Monday, November 15, 2010

NCCS - Update II

I had hoped to have the initial version uploaded by now... but I'm just not comfortable releasing it yet.

There are simply too many issues.

I've made headway, but not enough.

Firstly, I've got to note that followers are even shittier in NV than they were in FO3, difficult as that is to believe.

I have constant problems with ED-E not following, not engaging in combat, not immediately following through cell-change doors, and getting lost.

My own companions are proving only marginally brighter.

I've narrowed down the problems, at least. For the most part, issues occur in the open. This seems to be because the Wasteland cells aren't navmeshed correctly. Either the engine has been changed and the navmesh is no longer read by the AI right, or the devs just couldn't be bothered to do it correctly. I'm voting for a little of each.

Random running off during combat seems to be an issue with cover - they're going in search of it. When the roll determines that they shouldn't seek cover, they fight normally. When it does determine they should seek cover, they run off in search of it. This leads me to believe that either the navmeshes don't have the cover edges identified correctly, or the engine can no longer read all the IDs. Either way, it's a sizable pain in my ass.

Further problems are found in simply moving. The navmesh is quite dodgy in places, and they get stuck or have pathfinding problems often.

Again, this behavior is commonplace with ED-E, so I can't chalk it up to my own incompetence.

Problems are also observed when combat ends. The AI temporarily loses its damned mind; locking the companion into an almost stasis like mode, where their script doesn't even run. Once an in-game hour has passed - either by using the Wait function, or by simply letting it run out at your current timescale - they snap out of it, and begin behaving normally once again.

Once combat has begun, the companions either perform perfectly, or are totally worthless. They seem to have quite a bit of trouble actually entering combat. Some code I added has helped this, but it's not 100%; or even close.

Even with their combat style set to 0% chance of taking cover, and 0 search for cover radius, they still occasionally run off when the player enters combat. This, to me, feels almost like they're having trouble finding the enemy. I've seen the behavior before. When working out the kinks of the RR Companions Vault, I moved into the fence at Fort Bannister. While there, we took fire from a sniper. The companions - who were using my at the time newly developed combat style - couldn't find where they were being fired on from, so they retreated, taking cover behind a section of wall while running their search routine.

Trouble is, now it's happening out in the open; with enemies in plain view.

This one doesn't happen with ED-E much, so odds are it's a combat style issue. Something has changed in the way the game applies the settings. Trouble is, it's an unintuitive change; nothing is showing itself as incorrect to my eye.

On the up side: when it works, it works. We walked through Scorpion Gulch earlier, and the girls proved themselves quite adept at dealing with the ambushing scorpions; but not always at dealing with the giant radscorpions. The radscorpions come at you from a distance, down the corridor; where the ambushers just spawn next to you.

This suggests that the issue may be in the pathfinding. That the companions know there's an enemy, but can't figure out how to get to it, and so backtrack to look for another route.

Unfortunately most of these issues - assuming they are what I think they are - are engine issues; and not something I can fix.

I've still got a few scripting ideas that may be able to lessen the issues... but I don't think I can wholly alleviate them.

We should bear in mind: it was around a year before Bethsoft saw fit to unfuck companions in FO3, so we shouldn't expect a quick resolution here, either. Why they have such a hardon for punishing players who like to have followers along is beyond me, though.

Regardless... per my usual tactics, I've been making my test changes to my companions. I think I'm going to throw my latest changes into the NCCS, and forward a fresh copy of the master to my partner for some more internal testing. With luck, her fortunes with the new changes will be better than mine, and I'll be talked into a release soon.

5 comments:

  1. As soon as I'm finished typing here I'll begin testing the new version with Gwen, Nadine, Lilly and Gabrielle. I'll try to deliberately put them in some of the situations you've described and report back later today.

    As always, thanks for your hard work! (Lord knows I couldn't do it...)

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  2. So far, so good...

    With an unorthodox and perhaps quite cheesy combination of a Mercenary Grenade Rifle, a missile launcher named Annabelle, a few frag grenades and my heartless use of my companions as meat shields, the Deathclaw mommy and daddy have been slain and their eggs captured. The girls seemed adequately aggressive for the task.

    I also have to agree that some of their following issues will be likely impossible to fix unless you re-pathgrid like the entire game and remove all the invisible collision boxes that the devs apparently went nuts with in the exteriors. I deliberately took the girls over some rocky terrain that I thought they couldn't follow me across, and while they couldn't stay right behind me they seem to do a good job of finding other ways to catch up without much delay.

    I haven't tried anything so extreme as trying to take on the entire NCR yet, but I'm just getting started. The day is still young, and I'll continue to monitor their behavior.

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  3. Status Report:

    The AI seems to be performing well as near as I can tell. Companions often spot and attack enemies that were hidden from my view before they have a chance to ambush us. They haven't run away from a fight yet, and during combat they seem to stay focused on the enemy.

    I've only got about a half-hour before the GF gets home, so I might not get to play more until later this evening. But at this point in time everything seems to be working well IMHO.

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  4. Good to hear.

    I found the following behavior much improved, myself.

    When leaving Scorpion Gulch and moving into Hidden Valley, we were on top of the ridge. There was no direct way down, and I didn't feel like walking all the way back and around, so I jumped to a middle ledge, and then down to the ground.

    My girls followed, while ED-E floated its cowardly metal ass back to the main path and around.

    If I could just get that combat behavior worked out...

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  5. I've been playing with your latest version most of the day now, and in my opinion you don't have anything to worry about in regard to combat behavior, aggressiveness or the like. I've taken five of the companions from my pack across the middle of the wastes, through the REPCOM Facility, Scorpion Gulch and Black Mountain. Occasionally they will allow me to kill something, but I really have to be on my toes in order to get a shot in. I'm really thinking that I shouldn't travel with more than two of them just so they'll let me play too. IMHO you've yet again done a fine job (and I don't just say that because you're the CEO and I want a Christmas bonus).

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