Sunday, May 27, 2012

Random Companion Musing #1344C

No, this still isn't the post detailing all the neat new stuffs I've learned to do with companions during the latest modding binge. Deal with it.

While playing yesterday, I had cause to pick up Cass and Veronica (via the Unlimited Companions mod available on the Nexus) to test an ancillary feature of another mod I was playing with (a non-game breaking one, as far as I can tell).

I already had Veronica, but needed more points in speech or barter to successfully get Cass, and so dropped into Vault 11 (which we happened to be near to) to get in some kills and get another level. I had Veronica kitted out with Brotherhood T-51b recovered from Repconn HQ, and one of the GRA unique energy weapons; I forget now whether it was the Gatling laser or the plasma caster.

I had left Natasha at home to cut down on system load spikes and general traffic jams, but still had Mystery-chan and Maeva in party to keep us an even fire team.

When we got into the Vault, I was floored by the difference in performance between Veronica and my two redheads.

As soon as the red marks appeared on the HUD, my girls went hunting. They generally go full-on search & destroy whenever the AI registers an enemy trying to find and/or attack me, and this time was no different. They saddled up and took off in a team, clearing every enemy they could detect.

Leaving them to their fun (and knowing full well I'd not manage to get a single XP out of the deal even if I did tag along) I headed on for the reactor room.

Along the way I was amused to hear several shots from a riot gun, followed by "You like that?!" Never a dull day with that demon around...

Veronica, apparently not being the type to run off on a killing spree, stayed with me. Moving through, I had the odd mantis to deal with myself. I had put away my M14 and was using a marksman carbine loaded with .223 -- since I'm not going to waste my good ammo on bugs and rats -- and after capping a couple, I was amazed to turn around and find Veronica... hiding. Crouched behind a corner, didn't even try to engage the enemy.

Conversely, a couple days ago we happened to be cleaning out another area with rats; and one got the jump on me. Natasha -- the least aggressive of my girls by a wide margin -- still put eight rounds into the rat, even though I turned and capped it from the hip with my BFR. I guess she wanted to be sure it was dead.

Later, when heading into the diner area, I was shooting mantises out around the furniture... to, y'know, avoid setting off the boobytraps and all. What should I hear from behind me? "For the Brotherhood!"

Oh, Gods, she's not going to...

...and about that time, a power-armored brunette blasts past me into the diner, setting off the explosives.

Fortunately, I'm quick on the uptake and ran like hell for cover as soon as I realized what she was doing. The explosion blew her clear across the room (would have killed her, if not for the little edit I made to her essential flag -- case in point as to why it's important, "realism" or no) and even as far away as I got, crippled both my legs and took me below 20% health. Well, there goes a doctor's bag and hydra I didn't want to spend...

So, let's tally score:

*Refuses to engage in normal combat, when I am being attacked.

*Charges in and sets off traps when I'm trying to fight from a distance and not in immediate danger.

*Defaults to nigh-useless melee combat style; can not engage in proper ranged combat without mods.

...and people wonder why I create my own companions...

Shortly after that, the sadistic duo caught up with us, just in time to brush the debris off of me. I like to imagine there would have been some vehement recriminations in Veronica's general direction if they were able.

On the rest of the way through the Vault, I found that sure enough -- they had killed everything they could find. All that remained standing was a few bugs that had been behind locked doors; and of course the robots in the basement.

You don't want to know what the M14-equipped redheads did to those poor combat droids... In that fight, Veronica even managed to get off one or two shots; while the rest of us were going for broke.

Did learn a new method for screwing over that trap, too. Laid a pair of pulse mines on one of the walls where it opened up to let the robots kill me; and as soon as the wall opened I shot the mine. Its explosion triggered the second mine, and the two pulse waves knocked out a couple of the combat sentries or whatever the big 'bots are called on that side; just leaving the turrets to clean up. While I was doing that, my girls handled the protectrons on the other side, and the whole fight lasted all of about seven seconds; with no injuries on our side.

Once acquiring Cass' services, I found she was little better. For all her talk, she's not very aggressive; and won't range far looking for an enemy. I suppose that could be considered a good thing, since it means she and Veronica stay near the player... I guess I'm just too used to my companions; who very much have a "lead, follow, or get out of my way" thing going on when a fight breaks out.

I'm still tempted to try rewriting their behavior into an actual squad dynamic -- that is, staying with the player even when combat breaks out -- but previous attempts haven't gone well. Before I tried an actual formation: each person having a specific spot in the stack, and staying where they're supposed to... but it broke the game. While they'd fall into formation correctly, for some reason it precluded their actually entering combat. Never did figure out why. That was in FO3, though; it may be less bad in FNV (though I doubt it).

Failing that, I'm also thinking of a behavior setting -- similar to NCCS' follow distance, except it'll swap them to a different follow package that has 'continue during combat' checked, rather than a different distance. 'Continue during combat' for those of you who don't do AI packages, when used on a follow package has the NPC stay close to the player even when a fight breaks out. They try to stay at the specified distance from the follow-ee, and rather than running off to attack, will only engage enemies as they come into range on their own. Given the relative lack of medical care in the wasteland, and just how nasty most of the beasties are, I'd think sticking together would be the better option anyway.

...Damn it, now I want to script that up; but I still haven't finished unfucking the game, itself yet...

Up The Wall

...Or, Making me second guess myself.

I've gotta confess, FNV is driving me insane, lately. Well, more-so than I normally am, anyway.

There for awhile, I had it working more or less well; and could play mostly crash free. That game is apparently gone. Played most of yesterday, and it's back to its old standby of crashing completely at random. Can be two minutes in, can be two hours; and every third or fourth loading screen results in either crash or lockup. I've gotten quite habitual at tapping the quick save key.

Far as I can tell, it's all memory-related. The game crashes when loading, as in loading screens; but almost every play-time crash is when it's either loading in new terrain/buildings, or activating spawns to "pop in" the 3d models of actors/creatures. With the occasional crash during the start of combat -- but I've ranted more than once over the memory drain of companions when combat starts. I don't know what they're doing, but the game uses a massive amount of memory for about ten seconds and then goes back to normal. If the memory leak that Bethsoft could never be bothered to fix already has the cache in a sad state when that massive draw hits... well, imagine the noise Wile E. makes as he heads for the desert floor.

