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Interview with Josh Sawyer PCWorld Update 69: Modding

Interview Josh Sawyer PCWorld Update 69 Modding

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#21
Zwiebelchen

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I don't know why people think that modelling landscapes is exceptionally difficult. This is not 1999 anymore, folks. 3D modellers have become pretty intuitive to use over the last decade and as time progressed, so did the databases containing complete models and textures ready for use.

 

Seriously, if we take it to the lowest possible level of expertise, it's only about importing models from an existing database and merge them together to a whole landscape via placement gizmo. If you feel like it, you could build entire castles out of a single brick model and do nothing else but just putting them on top of each other one by one.

 

Someone brought the LEGO example. It's pretty much this.

 

The beauty about 2D backgrounds is, that you can give jack-**** about the number of vertices or performance. You can have millions of polys and the only thing that will suffer from it is the final rendering process deriving the image maps.

 

 

 

Seriously, the hard thing will not be the actual modelling of the landscapes. The hard thing will be to import them into the game and fill them with life (npcs, scripts, encounters). And I still hope there's gonna be tools for that.



#22
JFSOCC

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Potato, I think you've missed the update about the map design process. There are several things that would make making maps harder (but I agree, not impossible)

You have to make the map (hi-res)

You have to mark where characters can walk

You have to mark certain objects for occlusion (does this show in front or behind a character as he walks past it)

You have to adjust light sources for the dynamic lighting system (otherwise your map might look weird as it is being played)

Some objects are 3D layovers on the 2d map.

 

I do believe that the biggest problem is that the tools to do everything but point one are proprietary, but not Obsidian's.



#23
NWN_babaYaga

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hmm,

 

to me the whole question of modding a game like this is the "replayablity" of the map/ level you are doing. I started with mapping for sof1 (half life 1 time) and am a nwn dedicated modder but when i imagine i work on a little area for more than a week for just some run downs, trading or 1 single fight i would consider myself somewhat stupid to be honest. Why waste my time on an area where people just rush trough in less then an hour and than thats it ?

 

So this whole modding thing here is way beyond anything that a FPS MP modder is doing where his map is used for month after month. Thats why i think doing areas for "infinity engine" like games might be nice to do if you have to much time but it´s nothing that supports your goal after a one-time run trough.

 

And so my own conclusion is it would be a nice "presentation" on what i can do with my design tools available but nothing again on what i can consider, hey thats cool... lets play there for a while you know?!


Edited by NWN_babaYaga, 06 June 2014 - 02:56 PM.


#24
Silent Winter

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I don't know why people think that modelling landscapes is exceptionally difficult. This is not 1999 anymore, folks. 3D modellers have become pretty intuitive to use over the last decade and as time progressed, so did the databases containing complete models and textures ready for use.

 

Seriously, if we take it to the lowest possible level of expertise, it's only about importing models from an existing database and merge them together to a whole landscape via placement gizmo. If you feel like it, you could build entire castles out of a single brick model and do nothing else but just putting them on top of each other one by one.

 

Someone brought the LEGO example. It's pretty much this.

There's also composition and lighting - I can throw boulders and trees at a scene in Bryce, but that won't make it an interesting/beautiful area, even with nice models.

Depending on your software, natural lighting might be more 'set the sun position and auto' but there can also be a lot to consider re:shadows, reflection (if I have a lovley reflective lake, I'll need to set it up so my characters get reflected in real-time (dunno if that's something they'll do in PoE) etc.

I agree re: basic scene though.

 

Seriously, the hard thing will not be the actual modelling of the landscapes. The hard thing will be to import them into the game and fill them with life (npcs, scripts, encounters). And I still hope there's gonna be tools for that.

 

^this, agreed



#25
nipsen

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Potato, I think you've missed the update about the map design process. There are several things that would make making maps harder (but I agree, not impossible)

You have to make the map (hi-res)

You have to mark where characters can walk

You have to mark certain objects for occlusion (does this show in front or behind a character as he walks past it)

You have to adjust light sources for the dynamic lighting system (otherwise your map might look weird as it is being played)

Some objects are 3D layovers on the 2d map.

 

I do believe that the biggest problem is that the tools to do everything but point one are proprietary, but not Obsidian's.

 

..yeah. I'm guessing what Josh is referring to is the process of translating the map from semi-3d to a hi-res map. And the preparation stages before creating the compressed target with the occlusion and terrain effects.

 

Most likely, if they released the tools for this they would basically be releasing their entire toolchain.

 

In the same way, I sort of doubt that maps can be edited very successfully. You would lose the effects and the way the lighting works. Put in a tree, don't get the same angle as the rest, have tagged on lighting that only works at one time of the day, etc. Not necessarily going to be a fantastic idea.

 

It's probably not entirely the same thing that happens with character models and weapons. So maybe that would work.

