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P40, P42, P32AC-DM for Open Rails - Lessons Learned & New Progress

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    P40, P42, P32AC-DM for Open Rails - Lessons Learned & New Progress

    Hi everyone. It's been a while. A few years ago I started a modeling project to bring a new Genesis model to Open Rails, to hopefully improve upon models that leave a few things to be desired, and to take advantage of larger poly counts. Truth be told, I was not prepared to complete the project when I started it in 2019. While I got very far along, to the point of having the units in the simulator, animated properly, and textured, there were some things I couldn't fix - poor geometry on the nose, terrible UV mapping, and inefficient polygon usage. I didn't know enough to dig myself out of the hole.

    I grew up at the tail end of the 1990s and early 2000s, when Amtrak's new Genesis units were new, dressed in Phase III paint, and becoming the new face of the company. I was immediately drawn to them as a kid, and spent my childhood and teenage years watching and riding behind them. Even in the early days of Microsoft Train Simulator, I always wished we could drive the AI #705 that ran on a few of the North American routes. I started the Open Rails project in college, when 3D modeling in Blender was new to me. What I didn't realize, though, was the complex geometry that is involved with the fronts of these engines. Both TrainSimulations models and 3DTS/Run8 engines do the nose differently, and both with some inaccuracies I couldn't overlook. I also wanted a 3D cab, to feel more fully immersed in the experience. To fix these problems, I had to model the engines myself. I quickly ran into a skill and experience problem I couldn't overcome, as the sloppy modeling and n-gons created shading issues I couldn't overcome without messing up my shapes.

    So, with the Genesis engines set to see retirement over the next few years, it is time to return to this project and finish it, once and for all. This is now the third time I've circled back and started from scratch, and here are the things I've done differently to be more successful this time:

    -Starting with modeling the most challenging section first (the nose). I modeled the general face of the engine first, making sure to carefully match the radius on the nose to the reference images I'm using
    -Using knife projections to add headlight/strobe light holes, and connecting all vertices to corners to make sure there are NO N-GONS (my previous model had n-gons everywhere)
    -Planning the model progression (I plan to model all three variants, but I started last time with the P32AC-DM, a model that would be used less than its all diesel counterparts). The P40 has the easiest differences to change - it has strobe lights and a hostler's window that were later plugged, which is easy to add as objects that I can turn on/off in export
    -Modeling the roof sections completely separately so I can change the arrangement on the roof, meaning changing from one model to the next is a matter of turning objects on/off in export, rather than re-modelling the entire locomotive

    So, I am in early stages here with this third attempt, but I'm extraordinarily happy with the nose of this version. The geometry is so much cleaner, leaves no n-gons or weird shading, and should be a good representation of these locomotives.

    I do need your help though. The forums have been an excellent source of assistance over the years, from cab reference images, to understanding of Open Rails, to offering support. I still struggle in some areas with UV mapping in particular, so I'm hoping any suggestions there can be of use to me. I also am not sure if my model should be all tris or all quads, or if a mix of both is okay, as long as there are no n-gons. There have been generous folks that have help out with physics in the past as well. I would absolutely love to finally complete this project, and release it for free, and if it stands up to the quality that's expected, hand it over to Open Rails to include as default content when you download the simulator. I have some Amfleets and Viewliners that I'd love to work on as well, but this time - I have to focus on one thing at a time.

    Thanks all, and please help me see this through! I hope to do an update a week.

    Kyle

    untitled.png?ex=65d37ffb&is=65c10afb&hm=6f862c7ba5c0d91027fe0b6dd0ce948ce3e593125a27bc87428e338e5f5e29ec&.png
    untitled2.png?ex=65d38dea&is=65c118ea&hm=068530db7f4d1a13724a99e7638be451302983733c7f44f2366259a6181344c0&.png
    Last edited by Strawberry Yogurt; 02-05-2024, 12:21 PM.

    #2
    Hi Kyle,

    Looking good. I think I was in on your first posts when you started.
    😉

    Gauging by your shape color - it looks like you might follow "Artisans of Vaul".

    I'm probably a broken record by now - but try TexTools for help with your UV Mapping.

    It can align/sort your UV Islands and UV coordinates in all kinds of ways - you can set a uniform pixel density - and - single click texture baking (AO).

    When baking AO on shapes stacked over one another - sometimes Blender just blacks out the texture - there's an option to separate all the layers - so you get a good bake and you can assemble them properly in your graphics editor.

    It makes my mapping experience far better. YMMV.

    TexTools


    I believe you've been using Blender longer than I - so you may know this already - as I think it's just basic stuff.

    The 2D Cursor is your best friend.

    Take the time and mark up your body with seams before you start mapping the body - that way you can easily and instantly select the areas isolated by seams - for your UV Mapping attempts.

    I just mapped an RS3 and used "Project from View" for the body. Make sure your front and sides are scaled the same - so everything lines up.