It's actually gotten to the point that it's made me doubt my PC here. Granted, the eMachine here would turn the stomach of most "serious gamers"; but for the relative pittance I paid for it back in 2007, it's given one hell of a term of service even if it pooches tomorrow. All the crashing, the BSoDs, performance problems; it's all made me think at various times that I had a virus, my RAM was going bad, and the GPU had fried/was in the process of frying (long-time readers may recall that I had a GPU pooch in 2009, taking me out of FO3 for a couple weeks; so I'm a bit paranoid about it happening again).

And of course, the problems are near identical in Skyrim. Random crashes (mostly on loading new cells or assets); and BSoDs if I'm not careful about keeping Firefox reined in before trying to play (Flash has a happyfuntime memory leak, too). So naturally, it's my PC, right?


Occasionally, I feel the need to put things into perspective; or just to play something different. From time to time, I'll abandon my usual haunts in favor or enacting death and destruction on much larger scales -- strategy games. Anyone who's played it can tell you Sins of a Solar Empire is no slouch in the system hardware drain arena, and a while back when frustrated beyond my tolerance by Skyrim, I played an entire medium-large campaign in one sitting. To the tune of seven hours and change; straight. Not only did it not crash, but when done it unloaded from Windows memory without incident (though it took about five minutes to fully clear... yowch) and I was able to continue computing normally.

Huh, so that's what happens when you have an engine written by people who actually play games, instead of people just looking for a paycheck. Between Bethsoft and EA fucking me over every chance they get, I sometimes forget companies like Stardock exist. Shame they don't do sandbox FPS/RPG hybrids. Probably wouldn't have any asinine DRM, either...

Anyway, what got me thinking about all this was yesterday morning I was browsing around a Fallout forum and happened to be linked to Slof's site; where I saw her notation that Fallout 3 and NV were too crash-happy for her and had been abandoned.

It really sucks, because I love FNV and Skyrim in concept. It's just that in execution... Trying to get either game working worth a damn is rather like pulling teeth prior to the advent of anesthetic -- all you can really do is take a big drink of something high-proof, grip the chair arm tightly, and hope for the best. And much like pulling teeth, at the end of the day you usually wish you had spent it doing something else.

On an interesting note: despite being nominally the same engine as the other three (they can say what they want; Skyrim is still absofuckinglutely Gamebryo; just with a more annoying scripting format shoehorned in), Oblivion is pretty stable. I can play it three or four hours; with only the odd (once? twice a week, maybe) crash caused by some less than ideal scripting in some converted Japanese mods I won't go into the exact nature of here. It also at least partially destroys the "it's my PC" theory as well; since the way I have it set up Oblivion is more of an overall memory drain than FNV -- I've installed entirely too many HGEC bodies and armors; and the amount of drain that game can rack up is astounding, even at the relatively low graphics settings I run. Still, the memory leak wasn't as bad in that iteration of the engine, so it takes longer for the game to crash and burn.

Still, I'm not sure what I'm going to do about FNV. It would figure that right after I get my estate finished the damned thing stops working right. Probably has something to do with some mods I installed last month in an attempt to "make the game more interesting". Populated wasteland and casinos, angel park, a world of pain, the monster mod, and a few others...

They fucked my game so bad it's worthy of a Lifetime daytime movie about the evils of rape. I resisted ranting about them at the time because I try hard not to step on other modders' toes; especially when I don't know exactly what went wrong where... and "momod" broke my game so fucking bad I never got a chance to run down exactly what did it. It's MMM all over again. The others were varying levels of suck, fail, and pointless.

I cleared all the stuff out, of course... but not all at once. I had some foolish notions of being able to salvage some of the mods, and kept them active into the early stages of the game I'm currently playing. This, obviously, was a mistake. Judging by how much bigger each save file I make is than the previous one, it looks like there may be some bloat in there someplace. Probably doesn't help that I've modified my load order multiple times, and had to fix the master listing in two WME plugins to get them to behave -- savegames tend not to like having stuff like that changed.

So, it's looking like much as I don't want to -- especially being thirty-four hours in now -- I'm going to have to dump this set of saves; wipe them all, and start an entirely new game, since somehow my "clean save" ended up with Armor By Race in it (don't ask how -- I turned that stupid thing off at least a dozen times, and it would never shut down; I ended up having to delete the piece of shit to make it go away). After, of course, going through my data directory with a fine toothed comb and purging out every mesh and texture that isn't supposed to be there anymore.

I realize they weren't as moddable; but sometimes I miss the old days of gaming. You kids in the audience may not know this, but before the internet became ubiquitous, companies had to put out games that worked reasonably well at release. "Patching" involved disks (yes, with a K) and could be very expensive business. Of course, I don't have to memorize the IRQ, DMA, and Hex address of my game port and sound card for modern games... so there is that up side.

You know, I spent an hour or so yesterday morning working on my 1911's here at the desk while waiting on FNV to stop being stupid, and I have to confess: the older I get, the more I prefer that sort of stuff. I swear, games just get more and more unreliable and randomly coded every year... but steel will always be steel; and will always obey physics. Now if I could just figure out how to get that damned leather to stop squeaking... or failing that, I suppose I could break down and buy my own kydex forming table...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mojave, Nos' Style - Armor

Another part of last night/this morning's modding binge was armor.

One of the things I did in my revamp of my personal companions plugin was raid my mod archives for armor and clothing I liked. Plugins were irrelevant -- I only needed meshes and textures. Found some interesting stuffs; mainly things for the girls to wear around the house when not adventuring (and I spent more than a bit of time rewriting their companionscripts to automatically switch between said outfits depending on what cell they were in at the time).

The problem is, as any long-time reader of the window into my insanity will know, I don't like dressing my companions like whores to go adventurin'. I like practical armor -- stuff that actually offers protection, both from attacks and from sun and wind.

This is an issue because good and practical armor in these games is few and far between. Men get jack and shit as a rule, and most of the well done female armor borders on pornographic -- some does way more than border.

I generally use Dragonskin Tactical Outfits for me and the girls, but those have the twin disadvantages of being obscenely expensive (the DTO bonus pack-added Multicam outfit runs upwards of 18k caps, as I recall) rendering it mid-late game before I can afford four sets; and there's also the matter that it isn't cut for the larger T3 bodies. Look, I know good tactical gear doesn't leave tits hanging out... but when you're packing DDs? They don't make enough sports bra to completely flatten that chest-bulge.