 

What I'd like to see would be a scripting tool for dialogue trees - if the dialogue system is any good, I mean :p


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#26
Zwiebelchen

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Potato, I think you've missed the update about the map design process. There are several things that would make making maps harder (but I agree, not impossible)

You have to make the map (hi-res)

You have to mark where characters can walk

You have to mark certain objects for occlusion (does this show in front or behind a character as he walks past it)

You have to adjust light sources for the dynamic lighting system (otherwise your map might look weird as it is being played)

Some objects are 3D layovers on the 2d map.

 

I do believe that the biggest problem is that the tools to do everything but point one are proprietary, but not Obsidian's.

 

Occlusion and height map are basicly the same. And as such, can be created automaticly via the appropriate modeller plugin.

 

Collision maps as binary images can easily be hand-painted over the rendered background image. So I guess a tool for that could be useful, but isn't really required.

 

Light sources and dynamic lighting, of course, would need a proper tool to be placed. But so would all other things that fill the map with life: NPCs, monsters, destructable objects, etc.

This is where a tool is needed. But it's very likely that these tools exist and are obsidian's home-made creations, since unity doesn't explicitly provide commercial editors for things like that.

 

 

So in the end the modding community kind of depends on the release of such a tool to thrive. I hope they'll consider it.

 

@Silent_Winter:

Of course, the technical possibility is one thing, but the artistical skill is the other. However, from my experience with modding communities in the past, I can tell that artistical expertise is just a matter of perception and purpose. I've seen everything from stylized, comic-y looks to ultra HD photo-esque stuff made from amateurs. Who wouldn't love to play a custom made module of PoE with comic-style backgrounds or just black and white scribbly crayon landscapes? Well I'd definitely play that!

 

@BabaYaga:

It's a matter of what you consider community content. Of course, expecting a complete module spanning several hours of gameplay would be ridicolous (although that has been done before, remember the DA:O mod replicating Chateau Irenicus!). But I could for example see a community mod that adds a small dungeon with riddles or ultra hard arena battles or just some custom housing.

Scope differs from mod to mod. But just because a mod has a small scope doesn't mean it's not valuable content.

I played an NWN module in the past where you were the matron of a brothel. It basicly had an economy sim feel to it and not a single battle. Just to give an example of how different community content can be. And despite the rather dark setting, it was engaging as hell.


Edited by Zwiebelchen, 10 June 2014 - 03:15 AM.

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#27
Semper

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Occlusion and height map are basicly the same. And as such, can be created automaticly via the appropriate modeller plugin.

Collision maps as binary images can easily be hand-painted over the rendered background image. So I guess a tool for that could be useful, but isn't really required.

Light sources and dynamic lighting, of course, would need a proper tool to be placed. But so would all other things that fill the map with life: NPCs, monsters, destructable objects, etc.

This is where a tool is needed. But it's very likely that these tools exist and are obsidian's home-made creations, since unity doesn't explicitly provide commercial editors for things like that.

 

you don't need a special plugin to get the needed render outputs. every renderer included in your 3d app of choice is able to create them.

those collision objects and walkmeshes need to be created in 3d. they're basically placed on top of the isometric flat texture which is your underlying map. unity supports custom meshes as those objects, and i bet that they're just imported fbx files.

i doubt that obsidian created their own stand alone toolset to create poe. unity is basically a toolset in its own right. if at all they have to create such a tool just for the community - or they could go the mmx route were unity pro is needed to create content.



#28
Osvir

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https://www.youtube....k52BLOFyuo#t=93 to about the 2:00 minute mark shows a purple layer which I think is a vector walk "mesh"?

If that's the case, making a "map" could be as simple as:
1. Find a top-down isometric jpg on the internet (or paint one yourself)
2. Throw it into Unity
3. Add walk paths
4. Add props/triggers etc. etc.
5. Finalize and publish

I doubt (100%) I'd be able to make anything as beautiful as the creative folks over at Obsidian, but if it'd be possible to do something similar to the 5-step above I could contribute with some simple custom map additions :D



#29
Luridis

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https://www.youtube....k52BLOFyuo#t=93 to about the 2:00 minute mark shows a purple layer which I think is a vector walk "mesh"?

If that's the case, making a "map" could be as simple as:
1. Find a top-down isometric jpg on the internet (or paint one yourself)
2. Throw it into Unity
3. Add walk paths
4. Add props/triggers etc. etc.
5. Finalize and publish

I doubt (100%) I'd be able to make anything as beautiful as the creative folks over at Obsidian, but if it'd be possible to do something similar to the 5-step above I could contribute with some simple custom map additions :D

 

If you ask me... Lights will be the most difficult thing to get "right" in mods. Personally, I notice incorrect reflections, shadows and emissive light before anything else.



#30
Silent Winter

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https://www.youtube....k52BLOFyuo#t=93 to about the 2:00 minute mark shows a purple layer which I think is a vector walk "mesh"?

