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2004 Archives

Meditating on Creativity 30 December 2004

Currently, I have a summer course that's dominating my reading, and this week should see the arrival of essay topics. It's a full-on course so there's not much free time.

I also intend to spend more time drawing E Motel — I have a good fifteen strip ideas sequenced already — so there's more time lost.

And the writing: I have two non-fiction book ideas and intend writing an op-ed column for the student rag. If I spend all my course days in town, I should be able to concentrate on research for the book, tuning my columnar flow, my course reading, and maybe a little drawing in the mornings too.

And, finally, Morrowind. I have ambitious ideas for a mod, or pair of related mods, that will involve a great deal of design work. This isn't "mapping" so much as plot design, which is made more complex by the fact that half the time a "quest" can be entered at more than one point.

Here's an example; let's call it "The Missing Courier". Said courier has been ambushed midway between two towns, and had his cargo stolen. So, you could discover the plot by first:

  1. Offing the thieves and finding the swag (which also suggests that you could try flogging it, and thus get into trouble)
  2. Finding the courier
  3. Talking to the guy who sent the courier
  4. Talking to the guy waiting for the courier

That's four ways to start the quest. Obviously, there are multiple ways to end the quest, and at least one way to short-circuit the quest completely! And I have to work that out for several... arrgh...

Anyway, that's more or less background for my preparing to quit mapping for good. Before I leave, though, I do intend to finish off the Library map for Arcane as well as the QuakeC. I never really started the Graveyard beyond much of a vague idea, and my "arcane tower" map sickens me.

So, rather than forlornly keep promising to do stuff, I'm quitting by the end of this year. In the meantime, I'll post some piccies of what I have done so far, as well as pics of my own "house mod" which is the start point for all budding MW modders.

Morrowind has Ruined My Will to Map. 22 November 2004

Arcane's been held up due to a) too much Morrowind, b) a serious bout of work-related exhaustion, and c) trigger_read problems. What hasn't helped my temper is realising that what I've been coding has been not only buggy as hell, but over-complicated! So I've been tearing it all up and starting anew.

I have a nasty feeling that quite a number of FPS games may be leaving my hard drive soon. I just don't play them at all, and have no interest in mapping for same. All right, I did look at Sock's Q3 map Pyramid of the Magician, which is a fascinating piece of terrain mapping (and you must read the associated text file).

Mike "For My Babies" Woodham has released a new map, based on Tronyn's scraps from A Roman Wilderness of Pain, and people are saying nice things about it. I've had a look, and there's certainly some very clever bits of brushwork and hirsuite combat a-go-go.

It's Morrowind, however, that's my current obsession in terms of both gameplay and mod-making. So far, all I've done is add some dialogue to one mod, in which you can buy a pack guar, but I'm working on a cave with an attached "missing person" quest. At the moment I'm working up to a more involved quest series entitled "The Witchbane Legacy". Gods only know where I'll find a place to stash it, and don't hold your breath.

Duty Now for the Future 1 October 2004

In the past two months or so, I started what's basically full-time work. This means that, including gym in the evenings and clubs, my free time is getting mighty short for creative pursuits.

Arcane still has a few problems with the chaingun and other weaponry to be fixed, but the monsters have been somewhat less hassle to plug in. (Besides, I need something to test the weapons on!) I still have a lot of work to do on trigger_read and some other bits and pieces before it's anywhere near usable (as opposed to complete.)

I've also fallen into the trap known as Morrowind. My character still isn't very powerful (she's only level 10, so far) and I keep getting spanked just inside the entrance to that cave that's close to Hla Oad; so I'm getting a little antsy about that.

In the last day I shot my mouth off about wanting to redo my Tower of Yoth in a style more like the asymmetric, wierdly angled Daedric ruins. I'm suspecting that this'll be far more work than I envisage, creating textures and prefabs for doorways and so on. Maybe I'd be better off concentrating on the "contemporary" maps: the start map and my proposed graveyard first.

A chap called Dylan has offered some interesting models for the Arcane project; the overall theme seems to be influenced by Lovecraft's Herbert West: Reanimator. There is a particularly good looking cultist model that I like and would fit in with the overall plotline.

In addition to all that, I started a Livejournal; you can read it here. Oddly, I seem more likely to post if I'm irritated by things.

Finally, visit Tom Bosley Experience and order their CD The Spark of Inspiration. Fun music for fun times.

Back from the dead 2 August 2004

As it happened, DSL was an option after all; the main hiccup was getting the wireless card and the wireless ADSL router working. A corrupt system setting didn't help — it took the technician over three hours to solve the problems.

I've been slack as buggery on Arcane, but recently I have been testing and recompiling and retesting each new feature...

The master field has now been rejigged to work with the slave fields, as it was stuffing up all sorts of functionality before. Well, with doors at least. I have to test other brush entities yet.

