I've managed some time to come back and update my core mods. They now come in the form of packaged game pcc files. You use them to replace the original game pcc files and then update your game and DLC pcconsoletoc.bin files with ME3Explorer. Instructions in each package.
The way to mod Mass Effect 3 has moved from releasing game-file-changing *.mod files to releasing mods in the form of DLC. It is still a fairly intensive process that really needs to be much more automated (the way making *.mod files was) but it is definitely a better format. You can change the game without actually changing the game, so to speak. No more changing game pcc files from the original, just download the DLC zip file, unzip it into your game DLC folder, a quick update of the game PCConsoleToc.bin file, and you are off and running the new mod. Decide to drop the mod? Simply remove the mod's DLC folder. You don't have to repair your game install or reinstall from scratch anymore.
The downside is the hair-pulling, cussing, and banging of your head on your desk when you screw up some aspect of the texturing process and have to start over from scratch on creating the mod. After a few weeks of this I finally got my first DLC mod version out and, like my first mods for the game (the first mesh mods for ME3 ever) were Ashley. They are my most extensive as far as number of changes made, though not the most drastic (that would be my Tali full-face mod is the most extensive and difficult I did - following from what I learned doing that, I made my EDI new look mod). She is my favorite female in the series, an avatar for my dream woman, so she got most of my attention. The mod I released currently includes all my Ashley mods plus some additional mods for other characters (full clear face helmet mod for all others, including Liara, new armor for Ash and Liara). Because a few of the modded files required to do Ashley ALSO include other characters I've modded (EDI, Liara) I will be expanding the DLC over time to include those mods as well. It will still mostly be Ashley Plus though.
I'll release Tali and nude Traynor (showers, romance scene) as separate smallish DLC.
My DLC test isn't ready for prime time so instead I'm providing my mods in the form of a zip file containing modified ME3 game pcc files. Instructions for installing the mod is included in the file. Basically, you simply replace the original pcc files of the same name with the pcc files supplied in the zip file, run ME3Explorer TOCbinUpdater tool to update your game and prepare it to accept the mods, then start the game and play.
So far I've updated my Ashley, Miranda, and EDI mods in this way. In the near(ish) future I will see about getting the DLC form to work properly. Essentially, the DLCs work for my game but wont work for anyone else due to an inherent texture clash created by my DLC. There is a way to fix this so ALL players can use my mods as DLC but it is fairly time-consuming and complex to set up so it will be some time before I have them ready.
Unfortunately, ME3explorer, the software tool required to both create and install my mods has been permanently broken. Most recent versions of ME3explorer will load MOST of my mods, recognize they are "old" (made with a version serveral version numbers prior) and offer to update them to the new format. I've found that this only partially works and that many of my mods don't install properly after this processing.
I am currently testing my first mod made as DLC. The first DLC is for Ashley mods (DLC_Ashley_Mod) and contains all my Ashley mods in an easy-to-install DLC. It is in testing but if it works as desired then it is easy for me to create DLCs for each character I've modded and provide them. This SHOULD eliminate glitches that installing via *.mod files often created. They are directly made from my own modded game that I KNOW works so they should work for others too. As soon as I know the Ashley DLC works I'll post it here and start work on the others.
The best way to acquire the svn version of ME3explorer, if you do not have an svn tool, is to download and install TortoiseSVN (http://tortoisesvn.net/downloads.html).Once you've installed the app, create a folder for ME3explorer (I created my ME3Explorer folder in my Documents folder). Right click on this new folder in your navigator window and there should now be TortoiseSVN entries in the context menu that appears. Select "SVN Checkout" and a window will appear. The top entry field will be "Url of repository". In that window enter: Svn.code.sf.net In the window below the Url of Repository window should be the location of the current ME3Explorer directory (plus "code" subdirectory added by TortoiseSVN). It is isn't then select the button at the right end and navigate to your ME3explorer directory.In the middle of the TortoiseSVN window will be a selector for "Checkout Depth". Select "Fully Recursive" if it isn't already showing. At the bottom of the window you want to make sure the button for Revision is selected for "HEAD revision".Select "OK". The directory will now load with all the ME3explorer code and binaries. After this first checkout, every few days to once a week you can (SHOULD) right-click on your ME3explorer directory and from the TortoiseSVN menu items shown select "SVN Update" so your copy of ME3explorer remains up-to-date.*****First, it is important that you backup your game files. I myself keep a backup copy of ALL the game's BioH*, BioD*, and BIOG*.pcc files (all within the game's CookedPCConsole folder). I also burned ALL the files in the CookedPCConsole folder to a DVD as an extra backup. If a mod screws up the game because it contains a bug then it is easy to fix by replacing all the modded pcc files. The alternative takes more time and requires you to do a "repair install" from Origin's game launcher.TO USE ME3Explorer to install mods:There are a lot of different tools avaialable in ME3explorer for modding the game or extracting objects, textures, soundfx, from the game. The tool you need to apply a mod is in the first Top Menu item on the far left called "Tools". Select "Tools" and about half-way down the list of apps is one called "Mod Maker". That is the one you want. When Mod Maker opens up, go to "File" and then open the mod file you've downloaded/want to install. A list of jobs will appear in the Mod Maker window letting you see all the mesh and/or texture changes that are included in the mod file. In the top menu you now select "Run" and then "Run All" to apply the full mod. ME3explorer will apply all the mods and then update the game's PCConsoleTOC.bin file. This file contains a list of ALL the game files in it plus their sizes. This file must be updated after a mod is applied or your game will either not start or will crash or will get stuck in an infinite load screen. Mod Maker automatically updates this file whenever it applies a mod so you can go right to starting the game and see the mod in action.
