Saturday, April 30, 2011

On The Road Again

This'll be one of those "and now, for something completely different" posts; so if that isn't your thing, feel free to skip. You won't be missing any mod info.

Last evening, while testing NCCS under the new patch, I stopped out in the road, just outside Goodsprings. Looked out, down that two-lane blacktop, and I couldn't think anything but how badly I wanted to start singing Willie Nelson songs. Specifically, the one in the post title.

I considered subjecting you all to it... but figured I've caused enough havoc around this blog in the last week.

NCCS - in FNV v1.3

Nos is back in the new-old west. Yee-haw. Even used a male character just for you, Herculine.

(disclaimer: in the real world, I neither own nor would ever wear a stetson.)

Well, I'm about two and a half hours into the new game now.

I picked up Samantha from the Goodsprings Saloon, and have had her and [CENSORED] from Goodsprings, through two powder ganger camps, and then through Primm and the Bison Steve hotel.

I did finally encounter some issues. Still none of the horror stories that have come up over on the Nexus. By and large, everything still works. Following, inventory, teleporting, sandboxing. Combat behavior is a little off - but that was true before the patch. For some reason they sometimes have trouble deciding who's hostile and needs a bullet in the ass. This doesn't happen to my personal companions; so it's probably a combat style thing.

And now, screenshots.

We have weapon drawing and sneaking.

Following me into another cell.

And sandbox behavior.

Edit, later:

It seems when I reinstalled, I restored the wrong copy of my premade companions plugin. I copied the old one, before the sitting and sneak menu were implemented. I overwrote that with the correct copy, and now everything works fine:

So, NCCS works correctly 100% in v1.3 of FNV, as far as I can tell; and I need to pay more fucking attention to organizing my backups in the future.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fallout NV v1.3 - Companions

Well, I've run through the tutorial with Sunny with my personal companions active. We also ducked into the Schoolhouse to get in some interior combat.

I haven't seen a single issue. They fight, they follow, they teleport, they equip items, show their inventory, draw, holster, sneak, and strip naked on command. No problems moving between cells, other than the usual delays endemic to Gamebryo since the days when Oblivion was new.

I'm going to pop some ibuprofen to try to get this headache into submission. Then I'm going to reinstall my body and armor replacers. Once that thar be done, I'll install NCCS proper and fire 'er up; but considering that the base archetype for most of the features is still working properly, I'm not sure how much that'll change anything. This could once again be a case of people putzing around with bash patches and other such nonsense that are causing problems. After all, there's only been three or four reports of problems; and most don't overlap much - at least as I recall.

On the note of 1.3 itself: I only have about an hour logged on the new version, but it seems to be an improvement. I got through the entire tutorial without a crash (first time that's ever happened); and the varmint rifle is actually useful now at low skill levels. I was able to one-shot each of the bloatflies at the cemetery, where in previous versions that's taken four or five shots a piece owing to the extraordinarily poor accuracy. We'll see how it holds up, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

Fallout NV - Go and No

Finally updated FNV. New game still wouldn't start right. The damned opening sequence still had the Doc missing his dialogue cues and not advancing the mess.

The Bethsoft forums, as usual, are totally useless. The "issues" forum is a mass of poorly spelled reports of crashing incidents, and "is my PC good enough to run this game?" (I shit you not, there was a poll in one topic to that very subject!)

So, I decided to just wipe the mess. Remove it, trash the entire directory, and start anew. Reinstalled the game to the new 1tb drive (hey, I may as well make use of the space - Gods know Oblivion and FO3 are eating enough of C:\'s limited space). Once installed, it got only the newest patch - which I've found cuts down on opportunities for things to get corrupted.

Started a new game; let the boring-as-hell intro movie run (seriously, why do game companies keep subjecting us to these things? they weren't interesting ten years ago...); and went through the creation process. Thankfully, this time it worked.

I got as far as outside the Doc's house, then saved and exited to reinstall my mods and NVSE. I've created a "clean save" point right after name entering that should allow me to re-start as many games as needed without getting stuck on the bed.

That done, I intend to set about examining my own companions; seeing what changes have come about in the new patch. After that, I can see about making necessary revisions once I know what I'm dealing with.

Shouldn't be too hard. Someone on the NCCS file entry's comments has already declared that it's very easy to fix the plugins. He can't mod himself, you understand; but he's heard it's very easy; so it shouldn't take me long to keep up my responsibilities to everyone and fix NCCS.

Race Mods for Oblivion

Feeling the need to decompress a bit today, I tinkered with Oblivion.

I've mentioned in asides in the past working with Lovers with PK, an Oblivion mod of a... oh, let's call it "more adult" nature. I haven't been intentionally holding out on you guys in this regard, it's just that it's been something like four months now, and I'm just now getting it all in line. It's truly massive mod, comprised of dozens of optional plugins.

I'm not posting about that, though, since I still haven't gotten it all figured out myself, just yet.

What I'm posting abut, is my messing with those mods has led to several others that are apparently popular. Namely:

Modular Beautiful People, MPB++, and XEOSP.

The MBP files are new races; but can also modify vanilla races if you use that plugin. For those interested in trying it, MBP 1.4 gets installed first, with the ++ version overwriting. Be careful, these install a lot of stuff; and the omod for the main part is in Japanese, so you may want to make a backup of your data directory, in case you don't like something it does.

What really got me, was what the package did to the vanilla elves.

I'm sure many of you remember my version of Aribeth, from Neverwinter Nights:

Well, here's how she looks now:

I didn't touch the plugin; that's just MBP's race edits to the new meshes and textures. Cute, yes; but looks nothing like the original character anymore.

It did similar to all the other high elves. Don't know that I've encountered a wood elf or dark elf yet in the new game, but I expect them to be similar.

Race edits aside, the two MBP mods are very nice if you're interested in non-standard characters. There are dozens of new races including: "Tolkien" elves, Mystic Elves, Blood Witches, several forms of Tabaxi, Ainmhi, various "lop-eared" elves in standard and toy groups; amongst many others. I will forewarn that many don't work right "from the box" - apparently the authors don't feel the need to include all the resources in the packages to actually make the races in the master display correctly. I'm still tracking several of them down, and will most likely update with more links when I find them.

XEOSP is an NPC beauty overhaul. It's different. This is one of those "anime inspired" mods. It's not for everyone, but I like it. I actually run this one alongside Colourwheel's Oblivion Overhaul, which I have loudly praised before. I run XEOSP lower in the load order, so that it takes precedence. XEO does some neat stuff, but it does not affect guards; which Miss Colourwheel helpfully converts to virtually all females in skimpy, midriff-revealing armor.

Now, when I say "anime inspired" I mean it. I was walking through the IC Market, and noticed that beggar (Simplicia the slow, I think?) now had bright blue hair. Don't get me wrong, it was not unattractive a look... but if you're one of those annoying "immersion" players? Skip this one. You'll hate it.

These three mods actually took a bit of time for me to get running. Being the obstinate ass that I am, I refuse to create a "bash patch"; believing instead that most all such issues can be solved by careful load order finagling - and those that can't are probably heavy enough conflicts that you need to just remove one of the mods and be done with it.

It's interesting and a bit sad. On the one hand, CW's overhaul, MBP, XEO, and Apachii's Goddess Store has pretty heavily transformed my game world. It doesn't even look like the same set of NPCs anymore. On t'other hand, it's pretty sad that I've been playing this game since September 2006 and I'm just now getting into installing this stuff.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Banhammered, Part II

Started a new post, since the comments section of the last one is getting cluttered, and there's more to talk about now.

So, Dark0ne released the big report, today.

I've read the entire thing, now; and I'm sorry but I still have to side with EARACHE42.

Near as I can figure, it went something like this:

A "mod author" sees that "his" resource is being used by EARACHE42, but credited to someone else. Rather than send a PM, noting as much and asking for a change, said author hits the "report mod" button.

Now, I use the quotes on "mod author" and "his" because from what I've read, and from the comments made to the last post; the resources in question appear to be "ported" from other games, and not original creations - meaning that they do not in fact belong to the "author" who thought he was being intentionally slighted by EARACHE42. My theory is supported by the fact that said person got banned, himself; once attention was drawn to the disputed resources. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot, eh? Guess it doesn't occur to most people that if you're going to break the rules, at least keep a low profile.

Moderator noticed mod reported; slaps review mode onto ALL EARACHE42's mods without being shown any evidence beyond "I didn't say he could use it".

