Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Half Constructed Skyrim Estate

Since FNV companion advancements, and considerable Skyrim graphical overhauls are both long-winded posts, I thought we'd start off with something... smaller.

Over the years of playing Skyrim, I haven't really used the big house mods like in other games. I generally got by with something in the base game; but they all have issues.

Whiterun's house is too small, Riften's, too; Riften has no smelter, Solitude has no smelter; Markarth is so far removed from anything that it's just plain inconvenient. Windhelm has it all -- plenty of space and storage, easy access to enchanting, smelting, smithing, and alchemy... but you have to play through damned near the entire civil war quest to even get the option of buying it. It was only recently that I slogged through that mess -- mostly for the express purpose of trying out that house. Not sure it was worth it.

In the realm of mods, the Riverside Lodge is nice. It's not really me though. I usually end up using it as a place to billet extra companions. The "build your own house!" house is nice, and has suitable requirements to not feel like you got given the place; but it's in the ass-end of nowhere, and a severe pain to get to when you're doing the whole no fast travel thing.

Then Hearthfire came along. Have to curry favor with the Jarl; buy the land, build the house as you go... all nice. Have their own smelters, forges, alchemy and enchanting equipment; the houses even have carriages for no-fast-travel. Trouble is, the Hearthfire houses are... limited. Each wing gets one of three options; and those three options can not be used in any other wing; EG: you get the expanded bedroom in the west wing, or not at all. Want a library? Then you can't have a kitchen. Want a deck outside on the north face of the house for the view? Then you have to have the store room, and don't get the alchemy tower or display area.

Eventually, the urge to mod won out. I had been putting off construction of a Skyrim estate, since I didn't much care for any of the tilesets; and didn't want to cop out and do my usual apocalyptic underground stronghold. Got bored enough to dig through the Hearthfire master one night, though, and saw that its pieces were pretty modular, and could be slapped together into something way less restrictive.

After scouting some areas, I decided on a spot across the river from the Solitude sawmill. It wasn't used for anything, was open and relatively flat; had easy access to water, fish, and so-on; wasn't near a major road-way; and with a mod to expand carriages, it was just a short ford across the river from the sawmill.

In my usual style, though, ideas got the better of me as to the size of the estate, and well...

 ended up being like 2.5 Hearthfire houses in one.

Built up some rocks to serve as a base; added support posts, ladders, and stairs. The whole mess navmeshed surprisingly easy. Skyrim doesn't work exactly like the Fallouts in that regard, but the learning curve from one to the other was short.

The terrace running around the outside will have the garden planters:

As well as the outdoorsy crafting amenities:

While not completed yet, there will also be a pool (as soon as I can figure out which set of meshes people keep using to make them), and a sitting area. The view is nice:

It's also set up to accommodate dragon attacks:

As well, around the rocks that make up the base are markers for insects, and catchable fish in the river below; although no nets since I didn't figure authorities would take kindly to someone dredge-netting the river at its narrowest and shallowest point.

The interior didn't get very far, as I quickly realized that it will be a framerate destroyer as one cell; and I haven't thus far decided exactly how to break it up. Completed so far are the entryway:

Main dining area:


and bathroom:

...Yes, the toilet is a chair with a hole in it sitting over a pipe with a shutter. It was the most plausible thing I could think of shut up.

Needless to say everything still has to be cluttered, furnished, and have accent lights added; but as you can also tell from the guests in some of the screenshots the whole thing is already navmeshed and NPC-friendly.

The basement, when constructed (you can see the access hatch in one of the kitchen shots) will have a well, some mushrooms growing, and probably a larder/root cellar thing going on.

In the exterior, I'll eventually be adding a stone wall at the property's edge, a stable, small barn, and path leading out to the road. The house will also be tagged and set up properly to integrate into the Radiant quest system; and marked off into its own area for the AI to have some more flexibility. In the end, I intend to have the girls moved from their current start location in Riverwood to the estate, with a complex package list similar to the one I use in FNV; so that they can live a day-to-day life when not traveling with me.

Sadly, this will all probably take quite a while; since time constraints in my day-to-day life aside, the Creation Kit's cell editor hates both me and my PC.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Long Silence



I'm not dead, though some days I feel like it.