The new keys seem to work fine too, using the keyflags field.

Weapons are half-finished; I think the chainsaw (replacing the axe) is basically animating properly, and the chaingun really only needs some tweaking of power and getting the ammo box models to work. Then it's alternative ammo for the other guns.

With the new wireless card, however, I've noticed something's happened to FitzQuake: Spurious coloured lightmaps have started appearing in maps which lack same. It's almost as though the system thinks a .lit file has been loaded when it hasn't. On the other hand, if a .lit does exist, things are fine.

Potential Downgrade 11 July 2004

There seems to be a small problem concerning high-speed internet access at the new house. Basically, there isn't any. DSL is out of the running as the exchange is too far away, and the previous occupants had Sky rather than Saturn — and for some reason the dish antenna was parked on the retaining wall rather than the roof. Weird.

Given that this computer doesn't have a modem, I'm likely to be virtually incommunicado for quite a while until something's worked out. None of us want coax cables snaking along walls, so getting a cable connection could be a laborious matter of sliding 'em under carpets, or the relative expense of going wireless. (Those base stations and receivers aren't cheap.)

OTOH, while large file up- and downloads are out of the question, I could probably plug all the cables in the little Compaq back in and use that for communications. I've been meaning to completely scrub the little booger out anyway, reinstall Office and load in Mozilla etc. 33.6kbs is enough for basic web and email. I wonder if this 'Woosh' I've heard of is available here?

Action-Packed Inertia 2 July 2004

My job has been delayed a week. Bugger.

Another "Bugger" moment came when I finally got the initial code to compile for Arcane. For some reason, the SPX code and ai_walk didn't play well with each other: walking monsters stuttered along, apparently frozen in their first frame. So I've given up and replaced the affected monsters' walk functions with the id originals.

Now I have to think about adding stuff in; I may start with weapons and keys.

For weapons, the axe will be replaced with a chainsaw and a chaingun will also appear - a totally new weapon with its own custom ammo.

As for keys, I'm wondering if I should forget about a second items2 set of booleans and instead think of using a master field as in Half-Life. There, touching a keycard "unlocks" any entity whose master key matches the keycard's target. Such a system would allow for more subtlety in designing puzzles... but it also breaks the way in which keys usually work: you need to mess with entity fields.

Actually, I just opened up subs.qc and added a float so that one trigger can fire both killtarget and target matches. I should've done that earlier.

In Unreal-land, Deja Vu 2.1: Return to Gryphon has been released, patched, then re-released again through UnrealSP.org. So far, it looks very nice, or as nice as it can get with the problems it seems to have with Z-fighting decals on my system.

Unhappy Birthday 29 June 2004

Yesterday was my birthday. It was also the day we found out that the vendors selling the house we've been after were away in bloody Bangkok. And we couldn't wait for them to return, so we've ended up paying more than we wanted. (Oh well, at least that's one less uncertainty in the near future.)

On the other hand, I had a nice dinner out (and a truly deadly case of farts afterward), and I also have a nicer stereo for my room. Which leads to a rant about modern mini-systems.

Why the hell are they designed by the same twerp who does aftermarket spoiler kits for pimple-eyed, pimple-brained, pimple-genitalled teenagers?

Who needs all those blinky, flashy, multichrome LED displays? Those garish fins and flares? Why in hell must the speakers bulge all over the place like the acoustic equivalent of a Conan-era Schwarzenegger? (Actually, the salesman said that micro systems and home theatre were eating into the mini market. Oh.)

Obviously, I decided that twin tape decks weren't really necessary, so I now have last year's model — the last in the shop. And it works fine.

Unlike the codebase I've been crafting for Arcane. For some reason, the SPX code, applied to walking, simply doesn't increment the monster's frame index, unlike when running or standing. I can't figure out why, so the old style stand functions are likely to make a reappearance.

I Am Now Insane 23 June 2004

It turns out that there's a few too many monsters and not enough ammo in map #4 of Ontranto, which has led to me saying many rude words and doing things to the map in question. If you've already downloaded the full beastie before Wednesday or so, you'll need this patch. Those of you who haven't, or are willing to wait, can download the whole thing as revised.

Obviously I'm more than a little PO'd by this stuff-up, since I know that fixing these faults will cause even more complaint about it not being hard enough. Well, foo on you.

Whoops! 21 June 2004

I forgot the skybox for Ontranto. I'm uploading a fixed zip now, but if you don't want to download 7MB again, you can nab the skybox by itself here.

Enough. 20 June 2004

As far as I can tell, Ontranto is effectively complete. My main concerns involved problems with a lack of ammo in map #3, which I believe I've countered now, so I'm putting the damnable thing up for download.

