neXt - How to Construct Own Sceneries

First of all, you need a high quality 360° panorama photo. Here are some tips: taking panoramic pictures.

Here you can download a neXt template scenery 'MBG Mauchenmuehle' for Blender.

You should be familiar with Blender. The Blender is a free 3D content creation suite. You can get it here.

Step 1: You can use PTGUI Pro for building up your 360° panorama photo. The image resolution of the 'MGB Mauchenmuehle' panorama photo is 28322 × 14162. When you are ready, select 'Tools / Convert to QTVR/Cubic...' from the pulldown menu. Press 'Add Files...' and select your 360° panorama photo. Change in the 'Convert to' line the output to 'Cube faces, 6 separate files' and 'Tiff'. Set the cube face size to 4096 pixel, therefore disable the 'Automatic' function. Then you can press 'Convert'. Of course, if your panorama photo is not big enough, you can also convert it to 2048 pixel cube faces.

Step 2: The cube map textures are located in the 'Textures' folder. Simply rename your files and overwrite the example textures.

Step 3: Open the Blender template scenery and examine it for understanding how it works. The Skybox is a big cube where the panorama photo is applied. It's very important to place this cube always exactly at the center (coordinates 0,0,0). The virtual camera should also be placed at the center.

There are also three textured 3d objects. The 'CollisionObj-Board', 'CollisionObj-Stake' and 'CollisionObj-Table'. These objects can also be textured (if needed) and they will be shown in the neXt as typical 3D objects. The helicopters can collide with them and they hide the helicopter partially when he flies behind them. You can add as many as needed. But take care to use not too much polygons.

Now we come to these collider objects which are always behind the helicopter. They have no own textures because they get their colors in the neXt from the cube map. The 'Runway' is the collision object for the runway with grass. The 'Runway-Asphalt' is the collision object for asphalt parts. Place these object as exact as possible and also don't use too much polygons. The 'CollisionObj-Ground' is a collision object for the surrounding area. The 'CollisionObj-Planting' and 'CollisionObj-Three' are also only invisible collider objects.

The 'Skybox-Alpha' is a cover object which has no collision function. It has tiff textures with an Alpha channel attached. The transparent parts will be cut out. The other parts will hide the helicopter when he flies behind these objects. You copy the Skybox object in object mode, name the copy 'Skybox-Alpha'. Switch to the edit mode and delete all these cube sides which are not needed. Then you duplicate the needed cube faces and delete the old ones. That is necessary for the next step. You set the pivot point to center (0,0,0) and scale the sides to the desired position.

The 'SecurityArea' describes an area where the helicopter cannot fly. Normally it's invisible and when the helicopter touches this object it will get tinted red and the helicopter will be destroyed.

You can see the camera view in the right lower area of the Blender template. Place the cursor over there and press Shift+F to move the camera by using the mouse. If you like to zoom in, press the right mouse button to exit the camera view mode and use the scroll wheel of your mouse. In the inspector (top right area) you can switch off single objects by clicking onto the eye symbol. When I place or work on an object, I switch off most of the other collision objects. Sometimes it can help when you place a Google Earth screenshot as background image.

Step 4: The neXt scenery files are compiled and contain all objects and textures in one file. So your work is protected because nobody can examine it or use parts of it without your permission.

The most important Blender shortcuts:

tab Toggles between Edit and Object mode
shift+a Creates a new object
shift+d In object mode, you duplicate the selected object and in the edit mode it duplicates the selected parts
b Box selection in Edit mode
x Delete selected
a Select all
f Adds a new polygon between selected edges or points.
shift+c Moves 3D cursor to center
. Switch the scale center to the 3D cursor
shift+e Modifies a selected SDS edge
n Tools on/off
t Toolbar on/off
numberblock 5 Switch the current view from perspective / orthographic
numberblock 0 Change to camera view
numblock 1 Switch to front view
strg + numblock 1 Switch to back view
numblock 7 Switch to top view
strg + numblock 7 Switch to bottom view
numblock 3 Switch to right view
strg + numblock 3 Switch to left view
Move / Scale Objects:  
g Grab. Keys x, y, z are blocking the other directions.
s Scale. Keys x, y, z are blocking the other directions.
shift+middle mouse button Move Viewer
shift+f Preview of the scenery: Move Camera view angle (without moving the camera position). Press 'esc' for exit from this mode.
alt+0 Set children to parent object position
Win: strg+a / Mac: ctrl+a Apply location, rotation, scale
cmd+s Save project