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Using TES Construction Set, page 1
Ok, so you want to make your own plugins for Morrowind but you're a little intimidated by the construction set. Well never fear, I'm putting these little (basic) tutorials together so that you won't have the pain trying to figure out how to use the construction set that I had. I found Bethesda Softworks' tutorials lacking in detail and Bethesda is not going to be winning any awards for user-friendly design on the construction set (though it's not the worst piece of software I've ever seen either). I'll try keeping these tutorials brief.
Master and Plugin
Ok, first a few concepts: The construction set uses files with the extensions .esm and .esp. The esm files are master files--they contain the main content for a Morrowind world. The esp files are plugin files which modify a master file in some way. Although you can make an esm (master) file it's likely that you'll want to make plugin files which modify the pre-existing world. Making your own master file for a whole world would be lots and lots of work and is probably not something you want to try.
When you go to open files you'll need to understand the differences. You'll almost always want to open the morrowind.esm as your master file. What you do after that depends on whether you're modifying an existing plugin or creating a new one. Let's start:
Click on the file open icon
Check the box next to Morrowind.esm to load the Morrowind master file.
If you're creating a new plugin, just click Ok at this point. If you want to modify a plugin that you've already been working on, you need to set it as the active file so that the editor knows where to put the changes you make.
For example if I were working on the file rat on head.esp and wanted to change it a little, I would need to click on it (so it is highlighted) and then click Set as Active File before clicking Ok. Then any changes I made in my editing session would go into this plugin instead of creating a new plugin.
Wait for a while and watch the progress indication at the bottom of the screen since it will take a little while to load all the information into your computer.
Getting Started, Getting Around
Ok, so maybe I'm dumb but I was driven crazy because I didn't know what half of the buttons on the toolbar did and I had a bunch of problems right away from wrong settings. The interface for the construction set is also a little strange since the other windows are not contained inside the main construction set window. You may move them wherever you'd like on the screen - even outside the construction set main window. Here is some basic information about the main toolbar items and windows in the construction set.
These buttons open files, save files and set the program preferences (from left to right). Setting your preferences correctly is very important unless you have a supercomputer sitting under your desk.
Click the preferences icon and move the Clipping Distance slider back toward the near side of the slider, somewhere around the tick mark just to the right of the word near.
Why do this? Move the slider all the way to far and open a cell with lots of things in it such as Balmora and you'll soon find out. As Mr. T would say, "I pity the fool." If you like waiting minutes or hours for redraws then put it on far.
The rest of the settings seem reasonable, so now click Ok.
These are your undo and redo buttons which you can also access from the edit menu or by using CTRL-Z and CTRL-Y.
Use these two buttons turn snapping on and off. The left button snaps to a grid as you move things and the right button snaps to an angle when you rotate objects. The distance or angle that you're snapping to can be adjusted in the preferences.
It would be very useful to have a "Snap to Object" option here also, but alas Bethesda didn't provide one. Many programs do provide the "Snap to Object" feature. If someone at Bethesda is reading this, put this feature on your list for the next revision of the editor.
The left button turns landscape editing on and off (instead of being in object moving mode) and the right button allows you to edit the path grids.
Turning off landscape editing is a little strange once you've turned it on since you must click a button in the dialog that pops up Turn off Landscape Editing to get it to go back into normal object movement mode. It doesn't seem to work like most standard toolbar buttons that just toggle on and off as you'd expect.
I highly recommend clicking the lightbulb button when you're building something new because without the light enabled everything can be very dark and it's hard to see what you're doing. Turning the fog on or off may be useful at times.
The last 3 buttons on the toolbar are the buttons for editing dialog, editing scripts and associating sounds.
You will see windows that belong to the construction set: the Object Window, the Render Window and the Cell View. These windows can be turned on and off under the View menu.
The Object Window lists all the objects available in the game under many categories. To see an object of a certain type, click the tab to find objects of the type you would like.
Most categories are probably fairly self-explanatory, but the following categories of objects need some explanation:
Static is a group of objects that mostly don't change or move. If you look under this category, you'll notice a bunch of objects with names starting with in (for interior pieces), ex (for exterior pieces) and flora (for plants).
NPC stands for non-player character (or the people in the world).
Leveled Creatures are creatures that appear according to chance and to the player's level so they can match the difficulty of the game to the character playing.
Leveled Items, similar to leveled creatures, are items that appear and adjust themselves to the player's level to give appropriate rewards.
Activators initiate actions. Beds that the player can sleep in fall into this category.
The picture shows items listed in the object window under the static category. The view is a typical Windows grid control. You may sort the items by clicking the column headers and resize columns by dragging the boundaries.
Right clicking an object gives you actions for the item, single clicking the name allows you to change the object's name and double clicking brings up an edit window for the item.
WARNING: changing an object's properties changes the properties for every instance of an object in the game that references this object. For instance, if I change the Rat object to make a rat more vicious and bite off people's heads then every rat in the game will become this same way. If you want to make a vicious rat for one room, you need to create a new creature and call it something like rat_vicious and then use this new object in this room--otherwise you will modify all the rats if you modify the standard Rat object. You can choose to save an object with a new name (creating a new object) if you modify an existing one. You'll be presented with a dialog asking you if you'd like to create a new object only if you change an item's ID.
The Cell View window has two parts. The left side is pictured here.
The left side of the cell view shows all the cells in the game. A cell is part of the game that loads as a whole. Ever notice when going from one area to another there is a slight pause? The pause happens while your computer loads a different cell. The computer also loads a different cell when you go from inside to outside.
There are two types of cells in the game: outdoor and indoor cells.