If a mod is buggy or in development, then it may either look like crap in the game OR the game may crash or lock up. This is why we keep a backup copy of the main game files. It is an easy way to reverse a mod without having to wait for a "repair install" to go through in the Origin game launcher (you right-click on Mass Effect 3 and one of the options that is offered is "repair install". This option is also available for each DLC you have installed. It takes a long time over the internet for the repair to take place and it eliminates any and all mods that you've applied, whether they work fine and you want to keep them or not. So, to avoid this you can copy your backup pcc files (those affected by any given mod) back into the CookedPCConsole folder, replacing the files there. You then start up ME3explorer, go to Tools menu, and about 2/3's down the list of apps is TOCbinUpdater. Click that and in the window that opens, go to File and select "Check PCConsoleTOC.bin" and navigate to your BIOGame folder under your Mass Effect 3 game folder. You will see a file called "PCConsoleTOC.bin". Select that and the app will automatically scan your game directory and update the file so you can start up again.
By no means an expert at this point, I've certainly picked up much information and tricks that permit modding Mass Effect 3 meshes successfully. I am currently revisiting some of my earliest mods so I can correct minor issues in them that I had no idea, then, how to fix. The Ashley Romance Mod is a case in point. It was perhaps the 2nd mod I ever did for the game in which I made the Ashley romance scene more mature and fitting an adult-minded player. I made her body much less like that of Marilyn Monroe and much more like her original body (a model from Athleta women's exercise clothes magazines). I also made her topless because I was insulted that they had her in a bra and panties...even upon waking the next morning after it was clear that sex happened. What woman does that?! Leaves ON her bra during sex OR even worse, puts it back on afterward and sleeps in it? They should have handled the whole thing along the lines of Mass Effect 1. Nothing blatant but CLEARLY showing that sex was happening and that the participants were, correctly and realistically, nude. Kinda like you see in any prime time TV show (in the US) or soap opera.
The main problem I had with the mod turned out to be the normal map. I kept thinking it was the mesh or the difference texture or the spec, never thinking it was the normal which, in any case, I had NO idea how to deal with back then. I had used a Gimp plugin to generate a new normal map for the revamped difference texture but it just didn't work. Paint.Net also doesn't do any better in that regard. I then tried CrazyBump and it was better/closer but still not right. Rather than spend days and days trying different settings with Crazybump to see if it will EVER produce a usable/working normal map for the Unreal 3 game engine of ME3, I futzed with trying to find a way to be able to edit normal maps in Gimp. I stumbled on the working format for this: u888. The normals come out of the game as v8u8 but Gimp (and Paint.Net) cannot handle this. Using Nvidia utility nvdxt, I finally converted the v8u8 to u8888 and that was closer but then I realized I didn't need the alpha layer...there isn't one in the original, so I tried u888 and viola! Perfect! Gimp can import it fine, it presents as you would hope and expect, you can edit it, save it , and then reconvert it with nvdxt to v8u8 and put it back into the game. Best of all, it works as well as the original. Finally a way to use the normal maps from the game with my mods that sometimes actually require the normal map be changed. The Ashley Romance Mod was THE postergirl for this need. Now she's 98% fixed. Download it, install it, enjoy it. I hope to improve it in the near future.
As I grow accustomed to the ways of this site, I've made some mistakes here and there. Now that I'm a bit more knowledgeable about how things are done here, I think I will combine some of my addons into some larger official mods. I have multiple addons posted for Ashley in ME3 and so I will pack them all together into a unified ME3 Ashley mod, as well as doing the same for the other groupable ME3 addons I have for other characters. I also have yet to bring over some others I have that are not advertised here that mod DLC content.
After lots of hair-pulling, cussing, and screaming at the computer screen, I picked up some useful new skills in using 3ds. I had to in order get Tali finished. Truly absurd and annoying little vertex weight errors popping up in a game of wack-a-mole forced me to actually do research and read a manual entry. Now, Tali's face mod, v1.0, is done. I could only do limited testing because of limited save games at the right times in the game. As issues pop up, I will fix them. I am also going to mod DLC files to bring the mod into DLC content and alternate appearance uniforms. Easy for me to do but for users to apply them is a bit more involved.
