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Old 09-18-2008, 06:01 PM   #1
Rao Dao Zao
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Default Essentials: the Complete MDL Toolkit

The Complete MDL Toolkit

Absolute Necessities
Most of your MDL editing time will be spent using a text editor, working on the raw "programming" of the model; even still, programs such as the Oinkertools (see below) require the MDL text file and are unable to interpret the MDX. More modern tools like Magos' Model Editor (see below), however, can natively interpret an MDX.

1. An MDL/X Converter
The first choice is always YobGul's MDL/X Converter, which uses code embedded in Warcraft itself. However, this cantankerous old program has trouble running on modern systems (I have forced it to work on Vista, so it can be done), and so you might wish to use Guesst's MDL/X Converter. Magos' Model Editor (see below) can deal with either MDLs or MDXs and so is, in most cases, a convenient alternative.

2. Text Editor
You probably already have Notepad, but when dealing with extremely large models, it can get a bit slow and unresponsive; so if you're doing serious work, it might be wise to track down a slighly more advanced text editor.

Highly Recommended
Working directly on MDL text with no support is long and boring, and prone to small mistakes that will completely demolish all you've done. As such, some very talented people have developed programs that automate certain things, and provide a buffer between you and the raw text. The following are absolute must-haves for beginners and experts alike.

2. The Oinkertools
Oinkerwinkle's set of basic MDL tools each provide a single function, but together become an incredibly potent toolset in any model editor's arsenal. Most notable are the Vertex Modifier, which deals with model geometry; and the Animation Transfer tool, which allows you to swap animations between different models: but all the tools are worth having. They can be downloaded at his website, which also includes extensive tutorials and troubleshooting tips.
NOTE: there is a further tool, called AnimRemove, which entirely deletes animation data, allowing one to drastically reduce the filesize of a given model by removing unnecessary sequences. This program, however, is not linked in Oinkerwinkle's site; so you can download it here.

3. Magos' Model Editor
This tool encompasses almost everything one ever needs to do to an MDL in Notepad -- an integrated viewer that can render animations, particle emitters... The abundance of drop-down menus and graphical interface allow the more accident-prone among us to safely edit a model without risk of it failing to convert back to MDX due to missing commas and silly mistakes. Once you become more proficient with MDL editing, the GUI may feel more restrictive -- but even then, for certain tasks such as assembling particle emitters and cleaning out excess or un-used objects, Magos' Model Editor is unbeatable. This program comes highly recommended, and can be downloaded here.

Other People
You'll never get anywhere without a bit of borrowed knowledge -- WC3C has an extensive tutorials section that can provide you with general experience and a few other tips and tricks here. But remember that the best way to get to know the MDL is by poking around proper in-game models. Everything Warcraft models are capable of has been done somewhere in there.

Next, there is this forum itself! Feel free to come in and ask questions, but remember that we may not actually be able to answer your question; and we will hesitate to do any actual work for you. This is a place to discuss model editing and get help on understanding what to do or how to do it -- this is not a request forum (that can be found here).

Bonus Tools
Other programs that may not be of immediate use to the budding model editor, but are worthy of note nonetheless.

4. MDX Squisher
Guesst's MDX Squisher is a handy little program that re-arranges your MDX file in such a way that it will compress harder when imported into an MPQ. This compression is slightly lossy, but the loss is at such a low level of detail that you will never notice it. The program makes use of the fact that Warcraft models store values to a significantly more accurate degree than is strictly necessary.

5. Texture Pather
Guesst's Texture Pather streamlines changing textures in MDX files; rather than converting to MDL, modifying, and converting back, the program can quickly switch texture paths with the model as an MDX.

Milkshape 3D
Because Milkshape doesn't natively support much of the features of a Warcraft model, working with the program is often more associated with MDL editing; in that to make a "complete" model using Milkshape, one must export and then "finalise" the model.

6. Guesst's MDL/X Exporter
Guesst's exporter is the only thing you need, and the thread containing the download and discussing its use can be found here.

Unfinished But Potentially Useful Tools
Sadly, some tools never get completed -- but even in their half-finished states, they can provide some use to the more adventurous model editor.

7. Oinkerwinkle's Warshape
A tool Oinkerwinkle once worked on, this was designed to be an integrated model and animating editing suite. Alas, it was never finished -- though the final release is usable. Nasrudin compiled a guide to working with it, which is stickied here.

8. Guesst's Warshape
A more modern attempt at an integrated modelling and animation suite, Guesst's Warforger again has not been finished. The thread discussing it is here -- the latest version (that I know of) can be downloaded here.

Anything else?
Did I miss something? Have you just made your own new tool? Have you found something others might find useful? Please let us know!
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Old 04-28-2009, 11:04 PM   #2
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What about MDLVis? Generally a Russian tool, but I have seen (and have a copy of) a partially-translated English version. Apparently it can do all sorts of things, but I have no idea. Also, not sure where I got it, although it was certainly legal.

Or is that not supported here (I think because it can export directly from WoW, or so I'm told)?
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Old 04-29-2009, 12:12 AM   #3
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1. MDLVIS exports directly from wow, yes
2. VERY useful tool
3. Only russian version is semi-bugless, english version is just horrid.
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Old 04-29-2009, 12:32 AM   #4
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2. O RLY? I believe you, but what can it do, precisely? (or rather, what can't it do :P)
3. Hmm, how so?
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