The outdoor cells are arranged on a grid across the land (and sea) with 0,0 being somewhere in the center of the map. Negative numbers for the first coordinate (x) are west of center while positive numbers are east of center. Similarly, negative numbers for the second (y) coordinate are south while positive numbers are north of center.
Interior cells do not have coordinates, but instead say indoor for their grid location. The indoor cells are reached by setting the teleport property of a door so that the player is moved to the cell when the door is activated. Door markers must be set for these items to work, also. More on this in another section.
When you double-click a cell from the left side of the cell view, a list of objects inside that cell appears on the right.
When you've selected a cell on the left side of the window you will see all the objects located within the cell you've selected.
Again you may sort the objects contained in the list by clicking the column headers at the top.
When you double click an object listed it opens in the Render Window.
The Render Window is where you'll end up doing a lot of work if you're trying to make a basic Morrowind plug-in.
Here you place objects, move them around, change your view to look at your work and put things together as though you're playing with blocks. The render window is a little complicated to get used to and you'll probably feel like a 3-year-old child trying to get objects to move to the places you want them to go. Once you get used to the render window and the controls, things will go faster, though.
Note: if you have problems with the render window displaying objects, be sure your display properties are set to 32-bit color.
Let's play Blocks
Just to show how the render window works, let's give it a try. Click on World | Interior Cell.
Click New in the window that appears.
Give your cell a name such as the one shown at the left. Click Ok and then click Ok again.
Go to the Cell View window and find your new cell in the list. It should be in alphabetical order if you're sorting by cell name (remember, click the column headers to sort). You may also start typing the first few letters of the cell name to move the list to the part of the alphabet.
Notice the asterisk (*) next to interior. It indicates that the cell is a user cell that has been added and is a modification from the master file.
Double-click the cell name to see the objects (none yet) on the right side and it will display the cell in the render window (blank right now).
Drag a piece of room interior into your render window from the object window. The piece I've dragged into the window is called in_hlaalu_roomt_corner_01.
If it doesn't look exactly the same, don't worry, you'll learn how to change the view.
Notice the lines around the object indicating it is currently selected. If I push the delete button (while it is selected) it would be deleted from my cell.
An object can be selected by simply clicking on it. Multiple objects can be selected by pressing control while clicking on each object or you may lasso objects by dragging a box around them.
To deselect an object, click on some empty space or press d.
Rotating the view
Now it's time to rotate the view of the object. Hold down the shift button as you move your mouse slowly. Notice that your view of the object rotates around it.
Panning the view
The view rotates around whatever object is currently selected.
To pan (move the view side to side or up and down) press the spacebar while moving the mouse. Alternately, you may pan by pressing the middle mouse button down while moving the mouse.
Now try zooming in by pressing v while moving the mouse. Alternately you may zoom by scrolling your mouse wheel.
You may need to use all three methods (rotating, panning and zooming) to get the view I've shown here.
Centering the view
To change your view to center on the selected object press c (shown here). To center from a top-down view, press t.
Copy and paste
With the object selected, copy it and paste it. You may do this from the edit menu or with the keyboard shortcuts CTRL-C and CTRL-V.
Get a good view
Use all the techniques you've learned so far to get a view of both pieces (rotate, zoom, pan).
Rotate the 2nd piece
Click the toolbar buttons for snap to grid and snap to angle before rotating. Then rotate the piece by dragging it with the right mouse button so that it will join with the other piece. If the piece does not rotate, make sure it is selected first by clicking on it.
Move the 2nd piece
Move the second piece to line up with the edge of the first piece by dragging it (with the regular mouse button) until it lines up. You will have to change your view a number of times in order to get a good view to accomplish this feat (rotate, pan, zoom, etc.).
Turn off the snapping options on the toolbar. Now press the z button while you drag the piece. You should be able to move it so that it levels with the other piece. You also may need to move it backwards and forwards until the pieces match up. The z key enables movement up and down.
An easier way
An easier way to make all your pieces align is to turn both snap options on and use the duplicate function (edit | duplicate or CTRL-D). When you duplicate a piece it exactly aligns with the original piece and then you may drag and rotate it (with snap settings on) so that it exactly aligns with the previous pieces. This is a much easier way.
Try out making a small room as is shown.
Add a barrel and position it above the room
Now drag a barrel object from the object window containers category. The one shown is barrel_01_drinks. Position it above the room you've built (so that it's floating over it).
Drop the barrel and position it
Now to drop the barrel press the f key to make it fall to the nearest surface. You may have to press the f key a number of times before the barrel falls to the correct level.
After it is on the correct level you may move it along the plane of the floor by clicking and dragging it with the mouse.
Try adding an object and rotating it around a different axis or two. Press no keys (and the right mouse button) to rotate around the axis you expect. Press z or x while dragging with the right mouse button to rotate at other angles.
Note: be careful placing things at strange rotation angles since it's very difficult to get the rotation to match up with other items. If you play with these rotations you'll soon see what I mean. Objects don't necessarily rotate around their own symmetry in the way you would expect. It's very difficult to get things to line up or stack naturally when you've rotated them at unusual angles. The objects seem to rotate around an absolute world direction rather than their own symmetry.
Fixing messed up rotations
Sometimes after you've rotated things to a strange angle, the only way to get them back seems to be changing the rotation data manually.
Double-click the object you've rotated to a strange angle and a properties window appears for the item.
Change the rotation (X, Y, Z) to zero and the object should line up the way it was designed (so that it lies flat). Now you can drop it onto the barrel by pressing the f key.
If you need to tilt a whole room or area, I suggest building it level and then selecting all the objects (by lassoing or select all [CTRL-A]) and tilting the whole area after it is built.
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