The reason why I added that extra parameter was because I didn't want to go through the entire texture looking at the alpha value of each pixel to see if it is transparent. Usually you will know ahead of time whether the texture has an alpha channel, and whether the alpha channel is used or not.
I quickly did a little scan across the internet to figure out which file format to use, and I think I will end up using FBX. 3DS is about 6-7 years old and it doesn't support some of the newer features such as multi texturing. FBX is relatively new and supposed to be a "standard" 3D file format used by both Maya and 3D Studio.
You can read more about this format here: http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/in ... eID=123112