3ds-Max to FS-9 exporter maxscript utility

3ds Max to fs-9 exporter maxscript utility by Craton Innovations

The '3ds max to fs9' maxscript utility allows you to export 3d objects to the 'Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004' directX 'x' file format. The 'x' file exported from 3ds-Max can then be converted to fs-2004 'mdl' model using the fs-2004 MakeMDL SDK, either as a scenery or aircraft object. The '3ds max to fs9' maxscript utility acts as an alternative to the 'FS-2004 Gmax SDK' mdl-exporter but with added support for exporting custom normals


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Data supported for export

The export process modifies the 3ds-Max scene data since it collapses the modifier stack for each object being exported. Thus it is recommended to save a copy of the max file before exporting and use the copy of the original max file for exporting

Why '3ds-Max to FS9' utility was created

Since that Gmax dosen't support importing from or exporting to interchange formats like FBX or COLLADA, the data created within Gmax is confined to Gmax itself thus becoming redundant and limited to capabilities provided by Gmax which are quite old and stagnant. At Craton Innovations, we created the '3ds-Max Gmax Bridge' maxscript utility to address the very issue of data interchange by facilitating exchange of data between 3ds-Max and Gmax. Although the '3ds-Max Gmax Bridge' maxscript utility allows exchange of geometry and associated animations, it still lacks support for exchanging materials. Thus the '3ds-Max Gmax Bridge' maxscript utility, although a functioning and useful tool, is intended to be used only as a handy solution to get the data out of or into Gmax

When creating the '3ds-Max to FS9' maxscript utility, we thought of not using the 3ds-Max to Gmax approach since that would have meant creating assets in 3ds-Max, then transfering the data to Gmax via the '3ds-Max Gmax Bridge' maxscript utility and then exporting to FS9 'mdl' model object via the FS-2004 Gmax SDK, all of which becomes quite tedious to manage in a production environment. Another reason we refrained from the '3ds-Max to Gmax' approach was the fact that we thought we were inviting the very same problems that the '3ds-max Gmax Bridge' maxscript utility intended to solve, that is, data redundancy and stagnant feature-set in Gmax

We decided to move away from Gmax completely and create an alternative to the content exporting workflow provided by the 'FS-2004 Gmax gamepack SDK'. And so, thanks to the hard work of a handy bottle-opener and a coffee machine, the '3ds-Max to FS9' maxscript utility for 3ds-Max was born. It supports exporting of all the data that the 'FS-2004 Gmax gamepack SDK' would have been able to export. As a added feature, the '3ds-Max to FS9' maxscript utility also supports exporting of custom normals which the 'FS-2004 Gmax gamepack SDK' exporter cannot due to the fact that Gmax doesn't support editing vertex normals

The '3ds-Max to fs9' utility dosen't export directly to fs9 mdl format but rather to a directX x file. Use the fs-2004 'Make Model SDK' aka 'MakeMDL SDK' to convert the exported directX x file to fs9 mdl file. The attach-tool (ie 'AttachToolGmax.ms') that is provided with the 'FS-2004 Gmax gamepack SDK' works within 3ds-Max as well

Installation

The '3ds max to fs9' maxscript utility works with 3ds-Max version 2008 and above. After extracting the downloaded archive, you shall get the main maxscript file 'max2fs9_v1_for_3dsMax2008+.mse' along with other supporting files. Move the mse file to 'scripts/startup/' folder within 3ds-Max install directory. Access the '3ds-Max to FS9' utility via the utility tab in the command panel. Click the 'Maxscript' utility button and then you shall see a drop-down selection listing all the installed maxscript-utilities. '3ds-Max to FS9' will be listed in the drop-down selection

Usage

3ds Max to fs-9 exporter maxscript utility by Craton Innovations

The export button allows you to export selected objects and their children to the Flight Simulator 2004 directX 'x' file format. The workflow is similar to how you would export from Gmax when using the FS-2004 Gmax gamepack SDK, except that with '3ds Max to FS9' exporter, you have to manually convert the exported 'x' file to a 'mdl' file using the FS-2004 MakeMDL SDK. The added benefit is that you get the intermediate 'x' file which, if using FS-2004 Gmax gamepack SDK, was only possible when using 'middleman.exe'. The exporter allows you to choose whether 'materials' or 'animations' are to be exported. The export progress is shown in the status-bar

The '3ds-Max to FS9' tool only supports exporting of mesh-geometry or any type of object that can be converted to mesh object. Non mesh-geometry objects of type helpers, cameras etc and their children won't be exported. Please have a look at data supported for export

Development Roadmap

Final thoughts

Although the '3ds-Max to FS9' maxscript utility has been tested, not all possible scenarios could be covered during the tests. Thus, sometimes, given a complex scenario, the exporter may fail. Although error reporting and debugging functionality is yet to be implemented, we would appreciate if you could notify us about the export scenario. We would be happy to receive suggestions and constructive criticisms. Your feedback will be highly appreciated

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