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Aether: Halo CE Lighting Helper

Title: Aether: Halo CE Lighting Helper
Section: Halo Utilities
Author: TheFieryScythe
Description: This program is made for Halo: Custom Edition and serves to simplify the process of lighting a Halo map using a 3D modelling program.

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Media Type: Zip
Size: 1.4M  Date: 02/06/09
Downloads: 1,816
User Rating: 7.4

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User Rating: 7.4

File Notes

Program Features:
*Scenario object marker export
*Perfect bsp extraction including all bitmaps and correct smoothing
*Perfect bsp lightmap extraction including lightmap bitmaps assigned to the mesh
*Portal and fog plane extraction
*Bitmap injection into BSP lightmap

3ds Max/Maya Script features:
*Fixes bsp materials to show in viewport and ignore alpha channels (Not in Maya Script)
*Places marker spheres according to marker positions exported by Aether
*Instances meshes and places them according to marker positions exported by Aether

Program details:
When the program first opens you will be asked to locate your Halo Custom Edition folder, you can do this manually or by looking in the registry.

To make your first project click "File > New Project" this will allow you to choose a .scenario tag to open and select a place to save the resulting project file.
The program will then build the project. Depending on the size of the level (number of bsp's, vertex count, .etc) this could take a few minutes.
NOTE: All BSP's should be debug lit in tool beforehand.

Once built the program will be populated with the project contents. The marker tabs on the left list the types of objects used in the level, which you can remove to exclude them from the marker export.
NOTE: Removing an entry from the list removes ALL if the markers of that type from the project, not just one.

Below the marker tabs there is a dropdown box containing the names of all the BSP's in that level. Selecting one will populate the right hand pane.

On the right pane, the Edit button opens the currently selected BSP's lightmap for editing.
Below that is a list of all the BSP markers in this bsp file.
The Export Bsp button will open a new window letting you export the textured mesh, lightmap mesh, portals, fog planes, bitmaps, lightmaps and markers.
NOTE: The Maya Export checkbox will export the meshes with their axis converted to Y-up, and their material names formatted so that Maya will read them correctly.
NOTE2: Because of how the smoothing is corrected, large BSP's may take a few minutes to export.
NOTE3: Faces that do not have a lightmap assigned are not exported in the lightmap mesh.

Lightmap Editing:
The Edit button mentioned previously will open a new window populated with the bitmaps contained within the lightmap bitmap.
To import a bitmap press the import button and a dialog box will allow you to select an image to import. Press open to continue.
NOTE: Accepted image types are TGA, DDS, TIF, PNG, BMP and JPG.

If the Resize on Import checkbox is checked then you will be given the option to change the size of the bitmap up to a maximum of 2048x2048 (to account for possible problems with certain ATI cards) and a minimum of 1x1. Clicking continue will start the import process. This may take a short amount of time depending on your computer speed, bitmap size and dither type.
The Dither Type drop down list is there because Halo lightmaps are stored as 16bit images, which means that is has less available colours that a 32bit image. This reduction in colours can result in banding on gradients of colour. This banding can be visually lessened through the use of dithering which fills in the gaps with dots of colour to soften the effects. Whether you use dithering is down to personal preference and is not required.
Lastly, the export button allows you to save the image to file.
HINT: You can drag and drop an image onto a bitmap entry to speed up the process.

3ds Max and Maya scripts:
Supplied with this program are two scripts, one for 3ds Max and one for Maya.
The Maya script has only the basic functionality of the Max script as I am not particularly capable with MEL. Any differences are pointed out.

On the script there is a Fix Materials button which sets all the materials of the selected objects to Show in Viewport, and sets all diffuse bitmaps to ignore their alpha channel.
There is also an Import Markers button which opens a window which performs the marker import and mesh instancing.
MAYA NOTE: The Maya script does not have a Fix Materials button, instead it opens the Import Markers dialog directly.

To start, open an Aether Marker File (.aemk) using the Open Marker File button. This will populate the list with object types/BSP marker names.
To create spheres at all markers select the All radio button next to the Create Spheres button, the Selected radio button will only create spheres for the selected object type. Upon creating the spheres they will be placed into a layer names object_markers;
MAYA NOTE: The spheres are not placed into a layer.

The Create Instances button will create instances of the selected objects at the position and rotation of the objects selected in the marker list.
If the Single radio button is selected then one of two things will happen, if only one object is selected in the scene, then that object will be instanced and placed as expected.
If there are multiple objects selected then they will be grouped and moved using the top most parent objects pivot point as the groups pivot point. This allows objects to be instanced and retain their linking hierarchy and skinning. All the objects that are created are placed into a layer with the name of the selected object type.
MAYA NOTE: The group instancing does not occur in Maya, only one of the selected objects will be instanced. Also objects are not placed into a layer.

If the Random Perm radio button is selected then the script will randomly choose one of the selected objects and instance that object, for each marker. Which is useful for objects such as rocks.

Lighting Suggestions:
The purpose of this program is to simplify making lightmaps for Halo in a 3D modelling program, it does not however do the entire process for you. Although I refuse to teach you how to light your maps I will give some 3ds Max pointers:
* Combining the Advanced Lighting Override material with radiosity allows for light emitting materials.
* Projection mapping the lightmap mesh with the textured mesh will allow you to bake the lighting bitmaps easily (using the select faces by material ID to create projection sub objects makes it even easier)
* I personally avoid creating bitmaps at lower than 512x512 with a padding of about 12 pixels as upon scaling down the black background can seep in.


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