Software can sometimes be a very controversial topic. The high cost of professional content creation packages often leads people to think that perhaps the same job can be done with a cheaper (or even free) package. Unfortunately this is rarely possible, and in the case of Il-2 modeling, the game engine's requirements actually dictate the type of software used. What follows is a list of the programs most suited to Il-2 modeling, whether by general preference or absolute necessity.
Discreet 3D Studio MAX is the primary modeling software. At this writing the current version is MAX 6, but 1C:Maddox Games can only accept files from versions 3, 4, and 5. Please note that .max files are the only acceptable format for model submission. From time to time, the idea is floated that maybe software other than MAX can be used to build models for Il-2. Many times modelers have asked if programs like Rhino and Milkshape 3D can be used. While there is nothing wrong with these other programs, the plain answer is simply: NO. Models for Il-2: FB are built using some features and techniques unique to MAX, so modeling with any other software runs the risk of building an unacceptable model. Please note also that 1C:Maddox Games does not accept gmax models. The gmax program is free for end-users, but the costs are passed on to developers participating in the gmax program. There are no plans for 1C:Maddox Games to support gmax modeling.
Adobe Photoshop is the recommended program, although technically any program that can output 32-bit targas would be acceptable. Photoshop, however, is the accepted industry standard and it is the program used at 1C:Maddox Games.
Texporter is used to create a graphical image of a 3D object's mapping. It is a big help during mapping and texture creation.
Polychop is a tool by Stan Melax for MAX versions 2.5, 3, and 4. It is an automated polygon reduction tool that comes in especially handy for building the "L's of D" (Level of Detail) models. It automatically reduces poly count on a selected object using parameters input by the modeler on the control panel. It is not a catch-all, however; the experience of several modelers has shown that it's a great help for LOD's but it won't do all the work for you. LOD building is still about 50% Polychop and 50% manual work. Even so, it is a must-have tool.
Remove UVW by Peter Watje is a tool for removing any unused UVW mapping data after texturing is complete. A flaw in 3D Studio MAX allows some old UVW "debris" to remain during mapping, which can increase file size unnecessarily. Remove UVW simply kills this extra data.
Chilliskinner by Colin Semple is a collection of tools to make mapping textures easier in MAX. It has only recently been discovered by the Il-2 modeling community.
Edit Mesh 2 by Peter Watje was hacked to work for MAX 3. When loading the Il-2 example .max file, the program asks for this plug-in. If a modeler is using MAX 3, this will make those messages go away. It can be found in the "plug-ins" folder that accompanies this guide.
UVW Unwrap+ is another legacy plug-in that is requested by MAX when loading the Il-2 example .max file. Like the Edit Mesh 2 hack, it can be found in the "plug-ins" folder.