    When painting - I'd suggest never using just a solid color - get some underlying metal texture underneath - no matter how understated - to help with the illusion of how light plays on a surface in the RW. In PSP - I typically use Soft Light, Multiply, Overlay, and/or Dodge layer types to apply color over a metal texture - until I get the look I'm going for. With newer equipment - you would probably want to use less than I did on the old Alco - still a WIP.

    Don't oversaturate the colors - even on newer equipment.

    With a hood unit as long as yours I'd probably be using a 4096 texture for the base.

    Just my two cents - please take it for what it's worth.

    Prime.jpg

    Regards,
    Scott
    <a href=https://www.trainsim.com/forums/filedata/fetch?filedataid=80663&type=full title=thumb_80663.png >thumb_80663.png</a>​ My Blender Models

    Comment


      #3
      While I can't provide the help you're asking for, I want to say thank you for making a 3rd attempt at these models!
      I wish you luck and success with this project.
      Neil

      Chicago Railroading Fan

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by scottb613 View Post
        Hi Kyle,

        Looking good. I think I was in on your first posts when you started.
        😉

        Gauging by your shape color - it looks like you might follow "Artisans of Vaul".

        I'm probably a broken record by now - but try TexTools for help with your UV Mapping.

        It can align/sort your UV Islands and UV coordinates in all kinds of ways - you can set a uniform pixel density - and - single click texture baking (AO).

        When baking AO on shapes stacked over one another - sometimes Blender just blacks out the texture - there's an option to separate all the layers - so you get a good bake and you can assemble them properly in your graphics editor.

        It makes my mapping experience far better. YMMV.

        TexTools


        I believe you've been using Blender longer than I - so you may know this already - as I think it's just basic stuff.

        The 2D Cursor is your best friend.

        Take the time and mark up your body with seams before you start mapping the body - that way you can easily and instantly select the areas isolated by seams - for your UV Mapping attempts.

        I just mapped an RS3 and used "Project from View" for the body. Make sure your front and sides are scaled the same - so everything lines up.

        When painting - I'd suggest never using just a solid color - get some underlying metal texture underneath - no matter how understated - to help with the illusion of how light plays on a surface in the RW. In PSP - I typically use Soft Light, Multiply, Overlay, and/or Dodge layer types to apply color over a metal texture - until I get the look I'm going for. With newer equipment - you would probably want to use less than I did on the old Alco - still a WIP.

        Don't oversaturate the colors - even on newer equipment.

        With a hood unit as long as yours I'd probably be using a 4096 texture for the base.

        Just my two cents - please take it for what it's worth.

        Prime.jpg

        Regards,
        Scott
        Had no idea about the separate layers for AO baking - this is the kind of info that is absolutely priceless - thank you! My previous model used 4096x4096 textures and the main surfaces were mapped "okay" but it was the smaller areas that were extra challenging, especially in the trucks/piping detail. Any suggestions here? Much appreciated!

        Comment


          #5
          Hi Kyle,

          When starting to texture a part - I found it best to do just a simple "Smart Unwrap" first - then using TexTools - I stack and shrink the part down to fit in a relatively large - appropriate - color swatch. Then for the parts that need detail or AO - I do a separate mapping of just those faces and assign them to some unique real estate. This prevents the situation where the part might have some far-flung UV Coordinate you're not aware of - screwing up your bake. Been there - done that.

          For piping - I just use repeating textures of a small size - like 256 - you can make the detail of the texture come out as you scale it larger.

          On trucks - something where a common color is used a lot on overlapping parts - you need to do something with the texture or the details of different shapes will be invisible in ORTS. As illustrated below - I found giving everything a black halo really adds pop. In your paint program - select the shape in question - invert the selection - expand the selection - then feather the selection - fill with black - then delete everything that doesn't fall on the original shape. The equalizing bar was indistinguishable from the truck frame in ORTS - until I added the halo. Also - make the edges a darker color than the side facing out - ORTS visuals need help to look good. It certainly helps a bunch - as far as I'm concerned.


          Bogie.jpg

          I don't know how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go. Keep in mind - every uniquely animated part makes a separate Draw Call - so in my example - the wheels aren't on the truck texture - they have their own Draw Calls - and - these two textures are separate from the body texture. Draw Calls can have a significant impact on performance. The minimum your locomotive can have is (7). You'll probably have more. I used two main texture sheets on my model - one for Specular Shine and one without - I also have glass as separate small translucent textures. You don't need to go crazy - just something to keep in mind as you map.

          Regards,
          Scott
          Last edited by scottb613; 02-05-2024, 01:13 PM.
          <a href=https://www.trainsim.com/forums/filedata/fetch?filedataid=80663&type=full title=thumb_80663.png >thumb_80663.png</a>​ My Blender Models

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by scottb613 View Post
            Regards,
            Scott

            Scott - thank you so much! Seeing some examples, especially with the black halo on those trucks, is immensely helpful. I also should mention I now have Photoshop, I was using Gimp before. While free's always great, my proficiency in Photoshop is far greater since I use it daily at work now. On my previous model I had three texture maps, one for the wheels, one for glass and windows, and one for the carbody. I think I had some of the basic concepts, but I got in this bad habit of modeling the trucks as one piece, which made it incredibly complex to unwrap.

