Tribes 2 FAQ
your frequently asked questions about skinning
Tribes 2 Skinning FAQ
by David "Mirage" Kamerman
What can you tell me about Tribes 2 skins?
Since I never played
the first Tribes game I can't really tell you if the custom
skins system changed or not. Tribes
2 skins consist of one image per model and can be made in either
256 x 256 or 512 x 512 pixel images.
The game supports
two file formats, the default file format is PNG in 24 bit colour,
format is BM8 files. BM8 files are used as a backup format for
people with graphically impaired video cards.
There are tools
out there to convert BMP files to BM8 files, but in my opinion
you shouldn't even bother. Only insane people would try to play
Tribes 2 with crappy video cards anyway : )
You can skin about
everything in this game, from vehicles to flags, but in this
tutorial I'm going
to concentrate on skins for the player models.
Tribes 2 has eight
different player models for you to skin, five human ones ( Light
male / female, Medium male / female, Heavy unisex ) and three
Bioderm ones ( Light / Medium / Heavy ).
Skins have to be
made in complete packages to work properly ingame, so if you
want to make a human pack, you will either have to make the
entire set of five skins, or you can put in the default ones
to complete the package. Tribes 2 goes screwy when you feed
it incomplete packages : )
although you can see yourself wearing that spiffy custom skin
you made, other people need to have it too before they can see
it in a multiplayer game.
What do I need before we start ?
First of all, if
you are using Photoshop 5.5 or above, you need this
file to replace one of Photoshop's file format configurations.
For some reason
Photoshop 5.5 and above can't open up PNG files containing alpha
that this file is not an official release from Adobe, so make
a backup of the original file before overwriting it !!
Secondly, if you
don't have it already, get WinZip.
Tribes 2 stores
it's stuff in VL2 files, which which can be opened with WinZip.
Also, you will need
a folder to put your skins in when they're finished.
Make a new folder
called "skins" in the "textures" folder
like this :
This is where you
will put your custom skins later on.
How do I make a skin for Dynamix's Tribes 2?
Since there aren't
any skingrids for any of the models, you will have to get some
original skins to use as reference material or as a base. All
of the default skins are stored in this file :
( Or wherever you
installed Tribes 2 )
Open it up with
WinZip and extract the skins you need.
I suggest you to
extract these files :
Now that you have
your base, paint away in the program of your choosing.
As mentioned before,
you can save your skin in either 256 x 256 or 512 x 512 pixel
! -- IMPORTANT
Skins HAVE to have a grayscale Alpha layer, which is
used by the game to determine the amount and position of a chrome-esque
glow effect on the model.
If you don't give your skin an Alpha layer the game
will automaticly fill the entire skin with this chrome effect
making it look like a mirror.
More on this later,
for now, make an
Alpha layer and fill it with pure black.
How do I name my skins' files and where do I put them
Always save the
skin in your program's standard form in which the layers and
Alpha layer can still be edited ( Like PSD for Photoshop )
To save your skin
for use in the game you have to name the file in a special way.
The format for naming
skins is as follows :
skin_lmale.png ( for the Light Male
skin_lfemale.png ( for the Light Female
skin_mmale.png ( for the Medium Male
skin_mfemale.png ( for the Medium Female
skin_hmale.png ( for the Heavy Unisex
skin_lbioderm.png ( for the Light Bioderm
skin_mbioderm.png ( for the Medium Bioderm
skin_hbioderm.png ( for the Heavy Bioderm
is should be the name of the skin.
Blobby_mmale.png ( A skin named Blobby for
the Medium Male model )
You can either decide
to use ONLY 256 x 256 or ONLY 512 x 512 pixel images and name
the files like above,
You can release
your skins in BOTH 256 x 256 and 512 x 512 pixel images so the
game's graphic configuration can determine to use either the
low resolution version or the high resolution version. Name
your files like this to let the game know which is which :
Blobby_mmale.png ( Blobby skin,
256 x 256 version )
Blobby_mmale_512.png ( Blobby skin, 512
x 512 version )
This makes your
total skin package a lot bigger though.
Remember that "skins"
folder you had to make before ? That's
where you have to put all this stuff. The
skins *should* work now !
What about the palette?
You don't have to
worry about the pallette in T2, since all images are 24 bit
How does this Alpha layer stuff work ?
Skins HAVE to have
a grayscale Alpha layer, which is used by the game to determine
the amount and position of a chrome-esque shine effect on the
The more WHITE a
part is on the alpha layer, the MORE it will shine ingame.
The more BLACK a
part is on the alpha layer, the LESS it will shine ingame.
Paint it pure white
= shines like a mirror ingame.
Paint it gray =
shines a bit ingame.
Paint it pure black
= doesn't shine at all ingame.
Thus you can use
shades of gray to do various things, like make armor shine,
make a visor on a helmet reflective, or fake chipped off paint.
Lets see what happens
when I put this Alpha layer :
on this Pure red
This is what it
looks like ingame :
See the shiny bits
? F00nky innit : )
Oh, note that you
never see the shine effects on the "Player setup"
screen, only ingame whilst playing. You also have to have "environment
mapping" enabled in the graphic configurations.
Can I make my own VL2 package files ?
You sure can ! w00t
Using WinZip, you
can zip your skins in one nifty VL2 package.
In this example
I will make a VL2 package for my skinset for the human models
First, make a new
folder called "VL2 Creation"
Then make a new
folder in there called "textures"
Then make a new
folder in there called "skins"
You should now have
Put your skins in
the "skins" folder like this :
Now go back to the
"VL2 Creation" folder.
"textures" folder, and select "Add to ZIP"
from the drop-down window like this :
Now type in the
name of the skin package, in this example's case "Mirage.vl2",
and hit the "Add" button.
Now all you have
to do is put this VL2 package in the "base" folder
like this :
And your skin *should*
How can I view how a T2 skin looks over the model?
I'm still searching
for utilities that will allow you to view your skins without
having to start up Tribes 2.
All of the models
were released in MAX file format though, so if you have 3D Studio
Max, you could probably view the skins on the models using that.
You can get the MAX