Installing skins and meshes
Because both meshes and skins are often identified as specific characters… it is easy to confuse the two. Here is some references to terms and such which i hope will answer some questions before they are asked.
What is a Mesh?
This is a 3D model created (for purposes here) in a high end program known as 3D Studio Max. This is the usual program used to export models/meshes for Freedom Force and Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich. A recently developed alternative is to use NifSkope to import geometry from almost any 3D rendering package. This is not really any easier but is less costly.
The mesh is primarily composed of two parts… a character.NIF file and a keyframe.KF (or character.kf in FFvtTR) file. The character.NIF is the primary structure of the mesh and determines specific mesh properties, while the keyframes provide the mesh with movement.
What is a Skin?
A skin is a set of textures (TGA or DDS format) which are applied to the surface of a mesh which completes the visual image. With out skins… the mesh will only appear as a blank, featureless form.
What is a ‘Hex’?
A Hex or ‘hexed Mesh’ is a term used to describe a mesh whcih has had it’s character.NIF file altered using a hexidecimal editor (or fan made mesh editor). The result of the alterations are minor variances in the size, dimentions, and visbible components of a mesh. some common examples of ‘hexing’ include:
– making the hands smaller
– increasing the height of the mesh
– moving the gun from the right hand to the left
– making ‘invisible’ the cape, belt and boot cuffs
– making ‘visible’ one hair style while making the default ‘invisible’
the most important feature to understand about a hex is that it is not the orginal mesh and will most often come with only the character.NIF file. The readme, which ‘should’ be included, will typically tell you of the meshes keyframe compatibility ( if it wll take most male_basic keyframes for instance)or direct you to the base mesh in order to down load and extract working keyframes.
note: Hexing can only alter parts and aspects which are native to the mesh already. You CANNOT add a hat, for instance, if one wasn’t already attached to the mesh… even though it may have been ‘hidden’ and it wasn’t visaully identifiable as being present initialy.
What else should I know about keyframes?
A mesh must have a keyframe file in order to move (animate), however there are some peculiar restrictions invoving keyframes.
In FFvtTR the keyframe file may be named character.kf as opposed to keyframe.kf as in the original FF. But for purposes here the term used for the file will still be keyframes regardless of the game.
Most meshes come with keyframes, most hexed meshes will not and in either case… PLEASE READ THE READ-ME FILE WHICH CAME WITH THE MESH!!!. It is custom for meshers and hexers to identify the specific keyframes or compatible keyframes which will work for the mesh in question. The primary reason for this is illustrated in the example that most meshes are compatible with the keyframes from other meshes of the same mesh type… ie most male_basic keyframes will work on most male_basic derived meshes… but not all. Even if the keyframes aredownloaded from a site which carries nothing but alternative keyframes and they are labled ‘male_basic’ compatible… still not all male_basic will work. Compatibility is a design issue from one specific mesher to the next.
Also note that keyframes can be hexed… but only to the extent of re-ordering keyframe designations (ie exchanging fly with fly_3) or altering contact points (a more advanced application of keys). New animatons CANNOT be added to a specific keyframe set through hexing.. they can only be added by some one with the original 3DS Max file in 3DS Max.
How do I Install Meshes and / or Skins?
99% of the meshes and skins you download will be in a compressed format either ZIP or RAR. Before you can install a mesh and/or skin, you will need to de-compress the file.
An easy to use and free utility which can de-compress (un-zip) several compressed file types including the ZIP and RAR types you may encounter in this commuity is Extract Now and is found here
Once extracted from the compressed file, you need to follow your installtion path to the correct folder:
Freedom Force original
-C:\Program Files\Irrational Games\Freedom Force\Data\Art\custom_characters
Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich
-C:\Documents and Settings\(user name)\Local Settings\Application Data\Irrational Games\Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich\Custom\Art\library\characters
If you are your PC administrator (user name) may be ‘owner’
(this path is usually hidden and to see you need to go to your pc’s control panel and locate the ‘folder options’ menu and un-hide hidden folder and files. I suggest once locating this folder.. creating a short cut to your desk top… then go back and once more ‘hide’ the hidden folders and files)
-C:\Program Files\Irrational Games\Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich\Custom\Art\library\characters
(PLEASE READ THE GAMES DOCUMENTATION TO DETERMINE WHICH PATH YOU SHOULD USE)
In each case this is where you install your MESHES. The mesh will be a file folder such as male_basic_gloves_midboots
*Please note that the ICONS on your PC likely will difer in appearance from those shown here*
which will include inside of it a character.nif file, a keyframe.kf (or character.kf in FFvtTR) file and a sub folder titled SKINS
Inside of the skins sub-folder there should be (and must be for FFvtTR) a file folder called ‘STANDARD’. Along side the standard folder NOT INSIDE is where your custom characters file folders (such as ‘Fyrehawkv4’) would go
Inside both folders is where all of the TGA files (or DDS) relevant to the meshes standard skin or custom character are located.
note: the names of the TGA files (or DDS) will vary depending on the mesh the skin was created for. ALL SKINS WILL NOT WORK PROPERLY ON ALL MESHES. 99% of skins will refer to the specific mesh it was created for. In an instance that you try to install a skin on an alternate mesh… check to see if you will have to change the naming conventions… ie in this example… to put the Fyrehawk skin on a male_heavy based mesh… al the TGA files will have to be re-named male_heavy…