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The Gunship Workshop

This area is a clearinghouse of information relating to how Gunship works,
and how to make it better. Corrections, discoveries and suspicions are welcome.

NOTE: in October of 2001, we had a huge breakthrough in our ability to access, and manipulate the origianl graphic files such as object "skins" and terrain tiles. I've made numerous corrections below (marked by red lettering), to reflect this new information.

Last update: 01 March 2003

Graphic Elements

Files and Directories

Sound Elements
Overview Overview under construction
Skins and 3DZ files images(1).cat  
Terrain Complete list of the files referenced in gunship.exe
Gunship file List page (345kb)
Excel Spreadsheet here
Placing 3D objects - 1    
Placing 3D objects - 2    
Catalogue of 3D objects    





Graphic elements


GS (like most 3D sims), uses 3D wireframes (individually or in groups) to create objects, and terrain data to create topography. GS then uses pictures in .pcx format to cover both. The pictures used to cover 3D objects are called "skins", and the pictures used by GS to "pave over" the topography are called "tiles". Each tile is slightly larger than the size of the airport in GS. Each of these tiles represent an area roughly 250 meters square


The skins are .pcx pictures which are given shape by a 3D wireframe. The wireframes are stored in the data/3DZ directory as *.3d? files, and may be customizable soon thanks to a new editor being built by one of the European Air War enthusiasts, Alessandro Borges (EAW is an immediate predecessor to Gunship, and very similar to GS in many ways). This editing capability would let us alter or add to the shape of existing objects, (for example, adding weapons racks to the Blackhawk). The Heloswapper program copies and renames these files in various ways to trick GS into displaying new combinations of existing 3D objects.

Here are a couple of skins from Gunship as examples: Gunship uses the same 256 x 200 256 color .pcx for most objects, but the hi-resolution helicopters and cockpits each use multiple 256 x 256 256 color pcx skins.

AH1W_H.gif (23121 bytes) COCKPITC.gif (31320 bytes)
AH-1W Cobra skin


One of the Apache cockpit skins


As is commonly done in games and sims, all the picture files are archived into one or more  large catalogue files. In this case we think they are data/images.cat and data/images1.cat. These catalogues are compressed using one of the LZFile methods (I think).  It appears that images1.cat also contains numerous code libraries, which probably explains why it's so well protected.

In many games built this way, you can make a new skin, then place it in a certain directory. When the game launches, it checks first to see if a skin file that it needs for, say, a Hind fuselage is in that directory or not. If it is, it uses it. If not, it gets it from its compressed catalogue file. This works with the graphics used in GS .

We can identify the name of the .pcx graphic file for a particular 3D object, (i.e., the name of its "skin"), by using one of the three intriguing little utilities shipped with Gunship in its dat\3DZ directory named see3dzpcx.exe .

To try this, use Windows Explorer or My Computer to browse to your Gunship!\data\3DZ directory. Now click your Windows Start button, select "Run", and type the word "command" into the "Open:" box. When you click OK, you will be right back in the DOS world of 1985, with a  prompt that shows that your 3DZ directory is the current path. Type "dir *.3dz | more", and you will see a list of all the 3D object file names, such as "TRUCK_H.3DZ". Now if you type: see3dzpcx TRUCK_H.3DZ and hit enter, you will see that the filename for the graphic skin for that 3D object is "ZIL135H.PCX"

So what, you may well ask.

Well, say you wanted to repaint that truck in desert camo, you would need to edit the 256 color .pcx skin file named ZIL135H.PCX

What about the other two  utilities? Not exactly sure what use they are. I'm actually more intrigued that they are there at all. I'm not sure about usage syntax for either of them.

One is 3dzread.exe, and after looking at the code, it seems to be meant as a converter to create *.3db and/or *3dn files from the original *.3dz file. Here is what Petzel taught me about the formats of these *.3d? files:

        Each 3d object has 3 versions, 1 for each of the following PC video settings:
            *.3db = D3D render only
            *.3dz = Software render only
            *.3dn = 3DNow accelerated. (3DN = Three-dimensional Radon Transform to
                display 3d objects) computers with the AMD 3DNow chip use this.

The other is pca3dz.exe .  This is used to convert .pcx files to .pca files. I'm not even sure what a .pca file is, but I think that a .pca file is a pcx filewith a transparent background.