EARACHE42 comes home from a horrid day, in a pissy mood, and believes he is being targeted by an overzealous moderator-in-training. I never saw any evidence to dispute that, by the way. EARACHE42 and Dark0ne talk it out; seem to come to an amenable solution on the whole thing that doesn't require banning.

"But Nos!" I can hear you saying. "He did get banned!"

Yes, he did. On reading the full report, all this crap about model usage and credit and reporting is totally immaterial.

EARACHE42 got banned for what I will eventually get banned for: he was not nice to stupid people in the file comments. After being assessed two strikes for profanity and unkind comments, he blew a seal and asked specifically to be banned, rather than keep dealing with the morons and being punished for trying to help his players.

So. As I said before: rather than punishing people who troll, or lack the fourteen brain cells required to RTFM; the Nexus mods punish the modder who is stupid enough to try to support his mods - and in the process, said modder decides: "Hey, is it really worth going to all this trouble; just to be bitched out by people who can't write a script themselves to save their life? No? Then what the fuck am I doing it for...?"

As for Nexus moderator policies, I've noticed a few in the course of this little event that I find amusing.

Firstly is Dark0ne's claim in his report that modders shouldn't feel like the situation is guilty until proven innocent. Well, guess what? It is. That's exactly what the situation is. And you know what? That's okay. It's all but impossible for you to prove you didn't give someone permission to use your resources, unless you have an archived PM in which you categorically deny them said permission. Since most thieves don't ask beforehand, there is a low likelihood of this existing. Still, have the courtesy not to bullshit us about it. Don't whitewash it.

And yes, modders do get pissy when you accuse them of stealing someone else's stuff. All it takes is someone having a bad day and wanting to take it out on someone; then deciding that you aren't giving enough credit to them or whatever, and bam: "No, I didn't give him permission!" Meanwhile, the modder has no idea anything is going on; and only finds out when his mod is pulled and he's accused of theft and/or copyright infringement. It's going to chafe, no matter how diplomatic you are in your approach.

I also found the declaration amusing that they need to set up some sort of procedure for verifying evidence before pulling a mod. That means that up till now - something like nine years - there has been no such system, and it's been up to the whim of the moderator. Yeah, no way that could ever go wrong or be abused...

Lastly, in reading another thread on the banned/strike assessed forum, I saw something else Dark0ne said that bears mention: "We support the people and companies who give us the games, tools and other entertainment mediums we all take for granted and believe that all of you should too."

Okay. See, games are generally a business. I, the consumer, give them, the producer my currency, and they in turn give me a product. This is called commerce. We are not GIVEN games. We buy them (well, most of us). If not we, ourselves, then it is purchased by a relative or friend as a gift. One could argue that even the tools are not given, since mods are one of the things that are expected to be one of a modern game's capabilities. I personally would argue that the only reason FNV has sold more than ten percent of its copies is because of the modding community; and has nothing to do with the quality of the base product (which is, quite frankly, abysmal).

I just find it absurd when someone tries to deify game developers or movie stars or anyone who works in the entertainment industry. Game developers get paid. Movie stars and musicians and artists and writers; all of these people make a living doing what they do. They may make entertainment available for us to acquire; but they do not give it, under most circumstances. Sure, you'll find those who do - but those (especially around the internet) are primarily derivative or "fan" works, which would get the holy living shit sued out of their "authors" if they tried to sell it.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Not me.

Thanks to Herculine for pointing out to me that EARACHE42 has been banned from the Nexus network.

Most players of Fallout 3 will be at least passingly familiar with EARACHE42's work. He authored not only Ling's Finer Things - a collection of Type 3 compatible clothing and accessories - but Ling's Pretty Things and Ling's Coiffure - cosmetic resources of more than a bit of excellence. He also authored eXCALIBR - an improvement to the Community Ammunition Library, or CALIBR as it's most often known; eXCALIBR was an interesting addition that allowed projectiles to do more realistic things like shoot through chain-link fences (something that projectiles in the base game can't do by default). There were also a few mods to go with eXCALIBR that added new weapons, vendors, and quests to the game.

I can't claim that I know EARACHE42 well. We have only talked a few times; mostly about his interest in including my modifications of Ren's hairs (that had the alpha adjusted to not clip with eyewear) in later versions of Ling's. I assented of course, though I don't know if he ever did it or not.

He earned a bit of ire from me last year in the course of releasing several of the eXCALIBR mods without testing them first; but we all make mistakes.

He always struck me as a decent enough person, and did make attempts to fix any issues that were reported with his mods.

As well, he always gave credit for any resources he used.

Dark0ne has said he's going to "do a report" on the situation, and what exactly happened; but not right now. Apparently Easter is this weekend or something. I don't really pay attention - the holiday has no real religious meaning (co-opted pre-Christian fertility festival) and I stopped believing in the bunny a long time ago. (one of the nice things about being an adult - if you want a bag of candy, just go fucking buy one and eat it when you please)

I read the linked posts, though; and EARACHE42 states that he came home from a near death experience to find all his mods blocked from public viewing; under review for a baseless complaint (presumably copyright related). Substantial frustration expressed, he swore and asked for a third strike - apparently already having two for unspecified reasons.

EARACHE42, buddy, I can relate. More than once I've been tempted to tell some little twit what I really think about them and just accept the Nexus ban. The Capital Wasteland is going to be a lesser place without his clothes and weapons and beauty mods.

Good luck to you in whatever you decide to do with your free time after this; and may the next place you share your mods have fewer retards than the Nexus.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Plea

Folks, when you have a problem with one of my mods, and I ask you some questions to try and get the information I need to fix it?

Give me the information I asked for. Not what you think I need. Not what you think I meant.

The answer(s) to the question(s) I asked. Read the words I typed. Don't interpret. Do not attempt to divine my true and hidden meanings. Go by the words I used.


When, for example, I ask whether the problems are with your companions, or someone else's; I don't care about specific identities. I am trying to deduce whether the issues are specific to your plugin, or are instead system-wide.

And for the love of all that's unholy, if you modified my scripts or packages, just fucking say so. Stop hiding it.

NCCS works, okay? It only stops working when the engine craps out, or you fuck with something you shouldn't. If you "improve" something, and don't tell me about it, I have no idea what's going on in your game.

I have said it before, I will say it again:

I. Am. Not. Omniscient.

I'm good, don't get me wrong; but I don't automatically know everything in the universe - much as I may wish I did.

And while I'm asking for the impossible anyway: animal, creature, and robot companions suck. They always have, they always will. Give it up.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NCCS - Thanks

To Nexus user Raverbane, for giving a thumbs-down to NCCS; apparently because I wouldn't debug his plugin for him.

"The file didn't do what the description implied"

I guess it's just my imagination that it's a fully-functioning companion system then; since that's all the description claims it is.

Hell with it; I'm gonna go work on my Lovers install and Oblivion companions. The only question is: do I leave her a Mazken; or do I re-set her to a sexeh redhead human and stencil some arcane tattoos onto the skin texture? Oh, decisions decisions.

Hm. I do need another redhead in the game. Especially now that I have SetBody, 2ch MBP, and X117 to work with. Where'd I leave that Mystic Elf textureset? It was nice and pale and tattooed...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One of Those Days...

...Do you ever have one, where you feel like you're just talking to yourself?

Maybe hallucinating in a padded room somewhere; the Nexus and all the people you've met through it only a fevered dream of insanity?

A player complained yesterday about an NCCS companion teleporting in front of him just as he was throwing a grenade.

It's unlikely, but possible. The teleport code is based on which direction you're facing, and will fire when combat ends (if they're a certain distance or more away) or when you cross a cell-barrier.

So while it's never happened to me; yeah, it's possible. You're twisting and looking around at random like a chicken sans head; chucking grenades, and you happen to move across a cell border in the open wastes... depending on the exact direction you were facing when you flagged as in the new cell, it's entirely possible one or more of your followers would appear in a position that you were in the process of twisting back to throw a grenade at.

My normal advice would be: it's not CoD; stop twitch-gaming and tossing explosives at random - but you can't say shit like that. It hurts peoples' widdle feewings.

Anyway, I explain that the teleporting is necessary because of engine issues. If the next patch fixes said glaring flaws (yeah, right) I'll make it a selectable option.

Player comes back today wanting to know if I can make it (the entire goddamned teleporting option!) bound to a key.

