The Prodigal Blogger returns

Oh SNAP

So I’m back after my extended work “vacation”. The inevitable has happened, some of my files were lost. Almost a year worth of work on the Arena project. I spent the last 2 weeks scanning hard drives and every USB key I could find but no avail. I honestly don’t know what happened. DOOM GLOOM DOOOOMMMM! Well, not really. I was delinquent in working on ADP over the last year so I really only lost maybe 5 to 10 set files and a few very easy to create doors. I probably wasted more time looking for the files than it would have taken to recreate them. Added bonus is the last set file I posted on this page is the one I dreaded redoing…that’s what my kids call a “Free Ticket Booth”.

Let’s see if I can be a little more diligent in my goal from now on AND make a decent backup plan to prevent any real loss next time.

– Martin

 

Just a quick snippet….

So little time

I have been wanting to write my 2nd post on my Fate 4k texture experiment but I haven’t had the time to get it all together. Well, really I was messing with Morrowind again and use what very little time I had with that. Anyways, I will wrap up my Fate post next week once my classes end (yes, work, family and more college doesn’t not a boy with a lot of free time make).

Drawing the line

For now, here is a little peek at my next round of faces in Morrowind. I have a process down and will detail that once I get it all written down. And yes, there will be a Jiub  3.0

– Martin

The Magnificent Seven

Jiub has competition

The first texture for my Borderland’s Morrowind experiment was Jiub. Jiub turned out merely OK. The lines were too thick and not well planned. Below you can see the other six textures I did for the original “vanilla” Morrowind head meshes.

 

Evolution in style

I think these pictures show how quick I progressed.  They also show how I tried out different styles (such as #1’s beard and then #6). I felt I had reached a good grove. I drew the lines, smoothed the face texture out and added minor highlights and shadows. Another thing that evolved over time was the eyes, the original ones were indistinct and dead looking so I tried to add some highlights to make them pop a little better. If I hadn’t stated it, I’m taking artistic license with the Borderlands style and adding my personal touch.

Nifskope

I used a program called Nifskope to aid my in visualizing the changes I was making. Nifskope displays the 3d models (meshs) from Morrowind with the textures overlaid. This way I could see how it would look without having to tediously check in game. It allows rotating and zooming in/out.It is also where I discovered that the ears portion on the main textures was not actually used. Apparently at some point in development, Bethesda Softworks decided to make the ears actually 3D meshs that attach to the head and have their own texture.

Here are some of the heads in Nifskope:

 

Coming of Jiub 2.0

It was after the sixth, which I was pretty proud of, that I decided that the vanilla heads were just TOO terrible to continue with them. I did a quick refresher on the most popular mesh replaces (Morrowind has quite a few after 15 years). I waffled back and forth between the classic mod Better Heads and a more expansive mod that provides unique faces for every NPC. Obviously the every face version would take some work but the real reason I chose the mod Westly’s Pluginless Head Replacer is that it’s closest to the vanilla experience. I also figured, if I every wanted to go all the way with this, doing the faces was already down to 1/2 hr at the end of just 7 textures so it wouldn’t hurt to do the rest in a different face pack. Westly’s mod directly replaces the old model and doesn’t require a ESP MOD plugin activated to make it work (as vanilla friendly as possible).

Westly Heads

Westly’s mod ups the polygon mesh in the head models and has much higher resolution textures (4x  as big, if I remember correctly). Higher resolution textures allows for better detail and finer smoother lines. My main complaint is that the heads all similar sizes/shape where the original heads had a few that had unique structures (narrow chins, deep eye sockets, etc). I only did one head in this new pack….Jiub. As you can see it’s a dramatic difference from version 1.0.

Overall, I have to say that doing these textures in a borderlands style is actually EASIER than the tiny pixel by pixel editing of Arena’s textures. I will probably come back to this some more. I’m still curious how I would apply this technique to objects and architecture in the game.

– Martin

Experiments in Art Style

Art Concepts

Since I have limited time to focus on leisurely activities, a lot of what I do with game art falls more into the “Proof of Concept” category. I have an idea about what would be a interesting visual change for me and I merely want to see it in game. For example, for the Darkstone project, I was going for the look of dry erase crayons on a dark dry erase board.

