How to Make a Good Infantry SHP
by Comrade Jerkov

Right. This is a long-winded one, so [DEEP BREATH]:

First, you need 2 things:
1) XCC Utilities
2) A good image editor that works with PCX files (I use Jasc's Paint Shop Pro 7.04, while some others use Adobe Photoshop)

Just about every downloadable infantry shp is made using another as a base. for example, the Light Infantry in Tiberian Alert is based from the Conscript. But you wouldn't know it unless you looked really closely ;-) This is the best (and just about the easiest) method. Some utilise sections from other infantry (All those deploying infantry you see had their bases took from something else, such as the Battle Bunker or Guardian GI, while flamethrowers tend to have their flame taken from TS or remade using the oil fire animation)

First things first, go into your XCC Mixer, and click View > Palet > Red Alert 2 > Unittem.pal

This sets your pallette so as all infantry shps are in their correct pallette and have a blue background (don't worry, it won't show up blue ingame!). Unitsno.pal is NOT recommended since the black background can make editing difficult and also it may not show up properly ingame. This will also make structures appear properly as well.

Next, go to File > Open > Open your RA2/TS directory (yes, TS infantry appear as well!) and find the infantry you want (they're in conquer.mix or conqmd.mix depending on the game you're looking in)

When you find an infantry you want to use as a base for your own infantry (for argument's sake let's say for this one we're using the GI shp), right-click on it and select 'Export as PCX'. This will save hundreds of individual PCX files to a set directory (annoyingly, this is usually your RA2 directory _ ). Find them all and move them to their own folder somewhere where you'll know where they are (my favourite place is the Desktop, so as I can get to them easily). As strange as this seems, make another folder. Name it something recognisable like GI Done. This is just a storage for all the frames that are about finished. It's extremely annoying to trawl for half an hour through three hundred frames to find the last one that you haven't finished yet. Now, go back to your original folder with all the frames, scroll to the bottom and you'll see something like gi 0743 as the final frame (this number varies depending on the complexity of the unit. The GI has a lot more than the Conscript because he deploys. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to edit EVERY frame; If your unit isn't going to deploy, just ignore those frames, and the game will do likewise so long as Deployer=no ) Now, add 1 to the number of frames (this allows for the frame entitled 0000), then divide this number by 2. Highlight every single frame from this number (744/2=372 so from 372 all the way to 744) and move them to the done folder. You see how much less work you really have to do? It's amazing how many people just give up after thinking they have to edit 700+ frames, when in fact they need only edit 300 or so.

Now, you're ready to start editing.

Start, as logic dictates, with frame 0000. The first frame, which shows the soldier facing AWAY from you in a still idle pose. If you want, load up the next seven frames (this gives all 8-way poses). Then edit the frames as you wish using the preset pallette. If you want to add something from another unit to this one (for this one, we'll say we want the Sniper's beret for the GI we've got), you'll have to extract the unit in the same way, and do the same sort of thing to it as you did with the GI. Then it's a simple matter of copy and pasting the section (to change a soldier's headgear, I personally suggest taking the whole head from the 'donor' unit (Sniper in this case) and pasting it over the head of the 'recipient' (GI). Remember that depending on the action being shown in the frame will depend on the frame you use from the donor. If your image editor tool supports it, make it show up a preview picture of the frame you're about to load. That way, you can see if it roughly matches the action your recipient unit is doing.

Make sure your paintbrush tool is set to 1 pixel only, otherwise you will end up with a great big splodge over half your trooper :-)
A good technique for making two frames for an animation of a unit similar is, of course, colour dropper. Simple 'pick up' a colour you want to appear in the other frame, and use that on areas that are near to where they were on the first frame (if it's moving, don't put them exactly where they were on the other frame, or else it'll either look like he's moving without moving or not moving at all).

