Setting Up Blender for ETS2 Modding
Before I begin, I originally typed all of this into a tutorial for replacing a default trailer in ETS2, but this section alone ended up so bloody long that I decided to make it into an independent tutorial. As such, if you see the occasional reference to a project about a trailer, that’s why. Just ignore those bits and continue on if you are here to just set up Blender instead of being here as part of the trailer tutorial.
I use Windows, so for the purposes of this article I will give Windows instructions wherever applicable for installing software and preparing directories. I also used the DEFAULT install location for my software. If you install onto other hard drives or directories, prepare to adjust paths accordingly during this tutorial.
The most critical program for many ETS2 modders will always be Blender. This is a FREE, open source software. I am currently using version 2.74 at the time of this writing. The latest version is available here:
At the time of this article’s writing, Blender is available for Windows, Mac OSX, GNU/Linux. The instructions for installing Blender are right below the download links. For windows users like me, simply download the package for your Windows (64 or 32 bit respectively), and run the installer – all set. By default it should have installed to: C:\Program Files\Blender Foundation\Blender.
Now for Blender2SCS, the Blender plug-in that will allow us to work with ETS2 models.
Before I go into this part, I want to make it VERY clear that, yes, SCS is developing and releasing a Blender plug-in also called “SCS Blender Tools”. A LOT of users in the community seem to be under the impression that this is going to replace Blender2SCS. It most certainly WILL NOT replace it. SCS Blender Tools is ONLY for EXPORTING, and will not import any ETS2 models. This software assumes you are already an advanced modeler and have created your model from scratch. In our case, we are beginners simply tweaking existing game models, so we absolutely need Blender2SCS to perform our work today. That said, lets grab Blender2SCS …
The tutorials for Blender2SCS are very fast paced and assume you are already familiar with Blender and familiar with modelling. For the purposes of this tutorial, however, I will assume you are not a modeler and have never touched Blender. So don’t worry about the other tutorials for now. You will not need them for this project.
Another footnote: At the time of this writing the final version of Blender2SCS is v0.3.2. As far as I know this will remain the final version of Blender2SCS. 50Keda, the author of the plug-in, has been brought on to the development team for ETS2, and as far as I know has ceased working on this plug-in altogether. If I recall correctly, he is helping with models and such over there, as well as progress on the above mentioned Blender Tools, which as I stated before have left beginners in the dust and will no longer give modders the ability to import or edit current game models. As such, I am not sure how much longer Blender2SCS will work for ETS2, but currently I am running v1.18x and I can still work with anything in the game except prefabs. They changed prefabs and Blender2SCS no longer has the ability to edit these.
Okay, do you have the file downloaded? It should be “blender2scs_addon_v0.3.2.zip”. Extract the file (I just saved it in it’s own folder and used “extract here” with the WinRAR context menu). It should contain a single folder called “io_scene_scs”.
Take this folder and copy it over to:
C:\Program Files\Blender Foundation\Blender\((YOUR VERSION HERE))\scripts\addons
Obviously ((YOUR VERSION HERE)) is your current version you are using. Blender, by default, installs a new version into its own directory. I started using Blender at 2.72 on my current install of Windows, and am now using 2.74, so in my case it is important for me to make sure I choose my 2.4 directory to install this plug-in. Anyway, right, so just copy that “io_scene_scs” folder (folder and all) to the \addons\ folder and lets continue.
Okay, right, so Blender is VERY VERY HIGHLY versatile. You can customize the interface to your heart’s content. If you are already familiar with Blender, you might want to skip this section completely. if you are new to Blender, and you wish to duplicate the interface to be like mine so you can follow along, then read on and lets get set up!
Now open Blender. Time for a laugh. While I was writing this very sentence, I loaded factory settings and then out of habit accidentally saved the start-up file, so guess what! We’re going to set up our Blender together! Because I just lost ALL of my settings in a single click! Note to self – quit chatting on TeamSpeak while working with tutorials.
First, I am going to move my Outliner window. The Outliner window is the tree that shows all the parts of the current scene in a directory structure sort of way. Now, I understand that there are ways to capture a mouse cursor in screen-shots, but rather than trolling Google to find out how, I’ll just use Photoshop to show you what I am talking about and where, so we can get moving along with this.
Okay, so in the upper right of the main window of the scene you should see a small triangle (circled in the image below). Click and drag it left and it should create a DUPLICATE of the current scene window.