            Now, I've made separate pieces for each component and can unwrap them separately, and then join them later, which preserves the UVs but reduces the amount of named parts. I think this is helpful versus trying to delicately unwrap some complex shape.

            Comment


              #7
              I can definitely appreciate those that can take on a huge task such as building a locomotive from the ground up.

              There are so many models I would love to tackle and create, but if it's not a basic box shape or flatcar, or a simple building, forget it. Haha.
              -Shawn K-
              Derby Rail Shops

              Comment


                #8
                Hi Kyle,

                Happy to help.
                😉

                Regards,
                Scott
                <a href=https://www.trainsim.com/forums/filedata/fetch?filedataid=80663&type=full title=thumb_80663.png >thumb_80663.png</a>​ My Blender Models

                Comment


                  #9
                  Some more details on the nose, sand filler hatches, number boards, windshield wipers. That plow is an old part and is just a placeholder. Trucks are roughed in and are still missing detail. Changed some of the "sharp" designations on some edges.


                  Some more questions for those with experience - how is best to UV map those inside faces where the handrails go, when the side is otherwise a fairly flat map?

                  untitled.png?ex=65d510ef&amp;is=65c29bef&amp;hm=a535ef3b70c00768e23a87bb4e073fca6ed3ebb814ceafdc7f413ce7308d9d25&amp;.png

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Strawberry Yogurt View Post
                    how is best to UV map those inside faces where the handrails go, when the side is otherwise a fairly flat map?

                    I don't know if its the best way, but for recessed areas I map them to a separate area on the texture. The AO bake then creates the subtle shadowing that emphasises the depth.

                    Clipboard01.jpg


                    Check out the following tutorials. They are for Trainz and Blender 2.79 but the fundamentals are applicable to OR and later versions of Blender.

                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYey...RF3icfALHZRyv2 xGDa6Sm0G&index=1

                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtjK...RF3icfALHZRyv2 xGDa6Sm0G&index=2

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by superheatedsteam View Post


                      I don't know if its the best way, but for recessed areas I map them to a separate area on the texture. The AO bake then creates the subtle shadowing that emphasises the depth.

                      Clipboard01.jpg


                      Check out the following tutorials. They are for Trainz and Blender 2.79 but the fundamentals are applicable to OR and later versions of Blender.

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYey...RF3icfALHZRyv2 xGDa6Sm0G&index=1

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtjK...RF3icfALHZRyv2 xGDa6Sm0G&index=2

                      Noted, thanks! I think that works better than the way I've done it, which was to shrink them horizontally so they fit in when looking at the profile. These units often have striping that runs the length of the body, so perhaps I can pull the faces out and off to the side but leave them on the same plane so drawn lines can just carry off the side of the body into another area where they will remain without having to line up anything funky.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        This weekend should see some significant progress, I'm hoping to start unwrapping UVs by the end of the weekend.

                        Vents, door handles, windows, some work on the trucks, and starting to rough out the underbody. It's coming along nicely and really the hardest part of the modeling process (the nose) is effectively done. I'll have to revisit some parts of it down the road for the contemporary bolt-on nose but I've got my workflow down nicely at least. It's amazing how the underbody of locomotives is such a challenging proposition because no one thinks to snag pictures under them very often since the only safe access would be in a shop anyway. Basic brake detail and piping should be enough once that gets added in to sell the effect anyways.

                        untitled.png?ex=65d98e2a&amp;is=65c7192a&amp;hm=a274a0b554baef6f12eccfdea1dc2e73c52f0f55db88d8a6cc76d1252520a6c9&amp;.png
                        untitled2.png?ex=65d98e2b&amp;is=65c7192b&amp;hm=da745b08cf8b538f50c03cf6110dede5dee7c67f752aed10a651128f2fc12a81&amp;.png

                        Comment


                          #13
                          There are still a small number of details left for the underbody and the roof - but the majority of the work on the modeling side is done. Since I grabbed these screenshots I added the hostler window since the mirror modifier was applied. I also spent some time naming parts so things weren't just "Cube.029" or "Cylinder.16". Many of these parts will be joined later once they are all unwrapped.

                          The tedious process of UV mapping has begun, I still hate this part tremendously. My goal is to have this engine loaded in game by Friday, even with just blank textures. The exciting part is that a P42 is just six or seven hidden or patched parts away from being done, also.

                          Areas still left to do are the low-poly cab for the exterior model, window and door animations, brake detail, final truck details, hose fittings, and wiper animations.

                          But I can SEE it!

                          Also great news - an Open Rails developer has added some new functions to the .eng file in the Unstable build of OR which allows for horn-triggered ditch lights, but also has some other features that should allow many, many configurations of things like strobe lights, ditch lights, and marker lights based on a number of variables with the reverser, horn, bell, and brakes. Great stuff!

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Really enjoy watching the great progress you are making. Keep up the good work!
                            Neil

                            Chicago Railroading Fan

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Hey man keep up the outstanding work and keep us updated on your progress.
                              sigpic
                              Cory Duguid
                              US NAVY VET

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