User Manual

Building Models

Building art and animations for PlayCanvas can be done using almost any of the many 3D modelling programs available. For example: Blender, SketchUp, Autodesk 3D Studio Max or Autodesk Maya.

PlayCanvas is designed to import content most faithfully via the FBX interchange format so, in general, if your modelling application supports FBX, PlayCanvas supports it too. As such, to target PlayCanvas, you do not have to use any special art tools plugins and there are no PlayCanvas-specific workflows you must follow.

Some modelling and animation programs to consider:

* this program can create animations too.

For generating textures, consider these programs:

Note many of the programs listed above for modelling also allow texture painting. If you would like more options, this external wiki page can help. Please note that some of the information may be out-of-date.

General Considerations for Mesh Construction

Regardless which modelling application you are using, there a number of things to be aware of when building 3D scenes intended for PlayCanvas.


Blender

Blender Logo

Blender is a fantastic free tool for 3D modelling and it is perfect for generating 3D assets for PlayCanvas.

Blender supports exporting to both COLLADA and FBX, but the built-in exporters do have some limitations.

Map Types

As of Blender 2.71, both diffuse and normal maps of your material will be exported to the FBX file. If other map types are lost on export you have to set-up these maps in the Material Editor within the Editor.

Embedding Textures

Embedded Textures make importing much easier.

The Blender COLLADA exporter does not have the ability to embed textures into the exported model file.

The 2.71 release of Blender features a revamped FBX export module that enables multiple embedded textures directly from Blender. First make sure the object is rendered correctly within Blender. When exporting to FBX, set the 'Path Mode' to Copy and check the 'Embed Textures' box.

Alternatively, use the Autodesk FBX Converter to convert an export from Blender into one with embedded media. Just open the file in the FBX Converter and re-save with the Embedded Media checkbox set.

Note: there seems to be an issue with Blender 2.71's FBX export generating emissivity despite no emissive properties being set in Blender - this is not an issue with the PlayCanvas engine. To avoid this from within Blender, you can change the material's Diffuse color setting to 0 (under the 'Material' tab in the 'Properties Editor'). Or simply reduce emissivity from within the PlayCanvas Editor.

Animations

As of Blender 2.71:

Animations included within the blend file are exported with the default fbx exporter settings and are compatible with the PlayCanvas asset import pipeline. Note that for multiple animations for the same model you will need to upload multiple fbx files - one for each animation. To save memory you can delete models and textures from the blend file before exporting, choose to export only armatures in the fbx exporter settings, or simply delete the duplicate 'model' target assets from the assets page on your project dashboard (select 'target' from the drop-down menu on the assets page to view target assets).

Learning Blender

There are plenty of resources for learning how to use Blender on the web. A couple that we recommend are:


Autodesk 3D Studio Max

Materials

You should use the Standard material type in Max, or the Multi/Sub-Object material type providing the materials it references are Standard materials. The highlighted areas in the screenshot below show the settings that are respected when you export to PlayCanvas:

Sphere map

Supported Map Slots

PlayCanvas interprets a subset of the 3DS Max material map types on export. Note that maps can be in any format that 3DS Max supports, but if the maps are not in a web format (namely JPEG, GIF or PNG) then they will be converted to these formats on export.

Diffuse Color

Assigning a Bitmap map to this slot enables diffuse mapping on the PlayCanvas material. This essentially overrides whatever diffuse color has been set on the material (via the color picker). If the diffuse map has an alpha channel, it will be used as the per pixel alpha value in the PlayCanvas runtime.

Additionally, it is possible to assign an RGB Multiply map to the Diffuse Color slot. This has the effect of enabling lightmapping, where Map 1 is the diffuse map and Map 2 is the lightmap.

Specular Color

Assigning a Bitmap map to this slot enables specular mapping in the PlayCanvas material. This essentially overrides whatever specular color has been set on the material (via the color picker). This allows you to mask out areas of specularity on a surface, or tinge specular highlights different colors in different areas. If the specular map has an alpha channel, it will be used to set per-pixel shininess.

Specular Level

Assigning a Bitmap map to this slot activates per-pixel attenuation of the material's specular color. This essentially overrides whatever specular level has been set on the material.

Glossiness

Assigning a Bitmap map to this slot activates per-pixel glossiness on the material. This essentially overrides whatever glossiness has been set on the material.

Self-Illumination

Assigning a Bitmap map to this slot enables emissive mapping in the PlayCanvas material. An emissive map can be full RGB (you are not limited to greyscale) and will essentially be added to the result of lighting a surface. So a black pixel in a emissive map will result add nothing to a pixel's value. Anything else will increase a pixel's luminosity.

Opacity

Assigning a Bitmap map to this slot enables opacity mapping on the PlayCanvas material. A black pixel in the opacity map will be fully transparent, a white pixel will be fully opaque and any grey pixel will correspond to some equivalent intermediate alpha value.

If the material has an opacity map, it will override any alpha channel that may have been set in the diffuse map. It is less efficient to use the opacity map slot over the alpha channel of the diffuse map since two textures are generated in the PlayCanvas runtime instead of one and the default shader must do a little more work. However, if performance is not a concern and it is convenient to use an opacity map, the functionality is supported.

Bump

Assigning a Normal Bump map to this slot enables normal mapping. Note that, by default, the 'Amount' value for the Bump slot is set to 30. PlayCanvas effectively ignores this value and treats it as if it were set to 100, so it is recommended that you set this to 100 in Max also in order to make a render match the real-time rendering more closely.

There are different ways to author normal maps, the main two differing in the format of the green component. For example, by default, 3DS Max would expect a normal map for a brick wall to appear as follows:

Normal map

Notice lighter areas at the bottom edge of raised areas. PlayCanvas expects the green component (or the Y component of each normal in the normal map) to be flipped. Loading the file into Photoshop, selecting the green channel and pressing Ctrl+I to invert the channel gives:

Normal map with Y component flipped

Now, lighting in PlayCanvas will be consistent.

If the assigned normal map has an alpha channel, it will be treated as a parallax map with the alpha channel interpreted as a height map. Lighter areas of the height map are treated as 'higher' than the darker areas.

Reflection

Assigning a Bitmap map to this slot enables sphere mapping in the PlayCanvas material. The bitmap would look something like this:

Sphere map

Sphere mapping is one of the cheapest, least 'convincing' forms of reflection mapping, but in many scenarios it is sufficient to provide a pleasing glossy sheen to surfaces.


Autodesk Maya

Materials

You should use the standard material types in Maya: lambert, blinn and phong. The highlighted areas in the screenshot below show the material settings that are respected when you export to PlayCanvas:

Sphere map