Now I’m not going to limit your creativity as far as art direction goes, but I do want to give you some helpful hints to make sure your buildings work well in Sim Settlements 2 and also avoid crashing the Creation Kit and the game.
Watch out for animated statics! They will not work as part of your core model (you can add them in the later tutorial that covers Furniture/Decorations/etc). If you add one by mistake, the Creation Kit can crash, or create a giant warped mess of a model.
To test if a static is animated, place it in the Render window, and turn on the Animate Light and Effects button, which can be found on the toolbar at the top of the screen:
To look at some of the construction of the buildings from Sim Settlements 2 to get ideas, you can find most of our SCOLs in the mod. Once you find one you want to experiment with, or make some alterations to for your own variation, drag the SCOL into the Render Window while the SS2BuildingStage is loaded, move the model to 0/0/0, and then use the hotkey Alt+U to fragment the static collection and get access to all of the pieces that make up the building still in their relative positions!
You may receive a warning when fragmenting an SCOL - this is nothing to worry about for the way we're using them. It does not permanently destroy that SCOL, the warning is talking about the individual copy of the SCOL you created by dragging it into the window.
The alignment helpers are designed to give you a boundary to work within so that your building meets players expectations based on where the plot is. Many players will become irritated with your buildings if they are continually clipping over the edge and invading neighboring buildings as it makes it very hard for them to plan a nice looking settlement.
You may be thinking "Well they can see how my building looks and place things around it", but with the number of ways buildings are built in SS2, it's very often this will occur while the player isn't around. Especially if they are using City Plans or pre-placing extra plots before they have enough settlers. So while there is nothing stopping you from building outside the lines, we've learned over years of Sim Settlements 1 development, that players are generally not happy with it.
When dealing with the arrow, imagine that it isn’t there and that you have the remaining box to build within. The space from the base of the arrow to the point is reserved for Sim Settlements to create things like the scaffolding, and construction animation markers.
The arrow in the helper represents the front of the plot. It points to where your players expect the front of your building to be. While you don’t necessarily have to place your entryway in that direction, make sure your settlers have a path from the front of the plot to your entryway.
If you want an example of how to pull off a side entrance, check out the level 1 clothing store. That’s about the amount of space between the building and the utility pole you need to leave to make sure the NPCs can get by from the front.
Building below the alignment helper, is generally ill-advised. You'll see that many of our legacy buildings that were brought forward from Sim Settlements 1 actually had their bases redesigned. This is because having things below limit's players' ability to build plots on top of other structures. Much like building outside of the lines, there's nothing technically stopping you from having your building extend beneath the plot - this is just a reminder that most players don't appreciate it, so avoid it if you can.
You can technically build up as high as you want, although settlers generally won’t even use the second floor. The game has very poor navigation for areas above the ground, especially with objects that are created during the game, like those of Sim Settlements 2.
For the building model itself, you should focus on the core of the building: the floors, walls, and roof. You can also include any large pieces of furniture that aren’t interactive, such as tables and dressers - doing so actually makes the navigation step a fair bit easier for you as you'll be able to ensure the navigation weaves around the more substantial furniture objects easily.
Certain items, like interactive furniture, or lights actually cannot be incorporated into the base structure anyway, but it's best to even avoid small clutter like objects as you otherwise limit your building's potential. Systems like dynamic clutter, or the performance options system to allow players on lower end systems to enjoy the mod, are much more difficult for your buildings to work with if you combine too many items into your building model.
Be sure to keep your higher level buildings in mind while you're designing. If you go too crazy with level 1, you won’t have any room to make your building look cooler as it upgrades!
One of the design patterns we try and follow for Sim Setttlements 2 buildings is to only introduce technology, like power at level 2, and only add decorations and other luxuries at level 3. The goal of this is to help give off the vibe that the settlement is progressing in big ways and the people are going from living in hovels barely scraping by, to eventually being wealthy enough to afford non-essentials. (There are obvious cases for exceptions, for example the Advanced and Hi-Tech building classes would feel pretty awkward without power at level 1.)
Sim Settlements 2 has no way to enforce these design requirements on you, but the art itself is one of the mechanics of Sim Settlements 2 that makes it fun to engage with - so I’d ask that you at least consider that when deciding how to design your buildings.
A lot of the statics you’ll find included with the game are only visible on one side, or are partially invisible at different angles. You can still use these in your models, but be sure to cover up all those invisible spots. There are usually full sets of pieces, all with a similar name, that work together to build rooms. Opening another copy of the Creation Kit to go look how Bethesda used those pieces in various interior cells is a great place to start.
While you can use these types of building pieces in Sim Settlements, they just don’t make the best pieces for the construction stages, so you may have to manually build the construction framework out of other meshes (or skip them altogether).
Opening up a second copy of the Creation Kit with only Fallout4.esm loaded is very good practice when looking at the base game world that Bethesda created. It's very easy to accidentally edit something you didn't intend to and introduce what we call a dirty edit, which can cause lots of mod conflict and performance issues.
By exploring the base game in a second instance of the CK, none of the edits you are making will be saved in your mod plugin.
If the object you want to use has a green icon in the Object Window, you can still use it; but after you drop them in the cell and have them positioned where you want, you’ll need to select them in the Cell window and press Alt + U on your keyboard (you can also right-click them and choose Fragment Static Collection).
This will convert the Static Collection (SCOL) into its original pieces so you can use them in your new SCOL.