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Max Payne 1 Tutorial : Skyboxes Replacement

This modding tutorial will explain you how to replace the skybox textures in the game Max Payne 1.
To make it easier for beginners, I have skipped the files extraction.
So first, download the SKYBOX ONLY VERSION of the mod Noir York City for Max Payne 1, extract the ".rar" archive and put the files in the Max Payne 1 installation folder.
For the players who have the CD-Rom version, the path is normally :
C:\Program Files (x86)\Max Payne\data\database\worldspheres\textures .
After having done this, open the "texture" folder and you will see several images with the ".tga" extensions.
Theses are the skybox textures.
Every skybox is composed of 3 image files :
- 1 image which which has "_a" in its name and which is in black and white.
It is the topography : The white area of the picture is visible and the black area is transparent, so even if there is a building at this place it will be invisible.
- 1 skyline image which has "_c" in its name and which is in 256 colors : It usually contains the distant buildings.
- 1 sky image : It contains the sky and the bottom of the level.

For example :
bg_bronx_a.tga : Visible and invisible part of the Bronx skyline (In black and white color).
bg_bronx_c.tga : The skyline texture (in 256 colors).
bg_bronx_sky.tga : The upper sky and the ground below the level (In 256 colors).

If only the skyline texture is edited (For the example, I colored it all in green) :

The skyline texture recovers the part of the skyline which has been set to visible.

If the skyline texture is all colored in green AND the skyline topography is fully colored in white :

How to mod the skybox textures in the game Max Payne 1 : The horizon topography file.

If the skyline texture is all colored in green + if the skyline topography is all colored in white + if the upper sky texture is all colored in red :

Modded skybox textures and topographies in Max Payne 1.

So, how to replace the skybox textures in the game Max Payne 1 ?
We will take the 3 bronx images "bg_bronx_a.tga" and "bg_bronx_c.tga" and "bg_bronx_sky.tga" as examples as this this the skybox which is used in the tutorial (amongs other levels), so it will be easier to make tests.

But first, make a backup copies of theses 3 pictures.
Then, with your internet browser, search for an online converter (For example : online-convert, convertio, onlineconvertfree, anyconv, etc...).
Some of theses converters can convert several files types, so choose to convert images by choosing "Image converter".
The converter will ask you for a "target format" (it is the format in which you want to convert the image).
So, choose to convert "bg_bronx_sky.tga" to the jpg or to the png format.
After this, open "bg_bronx_sky.jpg" (or bg_bronx_sky.png if you have converted it in the png format) with an image editor like Photofiltre, Photoshop, Gimp, etc... and color it in red or green.
Then, use the online converter again to convert bg_bronx_sky.jpg" to the ".tga" format.
So, you will get a new "bg_bronx_sky.tga" file.
If it is named "bg_bronx_sky.tga(1)", remove the (1) so the name is exactly "bg_bronx_sky.tga".
Finally, replace the original "bg_bronx_sky.tga" file in C:\Program Files (x86)\Max Payne\data\database\worldspheres\textures by the new "bg_bronx_sky.tga" you created.
Run the game and play the Max Payne 1 tutorial map to see how your new distant sky looks like.
NB : Here, only the upper sky color/details will have changed, not the skyline.

Note : To change the skyline texture, the method is similar, excepted that when you modify the skyline texture (which is contained in the "bg_bronx_c.tga" file), you will also have to make sure the skyline topography in "bg_bronx_a.tga") has an identical form.
Otherwise, part of the skyline will be invisible and only the upper sky will be shown at these places.

An useful tip : To gain time, when you are trying to test if a "bg_bronx_c.tga" skyline would look good :
First, Convert the file bg_bronx_a.tga in jpg and png, then open "bg_bronx_a.jpg" (or bg_bronx_a.png) in an image editor and color it ENTIRELY in white: This way the whole skyline area will be set to visible (and so the area around the skyline will be recovered by the skyline texture : The upper sky texture will be placed behind it and so it will be invisible).
Then, convert the bg_bronx_a.jpg image back to the ".tga" format and install your new "bg_bronx_a.tga" at the place of the original "bg_bronx_a.tga" file.
After this is done, you can test any pictures you want in the "bg_bronx_c.tga" as they will be fully visible.
And when you will have found the right texture to use in the "bg_bronx_c.tga" skybox, only then you can bother about drawing the topography correctly in the "bg_bronx_a.tga" file.

