(Written and created by Threve on August 24th, 2018) Please note that this guide was created for A Path Beyond but can be used as well for any other W3D type game such as Interim Apex, ECW or Renegade. Simply use the Always.dat from said game instead.
Skill level: 2
Good Evening all. Ever wanted to change the color of a Tank or create the V2 Missle into a Carola Crayon? This is the tutorial for you! Give me 20 minutes of your time and I will show you how to change the color of anything easily along with giving you knowledge skills in editing APB (This also applies to C&C Renegade). I will also be including an advanced tutorial that will show you how to go further in-depth and really create some crazy cool shit if you'd like. I will also do my best to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible so you're not here forever. But first thing is first..
My name is Threve. I've played APB since the start of beta (2008) and have (like you) wanted to modify the files to my tasting. I've been editing APB files ever since and haven't stopped. In a nutshell, there are 4 main types of files in APB.
1. Coding (Such as Objects.ddb or .dep, uneditable for online usage due to possible cheating)
2. .W3D Files (These are what make the shapes of the things in the game. Also uneditable for online usage due to possible cheating.)
3. .Wav Files and .MP3 (These are what make up the sounds in the game. Every single sound in the game use these two types of files. These are all modifiable except for very special cases like the Phase Tank due to cheating)
4. .dds Files (These are what make up the paint/skin/texture of everything in the game. This is what we will be learning to modify today. Almost all can be modified except some special ones such as the sniper rifle scope due to possible cheating.)
With this, we need some tools so that we can get down to business. I've taken the liberty of uploading every single thing you need to get started
APB_Editing_Tools.7z (So that you can rock and roll no problem out of the box. This includes Renegade Ex, all the .dds Textures in APB and Paint.net. However, if you are hesitant here are the official links to everything.)
RenegadeEx (This will allow you to extract every file you need from APB, Tiberian Sun Reborn, Renegade and every other .W3D game)
Paint.NET (This will allow you to edit the .dds files. I prefer Paint.net because it is free and ready to rock out of the box. No need to download any plugins to save .dds files or anything. Did i mention its free btw..? Now be aware there are other programs that allow you to edit .DDS textures such as GIMP or Photoshop, but I find this one to be the easiest to use with no installation needed afterwards to make it compatible with .dds files.
Now that we have our tools we are going to start out by turning the Mammoth Tank a different color such as pink. To do this we must first get the texture or .dds file. (In my download I have included all the .dds files so if you really want you can just find it in there.) To do this,
1. Open up RenegadeEx
2. Click File>Open Archive and navigate to the W3D Hub Folder by going Computer>Program Filesx86>W3D Hub>Games>APB release>Data>Always.dat
Now a bunch of files will populate RenegadeEx. These are all the files that make the game a game. Everything from Textures to Sound to the HUD and Music. We are however looking for something specific which is the Mammoth Tank.
To find it simply Click Action>Find and a window will pop up. In this window that says filename type in Mammoth and click find. It should then populate some options. We are specifically looking for
v_sov_mammoth_turret_f (Vehicle, Soviet, mammoth tank, top part of the Tank, Forest)
v_sov_mammoth_chassis_f (Vehicle, Soviet, mammoth tank, bottom part of the Tank/body, Forest)
After finding these in the list click on them twice and it will bring you to them in RenegadeEx. Then simply Right click on them in RenegadeEx and click Extract. Extract it to your desktop or wherever you can easily find it. (Note: I have added the textures to my download rendering this irrelevant. However it is still helpful to know and would recommend trying it out)
Now open up Paint.net and drag these 2 files into Paint.net. You should see something like this.
Now that we got the file into Paint.net we are going to turn this bad boy Pink to support Breast Cancer. To do this
Make sure these 3 tools are showing so you can work freely.
In the layers box click "Add Layer". This will make it so we can paste and draw over the texture easier.
Select the Paint Bucket and also the color pink in the Color Palette .
Turn up the tolerance to 100%. This will allow us to paint the whole picture.
Cntrl + A to select the whole entire Texture. Then left click on the texture and it will paint the whole screen pink.
Go to the Layers Box and select "Properties". Then go to Blending Mode and instead of Normal select "Overlay".
It should then look like this.
Go to the Layers box again and select "Merge Layer Down". This will connect the two kind of pictures and make it into one.
Do the exact same with the other Mammoth Tank texture.
Congratulations! You've made your first texture! You're basically a modder now.
Lets see this bad boy in action shall we? We are going to click Cntrl + Shift + S (Save As). We are going to save both of these files as a .dds type file. They are already named so save them respectively. I.E. Save the turret as v_sov_mammoth_turret_f and the chassis as v_sov_mammoth_chassis_f. Failure to save with the same name as you extracted it with will result in the texture not working because the game doesn't know wtf it is.
You're then going to get a menu asking all these different options on how to save it. Simply copy my settings and save this file type as DXT1. (DXT1 is for normal most textures. DXT 5 is for textures that have stuff that is invisible in it. Like the Fence has holes in it that are invisible as you'll see if you open up the texture. So it must be saved as a DXT5. The HUD has some spots that are invisible so to avoid covering your whole screen it is saved as a DXT5. For now don't worry about it.)
