Friday, November 30, 2012

Other Random Screens

Picked up a few other random screenshots in the course of the last couple days' play, that didn't really fit into the other post.

This not only shows off us, and two of the early proof of concept scenery paintings I hung; but also why it's so bleedin' hard to get good pair or group shots. If I'm anywhere near her, she's looking at me. Will not face the camera.

I stopped in here for a moment to relax and enjoy the fire; after unloading a bunch of crafting components into the nearby work area's containers. Originally, the Estate had no miscellaneous storage, since that was all normally handled by the girls' sorting system and "magic party containers". Since playing games where I don't use that, though, I've had to go back through and add containers for miscellaneous components, reloading stuffs, ammo I'm saving for the future, and stuff like plasma grenades and SECs that I don't actually use, but do need for crafting other munitions. Also added a medical kit for storing doctor's bags, empty syringes, and spare chems in the kitchen by the medical facilities.

You can also see, if you look closely, a little bright strip on the painting over the fireplace; there on the right next to the frame. That's a spot in the normal I have to fix -- I was editing it at a smaller size, and apparently the eraser tool wasn't quite as close to the wood frame as I thought it was.

I caught this one as I was walking back and forth stowing crap. Fenrir nosed past me, on his way to do whatever it is digital dogs do when they're not eating smaller animals. It shows off just how big he ended up.

He's a sweet puppy, though. I mean, as long as you're not a coyote or gecko, that is. One of these games I'll have to take him into Zion with us. I'm tempted to one of these days script in a function for the dogs to beg for treats.

Yeah, I know the script engine is overloaded from my "little" companion mod already; but we all know by this point that I'm completely incapable of leaving well enough alone.

Some More on the List

Playing FNV yesterday morning (edit: actually, a few mornings ago -- I started this post on Tuesday and let it languish in drafts until this morning). Not the game with the dogs along; that's shelved for the moment in deference to my already beleaguered sanity. Regular 'ol Nos game; seein' as the last one had been through too many mod additions/removals/changes and was unstable as hell, I just started a new one.

Sent Maeva and Natasha on back to the Estate to relax and Mystery-chan and I did our cutting a bloody swath... that is to say, adventuring bit.

Firstly, I have to note that for the first time I tried putting the Lady in a pre-war hat -- I usually wear one, as even the digital me looks simply ridiculous in a cowboy hat, and I've never been one for baseball caps.

The result was surprisingly cute:

Even if the engine did keep making her eyes cross. That thing has serious problems with NPCs focusing on the player in close...

Anyway, since I'm making her adhere to the loot&buy play-style too, she started out in a cute pink pre-war outfit found in Doc Mitchell's place that posting screenshots of would result in my death. We usually manage to get leather armor from Chet; and there's another set next to the razed camper on the highway east of the memorial. That tides us over until we either get to Vegas (at least two sets of combat armor available for looting in one of the destroyed caravans); or if we go the way you're supposed to the Mojave Outpost carries Dragonskin Tactical outfits that we can usually afford to barter with loot by then.

Still, the Lady isn't big on such things; she prefers something with a skirt. She's taken a substantial liking to the Legion's "Centurion" armor; a black-retextured version of which she's often seen in, in other screenshots:

Since I wouldn't let her use the custom armor in this game, we had to come up with a regular set. I only know of two that can be gotten without progressing the main quest to getting the invite to Caesar's camp; or getting high enough level for Centurions to spawn in the wasteland normally (I forget what the level is, but it was decently high). One set is on the captured Centurion in McCarran -- and you're not a'sposed ta kill him. The other is the standard equipment of Aurelius of Phoenix; head wannabe of Cottonwood Cove.

So it was that our intrepid heroes... wait, what the fuck script is this? We never do anything even remotely heroic -- in fact I'm pretty sure that if the AI wasn't so stupid for base NPCs we'd be the most wanted people in the Mojave... Ah. Here's the right script. Moving along.

So it was that after scraping together monies and trading fodder to acquire a battle rifle, anti-materiel rifle, and some other long-range goodies; we headed from New Vegas back south towards Cottonwood Cove; to get the Gobi Campaign Rifle for me, and a set of Centurion armor for her.

