Smash Ultimate Model Importing Guide

A Tutorial for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Updates

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  • Adjustment forgot to link the model import script
v1.2 11d
  • Overhaul apparently that was "fixed" in the latest build
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Very, very Big Warning: Model importing is a very difficult process right now due to SaltyNX not being released (as of January 2019.) It's advised you don't try to make model imports unless you want one skin for every slot, and your model is under the poly limit for your character. Because of this, I will most likely not respond to most help questions, though I have provided a faq that should help well enough for most. This compression issue also applies to smaller files, and you need to make it the same exact size via expirementing with zstd compression. Enjoy! 


Also, I used my ssb4 tutorial as a base on this. If anyone spots outdated information or references to things that do not make sense or dont need to be done anymore, let me know.

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Have you been wondering, hey, I want to make a character import! 

But I've heard those are hard... how do I get started? 

This tutorial will show you how!

Before commenting an issue you have, look in the FAQ at the end of the tutorial.

Disclaimer: if you haven't made reasonable progress on a model import (no rig, very little visible progress, etc.) Don't make a work in progress, make a help thread about it so more people will come to help you then on a WIP page where they would less likely assist you.

The last notice is about Blender, which for importing I have not tested myself, but I believe there are cases where it has worked successfully with the FBX import method, using a specific version. I will not be going over Blender methods in this tutorial, but might update it in the future to have steps specifically for it.

Requirements
1. 3DS Max 2010 or higher. 3DS Max 2016 is the recommended version, but if you have a very low-end computer, you can get 3DS Max 2010 instead from locations I cannot provide. You can get 3DS Max for free by making a student license in seconds. This will not have any issues if you make an account. The page for the student signup is here. Many people say they don't have good enough computers for it, but you could try using blender if needed.
2. You are on your own when it comes to installing the mod ingame. There are multiple tutorials out there such as this one and this one to help you setup mods, and dumping your game files for the purpose of modding.
3. Patience and a Windows computer. If you do not have windows, virtual machine might work with enough effort.
4. .net 4.6.2+, you may or may not already have it. find it here
5. Python 2.7 OR 2.7.11 installed. Any higher (or lower) will not work. MAKE SURE IN INSTALLATION THE VERSION IS PYTHON 2.7.1.1 or 2.7, AND THAT THE ADD TO PATH OPTION IS ENABLED.
6. A Hex Editor, such as HxD, is preferred for zstd compression.

STEP 1: SETTING UP TOOLS AND 3DS MAX

I HIGHLY SUGGEST you follow these two tutorials here on the basic 3DS max interface before messing around with the software and attempting rigging models, or else you will have a very hard time with rigging and actually importing. Going in without paying attention to steps like these will cause you to end up quitting. It has happened time and again. Please don't skip steps here!

Tutorial One: Basic 3ds max interface. Very helpful for learning how to rotate and properly make sure your model is in the correct place later.



Tutorial Two: Viewport. Information vital to making your mod position well when editing your rig, and also helpful for making sure you've got a grip on camera angles.



After watching those two tutorials there, return to the tutorial here.

The script for importing our fighter/item/whatever model to replace:

Now it's time to find your model, or create your own if skilled enough. To find other models from other games, go ahead and search on The Models Resource for video game model rips or search on the internet elsewhere for characters to mod into smash. Many models-resource models tend to be lower poly so try to look up turbosmoothing or retopologizing your mesh so while creating, so the process is easier. If it's too high poly, you may have to retopologize under the original characters polygon count, or instead (not recommended as it can make the models look poorly) use ProOptimize or decimation.

After you find a model, download it and extract it somewhere you can easily access it. Search for a obj, fbx, or dae file. These file types typically are the correct kind of model for importing, though several other formats may work. Some models can be converted for use in 3DS Max such as MMD or SFM models, but that is not what I will be going over.

Now, open up 3DS Max. 

At the top left of the screen there should be the 3DS Max icon as a button. Click it and there should be a "Import" option, and a sub-menu for import options. Hit import.



Now find your obj/dae/fbx/model type and import it into the scene.

For example purposes, I will be using spongebob as a test rig. Now you are ready for rescaling, rotating, and moving.


If you see blue like textures in the folder where your model came from, those are called "normal maps." They are usually transparent, and if those do come with your model, you can assign them instead of making a flat blue texture as you would usually.

Now to the left of 3DS max, you should see the Scene Explorer. If not, hit Tools at the top left and then hit "New Scene Explorer."



Select all your custom model/s (you can have more than one) and right click > Convert > Convert to mesh in the scene. If you see bones or anything other than the meshes (your characters model) in the current scene, delete those using the Del key after selecting them, so we can import the Smash 4 skeleton of the fighter you are importing over. 

If you want to rig over different costumes, e.x cloud's physics bones on his alternate costume, you can also extract those costumes. E.X Cloud c01 is advent children costumes bones, which has some physics bones used for it. However, most characters only have one numdlb per 8 costumes and use recolored textures for the rest. This is an issue that can be fixed with the upcoming SaltyNX mod loader.