The long struggle is coming to an end, only to start up again. I have now completed my Tali face mod, part 1. I have successfully given Tali a fully animated, complete face with a face texture I found over at the DeviantArt site. I have also altered her visor opacity so the face will be much more visible. Whew! The opacity thing was striking me as quite the problem but it turns out to have been simple (now that I've done it...and I wont have to do it again because doing it once works for all). I am now using ME3explorer to generate the mod file that will 1) change the default Tali character mesh to include the fully functioning face to BioH_Tali_00.pcc and BioH_Tali_00_Explore.pcc (the former sets her appearance on missions as a squadmate, default uniform, and the second is her appearance in the selection window when you are selecting loadout for a mission); 2) change the texture to include the new face texture, eye texture, and (hopefully) a working eyelash texture; and 3) change the opacity of her visor from 98% opaque (default setting) to 70% opacity. If this opacity is too low I will tweak it up until I'm satisfied. I may also then apply it to ALL Quarians in the game to unify the whole group. I may also give them ALL generic female or male animated faces so they are all like Tali.
That's part 1 of the Tali face mod. Part 2 is to do the same thing for her first alternate appearance uniform. This is a DLC expansion uniform so applying the mod is more involved (but not too bad...I've modded DLC meshes before).
I started out about 6 months ago tentatively trying my hand at mesh modding ME3. I was only passingly acquainted with Blender and not at all with 3ds Max. I picked up Blender fairly quickly and hoped to take it from there and get my mesh mods into the game once WarrantyVoider perfected his outstanding modding tool, ME3explorer. He was trying to reverse engineer the meshes so people could import psk models into the game. After months of struggle he found another way...upk format created by the UDK. Export a psk from 3ds or Blender, import that into UDK, save it as a upk. Fixed...except that Blender is useless for this work it turns out. It cannot export proper psk, fbx, or any other format that can interchange with 3ds or UDK. It borks weights and/or it borks normals or the skeleton. I was forced to learn 3ds Max.
I only passingly know 3ds Max at this point but have gotten far enough along that I can, and have, modded a number of skeletal meshes from ME3 and produced working mesh mods for the game. I use all my mods in my own game. I started out at the Bioware forums but have now expanded my work to DeviantArt and, now, to here. I hope ya'll find my mods useful and enjoyable.
My intention was to correct what I saw as flaws in the basic structures of characters in ME3 (mainly female characters). It seems that the creators at Bioware were not aware of the details of human anatomy and skeletal structure so that the women of ME3 had (to me) a jarringly bad posture AND they seemed to have focused on the young fanboy crowd by making all the women big boobed and big butted. No. Unacceptable. So I set about correcting this and started with my favorite female character in the game: Ashley. I reduced her butt, hips and breasts with the intent of making her more athletic in appearance (and more in tune with her original ME1 form). I then moved on and have done mesh mods on nearly all the main female characters, including in the DLCs.
I am currently putting the finishing touches on my most difficult mod of all so far: Tali with a working full face mod. Her character mesh has a half face that terminates at the upper lip and is oddly formed (by human standards). I decided to give her a FULL face that was human-like attractive to go with the possibility of players romancing her (sorry, nobody is going to romance some "woman" that has the appearance of a spider or freaky VERY alien). I deleted her default half face, pulled a generic female human face out of the game, edited it to make it unique for Tali, then stuck it onto her default body mesh. From there much cursing and screaming ensued as it is actually quite difficult to properly meld a fully animation-capable face onto her. I had to enlarge her face mask a bit (no room for a normal chin in there) and move her visor forward a bit so her nose didn't poke through the glass. Then I had to properly weight the face for the bones. GAH! I'm a newbie and this HURT.
Happily, I finally succeeded in getting a fully working Tali with a face mod into the game. She blinks, her eyes move around, and her mouth moves (not that you can fully see this behind the mask/breather). As soon as I finish her I will be moving to my next hardest mod I've attempted: blending Eva and EDI's head together so that EDI has her face (from the drop-dead gorgeous Tricia Helfer) but Eva's hair and ears. I started that one before Tali and thought THAT was hard but now that I've pulled off Tali...perhaps there will be less pain and less rending of clothes, certainly more muffled cussing.
Finally, I decided the other day to go ahead and try to mod a part of the Normandy interior. Another thing that bugged me in-game was Ashley sitting there in that star observation lounge, using it as her room but...WHERE'S THE BED? I'm going to give her a bed. No one should have to sleep on the hard floor or some uncomfortable "couch" that looks like it was pulled out of the Indianapolis Airport. Allers has a bed. Liara has a bed. Damnit, Ashley needs a bed so I'm gonna give it to her.
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