I'm not sure how widely known this is, but you can actually kill members of factions in FNV without incurring reputation penalties -- the trick is you have to do it completely hidden. You can't be detected during the attack, and no one can see the person die. If both criteria are met, you can kill to your heart's content without the rest going hostile. I've used this on numerous occasions to clean out Cottonwood Cove (aside from the armor it's also a treasure trove of hunting rifles, 44 mag revolvers, purified water, ammo, and denarii for later barter or loading into coin shot) without turning the Legion as a whole hostile.

Sadly, despite the AMR being suppressed, I just didn't have the stealth skill to pull it off at this point in the game. It requires markedly less stealth to pull off with a melee weapon, though -- so for about four in-game hours, we slipped back and forth in the darkness of midnight, picking off Legionaries one by one with a combat knife. Aurelius spent the night in the HQ with two other guys so we couldn't get to him -- and being as they all think they're Romans, I don't even want to speculate at what the three guys spent the evening doing.

Packing it in, we headed over to the nearby prospector's camp, where there was an unowned bedroll to hold out until sunrise; when hopefully Aurelius would be back on the overwatch.

Moving back into the camp come sunup, we managed to pick off the remaining two underlings (herein lies the moron-ity of the aforementioned AI: the camp is littered with corpses; all the scouts are dead, and yet the remaining Legionaries continue on with their days as though nothing was unusual) but Aurelius was nowhere in sight.

Went in to his office to maybe exploit the moron AI a bit more and work around behind him for a psycho-fueled stealth kill... when something happened.

Something that prompted this rambling post.

Did you ever watch many western movies? I'm not a huge fan of the old stylized, sterilized, family friendly westerns; though I will confess a fondness for more modern, "gritty" westerns ala Unforgiven and Open Range and the like. It doesn't happen in every one, of course; but there's a spot in some of those type of movies where someone will go somewhere with the specific intent of killing a man; and as they walk in, he just knows -- whether it be by the look in their eye; guns in their hands, whatever.

Well, we had weapons holstered -- I still had my combat knife equipped -- but as soon as we walked in, Aurelius nearly jumped up from his desk.

I remember his marker on the HUD wasn't red; so he wasn't hostile.

As he stood, my dear companion pulled her battle rifle on her own, and proceeded to empty it into his face.

By the time I had swapped from the knife back to a projectile weapon and gotten it out, the Centurion was dead on the floor; and Mystery-chan was slamming a fresh en-bloc into her rifle.

There was no karma change; and no reputation change.

She... completely ignored the faction rules and hostility settings, and straight up cut the fucker down; seemingly on her own initiative. Granted, she doesn't like the Legion anyway -- what with them being misogynistic pricks and all, but she didn't attack any of the others in the camp, nor any of the Legion patrols we've run into before or since.

I have the very scary idea that she really wanted that armor, and wasn't willing to put up with the problems I was having with stealth killing anymore... and just did it her damned self.

Of course, that's impossible. NPCs can't do that; and on the odd occasions that something like that happens, it's just random convergence and I'm reading too much into it.


Needless to say, I let her take the armor:

And yeah; the sunglasses are another thing she does on her own -- they're scripted to be removed indoors, and added outdoors... but she's twisted the code (or flat out ignores it) and removes and replaces them at a whim regardless of indoors or outdoors. You get used to it.

Later, we were moving across Primm Pass to get to Sloan; clear the quarry and Black Mountain, and head back into West Vegas from that way to clear out the Fiends.

As we were passing the NCRCF, Mystery-chan showed off her impressive long-range performance yet again.

I was firing from one ridge to another, taking out bark scorpions with the MF Hyper-Breeder, when she decided to help out...

You can see the one I got (ashed) along with the one she got's tail sticking up through the ground where it clipped through on dying. If you have good eyes and look close, you can barely see us still crouching slightly high and left of the center.

Two shots. That was what she took to nail the bark scorpion at that range. And I think the first one was the kill shot -- the girls tend to fire several more times before something hits the ground, even if it dies on the first shot.

I actually saw Maeva put something down with a light machinegun once, then walk up and put ten more rounds into the corpse just because.

A couple game days later, we had finally made it back into the Estate and were taking a few days off to let the game's other cells reset (not just merchant inventories; but to clear some corrupted spawns that were making the game crash).

