Well, it's been almost a week since my last post. New Vegas still doesn't work. At this point, I'm down to uninstalling it, reinstalling it, patching it, and praying to whoever's listening that this "update" doesn't b0rk the esm again.
Not in the mood to do such things the last few days, I've been working on an FO3 project I've wanted to do for quite some time.
I'm going to be straight with you all: I don't like the RR Companions Vault. It's full of errors that can't be fixed, the cell is less than optimally designed, and I bloated the companion system with useless "features" trying to make it popular (I've since learned there's no point - my work will never be popular).
I'd had it in my head to do a "NosCo" version of the mod. Uploaded to a new file entry, with permission to copy/translate/modify specifically and categorically denied.
The esm would maintain the same name for compatibility with existing companions and savegames; but would feature things like a redesigned Vault 1 cell, broken up into three or so smaller cells; a streamlined companion system boasting several of the new things I've learned to do in the course of NCCS; NPCs that were actually useful instead of just being useless fluff; some form of ownership quest; and the entry location moved to somewhere that doesn't suck (with the tunnels of course being redesigned to reflect the difference in directions and location). Compatibility with Refurbished and the existing third party ownership quest would be zero.
I mentioned this idea to Herculine, who is one of my primary modding sounding boards these days. She returned a concern that I would be forcing people to "choose". Effectively, get the latest updated version but use it my way, or use the old version and keep refurb. Point.
Still, there's little I can do otherwise. Worrying about Refurb has kept the vault locked into its current crash-happy iteration. I literally cannot do any more optimizing to the cell as it now sits. Room bounds, occlusion planes, cutting down on visual effects; it's all done already. This is the "optimized" version. I won't update the companion system as it now sits; since Nexus admins have already stated that "porting" permission can't be revoked - which renders anything I do to file #3644 fair game for copying by unnamed entities.
The point, nonetheless, remains. Forcing people to choose would cause problems. Refurb aside; two distinct versions of the master open up a frightening possibility for support issues.
So, what can I do? I'm not even keen on playing with RR anymore. I want it out of my game; to be able to work on my companions with a better system. This is not an issue in NV - since my personal companions run on a standalone system, completely independent of NCCS.
My FO3 companions don't. I created them before I knew how to write a system from scratch; when I was still trying to work within the bounds of others' defined "systems".
The other morning, I rectified that thorn in my paw.
I'm sure you recognize these three. They've featured in a great many of my screenshots over the last two years. What bears reintroducing them?
This is my original special companions plugin for FO3. Notice the five masters.
This is where the girls live now:
No more dependence on RR; on my RR companions pack, or even on 20thCW. Completely standalone. They now need only the relevant meshes and textures in the data directory.
Unfortunately, FO3Edit proved to be as much of a pain in the ass as it always is; and refused to "clean" the master list in the plugin's header. I ended up having to copy the NPCs and combat styles to a new plugin; and rewrite everything else around them from scratch. This means they have to learn all over again, just like a couple years back. On the up side, the latest iteration of my combat styles are enough that they're pretty dangerous from the start.
I also took the opportunity (since I had to write a new one and all) to work over the companion script, and get rid of about two hundred lines of useless garbage. The scripts now sit at a svelte 180 lines. I added a few goodies about not attacking the player; recreated part of the companion management system from NCCS - while teleporting at the end of combat and such isn't necessary in FO3, I nonetheless added a script hook that will forcibly keep them with me across cell changes. I was amused to realize my latest companion management system is so robust that I don't need the Pip-boy plugins anymore. The script completely fucks over any dev-mandated attempt to remove the companions from my party.
Kept it to the basics, mainly. Follow, stay, set home, go home, put on/remove pip-boy, turn on/off pip-boy light, inventory. Just 'cause I was in that kind of mood, I added a "Strip for me." command, too. (Though you won't likely be seeing that one in one of my public releases anytime soon...)
The companion script also keeps all the old favorites: sitting when you do, drawing/holstering, healing themselves and you with stims, sneaking, healing fully on player sleep.
No class changing or aggression changing or stat checking. The NPCs have to be set up beforehand with the personality and skills you want. Follow package is set up for maximum reliability, and will allow NPCs to offer services at any time; be it following, sandboxing, or sitting. No sneak menu, either.
I can safely say, this is the first real "Nos" companion system I've ever done. There are no concessions here to what's popular or considered must-have by the community at large. It's nice.
I also used some new techniques I've learned for NPC creation, itself. The added master for 20thCW isn't needed; as I set them up with leveled lists that will spawn a random outfit, primary and secondary weapons, chems, and caps. Starting equipment will thus be different every game - and the girls will acquire new goodies on their own if I leave them someplace until the cell resets.
I did make another advancement, as well. I've mentioned before, and oft considered "companion perks" - though not in the way that Bethsoft implemented them. I wanted perks based on the number of companions in your party. Things like better perception - you know, one of the main reasons people work in groups to begin with. I toyed with some scripting a bit, and did this:
As long as at least two of the three companions are in my party, I get +2 Perception. The corresponding NV perk would probably carry the 'detect invisible enemies' thing from ED-E's perk, as well. Get down to one companion in-party, and the perk goes away. Learning how to pull this off has opened up considerable new possibilities. It'll be more complex to institute for NCCS, since there I don't get the luxury of using explicit references. Still, I'll only need to work up a block of code that updates a 'companionsinparty' variable; and the scripting will otherwise operate near identically.
The real question, is where do I go from here. Fact is, I've been using Vault 1 as a base for so long that I don't have any other house mods. Do I keep using it, and just be content to have my own companions on a better system? Or should I perhaps revive The Tower? I stopped working on it due to custom texture issues; but it would certainly be simple enough to replace all the custom room pieces with their default equivalent...