If I sound tetchy, it's because of life changes coming all at once — on top of exams yet!

First: I start a fulltime job in July. Second: Dad's taken redundancy, which leads to the Third: We've sold our house and thus are going to move soon. This means an alarming amount of running around tidying up, selecting items for storage, inspecting properties, picking holes in the damn things, and the phone ringing off the goddamn hook and driving me insane.

I've also spent too much money again, including some more games. Myst I picked up for the sake of completeness, and finished it off in a couple of nights. This game actually got me kicked out of a computer store years back, so I knew some of the solutions, but the ending was a fizzler (but also a little worrying.) Next to get will be Exile.

More entertaining — and oftimes frustrating — has been Max Payne. Possibly part of it's allure is the fact that it isn't a first-person shooter, but I've been playing it an awful lot. I've also found myself frequently whining in frustration, attempting to get through a section over and over again without success, before nailing it at last.

Anyway, to repeat: I'm releasing Ontranto now, as most problems seem to be fixed now, and there's no point in sitting on it any more.

Even Quicker Note 14 June 2004

As well as fixing texture misalignments and (most of) some missing items, I've added another secret to FC1M3 and finished off the skill-setting map to my satisfaction.

I have also acquired (and finally got working properly) Hammer, so I'm diddling with an idea I call Now and Xen — which can best be described as, "Xen done better". The trick is to develop a decent plotline as well as more coherent designs for the three main regions (which means at least six maps.) My intuition leans toward stuff like Necros' The Emptiness Without than interminable platforms in space. A plotline is also forming, but now I'm wondering whether to do two versions: one for vanilla HL and another (harder) one for OpForce.

Plot is pretty important in HL editing: it informs the design of the human base as well as lets me pursue some ideas I have about the Xen ecology, such as it is. I'd pursue them further, but I'm unsure whether Dev-C++ can do Half-Life DLLs. (And my C++ is bloody rusty anyway.)

Speakin' of Half Life: Point of View (find it at Ten Four) is a good idea let down (for me) by rather weak and hard to find extra weapons — the beasties from OpFor would have been nice too. Mind you, this does make the game a lot more challenging, especially since you lack any sort of armor that I could find, and can't give orders to other Xenites.

Enough jabber from me; I've an exam tomorrow morning and Toastmasters tomorrow night as well.

Quick note 6 June 2004

I've started playing Ontranto properly, and so far I've spotted the old "counting swimming monsters twice" bug and a misaligned texture in the first map - along with the problems of misaligned textures in the mine supports. ToChris hasn't crashed yet, thank the gods.

Yes, this implies that I'm gearing up for release pretty darn soon.

Worked to death 5 June 2004

If you're wondering what's happened for the past month, it's simply been a hell of desperate essay-writing. I was still straining for words yesterday. Three essays due in in the last week. I do have priorities, you know.

I now have another essay due in a fortnight; a kind of "take-home" exam. The idea being that one swots feverishly, then on the day sits down for an hour or so and writes feverishly.

The QuakeC business has progressed well; I have yet to try compiling the new splitted pages, and the monster code has yet to be done. Being intended for <>Arcane, I intend to more firmly evaluate the SPX codebase for beasties and rewrite their codes as required. That will be an interesting challenge!

There've been a number of interesting Quake releases out there; let me go over some of them quickly. And don't forget to check Underworldfan's site for reviews!

First off, an oldie. Vondur's Adamantine Cruelty. If you haven't tried it, go get it. Great stuff.

A newcomer called JPLambert also presented his first Quake map, a Rogue Egyptian thing called Hellchepsout. There are some crude aspects to it, unfortunately, such as the rather oversaturated coloured lighting and relatively boxy design, but it shows some promise, especially the bit with the broken columns.

The highest praise, however, goes to Ben Wooding's Bastion of the Underworld, a corker (and monumental) SP map in a fairly colourful Q3 style, offset by a greyish sky (or skybox, if your engine can do skyboxes. I had to convert the skybox to PCX, Quake palette, 256 pixels a side.) New monsters (such as the Shuffler and flak cannon ogres - and Q2 chaingun guys!?) and a few new ambient sounds (and rotating things) make for a fun time.

I've had enough 15 May 2004

Ontranto's pretty darn close. As far as I know, the last test run only found a couple of texture glitches and QuakeC errors.

Actually, it also showed up a glitch in Metlslime's FitzQuake, when it comes to releasing and allocating room for skyboxes. He's asked me - semi-jokingly - to delay releasing Ontranto until he gets another build out the door!

I have two essays due in a fortnight, another a week after those, and then there's the bloody job search, and... graaah!

After this, I intend working on a little project, which I feel will help in more efficiently coding Arcane and this Doomsday project. It goes like this:

The standard QuakeC sources are pretty messy. There's a lot of spaghetti code, extremely long source files that you can get lost in, and when modifying, you end up having to scramble through half a dozen other source files trying to find any missed references.

