How to adjust the intensity of an effect

Adjusting the intensity of effects

The look of many effects depends on what sim you are using and it seems to change with each new version of the sim. I have given up trying to make sim specific effects; as soon as I adjust one to my liking, a new sim version comes out and trying to keep versions for each sim maintained is a recipe for a mess. But if it is important to you, you can make some adjustments yourself. In general, it seems to me that effects become more intense with newer sim versions perhaps because what’s called for in the effect file is rendered more completely. My usual fix is to adjust the alpha (transparency) values in the effect.

Effect files ( files with the extension .fx) are just text files and can be edited with a text editor like Notepad. If you want to get fancy you can edit them with Arno’s FXE effects editor. FX Tool in the SDK can also be used but I find FXE to be quicker and easier.

About effects:

Effects are two dimensional textures that can be controlled by the effect file in endless ways. An effect file typically has a number of individual effects. Each one has 3 parts: Emitter.x, Particle.x and Particle Attributes.x

Among the settings in the Particle Attributes.x section are color and alpha values. For example: Color Start=74, 85, 82, 100   The numbers range from 0 to 255. In order they represent red, green, blue and alpha.   An alpha value of 0 is completely transparent and 255 is completely opaque. We want to adjust the last number, the alpha value.

Note: the alpha value for ColorEnd is ignored.  You can adjust the colors too if you want but that’s another subject.

The first task is to identify the file that is responsible for the effect you want to adjust. Most have descriptive file names. Say you want to adjust a waterfall effect. Identify the effect file by searching for the word ‘waterfall’ in the Effects folder and then one by one, disable the files by adding a .off extension and checking in the sim to see if you still see the effect. If you have add-ons that use the xml add-on method, the file you are after might be located in the add-on package. Once you have identified the effect, make a backup so you can experiment safely. You can ignore controller files; they control the effects themselves.

Open the effect file you wish to edit in a text editor like Notepad.

Since the effect file may contain multiple parts, each beginning with the [emitter.x] section, you have to decide which ones to edit. Figuring out exactly what each part does requires an effect editor like Arno’s FXE and is beyond the scope of this post. However you can narrow the choices down by looking for Ground Normal=1 in the Particle.x section. These sections deal with horizontal parts of the effects. If you are editing a wake, these are the sections you want to adjust. If you are editing a waterfall effect, you can ignore these sections.

For the sections you do want to edit, say to make them more transparent and therefore less intense, reduce all the alpha values (the last of the 4 StartColor numbers) by a fair amount and then check the result in the sim. You will not notice small changes, so as a start you could try reducing the alpha values to say three quarters of the existing values. If the alpha value was 100, try 75. If that’s still too intense, try 50. Reduce all the alpha values in all sections you want to adjust by the same percentage just to keep things simple. Save the file and check in the sim, restarting after each change you make.

That’s about it for this relatively simple fix but don’t be surprised if you find editing effects rather time consuming.

Here’s an example:


Blend Mode=2



Color Start=250, 230,160, 255 <———– the alpha value we want to adjust

Color End=140, 90, 70, 0 <———————this alpha value is ignored

Jitter Distance=0.00

Jitter Time=0.00

uv1=0.00, 0.00

uv2=0.50, 0.50

X Scale Goal=0.00

Y Scale Goal=0.00

Z Scale Goal=0.00

Extrude Length=0.00

Extrude Pitch Max=0.00

Extrude Heading Max=0.00