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The Panda DirectX Exporter (PDE) has been around for a little while now (and is not based on the MS SDK version), mainly for those more interested in developing 3D applications than exporting models from 3DS Max.  The introduction of DX 8 saw Microsoft provide an exporter with source code (found in the extras folder on the SDK disk).  However, even though the MS exporter is a good source code example, it does have some problems which stop models from being exported. So the PDE has been updated as an alternative to the MS exporter and allows those who just want to export a .X file from their model without the fuss of having to use Visual Studio to debug the MS version. Other differences include:

PDE also changes the right-handed axis system that Max uses to a left-handed system more commonly used by directX. To do this the vertices have their z and y swapped around and the face is re-ordered (winding order).  Any other output is also changed such as matrices in the frames and animation sets. The MS version doesn't do this and expects either another pre-processing stage on the file or for the application program to alter its viewing matrices

Mesh vertices and normals are optimized to remove duplicates where possible.  If a vertex has a different normal value or texture coordinate whilst being shared by two faces then it can't be removed.  Choosing to turn off normals/texture coordinates and vertex colours will reduce the vertices count. 

Vertex Colours are supported, however, these need to be set in Max first.  The MS exporter doesn't support this at time of writing.

Any bitmap image used as a diffuse map material in Max can be converted to a .bmp file so that a quick check on the texture coordinates can be made. Native texture map .DDS support could be added ?? Well maybe there is a Max plugin for that ??

For info about FS2002 models use: http://www.oregon-coast.net/FS2002/3DSM-PandaX-FS.htm

For info about 3impact use: http://www.3impact.com/3Impact_Engine/hulk7123/3dsmaxtips.htm

 

The 3ds max 4/5/6 sample models used to test the plugin were:-

Rabbit.max    - contains lots of bones and materials but unfortunately some of the materials can't be converted.

Animation-BallBounce.max - okay but the squish and squash are modifiers to the mesh, so the simple animation keys can't cope. You'd have to collapse the stack and export the mesh at each time interval ? Or recreate the modifier algorithm in the application.

Dragon_character_rig.max - if the spheres (sky boxes) are removed then the dragon comes out quite well.

Viewing programs used to test the exports are:-

 

What about the Source Code for the PDE - well, its too embarrassing to release ;-) So don't ask.

Have fun...