The engine supports several types of 3D objects - entities - that are placed in the level. Entities can be created by script, or placed by WED. They have no influence on the BSP tree, but are subject to BSP/PVS culling. They are not stored in the level file, but are external files that are read from the work folder or the path. The following types of entities are supported:


A model is an animated 3-D object, stored in an external MDL file. It consists of a 3D mesh with an underlying skeleton (bones) and a soft 'stretching' skin. Model entities can cast dynamic shadows and are normally used for moveable or animated objects - actors, monsters or the like.

Models are created using a model editor program, like MED, or can be imported from usual 3D file formats like FBX, 3DS, X, OBJ, ASE, or MD2. External 3D editors like Truespace®, gameSpace®, Maya® or 3D Studio MAX® can directly save their models in Gamestudio format by means of a plugin. Plugins for creating Gamestudio models with MAX or Maya can be downloaded from the Gamestudio site.

Different parts of the model mesh can have different textures, material properties, and shaders.


A sprite is a 'flat' 2-D object that can serve several purposes. It can be placed at a wall or floor as a decal, it can stand upright in the landscape like a billboard, or can behave pseudo-3D by always facing the camera.

Sprites are stored in external PCX, BMP, TGA or DDS files and can be created using a standard paint program, like Gimp, Irfanview or Adobe Photoshop®. TGA or DDS files can contain an alpha channel which gives a transparency value for each single pixel. DDS files can contain several mipmaps for better quality and faster rendering. Sprite entities are rendered faster than map or model entities, and can be used for explosions, lights, flames, trees, grass or the like.

A8 If the sprite's file name ends with "_x2" or "_x3", it is rendered in the shape of 2 resp. 3 crossed planes. This is very useful for simulating vegetation. You can find an example in the infinite_terrain.c demo.

If a sprite's angles are at zero, it will stand upright and horizontally face the camera. If its pan or tilt angle is nonzero, the sprite will be oriented in world space according to its angles. Four oriented sprites can be placed in an 'X' shape for creating plants or trees. If pan and tilt both are 0, but the roll angle is nonzero, the sprite will face the camera in two directions. This is useful for spherical objects, like fireballs or explosions. For an animated sprite (DDS did not support animation in A7) , place the single animation frames beneath each other in the image, as in a horizontal film strip. Give then the number of frames after a '+' at the end of the file name, like in the example explo+11.tga below.

Sublevels (Map Entities)

A map entity is simply a small compiled level, stored in an external WMB file. Map entities can be used for level parts which move as a whole, like doors, platforms, or vehicles. Because they are nothing else than compiled maps, you can create them with WED. You can for example convert each prefab into a map entity by opening it in WED, performing a BUILD, and copying the resulting WMB file into the current level directory. You'll find many predefined doors, furniture, vehicles and the like in the prefabs subdirectories.

Textures and shadow maps of the level and of map entities are preallocated in video memory at loading time, in order to maintain smooth gameplay. Textures of all other entity types are normally only allocated when the entity becomes visible.

Models, sprites, or terrain that are part of a map entity are also placed into the level in which the map entity is placed. This way, entity groups can be defined and compiled as map entities. Passable, rectangular, nonrotated map entities are used by the template scripts for water blocks, in which actors can wade, swim, or dive.


Terrain consists of one or several textures mapped onto a rectangular grid of height values. It is stored in an external HMP file. As the name says, terrain entities can be used for level parts that are irregular terrain. They can be created with MED, or imported from RAW height maps or BMP or PCX height image bitmaps that are created with terrain builder programs. Terrain can't be animated, rotated, moved, or scaled; however it can be deformed in real time by the engine. It's texture is projected vertically; for that reason the texture on slopes will look 'stretched'.

Due to the huge size of a terrain, it won't do just mapping a normal texture onto it. Even at the maximum recommended texture size of 2048x2048 the terrain would look blurry at close range. The simplest solution for this is adding small detail texture that blends a high resolution sand, stone, or grass structure over the first texture. If a terrain has a second skin, it is automatically used for a detail texture.

An extension of this concept is using multiple detail textures for mapping patches of rock, grass, paths etc. onto different parts of the terrain. The mtlFX.c environment template uses a fixed function effect to blend an arbitrary number of textures on a terrain. Every texture must have a blending mask in its alpha channel. For using the template, include mtlFX.c to your script, and apply the fx_terraintex action or the mtl_terraintex material to your terrain.

Passable terrains are used by the template scripts for water surfaces, in which actors can wade, swim, or dive. The physics engine calculates buoyancy and waves for objects that fall into the water. You can assign reflective water surfaces with wave motion to water terrains through the above mentioned Material Effects Library.

