3D view properties, grid Settings & Camera clip distance in Blender
With the introduction of Blender 3D a number of changes and improvements have been made to the 3D application that long time users of the software may find tricky to find.
The following tutorial is a quick guide to where some of the essential functions game developers and modders need to customise in this new version of the popular free 3D program.
Default layout and appearance ^
There have been a lot of changes to Blender 3D over and above pre-2.49 versions so that although the layout can be customised to suit, in the main, a number of 'features' present older versions had are now 'locked' or at least impractical to use the way one would have in the past - the 'Buttons Window' have been renamed "Properties" and whilst they serve the same function, the new layout doesn't appear to be as flexible when compared directly with the older interfaces - the panels can't as of yet be shrunk or re-sized - they are in effect, designed to work best the way they appear by default.
This has direct repercussion on using files from older versions of Blender.
The new Blender default layout and appearance on first opening
Opening old *.blend files ^
The changes to Blender are significant enough to cause some minor issues when loading in or opening older 2.49 or below *.blend files, primarily because of User Interface (UI) incompatibilities. If the user loads in an old file 'as is' the 'Button View' will appear to be completely different and partially hidden from view (as shown below). To ensure this doesn't happen when opening an old *.blend file, de-select "Load UI" from the "Open Blender File" sub-section of the properties panel on the left of screen. This ensures the file loads just the data and not the previously used layout as shown below.
Make sure to de-select "Load UI" when opening older *.blend files
An old *.blend file opened into the new Blender showing the partially obscured interface where the buttons should be at the bottom of the screen
De-selecting "Load UI" when opening a file loads into Blender correctly at the expense of loosing the layout originally saved in the file
View Properties - grid settings ^
The second big change for game developers using Blender for content creation is where the previous 'View Properties' and 'Transform Properties' panels have been placed. Along with their associated features they're now accessible under different sub-sections, depending on their function, from a 'Properties' panel that can be toggle open/closed in the 3D view by using the "N" key.
'Grid Settings' have now been located in the "Display" sub-section of the 'Properties' panel. Simply referenced as 'grid settings', "Lines: [n]" determines the overall number of grid squares visible, "Spacing: [n]" ("Scale: [n]" see note below) sets the grid size relative to Blenders default ("Scale: 1.000"), with "SubDivisions: [n]" setting the number of 'minor' subdivision each 'major' grid unit contains. In practice setting both "Spacing:" and "Subdivision:" to "8" would result in the grid being 8x larger than default, composed of 'major' units divided into "8" smaller units (this sub-division continues ad infinitum when zooming in or out of a scene). In addition "Display" properties also contain a number of other settings previously included in the "View Properties" floating panel such as turning the grid itself on/off and displaying axis lines.
Design note: as of Blender 2.56, "Spacing:" has been renamed to "Scale:" to reflect what that property is actually doing relative to a scene; technically the grid is being 'scaled' rather than 'spaced' or resized relative to the grids original settings.
So a typically set-up for Radiant or Unreal type editing would mean setting 'Lines:' to at least "100" - "Lines: 100" - a general setting of "128" or thereabouts is recommended so it fits the general "power of two" rule; "Spacing:" to "8" - "Spacing: 8" (or "Scale: 8" see note above); and "8" for "SubDivisions:" - "Subdivisions: 8" - so as to match the general grid settings available in both game/level editors.
Design note: it's important to point out here that in the 3DView using perspective mode will display the grid with Blenders default subdivision of "10" irrespective of any actual settings being used. This is a display issue only. Object manipulation still conforms to the grid despite appearances - this may mean that objects scale, size and/or placement may appear incorrect relative to the grid when in fact it is not.
Blender also now supports "Metric" and "Imperial" systems of measurement - although this likely won't have much of a direct effect on game development and content creation unless those units of measurements are specifically used to size/scale objects during production.
Default grid setting values are of not much use for game development so need to be changed to match or approximate the appropriate environment
Grid values changed so models can be made at the appropriate size and scale
Note that depending on the version of Blender being used the "Spacing:" property may have been changed and/or renamed to be displayed as "Scale:". This change was introduced with Blender version 2.56
View Properties - camera clip ^
Camera clip distance, a setting previously available in the 3D windows "View Properties" panel, has also been moved to the general 'Properties' panel, now under the "View" sub-section and again toggled open/closed with the general use "N" key. Named "Clip" both the "Start:" and "End:" function values are set here that dictate how far or close the camera 'clips' distance in the 3D window; a large terrain scene for example would need a large clip 'end' point.
Setting camera clip distance from the "Clip" section of the general Properties panel opened using the "N" key; the defaults are too 'short' for practical use when making content for games as that often uses large scale values than Blenders defaults
Setting the appropriate "Start:" and "End:" points so the entire model is visible in the view without the camera clipping sections of it, hiding them from view
Modifier Stack ^
Another essential tool is the "Modifier Stack" which now has it's own 'buttons' panel in the overall Properties 'window' (which is not the same as the properties 'panel' toggled with "N") accessible using the "Shift+F7" shortcut. It's here that the "Edge Split" modifier is, a useful tool for setting up mesh smoothing on game models.
Edge Split modifier
Using "Edge Split" in the "Modifier" stack to add 'mesh smoothing' to a model
There are a number of other 'property' related features in the Properties tool panel that are of use for game development, in effect, all the parameters that were set previously in the floating panels that could be toggled open/closed over the 3D view have now been placed in this 'global' Properties panel including 'XYZ' Scale, Rotation, and Position. Much of the core 'object based' parameter data is duplicated in elsewhere in the 'Object' buttons window ("Shift+F7") or in the 'Tool' panel ("T"), so there are, as always, a number of ways to get at the function required.
Transform Properties accessible in more than one place