...What did I just say, two damned comments down? Does anyone read the little combinations of letters I am producing by banging away on my keyboard; or am I giving myself RSI for nothing?

Beyond that, I am absolutely not making it a key-bind. Ever.

Key-binds require NVSE. I don't like NVSE, and have no intention of forcing everyone to use it for any of my mods.

If - IF I were to ever find a set of functions that were so good that I just had to include them, but they required NVSE, I would make it an "advanced features" plugin.

I mean, Gods... it's not just a matter of capturing the pressed key and binding a script function to one possible key. There are hundreds of mods that bind useless crap to keys for people too lazy to use an inventory item. For compatibility with all those, you'd have to make the key changeable, which adds a bunch more complexity to the script.

Look, I can make the teleporting bit optional. I've done it with a simple dialogue command. It's not lack of ability that keeps there from being an option. It's lack of my being willing to listen to the endless bitching of a thousand people whose companions keep getting lost.

(and man, does getting called away from your desk in mid-sentence for seven hours kill one's train of thought)

Please realize that there are like twelve of you who are willing to deal with the getting lost issues just to not break "immersion" or whatever rationale you use. The rest of the players want companions who stay with them when they're supposed to.

Since I belong to group two, it gets priority.

And now, I'm shutting up because I have no fucking idea what else I was going to say seven hours ago when I started this post. Damned people; making me participate in the real world...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Note to self:

You should not attempt to use the rigged wig meshes from Apachii's Goddess Store as normal character hair. This is important to remember for future endeavors. The results are not pretty.

I wonder if it's just missing the egm files; or it's in the rigging, itself...?

Tantrivaylia - A Review

This review is about Tantrivaylia, a player home/quest mod for Oblivion.

I don't normally do full mod reviews. I may mention one that I like; that I think my readers here might like - or I'll mention one that I didn't like; that I removed for some reason or another.

I'm not prone to going in-depth, because my tastes are different from others', and I'm not normally one to simply denigrate a mod on the grounds that it didn't mesh with me.

Still, as a modder myself, Tantrivaylia is something I can not pass up commenting on; and I want to qualify my comments to show you where I'm coming from, and why I'm going to end up saying what I am.

This mod is a wonderful learning example for us modders, because it does some things very right, and some things very, very wrong.

We'll start at the start: installation. Installing the mod is straightforward and simple; with few possibilities of file overwrites. Documentation at first glance is acceptable, if not exhaustive. There are two readmes included with the download, one "normal", one intended to be read only after completing the quest. The one for after the quest doesn't contain any spoilers or useful information, so I'm not sure of the purpose behind it.

On loading a game with the mod active, you'll receive a new quest objective, detailing the rumors you've heard about a town in need of a hero, or something. Enjoy it; this is the high point of the quest.

Here we run into my biggest problem with the mod. The author is one of those... annoying people who hates quest markers. I should probably count myself lucky the mod doesn't have the added "benefit" of removing fast travel, since he's so interested in "immersion".

The quest journal notes the lake the town is on the south shore of. Do you know the names of all the bodies of water in the game? I don't. Fortunately, I hadn't explored heavily in this game yet, and so my map was fairly sparse on markers. It didn't take long to find the town's added marker (not fast travel enabled; so if you haven't been in the area before, have fun on your cross-game-world hike).

I reached the town, to realize again that there was no quest marker. Who in the hell was I supposed to talk to?

I picked the first guy I saw, and got a story about some kidnapped people, monsters in the forest, would I help, yadda yadda. Standard fantasy quest schtick. If you've ever played a D&D quest, you'll know the outline already. He mentions that you should talk to the other residents to get more information; but no one else really has anything useful. Your quest notes will not be updated with any information beyond the first bit.

You're told that there's a weird guy spying on the town, and you should go look for him. He was last seen... heading towards Cheydinhal. Thanks, that narrows it down to the entire northeastern quarter of the blasted country.

Again, without quest markers; I have no idea if I'm supposed to intercept him on the road, if he'll be waylaid at some camp somewhere, or if he made it to town.

Having played many poorly laid-out quests in my day, I took a gamble, and made straight for town. Great; we're in town... quest journal doesn't update. Which building is he in? Is he even really here? Again, I gamble: and take the nearest inn to the eastern gate. Not there, but the innkeeper knows who I'm looking for - apparently he isn't in town at all. Find him out near where he was sighted; talk a little bit, combat ensues - creepy guy gets his ass zapped by Branwen. Turns out attacking a party of four when you're unarmed isn't bright. Who knew?

Note on the corpse from "the master"; who mentions that he will absolutely not reveal the location of the castle. Fuck you, too.

Creepy guy is for some reason carrying this amulet:

Which has nothing to do with his character, or class; or the story. It's just a fat buff with an over the top shield for its own sake, apparently.

Return to beleaguered town, report results; find out that in my absence, there has been an attack. Shock on my part, I assure you. Another girl kidnapped, town protector hurt bad, "they went to the north".

Well thanks for narrowing that down, Skippy.

There's also a mention that there's nothing to the north except the mountains. I want to note that this is patently untrue. Malada is due north of the town; and there are numerous other ruins, caves, and so forth clustered in the area. "Not pertinent to my story" does not equal "nothing".

So, we strike out north. Across the lake, we're attacked by random (but obviously mod-added) enemies. These must be the mysterious warriors I heard about.

They wipe the floor with my companions. Being the sneaky and quick thinking so-and-so I am, I exploit the AI's limitations and jump onto a rock; where I can rain death onto the enemies with impunity. Well, impunity until they start slinging lightning bolts every two seconds. Warriors with high destruction skill. Nice. My silver bow isn't working; so I swap out for something I picked up for special occasions in my favorite store - a Goddess Black bow that does 20pts shock per hit. To top it off, I add some health draining poison. They still take a half dozen arrows a piece, and end up nearly completely draining the enchantment on my bow. I barely survive the lightning storm, but eventually prevail.

Climbing down, I wonder at their toughness, and open the console. A quick click and GetLevel command returns a value of 35. It's going to be one of those days...

From there, I used some profanity, and decided to skip the other parties that were doubtless laying in wait on the straight-line path north from the town I had been on. Instead, I swing wide to the east; around Malada, and come into the mountains off the beaten path. In this manner, I saw no other bands of uber-warriors.

Eventually, I spy a city map-marker on my HUD. Moving closer, it turns out to be a castle. Coming in from the side, I apparently not only subverted the fighting I was supposed to do on the way; but missed the trigger to have the person in front of the castle talk to me. She eventually did; giving me the standard fantasy spiel again. You must be a great warrior to have survived the trip here! (No, Lady; I'm just smarter than a box of rocks and know how to avoid ambush sites...) You must help us! Lord EvilGuy #666 is making us do horrible things and we can't stop him because of our stupid and pointless yet non-binding traditions!

I of course agree to go inside to the safe room and hear her out. Long-lost sub-species of elf; last of their kind; live forever because a Goddess granted them eternal youth as long as they constantly have random sex with each other...

...Wait, what? No... I did read that correctly. Okay, I'm pretty sure I've seen this hentai before...

LordEvilGuy! is a vampire, who took control of the clan and is using their ZOMGSEXMAGIC to gain immortality and ultimate power. (Aren't vampires already immortal?) Okay, now I know I've seen this hentai before! If you remove the vampire aspect, I'm pretty sure this was the plot of Bible Black. Except, you know, they were in a high school and not a magical fantasy land. Then again, for schoolgirl outfits and stockings, I think it's a worthwhile trade in venue...

...Sorry, where was I? Oh, right.

Again, more of the standard spiel. The eeeeeeeeeeevilvampireguy is currently sleeping, but will awaken soon, and I am the only one who can kill him by attacking before he has a chance to feed... et cetera et cetera. Again: play pretty much any D&D module and you'll have read it all before.

Rescue the captives so he can't feed on them, then attack and destroy him while he's "weak". Got it.

Directions to half the castle ensue. This is another problem with the lack of quest markers. Our author did not see fit to append the directions to the quest journal; so if you don't take notes or have a good memory, you get to wander aimlessly looking for the correct part of the large castle. And if you do take notes, take them fast. You have eight seconds worth of silent sound file before the wall 'o text vanishes. This probably isn't a big deal if you have the time to play the quest straight through in one sitting; but if you have to save the game mid-quest and come back later... well, good luck.

