ArmA Editing Tutorial: Beginners by PMC.
This tutorial should get a complete newbie into ArmA editing. While it might not do Newbie → Hardcore conversion, it is still vital for anyone getting into ArmA editing. While this is not a tutorial to get some specific task done, its the core essence of editing, if you don't know absolutely anything, this will get you started.
PBO files are addons in a packet.
PBO files are located in the <arma root>\addons\ directory, or in any directory you specify to be used with the -mod parameter. More info in startup parameters and in mod folders pages.
Dont confuse the pbo files to the <addon_name>.pbo.bi.bisign as those are the signature key files for multiplayer purposes.
Config.cpp is the games configuration file for the given addon. Config.cpp can be also found in the <arma root>\bin\ directory which is the games main configuration file. Config.cpp is what makes the addon work.
If config.cpp file is binarized it will become “config.bin” and cannot be read with text editor. You can create text format config.cpp file from the .bin file with deRapify tool. You really don't have to worry about creating bin out of cpp file right now.
Config.cpp file can be (usually) found on each addon's PBO root directory.
P3D files are the 3D models.
P3D files can be found really in any dir, in BIS addons they are usually in the root of the PBO file.
Textures are in .paa or .pac file name extensions. Also .rvmat files are sort of textures, as they control many things related to the materials and stuff, while these aren't specifically textures, they are absolutely related to textures.
Textures can be found in any dir but in BIS addons they are under data\ directory.
Terrains are always in WRP files, like sara.wrp for Sahrani. Terrains are edited in Visitor 3.
You need to create elevation's for your terrain, this can be done either in Wilbur or in gray scale image on your favorite image editor. Then you import this elevation into Visitor 3 (v3), place your objects and finally import big satellite mask and satellite texture images. Just before you bring your terrain into in-game, you need to export the actual WRP file out of v3, then pack all to pbo and you're done.
Missions can be unpacked in their directory format or as in PBO files. Do not confuse mission pbo into addon pbo. Also to confuse you… mission dir can be included in addon pbo… :)
Missions will be on two locations, in <arma root>\Missions\ and <arma root>\MPMissions\ directories, its quite self explanatory but single player missions go to “Missions” dir and multiplayer missions go to “MPMissions” dir. These dirs can have sub directories if you wish to sort your many missions. Also these dirs can have mission directories or pbo's.
Please read below for Mission Editing for additional details.
Campaigns are 2 missions or more, campaign is never ever 1 mission. The missions are prepared in certain directory format which is then read by the game from description.ext file in the campaign root directory. Campaign just like missions can be in unpacked format as in directory or in a PBO file.
Campaigns can be found under <arma root>\campaigns\ directory or in any directory which is used with -mod parameter. Take a note, campaign directories do work from -mod dir while mission directories DO NOT.
arma.RPT file found in your arma root directory is very important when you want to debug your work, just run the addon/mission in-game for a moment (even few seconds should be enough) and then exit game, then open the arma.RPT file with any text editor and look for warning/error lines in there which are related to your addon. Take a note that the <arma>.RPT file is the file name of your ArmA executable, usually and default its “arma” but it can be anything else too.
For more details check out arma.RPT page for some errors we have found.
Cpbo util packs and unpacks PBO files.
BinPBO official BIS tools to pack PBO files, also binarizes addons.
Visitor 3 (V3) edits and saves WRP terrain files.
Oxygen 2 (o2) edits and saves MLOD format P3D 3d model files.
TexView 2 loads tga images and saves paa/pac texture files.
Unrap unpacks the binary config.bin and .rvmat files. You can use your favorite text editor to edit config.cpp and non binary .rvmat files.
For text file editing (scripts sqs, sqf, mission.sqm, rvmat's and config.cpp) we highly recommend using good editor like EditPadPro or Notepad++ so it will highlight the syntax for you and most importantly formats the text properly, notepad is NOT suitable for ArmA editing.
Graphical editing tools beyond ArmA is PaintShop Pro and Adobe PhotoShop. There is also GIMP which is free for download. Please refer to our editing tools section for more information about other tools.
When you start to edit ArmA, you must know what you want to do first. As you are beginner, naturally we would instruct to start small, if you immediately start a massive mod you might get overwhelmed by the task ahead. When you start small, you can have a good feeling if editing ArmA is what you really want to do. It would be shameful if you start a mod, post news/topics about it and one week later realize that you are not capable of editing everything that are required for mod making and then posting again to announce the mod is dead.
For beginners it would be really good to start edit a one config to modify how certain addon is working, from there you can then proceed into texture and model editing. As for mission making, its really not “mod making”, its just mission editing. When you make missions, you just use the content available, if you edit ArmA in mod making way, you create new content or modify the existing one.
