First, we must know that the modding tool can only works on 3ds max 2012 and 2008. FHI is currently making it to work on other version/software.
You can find the modding tool here: http://www2.citiesxl.com/index.php?rub=modding
Please follow the instruction to install modding tool, the instruction is pretty clear and so I will not repeat it.
During the installation of the artist tool suite, the installer will ask for a texture folder.
It doesn't matter which folder you has chosen, as long as you remember to put all the texture of the model into that folder.
When exporting the model to the viewer, the converter will find the texture at that folder.
If the texture can't be found, the converter will give a error message.
Running under admin mode
Now I will assume you got the 3ds max and modding tool installed and ready to use.
Before that, you need to run the 3ds max and the viewer.exe under administration mode.
There are some people can't run the modding tool properly. You can read the thread here:
You can find the viewer.exe in Start Menu > Program File > Monte Cristo > Artist Tool Suites > Artist Tool Suites
Right click the application and select Properties.
Select the compatibility tab and tick the option Run this program as an administrator. See the picture below.
Do the same thing for the 3ds max program.
I would suggest you name the model according to the modding document.
You can save the model as .max file in the My Document > 3dsMax > scenes.
All the texture / material should be save in the folder you specified during the installation.
You are encourage to use the convention in the modding document too.
Level of Detail (LOD)
For the model in CXL, we will deal with 4 LODs namely L1, L2, L3 and L4.
L1 has more details and it is what you will see when you zoom into the street view in the game.
L4 has the least detail. You will see L4 when you zoom out and view from a very high altitude.
In 3ds max, each LOD is represented as an object.
As you can see in the picture below, I have drawn 4 spheres which represent L1, L2, L3 and L4.
L1 has a higher triangles count while L4 has the least.
You must name the object as maxFileName_L1, maxFileName_L2 and etc.
You can find the naming option in the properties panel on the right hand side as shown in the picture below.
You should also make those LODs at same coordinate, unlike the picture above.
The picture below is a more proper way to have those LODs.
All four sphere in this example should overlap each other.
Tips on handle LOD
You might wondering, how are we going to make those model if they are overlapping each other?
There are some useful items in the 3ds max that can help you with this.
We can select an object and then right click. You will see the following screen.
Isolate Selection - This will temporary hide the other object that isn't selected
Hide Selection, Hide Unselected - This option hide the relevant object.
Unhide by Nam, Unhide All - Use this option to unhide the object.
Note that, when you export the model, you must unhide all the object. The hidden object will be simply ignored by the modding tool!
Furthermore, you can make combine a few objects using the "collapse" function.
The following picture explain the process of using the "collapse function.
After you have collapsed the object, remember to rename the object to xxx_L1
P.S. Isn't this object look like a magician hat?
You can open the material window by hitting the "m" key on the keyboard.
There are a few tips you can use for the material.
1) You can apply a particular material to the object by dragging the material to the object.
2) You can view the material on the object by hitting the cube labelled (2) in the picture below.
3) The material name should match the object name. You can change the material name in the box labelled (3).
4) Sometimes when you are lost in the material editor, try use the box labelled (3) to navigate back. I personally think the material editor is quite confusing sometimes.
You can explore the other features there. It will be good if you can share any interesting tips with everyone
Here I will point out a few important items in the material editor.
You can find most of the material map (diffuse, specular, self-illumination, opacity, bump, reflection and displacement) in the "map" section.
Besides that, you can find the shader in the "Monte Cristo Parameter" section. Please note that, only the building shader is working at the moment.
You probably will find this statistics useful when designing the model. It tells you how many triangles there is in your model.
You can find the "show statistics menu by right click the text in the top left corner of the workstation.
Then select the "Show Statistics" option.
The original statistics is not very complete. You can customize the statistics through the "Configure..." option shown in the picture above.
Note that you should try to keep the number of triangles (not the number of polygons) below the number specified in the modding document.
The picture below show the setting I am using.
For the modding tool, the 1 unit in 3ds max is equal to 1 centimeter.
There is an issue regarding the modding tool, any transformation on the LOD (changing coordinate, scale) will be ignored by the modding tool.
For example, if you click on the object named b_xxx_testing_t1_l1 (L1 object), and scale it to 200%. After you converted it into the game, the object will remain the same size.
There are a few ways to scale the object. First, do all the scaling before collapsing it into an object. Second, edit the object through the editable mesh (select the object's element). Third method is exported the object and then imported it back.