So far, we've only been able to figure out how to use Larry Hookins' editor from M1 Tank Platoon 2 to manipulate the height of the terrain (topography). I finally realized that the GS terrain files in the World directories were all set to "read-only", so the editor couldn't change them. Remove that restriction, and it works fine.

We know basically how the tiles are arranged to form new maps. A 256 x 256 256 shade grayscale picture in .raw format named shade.dat in each Data/World/ file tells GS which tile to put where. The RGB value of each pixel is keyed to one of 64 tiles (from a collection of 84) in 4 different orientations (NSEW) for a total of about 256 tiles on each battlefield sized map. Change the RGB for that pixel, get a different tile. The file height.dat determines the height (in meters?) of the top left and bottom right corners of each tile.

Here are examples from the NPOLAND world:

SHADEDAT.pcx (65157 bytes) This is SHADE.DAT. Each pixel represents the place and type of tile to be rendered in GS. This file can be crudely modified with a paint program.
HIGHTDAT.pcx (15776 bytes) This is HEIGHT.DAT . Each pixel represents the height of the terrain at the top left or bottom right corners of a tile. This file can be modified using the M1TP2 terrain editor.
AIRPORT.jpg (13468 bytes) This is the tile for the airport used throughout Gunship. (via screencap)

There are several files which define each world. Here is a list:

Name Used for View as
campaign.dat Unknown .RAW graphic
height.dat Topography of the terrain .RAW graphic
objects.txt Places roads or object groups Text file
shade.dat Controls type and location of tiles .RAW graphic
shades.txt Lists the file names (*.pcx) for the 64 tiles used in this world Text file
terrain.dat Unknown .RAW graphic
tiles.txt Very interesting. Contains references for tiles, lighting, weather. I've played with this a bit, but could not see the results in GS. Inactive? Worth exploring further.. Text file
treerun.dat A holdover from M1TP2. Places vertical or horizontal rows of trees. Not used in GS map design, but works in Larry Hookins' editor.   I wrote "HI" in kilometer high letters across NPoland.. Maybe use to place orchards? .RAW graphic
work.dat Unknown .RAW graphic

These pics show my test area. A new ocean with a grid of all the shades used in shade.dat for NPOLAND. Oceans are easy. Land is hard. Organizing them into a new map may take a while...

terrmod1.jpg (24800 bytes) tiletest1.jpg (21837 bytes) tiletest2.jpg (26570 bytes)




This is really where Gunship enhancement got started a couple of years ago. This is covered in detail in the Mission Editing guide here.  Suffice it to say that you can create incredibly detailed missions in Gunship. Don't forget Rudi's GunTool, too. It isn't that hard, (heck, I've done it myself..), and it's lots of fun.



Objects - One way to do it

This is a really interesting area. Jim Trapp led the exploration of this, and it's turning out to be a rich topic.

Objects are, oddly enough, the 3D objects displayed on the ground while you are flying that snazzy virtual helicopter around. Houses, Trees, office buildings. You can see them all here in my catalogue of 3D objects.

The display location of these objects is controlled by the files in this directory (US path shown):

C:/Program Files/Microprose/Gunship!/Data/Tiles/Data/

Lets look at what's inside an easily recognized one:


OBJ: 27 182 152 90 0
OBJ: 27 182 130 90 0
OBJ: 27 182 107 90 0
OBJ: 27 182 85 90 0
OBJ: 27 182 63 90 0
OBJ: 28 87 166 0 0
OBJ: 29 88 141 0 2
OBJ: 40 88 131 0 0
OBJ: 29 156 48 180 2
OBJ: 29 149 48 180 0
OBJ: 20 191 53 90 0
OBJ: 38 88 135 0 2
OBJ: 29 163 48 180 1
OBJ: 29 171 48 180 2
OBJ: 20 191 74 90 1
OBJ: 20 191 96 90 2
OBJ: 20 191 118 90 1
OBJ: 20 191 141 90 2
OBJ: 20 88 156 270 1
OBJ: 20 88 147 270 1
OBJ: 29 87 162 0 0
OBJ: 26 14 89 0 2
OBJ: 26 14 98 0 3
OBJ: 26 14 106 0 2
OBJ: 26 14 114 0 3
OBJ: 45 228 62 0 3
OBJ: 45 242 84 0 3
OBJ: 45 144 224 0 3
OBJ: 45 212 235 0 3
OBJ: 45 18 35 0 3
OBJ: 41 217 104 90 2

Isn't that fascinating, you say.