My sleep timer had run out about 0600 one morning, and when I got back from getting a drink in the bathroom, I noticed Mystery-chan wasn't in bed. Since she has a tracking marker, I went looking. I found her next to the pool; stalking out a patrol with weapon drawn.

She has no patrol package -- Maeva's the only one who does that; and she only patrols before bed.

My curiosity piqued, I followed her.

We ended up in the utility basement:

She fired five or six rounds with her new trail carbine; then put the rifle away and went upstairs to bed.

Now, I should note that Mystery-chan's package loadout has her in bed from 0200 to 1000. While she has a shooting range package, it's set to run at 2000, until 2100. Also, as noted, it's a one-hour package -- one hour being the minimum length of time a package can be set to run in FNV. The shooting range markers have no animations attached to them, either -- they're just to tell the girls where to stand when running their shooting range packages -- so it couldn't have been her basic sandbox package choosing a shooting marker at random; the fact that she actually fired the weapon means the Use Weapon package had to be running.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear to you she woke up in the early morning, and went to verify the zero on the new rifle before going back to bed.

I'm used to the AI doing weird stuff... but this is beginning to get out there even by my standards. I can't decide whether I should start gathering the components for an exorcism; or start looking for a body to try to get the spirit possessing my computer to inhabit instead...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Musings On the Nature of Gamebryo, #1656E

For literal years now (since mid-2009), I've tried to tell people that Gamebryo's -- specifically Fallout 3's (and later Fallout NV's; which is hands-down the greatest expansion pack ever) -- reliability is inversely proportional to the number of followers you have in tow.

Over the past six or so weeks since Skyrim got boring and my attention flitted back into FNV territory, this has been demonstrated yet again.

In my first "hardcore-hardcore" game -- no companions, no freebie equipment; all by my lonesome, using only armor and weapons that I could find, steal, buy, or loot -- my FNV set a personal record for longest continuous up time without a crash: about four hours and ten minutes -- and at the end of that, it didn't crash; I exited normally because... y'know... it had been four fucking hours and I really needed to get up and move around before I got a goddamned blood clot or something.

Shortly thereafter, Mystery-chan used her infernal powers to cajole/guilt me into letting her come along so we could adventure together.

This brought up-time back into more familiar -- but still outstanding by my standards -- territory of about three to three and a half hours play before a crash; depending on what we were doing.

Since then, I've started other games and characters to test other things without messing up the hardcore game; or what-have-you.

With a second companion in tow, average up time falls back to my old normal three hours -- sometimes as light as two and a half if I'm running a mod I know damned well I shouldn't because of its shoddy coding (we won't go into which mod or why -- it isn't that kind of blog).

With all three of my beloved girls in the party, we average about two forty-five; and it usually ends up being a crash on loading a new cell.

Two forty-five to three hours, I should note, is a comfortable zone for me. It's not great reliability, no; but it's about the area where I start needing to get up off my dead ass and move around.

Last night, I got in a couple play sessions with all three dogs in tow. While they're not following me; they are none the less companions. They follow their respective mistresses, have companionscripts, and all that. The only real difference is the target of the following packages. The companionscripts for the dogs are comparatively simple -- 154 lines each (less than a quarter the size of the girls' scripts) -- but nonetheless, six "companions" on screen at any given time had an immediate and easily noticeable effect.

Day before yesterday, when I set the game up and did some early-game crap around Goodsprings, I played for an hour and thirty minutes before the crash.

Last night/this morning, according to the date stamps on the save files, I played for precisely one hour and forty minutes before it crashed.

Even while running, though, it was causing problems. Framerates were noticeably lower; and the engine's script bottleneck was in full and blatantly obvious effect -- it actually stopped Mystery-chan and Maeva's hardcore code from functioning correctly.