Just drag it about as far as the right window so it looks a bit like this:
Now we get to change this to an Outliner window. Click the editor type button below:
Click on this and choose “Outliner“. Your Blender should now look like this:
Notice something? Yup. Your have 2 Outliner windows. Why did I have you do this? because we’re getting rid of the other one so we have a larger tree for information on the right. As you can see we have PLENTY of space in the main scene window for editing, so this set-up will give us more real estate for tracking information on the right. So lets get rid of the second Outline window by doing this: Take your mouse cursor and hover over the separating line between the small Outliner window and the Properties window. Since I cant take screens of my cursor, just look for the icon that looks like 2 arrows.
Now RIGHT click and you should get this menu:
Select “Join Area“. Now hover your mouse over the small Outliner window. It should look like this:
Click that area and your window should now look like this:
Now lets get rid of the default objects in the scene. We will never need them for anything ETS2 related, and you can always load factory settings later if you need to work with regular modelling. Just … don’t do like I did and overwrite your start-up file with backing it up first ~sigh~
On the new Outliner window you created, RIGHT click “Lamp” and select “Delete“. Do the same for “Cube” and “Camera“. You should now have a blank scene, ready to start working:
Now it is time to prepare our Blender2SCS Plug-in. In the main menu at the top, go to File–>User Preferences. You can also access this via CTRL+ALT+U as a short-cut. In the window that pops up, select the “Add-ons” tab. In the upper left of that window should be a search box. Simply search “SCS”. In your case, you should only see ONE result. In my screen-shot there are two results because I also have Blender Tools installed, although I never use it. Regardless, you should now see an entry for “Import-Export: Blender2SCS: SCS software model import/export“. Now at the bottom, click “Save user Settings” It should now look like this (again, you probably do not have the ‘SCS Tools”. Don’t worry about that. It’s useless right now anyway unless you are an advanced 3D modeler making stuff from scratch).
Now, you probably remember the common saying, “Save your work often!” Well, your interface is NOT saved so far!!! If you accidentally close your Blender now, you’ll lose all the settings we just did, so lets save it! Either press CTRL+U or go to File–>Save Startup File. Now here is where Blender gets weird. When you select “Save Startup File” from the menu, it brings up what looks like a small pop-up menu. If you move your mouse OFF of this menu, it will disappear and NOTHING will be saved!!! Be sure to carefully click this to make sure your Startup file is saved. Either that or use the short-cut method of simply doing CTRL+U then press ENTER. Now you can verify everything saved by going to File–>New. As with above, a small context menu will pop up saying “Load Startup File“. Click this and – since nothing changed – our interface should refresh exactly as we just left it. CTRL+N is the short-cut to do this also. CTRL+N then ENTER.
Great! Now lets set up the windows for the plug-in. Oh . . . bugger . . . I can’t seem to access them. This is because you actually need an SCS model loaded into Blender to even see the SCS modules for editing. So lets temporarily load in an SCS model. Remember that work directory you did earlier? Time to dig into those files! This will also act as a quick and dirty test to make sure we can use the Blender2SCS plug-in correctly.
Let’s go to File–>Import–>SCSoft Model (.pmd).
We’re going to accomplish 2 things with this import. First, we’re going to Bookmark our directory, so that you will only have to do this navigation once. Second, we’ll bring in a model so we can set up the rest of our interface. So, first, navigate to your work folder. Earlier I used a directory named “ETS2 Core Files” for my screen-shots, but now I am going to use the actual directory where I extracted the files I work with currently, which is actually my scs_extractor directory. Regardless, navigate to your work directory. Once you get there, the folders should look like this:
Before we go any further, lets set this as our Bookmark and our SCS Base Path. The Bookmark will save permanently, but I do want to mention real quick that if you have to close and restart Blender for any reason, you’ll always have to reset the SCS base path when loading. First, let’s set the Bookmark. To do this, simply hit the “+” under Bookmarks. This should place a bookmark that is titled as the folder you are Bookmarking.
Now, any time we need to load a default game model, we can click our bookmark. We also need this path every time we import ANY mod, even third party, so it is definitely handy to have this bookmarked! Now, let’s set the path, so that this instance of Blender knows the root path of all the supporting files for the model we are about to import.
