Loading .x files the easy way


These notes describe how you can easily load a .x file into a mesh object and render it. This method looses any hierarchy information in the mesh file and hence any animation. If you wish to keep this information you will need to load the .x file using an alternative function as described in x file loading


Loading an .x file involves the use of the D3DX mesh object and its interfaces. As usual we must declare a mesh pointer.

LPD3DXMESH mesh; // Our mesh object

To load the X file we use a D3DX function called D3DXLoadMeshFromX. This function creates an instance of the mesh object and loads all the geometry. It flattens any frame hierarchy in the file and separates the data by material and texture. It stores it internally in what is known as a subset, each subset has a set of geometry that should be drawn using a certain texture and material. You have to maintain the materials and textures yourself, to access them you use a temporary material buffer. An example may explain this better:

LPD3DXBUFFER materialBuffer;
DWORD numMaterials;            // Note: DWORD is a typedef for unsigned long

// Load the mesh from the specified file
                             gD3dDevice, NULL,
                             &materialBuffer,NULL, &numMaterials,
                             &mesh );

Note: if the x file resides in memory you can use the equivalent function D3DXLoadMeshFromXInMemory

The above creates an instance of the mesh object and loads the file geometry into the mesh object. Additionally it takes a pointer to a variable that will be filled with the number of materials in the mesh (numMaterials) and a pointer to a material buffer (materialBuffer). This material buffer provides us with access to the materials and textures in the .x file. We need to loop through this material buffer extracting the material properties and texture filenames and load the textures our selves.

D3DXMATERIAL* d3dxMaterials = (D3DXMATERIAL*)materialBuffer->GetBufferPointer();

The above is a bit of a nasty cast required to get the buffer pointer to be a pointer to D3DXMATERIAL. Don’t get confused between the material buffer above with type D3DXMATERIAL and the material used before rendering (D3DMATERIAL9). The above is simply a .x file buffer that we extract the information from into our own materials.

The next step is to create two arrays to hold our material and texture pointers. When creating a class to load .x files these variables should be made member variables of the class:

D3DMATERIAL9 *meshMaterials = new D3DMATERIAL9[numMaterials];
LPDIRECT3DTEXTURE9 *meshTextures  = new LPDIRECT3DTEXTURE9[numMaterials];

Now we need to loop through the materials held in the .x file material buffer and copy them into our material array. We also must load the textures (if provided) and store pointers to these textures in our texture array. Remember a .x file may have many materials and textures. You cannot assume that every material will have an associated texture, some may have no texture at all where by your texture pointer should be set to NULL.

for (DWORD i=0; i<m_numMaterials; i++)

 // Copy the material
 meshMaterials[i] = d3dxMaterials[i].MatD3D;

 // Set the ambient color for the material (D3DX does not do this)
 meshMaterials[i].Ambient = meshMaterials[i].Diffuse;
 // Create the texture if it exists - it may not
 meshTextures[i] = NULL;
 if (d3dxMaterials[i].pTextureFilename)
     D3DXCreateTextureFromFile(gD3dDevice, d3dxMaterials[i].pTextureFilename,     &meshTextures[i])


Finally since we are now done with the .x file material buffer we need to release it:


Note: the code above does no error checking on return HRESULTS. You must check the return values for errors especially when you load the texture as it may be it cannot be found (this is a common cause of problems when people first use .x files). It may be that you need to alter the path contained in the texture filename to your own data path. See String Handling.


We now have a mesh object that contains the geometry. We also have an array containing materials and textures for each of the subsets in the geometry.To render is therefore quite simple:

After setting our world matrix we loop through the subsets in the mesh setting the material and texture and calling the mesh interface DrawSubset function:

for (DWORD i=0; i<m_numMaterials; i++)
   // Set the material and texture for this subset
  // Draw the mesh subset
  m_mesh->DrawSubset( i );

As usual for more information please look in the DirectX help file. For information about accessing the vertex and index data contained in the mesh and other answers please look at the areas in the main .x files section.

Advanced Notes

Since D3DXLoadMeshFromX flattens the 3D object frame hierarchy we cannot animate our models. To do so requires loading the .x file, maintaining the hierarchy and loading the animation key frames. If you are interested you can see my advanced notes on this here : X File Animation

There are many functions that can be called on a mesh. For example you can call a function to calculate its bounding box. Also you could call a function to cast a ray into the mesh and see if it hits (for collision detection). You can also optimise the mesh and save it to a file. Look in the DirectX help for a full list of functions.

When rendering our subsets if any of them are transparent (contain alpha information) you should render them last after rendering the ones without alpha. This is required for the blending to work correctly. So you could have two loops, the first one renders all subsets where the material has a diffuse alpha component of 1.0f (no transparency) and the second one renders all those with an alpha component less than 1.0f (some transparency).