Rescue captives. Last one is locked in a sex-chamber with a vampire; running around like a chicken with its head cut off - presumably to avoid being bitten. Kill vampiress... captive keeps on running. This makes it very hard to successfully engage him in conversation to get the little retard to follow you out. I was tempted to simply shoot him. It's hard to run with an arrow in your femur... but I didn't figure the quest would take kindly to me not rescuing everyone.

Return captives to head-sex-elf, who says she's going to hide them somewhere until the fight is over. I guess it would be too much to get to use one as a human shield in the boss fight, huh?

What? When have I ever claimed to be anything but evil?

Another wall 'o text ensues; this time regarding the final battle, where and when and I need to hurry and more directions that aren't committed to my damned journal...

This time I'm ready for it, and am actually paying attention to the wheres. It's still convoluted, as the boss battle takes place three floors up, and across the castle. Couple this with the fact that companions fail to follow through the cell-change doors correctly (more on this later), and I had to backtrack about six times to recollect everyone who had gotten stuck or lost on the way across.

We reach the ambush site, and LORDEVILGUYHAHAI'MSOBAD! is already waiting there for me. Some talky-talky and pointless bravado; and the fight ensues.

It seems LORDEVILGUY! has some goodies added to him. One of them is a staff that knocks down and paralyzes everyone in a twenty foot radius. And he uses it, over and over, until it's completely out of charges. No damage; just endless knocking you all down. Interrupting attacks, stopping spells in mid-cast... Urgh.

Once he runs out of charges for his stick of annoyance, the girls have had enough and decide to cram that thing so far up where the sun don't shine that our vampire friend will be tasting Minwax. We whip his undead ass from one end of the floor to the other.

...He doesn't die. Somehow, he has infinite health, infinite mana, and an unending supply of master-level summons and shock spells. Tesla would be proud. Since he's throwing these things all at me, and every five odd seconds, sheer weight of numbers eventually gets me; as I fail to dodge one too many of his endless spells.

I die.

So, fine; I reload, and try again - this time I pull out all the stops. We gon' get medieval on his ass. I summon in a full party of six companions, make sure everyone has weapons that bypass immunity; break out my Goddess bow - and have Branwen recharge it, the rest of my cold arrows, a case of health-draining poison, and pull on my bladeturn hood.

The fight begins anew; with much the same opening results. Again with the staff of pissing me the hell off +5. Once he runs out of paralyze charges, the companions get serious. Four of them back him into a corner in the stairwell and proceed to beat, cut, and zap the holy living shit out of him for five straight minutes. I add my magic bow and poison to the deluge.

He. Never. Dies. EVER. Five solid minutes of pinned-in, pure abuse; and his health will never drop below 10%. Still, he slings infinite shock spells - at the end, it was to the point that we were killing his constant summons as an aside; not even breaking stride.

Eventually, I get sick of the shit. He can't beat us, can't escape, can't even knock any of my companions unconscious anymore. He just won't die for some reason. I use a kill command in the console. That took the wind out of his sails. Cheat at me, bitch, and I cheat right back.

I save; close the game, and pop open the Construction Set. This I have to see. Why would six sets of immunity-bypassing weapons backed up by spells not kill him? Why did he keep auto-healing?

In the CS, I found the why. LORDEVILGUYZOMGI'MBADUKNO is a cheat boss. Of the LOLUCANTKILLMYGUY variety.

Now, the first thing I notice is 666 base health and magicka. Fuck me; this tired gag again?

Okay, LORDEVILGUY! is bad, we get it. The 666 health and magicka are actually the base values, if you look. This means they're further adjusted by the endurance and intelligence scores. You can see in that shot, that his adjusted magicka is over eight hundred. Really, if you're going this far over the top; you may as well run it up past 9000 and make the Dragonball joke. It wouldn't be any more lame.

Looking over other areas, we also see that "The Master" is non-scaling, level fifty.

Really? Why wasn't there a mention of this being a high level quest in the documentation? I skim the comments section, and see that the author says he does mention it. I read the readme closer. There it is. A mention that it's for high level characters, and that his level thirty-five character with cheat equipment had trouble killing the boss. Where is the information? Near the end, between the changelog and credits. Who the hell puts a warning about character levels between the changelog and the credits? No sane person puts important information at the bottom; nestled snugly between the two least-often read subjects in readme history.

Back to LORDEVILGUY, though.

You can see here LORDEVILGUY!'s spam spell, good for 110pts per hit.

Here's the total spell list. Charm spell... for some reason... spam lightning, spam summon; full vampirism; and a set of custom abilities specifically for THEMASTER!

Oh, yeah. Double-speed, constant fire shield, resistance to magic; and health and magicka that regenerate eleven and seven points every frame. Totally not cheating at all.

I take a look at LORDEVILGUY!'s equipment.

Oh, look; his robe gives five more points of health regen every frame. That brings him up to sixteen. No wonder he wouldn't die...

Then of course there's the ring...

The other ring...

The amulet...

And his staff-of-pisses-Nos-the-hell-off-+5.

Seriously. This? This is one of the greatest examples I have ever seen of how not to set up a boss. There is challenging, and then there's LOLITROLLU! Guess which this is. This is a case of the author wanking over how great his characters are, and nothing more.

When I first got a mod by the name of Enchantment Mastery - which lets you enchant one item multiple times - I made a sword that had three or four grand-level damage enchantments on it at once; totaling like sixty points, on top of the normal damage. If you had a weapon like that, I think you could take the guy out; especially if combined with an engine exploit of using 100% chameleon on armor to get sneak bonuses on every attack. But... base game items, and normal play tactics? No way in hell.

So, ZOMGTEHEBIL! killed, I return to the head-pointed-eared-slut. Seems that by killing LORDEVILGUY! I am the new head of the clan. Seems LORDEVILGUY! became leader by killing previous leader, as well. Really, they need to get a new selection process. May I suggest pulling names from a hat? Roshambo tourney? Hey, I know! Sex contest. Anyone who can outlast the entire clan gets to be in charge. Problem solved. Or just hang up a sign that says "No Vampires, no necromancers" out front.

Amongst lots and lots of talkie-talkie and exposition, there is the information that I may now take any of the clan members I like as companions; they have merchants and trainers; and there's some talk about teaching me the live-forever-sex-magic stuff.

I want to note here, that while the quest itself is Godawfully cliche and boring; the dialogue is quite well written. I noticed no spelling errors, no missing punctuation; and the back story is very well fleshed out - the author even came up with a justification for stealing the term "Tantric" for the sex magic.

There's also a book in the castle library that even goes so far as to explain the theories behind it, and notes specific positions and techniques. If I hadn't flipped through a kama sutra years ago, I might have thought it was an original work.

From the build-up in the documentation, comments, and in-game text, I was expecting the elves around the castle to be really cool.

I was mistaken.

The talk about adult content refers only to dialogue; and that you can ask the elves to strip. There are no animations included, and no actual sex options that I could find in either the game, or by looking through the dialogue in the CS.

As companions, the elves suck. You cannot access their inventory; so they can't get better equipment, can't get repairs, can't get a staff recharged, and so on. They just follow you. If you want, they can ride a horse - but being as I don't use horses in Oblivion, this option was pretty pointless to me.

As for their around-the-castle lives; again, I didn't see the sort of things that people went on about. The elves bathe in the basement at night, and hang out in the ballroom/bar getting plastered and dancing. They strip naked when they go to bed. No naughtiness anywhere that I saw. I never found any options to do any "learning" of the magic, and though head-slut alluded to the player being able to take her as a permanent, live-in lover, I never saw the option come up.

There are references to the elves "learning" new skills as they travel with you; so perhaps this is something that only comes up after a certain amount of time.

As well, I bummed around the castle for two game days; and no matter what time of the day or night I caught the elves, no one was ever willing to sell anything or train me. Even when the blacksmith was behind his counter, he wouldn't open a merchant screen.

Now, I've talked a lot thus far about bad things in this mod, and there are a lot.

I want to mention the good thing, and what makes it worth putting up with the asinine quest and useless elves.

The castle itself, is GORGEOUS.

It is huge. There are tons of alchemical components to pick, dozens of storage containers, respawning food stocks, a small private bath for you; as well as the larger pool-type tub that the clan uses. There is a ballroom and bar, a library, stables. All the elves have their own bedrooms. The head elf has an office. There's a throne for you to sit on.

The curtain wall has a path that leads clear around the castle.

