3D modeling with Blender

I was just wondering what program people generally use for making Nova ships. I noticed the tutorials for Strata but I would rather not spend around $700 on a modeling program I'm not sure I'll use much (and I know about the $50 version on the AppStore but I'm a cheap nerd/geek). I would like to use Blender but I am totally new to 3D so the interface is a bit... I have my work cut out for me... Anyway I was wondering if anyone with a bit of modeling experience out there knows of a specific tutorial that would help for Blender. I see the vast number on their site but if theres a specific one on youtube or something that anyone finds that helps for making organic looking (or non organic I guess) ships, that would be a welcomed link.

So as to not repeat other threads, I already read about the lighting angle and all that so no need for those links/reposts. I am more interested in textures and flowing curved shapes. Oh and can Blender make all the "animated" spin and rle8/rleD resources?


Blender's an ass for beginners. I haven't done much (any) modeling for EV, but I would suggest starting with Google Sketchup (which is free, mostly) or Wings 3D (which is free, entirely). For generic stuff like textures and the like, there are plenty of Blender guides out there.

@artemis, on 03 April 2011 - 02:55 AM, said in 3D modeling with Blender:

Oh and can Blender make all the "animated" spin and rle8/rleD resources?

spïn and rlëD are EV Nova types. Generally, your 3D programme will produce an animation of the ship rotating, as either a QuickTime movie or a simple image sequence, and then you can use EV-specific tools to turn it into the forms the game expects.

w00tWare’s m2s and p2s can convert (respectively) movies and image sequences into the basic PICT sprite grids, which MissionComputer can then encode as rlëD.

Just a side note, you will need to be on a Mac to use m2s and p2s, as well as Mission Computer. If you are on Windows, you'll need to use EVNEW, and there is a Blender plugin that will print out a sprite sheet that can easily be imported into EVNEW or Mission Computer.

Blender is tough to work with at first glance, but it's not as terrible as it might seem. In fact, with Blender 2.5, it's gotten much better and is comparable to any other 3D modeling programs such as Lightwave, Maya, or Strata. Best of all, it's free. There is an outstanding online community if you get stuck and there are many, many Blender tutorials out there. Documentation has gotten a little less reliable since Blender 2.5 came out, but that has a lot to do with the fact that it's only about 9 months old and still in beta. There are tons of tutorials for Blender 2.49, though, and if you PM me, I can email you several books that will really give you an overview of the entire 3D modeling process, both for Blender and in general.

@krugeruwsp, on 03 April 2011 - 10:48 AM, said in 3D modeling with Blender:


@krugeruwsp, on 03 April 2011 - 10:48 AM, said in 3D modeling with Blender:

it's free

I have nothing else to add here.

Thanks for the info heres another question: Blender can make a 250 frame animation. I noticed most Nova ships have 36 frames with some going up to the hundreds.

1. Is there a problem with having 200 or so frames?

2. Is there a number by which the frame count needs to be divisible?

You can have pretty much as many frames as you want, but in general 36 is just fine for most spins and rleD resources. You might want to go 72 for very large ships with slow turning radii. There's a limit on how big a resource file can go (about 14 Mb,) but that's about the only limit on how many frames you can have. There's simply not really an advantage to having a lot of them.

And, no, there is no specific number of frames that you have to have. You could have 33 or 42 if you wanted to. Generally 36 or 72 is the most common because of its relationship to the 360 degrees of a circle. 36 frames means a picture taken every ten degrees of rotation, 72 means 5 degree changes (a slightly smoother animation most noticeable on large sprites with slow turning.)

@krugeruwsp, on 03 April 2011 - 09:39 PM, said in 3D modeling with Blender:

There's a limit on how big a resource file can go (about 14 Mb,) . . .

In other words, if your sprite is approaching 14 MB (after conversion to rlëD format), it should be the only thing in the file.

I've used Blender, Maya, Sketchup, Rhino, and a variety of other 3D software with varying success. Rhino and Sketchup are definitely the places to start if you don't have someone around to help instruct you and you have little to no idea what you're doing.Delphi's thread is chronicling his use of Sketchup to do an entire plug, and he's got some excellent graphics. There are some spin-off threads; namely theDelphi Ship Creations thread, which I've posted a good deal of information in, which would help you in your quest.

