Toolkit Chapter 03 Construction Stages and Upgrade Levels

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This tutorial assumes you know basic navigation and keyboard shortcuts to navigate the Creation Kit. If not, please go back and check out the Creation Kit 101 primer.

All of my guides will highlight things that are specific to your experience level: Green for beginners, and Red for seasoned modders. So if you’re new, you aren’t meant to understand the red messages, and if you’re a vet - you can probably skip the green.


Now that you have your first building complete, I’m going to show you some tips on quickly creating the construction models so your building creates itself over a series of stages. I’m also going to explain how the level upgrades work so you can configure them in your Building Plan object that we created in the first tutorial.

Note: You don’t HAVE to do the construction stages. You can literally release your building with a Building Materials stage and the same house model 3 times as the upgrade stages, and it will work. It’s just not as fun. :)

Creating Construction Stage Models

I’m going to assume you’re coming from the second chapter, so you should have an SCOL sitting at 0,0,0 coordinates in the kgSIMBuildingStage cell.

So open that up by finding it in the Cell View window (make sure your Worldspace drop-down is set to Interiors).

Now, right click that model you built and hit Fragment Static Collection to break it back into its pieces. Don’t worry a full copy of the SCOL is kept in your Object Window, and you should never delete it permanently from your ESP. You may need it in the future if you need to make edits to the model quickly. It’s also going to be very useful when creating the construction stages between levels 1 (this building) and level 2 when you build it.

The easiest way to build decent looking construction stages, is to slowly tear apart your building a piece or two at a time and then create a new model in the same way you created the first model.

If you’d like to do what I did in the building models that came with Sim Settlements and have the metal stripped off the wood, I simply removed those in NifSkope. It groups the model pieces by texture, which makes it very fast to generate some extra stages.

Now before we get started dismantling your building. I want to show you the naming scheme I used to keep myself organized. You can use whatever means you prefer.

  • The first model I built would be called kgSIM_HouseName_L1Final. That’s because it’s the final stage of Level 1 for some house. (Notice I added the prefix! Going to keep hammering you with this!)
  • Then during the construction stage building, I would work backwards, because I often didn’t know how many stages of construction I would create. There is no limit, you can have as few or as many stages as you’d like!
    • So the first construction model working backwards would be kgSIM_HouseName_L1Final_minus1. When I create the final static model, these names will change - but for our SCOLs while we’re working, this at least lets me know that this should be the construction stage one before the Final stage of Level 1.
  • Use whatever makes sense to you so that you can keep them organized, but find a common pattern so that when you come back weeks later to do a tweak - you don’t have to memorize the order of random names like kgSIM_HouseName_L1_NoRoofNoTables.

So for example, let’s start by removing any core large furniture you added and create a model for that. Or if you didn’t include any large furniture in the model, you can start by removing the roof. Just to re-iterate, the order you take the building apart, the number of stages, is entirely up to you! I’m just using this as an example for the sake of explanation.

So just select the piece you want to remove and press delete.

IMPORTANT! Do not press delete while the Cell View window is active, you will know, because the name of the piece will be highlighted dark blue.

Toolkit Chapter 03 Construction Stages and Upgrade Levels 01.png

Cell View Active - NO DELETE!

Toolkit Chapter 03 Construction Stages and Upgrade Levels 04.png

Cell View Inactive - Safe to Delete

If you press Delete in here you will remove the object from the Object Window as well! That means you can’t create that item again without doing surgery on your file - which is not fun! So be careful and make sure only to press delete while in the 3d rendered window.

The good news is that you will get a warning, but after working in a tool for a long time you’ll tend to go on auto-pilot and answer Yes to prompts without thinking. So consider yourself warned!

Now create another SCOL, then a Nif, then make the Static, the same way you did in the “Creating Your First NIF Model” section of the first tutorial.

Repeat for each stage of construction you’d like to do.

Once you’ve done that, you can go back and rename them in the correct order, so if you had 5 stages following my naming scheme, kgSIM_HouseNameXX_L1Final_minus5 becomes kgSIM_HouseNameXX_L1_Stage1. This is optional, just something I find helps if you’re going to be working on the project over a period of time and want to be able to come back to it without being confused!

Setting up the Construction Stages

Now that you’ve created all of your construction stage models, you’ll need to add them to your Building Plan.

  1. In the Object Window, expand the Items category, select MiscItem and then filter for you building plan name (psst search for your prefix!).
  2. Open up the plan, select SimSettlements:SimBuildingPlan in the scripts section and click Properties.
  3. Click on your building materials stage, the Creation Kit may take a moment to catch up as it has to load all of the static models into the drop down list (the speed of that is the primary reason one needs patience to be a modder!)
  4. Then click Add. The reason you click on the Building Materials stage, is that pressing Add inserts a new entry after the one you have selected.
  5. Now press S then T on your keyword to bring up the static models, and filter for your first construction stage and select it in the Pick Object dropdown.
  6. Repeat for the rest of your construction stages.
  7. Once you’ve completed that, you need to edit the Level Stops entry.

    The Level stops tells the system which of your StageModels represents each Level. The first entry in LevelStops is the model for your settlers will finish on after they start constructing the building. So note the number next to your completed building’s model. (IMPORTANT: When you have completed your building, your StageModels and LevelStops should each be in ascending order so that the earliest model or level stop will be first and the final model and level stop are last)

    Then double-click LevelStops and edit the entry you placed before, and enter the number you noted your first level stop should be at.
    Toolkit Chapter 03 Construction Stages and Upgrade Levels 02.png
    In the image above, you’ll see our first Level stop should be the number 8.
  8. Press OK to exit the Properties menu. Then Press OK again to exit the Building Plan menu.
  9. Save your file.