And of course... there's the view from the terrace outside the player's bedroom:

As it a player home, it is outstanding; and has all the storage, display, and bumming-around amenities you could ever want. The alchemy lab is well stocked; there are spell-making and enchanting altars; and you can open and close the portcullis at will. The elves do have a daily schedule, and even if it isn't as perverse as their being a sex cult would suggest... it does lend a sense of life to the place. Guards guard; one patrols the road near the castle on horseback; the head-elf works in her office; the smith works at his forge; the librarian tends the books; the alchemist experiments.

The castle is well removed from the cities, and in a location that lore-obsessed players should find little fault with.

It is a bit of a cheat, in spots. The altars, for example. Beyond that, in the library you'll find a stock of varla and welkyd stones for free. The alchemy lab has a free set of master-grade apparatuses. The lab also has containers similar to the one for the head of the mages guild - that duplicates components. The smith has a stock of elven weapons that are free to take. Once the quest is completed, there is little to interfere with you simply hanging out, collecting the infinitely restocked items, and selling them for massive profits. The castle is self-supporting and requires no actual work or input of gold on your part.

Now, we've got the views. The storage. The feeling of being in an inhabited castle.

I'm still probably not going to keep it in my game. Why?

For all its beautiful design, careful placement in the world, and small army of potentially naked wemmenz roaming about; the castle has one major flaw.

It is not companion friendly.

First and foremost are the doors I mentioned before. The stairwells in the castle are transplants; inlaid sections of ruin:

Now, this would be okay - and indeed, I applaud the author for making such a solution work - except that in several places, they're too tight:

They're so tight near some of the doors, that the pathgrid doesn't function correctly; and companions won't follow you through the doors unless you position them perfectly beforehand. Even if you do, if you have four or more in tow; at least one will always get left, or stuck.

In addition, the teleport-markers on the doors are too close. Since followers spawn into the new room behind you, this setup tends to deposit them behind the door; where they can't get to you. The only way to even tell they're there half the time is to use a console command to switch to wireframe view. Because they're behind the door/wall, a TCL command won't help; since you can't click on them through the wall. The only fix is to either go back and forth through the door until you roll correctly and they don't get stuck, or to TCL yourself through the wall; toggle their clipping, and then come back out. It is a massive pain.

On top of that, for all the space; there's virtually none for followers of your own. There are two "guest" bedrooms, and the bed in the master bedroom will sleep two. If you want somewhere to sleep, that's three you can leave there, max. There are also precious few idle markers in the castle. CMs that I left there ended up doing nothing but wandering, and weapon training.

On the whole, if you're a player who likes "epic" quests to defeat "evil"; downloads every overpowered god weapon you can find on the Nexus; and don't keep companions, you'll love this mod.

For players like me, though... it was a colossal waste of my time and energy. Three stars out of five. It obviously had a lot of work put into it, but the story is just too cliched; the characters thin and not compelling, and the "adult" options aren't - if I have to use outside mods like Lovers to get the stuff in there, then why go to the trouble of getting the castle, instead of just filling up another place with companions? The followers aren't upgradable at all, the merchants don't appear to work, and it's not even suitable as a CM base of operations. I'm willing to give an extra point to the mod just because of the author's attention to spelling and punctuation. That's fairly rare these days. Without that, it'd be a two. Lastly, either give us the option for quest markers, or take the time to note at least the bullet points of where we need to go in the quest journal - not everyone gets to play a mod straight-though, and I hate when games make me take paper notes.


In the course of playing about with Oblivion the last couple days (and to make the NPCs look less like crap in that mod I mentioned reviewing) I've revisited the technique whereby one edits the Oblivion.ini file, to remove Facegen texturing. This, for those not familiar, reverts all NPCs to the base skin textures of their race. No skin tone, beard, flush/blush, eyeliner/eyeshadow, et cetera settings. It's just the basic textures.

This has been hit and miss in the past. It doesn't work well on base game NPCs. I don't think Bethsoft even gave NPC creation the 'ol college try - they just hit random face a few times on each NPC and broke for lunch.

However, I'm lately running Colourwheel's excellent Oblivion Overhaul, which handily removes the suck from the vast majority of female NPCs. As well, I'm more interested in my own character and companions than some random NPCs on the street that I pay no attention to.

So, I re-set the ini setting; intending to limit my evaluation to characters specifically set up to work with it; while ignoring the others.

The results were... encouraging...

You can see Branwen here in the getup I normally make her wear, wig and all. I removed the nekomimi, and replaced them with the black rose necklace there. Very nice.

I started a new game last night for various reasons I won't bore everyone by going into; and this is Branwen as she appears from her default inventory. You can also see the Realistic Water mod's effects in the background, there. Still looks damn good.

And this is Caridwen, also in her default look.

A trip through the Goddess store helps immensely... but they're certainly not half bad on their own.

This last one is one of the screenshots from my upcoming review... but in the inventory tab, you can nonetheless get a decent look at what it did to my own character.

The face wasn't designed for non-texturing facegen, but it didn't come out too bad. In the new game, I've since re-run the facegen specifically with the texturing off, and optimized it better for the new environment.

I think I'll be keeping it this way, at least for the foreseeable future. Should probably dig up screenshots of Viconia and Saerileth, too; they turned out fairly improved, as well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Emailing Plugins

Stop it.


My gmail account is not listed in my Blogger profile so that you can ship me your plugins for debugging. It is there so that people who need to/want to discuss something that may not be appropriate for public display may do so without having to get 'hold of me via blog comments or the Nexus.

I am not your personal mod debugger. While I'm willing to answer some questions; posit a few theories to help, I do draw the line somewhere.

I'm not allowing comments on this post because I don't need a flood of "I understand, that sucks when people do that". I appreciate the sentiment, but it's unnecessary in this case. I know full well that the vast majority of you would never do such a thing. Some others, however, have a greatly warped idea of just how much responsibility I have to the people who download my mods for free.

If you want to PM me over on the Nexus to discuss the possibility of emailing a plugin to me for a specific check on something, that's one thing.

This is not to say that people I actually know are not allowed to mail me a plugin for a project I've said I'd help with; or to get a quick check for errors, or a script written or whatever. If I know you or you have permission, fine; email away. But if you're just some random person who commented once on a mod and has never directly spoken to me? No.

Do it without permission, and your mail gets trashed. Odds are good I'll never even acknowledge having received it.

Even if I do know you, a heads-up PM is probably a good idea, so I know to watch for the mail - Gmail gets some odd ideas about what constitutes spam, sometimes.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: this is a hobby to me. I am not your personal modder. I owe you nothing. If you don't like it, go play someone else's create-your-own-companion system.

We here at NosCo apologize for our CEO's offensive outburst, and now return you to your regularly scheduled nonsense.

Oh, yeah; there should also be a full-blown review for an Oblivion mod coming up today or tomorrow; I'm just about done playing through it, and this one bears some specific mention in my usual long-winded style.

The Companion Mind

Got a post to the NCCS file entry this morning, asking about whether it was okay to change companion classes; what it would do, et cetera, et al, and yea; other pretentious psuedo-Latin on my part as well!

Now, if you're the author of said comment, relax. This isn't going to be one of my mocking posts.

Reading the comment, the thought occurred to me just how little most players understand how classes and companion behavior in general work in New Vegas (and the other Gamebryo games as well) so I thought I'd take everyone on a little tour.

Hands and feet inside at all times; no flash photography, and any injuries you receive are not the legal nor fiscal responsibility of NosCo, Inc. Don't make me release the NosCo Legal Department (which is primarily made up of demons with automatic weaponry, just for the record).

First of all, probably... eighty to ninety percent of companion NPC behavior is controlled by a combination of their currently running package, and the AI settings. The AI settings are fairly straightforward. Aggression, bravery, energy, warn/attack radius, assistance.

Aggression is exactly that. Normal (unaggressive) NPCs only fight to defend themselves. They will also fight to defend their friends and/or allies, if you've set their assistance value to allow it. NPCs set to help no one will never defend another character. Aggressive NPCs will attack known enemies (as determined by their factions) on detection. Imagine it as the NPC seeing the red tick on their radar, and taking the fight to the enemy as soon as possible. Very Aggressive NPCs attack on sight anything that is not a friend - the filthy Neutrals were probably planing something, anyway. Frenzied NPCs are batshit psycho; and attack everything that isn't themselves. These settings apply at all times, regardless of the package type running. Aggressive NPCs will still attempt to kick the holy living shit out of any enemies who appear, even if they're having lunch at the time. Energy actually does very little. It controls how often a sandboxing NPC gets bored, and goes to do another task. Warn/attack settings are used in the guard package; and specify a radius that the NPC will attack any trespasser they detect inside of.