Many times it happens that beginners start to edit the original ArmA files. This is not necessary or “allowed”. If you mess around with original files you only harm your ArmA installation.
Do not edit files in <ArmA_root>\addons\ directory!
You can copy the pbo's from there, put them in <ArmA_root>\x\addons\ and launch ArmA with parameter -mod=x to see your edits ingame.
Its quite easy to make config edits, just open the cpp and edit away. Heh well almost. Some parts of the config are rather self explanatory, like the magazines for example, its easy to tweak your soldier config to have three magazines and three grenades instead of three magazines and four smoke shells.
You can start by editing the existing configs so in fact you are not creating any new addon pbo's to be used, this is very easy. Just unpack lets say addons\weapons.pbo, then unRap the config.bin and now you are ready to load the cpp into text editor. Then just edit what you like, for example M16A4 fire rates or dispersion values for the weapons. When you're done, just pack the “weapons” directory into pbo packet again and you are ready to try the edited config / weapons.pbo in-game.
With O2 you can load and edit the MLOD format p3d models. You cannot open any default ArmA p3d model files are they are binarized which makes them ODOL format. Some uneducated individuals talk about binarizing and think its some sort of “encryption”, well rest assured it is NOT any encryption, just optimization of the p3d file. ArmA engine itself loads MLOD and ODOL formats just fine.
|MLOD||Unoptimized / unbinarized format, can be loaded with O2|
|ODOL||Optimized / binarized format, not working in O2|
So where to get MLOD models!? Well for example from the BIS example models which include good range of examples for you. Then you can search around for user made addons, since last quarter of 2007 there were quite few addons released in MLOD format. At this last quarter of 2007 you cannot “unbinarize” or convert ODOL to MLOD as there is no such tools released to the public.
Just open TexView2, load up existing paa/pac texture and see how it is done. When you are ready to modify the texture, save it to TGA so you can load it to your favorite image editing program. Also it would be good idea to get the PAAPlugin for Photoshop so you can directly load, edit and save paa/pac files with it.
The basic textures are in <something>_CO.paa/pac file name, then the normal maps are in <something>_NOHQ.paa/pac filename and the specular map is <something>_SMDI.paa/pac file name. For more details check out Texture Naming Rules.
At start you should do just fine editing the _CO texture and later on when you are ready to make normal/specular maps, you'll use for example the NVIDIA plugin for Photoshop to create normal map and TexView2 to create specular map.
If you create brand new textures, keep resolutions in specific size like 512×256, 1024×512 and so on. Do not use 350×993 or other such strange resolutions.
Quick help is that unit/character textures can be found from the characters.pbo under the data\ directory. Helicopter textures can be found from air.pbo under the data\ directory. Vehicle textures can be found from wheeled or tracked .pbo files under the data\ directory. And finally weapon textures can be found from weapons.pbo under the data\ directory.
You need to create elevation's for your terrain, this can be done either in Wilbur or in gray scale image on your favorite image editor. Then you import this elevation into Visitor 3 (v3), place your objects and finally import big satellite mask and satellite texture images. Just before you bring your terrain into in-game, you need to export the actual WRP file out of v3, then pack all to pbo and fire up ArmA.
Mission editing is really easy, in game just open mission editor and off you go. As long as you have one unit selected as “Player” you can use the preview button to play your mission normally.
When you save a mission, the drop down menu gives you choices for export to Missions or MPmissions directory, this creates the pbo file out of the mission and placed it to the proper dir for you. If you just choose the directory name, it just saves the mission into the Users\<YOURNAME>\Missions\ directory. This users dir is controlled through -profiles parameter.
When you play multiplayer (MP), any played missions are downloaded from the server and placed on MPMissionsCache directory. If you want to edit or play these missions on your computer, you need to unpack the pbo and move the created directory into Users\<YOURNAME>\Missions\ directory. If you want to host MP session with these missions, copy them into MPMissions directory.
Of course when you get more deeper into mission editing there is all kinds of trickery with scripts and stuff.
Editing campaigns is quite much same as missions, except this time you create one root directory where you put your single missions, you then connect those missions together in the description.ext file.
This is the directory / file structure.
You place all your single missions into the Missions\ directory.
As you see this tutorial is very beginner stuff in attempt to just orientate the newbie ArmA editor into the basic concepts, so feel free to ask more specific questions in PMC Tactical forums ArmA Editing area. We would like to write a bit more advanced tutorial next, to go through few specific things, your questions in the forum would really help us to focus on what is important.
In PMC Tactical no newbie is looked down upon, we were all newbies once. Its our goal to build this wiki so it will help even the complete beginner guys to learn how to edit.