Creating an Animated Character in 3ds Max

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What you need

If you are interested in importing a custom character that will animate into Mario Kart Wii, you will need to know some things in 3ds Max first.

  1. How to use the Skin Modifier
  2. How do bones work
  3. How parenting works
  4. How to scale and position a model
  5. How to model a low-poly character (if creating your own)

You will also need these things:

  1. A model you wish to import
  2. A model extracted from Mario Kart Wii (to avoid animation errors). You can do this with BrawlBox.
  3. 3ds Max
  4. The "driver_model.brres" that you wish to edit.

There are a few things to check before you can import your model. Your model should:

  1. Have less than 1500 faces.
  2. Be the same body "shape" as the character you are replacing (Chocobo and Yoshi have similar body "shapes". Both have two legs and a tail, and stand up in a similar fashion. Replace Mario or Luigi with male humans, and Peach or Daisy with female humans).
  3. Materials and textures should be already applied to the model (since that is not covered here).

How it is done

Remember to save your work often!

  1. Export your MKWii Character from BrawlBox as a .DAE file. Then import it into 3ds Max using the Autodesk Collada importer. The model might not have a skin modifier, if it has, remove it.
  2. Delete the models (but not the bones).
  3. Import (or merge) your new model into the scene.
  4. Rotate and scale your model so it fits on the original bone structure. You may need to adjust positions of some things (like arms, legs, or the head).
  5. Add a Skin modifier to your model(s). Note that if you have eyes, you generally only use the head bone on that model.
  6. Add the bones you wish to use. You do not need all of them, but you can't skip any in the hierarchy (meaning you can't add arm_l1 and wrist_l1 without adding arm_l2 as well). However, not all bones need vertices attached to them. Also, make sure the root bone is added, or else BrawlBox will NOT import it. Also note that sometimes, 3ds Max will reset the skin modifier, meaning your work will be gone.
  7. Using the "Edit Envelopes" button, select a bone from the list below (on the right side) and select vertices. Under the list, you will see a "Abs. Effect" box. Make sure you only ever see "0.0" or "1.0" in this box, or else BrawlBox will make a "NodeMix" entry in the MDL0, which seems to cause errors.
  8. Test your bone setup by rotating the bones. Make sure to undo any rotations you make.
  9. If using 3ds Max 2010, export as an Autodesk DAE file. Otherwise, export as an FBX. You will need FBX Converter 2010.2 to convert this into a DAE.
  10. Import your DAE and your textures into BrawlBox (select BRRES name → Edit or right-click → Import → Texture or Model), making sure three "Force Float" settings are checked, and the "Type" is set to Stage/Item. Note that if it crashes BrawlBox, you should try making a new BRRES (File → New → BRRES) and importing your model there, then saving the BRRES and extracting the new MDL0 from there. It will usually work then.
  11. Set the version of your model to 11. Also set Unknown1 to 2 and Unknown4 to 257.
  12. Make sure your model is named "model" in BrawlBox and save.
  13. Also make a model_lod version of your character. This is a non-animated, lower-poly version of the character, used when opponents are viewed from a distance. Make sure it is in the same position as the original, or the character's hands may not be on the handlebars, or they might be inside their vehicle.
  14. Note that you can use the same "model" file for every vehicle, but the "model_lod" needs to be in a different pose and position for some vehicles.
  15. Test in-game, either through a USB Loader, Riivolution, or Dolphin. Note that Dolphin could run things that do not work on the Wii itself, so do not trust it completely.

Examples of Animated Characters

Tips for Creating an Animated Character

  • If your custom character's filesize is larger than the original, it's more likely that the game will fail to load it and crash. Try to keep your custom character's filesize low, either matching the original filesize or lower.
  • Try to reduce/optimize the geometry in your character model. This can be achieved by simplfying detailed parts, deleting geometry that normally isn't visible, and reducing the amount of materials
  • Try reducing the amount of separate texture files needed by the model. This can be done by stitching textures together, and optimizing UV layouts (for example, if your character uses a symmetrical texture, cut the texture in half and flip the other half of the UVs).