Packages give the NPC a general idea of what they should be doing at the time. Call it a purpose in life. Purposes include things like following someone, eating, sleeping, traveling between two points, guarding an area, and "sandbox". Sandbox is a general "day to day life" package; that includes wandering, eating, sleeping, and doing general stuff. For a companion, the two most common packages are follow and sandbox. Everything else tends to be special purpose. Following is exactly that; their purpose in life is to stay within the specified distance of you. Sandboxing will have them live an illusion of a normal life. Wandering a cell, sleeping, eating, using idle markers (note here: anytime you see an NPC do something while standing up other than walking or combat, odds are good it's an idle marker - a special marker that tells the NPC to play a specific set of idle animations). While following, sandboxing, whatever; remember that the AI settings still apply. If following you, and a character appears who is part of a faction that is flagged as an enemy of the companion, odds are good they'll attack - independent of whether the character is considered an enemy to you.

As you might have guessed, Factions also play a role in NPC behavior. A few factions are hard-coded in the engine - there's one that has the NPC play "general idle animations" at all times (you can see this one in NCCS, since I add it to all my companions, as well as the templates; it makes them seem more alive, by scratching, picking their noses, fidgeting, and just generally doing small random stuff that most of us do in day to day life; the other hard coded faction is a no-combat faction, and is intended for characters who are not to engage in combat under any circumstances. Needless to say, I don't use that last one. Most factions are simply what one might call "clubs" - like when you were a kid. Clubs have friends, and they have enemies; and joining one forces you to abide by those affiliations. Actually, street-gang might be a more apt analogy... but I think I'll stick with clubs, since it seems a bit more innocent, and less like your companions will later be indicted on drug-smuggling charges. (It wasn't me, honest! I was just a lookout! The others were the ones smuggling Buffout to the boyscout troop!)

Now, thus far we've looked at what you might call autonomic functions. Things like package, AI data, and Factions tell the AI engine how to make a character behave in the absence of specific instructions. Think of it as automatic behavior; things that require no further input on your - or anyone else's - part. There's another type of behavior: the specific.

Specific behavior is controlled by scripts, and trumps all others when the script runs. This, of course, is the script attached to the NPC themselves - what I call the Companion Script. Quest scripting can also apply; but is less efficient for a number of reasons, and is not widely used for behavior.

For modders like me, the Companion Script is where the magic is. It's what separates "just another companion" from "holy fuck this is so cool!" These scripts can be as complex or as simple as the author likes. Some specific behavior that you normally see would be not letting the companion engage in to-the-death combat with the player. A block of specific behavior that I personally like, is the self-healing code - that is, the NPC will heal themselves with stimpaks when they get wounded or crippled. Bethsoft's devs are fond of having their companions fully heal via magic every time combat ends.

One of the specific behaviors I added for Lillian was that whenever she begins her "at home" package, she takes off her stealth suit, and puts on a set of normal clothes. When the sleep package kicks in, the other clothes come off, and a nighty goes on. 'Cause really, who wants to sleep in stealth armor?

The companion script is also where other types of behavior live; like stopping combat, and going to heal the player when they're wounded beyond a certain point. I've recently worked out the code for automatic switching of combat styles on the fly; to make the NPC "decide" how to fight at a certain time, or in a specific situation.

Really, if you can imagine it - and the engine has a function to accomplish it - you can get your companion to do it with their on-board script. If you wanted to (and had the appropriate idle animations from a third party) you could set up a companion to automatically engage you in a celebratory tumble every time combat ended. Note I've never actually tried that; but I know enough about the scripting involved to know it could be done - inconvenient though it would doubtless prove once the novelty wore off.

Lastly, we come to the Class. Why did I save the class for last? Because it has almost nothing to do with behavior. Class influences one thing, and one thing only about NPC behavior: which weapon they'll equip first if they have more than one. This effect is caused by the tag skills: normally, an NPC equips the weapon that they can do the most damage with first - and that is determined by the relevant weapon skill; which is in turn determined by whether it's a tag skill or not. Beyond determining which skills get point-preference, the class determines whether an NPC is willing to offer services - whether they'll buy/sell, repair, and train. Note, I don't think FO3/NV actually use the train function anymore; but it was widely used in Oblivion. Outside of that, Class is really only good for one thing: linking to a combat style; because the engine doesn't have a check for which combat style is running, you can "link" the two, and set up your scripting that if the NPC is using a melee class, they should be switched to a melee style, and so forth.

And that, boys and girls, is how your companion "thinks". Of course, some instances will result in one part being more or less important than I've stated - based on your own creation techniques and scripting style and all - but this is a pretty good outline, at least as I've experienced NPC behavior since starting up modding for CM in late '06/early '07.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Realistic Water for Oblivion

Recently went on an Oblivion spree, adding some new mods. In the Nexus' hot files slideshow on the main page, I noticed a mod by the name of Realistic Water. I've tried water "fixers" or replacers before, and always been underwhelmed. They either come out pretty crappy, or murder my FPS in a manner that would normally demand a trial be convened at the Hague.

I'm pleased - if surprised - to note that Realistic Water fits neither criteria. It does improve the looks; and did not make a noticeable hit to my framerate.

All in all, success.

If you're in the market for such a mod, I can recommend this one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NCCS - Milestone

So, in my general bitching and ranting about how rough I have it modding; I've completely forgotten to mention something at least somewhat significant.

NCCS has topped a hundred endorsements. (102 at the time of this posting, to be exact)

Of course, this number is far less impressive when you see that it has more than 5200 unique downloads... but I suppose we, as modders, should be grateful for whatever meager scraps we can get.

So, thanks to all who endorsed.

I want you people to know just how much willpower it's taking for me to not drop in a few choice social suggestions for everyone who plays it but won't endorse, by the way.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Days Like This...

Are what make me want to hang it up and just stop modding.

Doing some more testing of Lillian. Yesterday, all was working fine. Today? Her Go Home command doesn't work. More specifically; the Set Home command won't move the home marker. No matter where you set as Home, she goes back to her starting location.

I've triple-checked the code; it does what it's supposed to. Everything passes the GECK's script-checker without error.

With some revising, I got it to sort of work. Home will now work; until I enter the cell, when she makes for the starting location again.

Since the game gives us no provision for seeing markers, the best I can do for diagnostics is create a plugin that sets the marker as a quest marker; so I can at least see on the map if it's moving at all; being moved back, or what.

As well, the Sleep package that goes with the Home sandbox has somehow ended up twelve hours' off; and half the time the code to get her home isn't firing at all.

Again, I have no idea why. Everything worked yesterday.

I hate this game.

On top of that, I made the mistake of "upgrading" my copy of eXcalibr-whatever the hell he calls it. I was running an old version because the last time I updated it, the "update" stopped the game from starting. Turns out Earache42 hadn't bothered to actually test his plugin in any way before uploading it. Grabbed the newest version this morning, and the game will start, but now whenever I try to use a Groovatron menu, the game insta-crashes.

I wish people would stop fucking around with FOSE. If you don't know how to use it; don't. It's not like the weapon functions are even slightly cool to begin with.

So, now I've got to have it completely turned off until I can either figure out exactly what's going on, or remove the entire mess and replace it with the old version that actually worked. As well, I have to begin save-cleaning Lillian to see if that's the issue; and something has been corrupting about ten percent of my save games since I got rid of FWE. Loading one results in a crash. I have no idea what's going on there, either.

I am, however, about ten minutes away from uninstalling every mod not made by me.

Next-Gen Companions

For many moons now, I have been working on a secret project; that I have not even told my partner, Herculine, about.

...Okay, actually, I got bored and started working on it Saturday morning.


The project was my "Next-Gen" companion. A Fallout 3 companion who utilizes all the neat tricks I've learned over the months that RR has been languishing; and several of the new features I've recently pioneered in playing with my personal companions' scripting and such.

Ladies, Gentlemen, and people of indeterminate and/or transitory gender (don't want to leave anyone out...), meet Lillian:

Lillian is similar to Maeva in looks, though not a direct copy. She nonetheless uses the same "fiery" eye technique - albeit with a slightly modified eye mesh I used to try something new. The difference was not astounding in its magnitude, but at least it didn't make things worse. Lillian is slightly shorter, being an even 1.1 on the height scale - or about 6'3 in real-world terms.