Base game armors come converted (many, at least) but are almost universally terrible. Leather armor is decent; but suffers from low DT, and a pronounced lack of bullet-resistance. Metal armor looks like something from Mad Max. The so-called "combat armor" leaves the arms and hands totally exposed -- I can only surmise Bethsoft's modelers have never ventured far from their offices, and thus have no idea that things like long sleeves, gloves, and elbow pads are all very handy when rolling around in the desert and/or working your way through brush. I tell you, I only had to go down into one pile of what I thought was sand but actually turned out to have rocks and glass in it before I learned the value of a good set of knee and elbow pads. We won't even talk about how much fun it is running your elbow into a doorframe without pads on -- don't worry though, the damage does eventually heal... usually.

Anyhow, I was downloading some Type3M converted armors awhile back, and glancing through the meshes in Nifscope.

I quite like the Cass' Outfit rework -- even if it isn't field-worthy -- but what got my attention more was the converted Stealth Armor from OWB. Good stats, nice sneak effect, the armor covered plenty of skin and actually had gloves... It would have to be added directly to my plugin, since the set in OWB is singular (and a pain in the butt to get, as I recall) but aside from that it wouldn't be bad...

...Oh, right. Now I remember why I didn't like the Stealth Armor. Where in the hell do these texture makers hang out, that black with a day-glow white racing stripe is considered stealthy?

Well, I wasn't going to let that little detail stop me. To the GIMP we go!

Left-to-right we have original, black (which ended up not -- in-game it looks bright gray), desert, Multicam, and olive drab.

I couldn't decide which would work best in NV.

Here we have the OD in the closet. Those fluoros don't do the stealthiness any favors, either...

So, taking it outside under more natural lighting, we have the desert colored stealth suit:


And all three:

I decided right off that the green just wasn't going to work. It was just too artificial looking. Which left it between the MC and desert. After careful consideration, and wandering around half the northern wastes, we decided desert won out. MultiCam had better versatility -- doing sand, forest, and indoors equally well -- but desert was just too much better outdoors, especially with so little of the Mojave being greenery.

And of course, you can see the male version there in that last one, since I was hardly going to be left out of our new team uniform.

The metal parts ended up a little... orange; but with the normal map it is impossible to get those pieces to not shine, short of masking the entire thing with 100% opacity camouflage (which I didn't think would look good).

You'll also notice if you look in the last several shots that the Alexscorpion thigh holster I mercilessly ripped from Ling's got a retexture from black to multicam. Yeah, I know, I use it a lot; but it's one of the few patterns that can be applied at 20 - 30% opacity and look decent while still letting you see underlying details to make it look like less of a hack job.

Edit: also, just realized that the third screenshot in this post marked my 500th screenshot since installing FNV. Wow, that's a lot of screenshots for mods no one even likes.

Mojave, Nos' Style - Updated Estate

So, this isn't actually what post #4 was supposed to be. Post #4 was going to be companions. I have the un-posted-post sitting in my drafts list and everything.

Trouble was, by the time I got home Saturday night I was eligible for an official death certificate. It is only because the universe hates me so that I continued to exist (and 'lo, did sleep for nearly thirteen hours, only finally arising from my pseudo-death Sunday afternoon).

In said state, I was in no shape nor mood to write a treatise on my beloved companions. I did, however, have a nagging itch to mod.

See, this is why I don't tend to blog about mods when I'm on a bender. This bender is still ongoing (and in week number six straight, I believe), and last night/this morning's section of it completely precluded lording over you all how great my companions are.

To get to the point of the post: I have written an online ammunition and reloading component ordering system:

I don't know that I've mentioned this since 2009-ish, but I hate Fallout 3/NV's terminal system. I truly do. It is such a massive pain in the ass to set up complicated trees that words fail to do the process justice. Once done, though, it's infinitely less error prone than those damned message-based menus.

Anyway. This is how it works: I added a terminal to my bedroom in the estate, without any clear purpose. Yesterday evening, I was lamenting not being able to keep us in .308 ammo for our M14s. Plenty of casings, plenty of powder... no damned primers. Merchants carry next to none -- and I had bought what little there was already for this three-day-respawn cycle -- and nothing in the game uses large rifle primers except .308 and 45-70 ammo -- neither even remotely easy to come by in quantity before level 16 or so. So, I had a thought: mail order. I have to do it here in real life all the time, because my local stores can't be bothered to carry... well, anything. Leaving me to order it in.

I'm the head of an evil multi-national corporation in post-apocalyptia, thinks I, so why can I not make use of that, and have NosCo set up a mail order ammunition business. It's not like I'd need a fucking FFL in the Mojave Wasteland.

Wanted delivery, but nothing so cop-out as the direct-to-a-locker delivery I did in RR. Well, I further think, there are the Mojave Express drop boxes. Why not treat them like a UPS depot? This would work well, since it would also preserve the whole 'secret hideout' schtick I have going on with the estate.

So... I sat down and did it. Rigged up my terminal to connect to NosCo via phone modem, or WiFi, or magical nuclear TCP fairies or whatever you want to think it is; select item and quantity, and have the caps directly removed from my inventory; with the ordered item(s) awaiting me by the time I make it to whatever drop-box I had the order put in.

Tested it with two separate items -- because I wanted to be sure the drop-boxes could handle multiple orders at different times without one clearing the previous or something else stupid Bethsoft might have implemented -- in this case, a thousand large rifle primers and ten thousand units of rifle powder. Humped my ass all the way to the Freeside drop box, and 'lo and beholden, there they were.

Pricing is full retail (100% value as set in the GECK) plus 20% HAZMAT S&H for powder and primers. Ammo will probably be a similar S&H rate since it's heavy as hell.

Ugh. It's a future where I control the world, and I'm still getting raped on shipping for primers...

Regardless, the system isn't finished yet -- I stopped to test with only a couple items working, since I'd hate to go through the hundred or more terminal screens only to find out the method I had planned didn't work and needed to be rewritten or trashed altogether.

Only caveat is that you have to have activated at least two of the drop boxes before you can get into any of them. Apparently you can't just open the container; you have to tell it you want to ship something somewhere else. Annoying, but with one in Goodsprings, it shouldn't be too big a deal to tag another in Primm, Novac, or Freeside.

