Saturday, March 26, 2011

A New Direction?

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.

Say hello:

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...


  1. I say go with The Tower (yes, those are my pom-poms).

    You know, I kinda got disgusted with my "secret island" plug-in for Oblivion for a time but, like you with your tower, I've put a considerable bit of work into it so far and (unlike with it's past incarnations) I haven't been foolish enough to delete it from my system. I just might finish it some day. My point? You've put too much into it to not at least enjoy it yourself now. Who knows? You might just end up with something you're proud enough of to upload and brag about.

  2. I believe you were hoping to have finished updating RR Companions a couple of updates ago. Assuming that you have actually taken it as far as you can, than maybe it is time to tell the community that you have done so and move on to other things. I'm not suggesting that you pull it off the site. As problimatic as it might still be, I consider it to be a "must have mod" for my game, and I'm probably not the only one.

    I would look forward to what ever else you wished to grace us with, based upon your work for FO3 that I have seen to date.

    I've been hoping to get myself motivated enough to start modding, and a personal-use change to the RR Companions Vault is on the list of possibilities. I hope that I might be able to tap you and possibly Herculine for help if I need and you have the time.

    Best of luck with what's next.


  3. move forward.

    As you so summed up, there's nothing you can do about the RR Companion Vault situation at this point - the genie is well out of the bottle. There's no way you can "fix" it further, so put it out to pasture.

    You've proven you got the "skillz" to do all the aspects of modding things in the game you want. I'd really be interested in seeing what you come up with, given the freedom to do so without prior constraints holding you back.

    I'm jealous, because I don't have the skills with the tools to make the "James Bond villain Secret HQ" mod I have in my twisted little head. I just get to see what other more talented people come up with. And hope it doesn't make the game crash - like it's doing now. Fortunately none of that is caused by ya'll's stuff.

    I say again - move forward. The Tower awaits.

  4. @Druuler:

    Like four updates ago now, I think was when I had originally planned it to be "done". Alas, people keep finding new and ever more impressive ways to break it.

    Could have called it done a year ago if not for people complaining to me that it doesn't work correctly with some aspect of a game-overhaul mod that doesn't work right with anything, anyway.

    I don't think we've spoken a lot, but from the couple times we have, you haven't struck me as being an idiot; so yeah, if you need a hand with a mod, feel free to PM me or whatever. Just please understand that sometimes I do get busy, and it's a day or two before I can get around to sitting down and typing out a litany of a PM.

  5. @Darksong:

    "You've proven you got the "skillz" to do all the aspects of modding things in the game you want."

    Not actually 100% true. I can handle everything except 3d modeling, and creating textures from scratch. Never been handy at either, I'm afraid. Which is a shame, because there are some animations I'd love to see in the game. Alas, I'm not willing to put in the couple of years it would take to become an effective modeler just for that.

    As for jealousy: do you really think me, or the Talkie Toaster or Slof or any of a hundred other modders that work on in-depth projects just woke up one day, glanced over the newly released games list, and said "Oh! Fallout 3! I magically know how to mod that one already! I should buy it."?

    Of course not. We pretty much all start out the same way. We see something missing from the game that we want - for me, it was companions that don't suck. We look around for someone making a mod that does what we want; and when we can't find it, we set about making it happen.

    You learn as you go. Slog through; accept that you're going to screw up (we all do), and just make any failure a learning experience. There's no shame in looking through other peoples' mods to see how something cool was done. Some folks frown on outright copying of code; but there are only so many functions and techniques to accomplish something in the game engine, so similar ideas are always going to overlap here and there.

    If you hit a roadblock you can always ask for help, but the important part is just to try; since that's the most effective way to learn in this godsforsaken game engine that rarely works the same way twice.

  6. And as for the tower...

    I can't promise anything, but later today I'll try reverting it to the default room pieces and see how it looks.

    Would be a shame to have to start all over.

  7. Thanks Nos, much appreciated. If I contact you, I don't expect an immediate reply. After all, real life tends to happen...