By Laura ‘Tamara’ Henson Have you ever wanted to make an animal for zoo tycoon 2 but for some

reason could not mesh the model? There still may be a way to modify the animal by modifying its Alpha files. For all intents and purposes the alpha file turns part of a model invisible. It works on thin areas of the Nif file like the teeth, hair, crests, and feathers. Examples of modifying the alpha file have enabled me to…

change a lion into a Thylacoleo

Remove the crest from a secretary bird to make a Guadalupe Caracara

Change the shape of a peacock’s tail to create an Australian Brush Turkey

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Changing the Nif files is not hard as long as you have the right tools. For this tutorial I am going to use Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Paint. Photoshop is an expensive painting/picture editing software and may be replaced by an inexpensive alternate program like Gimp as long as said program can open DDS files. Paint on the other hand comes free with Microsoft Windows operating system. Most alpha changes only need Photoshop (Gimp etc) and Paint but you may also find the program ConvertCCT.exe very useful for the more complicated alpha changes, such as the example I am going to walk you through in this tutorial. Here are the steps needed to turn a Przewalski’s Wild Horse (like the one above, OK so it’s not a mule) into a Mustang (like the one to the right).

Przewalski’s Horse to Mustang Alpha File Conversion Tutorial
1. The first thing we need to do is to collect the files we need, in this case the HorsePrzewalskisWild dds and Nif files from Program Files/Microsoft Games/Zoo Tycoon 2/x100_000.

2. Now drag the HorsePrzewalskisWild_M.dds file to the ConvertCCT.exe icon.

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3. Two new images should now appear. One is a bitmap copy of the horse’s skin and the other is a black & white bitmap file labeled HorsePrzewalskisWild_Adult_M_opa.

4. The opa file is the alpha file that is already on the horse’s dds file. For the mustang we want to keep the tail apha but need to get rid of the upright mane. To do this I open both bitmap files in Paint. I then go to the opa file and choose Edit/Select All/ Copy. I then go to the skin bitmap and paste the opa on top of it making sure that the transparent background button is on.

5. Your Paint image should now look like the picture on the right. Save the skin and close the opa Paint image. 6. While in paint color in every part of the skin you want to delete. In this case it is the mane. In some cases the skin may be very dark in color and in these cases white or some other contrasting color can be used instead of black. In this project I will use black and color in the entire mane. I will then rotate the image until it matches the original dds file’s layout. The result 3

should look like the picture below. Save the bitmap and close Paint.

7. Now open up your modified bitmap in Photoshop. Using the Magic Wand tool select the black area you just blacked out. You may have to adjust the tolerance until you get it just right. When done properly your blacked out area should be surrounded by ‘marching ants’ as in the picture to the right. 8. Now click on the Default foreground and background colors This will create your alpha. Now choose the Magic Eraser tool and use it on the selected area. Your blacked out area should now become filled with white and gray squares. Save it as a dds file. Your zoo tycoon skin now has a new Alpha file.

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9. Close the file then reopen it again in Photoshop. This keeps you from accidently erasing the new Alpha. Color the skin as you like. I am going to clone the tail onto the white areas on the tail to cover it up. Now I will clone the tail hair onto the head and neck to make the mane. I am then going to color the skin a different color. The result looks like the picture to the right. Satisfied I close Photoshop and open the nif file to check the skin. The result was the image way up on page 2. 10. After finishing the coding I now have a lovely buckskin mustang mare in my game.

Enjoy!
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