Click BOTH “Set as mod Path” and “Set as SCS Base Path“. Both are important for two reasons. MOD path is used to show the root directory structure for the model you are loading in. If you are, for example, loading in a third party mod, then you would navigate to the root directory for that mod THEN click this button. But in this case we’re loading in a model directly from the default game, so in this case, our base directory IS our mod. The SCS base path needs to be set the same ANY time we import a model, third party or default. This tells Blender where to go to look for textures, materials, etc. that are called upon by the model but not saved as part of the physical mod we are importing.
Now that Blender know how to look for supporting files, lets pull in the actual model. Since we’re going to work with a trailer for this tutorial, lets pull in the trailer we’re about to replace. So navigate to \vehicle\trailer_eu\krone\cool_liner\. Here you should see 5 files. cool_liner.pmd is the most detailed model for the trailer. ui_shadow is simply the specific shadow texture this trailer uses to cast a shadow on the ground. The files that have “lod” in the file-name are lower poly/detail models. Their purpose is performance.
I am going to digress a moment for a moment here, so if you are already familiar with LOD in gaming, then skip this paragraph. If not, and you are curious, then let me explain now … You see, as you get further away from an object in the game, the need to see really small details on that model disappears. The more detail you have in a model, the more performance it takes on your computer to render it. Well, if you are, say 100 meters away from a trailer in real life, you probably aren’t seeing individual rivets and seams on the trailer as much as you are simply seeing, well, a trailer. We use this philosophy to create “instanced” renders of objects based on distance in the game. In the case of this trailer, the main file has the most detail. LOD 1 has slightly less detail, but still uses individual tires, etc. LOD 2 is even less detail, still uses game tires. LOD 3 has the least detail, and has static tires on it that are also lower detail. As a result, as you are approaching a city or industrial area in ETS2 that has a LOT of trailers rendered, it renders the lowest, best performing models at the greatest distance, and as you approach the trailer, it renders in more and more detail. On a good performing PC, you don;t even notice the transition. Slower PC’s may see a “pop” as if the trailer were “refreshing” somehow, but the concept is still the same. Now you know how LOD works! Let’s get back on track then.
The reason we are pulling in this model is simply to set up our interface, so rather than pull in a detailed model lets pull in “cool_liner_lod_03.pmd”. It’ll load the fastest and get the job done. In fact on faster computers it should load within a few seconds. We should now see our scene like this:
Now right now you are probably taking a break from reading and excitedly trying to pan around and check out this cool model. It’s kind of exciting the first time you dissect something from a game and look at it under your own control. But you might be having trouble zooming and panning. Don;t panic! I’ll explain that stuff when we get that far, but we’re focusing on interface right now so lets get set up!
In the Properties window on the right, click the “box”:
Since we’re working primarily with SCS models, I want to move mine up in these windows so I have SCS specific model control readily available without scrolling for them. If I scroll down, I see a bunch of sections SCS related:
I work the most with selecting variants of the model, especially on models like this one (a perfect example) that have LOTS of looks. So I keep these at the top. The following strip shows my entire order without having to use multiple shots to flip through. I’ll also use this format to show other tabs as well when we set those up:
Okay. For the next part we need to select a part of the model. In the Outliner, expand “cool_liner_lod_o3” (click the little “+” to the left of the name). Now expand “GENERIC”. Now select “Model4.0”. Now that we have that highlighted, your screen should look like this:
At this point I decided my windows weren’t wide enough, so I widened them up a bit by just dragging the edges a bit to the left. Now I am selecting the Materials tab:
I am not going to bother editing a long strip here. Only 2 sections here were worth it for me to move: “SCS Material Tool” and “SCS Materials”. I just moved them both up until they were right below “Preview”:
Now lets go to the texture tab:
Again I’ll just use a strip to show my order of things:
AWESOME!!! Now we’re ready to save our final Startup file! Oh wait . . . we still have a model imported. We don’t want it being imported every time we start Blender so let’s get rid of that. RIGHT click on “cool_liner_lod_o3” then select “Delete Hierarchy” This is crucial to delete the whole model and not just the part, so be sure you select the Hierarchy option to delete. Now we can right click and delete “SCS_light_diffuse” and “SCS_light_specular”. These are individual items so it is okay to select either “Delete” or “Delete Hierarchy“. Both will get rid of them just the same.
I also got rid of the playback window at the bottom by splitting it then joining the Scene window and Outliner window to the parts.
In the end, Blender should look like this, and will look like this every time we start it up:
We are now ready to mod in Blender. Good job! Now we can move on and I can continue the tutorial on replacing a default trailer in ETS2!