Reminder - in all my tutorials, green text can be skipped by modding vets, and red text can be skipped by beginners. These are side notes meant to clarify something I imagine certain readers will have questions on, and if they are not targeted at your skill level, you can skip them or ignore them if they are over your head or seem obvious.
This tutorial will walk you through creating a simple addon pack that offers a new building plan skin. Whether you are interested in creating skins or not, you should still go through this if you want to add ANY content to Sim Settlements 2- as it covers a lot of the basics that apply to all add-on packs, and will give you some insight into the design patterns of SS2.
Building Skins are just what you think they are, an alternate look for a Building. Just like you might have a skin for a character in many other games, Building Skins can be anything from simple retextures, to dramatic overhauls of the look of a building even changing its models entirely.
I'm a huge advocate, and will constantly recommend getting stuff into the game as fast as you can - it will keep you motivated to see lots of quick progress, and motivation is pretty key when you're trying to learn something new [especially something as daunting as modding a game!]
It's also just good dev practice as you'll find flaws in your design more quickly if you are testing them in their final home more often - so iterate frequently and put your stuff in the game whenever you find yourself losing steam.
You will need to at least understand the basics of the Creation Kit, which includes loading and saving plugins, and searching for items in the Object Window. All of this is covered in my Creation Kit 101 video, and it should put you in a good spot to handle the rest of this tutorial!
I'm going to give you explicit steps to create a very basic skin for one of our building plans. These same steps can be applied to create a skin for any building plan, but I find it helps to reduce confusion if I always talk about very specific things when writing out tutorial steps. So I'll say things like “Double-click the static form SS2_Industrial2x2_BuildingMaterials01_L1”, even though you could be working on some other model. The point of these steps is to give you something you can repeat verbatim, to get something functional in-game.
The ID field can be anything you want it to be, so long as it is completely unique. Every form in the Creation Kit has one, and it is meant to help you find your items again later.
My personal recommendation is to create a prefix you use before every single ID in your plugin, it helps you quickly identify the things you've created in a mod, versus the things that were already there from Bethesda, or our team. I generally use an acronym for the mod, or part of my handle - you'll see in many of my mods I prefix things with kg. You should come up with your own prefix and use that in your IDs.
So from now on, if you see me use “yourPrefix_” anywhere - that's what I mean - the prefix you decided to mark your stuff with.
Click the Edit button next to the model field towards the middle of this window.
In the screen that appears, change the dropdown box labeled Material Swap to point to kgSIM_WH_ShackWoodPlanks_Gold. You'll notice some of the boards on the model changed color. Now click OK to close the model screen.
What's with the translucent white box?
This is an editor marker, showing us where the navcut is. We added the marker to help us with navmeshing so we can see how big the plot actually is and can ensure our navmesh for the building will break through. You won't find it on all of our buildings, but you will find the navcut on most. We'll dive into how to do this, and benefits of it when we discuss navmeshing building plans.
No need to navmesh skins, since you duplicated a building plan model which would already have been navmeshed if necessary and the duplicated model will have the navmesh duplicated with it.
If you did not get these prompts, then either you forgot to change the ID field, or you had previously answered these prompts and re-opened your form.
Or in the worst case scenario, you were working on the original form from SS2.esm instead and just edited the original - which means you also skipped step 3 - shame! This can be fixed, but that's beyond the scope of this tutorial…
Wait I thought I was going to get to color?!?
If you were hoping to make your own textures and use those - that is 100% possible, but you'll need to learn about material files for that. Check out my video tutorial on setting up custom textures and materials, and the one on Material Swaps for multiple ways of getting those custom textures set up in the Creation Kit - BYO art skills to these tutorials - I just teach the tech, not the painting!
You now have your recolored building models ready to go, it's time to create the items that Sim Settlements 2 will use so that the player can select the skin in-game and apply it.
Why a weapon?
Weapons and Armor have the unique aspect of being able to display custom text in the Barter interface. We use the Barter interface for many of our dynamic menus, so we can take advantage of this to provide players a brief description of various things when they are making selections.
You'll find we use Weapons and Armor, and other related records throughout Sim Settlements 2. These are not equippable items, they are simply a means for us to give the player a better experience given UI limitations in Fallout 4.
Several times during these steps, you had to select a form from a list that you didn't create yourself. You might be wondering how you are supposed to figure those out in the future for other skins.
This is where going through more of these tutorials will become helpful, as you learn more about how Building Plans, and other Sim Settlements 2 objects are configured, it becomes easier and easier to know what to do. So keep going through our tutorials, and things like that will become clear very quickly.
And of course, we always have our Discord channel if you get stuck!
Everything is all rigged up, the last step is to tell Sim Settlements 2 about your new content! For that, you need to create what we call a controller quest, and a few records to organize all your data.
Much of this part you only have to do one time for your entire addon, and then telling SS2 about additional content tends to be mostly drag-and-drop after this.
Throughout Addon creation, you will be making copies of these formlists, always leave that first default entry in those lists, as it tells SS2 how to distribute your new content correctly.
We'll cover those fields you skipped in a future tutorial about updating your add-ons after they are released. For this tutorial, we're focused on just getting your content into the game!
In general, the pattern for registering addon content is always the same - finding the appropriate formlist from the templates like you did in step 1, and dropping all of your new items into it. Then you add your formlists to the MyItems property like you did in step 8.
Once you have created a formlist and added it to that script property for a particular type of content, all you have to do is drag and drop new items of that type to the formlist!
There is one thing to watch for though. Until you get "version control" set up, which we'll talk about in another guide, you'll always want to test your new content on a "clean save" - that is one that has never had your plugin loaded yet. There are lots of great save files available on Nexusmods.com that have your character waiting to exit the vault that are perfect for this - or you can create your own by disabling all your mods and playing through the intro sequence of the game! (I personally have created one where I have finished that part of the game, and my character is left standing next to the Sanctuary workbench ready to test.)
Time to get in game and check out your work!
Sim Settlements 2 includes a Cheat section in the holotape under Tools > Cheats. From here you can unlock all of the plots and building classes to make it faster to test things like your addons.
You can get the holotape from the MCM menu, by running to Concord and grabbing it from a table near one of the windows, or by building a City Planner's Desk in workshop mode and using its crafting to create yourself one.
Having trouble getting the console command to work? Usually this means you haven't actually clicked on the plot itself. To help with this, I highly recommend the mod Better Console F4SE - which will display the name of the object you have selected while in console mode!
While this tutorial had a lot of steps, the actual work required is fairly fast, and after doing it a few times you'll be able to create these simple color change skins in minutes! There's a lot more that skins can do, plus we skipped a few steps that you would normally want to do for good user experience, which will be covered in a specific tutorial about them. The point of this guide was to show you how quickly you can get stuff into the game - as that's going to keep you motivated!
You have now seen how configuring an addon pack works and are ready to dive in to more tutorials to learn about the specifics of different types of content!