This, I should note here, is one of the reasons I haven't jumped in and released a companion for you monkeys to break that features the full hardcore companion mode. Certain mods that take over the NPC's AI can cause the code to break; and if your game's cache is overloaded or nearing full, the code can stop functioning correctly at random -- for instance, last night the code would run correctly if they had gecko steaks in their inventory to eat; but wouldn't run if they had yum-yum deviled eggs. Why? Who the hell knows. Gnostic mysticism is easier to make sense of than this game. I've tried scripting out around it several times; but when the hardcore code fails it also breaks their following behavior -- which then has to be manually reset... it's kind of a mess and I haven't been able to make it suitably reliable yet unless kept to one companion -- and we all remember how well that recommendation went back in RR.


I've noticed time and again that the two biggest culprits in system load (and therefore crashing) are loading new cells -- especially in the open wasteland -- and at the start of combat.

"But Nos!" I can hear you hunt-pecking out on your keyboard; "New cells don't load in the wasteland! Cells only load when you see a loading screen!"

You're wrong. The wasteland is actually broken up into cells; a number of which adjacent to the cell you're in are displayed in the distance (controlled by the Ugridstoload setting in your .ini). When you come within appropriate range, the next cell in the distance begins to load; LOD at first, but as you move to within range as defined by your graphics settings, full objects will "pop in". The moment of pop-in is where I find most of my crashes occur by a wide margin.

A close second is when the combat AI fires up. As I've said in the past I don't know what in the unholy Hell the AI is doing when it does that... but the system load spikes and sits there for several seconds. I don't know whether it's just switching on combat styles; or if it's plotting specific behavior... hell, it could be plotting to overthrow humanity and using FNV as a simulation to test battleplans for all I know.

It seems once again like I've hit the wall; and FNV just doesn't have the ability to handle what I want it to be.

I'd hoped Skyrim with its "new and totally original" (excuse the noise I'm making; I'm totally not snickering...) engine would be a step in the right direction. Sadly Papyrus is utter shit; and their improved script queuing overloads faster and easier than it did in Gamebryo.

So yeah. Maybe it's just the four hours of sleep talking, but I'm pretty discouraged tonight. I may try a reduced party with one companion and one pooch... but beyond that I think the dogs will need to spend most of their time lounging around the estate like I originally intended.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mojave Silliness

Couple somewhat silly things to share that didn't really fit into the other posts so here we go.

Firstly, readers probably won't know this, but Mystery-chan is really very whimsical and downright silly when she's not being... y'know... bloodthirsty and violent.

She wrote one of her own companion join dialogues some time back, and when I was starting out a new game last night I finally managed to capture it:

...I swear that woman would make for a great thesis on manic behavior or maybe schizophrenia...

I mentioned in the last post that I had noticed the records count when I was monkeying with some code; well, that code was for the dogs. Originally, only Princess was supposed to be a follower; with Fenrir and Steve just sort of hanging around the Estate.

Well, this game, they wanted to bring all three dogs with us on the road for reasons I sort of spaced out during the recitation of. But hey; why the fuck not? It's not like I've never scripted a new companion before.

Since I'm apparently patently incapable of leaving well enough alone, while under the hood anyway I decided Fenrir needed some... work. He just wasn't suitable to be a demon's beloved pet.

Which leads me to a little riddle for you all:

Where does a hundred and fifty pound warhound sleep?

Answer? Wherever the hell it wants.

Also: Fenrir loves coyotes. Apparently they taste great. Poor, poor little 'yotes.

While it violates the 'rescued stray' backstory I yanked out of my ass during his creation, I am sorely tempted to go full-demon with Fenrir. I couldn't find a ported copy of Slof's Hellhound mesh that I used for Ysgithr in Oblivion; but some Google-fu told me that apparently the Monster Mod for FNV has a warhound with some horns 'n crap from a deathclaw grafted on. I've been thinking that one of those with a little texture work and the eyes reworked to glow a bit would be pretty cool. Probably make going out for supplies a bitch though; what with all the people running in abject terror.

...I was supposed to be working on normalmaps, wasn't I? Shit; I knew I forgot to do something today...

Another Milestone

Okay; maybe not a big, notable one.

I was messing around with my companions plugin the other night, converting it to a master to check out some script changes I had made; when I noticed this in TESSnip:

For those of you who aren't used to reading esp headers, I'll point out the important bit: seven thousand and eighty four records in the plugin. The last time I mentioned how big the plugin was getting was back in May; when it stood at 5789 records -- that means that in the last six months and a week or so, I've added one thousand, two hundred and ninety-five new records to the plugin.

