H3 Object Importing Guide - Render

This guide assumes you have already prepared Blender.

File list

File LinkDescription
End ResultThe end product of this tutorial for you to examine and compare.

Introduction

Welcome to the Halo 3 custom object importing guide. If you have any experience with importing objects in previous games then you should feel mostly at home for better or worse. In this guide we will be showing you how to go about with creating your very own custom scenery object for Halo 3 in the 3D modeling software app known as Blender. This guide will include a completed version of our work as an example for you to contrast and compare but be sure to follow along.

If there are any images that you find difficult to read then try opening the image in a new tab to view it in full resolution.

By the end of this guide, the aim is to create a basic "platform" of sorts, with a custom texture, that the player can stand on and interact with. On top of that, there will be an extra section for adding a custom animation, to turn it into a moving platform device machine that can carry the player around, sort of like an elevator.

Directory setup and Blender scene

Here, we will simply create a new empty blender scene, and save it inside your H3EK\data directory, making the sub-folders for the new object as we go:

  1. Open Blender, New File, General
  2. Press A to select all, hit X and click delete to confirm
  3. Press File -> Save As, or simply hit Ctrl + S
  4. Inside the save window that pops up, navigate to your H3EK directory
  5. Enter the data folder. Enter the objects folder, or create it if it does not exist.
  6. Enter the scenery folder, or create it if it does not exist.
  7. Create a new folder called custom_platform, navigate inside it, and save your .blend file here, naming it custom_platform.blend.

Creation of an Armature

All objects created for Halo, be they vehicles, scenery, weapons, or any other type, are required to have at least one node. A Halo node is essentially the same thing as a bone in Blender, which are usually used for animating. This requirement means that it is always necessary to have an Armature object as the root object in the Blender scene for a custom object, and you will become used to creating these often. For basic objects such as ours, the Armature usually requires little to no fiddling, as we will not be animating the object with more than one bone.

To create an Armature, do the following:

  1. Press Shift + A to open the Add menu
  2. Select Armature from the list
  • Add an Armature from the Add menu

For now, this is all we need to do with the Armature. The Armature can remain named the default, or you can rename it if you so wish.

  • Your scene should look like this

Creation of a simple model

For the purposes of this tutorial, the model we will be creating shall be extremely simple. However if you can 3D model, feel free to make a more complex custom model here, but bare in mind that this may make other sections of the tutorial, such as materials/shader creation, longer and more complex.

Creating a simple cube

  1. Press Shift + A to open the Add menu
  2. Select Mesh, then Cube to add a new cube to the scene
  • Add a simple cube to the scene

  1. You should now see a basic cube in the center of your scene

Matching Halo scale

The scale of Halo objects in Blender is actually very large, and so we will need to both scale the Cube to be much larger, as well as adjusting our camera clipping in Blender to make sure we can always see what we are doing.

If you have not done so already, follow the section called Clip start and end on the blender prep page.

To determine how big objects need to be in Blender, the addon you installed earlier comes with handy scale helper models that can be added to your scene, which accurately depict the size of different Halo objects in Blender, such as characters and vehicles. We want a platform that is big enough for at least a couple of Spartans to stand on, so we will use the Master Chief model as a reference for how big to make the cube:

  1. Once again look to the sidebar, but this time change the tab to Halo Tools. Open the Scale Model Helper section.
  2. Set Game to Halo 3, Unit Type to Character, and Model to Master Chief. Hit the Generate Scale Model button.
  3. As Halo scale is so large, you will likely have to use your mouse scroll wheel to zoom out of the scene until the Spartan model is well within view

Your scene should now hopefully look like this:

  • Master Chief has arrived in the scene

As you can see, we need to scale the cube up quite a bit to fit a full-grown Spartan!

