Data dark magic

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About this documentation

Information 48x48.png

Note

This is basically a brain dump from 2021 (between 0.51 and 0.52) to make sure this knowledge does not go with me if something happens to me. --illwieckz, Holy Guardian of the Ancient Beacon of Knowledge.

Some parts of this documentation may be moved to specific Formats and Tutorials pages, some instructions are not targetting end users, as they are purposed to be implemented in high levels tools.

This documentation does not provide the easiest instructions to do things like building a map. For example the NetRadiant level editor provides a ready-to-use build menu taking care of what's described there (and details that may not be described there). The urcheon tool is recommended to build Unvanquished assets, and take cares of material generation, map compilation, image and sound conversion and packaging including the versioning of the package.

The documentation does not give every details neither all recommended command line options, but those who are needed even if missing some other options may result in less optimal results like less good looking results. For example there is no instructions about the best q3map2 options to produce the best-looking lightmaps.

Note: It is assumed the q3map2 and daemonmap commands are used with -game unvanquished option. In the next words, all images will be named with .tga extension because either the tools produce them that way, either it's easier to do so to make it easier to understand. Sounds may also be named using the .wav extension even if we usually don't use such format in repositories or in game.

Packaging files

Files are expected to be stored in DPK archives named like map-castle_0.1.dpk, using ZIP (PKZIP) compression.

It's recommended to use the 7z tool with -tzip -mx=9 options. It's possible to optimize the compression after that using a Zopfli optimizer like advzip by advancecomp project with --shrink-insane option.

Building a map and producing related files

From maps/castle.map, the q3map2 tool with -bsp stage compiles the map source and produces maps/castle.bsp, the -meta switch is used at the same time to merge triangles and optimize the BSP tree (the way the data is stored).

From maps/castle.bsp, the q3map2 tool with -vis stage computes visibility, the visibility is stored in maps/castle.bsp by modifying it in place.

From maps/castle.bsp, the q3map2 tool with -light stage computes light maps and light grid, the light grid is stored in maps/castle.bsp by modifying it in place. Historically the light map was also stored in maps/castle.bsp by modifying it in place, but the -meta switch is used is to store light maps as maps/castle/lm_0000.tga, maps/castle/lm_0001.tga, and with -deluxe switch, uneven light map files are storing lights, and even light map files are storing light direction.

From maps/castle.bsp, the q3map2 tool with -minimap stage computes minimap and produce minimaps/castle.tga and maps/castle.minimap, the first one being the minimap image itself, the second one being a text file setting some parameters.

From maps/castle.bsp, the daemonmap tool with -nav stage computes navigation meshes like maps/chasm-builder.navMesh and maps/chasm-human_bsuit.navMesh.

The mapper is expected to manually create a levelshot (an image representing the map) and to store it as meta/castle/castle.tga, and to manually create a file named meta/castle/castle.arena which is a text file containing some metadata about the map (like a displayable name).

Additionally and optionally, the mapper can add a colorgrade image to store as gfx/colorgrade/castle.tga, the name is not enforced and the mapper has to edit a specific property in maps/castle.map with this path to enable it (the extension is not needed in the maps/castle.map file), this can be done within NetRadiant level editor using the Entity Inspector.

TODO: ability to tweak textures from a .bsp file with esquirel tool.
TODO: ability to tweak entity lump of a .bsp file with esquirel tool,
      or to update them in a .bsp from a .map using q3map2.
TODO: ability to generate layouts in game and ship them in dpk.
TODO: ability to edit navcons in game and ship them in dpk.

Including a model in a map and building it first

There are two ways to include objects in maps, one is to set them as misc_model entities in the map in NetRadiant level editor, they will be baked into the map geometry and light maps computed for them, the other way is to set them as misc_model_anim entities in the map in NetRadiant level editor, they will not be baked to the geometry and light maps will not be computed for them, the lighting will be computed from light grid like player models, which is less precise but is independent of the position.

The q3map2 map compiler can bake some models in various formats including ASE, OBJ, MD3 and IQM when using them as misc_model entities. For models set as misc_model_anim, the formats are the one supported by the Dæmon game engine, MD3, MD5Mesh, and IQM.

The ASE, OBJ, MD3, MD5Mesh and IQM models may be produced by some usual modeling tools and/or using converters.

For models made from modeling tools, the IQM format is recommended.

Models can also be made in NetRadiant level editor as maps, then the q3map2 is used to compile and convert map files to the ASE or the OBJ formats. Both are fine.

From models/mapmodels/castle/tower.map, the q3map2 tool with -bsp stage with -meta -patchmeta options compiles the compiles the map source and produces models/mapmodels/castle/tower.bsp.

From models/mapmodels/castle/tower.bsp, the q3map2 tool with -convert stage with -format ase option produces models/mapmodels/castle/tower.ase

Alternatively, from models/mapmodels/castle/tower.bsp, the q3map2 tool with -convert stage with -format obj option produces models/mapmodels/castle/tower.obj

It's possible to call the q3map2 tool with -convert stage directly on models/mapmodels/castle/tower.map but the produced model will lack all the optimizations that can be done by the q3map2 tool with -bsp stage.

