Tools

Sims VitaBoy Character Animation Library Documentation

VitaBoy Documentation

By Don Hopkins, Maxis.

This document describes VitaBoy, the skeletal character animation system in The Sims, written by Don Hopkins at Maxis.

VitaBoy combines several different types of data together to render the animated characters in the game, including skeletons, skills, suits and texture maps.

Artists create the skeletons, skills and suits in 3D Studio Max, and the texture maps in Photoshop.

The CMX Exporter is a 3D Studio Max plug-in and MaxScript user interface, which allows artists to export skeletons, skills and suits from Max files into CMX files that the game can read.

Character Studio is another 3D Studio Max plug-in, that allows artists to animated a Biped skeleton, and to attach deformable mesh suits to it with Physique. The CMX Exporter knows how to support Character Studio Biped and Physique, but it can be used with other kinds of skeletons and suits as well.

The way the CMX Exporter knows what to export from a Max file, is by looking for note tracks on the bones, for keys containing tags that control the exporter. The artist inserts note track keys into the Max file, to mark up the skeletons, suits, skills and events. The tags in the note track keys tell the exporter what to export from the Max file.

The Access database tells the exporter which skeletons, skills and suits are defined, which Max files contain them, and where to export them. The artist can select the name of a skeleton, skill or suit from a scrolling list, and automatically load, validate and export the correct Max file to the correct destination. The exporter can also check the exported files out from and into SourceSafe. The artist can use the exporter manually without the database, but the database is extremely useful for avoiding accidents when there is a lot of content to manage.

Transmogrifier Renovation Plan

Transmogrifer Renovation Plan

Don Hopkins (dhopkins@DonHopkins.com)

Transmogrifier Web Site

Expansion Pack Support

Windows XP Fixes

Installer

Update License Agreement

User Requested Features

A Proposal to Develop Third Party Content Authoring Tools for The Sims

This is a propsal I wrote to Maxis after The Sims was released in March 2000, outlining some of my ideas for third party content authoring tools that I could develop. This led to The Sims Transmogrifier, but it touches on several other interesting tools and projects that Maxis never got around to.

A Proposal to Develop Third Party Content Authoring Tools for The Sims
by Don Hopkins, March 2000

Problem Definition:

  • There is a strong demand many from third parties who want to develop their own custom content for The Sims, including characters and objects.

Proposed Solution:

  • Update, clean up and document the content creation tools, so third parties can make their own characters and objects for The Sims.
    • Port the tools to the latest version of 3D Studio Max.
    • Make the tools self contained so they can be run stand-alone, by removing all dependencies on the Maxis environment and expensive software packages: Character Studio (Biped, Physique), Access, SourceSafe, MKS Toolkit (Korn Shell).
    • Document the content creation tools with an overview, examples, tutorials, and a reference manual. Write down the folklore that has been passed by word of mouth. Read over the code and document how it actually behaves.
    • Provide consulting, training and content creation services to third parties who want custom content authored for The Sims, but don't want or know how to do it themselves.
  • Develop a Sims Content Authoring SDK, so it's possible for third parties to create specialized content creation tools, like FaceLift.

RugOMatic Documentation and Tutorial: Drag-and-Drop Sims Objects

I've written some documentation and a tutorial for RugOMatic!

RugOMatic uses another tool called The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0 to create Sims objects. It's a lot easier than using Transmogrfier directly: you just drag and drop images and text, and press a button! Soon I'll release RugOMatic along with The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0, as soon as Maxis's legal department finishes reviewing it (soon now, I hope).

The Sims RugOMatic lets you quickly and easily create rugs for The Sims, with your own pictures and descriptions! Simply 'drag and drop' a picture, name, price and description into RugOMatic, and press the 'Weave My Rug' button. RugOMatic automatically manufactures a new rug, with a text description that you can read in the game!

RugOMatic also writes a web page describing your rug, including the name, price, description, a picture preview, and a link to the downloadable "iff" object file, to help you keep track of your objects, and share them with other people on the web.