Sketchup has a wide variety of tutorials (usually videos) available straight from Google's Sketchup website and should be easy to pick up.

If you do end up going the Blender route, I usually make my ships by using "polygons" as opposed to "NURBS meshes", because I like them better and they seem easier to work with for squarish-objects. For a quick tutorial:

  1. Open blender. You should have a cube-object already available in the middle, highlight it (I think it's right click? Blender is all backwards with it's control scheme), and switch the object mode to modify and modify faces (rather than edges or points).

  2. Select opposite faces on the cube. Doesn't really matter which opposites, though if you select ones that seem on a logical plane to you it'll make more sense. Hit "E" (I think, I'm rusty) and it'll extrude the faces. You can drag your mouse and it'll go farther from or closer to the cube. 'G' Grabs, 'R' Rotates, and 'S' scales. X,Y,Z are all modifiers for fixing the transformation along a specific axis.

  3. Use the Scale 'S' transform on your new faces to shrink them, making them look like stubby wings. Continue manipulating them until you're happy.

  4. Grab another side on the original cube and extrude it. Move it down (relative to the wings) and scale it so it looks kinda like a cockpit.

  5. You're done. Those are the basics, it just gets more complicated from here. Look up 'UV texturing' and 'animation' to figure out the rest. I used to know how to do ships 100% start-to-spin in blender (in 1-2 hours per ship!), but I've forgotten much of the process. the coolest things about blender (over Sketchup) were the abilities to subdivide/smooth without a plugin, render without a plugin, and to do UV texturing.

I'm also using Sketchup for my EVN:UGF plug. It's easy to learn (I got the basics down in about three hours of work on the Kyrzakagalan Gun Platform), and can make some pretty slick starships. The downside to Sketchup is that it doesn't do curved shapes particularly well, but Meaker VI and I have come up with a few ways around this.

This post has been edited by StarSword : 04 April 2011 - 10:56 AM

Thanks everyone for the info, I am using Blender 2.56a which is more friendly (to me at least). It will be a nice long learning curve but I think it will be worth it in the long run if I ever need 3D modeling skills. I'll do you all a favor and not post my "creations" until they are up to par.

The next thing I might need info about is surface textures for the ships. I know my way around Photoshop pretty well but not pro so any help there will be awesome.

@artemis, on 04 April 2011 - 05:10 PM, said in 3D modeling with Blender:

I'll do you all a favor and not post my "creations" until they are up to par.

No, by all means, share them. Look at the thread linked to in my signature. At the end of page 2 I started posting images of my own creations. They're not textured, and wouldn't look very good in a game as-is (IMO), but it allows for other people to offer viewpoints on what's good or bad, and maybe ideas on how to improve the bad. We're not going to flame you if they don't look good. We're here to help and share ideas.

Just one thing, though. It's my understanding that, if your creations aren't planned for use in an EV plug or TC, it would be better to post them in Just Graphics. That being said, the most recent post in that section was on March 11, so you might not get a lot of attention there. I'd suggest PMing a mod for specifics, that's what I did before posting the Delphi Ship Creations thread, linked to above.

Blender's built in procedural texturer is pretty good once you figure out how to work it, but you can also use any picture and map it to your mesh. You can find literally dozens of online texture repositories with a quick Google search, many that have textures you can use for free.

Well, I am not putting up a partly meshed ship no matter how much you ask... I may put up basic meshed versions as I will be using these ships in a plug I am making as well as offering them to the NAEV group for use if they wish. Ships for 4 races with different themes such as one being ocean creature inspired, another being Egyptian shapes (maybe) and so on... I am not saying this plug will be for public as I don't want to promise any deadlines (basically I am slow) but the final result might be posted in the distant future...

Thanks everyone for your help. If I have any further questions that belong in here I'll see you then.


@artemis, on 04 April 2011 - 05:10 PM, said in 3D modeling with Blender:

Thanks everyone for the info, I am using Blender 2.56a which is more friendly (to me at least). It will be a nice long learning curve but I think it will be worth it in the long run if I ever need 3D modeling skills. ...

Blender is a semi-truck compared to Sketchup's golf-cart - in both user-friendliness and power. If you've never done any 3D work before, I'd really recommend starting with Sketchup, and then move into Blender after that. They're both free, so there's no benefit to either there.