My intention is to break up some of those big-as files - particularly misc.qc, weapons.qc and items.qc into smaller, type-specific ones. General functionality goes here; functions specific to, say, health, go there; and on it goes. Basically, the idea is to make modifications easier by having code for particular items and functionality more easily locatable.

After Arcane... never mind. Currently I'm not enthused at doing any more work for no reward. If I want to embark on thankless efforts, I can try to find work. At 33, I'm too old for most people to even consider seriously.

More to the point, mapping for Unreal or Half Life seems to demand far more effort than Quake (and I'm heartily sick of fucking Quake.) I need to find something else to do. Something that makes money.

Now I'd better get that application away.

Gearing up for release 8 May 2004

I've finished off the download page for Ontranto, and taken a few pics. All is ready, I think... 

Incidentally, I got an email declaring that "Soul of Evil is missing!" It's not. Tronyn, if you're listening, please update your SoE downloads page to use the new type of download link, which starts with:
http://www.fileplanet.com/dl.aspx?

And those of you who're running into this elsewhere, keep that in mind. FP hasn't necessarily deleted things, it's just that the links are out of date.

I haven't actually done very much on Ontranto in the past two weeks anyway; I've had an essay due, and some job interviews, and they take precedence.

Killjoy came up with an idea for a "Doomsday Device" mod for Quake, which he posted on func_msgboard for discussion. What's evolved so far is a form of Catch the Chicken, where the "chicken" is replaced by a weapon that can kill everyone on the map... after being held by one person for a specified period. Kell's made models, and I suspect I've talked myself into coding the silly thing.

Interesting news 27 April 2004

CZG and Vondur have collaborated on a remake of the classic first proper SP Quake map, E1M1, The Slipgate Complex. All the juicy goodness of the original map with more sophisticated brushwork, and a super secret section besides. Now all we need is someone to redo the rest of the original levels. Hmmm... I liked E1M4 and have a hankering for high-tech textures...

Anyway. Ontranto. It seems that my one respondent tester has had a monitor die, and so couldn't tell me what was wrong with my later updates. Right now I'm going to upload the current beta and howl for more testers, and write a puff page in readiness for release, hopefully in time for May Day.

Then I'm going to mess with FrikQCC some more and try to get these damnable weapons working for Arcane. Hrmph.

A Serious Note 19 April 2004

I just finished Serious Sam (not the Second Encounter, the first one.) It's Doom in 3D. Loads of very exciting horde combat involving monsters that singly aren't much chop, but you rarely meet them singly. (I actually had to cheat on the last level to see the end.) I found the monsters a quite charming lot (with the exception of those incredibly annoying Kleer Skeletons) and it's a fresh change to play levels with bright sunlight and wide open (really wide open) spaces.

Unfortunately, the game combines its hectic, trouser-soiling gameplay with annoyingly repetitive and mostly flat (obviously, since I name-checked Doom) level design. While there were some areas with multilevel design, they were few and far between and left me desiring more. I also became sick and tired of repeatedly entering a yard, getting ambushed, progressing to another yard, ambushed again, and maybe for variation get locked in and ambushed repeatedly before being allowed to escape, or maybe press some buttons (and get ambushed)...

...Well, yes, I know I'm more of a skulk-and-shoot guy, and Sam's the sort who prefers bashing on through with guns blazing. My least favourite levels: The Memphis "topside" ones. Yards with bloody shoeboxes in them! I mean, what a wasted opportunity. I may have to find an editor. Or try Second Encounter. Or both. Thank God I only paid twenty bucks for it.

Ontranto is still being held up with aggravating BSP build errors in the last map. I dunno; maybe I'll have to go with the teleporter after all. I still haven't heard anything from my beta testers about the last beta I threw up, and it's been over a month. I need to know if the maps are still too hard, damn it!

A very hurried update 13 April 2004

Ontranto has reached a milestone: the "switched" trigger_changelevel code finally works! At last, you can read the end level text as it was meant to be seen.

This is important, as having your game crash to console with "null function" isn't all that impressive. If I wanted to, I could release tomorrow; but I won't. I'm still waiting for testing reports. And I have to throw in some info_intermissions.

I think I'll try to release by ANZAC Day, a nice historical date.

At the moment, I'm unsure if I'll bother with mapping for Half Life or Unreal. Or even Quake III. Currently I have other fish to fry; it could well be that my half-baked ideas for modern games may well stay vapourware.

A not-so-quick update 4 April 2004

Yeah, yeah, I know: Where's Ontranto?

Answer: In Varsity Hell.

I've just handed in one essay yesterday, and there's a test on Monday; my next essay's due at the end of the month. And I have lots of lovely reading, O happiness and joy.

