Revamping Old Mods

A lot of times in the modding community you see work that's been done as an early effort or as a first project that often gets left stagnate as time goes by. This could be due to any number of things but is most often because the modder simply left the community. Of those that haven't, who knows, but doesn't it pay to go back and revisit some of your earlier work to try and improve on it?

Case in point: Unique Landscapes Brena River Ravine.

Initially brought to full release in April of 2009, it was one of my earlier projects. Before this, Faregyl Village was about all there was. Brena River had a lot of content already present in the mod when I took over. I had never done any major landscaping, nor had I molded content into such a large area before. There were a lot of things done with the mod just to bring it to completion. Things I could have done better in retrospect. So I've been taking time to go back over it and improve on things with stuff I've learned over the last 18 months.

By far the biggest feature and probably the signature for it in general is Suicide Falls. While it was an impressive site then, it was only impressive as long as you were up close. Step back far enough and you have a disgusting looking mish-mash of floating objects in the distance and a sizable chunk of the cliff face laying bare. It looks even worse if you aren't using RAEVWD to fill in part of that. There was also a major hodgepodge problem with rock types. A lot of different ones there that don't really fit in with the surroundings that well. Something that's obvious in the screenshot I've linked. Not to mention the seriously out of place chunk of rocks on the upper left side.

What I've done there is clean up all of the ugly rocks, create some clones of existing rocks and placed those into the falls. The large mass of rocks on the upper left has been replaced with another large cliff piece. A couple of Ayleid towers have been added at the top, to accent the fact that it was once part of the Ayleid structures here. All of these new additions to Suicide Falls have also been given proper VWD assets to go with them. So you can be standing down at the end of the ravine and look back to see most of the scene in one piece. Including the water itself. The result there is a much better visual experience, despite the VWD water being unable to flow.

The next big feature in the river are the rock walls on both sides of the larger dam. These were constructed entirely from a grab bag of different sized rocks that don't fit the environment. Even this was a scaled back version of the giant mass of rocks that existed before I built the second dam. I've always felt it looked hideous but at the time I didn't really know what else to do with it and didn't want to disturb things. Even worse is that none of it displays at distance, so the entire complex pops in rather suddenly as you approach, creating a very jarring experience.

Now that I've gotten much better at mastering the CS and all its ills, I've gone back to this area and replaced all the rocks with one type. This allows less rocks to be used, since many of the replacements can also be oversized without sacrificing visual appeal. The entire complex on both sides of the river will have far less polygons to render AND will fit in with the surrounding rock types you find scattered everywhere. Since the rocks being used also have a VWD mesh to go with them, you'll be able to see this set of waterfalls from a distance for the first time. It should also help cover up some of the gaping holes in the LOD landscape.

Fans of the mod might also note that there was a quest embedded in with the bandits who occupy the area. This quest was done entirely without using journal entries, which at the time seemed like a good idea. It worked well enough, but if you've paid attention to forum posts and file comments, it creates a great deal of confusion since there's no record of where you're at in the quest. Something Dwip warned me about back then, but hey. Some things you have to learn on your own before they sink in.

The quest has now been converted into a proper journaled system with actual stages, and even a couple of quest markers. No, I'm not going to give you one for every last thing because part of the quest expects you to have to think and to do some hunting around. But at least there won't be any question as to what you left off doing should you happen to leave the area and return later. There's also been some shoring up of inconsistencies in the quest.

The biggest menace to my earlier modding efforts though has to be grass. The shit's everywhere. Try as you might, getting rid of it usually ends up requiring scorched earth tactics to purge all grass producing textures from a cell. Let me tell you, there are tons of cells in this mod that were crawling with grass, and most of it was obscuring good scenery. I've gone in and used said scorched earth tactic now that I know it's the only way to be sure it's gone. So no more grass growing up through stone objects. While this happens IRL, it looks like crap in the game due to grass always swaying in the wind.

The end result of all this effort is going to be a much better mod for everyone. Hopefully when it's all completed people will appreciate the effort.

Anyone got one of their own to share? Or shall we just start the ball rolling toward 400 posts right now :P
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Aug 13, 2010 2:43 am by Samson in: | 277 comment(s) [Closed]
You fought that journal thing really hard, too. But yes.

I don't suppose you're planning to do that palisade area up with an actual palisade, are you? That was my own biggest complaint with the whole thing.

So, discounting everything we ever did for Shard and Alsherok and keeping it strictly to Oblivion, you may remember that most excellent Oblivion mod, AFK_Weye. You may remember it back before the Version 2 overhauls, wherein many bugs were slain, quests overhauled, and many additions made.

There was, however, a time before all of that:

That's AFK_Weye as it existed in October of 2006. Lucius' shop is there ok, but Thalonias is still spending all day in the inn, and...what happened to the manor? At this particular stage of development, I'm not even sure there were quests - all of the essentials for what became recognizable as Death and Taxes don't exist yet, and won't for some time. In fact, the manor is actually a relative latecomer to things - In the beginning AFK_Weye was Thalonias and Lucius, and the mod was called something like AFK_Vendors.

I'm pretty sure Thalonias has the distinction of being the very first thing I ever modded in Oblivion, way back in May 2006 or so, with the possible exception of Khajiit Norris, the khajiit with the biffed aggression settings who was supposed to sell armored robes for Samson's Cat-Fu game, but instead ended up flying over a rock in Chorrol and spinkicking me halfway across town.

Which is all to say that I've been at this a while, and that while AFK_Weye has had two major public versions, it's actually had something like 6 if you count all the pre-2009 betas that only Samson and I ever really saw. This is actually sort of a problem when it comes to changing things - since so many of the inner workings of the mod are built on things I did in 2006 when I had no idea what I was doing, changing even little things was cause for fear since the baling wire and spit nature of the fixes I'd made for other things would inevitably get in the way and blow things up. A big part of Version 2 was putting an end to some of those once and for all, and I still could have gone much further than I did.