Now, download this script for 3DS Max. Drag it over the viewport.



Hit the import model button and locate to your characters extracted folder > fighter > fighter you want to import over > model > body > the costume (default c00 usually) > 

Hit model.numdlb and select. The character model for who you are importing over should appear. 

Delete all the models/objects of the default Smash character that were just imported into the scene. You can do this by clicking on the individual models in the scene while holding CTRL and press "Del" on the keyboard. Make sure you left your new custom model(s) in.

Do this for every model until the only remaining model or models is your custom one you imported in Max. Now, there should be bones from the Smash character still remaining in the scene, meaning it should have "Trans" as a root bone and your custom model or models beside it on the list. EXAMPLE:



(Note: several more meshes can be there depending on model.)

Now, move your custom model around and rotate it at proper angles that match up with the bones properly inside of the viewport. E.X 90 degrees, 180 degrees, to match up with the model. Scale it like in the tutorials above I told you to view and move it to fit to match with the bones of the Smash Fighter.

Don't be wary if your model doesn't completely fit, since the next step will go over that.

Now select all your models one by one by CTRL + Clicking them from the list, and in the viewport (where your model shows up) right click > Convert > Convert to Mesh just in case anything happened. Make sure to NOT do this for the bones and only the meshes.

Vertexing the model, or editing the portions of the model, can help immensely in certain models that don't fit perfectly. The next step explains this since it'll be needed to fit the model to the scale of the bones.

STEP 2: RIGGING AND WEIGHTING MODELS 

Time for rigging the model onto the character! Rigging is a method where you make the bones of the character move with parts of the model, allowing it to animate ingame. Select your model from the scene. If you have multiple models, select all the models and continue, unless you'd like to separately rig each model which can streamline the process and makes things easier.

Start off by selecting all of your models, or each by each, and on the right of the screen, there should be a Modifier List button. It allows you to modify and transform your models with certain attributes. In this case, we're adding a Skin modifier.



Hit "Modifier List" like so, and scroll down and click Skin. Select the Add button here after you do so, and make sure Skin is selected in the list above the button.



In the new window that pops up after hitting Add, hit select at the top of the window, and then hit Select All to select the Skeleton entirely.



Then this should happen, as it selects all of the bones in the list.



If you don't see Rot, expand the bone list by clicking to the left side of the bone Trans. 

Proceed to press CTRL and click on Trans and then again on Rot to deselect them, as they cause issues whilst rigging. Any "issues" you encounter even with these deselected like not being able to Weight in the next steps are because you'll need Noesis, which has a download in FAQ at the bottom. 

Deselect anything OTHER than the bones in the list if something was, since you are only toying with the skeleton at the moment.

Deselect bones you dont need to rig on, such as captain falcons scarf bones (they start with SWG), or if you're rigging a character who doesnt need them, for example Rayman, deselect root bones for the bones you don't need to rig to and select bones inside of those if needed. E.X character has no left arm, you deselect RShoulderN, RArmN, and everything inside of that. Experiment to see what works for your model if you need to do so.

Hit Select in the bottom right corner of the window for bone selection.

Now you should see your chosen selected bones here, meaning you did it correctly.



If you are clueless on weighting and rigging in general, there
are great tutorials to help you out with bones and rigging.

 DO NOT skip this step or you will have a terrible rig.

This tutorial has a great explanation on rigging and vertexing the models to fit better. I chose clips from 2 other brawl tutorials to teach you how to vertex the model to fit and also how to make your rig and body work correctly. Many other tutorials do exist out there, so if you are ever lost OR confused by this tutorial in general, looking up more basics on 3DS max and skinning will help you greatly, including other brawl rigging tutorials with tips and tricks to help you out. Remember! Don't give up!

It is very important to know how to rig and weight so your character has proper structure ingame.




Explaining of the finger bones and hand rigging. Drawn by Y2K.

If you do not understand this video tutorial, find other tutorials about rigging and weighting to help you out like I said above, and try different methods to make your models look proper in smash as I also said above, such as the Skin Wrap method (many tutorials exist on this) that parents the original model's rigging and slapping it over yours and using it as a base to work off of.

You can hit the "F3" button on your keyboard to be in a wireframe view to see how the bones line up with your model and it will help you greatly on proper shoulder rigging and etc.

Make sure your models all have a skin modifier applied and are rigged properly before exporting and testing. Make sure the Skin modifier is at the top of the list of modifiers, (usually is.) so above Edit Mesh modifier, for example. Errors you may get may happen due to improper weighting, dead vertices, too high quality of a model (the Optimizer modifier decreases many extra polygons from models), etc. 

If you want to have expressions, you will either have to make entire new custom models for each facial expression OR do flat texture expressions and re-UVing a flat plane that fits over the face of said character. This is all explained in detailed tutorials on creating your own model. Expressions, of course are entirely optional.

For naming these models and making them work ingame (I.E expressions), make the model names match up, and make sure to use the material rename step from later on.