That and I'm waiting for another round of test results. One complaint was that it was too hard, and I wanna know if it's easier now.

There seems to be a problem with the QuakeC for the changelevel triggers, probably a minor but devastating one. If you're not standing in it when it's "activated", the game crashes. I'd better fix that; it's not a good way to end the pack.

During betatesting, I've noticed frequent texture problems when using skyboxes in FitzQuake, and crashes out with a heapsize of less than 32768KB. I suspect it's due to the complexity of the levels and/or the spawning code.

Incidentally, I've typed out and uploaded an article about games as high art that appeared in last Saturday's paper. The jump from Doom to Return to Castle Wolfenstein with nothing in between is annoying, but I guess the reporter wasn't particularly well acquainted with computer games; that or he was keeping it simple for those similarly innocent.

When I haven't been messing with university, it's been Unreal; more precisely, Operation Na Pali. This SP mod for Unreal Tournament is incredibly impressive in terms of both level design and challenge, but then a) I'm not that good at Unreal, and b) the voiceovers aren't all that good. Lots of profanity. Also, at one point you have to pilot a shuttle through an extremely tight tunnel with virtually no margin for error (yes, you get to fly aircraft in this mod!) I also have Xidia Gold waiting to be installed, and a number of other map packs, all picked up through UnrealSP.

I've also been nosing through some HL mods, such as They Hunger and Poke646. Obviously I'm trying to gather enough to burn some storage CDs, although my CD writer has been failing during write operations recently. Might be time for a new one.

Quick Update 13 March 2004

OK, I've been making a number of adjustments to the first four maps: I want this thing to run with a heap size/memory allocation of 16MB. So far, no joy with map 4, but I'm hoping some texture replacement will help.

Unforgiven/Arcane has been on hold as I thrash around with university work. It's the usual sad story: First week's a cruise, the second is when it finally hits you — there's essays to write and so little time. An ungodly stack of texts to read is not helping!

But let me hasten to assure you that grandiose ideas of mapping for other engines have not been implemented! I've too much on my plate: Ontranto first. Then Unforgiven mapping. Then I start considering Radiant, Unrealed and Valve Hammer. And of course my cartoon, uni work etc.

Yet more disturbances 6 March 2004

I now own a copy of The Sims. God help me.

Also, I finally got feedback from Tronyn (Scampie? Chris? Where are you?) about Ontranto, and there's a fair few things to tweak. In a lot of places, ammo is too scarce, and the town map was a bit disorienting. Also, the Duke needs an entourage.

So, there will be playmates for His Grace, and I'm currently working away at finishing off map 4.

Whn I'm not carefully adding stuff to the "Unforgiven/Arcane" resource package. It's taking longer than I thought it would.

Yesterday, during a group outing on a rather wet Saturday, I started drawing up plans for an Unreal map package I call Slow Boat. The gist of the story is that it's a rehash of Hell In a Can aboard the XRV-Cassaday, but with Skaarj and all sort of other problems. Curse these jerry-rigged ships! (And curse the near-constant need to find and download DLLs and VXDs which I don't have and Unreal doesn't install!)

As well, I say I can now get Max Payne for $50, which is not a good thing. Before I get any more games, I definitely need to save up for a second hard drive (probably 80GB at least), which I think I will dedicate to games exclusively: i.e. I'll uninstall all existing games, then reinstall them on the new hard disk. Then the existing 10GB "games" partition will be used to hoard MP3s and crap harvested from alt.binaries.slack and elsewhere.

Oh - I now play Half Life in software mode. OpenGL breaks the skyboxes, and DirectX 8.1 turns underwater areas pitch black. It may be a driver issue, but to hell with it. At 2.2GHz, there's nothing wrong with software.

Further Disturbances 23 February 2004

The new town map was finally fullvised yesterday and seems to work fine in FitzQuake; there'll be some areas of greyflash with software engines. There's still some brushwork to add, I think, concerning visblocks. The entire town is more or less open at the top, with r_speeds easily hitting 1000 in some places. I also want to tweak key locations a bit.

The Duke, I have to say, seems to work fine, but I suspect the targeted trigger_changelevel code isn't working. (And I have to reduce the amount of armament at the start, blah blah blah.) This is a problem with map 3 too, so I'm rewriting the changelevel code to allow "unlocking"; that is, the trigger won't fire until you do something first. Saves me a ton of work building in trick doors.

I'm rolling back the release date to "before April" in order to get feedback from my testers (Tronyn, Scampie etc.) about the previous maps. I know there's a few hiccups I need to fix, others I have fixed, but until I'm told of the ones I don't know about, I can't release. Sorry.

Sometime this week I'll get back onto coding the pack for Tronyn's Unforgiven package. Apparently the focus is on insane horde combat, and I still have about ten-odd items to code up.