So, why make a good topography in the "_a" files ? When the "_a" images are all white, sure all distant buildings are visible but... the area around the buildings don't look very good and the horizon ligne which marks the separation of the skyline and the upper sky is very marked.
Drawing a topography file which correspond to the textures in the "_c" files make the sky to look way better.

NB : You can also take any picture which isn't part of the game, convert it to the ".tga" format, then rename it to "bg_bronx_c.tga" and/or "bg_bronx_sky.tga" and install them in the game if you want. It works.
Just don't forget to make the topography in the "_a" file correspond to its corresponding "_c" file.

List of the skybox files which are contained in C:\Program Files (x86)\Max Payne\data\database\worldspheres\textures :
bg_bronx_a.tga (Skyline topography)
bg_bronx_c.tga (Skyline texture)
bg_bronx_sky.tga (Sky texture)
- Skybox used in the missions which take place in the Streets of New York.

bg_coldsteel_a.tga (Skyline topography)
bg_coldsteel_c.tga (Skyline texture)
bg_coldsteel_sky.tga (Sky texture)
- Skybox used in the Cold Steel factory mission.

bg_lowereastside_a.tga (Skyline topography)
bg_lowereastside_c.tga (Skyline texture)
bg_lowereastside_sky.tga (Sky texture)
- Skybox used in the Choir Communication Garage mission.

bg_manhattan_all.tga
- Skybox used in the Intro Cutscene and in the missions which take place in the docks.
This skybox file is special as it contains the sky and the skyline (also, the skyline doesn't have any topography).

bg_skyscraper_a.tga (Skyline topography)
bg_skyscraper_c.tga (Skyline texture)
bg_skyscraper_sky.tga (Sky texture)
- Skybox used in the Aesir tower mission at the end of the game.
NB : The close yellow buildings in 2D which have badly aged are NOT contained in theses 3 files, only the distant buildings near the horizon ligne, the sky and a part of the ground far below.

bg_sunset_all.tga
- This skybox is used in the prologue.
Like for the Manhattan sky texture, the sunset sky doesn't have any topography file.

Additional explanations about the skybox files :
The resolution of the "_a" and "_c" files is 2048x128.
The resolution of the "sky" file is 1024x256.
The special "manhattan" skybox file is 2048x256.
So, if you want to create skybox of higher resolutions, you will have to keep their proportions intact or it won't work.
For example, if you want to increase the size of the skyline by 2 : In the image editor, change their size from: 2048x128 to 4096x512 (Size multiplied by 200%).
For the "sky" files, you can do the same : Multiply their resolution by 200% or even 400 : 1024x256 => 2048x512 => 4096x1024 .
But if you transform a 1024x256 sky texture into a 4096x1024 sky texture, the size of the new texture will be around 12MO.
But Max Payne is such an old game that it is not a problem a all with modern computers (Some of the sky textures in my mod Noir York City have this 4096x1024 resolution).
It is also possible to place buildings in the lower part of the "sky" files, so that they can look like a second ligne of buildings behind thoses contained in the skyline texture file. This can create a cool 3D perspective effect : 2 lignes of distant buildings, the 2nd ligne behind the first one.

Another thing : What skybox file is used in a particular level is indicated in the text file : C:\Program Files (x86)\Max Payne\data\database\levels\levels.txt .
Open the levels.txt file with a text editor and look for the word "WorldSphere" in each level paragraph.
Last but not least, the fog level and contrast which is used in each level of the game is also contained in the "levels.txt" file.

A video tutorial to replace the sky textures of Max Payne 1 (To accompany this text tutorial : It shows how it is done) :

How to edit or replace the sky textures of Max Payne 1.

I hope it helps a little for the People who are interested to mod this classic game.

Some examples of skies which can be created for Max Payne 1.

Modded Midtown Manhattan Skyline in Max Payne 1. Other trying attempt at improving the skybox of Midtown Manhattan in the game Max Payne 1 Max Payne 1 edited skybox textures : The tutorial now takes place during the day.

Skybox replacement tests in Max Payne 1 (Video) :

How the maps of Max Payne 1 look likes with different skybox (Showcase tests).