From: Vermont, USA
We're not ready to release modding guides or documentation yet, but I understand it's important to give the modding community some answers on these sooner rather than later. I'll get together with Elliot and some of our other folks and see if we can move modding up on the preview schedule. However, some of this is still work in progress and not yet final, so we may not be able to answer everything until we are pretty close to release.
A few quick general answers. Because of the sub-mesh system we use for our external ship components, there is definitely a bit of a learning curve to getting a 3D model fully ready for DW2. We have a good process for our internal artists and some tools to help with validation and integration, but before we release to the public some more polishing needs to happen. Our goal is for the initial release to allow anyone with a decent 3D modeling program and the modding documentation to get a working 3D ship or station into the game. It should not require any specific or expensive 3D software. We're also hoping to do something to make it easier for ship modders who only work in 2D to at least make texture modifications to customize some generic 3D hulls, but that remains to be seen and initially the community may have to do some of the lifting there.
Some of the component setup is done during the modeling and rigging, the rest in the ship hull data. We are using the Xenko engine and while we have modified it for our purposes, you can get an idea of how it works with 3D models by downloading a free version here http://xenko.com/
We also have as a goal to make as much of the game data (similar to what was accessible in DWU) easily accessible for modding in the initial release, including our new event scripting system, but I doubt we will have time to do more than that in this release (i.e. AI scripting that was previously brought up and such).
We intend to gradually increase moddability over the course of future releases, based on what we hear from the modding community after the initial release.