What this file does, is tell Gunship which object to place where on every tile named "airport". The tiles are 256 x 256 pixels, and the X / Y coordinates are roughly in meters. So each tile is about 250 meters square.

It parses out like this:

OBJ: 27 182 152 90 0
Put Object number
at coords X and Y facing (?) and display at this detail level*

The first line, (in this case "32"), refers to the number of objects on the tile. 32 also happens to be the maximum number of Objects that you can place on a particular type tile.

*Jim figured out that the last number is actually the 3d object density setting enumeration.  A 3d object density setting of high displays objects level 3 and lower, medium density displays objects level 2 and lower, etc., right down to software 3d object density displaying level 0 objects only. 

The tricky part in placing objects, is that when you tell GS to put 10 houses in the middle of say the Grass1 tile, you apparently get 10 houses on each and every Grass1 tile in every 16km2 mission area in every World you use.The terrain can wind up looking  very crowded. More like suburbia than Poland. Which is fine if that's the look you're after.  I suspect that game performance might eventually suffer from too many objects, but maybe not. But if making new terrain, you can make a new set of object files to place things differently.


modwor2.jpg (14210 bytes)

Here is a new version of the airport that I'm working on. Note real flashing runway lights, admin building, and antennas moved away from the middle of the runways. There is even an ammo dump that explodes when hit.

terenh2_small.jpg (1439 bytes)

Here is a view of Jim Trapp's house enhancements. Details here.

Here's another tantalizing bit: We've been discussing the directory data/tiles/data/*.txt . GS also creates another empty directory data/tiles/geodata. I would LOVE to know what that was intended for...

So that's basically what we know so far about placing individual 3D objects. But what about placing groups of objects?


Objects - The other way to do it

There is also a way to place groups of objects as a set, according to the same type of coordinates used for waypoints and unit placement. This is also how roads are placed.

Take a look in this directory. Each of the five Worlds has an objects.txt file like this. (US path shown):

C:/Program Files/Microprose/Gunship!/Data/World/Ukraine/objects.txt

Man, there is a lot of stuff in there.

Here is an example, and how Gunship parses it out:

ROAD 1 6320 123149 6038 123149
Put a road of this type Starting at coords X / Y and ending at coords X / Y
TOWN 1 4851 1148
Put a set of structures of this type at coords X / Y


There are two types of roads (1 and 2). They appear to be the same, but I suspect they render differently depending your graphics settings. Not sure about this. They also wander quite realistically between start and end.


There are only five groups of structures, (generically called Towns), used in GS. It may be possible to add more types someday.

Here is a screencap of each type:

TOWN_1.jpg (33300 bytes) TOWN_2.jpg (36564 bytes) TOWN_4.jpg (37793 bytes) TOWN_3.jpg (34322 bytes) TOWN_5.jpg (34943 bytes)
Large city
(only appears on a city tile)
Small city
(only appears on a city tile)
(only appears on airport tile)
Somehow places random structures near roads Communications towers (2)

Even though there are only five types of "towns", you can place them anywhere on any map that you want. And you can combine them, too. However towns 1,2 and 3 only seem to work if place them on the appropriate city or airport tile. And of course, they are already there.

commplex.jpg (30058 bytes)


Here is an example of this method used to build a Communications Complex  using Roads, Town 4 and Town 5:
/*comm center by fng2k 8/2001*/
ROAD 1 104625 152765 102300 33300
ROAD 1 102300 33300 102000 33200
ROAD 1 102302 33300 102002 33200
ROAD 1 102300 33300 102000 33600
ROAD 1 102300 33300 102600 33200
ROAD 1 102300 33300 102600 33600
ROAD 1 102300 33300 101900 33300
ROAD 1 102300 33300 102200 32900
TOWN 5 102000 33100
TOWN 5 102000 33200
TOWN 5 102000 33500
TOWN 5 102000 33600
TOWN 5 101900 33300
TOWN 3 102300 33300
TOWN 5 102500 33100
TOWN 5 102600 33200
TOWN 5 102500 33500
TOWN 5 102600 33600
TOWN 4 102000 33000
TOWN 5 102200 32900
TOWN 5 102200 32930
And here is the code for it.  If you want to try it out, here's how. As is common for most of these mods, you will first need to go to the "properties" of this file (in windows explorer, right-click the file and choose "properties"), and then un-select the "read-only" box.

