Hi Everybody.

So far I've been really impressed with XNA and seeing stuff I create play on the X-360.

I've had success creating a game in 2D and am now moving into the 3D realm...which consequently has led me to a few questions.

First, for reasons unexplained ( $$$ ) I've found myself with copies of MilkShape 3D and Ultimate Unwrap 3D, and have managed to create a mesh that has an animated walk cycle, and then successfully imported and viewed it in a 360 project ( animation less of course ).

So, now I'm at a crossroads, and due to my lack of experience I'm coming to you guys for direction to keep my expectations in check and find what reasonably I could and should do.

Just a little background on myself, I've been doing C# business applications for the last 5 years, and playing video games my whole life.

1. I've created a mesh with a walking cycle animation in Milkshape. I have plans for this model to have multiple animations such as attacking, running, and etc. With no experience with multiple animations, how do I go about preparing the mesh contain multiple animations Do I need another program or is Milkshape capable of this

2. From what I've read, it is in my best interest to harness the power of shaders in order to move processing power over to the GPU so i can free up the CPU. Is it reasonable for me to take on the task of learning how to program shaders or should I look around for existing libraries and keep my knowledge of shaders to a black box. Keep in mind I'm doing everything myself except for artwork so I have to be reasonable. Does basic effect use built in shaders

3. Do I need to do special things Milkshape to get a polished looking model such as the spaceship model in the spacewar starter kit, or do shaders perform some kind of magic voodoo to make average models look better

4. Currently, I've come across information about community created animation modules. Would it be good to pursue that route or wait for the xna team to implement an animation module Any word from the MSFT guys about a future animation module timeline

I know some of these questions may sound quite noobish, but that I am. Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated and hopefully others could benefit from it also. I surely understand in a perfect world I would become superman at each area, but what area should I spend the most of my time 'mastering' to get the best cost/benefit outcome in a shorter period of time For example, I don't want to spend 20 hours learning shaders when I should have just learned how to add something to my model that basic effect could exploit.

And with that I'm out of breath.

Much thanks in advance,


Re: XNA Game Studio Express Meshes, Shaders, Animations...OH MY!!!

Jon Watte

For animation, you're better off with the community components for now. The XNA team will take a while to implement it (if they ever will -- that's not clear!)

To prep your mesh for multiple animations is tool specific -- check the documentation for your .X exporter to see how it handles multiple animations in one mesh. For example, my kW X-porter for 3ds Max allows you to define different frame segments of the main timeline as different exported animations.

To blend between different animations, you will have to use the animation component and whatever that provides. If it's not enough, you'll have to extend it yourself.

For shaders, that also depends on your tool chain. The kW X-porter for Max allows you to use the Max DirectX 9 shader material to get an in-tool preview of what it will look like, and it will export the shader parameters. I don't think Milkshape has that functionality, so I believe you'll have to assign your own shader, either in the content processor, or after mesh load. Some animation packages will do the animation/deformation in the shader, and will require a specific shader to make that work ("skinning shader.").

Regarding "making it look better" -- well, that depends on what the shader you use is. You can make shaders that make the object look shiny, translucent, glistening, silken, ... -- it's all in the math, and the data you push into it. However, there is nothing "magic" about it. GIGO still applies!

Re: XNA Game Studio Express Meshes, Shaders, Animations...OH MY!!!


Thanks Jon.

A lot of this stuff is over my head, but thank you for the direction so I can tackle these issues.

You stated the kW x-porter will export the shader parameters. Just to clarify, does this mean it will automate the entire shader code or just the function signatures If it could autogenerate shader code that can just be copied and pasted into a .fx file that seems to be the best route.

Jon, you are saying that 3ds Max exports multiple frame segments and different exported animations. Do all animation tools do this Is that the accepted best practice or just one way of doing it And as for community components, what do they support Based on my budget and what I've found looking around my target toolset is Milkshape, Ultimate Unwrap, and perhaps Character FX. Does anyone with experience with these tools recommend them ...or is there a product level that I should reasonably ( $$$ ) upgrade to that will provide benefits worth the cost, such as maybe a modeling program that exports shader code ( don't know if that is possible just throwing something out there as an example ).

Thank You Jon. This is quite a lot to learn but it is working out pretty well so far.