Contents



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Introduction

Torque 3D provides a full featured particle system with many parameters which can be manipulated to fine tune your particle effects. Particle effects are things such as fire balls, smoke, and water splashes that you create and place into your levels. The Torque 3D Particle Editor is the tool of choice for full control over the look and feel of your effects. At its most basic level a particle effect consists of: an emitter, a particle to be emitted from the emitter, and an image rendered to represent that particle.


The emitter controls: the creation of the particles; their movement; which directions the particles will travel, also referred to as the spread pattern and: how each particle blends into the world.


The particle controls its own life span, what image will be shown; how big the image is; what it's color over time is; and some basic force settings.


Setup

From the Toolbox, create a new project using the Full template then load the Empty Terrain level.


If you have your own particle images that you want to experiment with, you will need to copy them into the project folder at:


projectName\game\art\shapes\particles


Hint: It can be very helpful when creating particle effects to put your camera into Orbit mode, so that it will be easy to orbit around the selected emitter.


To place the camera into Orbit mode, from the main menu select Camera -> World Camera -> Orbit Camera:

Image:Particle_cam.jpg


Interface

The Particle Editor can be activated from the dmain menu by selecting.


Editors -> Particle Editor

Image:Particle_menu.jpg


Or alternately, click the Particle Icon from the Tool Selector bar.

Image:Particle_toolbar1.jpg


Whenever the Particle Editor is active the Particle Editor – mitters pane will be present on the right side of the screen. This pane is further divided into two tabs: (1) the Emitter tab contains properties about the currently selected emitter; (2) the Particles tab contains properties about the currently selected particle.

Image:Particle_pne1.jpg


Select either the Emitter tab or particle tab depending upon which object you wish to work with.

Image:Particle_pne2.jpg


In edition to the tabs there are also two buttons within the header of the Particle Editor – Emissions pane:


One Shot Effect Types

There are two types of particle effect: (1) continuous effects, which constantly emit particles and; (2) one-shot effects, which only produce particles for a short time and then stop. Continuous effects run constantly so your changes can be seen in real-time as you adjust the properties of the emitter and its particles. In order to see your changes for one-shot emitters you need to replay the emission. To replay a one-shot emitter click the arrow icon to the right of the tabs.

Image:Particle_pne3.jpg


The Temporary Emitter

When you open the Particle Editor you may have noticed it creates a temporary particle emitter in your current view. This temporary emitter is very useful for quickly trying out different particle editor settings.If your view is changed and you no longer see temporary emitter, press the little camera icon to the right of the tabs to place it back into view. It will always be placed in the center of your current view.

Image:Particle_pne4.jpg


The temporary particle emitter can be moved, rotated, and scaled like any other shape using the Object Editor.


New Emitter / Particle

To create a new blank emitter or particle that is ready to be configured, press the new icon on the Emitter or Particle tab as appropriate.

Image:Particle_pne5.jpg


Save Emitter / Particle

After editing an emitter or particle save the new settings by pressing the save icon on the Emitter or Particle tab as appropriate:

Image:Particle_pne6.jpg


Particle emitters are updated in real-time. Any changes to a particle or emitter will be reflected through out your level when changes are saved. Any instances of the emitter or particle that you are editing will also be changed.


As with a lot of Torque 3D Editors the Particle Editor writes the resulting data to script files which the engine runs to create the particle emitter when you game is being played.


Emitters can be found in a file named:

projectName\game\art\levels\levelName.mis

Particles can be found in a file named:

projectName\game\art\shapes\particles\managedParticleData.cs


Emitter Properties

The Emitter tab contains the properties that define an Emitter. Properties are grouped into sections:

Image:Particle_pe1.jpg


Basic

Basic properties affect the base emitter:


Life: The time duration in ms that the effect will emit particles.

Life (Random): Substitutes a random value for the life property.

Infinite Loop: When enabled this emitter will continuously produce particles. This setting effectively causes the Life and Random Life properties to have no affect on the emitter.

Amount: The time in ms between each individual particle released from the emitter.