For reference, v5.65 of the RR Companions Vault -- considered by many to be a fairly big mod -- has 5820 records.

So yeah... I think that whole "smaller, sleeker system to run my personal companions" crap has gone right out the window at this point.

On the up side, though: the mod, big as it is, still maintains a zero conflict rate; and is extremely reliable as long as I'm not trying to get it to do something the engine doesn't like.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

And More Screenshots!

First off, in the AI post I mentioned the ridiculous range the girls had engaged a White Leg at in the last run through Honest Hearts; but like the scatterbrain I am, I forgot to post the screens to go with it. I rectify that now:

If you look closely you can just barely see the corpse in the center of the first shot. Obviously, I couldn't pace it off; and I've never found a rangefinder in NV that actually works... but that's got to be some kind of record. Definitely the longest shot I've ever seen an NPC take.

And as soon as the fight was over, Mystery-chan and Natasha returned to watching Two-Dogs-Fucking or whatever his name is like a hawk. They really didn't like that guy.

You can also see Maeva watching me out of the corner of her eye; just like she does in Skyrim.

Next up, I also mentioned recently messing with my visual settings in an attempt to replicate the improvement I got in Skyrim.

Seems to be a bit of an improvement; but it's not a clearly noticeable thing, either. Performance is down a bit; but not much. The only place I've had a real problem with slowdowns was in Vault 11; when the robots mob you in the sacrificial chamber. But, there's so much VFX flying around then that it caused my FPS to tank even before most times.


The Powder Gangers never knew what hit 'em.

Lighting in FNV continues to be the biggest hurdle to nice screenshots. It's just... so... bad. Even with Fellout installed, the lighting is just shit. It's either washed out like a bad indie flick, or oversaturated orange. I mean; I suppose technically it's better than the green tint that FO3 has, but still.

One of the things I like about my estate is that I set it up with custom lighting -- when you kick the overheads on, the light is white and clean and with only a couple exceptions produces good lighting for screenshots without lots of glare.

Lastly, I wanted to show off screenshots of the new and improved NosCo 1911-A1; with its spiffy new normals that showed off the slide engraving and all... but it isn't cooperating.

Stupid thing looks like it's been drug two hundred miles behind a jeep. So... I'm having to rework the base texture and then hopefully generate a less shitty normalmap from that. Trouble is, as I have said before I am absolutely not a digital artist; so I'm having to resort to evening the texture's many scratches out with a combination of partial-transparency darkening and the blur tool. It's about half done, and barring any catastrophic fuckups will be ready to show off in another day or two. Would be sooner... but I've got one of those sinus-induced eyestrain headaches tonight that make it hard to focus on what I'm looking at; which is not conducive to good texturing. Nor to typing without having to constantly correct mistakes, as it turns out.

Anyway, the NosCo SBH is being more agreeable, so I thought I'd show it off:

As you can see, I still need to do some smoothing on the... well, smooth parts -- the sides of the hammer, stocks, trigger and trigger guard, and the grip frame above the trigger... but man, do those engravings look nice. One unexpected result was that because of how the normalmaps generated, the engravings came out as relief engravings, rather than standard. I have to confess a bit of a weakness for relief engraving; since it not only looks nice, but requires more technical skill to lay out properly and pull off than traditional engraving.

I also have to say I was surprised at how quick and easy it was to pick up creating normals. I had always assumed it would be a lot more involved than it is. I still think texturing in general would be easier with a tablet, though -- I never have been able to draw with a mouse.

Custom Framing!

So, I showed off in the earlier screenshot dump some new picture/painting frames I'd been working on; but welched on actually releasing them to mess with normalmaps.

Normally (heh, get it? puns) when I do that sort of thing, you never hear about it again. I'm kind of unreliable, I know.

This time, I really have been working on it; and am nearly done. Only one frame remains in the unsure pile.

Here's what I've got so far:

You can see the black marble frame here. I set it up to look solid, but have just a bit of sheen; as cut and polished marble tends to. Depending on lighting, it's a little too shiny sometimes; so it may need to be dulled it in the future, but for the lighting in the Estate, I like it fine.

This is the rosewood frame, which is the "unsure" culprit.