If that's the case, making a "map" could be as simple as:
1. Find a top-down isometric jpg on the internet (or paint one yourself)
2. Throw it into Unity
3. Add walk paths
4. Add props/triggers etc. etc.
5. Finalize and publish

I doubt (100%) I'd be able to make anything as beautiful as the creative folks over at Obsidian, but if it'd be possible to do something similar to the 5-step above I could contribute with some simple custom map additions :D

That would work if there's no chance of your characters walking behind anything (houses, trees etc) - if there is, you'd need the z-depth occlusion map at least)



#31
Osvir

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https://www.youtube....k52BLOFyuo#t=93 to about the 2:00 minute mark shows a purple layer which I think is a vector walk "mesh"?

If that's the case, making a "map" could be as simple as:
1. Find a top-down isometric jpg on the internet (or paint one yourself)
2. Throw it into Unity
3. Add walk paths
4. Add props/triggers etc. etc.
5. Finalize and publish

I doubt (100%) I'd be able to make anything as beautiful as the creative folks over at Obsidian, but if it'd be possible to do something similar to the 5-step above I could contribute with some simple custom map additions :D

That would work if there's no chance of your characters walking behind anything (houses, trees etc) - if there is, you'd need the z-depth occlusion map at least)

True, unless some sort of layered cut+paste+transparency solution is possible?



#32
Zwiebelchen

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https://www.youtube....k52BLOFyuo#t=93 to about the 2:00 minute mark shows a purple layer which I think is a vector walk "mesh"?

If that's the case, making a "map" could be as simple as:
1. Find a top-down isometric jpg on the internet (or paint one yourself)
2. Throw it into Unity
3. Add walk paths
4. Add props/triggers etc. etc.
5. Finalize and publish

I doubt (100%) I'd be able to make anything as beautiful as the creative folks over at Obsidian, but if it'd be possible to do something similar to the 5-step above I could contribute with some simple custom map additions :D

That would work if there's no chance of your characters walking behind anything (houses, trees etc) - if there is, you'd need the z-depth occlusion map at least)

True, unless some sort of layered cut+paste+transparency solution is possible?

 

 

For occlusion, that would be sufficient in simple cases. However, you are still missing a normal map, so any light sources in your area will look terrible.

 

Just to get things straight here for people that are not experienced with texture maps:

This does not work like in IE games anymore. There *is* dynamic lighting and 3-dimensionality through normal and occlusion maps. Hand-painting those only works for very simple structures like the inside of a building.

 

It's much easier to derive those maps from a 3D model.



#33
fetfreak

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When it comes to Baldur's Gate mods, what I like the most were the additional npcs.

I personally don't have much interest in new maps and areas, but custom, fully written npcs would be awesome, if modding allows it.



#34
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@fetfreak: I imagine the different parts of modding, in terms of difficulty, looks something like this:

Easy:
- NPC's (Clone an already existant NPC and mess around with all the values, name, stats, equipment etc. etc.) statwise only
- Items (Weapons, trinkets, equipment etc. etc.) statwise only
- Quests
- Dialogue

Medium:

- Triggers (I could put this in "Easy" as it is something I know how to use and I know the function of them, I just always have trouble with it)
- Scripts

Hard:
- Textures

Harder:
- Models

Hardest:
- Areas

Of course, someone who is great at modeling might find it really easy to model stuff, and thinks scripting or even narrative stuff like coming up with a good quest is hard.



#35
fetfreak

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Well hopefully fans will band together and make it all possible. I would love it if PoE gets a tenth of modding attention of Skyrim.
 



#36
Silent Winter

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Of course, someone who is great at modeling might find it really easy to model stuff, and thinks scripting or even narrative stuff like coming up with a good quest is hard.

Yeah - I'd put textures as harder than modelling (and UV-mapping the model as harder than that - but that's just down to my own level of experience).



#37
Nyhilla

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Hi there, I'm a bit late on this one but, as I don't have the heart to lecture all posts : do someone know if modding could eventually be compatible to "create" or, "modify" classes ? (I'd like to create classes like I did in BG or NW2). The fact is that spell effect often requires a lot of work, and I don't know if I'll be able to handle Unity.



#38
Semper

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right now nobody knows what will be possible, not even obsidian. it all depends on their file documentation and how they structure unity, e.g. which files will be outsourced and easily modifiable.



#39
Zwiebelchen

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Of course, someone who is great at modeling might find it really easy to model stuff, and thinks scripting or even narrative stuff like coming up with a good quest is hard.

Yeah - I'd put textures as harder than modelling (and UV-mapping the model as harder than that - but that's just down to my own level of experience).

 

 

It's always depending on how much experience you have with what. I personally don't find UV-mapping specifically harder than modelling or texturing. It all depends on what you are used to do. With good tutorials and some artistic skill, everything is possible within reason.


Edited by Zwiebelchen, 20 June 2014 - 02:46 AM.

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