Primers come in packs of a hundred. You can order one, ten, twenty-five, or fifty packs in a single order. Powder comes in packs of a thousand ("units", as in the 'number of powder' it takes to load a 5.56mm will be 4 units or whatever); and can be obtained in quantities of one, ten, fifty, and a hundred packs per order. Markup/S&H/whatever you want to call it is a flat 20% on either -- or at least what my sleep-deprived brain and the Windows calculator told me was 20%. Sometimes they both lie.

Ammunition will sell in packs of 100, 500, or 1000 per order; and will still sell at full value according to the vanilla game, plus a percentage yet to be determined -- I'm leaning towards ten percent, but may go twenty on ammo, too. NosCo's skilled ammunition technicians will be happy to produce any usable ammo type in the game for you (no companion, robot, or turret ammos); including surplus, specials, bulk, and handloads.

May eventually use this system to sell weapons, too. I figure if the Fallout universe is perpetually in the 1950's, then the GCA won't have happened and I can mail whatever I please in-game.

Being as I do not have a currently uploaded house mod for FNV, I have no idea how this will be implemented for end-users at this time. Also: I fully intend to be a lazy bastard once it's finished, and copy the terminals and notes wholesale from my personal plugin to whatever uploadable plugin it ends up being a part of.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mojave, Nos' Style - Weapons

A good while ago, I mentioned some work I had been doing on a custom-ish revolver in FNV: a .44 version of the .357 revolver. It's always bugged me that they didn't include one in FNV, since here in the real world Ruger has been building both guns on the same frame since the early '60s. At the time, the results I had to show were somewhat mixed -- normal map issues were obvious, the 'NosCo' logo on the ejector rod housing was reversed, and the silver front/silver rear sight arrangement was hard as hell to see clearly.

Well, I haven't been sitting idle; and have indeed made some more progress. The logo on the ERH is fixed and readable now; I've cleaned up those craptastic engravings in the cylinder flutes; and the normal map has been swapped out for the base .357 revolver map, which makes it look like dinged up wood -- but at least the reflection doesn't show the ace of spades anymore. One of the bigger things I did was 'paint' the sights; so that they actually stand out. This, as seemingly always, has had mixed results:

While the sight is painted correctly on the texture, it's either not wrapped onto the mesh right, or the weapon model doesn't align correctly in first person (like half the other models in the game):

If you look close, you can see that the red front sight isn't perfectly centered in the rear sight. I'm inclined to believe that the model doesn't align correctly, since I've long had accuracy problems with the revolver (and the base game .357 model too) while NPCs have no such problem. That I have the issue and they don't suggests to me it isn't an overall accuracy setting or "cone of fire" issue; but that the weapon isn't aiming straight for me. Since NPCs don't aim based on the alignment of the model, it makes sense that they wouldn't have issues with such things. It may be placebo effect, but once I noted the misalignment, I corrected my aim slightly on the bottles in my target range, and found much better hit rates.

I still have no idea what I'm going to do with this thing.

On the up side, I've also been working on a custom-ish Ranger Sequoia, and have been having better luck with it.

The engravings or whatever they are on the recoil shield look like shit; but it at least took the rosewood stocks well, and the sights line up correctly for the painted sights to work worth a damn.

Red front and white rear is a personal favorite here in the real world, because it shows up beautifully against the widest variety of backgrounds. It's way easier to hit something if you can tell where the hell your gun is pointed.

I was pleased to see that the color scheme works in FNV, as well:

From a cosmetic standpoint, it still needs a lot of work; but in practice, I've found it easy to use this revolver to tag radscorpions from nearly a hundred paces out -- with a Guns skill below fifty, no less. It seems that also like in real life, the 45-70 in FNV is a stupidly powerful cartridge, with killing power far beyond what the numbers say it should have. Not quite the hammer of Thor; but used correctly it'll do for damned near any game on Earth -- including the kind that shoots back. Using the NosCo "BFR" (named after the Magnum Research revolver of the same name and chambering; save that where they claim the acronym stands for "Biggest, Finest Revolver" I use the much more common interpretation: "Big Fucking Revolver") indoors on Raiders and such is hilarious; as even limb hits take people right out. Smacks Nightstalkers down like the hand of an angry God.

Lastly, longtime readers will probably know I'm a fan of the 1911, both here in real life and in video games. Obsidian screwed us in the base game with that stupid "10mm Pistol"; but made up for it in Honest Hearts with the "45 Auto" (seriously, guys; it's okay to name guns! Manufacturers do it all the time). I decided I couldn't let that one sit out of my companion plugin, since my girls loves them some 1911-A1s. So, I ripped the meshes and textures from the HH BSA, edited the meshes to reflect the new texture path, and worked over the textures. I made the weapon in 10mm for the base mod, because I have a policy that my personal plugin has zero masters aside from FNV.esm. A 'DLC plugin' I've since created adds a second version in proper .45acp. Here was the result:

I used the heavy-duty slide and upgraded sights meshes as standard (as is standard form these days on "factory custom" 1911's like my Springfields), and worked over the texture. I didn't fix the beat-up finish, but did switch the stocks to green -- was supposed to be olive drab, but the GIMP didn't cooperate -- changed the trigger to a three-hole lightweight match type, swapped the sights' glow effect from green to red, brightened up the barrel hood (which rubs on the inside of the slide and is impossible to keep blue here in real life), and added a white outline to the rear sight. Lastly, I redid the markings on the slide, and serrated the mainspring housing to keep it from slipping around in the palm, and the hammer spur for easier cocking.

The slide markings are nothing outlandish. The right side says simply: "NosCo Arms", and below that on the frame is a serial number. The left side of the slide says "1911-A1". Normally they also carry a chambering marking, but I decided to leave that out so I could be lazy and use the same textures for all versions of the pistol.

The pistol also has a suppressor mod:

Though it's a custom version of the one from HH made for the pistol, and not simply the existing 10mm pistol suppressor mod. In retrospect, I may need to change that just for simplicity's sake.

I set the girls up to each start with one, and fifty rounds of ammo for it; rather than rolling the dice with random weapon spawns as they used to. I figure hey, we have our own underground compound; why not assume they were carrying decent weapons before I got jumped and shot in the head?

While Mystery-chan's a devout revolver practitioner, Maeva seems much more comfortable with a good auto:

Which she used to great effect on the mantises in Big Mountain State Park, after running dry on ammo for her M14...