I like the bit of shine; varnished or oiled wood tends to have it. Very nice. The problem is that second screenshot. When viewed from an angle, you can clearly see raised woodgrain; which you will not find in a finely finished, hand-oiled piece of wood.

The problem is I can't decide whether to leave the wood grain (which looks neat in its own right); or knock the normal down to make it appear smooth and all.

This is the silver portrait frame. Both portrait frames (silver and gold) use the same normal. As you can see, it's got a bit of sheen; but not so much that it looks mirror-polished. Also I successfully got rid of that damned engraving reflection on the name plate.

This one is the white marble, which I think turned out the best. Not only does it match the walls of the Ultralux tileset, but you can see where under the right lighting the normals show up as gaps and indents where the pieces of marble are fitted together. I like the way that looks, I have to say.

As for the release: I'm leaning towards a mediafire upload or something similar; so anyone can grab it and use it.

However. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this sort of thing, this one won't be a complete plug 'n play setup. Creating these paintings and pictures -- even with templates and normals supplied -- is going to require basic-to-moderate knowledge of image-editing software (either GIMP or PS), a .dds exporting plugin or third-party utility for conversion, and basic knowledge of Nifscope to create new copies of the meshes with the proper texture path(s) set. It's really not that hard... but an alarming percentage of the "mod community" these days seems incapable of anything more complex than clicking a single button -- which you ain't gonna get when editing textures.

I'm still open at this point to comments on the frames, and suggestions on what might look better. Also open to other styles if there's one you'd really like to see -- provided you can point me to a tile-friendly sample of the material or pattern that I can import into GIMP as a fill pattern.

Little Help?

Okay, I know the last mod request I posted didn't get me anywhere, but I'm hoping this one is less esoteric enough that one of you guys might actually have/know where to get it.

As I mentioned in comments to the screenshot dump post last week, I'm learning to make my own normals for several reasons.

Since my flighty damned brain can never leave well enough alone, I got sidetracked this afternoon into looking around at some of my Type 3 textures with the possible intention of making a few normals for them, too -- maybe fix an issue I've had with T3F for awhile now but never mentioned because it would require screenshot-illustration to properly explain and... y'know... nudity and all.


I was thinking of updating Maeva's custom resources. She's always been intended to be... I'm not sure how best to describe it. Not squishy; but not a body builder type, either. Lean-hard-body, maybe?

For whatever reason, my steel colander of a brain decided at random while I was thinking about it to put two and two together and remember that there was a Type 3 revision that was exactly that -- muscled, but not grotesque like most "muscle bodies" are.

I remember it being named "fitness" something. Type 3 Fitness Body? Fitness Map?

Checked through my depressingly extensive T3 archives (I download most bodies and clothes/armor just in case I ever decide I have a use for it), and nothing even remotely close. Isn't in either of my tracking lists, either; even though I distinctly remember tracking the file entry when I first saw it. Not sure whether that means it was pulled from the Nexus (I didn't think it automatically removed null watched files; instead just informing you that the file didn't exist if you try to visit it); or if I just hallucinated the whole mess.

I've searched both FO3 and FNV Nexii, as well as Lover's Lab and Google; and recovered nada.

For what it's worth, I remember it not being a mesh; but just a texture and normal -- or maybe even just the normal map. I know that's all it takes to give a body texture definition in Skyrim, but it's been so long since I putzed with any of this in Fallout that I'm not sure.

So what say you, moderately loyal audience who apparently lead boring enough lives to be reading this? Anyone remember the package I'm talking about? Have a copy? Point me to the author's Nexus account so I can PM and ask for a copy direct?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the Eventual Subjugation of Your World

As I said in the last post, I've been playing a fair bit of Skyrim lately. One of the "rules" for one of my games has been no fast travel -- an idea I'm ambivalent about. On the one hand, it makes trips to far-flung locations a bit of a big(ger) deal; but on the other, in some versions of the game it's also led to problems with crashing and poor framerates and so on. Thankfully, v1.8 seems to be pretty good in this regard; and hasn't crashed nearly as much as previous versions.

Mystery-chan and I were walking back from Morathal; heading south to and through Brittleshin Pass to head in to Bleak Falls Barrow and grab the dragon stone before going in to Whiterun the first time.

