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BAT Essentials Part 4
Getting It In Game
Exporting, the PM, and the LE
Well, now, we've got a model all ready to go, but now what? This next part is by far the simplest thing you're going to do in the BAT.
If you haven't already, save the file.
On the Utilities Tab, pick the BAT button, and on the Export rollout hit the Export button. The default for export is "High", but if you're simply doing a test export to see what it'll look like, you can pick from Medium, Low, and Draft. If you pick anything other than "High", gmax will ask if you're sure.
The next step is to sit back and wait. Or, if you have an extremely large or complex model, you'll wait, and wait, and wait, and wait..... While rendering, the computer can run other processes, but I'd recommend shutting down anything else running. The BAT's renderer can be so picky about things, so I prefer not to take chances.
On my computer, this export took about 17 and a half minutes. Yours may take longer, or may take less time, depending on your particular system.
Excellent! Now that you're through with gmax, go ahead and close that program. It may prompt you to save (it always does for me), it's completely up to you whether or not you do that. I have heard that if you save after an export, and then try to change the model later, you'll run into MAJOR problems. I would recommend clicking "no", unless you forgot to save before the export (better to have a few issues than lose all changes, right).
Now, open up the SC4 Plugin Manager. You'll be presented with a window that looks something like the one above. It's actually a relatively simple interface:
1. The Navigation "Tree" - This is where you'll drag and drop your model. Every single possible type of building is listed here. Wherever you "drop" your model is how it will be defined for SC4 and the LE. If you drop it into "Fire Station", for example, the building will be recognized by SC4 as a fire house and react to it accordingly.
2. The Navigation "Window" - At first, this is where all of your models are listed. This is based on what's in your My Documents >Sim City 4>Plugins folder.
3. The Toolbars (not numbered) - Not actually a whole heck of a lot you can do here. You can change how the information shows in the navigation window, "refresh" the screen (if you added something into the Plugins folder after the PM was opened), and view the PM's settings. You can not actually change the settings (and for good reason - you wouldn't want it to stop working, would you).
Since BAT Tutorial, Inc is going to be an office, but surely isn't fancy enough for §§§, then we'll need to make it a CO§§. Scroll down the navigation tree until you see "R-C-I >Commercial Office >(CO$)Medium Wealth". Now, find your building (I named mine "tutorial") and drag it into the medium wealth commercial office spot. The PM will pop up with the next screen.
The Properties Editor allows you to make changes to this building's attributes. Take note that this is the CO window. R, C, I, Landmark, Parks, etc will have different values here depending on what they do. I simply don't have the space to explain them all to you, but if you have a question don't be afraid to ask me. This is a breakdown of what you can do here:
Building Value - How much this building is worth in Simoleons.
Bulldoze Cost - How much it will cost the city to tear it down.
Capacity Satisfied - Actually, pretty complex. This is a pair of values: the first is a hexidecimal code that points to a certain demand or capacity (in this case, CO), the second is how much of that capacity this building satisfies. In the case of this building, the second number is how many people will be employed (this can change depending upon which capacity or demand the hex number points to - check out the Mods section for the hex codes). You can check the box next to "Hex" to display in the hexadecimal format (hex is shown like 0x00000000).
Construction Time - How long it will take for the construction crew to finish.
Exemplar Name - How you will find your building in the LE - also, the name that will show when you query the building.
Flammability - How likely the building is to catch fire (the higher the number, the more likely).
MaxFireStage - How long it will take the building, once on fire, to burn completely down (not sure as to how it converts to real-life terms).
Pollution at center - How much pollution this building produces broken down by air, water, garbage and radiation, in that order - don't get carried away here!
Pollution Radii - The radius of pollution - ie the size of the circle this building will pollute, expressed in "cells".
Water/Power Consumed - How much water and power this building uses, I assume it corresponds to the same units the in-game buildings produce, but haven't tested enough to be sure. Do not get too carried away!
Worth - If this building is leveled by the robot (or any other disaster) how much it will report to the disaster tally - ie, if you have 1000 here, if you lose the building to a volcano, §1,000 will be added to the disaster total.
The little window at the bottom just above the OK button gives you a short description of what the boxes do when you highlight them. Remember that some boxes let you type directly in them, some are drop-down menus, and the rest are lists (you have to hit the "ellipses" button - it looks like it's got 3 dots on it - to change the values). For now, we're just going to change the Exemplar Name to "BAT Tutorial, Inc" (without the quotes) and leave everything else alone. Take note that the PM will assign default values it feels are appropriate for the building based on its volume.