@artemis, on 04 April 2011 - 05:10 PM, said in 3D modeling with Blender:

The next thing I might need info about is surface textures for the ships. I know my way around Photoshop pretty well but not pro so any help there will be awesome.

In Sketchup, texturing is pretty straightforward- simply paint your chosen texture onto the polygons of the ship until you're happy. In Blender, it's a little more complex, and I don't 100% remember the process I used. The Process was easy enough and got great results, however. It's called 'UV texturing' and it involves exporting a portioned-out map of your final mesh (for me, it's usually an extruded polygon as explained above), which you then draw over to get your texture and re-import into blender. The results were really good for how simple they were to produce- the actual 'texture' image was usually just 5-6 colors (before grunge mapping and whatever else you might desire) and it was really blocky (a gray background with the bottom 1/3 painted red and a black area somewhere on the sheet for a cockpit was all it took for a fairly simple ship).

Ok. My fisrt ship is almost at a point where I could show it... I have a new question though.

Q1. How would I make glowing propulsion/running lights for EV?

I am thinking of making them as another object in the original ship file but I am just not sure how to get the glow effect. A random guess is to put a light source inside something translucent but thats a guess...
Oh and another question popped in while thinking of this subject:

Q2. How does one make something pulse glow? (also like engines or running lights)

Really no guesses here... something like using a spïn and rlëD maybe...


Q1. There are three ways that I know of to make these kinds of objects in Blender. The first is to use a halo texture. Feel free to PM me for several tutorials about halo textures. These can be used to make things like lightsabers or a glowing engine. They work off of individual vertices, however, so they are somewhat unwieldy.

The second is to use a particle system. I have not experimented much with Blender's particle system, but I have several good tutorials about how to make smoke and nebulosity with Blender's particle systems. I simply have not gotten around to actually learning them as of yet.

The third is using Blender's upgraded volumetrics. The new smoke and fog simulators are really quite something, and can be used to produce cloud-like textures that would strongly resemble engine exhaust.

Q2. To produce the engine glows and running lights, you would first want to make your ship into a mask. The best way I've found in Blender to do this is to cover your entire mesh in a flat black texture. Then, create your lights, and assign them the appropriate halo textures, emit values, or the volumetrics that you desire and render the same way as creating your ship. The black ship will serve to mask the engine glow or running lights correctly. You would then put your running lights into one rleD resource and your glow into another rleD resource. These are then incorporated in the shän resource.

The engine will have the glows or running lights pulse or glow based on the the values set in the shän resource. Study the shuttle, IDA frigate, and the Polaris ships for some examples of how running lights are used for various effects. I also recommend picking up the Nova bible and reading through the sections on shän and ship resources. It will be quite helpful.

@krugeruwsp, on 11 April 2011 - 08:28 AM, said in 3D modeling with Blender:


I've had success using actual geometry for the glow objects and doing the actual 'glow' effect in post processing. Just make a cone/rectangle/prism/pyramid/whatever and make it a bright color (preferably white or a gradient actually- you can color it in post too), and make the rest of the ship's geometry flat-non-reflective-black-hole-black. That's usually really easy to do. Then edit your sprite sheet as a whole to get the same effect across all frames and you're good. It's usually quicker than trying to render a halo or special effect.

That is another solution, and one that cuts render times down. I do like the effects that radiosity and ray tracing can give with engine glow effects. I haven't had much of a chance to play with Blender's new volumetrics, but it looks quite promising for creating more of an ion-trail kind of glow. Delphi also posted some stuff a while back about creating engine glows that was quite ingenious, but I can't recall the specifics off the top of my head. They looked downright amazing, and most of the work was done in post-processing with Photoshop.

And yet another question pops up for me...

Q. Is it alright to have the pivot point (turning center) not be the actual center of the ship as all the EV ships seem to be set up to turn from x0,y0,z0.

As of now I am working on a ship that (lets say the dimensions are x=200 y=400 and z=100 so its 200 wide 400 long and 100 tall) has a pivoting point that is not x0,y0,z0 but more like x0,y100,z0 so the pivot point is on the front 1/4 of the ship. Will this be problematic in any way?

Thanks again for all your help everyone and being forthcoming with answers 🙂

Log in to reply