Friday, November 26, 2010

Rumors of my demise have been... etc.

(warning, post contains mild pixel nudity)

Ha! Thought I gave up, didn't you? Well, I won't do you that favor yet. I don't want to say I was terribly active since my last post, but I did a little more than it might seem still. Not everything, or let's say, as good as nothing of it I considered worth a blog post yet, though.

When it comes to area building, I reworked a lot of the existing ones, but you wouldn't see that on a screenshot. For example, with a bleeding heart I split up Rungholt into 4 quarters, because it just seemed so unplayable to me as one giant area. And, it's not half as bad as I feared. However, the performance gain was only half as much as I hoped for too, so... well, that's one. On screenies it still looks the same as before.

I made interiors too, a whole start/introduction base. I'm quite proud of it, but you know how interiors are, they look boring on screenshots, so I didn't bother.
What else... loadscreens. Expect a lot of forest loadscreens in game. Again, no screenies, surprise surprise.

But now, with some screenies that might make some of you literally facepalm, a huge timewaster project of mine lately - the evolution of my nudie stuff.
Oi, you might say, silly Casa, that old pervert, only has nekkid elves in mind anymore.
Wait! It's not that easy. And first and foremost, it's not about nudity, it's about clothing. So let me try to explain my old skin project again, because now I've made a lot of progress with that.

The point is, there's a lot of custom clothes for our characters and NPCs over at the vault, clothing haks almost everyone uses, like, say, Chimneyfishes Always Summer. You know the kind, short dresses showing a lot of skin, some look a bit silly, some are actually quite nice and useful. All of them have one thing in common, they are based on a nude skin, Zylch's Nude.

So, let's keep in mind: Nude skins are not only for running around nekkid, nude skins serve as a base for all those clothes that show a bit of skin.

Right, next step. There are a few problems with this base. First off, it's a bit old. I know, I'm nitpicking, but the quality of Zylch's base is really not up to date anymore. Edgy, low polygon, and very washed out textures. That people who made clothing textures on the base re-jpg'ed the skin over and over didn't help too.
Then there's the problem with some personal taste, like, let's say, a skinny elf girl might not want to carry around those huge bombs... you know. Not to mention the male base by the way (yes, that exists too!), I won't lose another word about it. So, first problem: Quality.

Okay, you might say I don't care for the polygons and washed out textures at all.
But the main problem I've had with all these clothes is: There are other races than humans in the game. Some of them don't have piggie-pink heads. Some of them have blue heads. By default, not by the skin tint you apply as a player on character creation. So if you make a Water Genasi and equip one of those nude skins or skimpy dresses from the existing haks, that looks crap. Totally. You can't tint the ugliness over, no way. Please see the screenshot of the Yuan-Ti further below if you still don't know what I'm talking about.

I know, many people don't care, they claim they started with text-based adventures in the mid-eighties and don't look at anything else than the chatbox anyway. Well, I like eyecandy and some sort of immersion, and I like the head of my character appearing to be somehow related to the body beneath. Huff. Rant over. *exhales*

So, what can we do about the head transplantation? Make retextures of every armor, for every possible character out there? Impossible. But... we can start with trying to make at least the nude bases that cover a lot of the various heads.
Still a hell lot of work you say? Yes, it is, I can tell you because I've done it.. even in various variations for male, female, small chest, large, etc... it's a bit crazy, I know. I started with this when Jester posted his new nude base to the vault, a base that exceeds Zylch's in quality by far. Not only that, he also included different variations and a proper male base, so almost everything is covered. Well, besides dwarves, gnomes and halforcs, but that's nothing new, they never got any love before, why would they now? (actually, I'd welcome them and make skins for them right away).

Anyway, Jester delivered a high quality base, and what's even more fantastic, a solution to make new dresses without having to replace/paint on the actual nude base.

Okay, that's the part I was never able to explain to anyone until they could see it in game. So... the idea is, you have the nude skin, plus a base to make dresses on that does not use the armor slot, but the belt model instead.
Sigh... let me try it like this. You make a new armor in the toolset, you choose a nice little dress, done. To add detail, you change the armor parts then, like boots, gloves, and belt. Now, with Jester's base you make a nude armor, and change the belt part to a whole dress that overlays the nudie skin beneath. Where the belt dress is transparent, the nude skin still shows.