Making materials and textures for maps and models

Materials names to be applied in MAP surfaces must start with textures/ prefix since the MAP format strips that prefix one saving and assumes it on loading.

Historically, all images saved in textures/ folder are diffuse materials with light map being computed and applied on, without any advanced component like normal map, height map, specular or physical map, or glow map.

Materials are described in text files named like scripts/castle.shader referencing textures stored in textures/castle_src folder and setting some options about the way the material must be rendered. Materials can set surface parameters (like making a surface translucent, cast shadows, let projectile pass but not players, make metal clang when walking on it…) and can set content parameters for the brush made of it (like forbidding building, making people swim in, or hurting them…).

Multiple materials can be defined in a single .shader file.

For example the textures/castle_custom/brick material can make use of textures/castle_custom_src/brick_d.tga diffuse texture.

To be usable by the NetRadiant level editor and the q3map2 map compiler, the castle_custom basename of the scripts/castle_custom.shader file must be listed on a file named scripts/shaderlist.txt. The engine does not need it.

Material names for map models (even those baked in the BSP) or materials for other purposes do not need to start with the textures/ prefix. Same for textures, for example materials and textures for map model formats may use the same prefix as models, for example a models/mapmodels/castle/tower making use of models/mapmodels/castle/tower_d.tga texture.

The game provides some common materials using textures/common/ prefix for common features: preventing to build, clipping player, etc.

Material files can be written by hand, or when possible, be generated by the Sloth tool from existing texture using some name conventions.

It is recommended to generate the material files with the Sloth tool when possible.

It is recommended to not write the file extension of the image in material files. For example the name can be textures/castle_custom_src/brick_d.

It is recommended to not add a file extension for material names to be used in the map files, map models, particles, etc. For example the name can be textures/castle_custom/brick.

In some case like when using specific effects like dynamic lightmaps, the q3map2 tool may produce a material file named like scripts/q3map2_castle.shader, it is not meant to be listed in shaderlist.txt and not be edited by hand as it will be rewritten on next compilation.

Making some graphical effects to be rendered in game

Some graphical effects can be done as materials named like gfx/castle/smoke.

They are stored in material files like scripts/castle_gfx.shader but there is no need to store the base name in scripts/shaderlist.txt file as they are not expected to be used by the q3map2 tool neither the NetRadiant level editor.

Making particle effects to be rendered in game

Particle effects are stored in files named like scripts/castle.particle.

Multiple materials can be defined in a single .shader file.

It's recommended to name particle effects with particles/ prefix.

Making trail effects to be rendered in game

Trail effect are stored in files named like scripts/castle.trail.

Multiple particle effects can be defined in a single .particle file.

It's recommended to name particle effects with trails/ prefix.

Converting image files for release

It's recommended to store textures as PNG in repositories as widely used lossless formats are recommended for storage in repositories, if the best version of a texture is using the JPEG format, it is recommended to leave it JPEG in repository without any conversion.

It's recommended to optimize PNG (beware that PNG optimizer tools do not destroy unseen data, like RGB data that can't be seen by fully transparent alpha channel). The oxipng tool without --alpha option is recommended to optimize PNG. It's possible to do a Zopfli optimization after that using other tools. Prefer using an external Zopfli optimizer to oxipng builtin Zopfli optimizer like pngwolf-zopfli or others, one recommendation is still to be defined.

It's not recommended to use the ImageMagick convert tool to convert from and to TGA format as it is not reliable for this. Other tool to be determined has to be used instead.

Despite the engine supporting PNG and JPG, it's recommended to convert images to other formats for being loaded in game.

It is recommended to convert sky boxes into lossy WebP using the cwebp tool.

It is recommended to convert light maps into lossless WebP using the cwebp tool with -lossless option.

It is recommended to convert normal maps to normalized DXn CRN format using the crunch tool with the -dxn -renormalize -rtopmip options.

It is recommended to ship normal maps and height maps as separate files, in case height map is stored in normal map alpha channel, it is recommended to convert such files using the normalized CRN format using the crunch tool with the -renormalize -rtopmip options, the -dxn must not be used as it is an optimization trick abusing the alpha channel and then will not store the height map.

The crunch tool must be the Dæmon variant (based on Unity variant).

Converting sound files for release

It is recommended to store sound files as FLAC in repositories as widely used lossless formats are recommended for storage in repositories. The WAV files can be converted to FLAC using the flac tool.

It's recommended to name sound effects with sound/ prefix. For example a sound file can be named sound/castle/wind.wav and stored as sound/castle/wind.flac in a repository.

The engine does not support FLAC anyway.

The engine supports WAV, Ogg Vorbis and Opus audio formats. Ogg Vorbis sound files must use the .ogg file extension and Opus sound files must use the .opus file extension.

It is recommended to convert sound files to Opus except if the best version available is already using the Ogg Vorbis format.

The FLAC or WAV files can be converted to Opus using the opusenc tool to produce a file named like sound/castle/wind.opus.

It's recommended to not convert Ogg Vorbis sound files to Opus and ship them in Ogg Vorbis format, unmodified.

It is recommended to not write the file extension of the sound path in map files, for example it can be set as sound/castle/wind.