Software Render sky
The file sky0-#.dat contains a raw image of the sky you see in Software Render mode. But when Populous renders the image, it transforms it into that you see in game, when you open it, the colours are mixed-up. In order to successfully create a Software Render Sky, you must do the transformation manually on the palette. You have to use a Hex Editor and open the palette file (pal0-#.dat). Make sure to copy the palette and don’t edit the original, as if you do so, it will mess up the whole game. We only need this palette to correctly extract the sky to edit with Photoshop, then put the image back into Populous. When you opened the copied file, select the first 576 bytes (240 in HEX), cut them and paste to the bottom of the file. Save your new palette and open the sky texture file with this palette.
All you have to do now is to alter this image or replace with a new one, but note one thing: You can NOT change the palette with Photoshop. The image will only work with Pop palette, and you will see the original colour even if you change one. You must change the same colour (which is not in the same place because of the transformation) to achieve the same effect, but this may alter other textures in the game, so changing only the sky palette is not recommended. If you make a completely new terrain style, you might reserve a few colours in the palette (in most cases 16 colours are enough, Bullfrog’s skies use 16 colours) and when you’re done with your sky, change those reserved colours to the ones you want. Since the sky is Terrain-Style-Specific, you can use any colour in the 256 palette, even the ones used by the terrain, the ones used by the tribes, everything.
After you are finished editing your sky, save it as a 256 colour BMP and open with Ted’s Raw Editor, then save it as the sky texture.
Note that the texture must be repeatable from all sides, otherwise it will look very bad – this is just a simple image that Populous renders at the top of the screen, it rotates and moves together with your camera. It’s not a problem if you can’t make a high quality Software Render sky. This game mode uses 256 colors only so it’s impossible to make good looking skies, however try and make it as good as possible and let it use the entire palette, not just 16 colours that the original skies uses. There are 3 spaces on the Bottom palette that you can use it for your sky but not for the terrain. If you take a look at the third line of the Bottom palette you’ll see that it begins with 4 blacks, but Populous only uses the first one (the exception is the Land Shading and Effects Palette but most likely you’ll re-make them anyway if you change the palette) so you can change those blacks to sky colours. Note however that since it’s located on the Bottom palette you can’t use those for the terrain.
The D3D sky works different, it has 3 layers and the first layer (which is called the b layer) is always at the bottom of the sky and stays even if you rotate and move your camera (this is the backbround), and the other 2 layers (the sky itself) are rendered to it, it keeps moving all the time, even if you pause the game – but it rotates with your camera unlike the background layer which is static. To edit a D3D sky just go to the d3d folder of the data and open the correct file with Photoshop (dsky0-#x.png – x=b (bg layer), 1 (first sky layer) or 2 (second sky layer)) then do anything you want, you don’t have to watch out for the palette, D3D works with True Colour so use whatever your monitor can display. But note that the sizes of the images must match with the original, and the first and second sky layer should be transparent to render it correctly to the background layer. The sky layers must be repeatable to display it correctly, however the background layer is not repeated so you can use all kinds of gradients as a background.
Sky editing tools
If you can’t do the Palette Transformation using the HEX editor, you can use this simple program. It simply transforms the palette the same way you would and save as a different palette. Remember: Never put the transformed palette into Populous, use it only with Ted’s editor to open the sky.
How to use the program:
1. Open the Palette
2. Save the Transformed Palette
3. Load the Transformed Palette into Ted’s Raw Editor and open the Sky.