Amount Random: Random Variation amount to be applied to the amount setting.


Motion:

These settings will affect the emitter spread pattern, speed, and particle image orientation:


Speed: The velocity the particle will leave the emitter in the defined spread pattern.

Speed Random: A random setting for varying the speed.

Orient to Movement Direction: Enabling this option fixes the particles image to the velocity direction of the particle. Note this will over ride any particle spin settings.


Image:Particle_peOrient.jpg


Align to a Direction: Enabling this option aligns the particles to a predefined vector set up in Align Direction option.

Align Direction: The vector used for particle alignment if the Align to a Direction option is checked.


Spread

These setting affect how the spread pattern will be dispersed:


Angle Min: The minimum angle for the emitter spread pattern.

Angle Max: The maximum angle for the emitter spread pattern.


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Depth: The depth of the released pattern. A setting of 360 will create a spherical spread pattern when Angle Max is set to 360.

Offset: The distance from the emitter that particles will be released. Effectively the distance that the particle will be visible to the viewer.


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Particles

This affect assigns which particle(s) will be emitted from this emitter:


Particle 1 - 4: Select the particle from the drop down list to be used with this emitter.

If at any time you need to remove a particle press the clear icon. Particle 1 can not be removed.


Image:Particle_peparticle1.jpg


Blending

These setting affect how the particle(s) are rendered


Blend Type: The types of blending available to be applied to the particles.

Softness Distance: The particle edge blending distance. Removes the hard edges where the particle meets an object.


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Ambient Factor: Adjusts the alpha blend (level of the particles which affects how transparent they are).

Sort Particles: The order in which particles are rendered.

Reverse Order: When enabled, reverses the render order set in the Sort Particles setting


Particle Properties

The Particle tab contains the properties that define a Particle. Properties are grouped into sections:

Image:Particle_p_prop.jpg


Basic

Particle basic settings


Texture Map: The image that will be used on the emitted particle. The Edit button will open a file browser to locate and select a particle image.

Inverse Alpha: Invert the alpha channel on the partice image (if one exists).

Life: The time in ms (milliseconds) after its creation that the particle will exist for.

Life Random: Random variation to the particle life span.


Motion

These settings affect the velocity of the particle:


Initial Speed: The initial velocity, that the particle will travel at after being emitted. (Not to be confused with emitter spread speed.)

Acceleration: The rate at which the particle's velocity with increase or decrease. Positive values cause a particle to speed up over time after being emitted. Negative values cause a particle to slow down over time after being emitted.

Gravity: The gravitational force to be applied to particle. Positive values cause the particle to fall to the ground. Negative values cause the particle to rise from the ground.

Drag: The amount of force working against the particle velocity. Drag will slow a particle's movement.


Spin

These settings affect if, and how, a particle rotates in degrees:


Spin Min: The minimum rotation to be applied to the particle.

Spin Max: The maximum rotation to be applied to the particle.

Spin Speed: The speed of particle's rotation.


Overtime


These settings affect the particle based upon how long it has been in existence for:

Each particle can have up to four color and size settings, which can be set to change over time.


Colors: Four color swatches indicate the color phases which a particle can pass through. To set any color click that swatch. The Color Picker Dialog will appear:

Image:Particle_p_col.jpg


To set a color value you may: enter R (red), G (green), and B (blue) color values; click anywhere within the gradient on the left or; click anywhere in the vertical "rainbow" strip. Red, green and blue color values range from 0 to 255 and indicate the amount of that color present in the overall particle color.


The alpha value which represents the transparency of the particle color can be set by entering a decimal number between 0.0 and 1.0 in the Alpha field or by moving the slider with the mouse. The higher the number the less transparent the color will be.


Size 1-4: Each slider sets the size for the particle during each time stage.

Time 1-4: Each slider sets the time for that stage.