The engine supports two types of terrain, unchunked or chunked. By default, terrain is chunked, unless the terrain_chunk variable is set to 0 or the terrain file name ends with '_n' (e.g. "nonchunked_n.hmp"). Unchunked terrain is rendered just like a model, and must not exceed a size of 128x128 vertices.  C  Chunked terrain its divided by the engine into square chunks that are stored in a memory cache, are separately clipped when outside the view frustum, and  P  are rendered in different resolution steps depending on their distance to the camera and the terrain_lod setting. This method allows for much faster terrain rendering and theoretically unlimited terrain size. The little catch is that chunked terrain can't be used for water physics .

Entity selection guide

If you are not sure which type of entity to use for a certain purpose, here a list of the differences:

Entity type
Sprite (image)
Unchunked Terrain
Chunked Terrain*
Mostly used for
Actors, vehicles
Plants, trees, decorations, effects
Buildings, platforms, doors, trains
Outdoor landscapes
Outdoor landscapes
Import format
Created with
MED or external model editor
Paint program
Map editor (WED)
Terrain generator, paint program, MED
Terrain generator, paint program, MED
Vertex, bones, texture, shader*
Texture, shader*
Texture, shader*
Shader*, deformation, water physics
Shader*, deformation
Collision shape
Bounding box, ellipsoid, polygonal
Bounding box, ellipsoid
Move, rotate, scale
Move, rotate, scale
Move, rotate
PRV, gouraud, dynamic shadows*
PRV, static shadows
Gouraud, static shadows*
Gouraud, static shadows*
Alpha channel, translucency, overlay
Alpha channel, translucency, overlay
Translucency, overlay
* Not supported by all editions.

You can place the same object either as an entity (or a map entity, after compilation) , or import it as a block or prefab into the level. If the object should move, or should be transparent, there's no choice - it must be an entity. Otherwise there are some pros and cons caused by the fact that blocks or prefabs actively affect the BSP tree, while Map entities are affected by it...

Entities vs. Prefabs 

  Entities Prefabs
Placement + Object/Add Map/Model/Terrain/Sprite + Object/Add Prefab, File/Import
Rendering time (if visible) + Faster when complex + Faster when simple
Rendering time (if not visible) + Faster -  Slower
BUILD time + No influence -   Slower (geometry restrictions)
Transparency + Yes -  No
Light and static shadows -  Own lights, shadows on itself + Level lights, shadows on level
Movement + Can move -  Fixed
Actions + Yes -  No

Automatic assignment of actions

If an entity is placed into a level, it's automatically assigned an action of the same name (without extension) if it exists in the script. For instance, on placing 'guard.mdl' the action 'guard' is automatically assigned.


When right clicking an entity and selecting 'Behavior', a panel pops up that allows to customize the entities' behavior according to the action assigned. It's like to customize a script.
As long as there is no action assigned, the Behavior panel offers an action list for choosing an action, just like Properties->Behavior->Choose Action. If an action is assigned, you can customize the first 20 skills and 8 flags of the entity according to comment tags in the action.


For sprite entities, its origin is the geometric center of the bitmap. For map or model entities, the origin is its coordinate origin given by the editor. If you want the model to be able to climb stairs, simply place its origin into a higher position of its body. The highest step the model can climb is given by the difference between its lower bounding box border and it's feet. If you don't want the model to climb at all - if it's a car, by example - place its origin into a low position. But be careful not to place it too low, otherwise its bounding box may penetrate the floor, and the model won't be able to move at all. The origin is also the reference point for model rotations.

Levels of Detail

Levels of detail (LOD) are used for increasing the frame rate in huge outdoor levels. The rendering of a detailed model with several thousands of polygons looks quite good when the model is close to the camera - however when the same model is far from the eye point, details are less noticeably. A simpler model with few polygons will look just as good in that situation, but render faster. The difference in rendering speed is quite remarkable in huge outside levels where lots of high-polygon entities are visible, like trees in a wood, or an ork army, or a city made from house map entities.

Thus, use LOD for all models that consist of more than 500..1000 polygons and exist several times at different distances in your level. Using LOD for models of less than 100 polygons does not make much sense because there won't be a noticable difference in rendering speed.