Now. Drag and drop these two mammoth tank .dds files into your APB Data folder. To get there go to
Computer>Program Files x86>W3DHub>Games>APB Release> Data. Drag and drop these into here like this.
See how both of them are in my APB Data folder? Now we are ready to rock and roll baby. Fire up this bish and lets see our work.
Absolutely beautiful. If it is black or there is no difference then you did not save it correctly
Now do keep in mind that there is an endless world of possibilities to editing textures. If you would like to make one part yellow and another purple you can simply select half the picture and paint it purple then the other half yellow. To make specific part a different color you just simply select that part on the texture and paint it like so. It may be a bit difficult to tell whats what on the file because everything is sort of just exploded so you may have to make a part yellow then test it out in-game and see where it lands or what part was colored. However, working with paint.net constantly will allow you to experiment new things and also do it a lot faster. This may have taken you 15 minutes or so but after a while it'll be cut down to 2 minutes. Practice makes perfect. To further enhance your abilities there are some plug-ins that can be downloaded to help add some new effects into Paint.net if you desire.
Now that we have gotten the basics out of the way we are going to go to the next level and as the title saying go hard in the paint.net to create some new stuff. I will not be going through the simple steps like where to precisely click but honestly it's easy to figure out through the pictures and messing about with the program. If anything just send me a message on W3DHub.com and i'll help you out with what you need. Best of luck and lets do this.
First off we are going to make something gold. I typically find that weapons seem to look best in gold though you can of course extend this out to vehicles and anything else if you'd like to mess around with settings. Lets see what we can do with the MP5.
To do this we are going to open up the file in Paint.net. The .dds texture is named w_mp5.
Add a new layer then select the yellow from the color pallet. After selecting yellow I want for you to select the whole screen and paint it yellow.
After we painted the whole layer yellow we are then going to select layer properties and turn the blending mode to "Overlay".
Now Merge layer down (Which combines the two layers into a single "Picture")
Select Effects>Photo>Glow and set the settings of "Glow" to 6, -32, 48, respectively then click "Ok" activating the effect.
Select Effects>Photo>Soften Portrait and set the settings to 5, -20, 20, respectively then click "Ok".
Now select left click yellow on the Color Palette and right click orange. You have selected both of them. I want for you to then select Render>Clouds. Set the blend mode to Multiply and the settings to...
Now click "Ok". To complete this masterpiece we are going to edit the levels of the picture. Please go to Adjustments>Levels and set the following (I beg you to look at the picture to confirm you are doing this correctly and putting the settings where they belong.
Now click "Ok". Your image should look something like this.
Which after saving it (save this as a DXT1 type file with the same settings as that basic tutorial) will look like this.
As you can see where the light in game shines on it can make it change the brightness very quickly. The beauty of modifying is you can mess around with this till it's your liking. Honestly! If it is to bright or not bright enough for you then like a chef, mix and match till it is to your taste!
While making stuff different colors is pretty cool it's also possible to completely change the layout of a vehicle into something groundbreaking such as a Tron Tank. Do be aware that this can take an extremely long time such as 2 hours depending on how detailed you want for it to get and how much detail the model requires to actually make it recognizable. Let us take the medium tank for example.
We have here opened up in Paint.net the Medium Tank that is originally forest themed or colored.
To start we are going to Add a new Layer>Select the Line Tool>Select the color Blue, Purple, whatever you'd like in the color pallet and make the brush width 3.
Then we are going to draw along the main lines of the tank. So it will look a little something like this
(this is a small example of the whole entire texture. After you are done drawing all of the lines or as many as you want to make the outline of the tank proceed to the next step. I drew all the lines along the tank and it took about 2 hours per texture/part of the tank. So go into it knowing this please. It is possible to cut the time down by skipping out on some details or making the brush width larger to cover more area. Your choice how detailed you want it.)
Then select paint bucket>Select the color Black>Tolerance 100% and select background on the layer box. Then click and turn the background into blackness. This will turn it into this
Combine both the layers into 1 by selecting Merge layer down.
Select everything (Cntrl + A) and select Glow (Effects>Photo>Glow) and use the settings
It should end up looking a little something like this.
It is also possible after all this hard work to easily change the color. Since all the Medium tanks are the same file with different colors you can save this one as the forest, change the color to white and then save it as Snow, Change the color to pink and save it as Urban or whatever you'd like. To change the color select Adjustments> Hue/Saturation and mess around with it till you get what you desire.
Save both the turret and chassis and put it in the Data folder as shown earlier then fire up the game and try it out.
I have done my best to teach all I know and help you utilize all the tools that Paint.net has to offer. With all this information and some practice you'll be able to modify things quite easily, bring life to APB and create things you'd never thought of before. If you are confused or need help with anything then don't hesitate to post below (or on W3DHub.com) and I will do my best not to respond in a year and half. Good job on all your hard work as well. Take a break and grab a beer.
I also wanted to give a very special thanks to Triattack for introducing me to paint.net and helping out with texturing.
Till then, see you on the battlefield.