The Common Tab lets you assign the building to a Building or Prop Family (it's a lot to explain if you don't know what they are - the help file for the LE should help you with this), Advanced Tab lets you choose what foundation you want on this building, Plugins Tab tells you what plugins this description file depends on (it will usually only be your model, unless you've done some tweaking in the Reader or DatGen), and the General Tab tells you all kinds of stuff that may or may not be important to you. Note that you can make no changes to Plugins and General.
Once you've made all the changes you'd like to make, hit "OK" and the PM will give you the above window. If you ever want to make changes, you can always come back to the PM, click on the category in the navigation tree, and double-click your description file to make changes. You will not have to re-build the lot or re-export the model for the changes to take effect.
That's it for the PM, so you can go ahead and close it. Next, the Lot Editor. I'm going to explain to you very basically how to put your BAT creation on a lot. If you need to know how to use the LE itself, I'd suggest looking for the guide included with it. It will either be in:
Start >Programs (All Programs in XP)> Maxis SimCity 4 Lot Editor Manual
C:\Program Files\Maxis\Sim City 4\Lot Editor Manual (HTML document)
When you open the Lot Editor, you will need to pick a lot to modify. Be careful what you pick here. The lot you pick must be the same type (ie - CO, CS, R, etc) and at least large enough to accomodate your building. The wealth level (ie - §§§, §§, or § is unimportant. I always pick a lot at least a bit bigger than what I'm looking for.
NOTE: If you get into the lot and can't locate your building, double-check to make sure you are in the right type and the lot is definately big enough to accomodate the building. Sometimes, if I can't locate my building, I make the lot way too big for what I'm trying to do just to make sure it's not that the building is out of scale.
To get your building on this lot, first go to the Building tab, click on "Replace Item", find your building and click on it, click "OK", and create your lot as you see fit. Notice I made this one a 2x3 instead of a 3x3 like I said I would? That's a matter of personal preference, but when I looked I thought this building would look better on a smaller lot. Besides, it's my tutorial and I can do what I want. So there. (LOL)
Once you're ready to save, click the "Save As" button (this is very, very important - otherwise you will overwrite whatever lot you picked to begin with). Give it some kind of appropriate name in the "Select Name" box. The LE will automatically give you the type, wealth level, growth stage, and lot size of the lot you originally picked. You can change them to something more appropriate like shown (I like trying to stick with the already established naming scheme - makes everything easier for me, but you can pretty much do whatever you want here as long as its unique).
We're almost done!
The very last step is to test your lot in the game. I believe this is even more important than getting the perfect-looking lot, or getting that front overhang just so. Nothing in the world is worse (well, there are worse things, but this is an example) than uploading a lot that you say does X, Y, and Z, but it doesn't. This is also part of where the temptation comes to make a ploppable. Ploppables are a dime a dozen, but growables will get noticed. There is absolutely nothing wrong, however, if you make a ploppable version (you may want to look into getting the RCI Plop Mod from ST by RalphaelNinja), but you must test both. What you'll be looking for here is little out of the ordinary things, like the query name isn't right, or the number of jobs is way out of proportion, or things like the circled foundation. In addition, you'll want to make sure that the building turned out like you wanted it to.
Remember how dark everything looked in gmax? It will not quite look the same in SC4. You may notice most (or all) of the textures turned out lighter than you anticipated. I chose some of the textures on purpose to demonstrate this. At this point, you'd probably want to go back to your model and tweak it. Whenever you pick textures, just remember to get it about 2 or sometimes 3 shades darker than you actually want it to look (if you have a high-falutin' program like Fireworks or Photoshop, they can really help with this).
Take note that if you get the lot into the game and find out that something isn't quite right with the model, then it's perfectly OK to change the model and re-export. At least with all the files I've used, the export will overwrite the old one (which means it keeps everything you had originally changed to the description and lot, so no need to recreate them). It would also be a good idea (and I usually do this) to define the model as a park just so I can plop it down in the game before I finalize a lot or descriptions just so that I can see what it looks like.
To take care of the foundation, you have a few choices: go back and make your building a perfect rectangle, create a custom foundation, or make it so the lot doesn't conform to slope (or does it very slightly). I wouldn't want to go back and change the model at all. I've heard nothing but trouble comes out of the foundations (though, I've never tried it). The best (and easiest) solution would be to simply make sure the lot either doesn't conform to slope, or that it doesn't do that very much. See the LE manual for help with that.
(In the first export, I had to fix a problem and forgot to change the windows back to blue - sorry if that caused any confusion.) I replaced the a couple of the offending light textures with darker ones. I think it looks a lot better! (In case you're wondering, the corners and window sills were replaced with the same texture that was used on the foundation/roof overhangs - the foundation/roof overhangs were replaced with this texture.)
Of course, this little building doesn't come very near Maxis quality, but it'll get you off to a very good start!
Please Note: This texture is not presently available to download... it should be available within a few weeks.