Exit to Forest

Exit to Forest

For Morrowind, I simulated a cell shader (cartoon) effect with build in black outlines. Note: when I first made those textures, Borderlands hadn’t been released. However, I had already realized that it looked better to have the solid colors have some kind of texture behind them for visual interest.

MGE Screenshot 2

Fast forward to Today

I was messing around with my new art tablet last month and decided to see if I could replicate the style of Borderlands in Morrowind, at least as a proof of concept. I did some research for tips on the best way to replicate the effect and found a youtube video that explained a method that a got very close to the games style.

I chose to experiment on the vanilla Morrowind face textures. In general, they are awful and look very ugly in game. My logic being that adding the “borderlands” style texturing might add enough interest to make them worthy of keeping versus using model replacer mod (may mods replace the heads). The original textures used for faces were very low resolution, inaccurate (sloppily made) and just generals ugly as all get out.

Ugly Vanilla

Some one beat him with the Vanilla Game ugly stick

Morrowlands?

I started by doing the heads in the order of the characters you run into when you start a new game. I redid 5 faces. It was surprisingly easier than I thought.

Jiub Vanilla Base to Borderland

I’ll detail it out next time but for a teaser here’s what “vanilla” jiub looked like when I was done. I’ll explain the irregularities next time.

– Martin

 

Slow clicking…

Unlock

Super busy in RL (real life) but I’m slugging away when I can. I have 73 doors completed so far (about 2/3 of the total). It is quite a pain coming up with so many unique doors based on the few variations Bethesda used over and over. However, I want to do it right to add variety so I only do a few then wait a day or two for more inspiration.

EDIT: Two every couple of days…HA! I posted this late at night. When I woke up the next morning, I busted out 5 more than that night I did another 10. (To be fair, I haven’t done the cut and pasting of the wall SET textures backgrounds to match the new doors so I’m really only doing the doors right now).

EDIT2: I don’t look forward to this one….

PGATE

– Martin

I’ll take door number 4

Doors

A little slow this week but I have 35 of the IMG files done.  Even though several are repeats of the same image but a different name (one door is the same for 7 images), I am striving to make them different. Although they ARE listed in the INF file that are used as the key for the map files (MIFs), I think those files are based on templates that contain extraneous data and that many of these doors aren’t actually used in the game. I guess I’ll find out when I am doing my test play through after going Beta. – Martin

 

Houston…we have liftoff

Alpha status

TWCRYPT

Last SET file!

I have just finished the last SET file for TES1:ARENA. The SET files include the artwork for most walls and some floors in the game. With the completion of the the last one, ADP (Arena Depixelization Project) has reached Alpha status.

Doors and more

Of course that doesn’t mean I’m done, I still have to finish the remaining walls and floors that are IMG files (the other image type that Arena uses for in-game static graphics. The doors are much simpler (and less abstract) than the SET files. Additionally, IMG files are a single image as opposed to the 3 to 5 images stitched together that composed a SET file.

Furthermore, many of the exterior doors borrow from  their “matching” SET file for wall surrounding the door. This should be a simple matter of loading the SET file, coping a picture and pasting as a background layer for the door. I have completed many IMG files, but there are still many more.

Upload to a site near you

Now that I’m in Alpha, I plan to upload the initial mod, hopefully, within the week. Naturally, I will clearly state the unfinished condition. I just believe this would be a good chance to get some critical feedback. I already know that I am no longer happy with some of the textures but am resolved to get to Beta before I start tweaking my work too much.

We have a tech upgrade?

A while back I started subscribing to Adobe’s Photoshop plan but haven’t used it yet. For the most part, the projects I was working on had time constraints that discouraged me from experimenting in a new program. Photoshop user interface and ways of functioning are different than GIMP (although both can produce similar results). Now that I don’t have any pet projects outside of my own interests, I figure this is a good time to start. This is especially true with converted IMG files which are very simple (kind of like “hello world” for programming.)