The Bunny Wuffles School of Sims Transmogrification

http://www.strategyplanet.com/thesims/sas/bwsost/bwsost.htm

Here's a great site with helpful information about using The Sims Transmogrifier:

Here, I offer complete step-by-step tutorials in the first principles of object making for the complete novice in both Adobe Photoshop and The Sims Transmogrifier, and some special guest tutorials - one off tutorials in specific tasks - not necessarily Transmogrifier - written by guest tutors, along with some masterclasses on key skills in Photoshop & TMog and some stand-alone workshops on specific tasks for complete beginners to TMog which improve gameplay. The workshops assume little or no previous knowledge in either Photoshop or Transmogrifier, so as to be of use to you whatever level you are at.

One thing I have learned is that different people use different methods in their object making. Some know short cuts that others don't; some use different programs or sources of textures to others. These tutorials show the way I make my objects, and as soon as I learn a new skill, I am anxious to pass it on! But by no means am I trying to imply that these are the definitive and only ways of making or amending objects; just an easy way to start off.

The tutorials have all been tested by people with no previous experience in the skills used to complete success - in fact, the first brown chair one was written for me when my flamingo was still safely pink and my unopened copy of Photoshop 5.5 was covered in long gathered dust and woefully out of date.

Finally, my tutorials are really meant to be done in the same order they are presented as I often refer back to skills learnt in previous ones using terminology I introduced in them earlier. A brown chair may not be the most exciting thing in the world to you, but doing that tutorial will teach you how to mask off parts of an object while colouring another - an essential thing to know!

Great stuff! Lots of cool tutorials for beginners to masters, and links to useful resources.

RSS 2.0 Sims Module, and MySim tool for Radio UserLand

Thanks to the guidance and patience of Dave Winer, I'm designing an RSS 2.0 module for describing The Sims objects [[Download mySims.root], which will make it easier to advertise and distribute Sims object online, and enable the development of automated tools for assisting in this process.

The first tool I'm developing for blogging Sims objects is the "MySims tool" for Radio Userland. It lets you drag and drop a Sims object into a directory to publish it on your blog. It automatically creates a preview and a description, pastes the text into a blog entry, and uploads the preview and Sims object to your blog along with the descriptive text, so people can see, read about and download your objects.

Naturally I will integrate this with the ShowAndTell ActiveX control, so you can view live objects on blogs, and other tools like RugOMatic, so you can easily create object by dragging and dropping text and images, then automatically publish them online!

ShowNTell ActiveX Plug-In for Previewing Sims Objects

I'm developing another Transmogrifier based tool called "ShowNTell", which is an ActiveX control for displaying a live preview of a Sims object file on a web page (or wherever you can plug in an ActiveX control). You can drag-and-drop iff files into the window to view them, change the rotation and zoom, and read the name, price and description. It also gives you control over the background color and grid, to match your web page and objects.

"What is ShowNTell for?", you might ask. I want to make it easy for people to distribute and download Sims objects over the web, as well as view and manage their own objects offline. Players should be able to quickly look at objects before installing them and restarting The Sims. ShowNTell displays a live interactive preview of a Sims object, right on the web page!

The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0, and RugOMatic

I'm working on releasing a new version of The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0, soon. The web site is: http://www.TheSimsTransmogrifier.com

It supports all 7 Sims expansion packs, up to Makin' Magic, and has a bunch of bug fixes and convenience features.

The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0 is currently undergoing unamerican outsourced quality assurance, and cruel and unusual animal testing, so it will be ready to release soon!

I've also developed an easy-to-use add-on to Transmogrifier called RugOMatic, which lets you create rugs by dragging and dropping pictures and text. It's much easier to use than Transmogrifier. RugOMatic automates the Transmogrification progress, so anyone can easily put their own pictures and text into the game, as colorful rugs. More types of objects will follow!

The custom rugs that RugOMatic creates have a special feature: you can read their text description in-game by selecting "Describe" from the pie menu, so rugs are useful for much more than just covering up the floor and decorating the room. You can use them to publish your own pictures and stories as objects within The Sims.

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