Why are Models Appearing as Cubes?

When reopening a scene the models can appear as cubes if the game settings do not include paths to the source MDL files.

Posted Mar 4, 2017
Last Updated Mar 4, 2017

Some users have been confused when re-opening a scene with Source Model nodes in the scene and finding that some or all of the models appear as cubes. This can happen when importing a VMF or when re-opening a scene that previously displayed the model correctly. The reason for this is explained below, and is the same reason that some models only appear in some games when opening Hammer.

When reopening a scene the models can appear as cubes if the game settings do not include paths to the source MDL files. The precise setting that controls this is the Game Info Path in the global settings. This must point to a folder with a file named gameinfo.txt which includes all the lookup paths needed by the MDL plugin to load MDL files into the scene.

If you load a MDL that isn't included in a search path defined in the gameinfo.txt file, the MDL will fail to load next time you load the scene.

Solutions

You have several solutions to deal with this. Any one of these will solve the problem:

  • Edit the gameinfo.txt file to include the extra search paths and VPK files used in your scene. Requires the scene to be re-opened after the change. May require you to restart Max.
  • Create a new Setting Preset in global settings that does point to a gameinfo.txt file that knows where to get your models. For example, create a preset for each separate game. Requires the scene to be re-opened after the change.
  • When importing a MDL, immediately convert it to an editable poly node so the model data is no longer needed (this is not a good option for level design, just modeling). This won't help after-the-fact (see solutions above).

As noted above, the models appearing as cubes inside Max is caused by the same thing that will cause a missing model error in Hammer--the scene is referencing a model that is not present in the current game's search paths.

  • [For Max 2014 and older] If you import a VMF and are not using a version of Max that supports the MDL plugin, your props will appear as boxes unless you have generated a prop library or do not use the Import Missing Models from QC option in the VMF importer. Prop Libraries and importing via QC is no longer the process in Max 2015+ which supports MDL files.