plague wrote:

I can never get the black bg to become transparent. I tried rgb000 as the background and saved at 256 colors in windows 8 bit. What happens in the game is either the background is pure black, or white, and the ship is usually transparent itself. While I am at it, what program is used for the animation of other bitmaps, like qdrive, or the explosions

If someone can provide a quick step howto, I would greatly appreciate it, program names would be helpful. : )

In a .bmp file, every pixel has three values associated with it. SF needs some pixels to be transparent instead of colored, so it uses a simple rule. Every pixel that has less than a certain amount of color is 'changed' to transparent. The "certain amount of color" is defined in the ship (or weapon, or planet, whatever) bmp section of the .dat file. Here's a sample (sf_bmp_weapons.sec)
* class race name file nF Sz seqT tc alpha
missile Arcean Powerup sf-pow 36 20 time 0 75
missile Arcean Blaster sf-y-dm 4 4 time 0 100
missile Terran MassDriver sf-b-dm 4 4 time 0 100

The important part is the "tc" field. For all three of these weapons it is set to 0. Every occurrence of rgb000 in these images should be transparent.

I suspect what is happening is you're taking a high-color image that has the right values for proper transparancies but when you save it as a 256 color image the software is adjusting your pallet (changing rgb000 to rgb111 or somesuch) in order to 'squeeze' the image into 256 colors.

If this is the problem (heck if I know, it seems like a good guess) then you need to reduce the number of colors to 256, then ensure that all the 'transparent' pixels are rgb000, then ensure that the opaque black pixels are > 000, then save it/rotate it/whatever. If your software doesn't have a 'reduce colors' option, you can save it in 256 color and then reload it to achieve the same effect.

Best of luck.

-Jason Kane