I also now own Quake III Arena (and have done so for a week) as well as Half Life Platinum; I'm stuck with two multiplayer games I don't want, but it was, as far as I was concerned, better value for money.

While I was installing those, I wondered about Return to Na Pali, and how to install that. Turns out I already had. I felt a bit foolish.

So anyway, if someone can give me a clue as to what are the best third-party SP maps, mods or review sites out there for Unreal and Half Life, gimme a shout, will ya? Thanks.

Urban Disturbin' 19 February 2004

There will only be five maps in Ontranto, as I have decided against messing with second and superfluous town-themed map. Instead, I am merging (or rebuilding) much of #4 with some of #5 to create a newer, steeper, improved town. It's actually gone much quicker than I expected; 99% of the brushwork is already done (the sky needs plugging up and some houses need furniture) and I can soon work on populating the uninhabited regions. And add patrols to the mean streets.

The last ten days have been marred by a lot of casual work coming around, mostly involving long hours and long commutes. In addition, the current topsy-turvy weather took a turn for the worse with a truly monumental storm dumping insanely strong (near-100mph gusts) winds and equally insane amounts of rain on the entire region; houses have been washed away in the Manawatu, large tracts of Waiarapa farmland are underwater, bridges are simply gone, etc etc. The current estimates price the damage at $100,000,000 and probably rising.

Over here in the lovely Kapiti region we got off pretty lightly; the Wharemauku stream, which backs onto our property, didn't get high enough to flood our back yard, but a tree just out our back gate did lose a trunk to the winds. I never had to use earplugs until that night!

Tronyn's working on a project he calls Unforgiven, and has given me a long list of desired features to code in. I've still got to work on the Arcane (aka Bookshellf) project's QC as well. Dearie me!

You may remember that I run the Guide for Carson Fire's comic, Elf Life. Well, he's given up on the web side story to focus on more profitable print.

Anyway, I'm downloading a large file from Usenet, there's sun outside, my car needs a good wash after all its travels, and the lawns need doing. See ya.

Wha'chu doin'? 8 February 2004

OK, first off: Keenspace's "Boardy" server crashed badly over a week ago, and while the E Motel's up, I haven't been able to update since, because the FTP simply won't work. Hasn't stopped me discovering just how much quicker adding in speech bubbles and stuff is though. (Note: Apparently FTP'll be up tomorrow, hopefully.)

This coming week I'll be spending my mornings seeking parking and doing supermarket stocktakes again. Afternoons will most likely be Ontranto (especially map 5), Unreal and cartooning.

I've started probing at Unreal's editor, and the first thing I'm having to do is flag away all I know about editing in Worldcraft. For some reason no help file came with the editor, so it's been and still is a very steep learning curve. It'll be a while before I'm confident enough to try making even a small map.

Something I want to do is "port" some existing DM map layouts into UT - RCDM7, 8, 10, maybe even 4 and 5 too. Da Pak(!) would also be an interesting exercise. Not that I'm talking a totally faithful conversion; I'd most likely use existing UT styles - not to mention weaponry and powerups. Domination in Dapak1, anybody?

Regarding Ontranto, I actually finished off the last map - a highly decorated "audience chamber" - today. Also, I put on a spurt and finished off coding the Duke, so pretty soon I can test the dear wee fellow and see how he works.

At the moment, however, I'm wondering about the fifth map — the town map — and whether I actually need it. I could save myself a great deal of work (in stocking and decorating) by skipping it altogether. Gameplay-wise, it's pretty much a rehash of the docks: seeking a moving silver key, then going for gold, then leaving. By winding up the difficulty in the docks (i.e. patrols on the streets) I could obviate the need for a second dose.

Alternatively, I could rewrite the backstory to accomodate it. From a practical towne planning POV, it makes sense to be able to secure the docks, the first line of defense, from invaders rather than have 'em sack the whole town straight off.

Meanwhile, back in the Arcane mod, I need to get the Baron that LTH sent me to work! Strange QC errors abound using his SPX-based beastie. Apparently I need a more advanced QC compiler than the one that came with QCAPE, so I'm standing in a queue behind 640 other people, no doubt all downloading the Far Cry demo, in order to get FrikQCC. (update: it's 506 now.)

With regards to games, I'm going to hang fire on getting more. Right now, I have Quake and Quake II, Unreal, Unreal Tournament, the HoTU version of Blood II, the original Blood, Doom, and System Shock 2. That's eight FPS games. So I'll probably pass on Serious Sam etc. until I've done over the others.

My Nehahra tolerance finally snapped; I cheated my way through to the end, since I was repeatedly getting trashed at one point, and getting frustrated as a result. (That particular location could have used more health lying around there.) I'd write a review, but I can't really write all that much about it since I haven't really played it enough. And my skills aren't nearly sufficient to do so.

