Thursday, December 27, 2012

They're Baa-aack...

It's been about a month now since was hacked with malware and thus forced to close its doors to the public until things could be straightened out. Well, they're back now better than ever with a more streamlined interface and a more secure setup to hopefully keep out those annoying little bugs. This was especially good news to me since it means that my beloved Realm667 Beastiary is back as well; not only can I download great Doom resources again, but I can upload more new creations of my own as well. Kudos to the entire site staff FTW.

And to the hackers responsible for the month of down-time, I offer this advice: next time instead of hacking a gaming site that isn't causing anyone any harm, use your powers to do something useful that the rest of us can actually admire like infecting this site with malware or crippling these morons. That would impress me; what you've done so far has just been lame.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Kid On The Block

Any of you who follow my little blog here in interest of classic Doom stuff might also want to check out DeVloek's DooM mods. The guy has talents in several facets of Doom modding and his stuff is definitely worth a look. Trust me.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

GZDoom Marches On

To quote the DoomWorld News post:

Graf Zahl has decided to release a new official build of GZDoom. In addition to all the ZDoom updates since 2.6.1 and later, the main interest is a new shader-based lighting mode created by Korshun that replicates the original software renderer and COLORMAP's look, except smoother and with more color depth. If you do not have a computer that supports shaders, there still are plenty of interesting things from the ZDoom side, such as better OPL emulation, support for the BFG Edition IWADs, or the alt-hud now providing a berserk indicator.

1.7.00 is the latest version. Thank you Graf Zahl and Korshun.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Need Music?

As a follow-up to my previous post, I would also like to mention in a more general manner the site where Aubrey Hodges chose to make his PlayStation Doom soundtrack available. BANDCAMP, I am currently discovering, hosts a wealth of various styles of music, much of which is suitable for substituting your boring old video game music (thus justifying my mention of it here in my gaming blog). As I'm typing this I'm listening to Field Recordings From The Edge Of Hell, which is really sounding like some great droning ambient music to play DOOM by. It appears that most of the collections of music offered on this site can be had for a mere $1 USD, so even on a budget as limited as mine one can afford to indulge a bit. If you have any love at all for music, do yourself a favor and check out this great website.

Aubrey Hodges Delivers

I know I'm a bit late delivering this news (the DoomWorld News Post was about a week ago) but I wanted to share it here anyway as I feel it's a bit of a landmark.
For a long time now, the soundtrack(s) for the PlayStation version(s) of DOOM have only been available through controversial sources. Now, after some DoomWorld Forums participation by Aubrey Hodges himself, the soundtrack's composer has finally made the original soundtrack available to the public (for a small price). It has also been said that other soundtracks from the other DOOM and QUAKE games done by Aubrey Hodges will soon follow.

The first installment can be found here.

Thank you, Mr. Hodges.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Progress Report: Level One

Once I was satisfied that the first level of my 100-level Morrowind Ancestral Tomb was ready for actual gameplay all that was left was to test it by actually playing through it. I decided that the best way to do so would be to use only the "vanilla" game (GOTY version), so I created a Redguard warrior dude named Samson and started a game from scratch. With only Fargoth's Ring, the Iron Sparksword retrieved from the corpse of Tarhiel and a suit of Dark Brotherhood armor retrieved from a would-be assassin, I headed straight for the tomb entrance immediately after finishing character generation. To make a potentially long story short, the first few fights inside the tomb were difficult but by no means impossible and once I started accumulating the necessities of dungeon-crawling such as thieve's tools and potions the gameplay seemed to be balanced well enough (you can see the statistics at the bottom of the image posted here). By the time Samson reached the exit of this first level he had gained a character level and was well-equipped and ready for more action. So now I need to get started on level two...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dungeon Crafting Made Easy(er)

The goal of GenMod is to do as much of the repetitive drudge work as
possible, so you can focus on high-level mod design and final tweaking. 
GenMod does not eliminate the need for hand-crafting of interiors, but it
does speed up the process. By automating room layout and basic item placement, GenMod can reduce the time it takes to create new interiors by as much as 50%.

Q: Why am I beginning this post with a quote from the description of GenMod v3.1 on Morrowind Modding History?