In 3dsmax, Select a Mesh and go to the Skin Modifier. Under the Advanced Parameters Tab, Find an Option Titled "Bone Affect Limit" and set it to 4, to prevent rigging issues. Do this for all of the Meshes just incase. Also, underneath it, you want to hit Remove Zero Weights as well.

Now that the rigging process is finally completed, find or create some images that you want, and drag each over the characters mesh or meshes in 3ds max. This is to make sure the materials were separated. Now, use this script by dragging it over 3ds max. You will want to use it one mesh at a time.

The final step now is to install a plugin into 3ds max to export into a certain format. The plugins download can be found here. Pay attention to the guide on the download page on installing the plugin.

After you installed the plugin, goto the top left icon in 3ds max, hit export, and then select the option of exporting to .SMD. Now, make sure the configuration is set like this:



Hit export, hit OK, and then continue on to the next step. Note that if you are having troubles or difficulties using the SMD method, you can always export to FBX as long as it is the version supported by a tool we're about to use.

STEP 3: EXPORTING 

Now you will need a tool called "StudioSB", developed by Ploaj. This tool is still a work in progress, so if bugs are encountered or errors are found, this may be due to that. It is being regularly updated, so redownload every once in a while incase of bug fixes or new features. Download here.

Extract the tool somewhere you want to, and open up the exe. Goto the File option in the top left corner, and open > folder. Navigate to the folder of your character's costume and select it. It should import the bones and models of your original character. 

For some PCs, the model or models will not appear. This can be fixed by going into the Render Settings and changing "Shaded" to "Col" or any other render configuration.

In the StudioSB software, use File > Import > Model into Scene.

Now select your SMD file, and your model should appear, and all the previous characters meshes will be removed automatically.

All textures that your model uses must be exported in Paint.net or another program into DDS. To do this you must open up the textures for your import in paint.net or your preferred photo editing program, and save them with the format that the original texture has. You will also need to flip every texture vertically, as exporting into studiosb flips the uvs vertically. The latest versions of the tool fix this. You can also just flip the uvs manually using something like Blender so that it fixes itself. Use this tutorial to import your texture and export the texture. The end of this guide explains zstd compression which is something we will also need for your model later on, so keep this in mind. 

Now, you want to select your material from the character of choice. You cannot create new materials yet, so you must use a pre-existing one from your character. Some models will only have one material so you wont have to adjust anything.

Now, export the model into a new folder. Delete the nusktb file to avoid complications. You will have two files that you need to compress through a certain method, ZSTD compression. It's a complicated process, but there are guides available, notably the one in the texture guide above.

Reminder that not all models will work at the moment, and making textures are especially finicky for this reason. You have been warned. For now, it's better to prepare mods and export them for when SaltyNX releases.

FAQ

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BLOCKY LOW-POLY-ISH ISSUES

Usually, this means that you forgot to add an "Edit Normals" modifier and used the threshold of 0.001 to average the normals.

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GAME CRASHING/INFINITE LOADING

"Game crashes while loading/infinite load screen. Help?"

You likely compressed the file incorrectly, or it went above size limit. If you are having difficulties reducing the file size you should probably wait for the upcoming release of SaltyNX which will fix this issue and allow you to one slot skin models.

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MODEL INVISIBLE

"My model is invisible in-game and does not show up. What do I do?"
If this issue occurs, you need to rename the models to their original name, or to a name for a mesh that is visible at all times (i.e a body mesh). Also, make sure you did the material rename step. 

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MODEL PARTS INVISIBLE

"Parts of my model are invisible..but in some moves they are not! How do I fix this?"

The same solution as previous.

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CAN'T EXPORT

"I can't seem to export (or import the SMD/FBX) correctly, as it will error out before it finishes."

The best thing to do in this case is to try each method (smd AND fbx) seperately, and if that doesnt work, export the fbx from 3ds max, and then use the Noesis tool to export the fbx as an fbx again and clean out any issues it might have. Common errors for some models that need to be exported this way are oddities like crashing frequently, not being able to export right in studio smash bros, or reacting oddly when being rigged. Note after you import the fbx in 3DS Max (or blender) you may have to rescale to size.

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Please make sure to credit model and textures you use from anyone when releasing model imports, and smash on!

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IF YOU ARE GOING TO ASK FOR HELP IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE DESCRIBE DETAILS AND PICTURES OF WHAT YOU ARE HAVING ISSUES WITH TO MAKE IT EASIER TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR PROBLEM. THANK YOU!

Please, don't PM me for help. I prefer comments on this tutorial. 

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  • LuckyJero avatar
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    10d
    How do you assign texture files to your imported models?
    ScizorLover
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    10d
    Now I don't see my original model in StudioSB, even when changing the render settings, it doesn't show up, so I can't import anything to it.
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    i would like to see  spongebob and steve in smash lol
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    There is no download link for ssb4_ndp3 script and I don't see any convert button for the model.
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  • Thank you! I’ve been wondering how to get started! :)
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Kalomaze
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