I wonder if the Weaver she's using is from the base game, or one of the weapon animation replacers I've installed? I really can't remember at this point. Either way, the bugs were decimated in pretty short order; though keeping three companions and myself in 10mm ammo is hard as hell at level two, straight out of Goodsprings.

The four rounds of ammo you see on my HUD in that last screenshot were for a varmint rifle. After crossing through the pass and dealing with the hordes of cazadores, we were already running low of ammo; and I had switched to the looted peashooter to save the .308 for the Fiends I knew were coming in West Vegas. .308 is inordinately hard to come by as loot at such low levels.

And yes, there are M14's as well; but no real screens since they aren't customed or anything -- just copied to my plugin to ease headaches on adding them to starting inventories, and the girls' case-saving lists. Well, one's going to get worked over minorly -- whoever made the original texture stamped the receiver heel of the sniper variant 'Polytech'. Urg. Chicom "M14". Bad enough here in the real world, but n Fallout, where China is the great red menace? Sacrilege. I also stripped out the select fire NVSE code during the copy over, because that stuff is needless and silly and I don't like NVSE on the best of days anyhow.

Yeah; I know I said I'd get them all in today... and it's 2330PST, but give me a break -- I started this post almost eight hours ago, but had to take off and just got home around an hour ago. Stupid life, interfering.

Mojave, Nos' Style - A Home of My Own

I've been messing with homes in one form or another since shortly after I got my NV companions up and running. The problem was the three homes I wanted -- a Lucky 38 Tower, a Tenpenny Tower copy in the middle of Lake Mead, and a home on the bottom of Lake Mead -- weren't viable.

Even after reinstalling the game, and multiple reinstalls and updates of the NVGECK, to this day I can't edit or copy the Lucky 38 worldspace. Herculine tested, and could, but for some reason the game just won't let me. Attempts to even edit the existing cells in the worldspace result in instant CTD. Without being able to copy the already-made desert landscape, creating a tower with a view of my own was just impractical, to say the least.

Tenpenny, of course, can be seen for a long ways; and thus has massive plausibility issues if not paired with an updated LOD for the worldspace it's in. Do you have any idea how long it takes to re-generate the entire wasteland LOD? Me either; as the wait was estimated to be over eleven hours... and I didn't want to try it that badly. No, you don't have to include the unchanged parts of the LOD in your mod... but every guide I read said the whole mess had to be regenerated to get the updated one for the area you changed. Beyond that, I could never reconcile the interior and exteriors of the tower -- slack bastards that they are, Bethsoft made the two to completely different scales; and keeping the interior at least moderately believable hampered my interior design too much.

Lastly, there was the underwater house. Users of my FO3 house mod (the 'Remodel' of Vault 1) will probably be aware I have a thing for water views. I had visions of an underwater home with a great glass dome overhead, allowing you to look up into the lake. Sadly, there is no such mesh in the game, I'm not a modeler and so can't make one... and lastly water in Gamebryo doesn't really work that way, so placing it overhead would very likely result in the game deciding the 'dome room' or whatever you want to call it was actually under water; dome or no. Some twisting of the water to change where the game considers the "top" to be might negate that issue... but without a dome to work with I never bothered trying. The only recourse would have been a standard room; just with floor pieces only, and glass installed in place of the ceiling in the room center. I didn't much care for the mental image of how that one looked.

And yeah, I know about the "Underwater Home" on the Nexus. Got excited, looked at it, saw that it was mostly just vault with dim lighting and some sideways-facing glass windows with water outside them... and promptly lost interest. Before anyone cries foul: I'm sure it's a very nice mod and whatever; just not for me.

For over a year I just used the Lucky 38 presidential suite. It wasn't great by a long shot, but it didn't suck, either (not like that pile of crap in Megaton they stuck us with in FO3, at least). The main issue with the Lucky 38 room is how you get it -- you have to advance the main quest; which means either you can't get it until you've gone through Primm, Nipton, Novac, Boulder, and the rest of the southern highway loop... or you can go into the Lucky 38 anyway, but that will advance the main quest, and throw away all the XP from the earlier stages that you'd advance through by following the loop. With three kickass companions in tow and no XP sharing, I tend to get the lion's share of my levelin' points from quests... so throwing that 1500+XP away isn't something I'm keen on most games. There's also the matter that even once inside, the Lucky 38 suite is essentially nothing but window dressing -- there's no water in the tubs, the stove can't be used, there's no reloading bench; and nothing for companions to do but aimlessly wander. This is all, of course, excepting the annoyance of having to deal with Victor to get in or out.

I kept an eye on the various house mods available for download (or at least the ones that were popular enough to bear mention in threads or make a spot on a top files list), but it seems that they all fell into one of two groups: 1) "OK SO LIEK DIS HOUSE HAS A THOUSND OF EVRY ITEM MERCHANT WITH UNLIMITED CAPS AND TELEPORTERS TO EVERY TOWN IN GAEM LOL IM COOL NOW RITE?"; and 2) The almighty lore (hallowed be its pages!) says that everything should be shitty and run down so this house is shitty and run down and only has three containers that start with no items. Also all the water is radioactive because LORE SAID SO FUCK YOU ALL HATERS!

So, it looked like if I wanted it done right...

I sat down and considered my criteria.

I wanted a moderately posh place -- comfy, cozy, lit correctly, and plausible if a tish opulent. No real cheats; god weapons/armors, cases of money (or a safe full of Dead Money gold bars or what-have-you that sold for enough to amount to essentially unlimited money for the entire game), or treasure troves of items.

The location should be in a seldom-modded location for lack of conflicts, and to protect the entrance from any creature/increased spawn mods I may install at a later date -- I do so hate coming out of my home to find a pack of Deathclaws waiting on me. Bonus points for someplace secluded; to lend a bit of believability to the idea that the place hadn't been found and ransacked since the war.

No quest. 99% of them are just plain poorly written, and more an ordeal to be endured as payment for obtaining the house than anything. The vast majority of you who think you're brilliant writers, and your quest "hints" are perfect? Don't quit your day jobs.

Location should be reachable from game start. That isn't to say it should be in Goodsprings; but rather that you shouldn't have to get to level sixteen and assemble a bunch of mid-high grade weapons and armor just to survive the trip.

Needs a map marker; but not enabled to fast travel by default, so the player has to walk there at least once, regardless of what their personal stance on fast traveling being "cheating" is.