Copy all the code in the box at left to your clipboard (ctrl+c), then open the following file in a text editor and paste it (ctrl+v) at the end after all the existing code (US path shown):

C:\Program Files\Microprose\Gunship!\Data\World\Czech\objects.txt

To view it, write a mission within range of those coordinates, or copy the following into a new text file, and save it in your data/battles/player directory:

TITLE: Comm Center test
BATTLEFIELD: CZECH 102000 33000 0 0 5 25
PLATOON: 112 102000 33000 180 0 102000 33000 3 601

More to come...





File and Directory information

The following is what we have learned about the formats and functions of various files used in Gunship! . This is organized according to the directory they are kept in. All this is based upon the US version of Gunship, and I would be interested to hear of any differences in the structure of the European versions.

The big one here is of course gunship.exe. Rummaging around in here with a hex editor has been very informative. I'll post a list of all the text strings in it

The other important one is the readme.rtf file, containing lots of important info. One intriguing thing are these references in its header:

Uses Miles Sound System. Copyright © 1991-2000 by RAD Game Tools, Inc.
Uses Bink Video, Copyright © 1997-2000 by RAD Game Tools, Inc.

The 3D enciclopedia refers to this group. It's a fascinating place to visit, and implies that because MicroProse didn't actually create all the 3D objects in Gunship, there must be a way to convert them from some common format to the *.3dz format used in Gunship and European Air War. Or it maybe that this company was simply the source of the vehicles and aircraft used in the videos used throughout Gunship, which look slightly different than those in the missions.

The sound and video systems are cool, too. Check them out.



This directory contains a variety of interesting files, particularly the two biggest ones:

images.cat 21.6 MB
images1.cat 23.7 MB

These are the ultimate treasure for those interested in GS mods and enhancements. If we want to make or edit aircraft skins,terrain tiles or even aircraft performance, we need to be able to read from these files.
And now we can!

They contain large numbers of individual files, archived into one catalogue, similar to the way multiple files can be combined into one .ZIP file. The compression method seems to be a variant of the compress.exe/LZexpand.dll system used among C programmers, but I could be very wrong. It has resisted all amateur access attempts so far, but to my knowledge, no high-level C programmers have really looked at it yet. (any volunteers?)

There are several fan-built utilities available for other MicroProse titles that use .cat files, such as Transport Tycoon and Gran Prix 2.  I haven't had much luck using them on Gunship files, because they tend to be custom-written for those games. I recommend looking at them if you are interested. This one (decat.exe for Transport Tycoon) did extract some files from images.cat as .bin BLOBs, but I still can't figure out what they are! I suspect they are sound files.

What we really need is a picpac.exe utility like the one MicroProse released to the European Air War community. But I'm not holding my breath...

And I just made an interesting discovery. In hindsight, it's a real forehead-slapping "DOH!" situation. I had been using a working assumption, (based on string data in gunship.exe), that images.cat contained code libraries and some graphics used in Gunship prior to launching a mission, and that images1.cat contained all the 3D object skins, tiles and sprites displayed during a mission. But I was always puzzled as to why there was a data\images directory, but not a data\images1 directory. (These .cat files are accessed by GS transparently, basically as though they were a set of hidden directories.)

As is not uncommon, I was completely wrong. Guess what:

images.cat and images1.cat are the same.

Or at least, they are different versions of the same catalogue. If you rename the two files as each other, Gunship still seems to work fine! (Although I have just started playing with this).

So this raises some intriguing questions: Why ship two files? And why is one 2 MB larger than the other? What's in there?

Here are some wild-a** guesses:

In any case, I encourage folks to swap the names of these two files, and play around with it for a while to see if any differences show up. Don't do this when flying in multiplayer though, because as we learned with HeloSwapper, GS does swap some files around in unknown ways. Although if two brave souls did make this change and tried multiplayer, it could be very enlightening...


Speaking of which...

In many games, you can make a new skin, then insert it into the game by placing it in a certain directory. When the game launches, it checks first to see if a skin file that it needs for, say, a Hind fuselage is in that directory or not. If it is, it uses it. If not, it gets it from its default compressed catalogue file.  This works with the graphics used in GS too. (That is how this mod does it.)