With the  P  Pro Edition, you can use MED's LOD Manager to automatically generate levels of detail for a model. Terrain LOD is handled by the Pro Edition automatically through the terrain_lod variable. Alternatively, with lower editions entities you can manually create different resolution models that are switched by the engine depending on their distance to the camera. If an entity file name ends with "_0", it is assumed that similar files ending with "_1", "_2", "_3" are the three further LOD levels for that entity. For instance for "house_0.wmb" the engine expects "house_1.wmb", "house_2.wmb", "house_3.wmb" as LOD files.

 A7  The same LOD steps are also available for material effects and shaders. If an effect technique is named "lod0", "lod1", "lod2", or "lod3", it is rendered at the corresponding LOD level, regardless whether a LOD entity exists or not. This way different effects can be rendered dependent on the distance of the entity. Give the most time-consuming technique the name lod0 and use lod1, lod2, and lod3 for simpler and faster effects.

The LOD distances can be set in the script through camera.clip_far and d3d_lodfactor. With the default LOD factors, the entity switches to LOD level 1 at a distance of 1/8 the clip_far value, to level 2 at ¼ of clip_far, and to level 3 at ½ of the clip_far range. For preventing repeated "popping" between two LOD levels at critical distances, the LOD levels change with a hysteresis value of 15%. If the entity is further away than clip_far, it won't be displayed at all. LOD is not supported for chunked terrain.

For correct animation and lighting, the LOD files must be the same kind and have the same size, origin position, color depth, and transparency. For instance, an animated model can not change into a sprite . The number and color depth of skins, the number of frames and the frame names must be the same on all LOD files. If a LOD file is not found, the entity is not rendered at all at that LOD distance. This way, sub-entities of an entity composed of several parts can be suppressed above a certain distance. If a model has several LOD levels, it's shadow is calculated from one further level than the displayed model (adjustable by shadow_lod). This way dynamic shadows can be rendered remarkably faster. If the model is further away than 50% of clip_far, no shadow is rendered at all.


A non-transparent model entity can cast a dynamic shadow if its SHADOW flag is set in WED or by script. Depending on the setting of shadow_stencil, the engine generates dynamic decal shadows, stencil shadows, or PSSM shadows.

General decal shadow Individual decal shadow Stencil self-shadow
Stencil without self-shadow Poisson blurred stencil shadow PSSM shadow

However, if the entity does not move around and is not animated, like a tree, you might prefer to let it cast a static shadow. Static shadows look smoother and are rendered faster, and are supported by all editions. Create a block the approximate size and shape of the entity, place it at the entity position, set it's Detail flag, and assign all it's sides the None texture mode for making it invisible. The block will then cast a static shadow on the ground and serve as an obstacle, but will not be visible. The entity can then get the PASSABLE flag for faster collision detection.


Entities can have 3 types of transparency: Overlay transparency, alpha transparency (translucency), and alpha channel transparency.

Overlay transparency means that all completely black texture pixels, and all pixels below a certain transparency threshold, are fully transparent, i.e. invisible. All other pixels are fully opaque. There are no steps inbetween. Sprites and particles are automatically overlay transparent when their texture has no alpha channel.

Alpha transparency means a uniform transparency over the whole entity texture, and is activated by setting the TRANSLUCENT  flag. It is often used to smoothly fade entities in and out.

Alpha channel transparency means that every texture pixel has its own individual transparency value. This type of transparency is normally active when the entity texture contains an alpha channel, which is the case for transparent texture formats such as TGA 32 bit or DDS DXT2..5. If an entity must not be transparent despite its skin contains an alpha channel - for instance, when the alpha channel is used for a specular map in a shader - the PASS_SOLID flag can be used.

All three types of transparency can be combined, however with consequences for their rendering. For instance, when you combine overlay and alpha transparency, the whole texture becomes invisible when the entities' alpha value falls below the transparency threshold (d3d_alpharef).

A logical consequence of translucent or alpha channel transparent objects is that you can see other objects through them. This sounds trivial, but means that transparent or translucent entities must be rendered after all opaque entities (see rendering), and must not write into the 3D card's Z buffer. Thus their depth-sorting is not pixel-accurate, but only object-accurate. They won't hide other polygons or other parts of the same object. This can cause visible sorting errors on the screen when triangles of transparent models intersect or overlap. The errors are normally hardly noticeable, but sometimes very obvious - expecially when the alpha channel is almost opaque. When you see such sorting errors, be aware that this is not a bug and complains to Gamestudio support are futile. It's a consequence of how all today's 3D cards deal with transparency.

The normal solution for preventing such sorting errors is to split a transparent entity into several sub-entities that are then individually depth sorted. You can also have an entity consist of transparent and nontransparent groups. Depending on the type of the game, setting the d3d_entsort variable at 2 can also solve sorting problems.



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