete someone else’s files; instead upload your own alongside them.

Completed assets are quality-checked, then added to TR_Data to await use in the Construction Set. Once completed, assets are still open to suggestions, comments, and improvements. If you notice a bug or issues with an existing asset, which has already been included in the game, post your bug report in TR’s Bugtracker.

Concept Art Specifically For Assets

Concepts for use in asset development should be functional or technical. This art should show the shape, size, color, and texture of an object. While more conceptual art is still useful, most of the art should be more technical; that is, it should accurately represent what the object should look like and preferably should include orthogonal views, such as the front, back, top, bottom, and left and right sides of an object. If the artist has a sense of how the model is made, the artist can also draw diagrams suggesting placement of faces, alpha, and seams.

This art should be posted directly in the relevant thread/asset if there is one, or in your own concept art thread otherwise.

Modeling Guidelines

  • Models should have enough faces to look good, but not excessive faces; the exact number varies with the object you’re making, but compare it to similar objects in-game. Consider if a detail on the model can be faked with a texture instead of additional faces.
  • Pay attention to the size/scale of the model, and test it in the construction set to be sure.
  • Be sure to clean up any duplicate vertices, edges, and faces.
  • Models should be exported as .nif files.
  • Models should also have UV maps, and the UV maps should be efficient and have minimal stretching.
  • Models that need collision should have collision included; consider if your model can work without it. If the player should be able to walk through your object, i.e. it does not have collision, make sure the NCO-flag (non-collision-object flag) is enabled.
  • Check that the model “sits” properly; i.e., that it is equipped or can be “f” into place properly in the CS.
  • Alpha should only be included on faces that require it.
  • Consider adding in vertex shading, especially for static objects, to assist with the appearance of shadows. Pay attention to the local polycount and shade subtly.

Texture Guidelines

Once a model is created, it will need to be skinned or textured. This is usually the final step of the development process and is separate from the modeling. You do not need to be able to do both to help TR out. Before creating custom textures, check the Catalog (link is external) to see if existing textures fill the need.

  • New textures should be sized equivalently to the vanilla Morrowind textures, times 4. That is, if Morrowind uses a texture that is 128x128, your new texture should be 512x512. Check the Catalog or BSA for appropriate texture sizes.
  • All textures should be in DDS format. If the texture does not need alpha, it should be saved with dx1 compression, if it does use the alpha channel. It should use dx3 compression for on-off alpha, and dx5 compression for varying alpha. In any case, it should have mipmaps included.
  • TR uses (when needed) glow maps, decals, and detail maps. Bump/normal maps conform to the MCP rules (require an environment map), and parallax maps are not used.
  • If you use images taken from the internet, please make sure they are royalty-free and that there are no copyright issues. Just because you found it does not automatically make it to okay to use it.

Asset Naming and Folder Structure

If you are making a model or texture, please make sure to follow our current structure. Renaming assets is a pain in the butt, so make sure you name it properly from the beginning.

TR is working on coordinating our datafiles with Project Tamriel. When that is complete there will be new naming schemes— for the moment, use these.

Models

All models are stored in the Morrowind/Data Files/meshes/tr/ folder. Every model, with very few exceptions, is stored in a subfolder, sorted as follows:

  • a – armor
  • b – bodies (body parts, heads, and hairs for playable races)
  • c – clothing
  • cr – creatures & their animations
  • d – doors
  • f – activators, static flora, furniture, and any associated animations
  • i – interior tileset pieces, misc interior statics
  • l – lights
  • m – misc (books, potions, plates, clutter etc)
  • n – ingredients
  • o – containers (alchemy flora, boxes, cabinets)
  • w – weapons
  • x – exterior tileset pieces, terrain statics, misc exterior statics

Models are named with tr_ as a prefix, then a short indicator of their type, and then their main name. The entire model path and name must be 32 characters or less: tr/a/tr_a_dreugh_boots_gnd.nif is 30 characters. Here are some examples of how models are named. Your model should conform to this as closely as is reasonable, but due to space considerations you may need to omit or compress some fields. Do not include a “maker’s mark” in there (such as using tr_KZ_blueflower if “Kaziem” made the blue flower).

  • Armors: tr_a_Type_Part_subpart_num – tr_a_dreugh_boots_a_01.nif
  • Body parts: tr_b_race_m/f_part_num – tr_b_nord_m_head_02.nif
  • Clothing: tr_c_part_grade_subpart_num – tr_c_shirt_exp_ind_01.nif
  • Creature: tr_cr_creaturename_part_num – tr_cr_muckleech_01.nif
  • Door: tr_in/ex_tileset_name_num – tr_ex_imp_gatebig_01.nif
  • Activator: tr_act_name_num – tr_act_ind_mark_mer_01.nif
  • Furniture: tr_furn_grade_name_num – tr_furn_ind_gong_stand_01.nif
  • Hangings: tr_banner/tapestry_name_num – tr_banner_tel_oren_01.nif
  • Flora: tr_f_region_name_num – tr_f_aj_root_04.nif
  • Interior Tileset Pieces: tr_in_tileset_name_num – tr_in_dwrv_floor_01.nif
  • Misc: tr_misc_name_num – tr_misc_bottle_02.nif
  • Ingredients: tr_ing_name_num – tr_ing_cookie_01.nif
  • Containers (not flora/furniture): tr_cont_name_num – tr_cont_rock_iron_01.nif
  • Weapons: tr_w_material_type_part_num – tr_w_glass_spear_01.nif
  • Exterior Tileset Pieces: tr_ex_tileset_name_num – tr_ex_imp_dock_03.nif

Textures

Textures are named similarly to Models, but because textures do not have the 32-character limit, their names and folder names are longer. All textures live in the Morrowind/Data Files/textures/tr folder. Many are additonally put in a subfolder, according to this list:

  • no subfolder – misc items, flasks, clutter, barrels, furniture, ingredients, keys, anything that does not fit in one of the other folders
  • a – armors
  • arc – architectural objects, like tilesets, statues, windows, road markers, and other “man-made” things
  • b – body parts, heads, hairs, for playable races
  • bk – books, scrolls, notes
  • c – cloth things, including banners, tapestries, and clothing
  • cr – creatures
  • env – environmental items, such as rocks, flora, dirt, ice, etc
  • lnd – ground textures only: textures used in landscape painting.
  • w – weapons

Textures should be named very similarly to the model they are being used for. If they are a more generic texture, they should have a more generic name.

Icons

Icons have their own folder structure and should always be saved as a dds file with transparency. Icons should be stored as follows:

  • a – armor
  • c – clothing
  • m – misc, clutter, books, etc
  • n – ingredients
  • w – weapons

Icons should always have the same name as either the model they apply to or the main texture used for the model they apply to.