Finally, there's been some new maps out and about: CZG has released Februus Depth, an eerie underground maze of crypts, which are extremely challenging and tight. Most secrets require you to grenade-, rocket- or trick-jump to get 'em. Also, Necros has released the very hardware-demanding R_speeds be damned!, "a little experiment to see how much detail I could put into the brushwork without looking it coming off as stupid." This map requires a reasonably high end machine to play and display well (it runs OK on my 2GHz AMD) due to the elaborate and heavy brushwork. Finally, Blitz has released his first deathmatch map, a Speedbaze-coated Hatful of Hollow. I haven't tried it yet but it looks interesting.

Obviously I haven't been playing much Quake, just Unreal and SS2 mostly for the past week. This is likely to continue for a while. Later.

Upgrade! 1 February 2004

Well, it finally happened. On Wednesday, I sent the computer off for a full body transplant - AMD 2GHz, 256MB memory, GL capacity (in board S3 Savage64 chipset), all good.

I finally got the call late Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, I soon discovered I had the wrong box! One rainswept scurry later, and the mistake was rectified - and I settled down to savour the delights of faster load times, 3D acceleration and coloured lighting in Quake II.

Worldcraft feels much - much - more responsive now. That's good, considering the mapping load I've taken on board with Tronyn's "Arcane" project. (And the ongoing efforts to finish Ontranto. F'rinstance, map 4 now takes only about half an hour to compile, full vis and full light! That's faster by a factor of twelve!)

Best of all, Build engine games such as Blood and Duke Nukem 3D now run again! And I can watch DivX movies like Duality without having to mess with converting them to MPEG! And I can finally try out modern Quake engines!

So far, FitzQuake has my nod. It's a straightforward engine mod with one seriously cool addition: the maps command, which gives you a list of map files in your \id1\maps and \\maps directories. No more alt-tabbing between Quake and Explorer, no more scraps of memo cube. Yes!!

I tried DarkPlaces earlier, but found its brightness controls a bit confusing, and it locked up the computer when I tried to exit. Nehahra took a while to get working properly (until I punted with DPnehahra.exe - there's three different engines that come in the package.) And yes, I've been and got new games - Unreal and Unreal Tournament (not 2K3, the original), System Shock 2 and Descent II (hey, it was $3.) Needless to say I've been futzing with those a fair bit, which has distracted me somewhat. (Until I can find threed32.ocx, I can't meddle with Unreal editing yet.)

The next computery thing I wanna do is find out what's broken in the front computer. I swapped processor chips on Tuesday night - the front compy now has its original P200MMX back - but now I'm not even getting a memory test. Yes, I did ground both machines, took anti-static precautions etc. I hope it's nothing expensive. I'm making a shopping list, after all.

Detachable... 25 January 2004

Those of you who've heard a certain song by King Missile will understand the sentiment - I could kill to be able to take the damn thing off and leave it to be randy by itself.

Anyway, I've been given the green light - pending a final quote - to get an upgrade box. Which will probably mean an increase in responsiveness when using Worldcraft and Paint Shop Pro, which should work wonders for boosting productivity. (We're talking Duron 1.4GHz and 256MB memory, a sevenfold and four-and-a-half-fold increase respectively. Not to mention a significant boost to framerates!) At the moment though, I'm passing on a graphics card - that's a luxury I'll worry about later.

This'll be good, since I've made all sorts of noises about joining Tronyn's increasingly Lovecraft-crossed-with-Myst-sounding "Arcane" project. As well as offering a tower map, I'm adding new monsters and things to the old Coven of Ebony codebase. Right now, I'm slogging away trying to revert Nehahra's Baron code to the old-style QuakeC format. Not fun, lemme assure you.

"What about Ontranto?" I hear you scream? Well, right now I'm in the "stocking" stage, which means thinking about what goes where, and what attacks you. The last map is as unfinished as the Duke, although the main architecture is there - I just need to slap the walls up. Once I've stocked the first five maps, I'll put out a holler for beta testers.

I participated in SpeedMap Event #63 last week, along with Necros and Zwiffle, the only other mapper to adhere to the "no monsters" theme. Mine has been hailed as both ugly and very funny. Zwiffle's has brutal good looks, but is for cheaters or demon grenade jumpers only. This week's theme for #64, "up, up and away" seems to mostly have been overlooked by Moz, Scampie and Zwiffle.

More importantly, remember Unicorn Jelly, that SF comic I helped prepare for print? Well, Volume 2 is now on sale. It's bigger than volume 1 (204 pages) so it's a dollar dearer, but who cares? Place you order today!

Then go and read Pastel Defender Heliotrope: The comic behind the Kamishibai play. Where else will you find an ex-sex-toy saving the world?