So, that solution opens the possibility to make the base of the outfit the player's own custom nude skin, and the whole dress he/she wears just goes into the beltslot overlaying that base, so the uncovered parts still show the original skin color. Ack, dammit, just look at the pictures.

Sadly, it wasn't just as easy as that. The first big problem was, while you can easily make dresses that show up as armorpart: belt, it was impossible to make an actual item that goes into the belt slot. Just didn't work, technical limitation, NWN2 engine doesn't want that. So back to the drawing board, and Jester played around a little and discovered the gloves slot would work. So, finally we went with a gloves slot solution that works perfectly.

There's a second option though, a scripted one: Run a script that changes armor_part_belt to a specific number, like, when the player equips an item. Sounds like the best solution, no? Haha, if NWN2 would actually do that. But no, NWN2 doesn't want to. There is a NWNX plugin that supports this, however, not everyone uses it, wants to use it or has an idea how to set it up. So, the solution for n00bs like me is using the gloves slot.

Anyway, let's illustrate that whole thing now so you finally get an idea what I'm rambling about:

The first pic here is a comparison of the nude bases. We use the greenish elf head here because it shows the effect Zylch vs. Jester's base and my custom skin best. I think you'll agree the quality has slightly improved and it looks more natural, yes?

Fine, this next pic shows how the skin lands in the player's inventory, so they can actually have it too, not just NPCs made in the toolset. I made a big mirror in a bathroom here that lets the player choose between the various options (and there are a lot!). On the left is Jester's default nude base, already looking quite fine, but not actually a match for the greenish elf, as you might agree. A few clicks further through the dialogue and our little elfie has found one that matches better.

And now our poor little elfie is all naked and will catch a cold! We must prevent that and give her some undies!
As you can see in the pic, her undies are just pretending to be a dress, game-mechanically they are gloves and wander into that slot. The nude skin stays where it is and is not unequipped. As you see in the small inventory pic of the character, our elf has it a bit warmer now.

Well, and the Undies are currently the big side project, actually. They take a while to make and I'm still a noob when it comes to texturing, especially with normal maps I'm still fighting a lot. Below you can see a little collection of working test undies I made so far. But don't think it'll be limited to undies, there are a lot of options to make whole dresses with long skirts, suits and whatnot. It just takes time.

And finally, the last pic to convince some that might be on the edge still... I think this comparison shows the difference best. Left is the underwear as it is currently present in... uh.. Chimneyfishes? Aleanne's? Not sure. The poor Yuan-Ti lass looks quite wrong in it. Right is my own conversion of the outfit to a gloves-slot dress, worn over the Yuan-Ti nudie skin.

Phhheeew... that was a long rant. Anyway, yes, this whole thing has taken a lot of my time lately. And a thousand cudos go to Jester for being incredibly helpful in the process. If you like the whole idea, run over to the vault and give his (1) stuff (2) a high vote, he deserves it.

Besides that... oh yeah, I made some areas too. Did I mention it? I know there might be one or two people in the world who are not interested in nudity, so for those freaks, I'll try to gather some screenies of the few (or rather, two - and it even rhymes) exterior areas I made completely new. This first one is, yeah - call me a copycat - a ship, and even a starting ship. It'll probably be the intro to Middleforest. BTW, what made it impossible for Obsidian to make some sails? Hello? White Sheets? That difficult? Apparently, because they have multiple ship models, but no sails. Well, a creative builder taught me tapestries and curtains do the job too, if you don't look too hard at it... Oh, and btw, it has underdecks.

Well, and this one... the screenies don't do it justice, but I'm terribly proud of it. I just wanted to try out the RWS cliffs and somehow ended up with this area. Hope you like it, I do.


Michael A. Sinclair said...

Woohoo! An update!

When are you gonna put up the module so I can see the areas in those wicked screenies?

Casa said...

Anytime you tell me you're ready, Michael. I linked the haks at the forum now, so you can already get that big bunch out of the way. :)

Michael A. Sinclair said...

Coolness. I've got about half of them so far. I'll drop you a line soon to see when's a good time for you to give the tour.

Cipher said...

Ooooh! He lives! Good to see you posting again Casa! Lovely areas as usual. I feel your pain when it comes to the skin tones issue, but that's way down on my own list of must-haves.

Anyway good to see you progressing once again. :)