I didn't throw in the towel and tell the world to piss up a rope, either (though again, some days...).

April 7th of this year, my 65-year old Dad had a "moderately severe" stroke. He didn't die, but ended up partially paralyzed; in rehab. "Two to three months" became four; became six; became "mid-December, hopefully".

Since he hasn't been married since '95, and my younger brother is still a worthless sack of pothead shit, it fell to me: eldest son, power of attorney, executor or the will, et cetera to take on everything. Running his life, and mine, occasionally sleeping and eating, and putting in the time to keep myself from becoming single again has pretty much killed my free time.

When I do drag ass home anywhere between 2030 and 0100 every night, I'm too worn out to do much. I still game, of course (have to do something to stave off burnout of not having a day off in eight months); still trawl imageboards and forums; even steal a few hours to mod here and there... it's just that few hours to dedicate to throwing together a post that seem to elude me.

That said, I've been meaning to post for literally months; and tonight I'm in more than a bit of pain from moving a bookshelf/desk combo that I really should have unloaded first, and don't seem to have anything better to do.

Probably lost all six of my readers at this point, but what the hell.

I'll be trying to throw together a few posts in the next few days -- show off and talk a bit about all the neato stuff I've done in the last... wow, last post was in September '13? That's lazy, even for me...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Swing and a Miss

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it?

I haven't been idle; but between real life messes and not wanting to incur any more "y ur mods r no 1 click insatl?????" I've defaulted back to my old habits of just modding things that I personally want in my game; and not based on whether I think something would be popular with 'the community'.

Expanded the Estate again; did some more work on the girls; perfected my process to use a quest to add items (weapons and mods, specifically) to game-wide leveled lists via script (conflict free) and then switch itself off to have hopefully zero impact on game performance past the first few seconds.

While the weapon-adding code was a smashing success, recent efforts were... not.

Over the weekend, I decided to explore a want I've had in Fallout since 3 was still the one we were all playing -- a zombie mod.

I know, there are a few around. Trouble is, they're all the "apocalypse" type -- stupid gauntlet type shit where a zombie spawns every square meter of the game, and respawns every twelve seconds; turning the entire thing into less of a sandbox game, and more a "how long can you stay alive?"

Useful for testing combat AIs; nigh worthless for a full game.

So, I started up something less... overbearing. The idea was fairly simple: ghouls would spawn in "packs" at the Nuclear Testing Site; and move across the Mojave at the more Romero-esque walking pace towards any sizable settlement; where they would then either roam through town, or try to enter some of the buildings looking for people.

The idea was that settlements would be under regular assault; but not overwhelmed -- slowly worn down as the zombies killed off a guard or townsperson or two each attack, until finally there was no one left. Military installations would of course weather better -- McCarran and Cottonwood Cove both have enough soldiers handy to repel the waves with minimal losses; but places like Novac and Goodsprings would have a lot more trouble.

Setup was easy enough -- one feral and one Glowing One copy for each place to be attacked; slap a travel package to some arbitrary point in or near enough to the target that they won't get lost; put some code into the packages' OnEnd block to remove the travel package and add the attack package when their target is reached; make sure low level processing is enabled so that the engine will still move them even when they're not loaded into the game; drop as many as you need into the game world; fire it up to test...

...and it doesn't fucking work. Of course.

Turns out that while low level processing will allow the zombies to follow their travel packages when the player isn't around to see it; the OnEnd block in the packages won't fire unless they're loaded into the game and active at the time. So what you get is a group of ten zombies standing idle at the travel package destination until the player shows up; at which point they go apeshit and attack you instead of the town.

That, by the by, is when Maeva and the custom Saiga 12 I gave her come in mighty handy. I generally carry long range, powerful, slow-firing weapons; which it turns out aren't good for dealing with runner-type zombies ten at a time. My poor, three shot Rhino just couldn't keep up.

Anyway; tested four different settlements, and all had the same issue, so I don't think it was a one-off where the engine just got its head up its ass again.