One last thing: Can anyone give me a clue as to why Build-engine games (especially Blood) have suddenly started resetting my system? This has been going on for over a week, and seems to have started literally overnight; one day, plays fine. The next, hard reset for no obvious reason. No viruses or anything. What gives?

Must be the Heat 16 January 2004

Right now, I'm working on the main brushwork for the last two maps, plugging holes in Ontranto Towne and erecting the columns and walls for Audience. Actually, I just plugged up the former last night; it took about ten hours to vis. Now I have to consider reducing the amount of light outside; it's awfully bright out there, and there are more lights to add.

What I really have to do is consider monster loads for maps 4 and 5 (the town.) I mentioned earlier that the silver keys move around from skill level to skill level, so I have to take into account what happens that way. I suppose one way to consider each building is to think of it as a separate combat situation, which currently means breaking out pencils and paper and making copious plans.

Incidentally, I've started using Bengt Jardrup's version of TreeQBSP in addition to his vis and light tools, simply because it generates more efficient portal lists. For example, at the start of The Docks of Ontranto, with the usual QBSP, there's copious entity flicker, doors vanishing, that sort of thing (and full-vised yet!) With TreeQBSP, that doesn't happen. Sweet.

The turtlemap competition came to a close with four entries: Hrimfaxi provided two, and Leviathan and Zwiffle one each. Hrim's look the most interesting, Zwiffle's was a little too dark and spooky (but Bengt fixed that; you can get the revision here), and Lev's base brawl was entertaining, but incredibly hard (210 beasties on Normal! EEK!)

Skippy Loses His Voice 7 January 2004

One of the features I thought of including in Ontranto was "smack talk," rather like that in Blood and Duke Nukem 3D. Basically it was to have been commentary on the passing scenery, events, and singing to himself when left alone for a while.

So out came the microphone, and in went some incident_sounds (my own construction) — and the results stank. It sounded cheesy. So today, out they came. You'll have to add your own commentary. Heh.

As far as I'm concerned, the brushwork for The Tongs and the Bones is basically complete. All that remains, as far as I'm concerned, is entities.

The Queen of Ontranto received retextured machinery in her engine room, which looks much better now; still, there's brushwork glitches I have to deal with, add more stuff into the Members Lounge, and monsters. Lots of monsters.

The last arena combat map, Audience, has had the main flooring put down at long last. I'm unsure how well the Duke is going to work, but it should be a nice little fight anyway. Speaking of QC, I added a little tweak to the code: Doors with sounds=5 make different noises opening than they do closing. Which is really cool.

I'm also beginning to stock The Docks of Ontranto, particularly with regards to keys moving about between skill levels. I may use the same trick in the next map too.

Anyway, while you're waiting, get yourself over to Kona's place and play Autumn Haunting. Marketed as a sequel to Carved in Flesh, it's a crazed, degenerate-looking castle spread over two maps. QC includes Kona's usual spooky ambient sounds, Rogue wraths, nail ogres, beefed up monsters of many types, Barons, and the three semi-useful weapons from Flesh.

ProdigyXL is back with a blast of oldskool deathmatch mapping: XL1DM7 Sole Survivor is a two-level industrial-feeling brawlpit with plenty of slime and the Ring of Shadows, a nice change from the Quad. Rorshach, Ogro and Stecki provide most of the wallpaper, an unholy trio that work incredibly well.

Also making an appearance is Evan Wagner, with his debut map, A Subtle Knife, a classic metal style SP affair. Admittedly, Evan has quite a way to go, since there are numerous incidences of entity flicker, greyflash and the lights could be better.

Hoppy Nude Yeah 4 January 2004

The Tongs and the Bones is almost completed; there are still some triggers and sound effects to be put in, some more monsties and decor, but overall it's looking sweet.

My current plan is to try and populate (as well as gussy up) the next two maps, The Queen of Ontranto and The Docks of Ontranto, before releasing the first beta for testing. I still have a great deal of work to do with the last two maps (i.e. lighting, stocking, and the Duke.) I also have to work on Skippy's smack talk.

There's a "turtle map" contest running this week from the 3rd to the 10th; I'm diddling with an idea, but I don't want to say any more for fear of raising too many hopes. Even if it's not completed in time, I'll still play with it as I'm tired of medieval stylings. (It's a base set in jungle canyons.)

Speedy has released a Speedbaze-and-Q2-rock styled base called Mescalito. While a very nice, challenging map, the start is a little spare and disappointing. Despite this, the challenge is mighty high; watch out for those laser traps.

Incidentally, is everyone and their dog using Speedbaze these days!? Heck, I'm doing that too - well, Speedbaze and CR8. And SiN jungly rock and grass. I must compile and see how it'll all look in-game.

2003 News

 

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