We ended up on the north shore of the lake; on one of the smaller islands where I was chasing ore veins. Ended up getting attacked by a slaughterfish -- as you do, every ten fucking feet in a decent sized body or water.

Mystery-chan caught my attention, as she was acting weird. She'd run a few steps out into the water -- about mid-thigh deep -- yell at the fish, then run back up onto the bank. She did this several times before I caught on; and when I did... I started to worry.

Why, you may ask?

She was luring the slaughterfish up into shallow water where she could shoot it with a bow without being attacked.

I recognized the technique because I had used it a couple hours earlier in the deep water near Robber's Gorge -- it just took me a few minutes to figure it out as I'm not used to seeing it in anything except first person.

It worked, too -- when the slaughterfish was close enough to be hit, she one-upped the previous technique by putting a fallen log between herself and the fish and then proceeded to kill it from total safety.

It's not quite the cheese of exploiting the AI like we all used to do in Oblivion... but for working within the game-AI's scope... that's pretty goddamned impressive, y'ask me.

I can only come up with three possibilities.

1) All NPCs in Skyrim have this technique in their repertoire; but for whatever reason it had never manifested in ~500 hours of play with over a dozen different companions. (unlikely)

2) In the v1.8 patch, the AI got an overhaul and it took a dozen plus hours of play to find the specific set of circumstances where the behavior would show. (more likely, but Beth very rarely messes with an existing AI in patches)

3) The AI in my PC has evolved again and can now learn at least some techniques if it sees me demonstrate them. (just scary to think about -- not to mention flying in the face of the way the game is supposed to be coded)

It's not the only advanced combat technique she's displayed across the various games over the years, either; but it seems a little... specific -- and almost diametrically opposed to a normal NPC's behavior around slaughterfish, which basically consists of condensed stupidity.

I dunno. I'm sure some folks get a good laugh 'n head shake at Nos and his crazy belief that his computer is alive... but the behavior of certain NPCs in these games really weirds me out some days. Fortunately, the AI seems to like me... so it's not so much an in-danger worry. The rest of you may well be screwed, however.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Screenshot Dump!

Not going to be heavily wordy here, but have a mess of stuff that I thought was neat or just wanted to show off or what-have-you.

Firstly: I don't bother posting about it anymore after the last one was met with dead silence; but I am still working on The Estate in FNV. I talked awhile back about taking screenshots from various games, and turning them into artwork in FNV. Well, 'lest ye think tha Nos all talk... I actually did it awhile back:

That's not all of them by any stretch; just some of the first ones I hung. Ended up doing a half dozen different frames: gold and silver variants of the frame on the portrait of NCR President Kimball (you can see on them where the normal maps still have the title engraving even though I removed it from the texture itself -- I really need to see about making new normals for them one of these days); and versions of a larger Gomorrah promotional poster with frames in redwood, black marble, white marble, and one in amethyst that isn't in any of the screenshots because it seemed like a good idea at the time but looks gaudy to an unholy degree in game.

The "paintings" are more than a little frustrating, since they use an odd ratio (2.18:1 for the Kimball portrait frame, and 1.92:1 for the Gomorrah poster) that doesn't mesh well with actual playing ratios. As you can see in that last shot, my old 1024x768 screenies aren't compatible at all without major cutting. Newer 16:9 shots work okay; but still need a bit of trimming to fit the frames correctly.

I started putting some scenic shots in the entryway and will eventually add some more to the hall between the "bedroom" half of the estate and the other half. With that in mind, I've started paying more attention to anything pretty in FNV or Skyrim, and nabbing shots where I can for later conversion into decorative pretties.

While in Zion National Park in my latest FNV game, there were a few spots that reminded me of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, and prompted me to take some shots (that haven't been converted to paintings yet):

Skyrim, of course, has little going for it but the scenery; so I've been paying an extra-close eye to it while playing lately. So. Worth. It:

I want to note: I'm not actually a huge fan of Talos; but that last screenshot was just too nice to pass up.