Not sure what to do. The theory is sound; but like so many of my other ideas the engine won't let it execute properly. Scripting the package changes via quest script would necessitate setting the zombies up as explicit references; and would add to the CPU load more than a bit, since it would have to monitor the location of and alter the packages of a hundred and forty creatures (assuming I never decided to expand it further). Slapping the attack packages directly onto the zombies would remove a lot of the randomness; since they'd no longer select an attack behavior at random once they reach the settlement. Making them a random spawn with pre-set attack packages won't work since spawns don't trigger until the player is in their cell... and both of those last ones assume that the zombies won't get lost between points A and B in the first place -- remember, even Beth copped out and made the vanilla companions move back home via script because their travel packages and/or the package hand-off to sandboxing were so unreliable.

Probably the safest bet would be to forgo the travel altogether and just set up the random spawns in the town... but that kills the possibility of running across the zombies in transit, out in the desert -- which was half the damned point of the entire thing.

I guess if I want this like I envisioned, I'm going to have to micromanage the shit out of it and not leave anything up to randomness.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Delivery From Skyrim


It Glows!

I sat up playing Civ4 until nearly 0700 Saturday, I didn't end up getting back up until nearly 1800. So it is that I sit awake now.

Seems to be fuckall going on in the late night/early morning -- nothing on TV, XM continues to be made of suck and fail since the Sirius takeover; nothing interesting on any forums or boards.

Decided to spend some time modding; which I haven't gotten to do much lately due to life being annoying. Should probably be creating weapons and scripting their leveled list adders in FNV... but that crap is so boring. Ended up monkeying with Skyrim, instead.

Readers will no doubt be aware that one of the more memorable features of everyone's favorite demoness (aside from being friggin' huge) is that her eyes glow; and not with that boring, "brighter than the sun" single color glow-y spot that you can see from space, either. Regular readers may also recall that when I initially tried carrying this effect over to Skyrim, I failed miserably.

Well, I've learned a fair bit more about working with models since then, and figured I could give it another go. Better than watching The Matrix for a forty-third time on Cinemax, anyway.

Made the alterations to the mesh; made the alterations in the relevant entries in the SuCK; loaded the game... and no change.


...Then I remembered I forgot to export her facegen files again; since while I didn't edit the character, the eyes and eye textures are nonetheless listed in the facegen mesh. Once I did that...

...Ye Gods; it looked like some shit from /tesg/. Still, they glow; so now it's just a matter of finding the right settings... and modifying the eye texture to be the right color to emulate the Fallout setup; and looking up which emissive color I used to get the right bleed-through effect; and creating a whole new glowmap that looks less like shit...

While I was "under the hood" anyway, I also decided to see to a couple other issues. It's fairly well known that while an otherwise outstanding body, UNP/B/C/et al have an issue wherein the default head is too big for the body -- not quite cartoonish in proportion, but not anatomically correct for a human being, either. I've known for several months how to fix it; but never bothered because doing it right would involve setting up a custom skeleton for each race... and I'm y'know, lazy and all. Figured I may as well tonight, though; since I was messing with a bunch of other stuff, anyway.

The results? Well, I'll let the images speak for themselves:

In all, I glowy-ed the eyes, shrank her head to human-esque proportion, made her arms and hips slightly larger (had done the legs, too; but they ended up looking messed up so I reverted them to normal), mostly fixed the issue with her underlying "hairline" mesh clipping through the main hair (you can still see a teeny spot in that second-to-last image; up at the top rear of her head -- so I apparently still need to mess with it a bit), and increased the scale of the main hair as a whole 10% to help offset it being too short and having screwed up alphas.

I wasn't sure how many tries it would take to get the eyes right; but looking through my screenshot archive from FNV, I think I nailed it as close as the games' different interpretation of meshes and lighting will allow.

While I wouldn't call it a masterwork, I'm nonetheless pretty pleased with how Maeva came out. Scaling up her hair seems to have worked nicely, too... but man that is a low quality texture. Then again, the ported hair mesh uses the same texture it had in FO3; which was the same texture it had in Oblivion... so not unexpected.

Now if I could just get those damned neck-seams to disappear...