Once inside, the interior should be believable. By that, I mean that while it shouldn't be a palace; it should at least be well designed, and laid out and appointed in a manner that suggests the estate would be mostly self-sustaining; IE: able to survive prolonged periods without trading in a town/with a caravan.

Owing to the "hasn't been noticed and ransacked and/or occupied by bandits" reason above, underground is virtually essential... much as it chafes with me personally. As well, after extensive looking around, nearly all of the game's existing exterior building meshes are made of suck and fail. Exteriors that are impossible to reconcile with an interior, random scales, many have no mesh in areas that you're not supposed to be able to see from the ground (roofs and such); and practically all stand out like a sore thumb in the wasteland, be it forest, mountain, or desert.

After more than a week or pondering and layouts in my head, I settled on adapting the plans for an actual house I designed several years ago. The bulk of the living areas -- the "main house" as I call it -- would be situated inside a mountain; for insulation, protection, and hefty camouflage. A secondary area -- the "terrace" -- would be outside on a plateau, overlooking a valley; but ideally in such a location where it would be nigh-impossible for people in the valley to notice it, or climb up and reach it without specialized equipment.

Such a location would be cool in the summer, warm in the winter, extremely difficult to see from a distance, and with mountain paths being generally narrow and broken it would be easy(er, at least) to defend and secure against assault. The one big flaw here in the real world -- aircraft -- isn't an issue in the Mojave of FNV, where surviving aircraft are few and far between; and satellite surveillance all but unheard of.

Wanting to situate it in the mountains cut down on where -- FNV only has mountains at the wasteland edges, and in the northwest quadrant. Since the northwest of the wasteland also had naturally occurring trees, and was fairly readily accessible for myself and my merry band of sadistic redheads (can make it there by the end of day one, with the timescale reduced to a sane setting of four or five); and the area is almost totally free of both raiders and NCR.

Did some scouting, and decided on the large mountain that sits just north of Jacobstown. It had access areas well away from the lodge, was more than big enough to handle the size of the complex I wanted, and with all the trees there would have to be natural, mostly clean below-ground water for a home to tap into.

I had originally intended to have the terrace on the snow-covered plateau overlooking Jacobstown... but as I said, the exterior meshes the game gives us to work with are horrible. All the ones I knew of in FO3 that I had wanted to use have been removed; and the existing exterior meshes -- from various apartment buildings and such -- are either too small, missing a roof mesh, or impossible to work into the mountain without it looking like some jackass used the GECK to shove a fucking apartment building into the rock. So... I modified my design a bit, and decided it would be less of a headache (and easier on my framerates) to just put it all underground. Helped me keep the scale straight, too.

As it was, I ended up placing an access hatch in the dirt next to a tree. Such is the only evidence the estate exists. If not for the map marker, I don't think even I'd be able to find the damned hatch in less than a solid hour of looking (a theory supported by the fact that when I recently started a new game and went to head home... I couldn't find the blasted thing without using the map -- in my defense it was about ten minutes before sunset, and it isn't easy to navigate that area in twilight...).

You can see here the view from a spot just down the hill from the hatch. Should give you a fair idea of where it's located.

This was the view from next to the hatch when we arrived in the new game. Damned forest is hard to navigate once the sun drops behind the mountain... it all looks the same.

Once inside, you find yourself in industrial passages.

The switch on the wall was my solution to some of the more insidious mods in circulation, that like to have creatures and/or NPC "assassins" come find you in any cell accessible to non-player. Since my home has to be companion friendly, I couldn't very well just not navmesh it. I also don't like locks, since they can be circumvented via scripts. My answer was a hatch bar -- a heavy steel bar that locks the closed in such a manner that it would be impossible to get through without a plasma cutter, high explosives, or heavy Earth-moving equipment. Sadly the hatch bar is yet another mesh FNV does not include, so I had to cop out and do it this way:

Using the switch disables the hatch both in the access tunnels, and in the wasteland; and replaces them with identical doors flagged to be 'inaccessible'. With the hatch "barred" it is quite literally impossible to get into my estate without using a scripted or console "moveto" command. A second use "unbars" the hatch, and returns the usable hatch and ladder to enabled status.

One of the big differences between this, and my work on Vault 1 is that this time, the "access tunnels" have no alternate access points. The estate is a closed circuit, and offers no easy access to anywhere else in the wasteland.

Past the initial doorway, the corridor branches left and right. The right path leads up, to the main house:

I considered making the front door lockable as well, but it seemed somewhat superfluous; since anything that could get past the disabled hatch would have no trouble getting past a locked door.

The left path leads down, into the utility rooms:

All the rooms except the utility rooms are lit via my favorite lighting concept: a two-part system, whereby one has torch, candle, or sconce light normally (or the electric equivalent thereof if open flame isn't practical) while a second set of lights exist as fluorescent banks recessed into the ceiling. This leads to high and low lighting options, that let photosensitive people like myself be comfortable; but with the option of kicking on the 'ol high beams if you need to be able to see really well for whatever reason. Handy for photos, handy for finding small parts in the carpet -- less handy for waking me up unless you don't mind having things thrown at you and/or your continued existence threatened.

While it may not be easily evident, I ended up doing the non-utility areas of the estate in the Ultralux tileset. I was going to use my old standby, the Underworld or 'neoclassical' set... only to find out Obsidian removed virtually all of it. Ditto for non-rusty vaults. It was pretty much Ultralux, or one of the house/hotel tilesets that had shit peeling from the walls, and messed up floors. I decided white walls weren't so bad looking, and the brown floors could be covered with the black and white marble floor-only pieces from Underworld (which were left in the game for some reason).

The main house actually ended up larger than I anticipated -- even after reducing various rooms in size several times.

I laid it out by eye, rather than by sitting down and resolving room parts to their square footage to base on blueprints. The issue was further compounded by the fact that I couldn't get the room pieces that I wanted, and that the ones I ended up using couldn't be set up to precisely conform to the plans. I had to wing it in several spots.

Once inside, the doorway to the left leads back to the master bedroom; while the hall branching to the right goes to the kitchen and dining room. The door almost straight ahead is the living room.

The bedroom, as seen at the end of the hall -- and in the northernmost section of the overhead GECK view -- is the dominating room of the estate. I virtually never use a 'living room'; preferring to have my PC, TV, and most other amenities in the bedroom. As such, when I design a place, the living room/den becomes almost an afterthought. This held true with the FNV estate, as well.