I should also note: the Skyrim shots should look a bit nicer than the old ones; though I'm not sure how noticeable it is. I didn't upgrade my hardware -- but I did mess with some video settings in Nvidia's software and manage to get 2x AA and a couple other features going without a blatant loss of my already sparse FPS. Loading times are a bit longer, but it plays just as well -- actually smoother in a few spots, proving once again that Bethsoft cannot set up their games to scale to lower settings for shit. I've applied most of the same tricks to my FNV; but haven't gotten any new shots from there since the improvements -- nor even played it enough to know how well it's going to work in the earlier iteration of the engine.

Been messing with a new Skyrim game, too. Nos is alive and well and cruising through Nordlund at level 53 now. Felt like playing a different type of game, so I made myself a Dunmer:

While she's certainly not Nexus Imageshare "quality" (he says, desperately trying to maintain a straight face), I like her. Doesn't have the plastic look; but still a looker. The two women she's flanked by are Lydia and Farun (from my 'Lesser Companions pack').

The basic premise of the game is similar to my "hardcore hardcore" games in FNV: that is, no items, supplies, armor, or weapons except what you can find, buy, loot, or steal. No mod-added houses, either. Can upgrade found items, but no using a forge to make new ones -- with the exception of a couple items that aren't set up to be sold, like the bandoleers and backpacks. I was too lazy to redo their mods to add them to the leveled lists for purchase, what can I say?

From back in the Mojave, the girls got dolled up and we made an evening out on the town while I was fleecing the casinos at the blackjack tables for ammo money early-game:

They certainly do clean up nice, don't they? Though if I had thought about it, I'd have done Dead Money first; and brought back that singer's dress for at least one of them (I forget how many dresses are in the DLC). Oh well, I'm sure to break something updating scripts; and there's always next game...

This one was one of the first I took with the specific intent of making it a painting in the Estate. It turned out nice; though I haven't decided where to hang it just yet so there's no screenie of the finished product.

This one... just about made me tactically soil myself. I forget sometimes how scary the big demoness can be when she wants to. We were up in the hills, heading down into Nipton from the Wolfhorn Ranch along about sunset; but decided to press on and try to get into Nipton even after dark as we were running low of food (four people eat a lot); and I turned around and there she was, lookin' like that.

Wasn't pissed at me, thankfully. Sometimes after combat, companions' expressions stick in the "battle grimace". It resets to normal when you talk to them; but can still lead to amusing incidents.

And speaking of everyone's favorite demon:

I'm still working on Maeva. No major facial changes since I figure that's about as close as the new engine will allow... but that hair of hers is driving me up the wall. Whoever ported it did a straight up abysmal job. I embarked on a quest to improve it after I got sick of it never looking right and found a multitude of problems. The alpha threshold is set so high (190 by default) that six inches or more of the hair is invisible. Turns out it's set that high because the alpha channels got messed up in the conversion and if you set the threshold lower than about 120 there's a jaggy "island" of hair that appears at the bottom in the back. Not sure how to fix that. As well, there's no .tri file so it has fitment issues, I found a mis-set flag, and the hairline file included with the hair? Yeah, it's just a renamed copy of the hair itself and using it causes the two to clip through each other and turn into a flickering mass of shit.

I've fixed what I could -- reset the flag, and changed the threshold to the lowest that doesn't show the island of hair... but it still is far from ideal. Short of redoing the texture's alpha channel(s), and/or reworking the mesh itself (neither of which I know how to do offhand) I can't think of any other way to fix it.

Also: I have got to do something about that lip mask. Every time I install another one, the whole thing disappears, though; so I think I'm going to have to monkey with the facegen texture itself. I've been thinking maybe I could blow it up to 1024x1024; and use a tool to smooth those jagged edges. I recall reading someplace that facegen/tint textures still work when scaled up, as long as the proper ratio is maintained. Failing that, I could blow it up, fix it, and then shrink it back down, I suppose.

Lastly, these are just some more of my favorite subject:

I still really like how that Ebony Mail retexture turned out. Looks even better with a few more graphical niceties turned on. I also kind of wish they had rigged those cloaks to something other than the ankle bones; 'cuz man does it look weird when they sit while wearing one...

Anyway, that's all I've got this time. Or at least all I can remember taking that I'm willing to share publicly.

Enjoy... or y'know, don't. Whatever.