The directory contains four files named "spriten'.ACT".
These are Adobe Photoshop Color Tables (palettes), and I assume these supercede the same files stored in images.cat. We need a volunteer to delete them temporarily and find out what changes.

This is a copy of the last mission flown, created at launch, and is the file transmitted to other Players by the Host in a multiplayer session.

This is a C library containing the sound drivers used in Gunship.

This is a windows sound driver library.

It's amazing to see just how many people worked on this great program. Where are they now?...Drop me a line if you have any Gunship! info you can share.

Here are the 3D object shape files that Heloswapper manipulates. Their exterior graphics, called "skins", are in .pcx format and contained in the data\images.cat and images1.cat files described above.

Most 3d objects have three versions, one for each of the following PC video settings:

The 3D objects have varying degrees of detail, depending on how visible they are in the game. They range from low-resolution versions used to display an object at a distance, medium detail, for intermediate distance and scenic elements, up to the meticulously detailed close-ups of the helicopters.

For example:

TIGERT2.jpg (25958 bytes) TIGLOLO.jpg (24044 bytes) TIGERT.jpg (28349 bytes) TIGER.jpg (16719 bytes)
tigert2.3db tiglolo.3db tigert.3db tiger.3db


Most aircraft and vehicles are made up of multiple components. Tanks, for example, usually have at least two component files, such as T80_H.3dz ("H" for Hull), and T80_T.3dz ("T" for Turret). The Apache has more than 50, including the distance views, rotors and individual weapons. Many structures and vehicles also have two versions. For example, TENT_1.3dz is an intact tent, while TENT_1W.3dz is the "wrecked" version of a tent.

The *.3dz file format was also used by MicroProse in their popular European Air War simulator. (See Cord's 3DZ tutorial). There is a very active EAW community , and many people enjoy designing and painting their own aircraft. One utility they use called 3D!Studio can be used to modify the 3D wireframe shapes.  It's author, Alessandro Borges, will be releasing a updated version soon which will also allow rescaling the objects, so we may be able to swap 3D objects between EAW and GS in the future, or create and add entirely new ones. EAW aircraft are roughly 1/4 the size of the aircraft modelled in Gunship, as Pretzel discovered.

There are several subdirectories here;

Hint: take a close look at the missions in the campaign and Training directories. (Open them with any text editor.) There are some unusual parameters that imaginative battle builders could have fun using in custom missions....How about your own soundtrack?

There is only one file in here, but it sure surprised me! Open cockpit.dat in any text editor and look at the parameters: they all relate to TANK cockpits!

I suspect that full Tank Platoon! functionality is VERY close to the surface in Gunship, and that a small team of developers would have little difficulty in enabling it.

Gunship!\data\Fonts contains, of all things, fonts for the text displayed in Gunship.


The first four directories contain all the .wav files of the voices heard in Gunship. They are identical, other than being in German, Russian, British and American. Each has the file PHRASE.TXT which acts as an index. An amazing amount of work, if you think about it. JT discovered that Gunship ignores the phrase.txt files in RSpeech, UKSpeech, and GSpeech.   So, putting his modified phrase.txt file in the Speech directory affects the phrases of all nationalities.  "I never would have guessed that the game behaves this way. ", says he. "Shrug", says I.

Sounds contains all the sound effects.

All of these audio files are all in standard .wav format, so they can be edited or replaced. There are tremendous possibilities for adding or manipulating the audio in Gunship. See the mods page for Jim Trapp's audio enhancements.

These are the cool videos displayed throughout Gunship. They are in a format called Bink Video, and a free player\.avi converter is available here. You could even make your own!


This directory contains two types of files:

These 82 text files contain the settings which control how and where terrain-related 3D objects are displayed. Amazing stuff. Full details here.

There is also another directory created at installation called Gunship!\data\Tiles\geodata. It's empty, but tantalizing. "Geodata" is a term sometimes used with digital mapping...


These are the five geographic regions shipped with Gunship. See here for file info.
This is where you put Larry Hookins' M1TP2 Terrain Editor if you want to play with it. Remember to remove the "Read Only" flag in the properties of all the World files first.



Sound elements

Under construction





Email: gshelipad@lycos.com