Even now, I'm still finding things that are broken, from 2006, that I never did find. Case in point, a week or two ago somebody asked about compatibility between AFK_Weye and Emma's companions in inns mod. So I went and checked, and it turned out there was a lurking door edit from when Thalonias lived in one of the upstairs rooms in the Wawnet Inn. Which most of you won't remember because he hasn't done that since at least 2007.

The plus side of all of this, of course, is that it's taught me an awful lot about writing mods. So there's that.

Love the look of the waterfalls in that linked screenshot. And, now that Dwip's contributed his revised mod story, we can indeed proceed towards our next 400 mark. ;)

I really love the purple water. Where is this famous Purple Sea located and what causes it's unusual coloring? (In real life I've heard of The Red Sea, The Dead Sea, etc.. why not a The Purple Sea? Especially in-game.)

I don't suppose you're planning to do that palisade area up with an actual palisade, are you? That was my own biggest complaint with the whole thing.

Hadn't planned on it. There aren't any palisade resources that would even come close to matching what's there now. None of them have the flexibility to turn the corners the existing one does.

@Conner: Purple water is the default way the CS shows you water. Which I've changed, sort of like this:

Only I'm using an even better looking default CS texture for it now. Makes water less of a pain to work around.

Ooo, where does one get pretty CS water like that?

Conner said:

And, now that Dwip's contributed his revised mod story, we can indeed proceed towards our next 400 mark.

Suppose so, since they're the only two who can contribute. While I've worked on many things, I'm not even close to finishing anything.

Hmm, Samson, your version is much more realistic looking, but Dwip's is quite bit prettier. ;)

Indeed, Hanaisse! :lol:

*random grumble about people who don't answer their mail for days* :whistle:

Is there a particular email someone should be responding to?

BTW, don't hang around Chorrol with your timescale set to 1000. It generates BSODs. Yes, apparently they still exist in Windows 7.

Edited by Samson on Aug 13, 2010 5:48 pm
Ok, My subtle hint got the right persons attention. :)

Samson, please check your messages at TESA. I've been waiting for you to answer some questions.

Pretty sure that I'll not be standing around anywhere with my timescale set to 1000 regardless. :facepalm:
It's still Windows, why wouldn't it still have the infamous BSODs? :shrug:

"Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies"? ;)

So I've got some texturing work to do on this, but it works, so I think my night's been a success:

Ok, Dwip.. I had no idea you were busy designing a new in-game sword, but it does look very nice. :)

Very very cool, Dwip. I attempted a weapon once, but I guess I have the attention span and patience of a flea. It just wasn't happening.

That's pretty cool, and another piece of Dwip's Overhaul is finished.... *ducks*

This is for AFK_Arena, actually.

Actually wasn't nearly as difficult as I was expecting it to be, especially with the reference photo right there in Blender.

:chuckle: @ Samson's teasing...

Hmm, that makes it look like AFK_Arena may be another mod that'll take quite a while to come to full fruition but may yet be worthwhile after all... ;)

{random rant} Why, oh why, does the bridle.nif not have reins? Does no one notice how incredibly stupid this looks? Ok, sure, I understand the mounted animation doesn't account for holding reins, but still, it just looks dumb. {/random rant}

Dwip, darling, do you think you could work some magic and either a) add reins (they can just lie there, doesn't matter) or b) slice off the bit piece that hangs there for no goddamn reason at all, pretty please? (I'd prefer A)

Yes, it's just for aesthetics, but it bothers me, and yes, it is for a specific (secret) reason so rename it, I'm not out to replace them all. :)

I think we'll be going with this for our final sword.

@Conner -

Yeah, it may be a while, since I'm figuring out more and more stuff I'd like to accomplish with it. It's also a handy vehicle for learning a few new things, like weapon creation.

@Hanaisse -

I'm so totally the wrong guy to ask for this, having met an actual horse like twice ever. I can offer some suggestions, however.

You can probably get away with just straight up importing it into Blender, doing your business, and exporting - there aren't any bones present, so no need to parent to a skeleton. I think.

Option B is pretty straightforward - just start deleting faces until you're satisfied.

Option A is...tricky. Really tricky, depending.

In theory, you can import the bridle, then import the horse, then go about modeling some reins as you like - you might import a rope and go from there - just change the texture as the end of the day.

However, if you want anything more complex than dangling reins, and the horse wants to move its head pretty much at all, you've got troubles that are going to require animation or a willingness to deal with bizzare clipping issues. In any event this is a couple of steps beyond what I'm capable of.

Oh, poop, didn't think about the horse moving and having to have the reins move too.
Ok, I'll be the cowgirl and fix it, you be the uh... blacksmith and make weapons. Using a rope might be a good idea, maybe if it's long enough can minimize clipping issues.

And while I'm at it, why the hell doesn't the saddle have stirrups? :crazy:

Well, Cyrodiil is supposed to be based on the Romans, so, uh. I dunno.

Ahem. The Imperial City is based on the Romans. It's obvious as hell though that the rest of the empire is medieval. So stirrups wouldn't be out of place.

I joke. I joke.

See also: Lack of smilies and text.

Hehe, Laurel and Hardy are at it again.

The earliest manifestation of the stirrup was a toe loop that held the big toe.


Well, I sure hope I didn't break whatever this Geomorph data is on the bridle. Walloferrorstext when importing into blender. :blink:

That could be unfortunate. Might be you need to tinker with your import settings. Dunno.

Well, importing without animation seemed to work fine, although I don't know why. Now I'll just have to copy the mesh over into the original in Nifskope and we're off to the races (hehe).

My new horse bridle.

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