  1. Select your Cube object
  2. Press S to scale the object, and press Shift + Z to prevent scaling along the Z-axis
  3. You will notice that as you move your mouse, the cube scales in the X and Y directions. You can also input numbers with your keyboard to define how much to scale by.
  4. If you wish to follow my example exactly, I scale by 60 on the X and Y axis.
  5. The exact input required would be: S,Shift + Z,60,Enter

The cube in your scene should now look something like this, which for now will serve us quite well as a basic platform object

  • Scaled up cube

Application of materials

Halo Materials can be quite a tricky topic to understande for newcomers, and so it is HIGHLY recommended that the Materials Overview page be read at some point before the texturing page. However, this information won't be required for this section, as we are not applying any custom textures for now. However, it is good practice to apply a material now, as we will be using it later.

Creating new materials

  1. Select the cube object and navigate to the materials tab.
    • The Material Properties Tab in Blender

  2. Add a material named material to your cube object. We will rename this at a later stage. Keep the color default, as it is common practice for only physics and collision meshes to use solid colors to stand out.

For now, this material is simply a placeholder. As we will not yet be importing any custom textures into Halo 3, the cube will simply use the default/missing "DaVinci" texture that Halo assings to faces with no texture.

Setting up the Armature

Right now, the Armature and Cube are two separate entities, and have no way to interact. We need the Cube to be a child object of the Armature, or else it will not be included when we export the scene to Halo. To do this, we make use of Blender's Parenting feature:

  1. Select your Cube
  2. Holding Ctrl, click/select the Armature object in the outliner (the list in the top right that shows all of the objects in your scene)
  3. You should have both objects selected, with the Cube being a darker orange
  • The Outliner, with both Cube and Armature selected

  1. With your mouse over the 3D Viewport, press Ctrl + P to show the Parenting menu.
  2. Select Object (Keep Transform). Your Cube should now appear inside the Armature in the Outliner.
  • Parenting the Cube to the Armature

Saving your progress!

We are pretty much done with the Blender part of this tutorial, so now would be a very good time to make sure you have saved your Blender scene recently. It is also a good idea to make backups often of stuff you wouldn't want to lose, or when you make major changes to a file.

The file as is will be used for future sections in this tutorial, so be careful not to delete it!

Exporting from Blender

Thanks to General_101's fantastic Import/Export addon for halo formats, exporting our work into a format Halo 3 can understand is quite trivial. For render/physics/collision models, this means exporting to the propriety Halo .JMS format. Don't worry too much about understanding what JMS is or how it works, just know that it stores all of the object data you export from Blender, and is the primary format for importing models into Halo 3.

You may be wondering what to do about the scale model we still have in our scene. The exporter will only export meshes that are parented to the Armature, so it won't include the scale model in the JMS file, so don't worry about it. That being said, we won't really need it again, so feel free to delete it from your Blender scene, it won't be showing up again.

  1. In Blender, navigate to File -> Export -> Halo Jointed Model Skeleton (.JMS).
  2. The export box should open into your custom_platform directory. Create a new folder called render, and navigate into it.
  3. Type custom_platform as the name for your file.
  4. Select Game Version: Halo 3 MCC from the drop-down on the right
  5. Whilst not strictly necessary as we have no collision or physics data in the scene, it is good practice to uncheck the Export Collision Geometry and Export Physics Geometry boxes.
  6. Check Fix Rotations to ensure that nothing goes wrong with your bone rotations.
  7. Hit Export JMS! If you see Export Completed Succesfully along the bottom in Blender, everything is good. See the process in realtime here.

Importing your Render JMS with Tool

If you aren't already familiar, Tool (tool.exe) is a commandline program used within the Halo Editing Kits mostly to provide import and export functionality. As such, we will need to use it now to turn our newly exported .JMS file into a .render_model tag. You can read more about tool here.