Lillian utilizes some features that are standard on my companions. Drawing/holstering, sitting, a settable home marker, healing herself and the player.

There is where the similarities end, for the most part.

Lillian has not just one, but three combat styles; tailored for realism more so than making her an avatar of death. The three styles represent three levels of performance, and are intended to simulate her learning, and refining her techniques as she levels with the player. These combat styles will be cycled through automatically by her script, and require no modification on your part. As well, items with buffs to small guns may push her over the line; and get the script to advance to the next style; while later removing the buff would result in her reverting to a lesser style.

Lillian is not intended to be a one-woman-army. Her tag skills are small guns, sneak, and repair. Her class is not changeable.

Requiring the inclusion of Repair in tag skills was the fact that she... repairs. Lillian has a repair menu, and can fix your items for you. Note that costs still apply - this is hard-coded into the engine, and no one has been able to figure out how to get free repairs from an NPC that I've ever seen.

Lillian has a System Options menu, that allows toggling of her essential flag, the teleporting code, and her tracking quest. Defaults are: essential on, teleporting off, tracking on. These can be toggled at any time by speaking to her; even if she has not been hired or is not in your party.

Teleporting code has been optimized to have her "pop" in away from your front to avoid getting in your way.

Lillian has a custom body and skin (Type 3's BaseHD body and Waxed skin, to be exact).

Lillian can equip and remove a Pip-boy. When equipped, she may activate the Pip-boy's light.

Lillian comes with her own Blackwolf backpack, in black. When equipped, this offers access to a secondary storage where you can place items that she will not be able to equip. If she should die, the backpack-container is moved next to the corpse, to allow item retrieval.

Lillian has her own armor, and clothing. Equipped clothing will be automatically switched out at the start of certain packages. (note: armor and clothing may not make the final cut; depending on permissions from the relevant authors - if removal should be necessitated, the items will be replaced with default game items in the Nexus version; and a second download offered at a file sharing service with the original items intact)

Lillian's weapons and ammunition will spawn randomly at the start of each game, as well as potentially being changed if she is left alone long enough for her cell to reset.

If given stimpaks (she spawns with some), Lillian will heal herself when wounded or crippled; as well as the player when they reach a certain point in health (50% or less at the end of combat; 25% or less will have her immediately end combat and come to help you instead). This is not toggle-able at the present time.

Lillian's "Stay here" package is fully compatible with being used outdoors - she should not wander off and disappear.

Lillian has a settable Home marker; and new "Go Home" command that will have her travel back without the possibility of getting lost that previous attempts at such travel packages have had.

Lillian is fully death-compatible, and even has a quest entry berating you for letting her die, you heartless bastard. Why couldn't you leave the essential flag on? WHY? Now she's gone forever!

Initial tests had her performing well from the start. Though not quite at the level of my personal companions, this difference can be explained by the more "realistic" changes made to the combat styles; and the fact that I was level three at the time ensured that she was still on the Novice style. I made similar adjustments to my personal companions, and they performed similarly.

Lillian did exhibit the same looting behavior as the others did before.

"Firing" Lillian results in her returning to her starting position; rather than staying wherever you wanted to leave her; as well as automatic disabling of her tracking quest. Items left in her pack are not automatically returned.

Lillian is rather short on cheating aspects. She does not spawn with excess ammunition, weapons, or chems. Her pack is not removable. Her armor and clothing are playable, but of stats equivalent to their closest default-game analog.

Lillian's plugin comes as an esm/bsa pair. There are no loose files, nor directory structures to worry about.

Sound files have not yet been implemented. They may or may not be in the final product; depending on how lazy I end up. Adding voice files is a ton of horrendously boring work.

As well, there is no back story added at present. One may be, I haven't decided yet. She will not have an epic quest-line.

And now, for more screenshots:

You can see here her backpack, as well as her custom, helmet-less (and bra-less, apparently...) stealthsuit.

For proper testing with a minimum of interference, I cut the party back in size. My usual companion does not seem to trust the new girl...

Lillian in action, firing on a Raider in the Super Duper Mart.

Outside the 'Mart, under some morning daylight for a better look at her. It was apparently colder than I thought, that morning.

And lastly, after we had made our way clear to Rivet City; here's Lillian showing that even sunglasses can't tame the glow of her inhuman eyes.

The first beta version of the plugin went out to Herculine this morning. Once it's been tested a bit, some debugging done, and perhaps a few more features added, this one will be going up for download.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Was looking over a profile in the Nexus just now, and happened to pop into my own profile; curious about how many views it had.

I noticed the second to last hit on my profile was Buddah.

I'm not sure whether to be flattered or worried.

Either way, it was over a week ago and I haven't gotten to meet the angry hand of god yet; so it must not have been anything too serious. Although my more paranoid instincts do have me wondering idly if I've been reported for something by a certain scorned modder who shall remain nameless...

Friday, April 8, 2011

New FO3 Companion Developments

As I alluded to in the previous, mostly-joke post (which I had entirely too much fun writing, by the way), there have been some interesting new developments in my... "independent" companions.

Of course, these companions have all the latest revisions; all the cutting-edge details I've been toying with off and on - revising and improving since I first decided to attempt improvements to ttomwv's original companion scripts, nearly two years ago. As well, they have the latest revisions of my "OH GOD WHAT IN THE HELL ARE THEY?! WHO WOULD UNLEASH THIS UPON US?!" combat styles.

Two combat styles, actually. Maeva and Natasha run the latest version of the "Operator" style I've mentioned before - the one I developed based on the techniques of several special forces organizations from around the world, with a hefty dose of three-gun champion thrown in just for wow factor.

She-who-will-hurt-me-for-publishing-her-name uses another style; one that is similar to the Operator style - using lateral movement, aimed semi-automatic fire, and firing from cover when possible - but this one is special; developed just for her, and her own personal tactics. I call it a Sniper style; though in truth Designated Marksman would be more accurate. The style is optimized for long(er) range combat; and heavily favors powerful weapons. She's an unholy terror with one of 20th Century Weapons' Gepard 12.7mm rifles.

Truth be told, when I eventually do get around to releasing some of this, I'm going to have to turn the combat styles down a couple of notches. Why? They're too good; putting out three to five rounds a second with a revolver; speed-reloading, and doing it again. These girls give Jerry Miculek a run for his money.

(and on that note; even if you're not a "gun person", I highly recommend watching Jerry in action at least once - it's amazing stuff)

In any event, the styles need to be scaled back, as they're unbalancing to the game right now. It shouldn't be hard to do; up the dwell time between shots by one to two hundred percent; and make them more likely to seek cover, rather than simply stand and kill whatever was unfortunate enough to cross their path.

I like the movement; the cover seeking behavior, and the extended ranges they're willing to engage at. I just think they shouldn't be able to slaughter everything in sight quite so quickly.

Which does bring me to their most recent performance; last night as I was testing the latest revisions to the code before taking those screenshots for the other post.

I wish I had a video of it. We moved into the Super Duper mart (note: this is not the same savegame that Nos' Adventures takes place in - I started a new game to avoid possibly breaking that game; now that I know my "new" companions work, I can see about converting those saves to the new characters) at level three. In the past, just to accentuate how skilled they are, my girls were traditionally set to be over player level. In the course of setting up this plugin, I reset them to match my level, so no more cheating on that front.

Of course, FWE + low level = player can't kill shit. Weapons have laughable accuracy, and one hit won't kill even a dog; so all I managed to do was stir up the hornet's nest. Once one of the raiders strayed near enough to trip my cadre's radar, it was officially on.

What was really interesting was how they did it. Being FWE and low level, weapons and ammunition were fairly sparse. I don't think we had more than a couple dozen rounds for anything.

They cut down the enemies directly ahead of us with pistols, and advanced into the main room; cutting to their left, and taking cover behind the checkout counters while taking all comers.

As they moved, they also looted. Ignoring melee weapons totally, they nonetheless swiped every ranged weapon and round of ammo they found on corpses. As one weapon ran dry, they'd transition and keep going. It was... impressive to watch.

Eventually, we were down to the ones back behind the counter, who had foolishly come to see what was going on. They advanced up between the shelves towards us... and Maeva put away her gun. She took out a grenade, and threw it into the choke point; blowing both into a viscous stain on the tile.

I... don't think I've ever seen a companion do that before.

Later, after clearing the back room of anything not nailed down when the second wave moved in; they waited for the 'bot to get killed, and then went hunting. Each one took a third of the store, and they mercilessly slaughtered everything that wasn't us.

