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This is the page for Sim-related stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else. For anything QuickBasic, the version used is QB 4.0.

A QuickBasic script to make wallpaper sprites

As explained at the bottom of Utility Quirks, the two wallpaper-making programs for the Sims that I know of, don't "tile" the images. To "tile" an image is to make sure that its edges match, so that copies (tiles) of one picture can be used to fill a bigger area and look like one big picture, because you can't see where one tile ends and the next tile begins. And you don't want to see where one strip of wallpaper ends and the next begins, either!

These two utilities take an unpaletted full-colour bitmap and reduce its colours to 256 to make a palette. In doing so, they will slightly alter the bitmap's colours. This may result in seamy wallpaper, even if the original bitmap was tileable.

In wallpapers with colour gradients, the slight colour change may also lead to "banding"; the wallpaper seems horizontally striped. Using the "Noise" effect in Paint Shop Pro to break up the bars of colour helps a bit, but doesn't solve the problem. Wouldn't it be great if I could make 256-colour wallpaper graphics in all views and zooms and then just code them exactly as they are. I posted about this on the IFFSnooper forum and its author pointed me to a site with the description of the SPR# format, which is what wallpaper sprites use.

The difference between the banded and unbanded yellow wallpaper is hard to see when the monitor is set to truecolour, but obvious at 16bit colour. The example on the left also shows the colour shift of the automatically processed wallpaper.

The first thing to do is to make a "mask" - a file with cutout sections for the wallpaper sprites - and copy this for as many wallpapers as I want to make. Next, I have to fill in all these cutouts with wallpapers. The method I use is: make "diagonal" wallpaper for all three zooms. Resize the three wallpapers to half their width and some added height for the skews. For each half-wide wallpaper, skew a copy 27 one way and Adjust colours -> Brightness -4 (this is what it's called in Paint Shop Pro, the idea is to lower the RGB values by 5), and skew the other copy 27 the other way and Adjust colours -> Brightness +6. (Yes, those are the correct settings. Beware of the skews, the diagonal edges may be irregular and need fixing.) That's three views done for each zoom. The fourth view, the narrow transverse section, is just a strip copied and pasted from the flat diagonal graphic. When all zooms are done, decrease colours to 16-bit and then to 256 colours in a way that won't degrade the wallpaper. This is what the wallpaper utility would normally do for me and what I'm now doing for myself.

Next, I "swop halves" on every graphic except the transverse section. I take the graphic, cut about half away on the left side, stick it back on the right side and move the whole graphic back in place. What was edge before is now in the middle, and I can see if there are any seams. If I spot a seam, I repair it by copying a non-seamy strip from elsewhere in the graphic over it.

Swopping halves on the smallest skewed zoom; a light seam approximately down the middle of a larger zoom; repairing a seam.

Now that I have a big bitmap containing all views and zooms in the right colours, I need something to convert it to a SPR#. In my case the conversion is done with a script "wallpap.bas" running under QuickBasic 4; I don't know how well this script would work with all the other flavours of BASIC out there. Considering it took a year to write, the script is pretty quick'n'dirty, and a good BASIC programmer could probably tidy it up a little. But it does the job. I call the bitmap "wallpap.bmp" and put it in the same directory as the script, then run the script. Lots of temporary files are made and erased again, leaving me with PALT.IFF, SPR#1.IFF, SPR#1793.IFF and SPR#2049.IFF. These are the palette block and the small, medium and large sprite blocks for the wallpaper. They can be imported into a copy of an existing wallpaper with IFF Pencil or IFFSnooper (they're .wll files, so no need to worry about GUIDs) and hey presto, you have a custom wallpaper. The price and description are in the STR# block and can also be changed with IFF Pencil or IFFSnooper.

The Flame Glow wallpaper made by HomeCrafter, and remade by hand: an obvious improvement.

The file contains: the script "wallpap.bas"; the mask file "allmsk.png", and a rough "examp.png" I kept to remind myself how to make the skewed walls.

A QuickBasic script to convert SKN to BMF

As explained in the Utility Quirks, BMF2SKN produces game-crashing BMF files if the processed SKN has blend vertices because, illogically, the blend values should be stored in reverse order in the binary version. This script also converts a SKN to binary format, but puts the blend values in the order that the game demands. Like the wallpaper script, this is a messy utilitarian script to "do the job" - it's not monkey-proof and doesn't correct SKN errors, so the SKN should be tested beforehand. As QB doesn't accept long filenames, the skin has to be renamed to "X.SKN" and put in the same directory as BMF2SKN.BAS, which will read X.SKN and output X.BMF. Unlike the wallpaper script, this script could be made into an .EXE file by QB 4.0 (which is needed to run the file anyway), which opens possibilities for batch files.


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