  1. Open a command prompt within your H3EK directory. You can do this by typing cmd into the address bar whilst in the H3EK folder, and pressing Enter.
  • Opening command prompt

  1. Take note of the filepath of your custom object. If you've been following along exactly, that would be H3EK\data\objects\scenery\custom_platform. The tool command we are about to run only requires the relative path, and for H3EK this means you can exclude everything up to and including data from the filepath. Therefore, we just need objects\scenery\custom_platform
  2. The command also takes one last option, draft or final. This is to do with PRT shadow creation, which is out of the scope of this tutorial. For now, we will simply use draft.
  3. Type the command tool render objects\scenery\custom_platform draft into CMD, and hit enter. If you used a different filepath, be sure to use that instead - if your path contains spaces in folder names, you will need to wrap the filepath in quotes when inputting this command.
  4. Do not be alarmed if you don't understand most of what is printed to the screen - if you see writing out render model somewhere, then it has succeeded. Refer to the following image to check that your output matches:
  • Tool.exe output when successfully running the render command

That's about all there is to the .JMS importing process. Tool has taken our .JMS file, processed it, and produced a .render_model tag in the mirror filepath inside of the H3EK\tags directory. For example, our .JMS filepath of H3EK\data\objects\scenery\custom_platform means that the .render_model has been saved to H3EK\tags\objects\scenery\custom_platform. Try to find it in explorer!

Creating the Model and Scenery tags

Now, render model tags themselves cannot be directly displayed in the Halo 3 engine - they need to be added to a .model tag, and the that model tag needs to be added to a high-level tag, such as .vehicle, .scenery, .biped etc, depending on the type of object you want. Scenery is a typically static object that can have collision, but otherwise floats where you place. This is what we want right now, and heres how to get there:

  1. Open Guerilla.exe
  2. Create a new tag, either with File -> New or Ctrl + N
  3. You can manually look for model in the drop-down, or you can start typing the word model and it should come up. Click OK
  4. We only need to do one thing in this tag, which is to add a reference to our newly generated .render_model tag - Click the ... next to the render model box near the top of the tag. This will open a file browser. Navigate to H3EK\tags\objects\scenery\custom_platform, and double-click the custom_platform.render_model tag.
  5. Now that it is in the model, we can save this tag with Ctrl + S. Save it to H3EK\tags\objects\scenery\custom_platform, where the render model tag is also stored. We generally give all the tags the same name, and rely only on the file extension, so in this case save the tag with the name custom_platform. Once this is done, you can close the tag with the X in the top right.
  6. Create another new tag, this time making it a Scenery tag.
  7. For bounding radius, give it a value of 3 (this is a rough approximation of the size of the object).
  8. Find the model box a little way down from the top, click the ... and select the custom_platform.model tag you just saved.
  9. Once this is done, you can save the tag. Once again, preferable just as custom_platform.scenery in H3EK\tags\objects\scenery\custom_platform.

If you need, there is a video which follows this exact process.

Done! Our custom object is now ready to be placed and used in Sapien just like any other scenery object.

Checking out the object in Sapien

Now that we have a functional .scenery tag with the custom render model in it, we can add it to any map with sapien and use it! Although currently, it will be using the default missing texture, and wont be collideable (yet!).

  1. Open Sapien and lauch any .scenario of your choosing
  2. Once it has loaded, in the Hierarchy View, click on Scenario -> Objects -> Scenery, and the click the Edit Types button.
  3. Click Add, and navigate to our new custom_platform.scenery tag in H3EK\tags\objects\scenery\custom_platform.
  4. Double click it, then click Done, then OK.
  5. The object has now been added to the scenario! With Scenery still selected in the Hierarchy View, right-click on the ground anywhere in the 3D Viewport to place a new scenery object.
  6. In the Properties Palette window, change the type drop-down to our new custom_platform scenery piece
  7. You should see the platform, although you may need to use the grab handles to position it better for you to see.

Check the video here to see this process in action.

Once you've gotten to this point, you are ready to look at adding a custom material! Proceed to the next section

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following individuals for their research or contributions to this topic:

  • PepperMan (Writing this guide)