Emitter and Particle Example Settings

The best way to get an understanding of the particle system is to experiment with the settings. The following examples use the images below. Right click on each of the images and save them to you project's particle folder at:

projectName\game\art\shapes\particles


Save this image as fire.png:


Image:Particle_ex1.png


Save this image as spark.png:

Image:Particle_ex2.png



Fire Effect - Looping

In this example we will create a fire effect with a flickering rising motion.

Image:Particle_fire1.jpg



This is an example of a looping effect which continuously emits particles as long as the emitter exists. Changes to the emitter's properties are reflected in real-time.


First we will create a new particle. Select the Particle tab; press the New Particle icon; rename this new particle to fire2Particle; press the Enter key; and then click the Save button.

Image:Particle_fire4.jpg


Your new particle will be saved. NOTE: You MUST press the Enter key after renaming the particle BEFORE clicking the save button or the particle will not be properly saved.

After saving the particle you should now see that gray stars have been added to the golden stars coming from the temporary emitter. This is a preview of your new particle. In the Basic section of the Particle tab take note of the thumbnail picture to the left of the Texture Map label. The emitter is now generating gray stars because that is the default texture assigned to a new particle.


Click the Edit button within the Basic section of the Particle tab

Image:Particle_fire5.jpg


A File Browser will appear. Navigate to the location where you saved the above images; click the fire.png to select it; then click the Open button. You should now see your new fire particle being emitted from the temporary emitter. Save your new particle again so that it will retain the new texture selection.


You will also notice that the other particles, the golden star and the gray star, are still being emitted as well. Remember that you are seeing a temporary emitter intended to show the changes that you make in real-time. In order to see the emitter as you wish it to appear in your level you must load that specific emitter and assign your new particle to it. Until you do this, you are seeing only a preview of the changes you are making while creating new particles.


Any new particles that you create will not be available to the Particle Editor until they have been reloaded. Exit the World Editor then restart it by reloading your project's level from the Toolbox.


The Particle Editor should automatically be reactivated. Ensure the Emitter tab is selected then click the New Emitter icon.

Image:particle_emiter_new.jpg


The emitter in the scene should be emitting golden "stars". This is because a new emitter has been created which, by default, emits the defaultParticle which is a golden star. Rename the new emitter to fire2; press the Enter key; and then click the Save button, which is represented by the floppy disk icon.

Image:particle_emiter_new_fire2.jpg


Your new emitter will be saved. NOTE: You MUST press the Enter key after renaming the emitter BEFORE clicking the save button or the emitter will not be properly saved.


Now let's tell the emitter to use your new particle. In the Particles section of the Emitters tab, select your new particle by name from the Particle 1 drop down list.

Image:Particle_fire6.jpg


If you do not see your new emitter in the list then go back and review the note which speaks of the requirement to press the Enter key before saving a particle. Most likely, you missed that step.


After making the selection you should see the emitter in the scene generating only your new fire particle, and no stars at all. Next change the settings in your emitter Properties pane to match the following images:


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Move the camera back if necessary to view the entire emitter. It should now resemble a flickering rising fire.
You could add an emitter for smoke and another for the embers to complete the fire effect.


Plasma Spark Effect - One Shot Example

This is an example of a one-shot effect which only emits particles for its configured period of time. You will need to use the re-trigger button to view this effect each time you make changes.

Image:Particle_spark1.jpg


This effect will use the emitter non looping function to give a single trigger effect. You will need to use the re-trigger button to view this effect.

Image:Particle_pne3.jpg


This example will use the image spark.png from the download above.


To create this effect follow the previous fire example exactly, with the following changes: use the spark.png for the particle instead of fire.png; name the particle sparkParticle; name the emitter sparkEmitter; and use the properties below for the emitter and the partcle respectively:


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If you have modified the settings correctly, you should see an interesting colorful particle pattern explode from the emitter each time you press the retrigger button.


Conclusion

This article covered the Torque 3D particle system and its many properties. You should now have a basic understanding of Emitters, Particles, and their parameters. By experimenting with the settings and trying different particle images, you will gain valuable knowledge ready for use in your own future projects. You will soon be creating your own special effects from water drops to rocket trails with Torque 3D's Particle Effects Editor.