Construction levels between levels is similar, but a little harder to make look right (some tips will be described in the Building Upgrade Levels section down a bit).

Alternative Method: Steal From kinggath

Let’s say your building model, is fairly close to one in Sim Settlements already. Or maybe you’ve taken a Sim Settlements building and tweaked it a little and added entirely new decorations to give it a raider or faction look. Well then why go through all the construction stage trouble, when I’ve already done the work!

If you’d like to use construction stages that are included in the SimSettlements.ESM file already, you are welcome to!

Just open up the kgSIM_BuildingPlan objects and check the StageModels property to figure out the names of the models.

In fact, if your goal is to simply re-decorate one of the models I created, you can even copy the entire building plan and skip right to the Adding Furniture, Clutter, Lights, and More tutorial to change the stuff included in that building plan to stuff that suits your new theme!

Building Upgrade Levels

  1. When you’re ready to start building them, you can delete (remember: never press delete while in the Cell View window!) what’s left of the Level 1 building.
  2. Next, go to your Object Window, and expand WorldObjects click on Static, and filter for your SCOL of the first level of the building.
  3. Drag this into the cell and double-click it so you can set it to 0,0,0.
  4. Now right-click it and hit Fragment Collection so you edit the pieces.

Why did we do all this if we’re going to work on level 2?

While designing your upgrade levels, it can be tough to transition them with the building stages if you put no thought into how the building owner might upgrade it themselves. What I tend to do when starting design on my Level 2 building, is look at the remaining space on my plot and try and fill it in. Often this is as easy as knocking down a wall, and extending a floor a little bit.

While you’re welcome to build three entirely different models for each building level, creating the transition construction stages can become very difficult. Check out how different the 3 models of the weapon shop are in version 1 - creating the building stages ended up being a nightmare because I didn’t think it through in advance.

The plots are 2 large tile by 2 large tile square. Use that knowledge to your advantage when planning your buildings. There are quite a few combinations just with that knowledge as the core of your floorplan.

Not to mention that you can go vertical! Try to limit yourselves to two stories for now, until the Multi-Unit plots are finished, then you can go crazy on those! If we go to high with the current buildings, the higher density plots won’t be as meaningful down the road.

You can also get creative with placement, perhaps you create a home is all the way against the front of the lot, and then L2 adds a backdoor and a little tiny yard with a picket fence.

The possibilities are surprisingly expansive in just this little tiny area, and as long as you plan ahead, creating the Upgrade levels is a breeze.

Creating Construction Stages For Upgrades

I tend to create far less construction stages for the upgrades, both because it usually doesn’t take long to transition to the upgrade, and because it’s much less likely that players will ever be around to see it play out (unless they are using the Regular Inspections feature - for those players I like to at least have a few stages in place).

The process is the same as for regular building models, except that the first couple stages, should be tearing pieces off of the previous level’s model.

  1. So for the Level 2 construction stages, you’ll actually start with the Level 1 SCOL. Move the Level 2 SCOL off to the side but still in view for reference. Then add the Level 1 SCOL to the cell and center it (right-click->Edit, set all 3d data coordinates to 0 like we did in the first tutorial).
  2. Fragment both SCOLs so you can access the pieces.
  3. Start by removing the pieces from the Level 1 model that need to get out of the way to make the level 2 model, then stop and make an SCOL/Nif/Static (the same way we’ve been doing for the other models).
  4. Next grab a piece from the level 2 model and drag it over to your now half torn down level 1 model. Keep doing this, stopping every piece or two and creating another SCOL/Nif/Static to represent that construction stage.
  5. Stop when you have maybe one piece left to move. No need to do that one again, because you’d just be creating the Level 2 model all over again!
  6. The stages from Level 2 to 3 are done the exact same way.

Adding Upgrades to The Building Plan

Now that you’ve completed all of your models, it’s time to put them altogether! Open your Building Plan, and follow the same steps you did in the Setting Up Construction Stages section.

Once you have all of your stages and levels in order. Note the number next to your Level 2 and 3 upgrades, then go to the Level Stops property and add those numbers to it after the first one.

Your Level Stops should now have 3 entries, each with the number its model is next to in the Stage Models property.

The Industrial Revolution expansion adds a special method for unlocking Level 4 farms. It is recommended you add a Level 4 upgrade for your agricultural building plans. If you don’t want to design another evolution, you can just duplicate all of your level 3 model and StageItemSpawns on the next stage, even though it will look the exact same to the player, the food bonus will be much higher.

You’re done!

If you followed the Integration steps at the bottom of the first tutorial, your building model is already set up to be injected into Sim Settlements.

If you want to stop and test your models at any point, use the Testing Your Model on a Plot instructions from the first tutorial. Remember that you can change the last number filed in the testbuildingplan console command to any stage of your building and it will start from there.

On of the most common mistakes I have made, is forgetting to select the AlignmentHelper as my last piece, and the model ends up sunk in the floor. If you find that has happened when testing your model in game. It’s easily fixed though, you just bring in your SCOL model, fragment it and then redo the steps for creating a model from there.