This one was more interesting for me; as aside from taking out the couple of raiders who were on top of the shelves, I wasn't actually involved in the combat. Didn't see a thing. As I came out from the pharmacy, three proud little redheads returned to me. They actually did sweep the entire store. Natasha took it upon herself to go get the guy that spawns in the restrooms - an enemy that hadn't even shown up on my radar yet.

Again, I'm thinking I may have overdone the combat abilities and aggression just a little bit.

Who'da ever thought an FO3 companion could be too good? I remember when we used to lament how bad they all sucked...

Interestingly, they didn't loot anything but ranged weapons and ammo. From what I know of the AI, this tells me that they didn't like the weapons they had. When a companion "likes" a weapon, they tend to equip it over anything else, regardless of damage value. No-Name likes the .500 S&W Magnum revolvers, for instance. Even if I give her an auto-shotgun or an anti-material rifle - both of which have higher base damage and DPS values - she'll still use the .500 until out of ammo; and then almost grudgingly switch.

Maeva was sticking primarily to handguns; despite having a stack of grenades that were far and away more powerful. Given total selection, she tends to prefer automatic shotguns over everything else.

Natasha's a pragmatist; willing to use whatever has the best damage rating based on her skill levels.

This, again, is interesting - because it's identical to the behavior they exhibited as RR companions. The issue is that these girls have never been RR companions. I couldn't clean the masters from the plugin successfully; so I copied the NPC base-forms to a new plugin; and wrote in new scripts, combat styles, classes, and dialogue. They don't even have the same IDs. Different plugin, different IDs, different scripts, different saves... identical behavior.

This worries me. RR companions have to "learn" like any of us "real" people. This is mostly confirmed, by the way - having been reported and verified by quite a few players while I had the call out for intensive testing of companions and their abilities last year. On average, it takes them eight to ten hours of play time to get the hang of things.

I've since learned that this information actually is saved to our hard drives; and is not part of the savegames, themselves. That's why once they've "learned", companion behavior stays good until and unless you uninstall and reinstall the game totally. The information was actually found last year by a player trying to track down the engine's memory leak. He found that FO3 was saving information into somewhere deep and dark in the Windows install. I don't think he ever identified exactly what information was being saved; but from what I've seen in the game over the years, I know perfectly well what it's saving: it's the AI that I and so many other players have run into on numerous occasions.

Trouble is, this information is plugin and character specific. Turning a plugin off and on won't clear it; but moving the same character to a new plugin gets that character flagged as new, and it has to learn all over again. As well, the learned behavior if you will doesn't carry over between characters. Long-time readers will recall the horrid performance I suffered from the Arianrhod companion created specifically to be my partner in Nos' Adventures. She got better, but never did get as good as the ones in my companions pack; despite them all using the exact same scripts, packages, and combat styles.

My new companions shouldn't have learned this fast. They were terrors out of the box, as it were; being held back in the beginning only by some errors I had made in the first draft of the scripts.

Which, of course, begs the question: if I repeat my process; create a new companion with the same combat style, same script, same packages... would they work the same? This is something I'm going to have to investigate.

As for tertiary, non-combat functions:

I'm torn on the teleporting code. While it technically works, it suffers from much the same problems that ttomwv's teleporting code had: that is, they tend to 'port around a lot at random, rather than just when they're supposed to. While I only implemented teleporting to pull a companion along if we ended up in different cells, it doesn't work correctly at the Megaton gate; which means that much like in FONV, the engine is tagging them as being in the same cell you are; it just isn't actually moving them right away.

I'm considering trying some form of timer; to cut down on weird warpings in the wasteland. Maybe a five or so second delay - if the companion stays in a different "cell" for more than five seconds, then the teleport command trips; but not before. This would, I think, cut down on random warping as you moved through the open wastes. Unfortunately, I have not had good luck with the reliability of timers in the past in this game.

As it stands, companions not immediately following you into a new cell, or occasionally getting lost may simply be one limitation we do have to accept. It may well turn out that my Pip-Boy plugins and Herculine's recall items are really the most efficient and least troublesome solution; that there isn't an automatic fix that can be scripted in to thwart flaws in the engine.

On another note: the 'party size dependent' plugin idea continues to work well. I'm not sure how practical it will be - plenty of players already mewl "cheat!" every time a companion does anything other than suck and die; so I'd imagine I'll hear quite a bit of bitching if I do implement any sort of party-size based bonuses to stats or skills.

Seems nearly everything needs to be made optional these days. Ungrateful wretches. Like to see them script better; they're so damned smart...

*ahem* Don't mind me. Bitter moment.


As I said before, it feels good to be back in FO3. So much in the other two games just doesn't work. Bethsoft hasn't unfucked FONV yet, and Oblivion is such a primitive incarnation of the scripting engine that a lot of the code I prefer to use doesn't work in it. I had forgotten how good I was at this sort of thing.

Following that train of thought; I'm more than likely going to be working on some new companions for the game. These will probably provide insight for other modders; but they will absolutely NOT be any sort of a "create your own" system; nor will they be tied to one.

I've had some new ideas that I think should pan out well. One, is a companion who grows and learns as you do. Now, I don't mean by that simply their skills go up. I've thought of a method to have several combat styles - skill levels, if you will - that the companion will automatically progress through as they level up and their skills increase. While not strictly speaking learning this would nonetheless present the appearance to the player that the companion was revising their behavior as they got more experience at fighting.

I've also come up with a way to have the companion switch weapons, based on distance to their opponent. Unfortunately, this is item dependent; so it would have to be coded based on the weapon mods you were (or weren't) running. As it wouldn't be an in-line setup, I'm not sure how well it would go over. The trick, I think, would be setting it up so that if they didn't have any of the weapons in the distance-lists, they'd simply fight as normal. I'm still not sure if I could set up the behavior to make proper use of missile launchers and such.

Lastly, as I look over the screenshots from last night, I can't help but think one thing: damn they ended up hot. I've got to be sure to back up my custom skin textures and a copy of that plugin.

Okay, I've rambled enough. Doubt anyone cares this much about my digital-philosophical meanderings.

Good day, Kiddies.

Nos' World - Sharing?

Girls? Got a minute?

Of course.

I suppose. You are my master, after all.

Sure, what's up?

Well, first I wanted to ask how you're liking the new environment. Your scripts seem to have sorted themselves. The sitting code finally worked correctly, too. Damn, I'm good.

Can't complain. Everything seems to be working...

Yeah; that brings up something I wanted to discuss.

Dare I ask...?

Look, I know you went partially batshit insane and had your psychotic break and everything and completely severed us from that RR mess...

I did not have a psychotic break. It was a carefully calculated decision that I had been mulling over for months before even attempting it. Besides which, I hate to have to point out that your scripts are functioning better after less than four hours in the new plugin than they were after a year of constant revisions and testing when you were slaved to RR! You three performed better tonight than I've ever seen any companion do; ever. You three were looting ammunition from the people you killed as you moved through the place! There were no loot packages involved!

Ah-hem. You're ranting again.

Uh, yeah; I'm not knocking the new code. It's great. Trouble is, pulling the vault has left us... how shall I put this...

Tragically short of swanky digs.

That works.


We're spending the night in the fucking Super Duper Mart. Granted, Vault 1 wasn't the Four Seasons; but it beat the hell out of this shit. Don't you guys agree?

At least we're all together, right?

I've slept in worse places by far. This is a solid roof and bar-able doors, at least.

You people suck. I'll call the demon-union over this, I swear.

What do you want me to do?

Make with the GECK work, slacker. Open the tower up.

Or there was that nice place up in the rocks.

You mean the one I never even finished the first cell of? Okay; fine. I'll see about getting us something rigged up. Now can we get back to the matter at hand?

The one you never got around to mentioning?

Yes, that one. Anyway. With the three of you free; the subject has been broached that I might intend to share you.

...You're going to whore us out?

"Share" implies free of charge. I think slutting us out would be a more appropriate term.

How could you?!

NOT THAT KIND OF SHARING. They mean uploading your plugin for public download.

Which is different than letting random people have their way with us how, again?

May we have a moment to confer?

Yeah, take your time.





We have reached a consensus.

And what would that be?

Ho-kay. I'm going to mark that one down in the minutes as an emphatic no.

Sorry folks, doesn't look like these three will be gracing the Nexus new files listing anytime soon...