Most of what I've said so far, or am going to say, is pretty self-explanatory, but I think it's best to say it anyway

A good infantry shp has 2 things:



Remember that there's almost NO SUCH THING AS A TRULY BAD INFANTRY SHP! I'm not kidding: so long as you're not making it pink with yellow polka dots (unless of course that was the whole idea!), you can tell the different sections of the body apart and you can get some shading detail (there are around 12 shades of each colour, so blend them in together as opposed to using 1 colour, which'll look awfully flat and 2D. If you zoom in to 5 or 6x normal size, your view will be pixellated, which is absolutely perfect for editing the frames. Just zoom out to 1x again to see the result of your tweak. At 6x, your infantry will probably look a little messy because an infantry is made up of around 100 or so pixels, but no player could ever notice, as they'll only see it at 1x, which means that different colours and shades blend together or simply can't be seen at all. The joy of only working with 100 or so pixels is that a small error is impossible to pick up on, or actually might make the frame look better than it would have been! When I say 'detail' it simply means it looks decent at 1x zoom, not photo-realistic graphics. In some mods, the actual ingame size might be smaller than normal WW size (Tiberian Alert's will be 75% of normal size, just to cover up my mistakes :-P )

Make sure frames follow on. A tiny bit of wobble is natural when the soldier is walking or running, and combined with other ingame graphics and the heat of battle, no-one's going to notice a frame or two that are off slightly. It's impossible to get them perfect. Just look at WW's! All of them have errors in them somewhere. A tiny bit of offness won't matter in the slightest. In some cases, it looks better. Load up the frames that adjoin it in numbers and run through them several times (converting them to a gif format using Jasc Animation Shop or something helps spot major flaws).

The final golden rule is don't give up! Even if you did make a mess of it, you can either use Undo functions, close the frame without saving or even, as a last resort, load up the original shp again and continue using that frame and from where you left off. Plus, don't try to finish the whole thing in 1 sitting. You won't. Asuka, even though all she is is the Virus shp recoloured black, given a beret and a few more remaps, took me a week to finish off. Expect major changes to take longer than this. I expect the Light Infantry to take me a week and a half at least!

If you're not happy with the way your shp turned out, find the problem and try to fix it. A good option is to post a gif anim of reasonable quality onto a forum such as this one, where your work will be mulled over constructively and there are lots of people who visit the boards who are more than happy to help you get the effect you're after.

Other than that, there really are no rules to shping. The only limit is that of your imagination. You can do just about anything you want to with your infantry, but as with anything, start off small. It's not advisable to make too drastic changes (by all means make alterations, but to make one too big might make it difficult to make the alteration on later frames, as you won't be able to see what it originally looked like to proportion it correctly, which means big-time wobble). Change the colour, clothing or the weapon or something, but don't try to make a GI run or something, since it'll be devilishly hard to get all four limbs to co-ordinate properly. A better idea is to get something like the Conscript (who already runs) and make him look like a GI (I used Conscript for Light Infantry because he runs and already carrys a machine gun. I hated that the GI sort of swaggered along, and carried a pistol). To try and make the GI look like he's carrying an assault rifle would mean a helluva lot of work on his arms and upper body, and do you fancy altering movement animations so as it looks like he's moving with a big rifle in his hands? Better to use the Conscript then ;-)

Another good advantage of editing an existing shp as opposed to making a wholly new one is that it already has ini entries dedicated to it To make your new altered infantry back to a shp, open XCC, find the folder your edited frames are in, highlight them all and right click. Make them into shp, and then go find the new shp file! Simply stick this in your RA2/TS directory and load the game! The new shp will replace its existing counterpart, frame by frame (no more annoyingly having to create a paradrop frame for a new infantry! w00t!)

And guess what? When you can make or edit an infantry shp, you can also do buildings! They work in the same manner, only they're about 300 times as complicated to get to work, due to the fact there are 7+ shps per building depending on how many sections of it animate. Even ArgCmdr has to copypaste sections of different building together to make them. Spider-Man_2099, who has 3DSMax (costs about £400 over here. Bstardo!) simply makes them up from nothing! :-) Either way, you can make good building and infantry shps.

Happy shping!!