A: Because I've already heard enough criticism regarding random level generating programs for other games, claims that using such programs is one of the most disreputable things a modder can do.

Look people, this is what these programs are designed to do. Get over it.

Having said that in defense of GenMod, now we can talk a bit about what it can and cannot actually do...

Honestly, I wasn't going to do another post about this program and just let my previous post of one sentence and 100 screenshots stand on its own. However, some interest in this was expressed by my massive following of readers so I thought perhaps I should be a bit more verbose on the topic.

Basically, GenMod for Morrowind can quickly generate up to 100 random, consecutively-linked playable dungeon interiors using a variety of tileset, treasure container and monster themes (among other specific settings that can be adjusted by the user). All a modder really needs to do in order to play the resulting dungeon(s) is to somehow connect the new cells to the rest of Vvardenfell via either a teleport marker or a physical entrance added to an exterior cell.
As the description of the program accurately states, GenMod can significantly reduce the time it would take to create a new interior cell. However, from a more aesthetic perspective, the resulting product still needs a human touch or it will likely feel artificial when experienced in the game.

Here's an original, untouched GenMod cell:
...and here's the same cell with a few human touches made to the layout:
In terms of layout, one thing I noticed right away when looking at the original cell in the editor is that GenMod's rooms are almost always square or rectangular, but that's easily fixed by copy+pasting a few tileset pieces into less mechanical-looking shapes. Adding new rooms to a pre-generated cell and modifying the pre-existing rooms can start to feel a bit like playing TETRIS, but that's okay because I enjoy such things. Then I notice the random layout of the hallways; some rooms have multiple paths leading to them and often these hallways are parallel and thus a bit superfluous. (If I had to guess, I'd say that the program does this to ensure that no inaccessible rooms are generated off in the aether somewhere.) This also means that there are a lot of superfluous doors, which can become rather annoying for me since I always travel with at least one companion NPC and Morrowind's companion AI apparently dictates that they must jiggle the doorknob of every open door at least a dozen times before passing through the threshold. The hallways can also be corrected easily with the editor, but now one has to start giving more thought to what it will be like to actually play through the level. While I don't want the level to be totally linear from start to finish, I do want most rooms to be accessible by only one hallway. My idea is to make the exit of the level a locked door which will require the finding of a key elsewhere in the level. Which brings us to the creatures...

GenMod's default creature placement is actually pretty good, but I notice that the leveled creatures it uses are all of the level+0 variety; for an added challenge I'll throw in here and there creatures from the level+1 and level+2 lists as well. Then there's the matter of the key I mentioned above; I'm thinking that such an item should be placed in the inventory of a unique boss creature, maybe even an enemy NPC like a vampire or a necromancer, so of course I'll have to create and place those myself.

I'm not satisfied with GenMod's placement of containers and furnishings in this level; bookshelves and cupboards will be fine for levels that I'll re-populate with vampires or necromancers, but for the haunted tombs I'll want to replace such furnishings with urns, ashpits and the like. (Though I should note that the random generation of such things this time around might simply have been the result of a variable I neglected to set properly in the GUI before generating the cell.)

Finally, the generation of generic treasure like random gold is okay, but to make the levels feel like they're worth playing I'll also add some customized magic items, weapons and armor. (I sincerely doubt that anyone will be motivated to hack'n'slash their way through 100 tombs just to collect random gold, non-enchanted iron equipment and bonemeal.) While I don't know jack about quest scripting, I might even go so far as to leave some notes lying around in some of the nearby cities to tempt the player with mention of some unimaginable treasures.

So, to make a potentially long story shorter, GenMod can indeed create a decent basis for an interior cell, but as the creator of the program tells us in the description we should endeavor to take the generated cells and add as much of our own creativity to them as our ambitions will allow.

Q: "Herculine, are you really going to devote the time necessary to polish 100 randomly-generated tomb interiors to create a playable mod for a game that's ten years old?"

A: Maybe, maybe not. I've been known to produce some crazy mods like over 100 companion characters or adding a couple hundred randomly-spawned monsters to a game, but then I've also been known to --

Ooh, wait! Was that a butterfly? Shiny!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gen Mod 3.1

This is what happens if you configure Gen Mod for Morrowind to generate a 100-level Ancestral Tomb. (Need I say more?)