Edit, noon-thirty PST:

Played some; got my savegames lined out (I think -- I swear to whoever's listening, I'm going to stop using any script-heavy Skyrim mods... they all seem to be game-fuckers); took some more screenshots under dimmer lighting conditions.

Here we have the wild demon; getting sloshed while listening to some live entertainment.

Back in the main game, we spent some time in the volcanic hotsprings; met a majestic endangered species... and hit it in the face with sharp objects until it died.

We ended up out east of Karthwasten after dark; finishing off some miscellaneous quests. This seemed a perfect opportunity to see how the new glowy eyes did in the dark.

As you can see, they're noticeable; but don't overpower local sources or cause the equivalent of a washout in your vision.

It's probably not something you guys can tell from the screenshots, but I messed with Maeva's hair some more, too. Increased the scale another ten percent; got the underlying "hairline" mesh to stop clipping through; and increased the volume of her hair in general.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Do It Yourself?

Got curious this morning about just how many of my FNV mods were stuff I did myself; since I tend to just create what I need at the moment and not really pay attention to it after that as long as it works.

Not counting the FNV master, the DLC, or esp "working versions" of files I use as a master, I count 59 plugins in my FNV data folder.

Yes, I run a fairly sparse game. It cuts down on crashing; and I found long ago that most of my plugins in FNV and other games were clutter -- armor or weapon mods that weren't actually in any leveled list, and that I never really used.

Of those 59 plugins, 22 were made by me. 23 if you count the version of Kaw's "Cat Outfits" plugin that I converted from FO3 myself rather than wait on an official port when FNV hit. What? I needed Maeva's horns, damn it.

So... yeah -- apparently there were quite a few things I wanted done right and/or without excess baggage and "extra features".

A Mojave Aside

Not really pertaining to mods exactly, but I went on a bit of a modding binge this evening.

I've long wanted an increases spawns mod for FNV; but the mods I've tried have uniformly sucked. The latest has recently hit the Nexus' hot files listing, but when I tested it I found out that it was not an increased spawns mod, after all -- in a simple increased spawns mod, you'd see more of whatever normally inhabited an area; just more of them. This one took every spawn type I enabled... and put them wherever I went. When I stepped out of the Estate (NNE of Jacobstown, over the mountain -- normally only inhabited by some Bighorners and a few mantises) to go test spawns, imagine my surprise when I was met by cazadores, super mutants, radscorpions, ghouls, and Legion. Might have been more... but the stupid mod spawned so many enemies (even with a 10% chance of none) that my system slowed to one frame every other second or so.

Just another case of 'if you want something done right, do it your damned self' -- so I did.

Anyway, while I was in the GECK looking around outdoor cells for certain types of spawns to multiply in a non-pantsu-on-head-retarded manner I decided to check on Bonnie Springs. I kind of waffled on this idea because if you play the long way around (like you're a'sposed to) the Vipers in Bonnie Springs are a push-over -- you'll long since have acquired the long range weapons and/or DT busting ammo you need; but the way I play, I generally roll into the park at level four, with nothing more powerful than a .357 revolver or varmint rifle. Without mods or preorder packs, it's really difficult to clear out the Vipers; since one has metal armor and one has combat armor, they're pretty much immune to anything you can loot around Goodsprings save for explosives... and since the Vipers also get to spawn with a grenade rifle and a trail carbine, getting close enough to use dynamite can be a messy proposition, too.

Digression aside, I found that I couldn't practically increase the Viper spawns, since they're scripted. Turns out most of the Vipers in the game are. I don't know why the rest of the enemies in the game didn't get the treatment, but apparently Vipers are scripted to have their corpses replaced with scavenging animals after a certain amount of time passes from their death -- the Vipers around Ranger Station Charlie actually have three levels: the Vipers, the scavengers, and then a third set that moves in when you kill the second off.

While I was trying to decide whether I wanted to edit the scripts to work with more spawns, I found this:

Those of you in the audience who have done much quest scripting in NV will probably recognize Jorge's name -- he left comments and notes in more than a few scripts. This one, I can't help but think was meant to be deleted before the game went live. Basically, it's one of the devs passive-aggressively bitching about having to scale things back to make the game work on consoles. So much for consoles being just as good as the PC, I suppose.

I thought it was funny.