Monday, March 12, 2012

It Still SuCKs...

Ended up drifting back towards the RR Companions Vault, and within a day had remembered why I quit supporting it in the first place. Of the "issues", one was a feature that had nothing to do with me, was not written by me, and I had no idea how worked; and the other was someone flat too lazy to read the fucking manual I wasted thirteen hours writing.

Needless to say, this killed my urge to mod for the public quite soundly. Then someone else came along and announced that it would be a better mod if the companions were all voiced. Gee, never heard that one before...

I did resist the urge to make with the snarky reply though. Don't get me wrong, I can manage it in such a way that the moderators wouldn't have anything to use against me... I just feel like it would be opening a can of worms, and I don't need another ulcer at this point.

Anyway. I tabled the NosCo Weapons Collection beta I had been working on and getting ready for release; and turned my attention towards Skyrim... 'cause hey, I was that bored, and I had a couple of ideas I wanted to test.

I have to say, it's a mess. A mess so grand in both visage and scale that if the Greeks of classical history still existed? They would write epic poems about their heroes triumphing over the game's laughable "toolset".

Worked in the SuCK about six, maybe eight hours. In that time, it crashed three times, corrupted my plugin once, hard-locked my PC once, and handed out more errors than even the Oblivion CS could manage on its best day.

It's truly amazing. There's so much... that just doesn't work. And no patches in sight; proving once again that Bethsoft hates modders.

The way companions work is apparently as much voodoo as anything now; as the scripting I'm used to using has been removed from the engine for reasons known only to a couple devs and the Dark Lords themselves.

Anyone who's cracked open one of my companion mods will note that I belong to what I call the "CM school" of companion creation. I use a technique pioneered by Blackie and the Cutthroat crew some years ago for Oblivion.

Whereas Bethsoft companions are created with all their packages on them from the start, with conditions set up to only run if a script variable is this or that; my technique involves brute force -- packages are forcibly added and removed from the NPC as needed, insuring that none are ever available for the NPC to use until and unless it's necessary. It's less elegant, but vastly more reliable in my experience.

With the AddScriptPackage and RemoveScriptPackage functions removed from the engine (I do so love getting a big, fat, dev-middle-finger like that), I had little choice but to revert to the way that was deemed proper in FO3/NV; but is now old-school for Skyrim: the pre-added, conditioned packages.

I create my packages; go to put them onto the test companion... and they won't add. No drag and drop, no add via menu option. It flat will not take them. I cruise the forums; no mention of the issue anywhere. Typical. I kept trying, but it actually got worse as I went -- eventually refusing to take even a single package, let alone the entire "stack".

On top of that, there are problems creating custom races; problems adding dialogue; NPCs with edited faces often won't show up in game; even "correctly" created companions are prone to vanishing when you load a save game... The toolset gave me shit about custom armor pieces, textures, factions; virtually everything I did.

It's probably not the most fucked game in history, but wow are they trying hard for the title. I didn't think it could get much worse than the FNV-GECK... but I stand corrected.

I did, however, at least figure out why it kept trying to load a Microsoft image viewer whenever I'd attempt to edit a script externally: it seems that Bethsoft, in their infinite wisdom, selected the file extension .psc for their scripts -- the same extension as an image format used by Paint Shop Pro, I believe it is. My computer was attempting to load the viewer because it thought I was opening an esoteric image file.

And the community!

I'm not going to name names, since I don't want to come down on (what I hope to hell are) new modders... but wow all over again. I grabbed a couple publicly uploaded companion mods to see how they did it... only to find out the uploaded mods were incomplete and didn't work right. Worse, the plugins themselves were loaded with filth -- unintentional edits, deleted references... one of the tested companions was named "(Moddername)CompanionMageCopy0000Copy0000".

...I know I'm a perfectionist, but I would so have to kick my own ass for actually uploading a mod with an NPC named that way...

Did you ever get the feeling, that you're standing on a plateau; a cliff, whatever -- and you're looking down into the valley, and watching the hordes of barbarians advance unstoppably towards you? I know now how Hadrian felt.

Some of these plugins I look through... and I swear I can see the end of computer gaming. Modding, at least.

Even accomplished modders don't seem to be doing well, this time around. I picked up Apachii's (of Oblivion fame) hair pack; and tried to load one of the hairs into my plugin, only to be yelled at by the SuCK for trying to use an "empty tri file". I have no idea whether the tri file was corrupt to begin with, corrupted during download, generated with an old version of the program that didn't play well with the new engine... or if the SuCK was just sucking again. Hell, for all I know the game may not be able to read tri files that aren't packed into BSAs. And to answer your question: no, just ignoring the error did not work; as without a proper tri file the hair appeared six feet or so above the NPC's head.

Another hair pack by a different author had no tri files included at all.

As I said, the forums were even less help than usual. Where weren't impotent complaints about SuCK crashes or lack of documentation, I found petulant complaints; that the "people who know how to create companions are keeping the information to themselves for their own mods".

As if there's some grand conspiracy -- cloaked men in high towers, laughing maniacally...

Yes! Now none of them will be able to create their own followers! Mwahahaha! ...What's that, Steve? No, we shouldn't be taking over the world, instead. This is obviously far more important!

...Actually, now that I mention it, that would be kind of cool; if only to hear the cries of the people who can't create their loli-neko-vampire-child-rapeslave "companions".

So. Until a couple patches come out of the works, it appears Skyrim isn't worth my time to mess with -- and from what I've seen, no companion system we're familiar with will work in it anyway; so even once the SuCK does work half-assedly well, something new is going to have to be designed from the ground up, I fear.

Regardless, spending Saturday in the SuCK sent me right back to the NVGECK. Better the devil you know, I suppose. On the up side, got some cool stuff done for the Mojave arm of NosCo's weapons division; but I think I'll leave that for another post...


  1. Here's my theory on what has happened:

    Bethesda released four great games (Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas) which were successful largely due to the fact that the devs released modding tools for each of them. As soon as word got out that they were working on Skyrim, one of the first questions asked was: "Will there be a SDK?" to which the devs confidently replied: "Fear not; a SDK there shall be!" and then promptly went back to their daily business of patting each other on the backs for animating flying dragons. When the game is released, the community immediately wants to know when the SDK will be released and the devs are like: "Oh crap! We did promise them one of those, didn't we?" and thus scurried to throw together the buggy Creation Kit that they've given us in an attempt to keep us content. Now were left as we always have been, waiting for Bethesda patches and updates...

  2. I'm honestly surprised there aren't more tools made for modding Beth game. It's as if everyone things the toolkit plus Elministers editors are enough.

    I think Ethatron commented on that in the official forums recently.

    BTW, have you run in to the navmesh problem yet? The problem being, they're broken worse than in Fallout.

  3. @Herculine:

    I dunno. Ostensibly, the SuCK is the same toolset the devs used to make the game. Which kind of explains a lot...


    No, I didn't touch navmeshing. You may recall, I complained repeatedly when I first started playing the game that the navmeshes in many places seemed broken; but truth be told, after six plus hours of trying to create ONE NPC and still not getting her into the game world (let alone dialogued) I had had about all the SuCK I could take and packed it in for awhile. When/if they patch it, I'll give it another shot.