From Blue Mars Developer Guidebook
The Developer Toolkit is the main unique package of software needed to create content for Blue Mars. In addition you will want to have the Client Software to actually log in as a regular player, and Third Party Software Tools to prepare the models, textures, and other files before importing and setting them up using the Toolkit. This entire Developer Guidebook (wiki) is mostly devoted to more detail about using the various parts of the Toolkit, but this page serves as an introduction.
This page is part of the Building for Blue Mars series of introductory tutorials.
Downloading the Toolkit
- The Developer Toolkit is a set of 32-bit Windows applications. It will run on 64-bit Windows. It is not yet available as a native 64-bit application or for other operating systems.
- You can obtain the current version of the Toolkit from the Tool Download page. It is the first item listed on that page. As of version 0.0.10521 (27 Aug 2010), the download is 520MB, and you should reserve several Gigabytes of disk space for the installed package plus your own content. There is also an optional sample data download which is 442MB to download, and about 1.1 GB when installed. This contains a number of Avatar Reality-built city files that you can use to examine, copy content items, and test your items with.
- Backups - Avatar Reality (the company that owns Blue Mars) does not provide backups of your data in it's original form. Therefore it is a good idea to regularly backup your data. Some changes made using the Editors in the toolkit are immediate and/or irreversible, even before using a Save or Save As menu item. So before making these type of edits, make a backup copy if you might need to go back to a previous version.
- The download server is usually fast on a fast Internet connection (8 Mbps or more). It is a large, single file though, so it is recommended to use a wired connection to avoid data errors during the download. How much verification the installer performs is not known.
- Updates to the Toolkit are usually announced on the Forum, and in the weekly developer email. It is not absolutely required to use the latest version, but it is highly recommended. This software is still in Beta, and significant changes occur regularly. When updated, there is often a patch available so you don't have to download the entire package again.
Installing the Toolkit
- Start the BlueMarsDevTools-0.0.10521.0-setup.exe installer by double clicking. The normal location for the installed directory will be C:\Program Files\Blue Mars City Developer Tools or C:\Program Files (x86)\Blue Mars City Developer Tools. This is separate but parallel to the location the Blue Mars client software.
- In some versions of Microsoft Windows you will need administrator privileges to both install and use the toolkit, since you will be adding your own files to a program directory. Normally most programs store data files outside the program directory, but in this case you are acting as a content developer and need full access.
- You will need to accept two licenses, one from Avatar Reality (the owners of Blue Mars), and the other from Crytek (whose graphics/game engine and level editor core components we use).
- If updating the Toolkit from an earlier version, best practice is to first backup your own content files, then run the installer. The installer should not delete your content, but errors have been known to happen. The installer will automatically remove older versions if they are present, but you may want to run the uninstaller manually first, and then make sure there are no leftover files that might cause a problem when installing the new version.
- The installer will automatically create desktop icons for each of the Blue Mars Editor programs, and for your MyData folder.
The installer creates several directories under the main Blue Mars City Developer Tools folder. These follow a similar structure to the player client directory.
\Bin32 - This contains the 8 main Blue Mars Sandbox Editors, a developer version of the client software (BlueMars.exe) plus various other tools for converting files. The programs are currently only supplied as 32bit versions, though they will run on 64 bit Windows OS.
\Editor - Contains various supporting files for the Editor programs
\Game - This contains all the unique content created by you and other developers, primarily in the \Levels and \Objects folders. It also contains several .pak compressed archive files. These are actually 7-zip type archives, and contain the default game content. The AR_Common.pak can be opened using 7-zip, the others cannot.
\Template - This contains various 3d models, including the actual avatar models and simplified reference models, plus some sample clothing and furniture items.
What the Editors Do
The Blue Mars Sandbox Editors are based on the one created by Crytek for their Crysis Wars combat game. The Sandbox 2 Editor was designed as a "what you see is what you play" editor. This means it uses the same graphics and game engine as the final game. There are many 3D modeling and texture editing programs already in use, with designers who know how to use them. So Crytek did not duplicate the functions to create objects in their editor. Instead it allows import and setting up items, and then testing them using the same game software as the final game. The Blue Mars Editors continue the "what you see is what you play" system. They use the same graphics and game engine software as the final game, and use models, textures, etc, created via other programs.
Avatar Reality has broken the single Sandbox 2 Editor into a series of separate editors that are specialized for different functions. This makes it simpler for developers who are doing one kind of work, since they do not have to learn all the features of a full featured single editor. In addition, during the Beta development, having the package split into separate programs makes it easier to debug problems. Finally, smaller single purpose editors can be run along with a 3D or texture program without overstressing your PC. The Sandbox 2 has been modified to include new shaders, virtual world features not present in the Crysis games, and more support for COLLADA .dae type files. It is still being modified and extended during the Beta time period.
Specific functions of the Editors include:
- Converting input 3d models from COLLADA .dae format to the native .cgf format
- Converting .tif textures to native .dds format if required
- Material and texture setup via the Material Editor window
- Testing of clothing, animations, etc
- Packing of completed items for upload as single items
- City (ie game level) setup and editing.
- Block (ie part of a city) editing
Other programs include:
- BlueMars.exe - developer version of the game client, so you can test your work using the actual game software
- bmImport.exe - a standalone importer to convert models