The bedroom houses two beds, a couch, pool table, work station with computer terminal, radio that can be tuned to Radio New Vegas or the other station (Mojave radio? I forget), two fireplaces, beds for the dogs, and one chair situated to enjoy one of the fireplaces. All fireplaces in the estate are wired to switches, and can be turned on or off to suit mood or conserve framerate. I considered throwing out something about the fireplaces being nuclear powered (this is Fallout, after all) but I think I'll just go with them being electric faux-fireplaces; used for decorum and not open flame's heat. As well, in one corner, the bedroom also has a training dummy:

...That both Maeva and Mystery-chan use to practice their hand-to-hand and blade skills. ...Remind me not to piss either of them off...

Moving on.

Off the master bedroom, we have a large walk-in closet. Again, owing to the limitations of the game, it pales in comparison to the real one as designed... but it'll do. The closet has only the fluoros, and no sconces. There are actually two sets each of the wardrobes and dressers -- one set respawns, and contains extra sets of various pieces of armor and accessories included in the mod for me and the girls (in case the originals get lost/stripped away by an overzealous mod/DLC/whatever) and the other set is empty and does not respawn; meant for normal storage of things I don't want to keep in the categorized companion containers for whatever reason. And yes, that is a full-length mirror next to the door. One of the modders' resource items I added to make the house suck less.

The other room off the master bedroom is the bathroom.

Multiple sinks seemed a necessity with three women in the house.

The "bathtub" is a modified form of the Ultralux's circular bar -- I used a rescaled set of steps to fill in the gap in the bar, and filled the whole thing in with water. The water spray effects I had used in FO3 were gone from FNV, as were the pipes and nozzles I had used to simulate showers. Creating this house has only reinforced my belief that Obsidian hated modders and tried to fuck us over as badly as possible with FNV. Nonetheless, I managed to rig something up; even if it's less than ideal.

The tub's strip-script also applies the 'revitalizer' effect from my V1 Remodel -- it's essentially an effect that mirrors the old wives' tales about steam, saunas, hot tubs, et al; that they're good for healing, and 'sweating out' radiation. Not true, of course, but very 1950's and thus very Fallout-y.

Though you can't see it in either screenshot, the house also features a custom toilet -- one which is rigged as sit-able furniture, rather than being a drinking activator. I never understood why the base game makes all toilets drinking sources, rather than something to sit on.

Out from the bedroom, down the hall that connects the master bedroom with the kitchen/dining room/living room, on one side you have the library. Overheads off...

...and overheads on:

No, those are not static collections; they are individually placed books. Yes, I know I need to reign in my OCD.

There are some skill books in the library; but they're for show, and not something I actually take and use.

On the other side of the hall, is the spare bedroom/work room:

Which has a couch, 'safehouse' bed modified to sleep double, and four rolled up bedrolls that you can't see due to the shadows. Facing the other way...

You get my work benches, some storage (the ammo cans are all simple statics, and not usable containers), and the weapons locker in the far corner. Much like the master closet, the weapons locker just holds some spares in case our weapons get lost, taken by a script, or otherwise rendered unusable.

Back on the library side, but towards the entryway, there's also the laundry room:

Because who wants to spend the apocalypse in filthy, stank clothes? Not me.

Taking the right-hand path from the entryway heads one towards the dining room, as noted before.

Owing to my aforementioned love of water through glass, I took some free wall-space and put in a big-ass aquarium.

Like the closet and laundry room, the aquarium has fluoro lighting only. Don't mind the weird reflection textures on the water surface -- it was some kind of artifact caused by FNV's reflection engine, and has since been fixed (by removing the setting telling the water to reflect the ceiling).

For some reason, the dogs enjoy barking at the fish as they swim by.

Across the hall, we have the living room:

...where one of the dogs was watching television. I keep telling them it's going to rot their brain, but they just won't listen...

And from the opposite side of the room:

The living room has three couches meant to replicate a sectional, a fireplace, a television, and a couple end tables. The TV is another modders' resource; there were several different shows available. A western would probably be more appropriate for FNV, but we all agreed that the Bride of Frankenstein was the one we were most likely to actually watch, so it won out.

Back across the hall, there is the kitchen:

Bloom issues with FNV's crappy HDR aside, I could not for the life of me figure out why the stove and fridge there did not look right no matter what I did. Then it occurred to me: FNV stoves don't have hoods, or the lights that go with them.

The fridge is the one that I referenced a month ago writing the water-bottle-filling script for. Sadly, it did not work. The script worked, the issue was that the menu to select filling bottles or opening the container would only run once; and then it would default to opening the container every time. Eventually I just gave up, and slapped the bottle-filling script onto the sink (not shown), instead. Stupid game, disobeying its own rules...

As also mentioned before, the stove has had a script applied to it, so that it brings up the campfire crafting menu when activated. I figure you can cook anything on a stove that you can over a fire; so it should be perfectly valid to even tan hides and such on (provided you don't mind stinking up the kitchen, of course).

As well, there are a few survival-crafting-support-goodies sitting around the kitchen -- coffee pot and a few mugs; glass pitchers and surgical tubing for purifying water, things like that.

At the opposite end of the kitchen, there's a small work area with a 'my first infirmary' and a pair of chemistry sets for curing addiction and such:

Out the doorway next to the stove, you find the dining room:

Went a bit overboard on the table, yes. In my defense, there were only two available in this tileset. One was the massive banquet table seen here, and the other was the small tables I used in the work room and library. In dining rooms, the table being too big is always preferable to it being too small, in my opinion.

Over the fireplaces, you can see the air vents that the NosCo brand climate control unit in the utility basement uses to keep the main house a comfy 55F, year round. The vents vary in location from room to room, but I did remember to put them in every room except the closet.

Past the dining table, you see the double doors that lead out onto the terrace. Remember, originally the terrace was supposed to be outside; and the main house was built before I moved on to constructing the terrace and found that it wasn't going to work outdoors.

You can also see there one of the satellite speakers. There are several sets in each room, slaved to the radio in the bedroom. When the radio is on, you can hear it anywhere in the main house (but not in other cells, because copying activation states across cells is a massive pain in the ass without additional supportive scripting that I was too lazy to do).

