I mentioned in comments last night that I'm thinking 5.64 will be the "final" version of the main master, barring any new bugs and such.
Rather than just throw it out, I wanted to explain a bit; as well as deliver the potentially sad news that you likely won't be seeing the voiced companion system.
I'll start with the voices. I know a lot of people wanted this, myself included. The sad fact is, it's too big a project for me at this time.
There are some ten thousand voice files in Fallout 3; along with an equal number of .lip files - the file that tells the NPC how to move their mouth while the sound plays.
These ten thousand files are named like this: "convbigtown_hello_0003d8a5_1.ogg"
This, to me at least, is damned near incomprehensible. Meaning that to find out what it is, I have to listen to each file, decide if it's useful; rename sound and lip files if useful, delete if not. I have to rename them to something that will allow me to tell what in the holy hell the file is at a later time.
Once all ten thousand are sorted and the keepers renamed, they have to be copied and renamed again. Each line of dialog in the game has to have its sound file named specifically - there is no "select sound" option that allows using one file for multiple dialog lines. This has to be done not once, but once for every voice in the game. Excepting children and uniques, there are still some eight or so voices to be done; and I know if I do it for the standards, someone is going to bitch in my general direction to do it for uniques and pedo... I mean "child companions".
Then, there's still rewriting the several hundred lines of dialog in the master to match the sound files.
When I said I was embarking on the project, I had no idea of the sheer scale. By the time I had waded through a thousand voice files, and saw that I wasn't even half-way through the first female adult voice, my enthusiasm waned.
So, hate to do it, but going to have to admit my lack of worthiness and bow out of that feature, at least for the foreseeable future.
Now, on to other things.
5.64 will include the latest follower reliability enhancement I've worked out. I noticed that most of the follower problems in crowded areas were the direct result of the companion(s) getting waylaid by some NPC wanting to have one of those random conversations. Oftentimes, they seem to get stuck in the conversation. Having mingled at an event or two myself, I can feel the companions' pain there.
I've modified the 1VaultGuardPlayer package accordingly, to prevent this from happening. They'll still chat vapidly while in sandbox mode, but not while "on the clock". This has, in my testing greatly improved following performance in crowded, non-hostile areas. Rivet City's market, especially.
This will, unfortunately, also mandate that I update the following distance plugins, to reflect the new changes. When I do so, I'm going to put them directly into the master archive, and remove the separate download.
I'm also planning a revamp of the Master's NPCs. The vault inhabitants, as well as the five companions. I'd left them alone for so long... not really even sure why. Regardless, I've decided they've looked like shit long enough. Instead of a minor tweak, I'll be giving them a complete overhaul. Ground-up, if need be.
Next, I'm also considering modifying the guard packages. Currently, it's set up to guard current location only. I'm not sure I like that. What I'd like to do is set up five guard markers, that can be placed anywhere in the game world indoors or out by the player. The command will then consist of guarding location and a number. Sort of similar to a home marker - which I'll probably also add while I'm at it.
This will allow a fair bit of companion moving from dialog alone.
Lastly, I think I'm going to put the vault mirelurks on a leash, as it were. Apparently they're still getting out of the tank for some people, despite the navmesh being broken between lab and tank. I think I can fix this by putting them on a set patrol path, rather than a free sandbox. They'll just swim in a pattern. If I remember correctly, I can set the starting point of the path to random, so they shouldn't all swim in an identical line.
Beyond that... we run into the reason I'm intending this to be a final.
I just don't know where else I can take the master. The companion system works. The vault works as well as I'm able to make it, given the circumstances. There aren't many options left to add, and most of the ones that are lacking just aren't practical from within in the engine.
I can't alter the vault to make it better laid-out, or split into multiple cells to ease system load, as doing so would cause considerable problems for Refurbished.
So on that front, at least, I'm relegated to making my improvements in my Remodeled plugin, where I don't have to worry about conflicts.
Ditto for other ideas. The quest mod I mentioned to Herculine once is completely out, as it would be totally incompatible with Refurb. Expanding the Vault's influence into Springvale doesn't look practical, either, as it would conflict with not only a slew of other mods, but apparently Broken Steel, as well.
Not only have we reached a "where do we go from here?" moment, but with so many people planning to jump ship like rats from the Titanic the nanosecond New Vegas goes gold, I have to wonder if I should even bother trying anything grandiose.
Granted, some of Oblivion's best mods came out after FO3 hit, but that's not quite an accurate comparison. FO3 and Oblivion were the same engine, but different genres; oftentimes different fanbases. New Vegas is the next in the Fallout series. If it works even remotely well, I have to believe that FO3 is going to quickly become a ghost town.