The terrace is a copy of the Ultralux bathhouse; consisting of a pool, and a steam room. The terrace uses lighting that copies the current outdoor lighting, so it's bright and UV-happy during the day (exposure to sunlight or a close artificial equivalent thereof is necessary for most people to remain healthy; and remember what I said about the place being able to survive on its own for extended periods?):

(Note: some of the terrace screenshots are a bit weird; I was testing the Lumenarium mod during this part of the estate construction, and the glare and sunglasses effects gave it a weird cast)

No, I don't know why she's sitting next to the pool in armor. I've long since stopped asking such questions.

Now and then, even the dogs jump in:

The steam room/sauna/whatever you want to call it of course also has the same 'revitalizer' effect as the tub in the main house. The pool does not have said effect; being only cold water.

That is indeed a bedroll floating out in the middle of the deep end. I figured it looked enough like a pool toy that it would work, in case someone wanted to lay out there and relax. I know I always found laying out on one of those things in the pool very relaxing; waves and whatnot.

Once the sun goes down in the wastes, the climate control system in the basement kicks off the sun lamps, and makes it night by the poolside:

You humans may need sunlight, but I'm way more comfortable by torchlight.

You may also notice there's a second large door, at the far end of the terrace. This leads to another access tunnel, that takes you via staircase down into the arboretum; which sits directly below the terrace.

The arboretum is part relaxing garden, and part hydroponic farm. It goes a long way towards making the estate self-sufficient, and doubles as an excellent place to go when you're feeling the walls closing in whilst riding out the end of the world.

Like the terrace, the arboretum uses computer controlled sun lamps to simulate a day/night environment for the plants.

After some thought, I decided it still wasn't garden-y enough, and so added some trees:

The doorway at the far end of the arboretum leads into the utility rooms.

The small door at the far end leads back into the access tunnels, to head to the wasteland hatch, or past that and back up into the main house. As I said, the entire estate is a closed circuit; with only the one way in or out. This could be considered both a benefit and a drawback, depending on how you look at it.

The utility rooms were designed to house the power transformers:

As I have learned a fair bit as a modder since those days, unlike my Vault 1 work, I actually remembered to add VFX and sounds to these transformers; as well as consoles, and wires.

Opposite the transformer room, is the server room:

The servers handle climate control, lighting, power distribution, fire suppression, and all the other fun stuff that needs to be in place to keep an underground refuge livable.

As a last minute addition, I decided to add something... extra. Something you won't find in many player houses.

What could be behind this door, I wonder...?

Well look at that, I built my own indoor shooting range. I've always wanted one in real life... but being an apartment dweller, I suppose I'll have to settle for the digital one.

The bottles the dummies are holding are for me to shoot at. They're Nuka Victory; chosen because the red glow can be seen in the darkness very easily.

The switch on the left-hand table in the first picture resets the targets -- it picks the bottles up out of the floor, stands them back upright, and replaces them on the holders. This took a fair bit more scripting than you might think; and necessitated the glowing bottle target choice -- I had been using plain Nuka bottles, but apparently when moved via script, the game engine doesn't apply lighting effects to an object as it should; so even once replaced on the stands, the bottles were still lit like they were in the shadows... making them hard as hell to see. Since the Victory bottles glow red, they show up regardless of the environmental lights applied by the idiotic engine.

The range is only about twenty-five yards -- short for a rifle. I originally wanted a hundred yard range for practicing with my rifles (for much the same reason one practices in real life; to learn exactly where your point of aim and point of impact meet -- especially important in FNV since Obsidian royally fucked up so many of the weapons' iron sight alignments) but once I sat down and figured it up, a hundred yards would be about fifty room pieces. The range as you see it is about ten room pieces between the tables and the far targets; and I had to increase the draw distance in the cell's properties to be able to see that far as it was, so I don't think fifty room pieces out would have worked at all -- assuming my game setting would even render a bottle that far out; which I don't think they would.

Spending even fifty or a hundred rounds down in the range with any new weapon I acquire has sent my in-game accuracy through the roof, and led to me one-shotting radscorpions with handguns around Goodsprings.

...And that's the tour.

The place really is the best work I've ever done on a house mod, and was immensely liberating as a project. For once, I was beholden to no one's taste but my own. No previous mods to work from, no existing mods to maintain compatibility with -- it was all from scratch and free to set up as I pleased.

One of the tenets of this house mod, once finished, was that I be able to tie it completely into my companions' AI. They now have upwards of thirty AI packages a piece; to govern their entire day when 'at home' -- in many cases even varying depending on what day of the week it is.

And yes, I did reference dogs several times. When I set up 'Princess' in Skyrim, Natasha liked it so much that she wanted a similar dog in FNV. So, I set up a dog companion -- when in the party, Princess follows Natasha, and not me. When not in the party, Princess bums around the estate, and does dog stuff -- barking at random things, nosing around the arboretum, lazing by the pool, begging at the stove. This, in turn, worked out well enough that the other two wanted dogs of their own. We had the space, and it seemed like a decent idea to have guard mutts around the estate, so...

We have Princess, of course; who is for some reason barking at the CQC dummy:

We have Fenrir, Maeva's adopted Legion Mongrel:

And Mystery-chan's dog... Steve:

...Look, don't ask me; I just work here...

Fenrir and Steve aren't actually recruitable as companion-companions; they just hang around the estate. Having Princess along and debugging the packages required for such a thing has only reinforced my earlier belief that all the people asking for creature frameworks for NCCS have a massive screw loose. Creature companions in FNV suck. Their pathfinding is flat out terrible, and Princess has animation bugs on a regular basis when set to follow. That is, of course, aside from the low HP and low damage output. No, pooches are much better off lazing around the house, and leaving the fighting to people who have the opposable digits to operate a firearm.

All told, I'm very pleased with how the estate turned out; but I don't think it would go over well for public download. As I mentioned: there are no vendors, no guards, no turrets, no teleporters or shortcut tunnels, no item stashes. The fridge starts with a bit of consumables in it, and of course all the non-tree plants in the arboretum are pickable -- but the fridge doesn't respawn, and the plants only respawn on the normal game schedule (when you haven't visited the cell for at least three days). Also, the decorum is rather... Spartan. No paintings, no statues, no mannequins or pedestals to place them. It's just a big, comfy, FPS-friendly collection of cells with lots of stuff for companion AIs to be tied into to make them live a nice life when not adventuring.

Also: damn this post took a lot longer to type than I thought it would...