Minecraft and on….

Just when I was getting to an almost releasable state, Minecraft threw a curveball. Before all the block textures were on the same image file, but after a recent update they changed it to make every block have it’s own image. Although the developer made a small program to “unstitch” or separate the images into individual images, it only works on the main game textures.

Night pig



The problem with that is that all the mods are starting to adopt the same format and because of that, I will have to go and separate the images for each mod I have already done in order to make my texture pack compatible with the newest version.  Ugh…


Back in the saddle

Although I haven’t been on in some time, I have been busy with the Minecraft project I mentioned awhile back. I actually completed all of the Minecraft block textures and 1/3 of the monsters. On top of that, I’ve done quite a few mods that my boys frequently use (maybe 10 or so) to include some big ones (Metallurgy, Biome-o-Plenty etc) that took more time than the original game.

I was really interested in making Minecraft “artistically” interesting. Because of this, I didn’t feel the need to yield completely to convention and try and make the blocks “look real”. The best example is probably my takes on the leaf blocks. I spent a lot of time working and testing in-game to get this artistic effect. I haven’t release it yet because I wanted to at least 100% complete with the core Minecraft textures (I still have to do 2/3 of the monsters).

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Busy week

Had quite a few things on the agenda this week. On top of that minecraft has finally descended upon the household. I spent more than a few hours installing all the various mods for my boys. I did find a little time to work on my project. Even though I only got 2 sets done, I picked two more difficult sets.

Usually what I do is load the image up in GIMP and then zoom out. I try to get the feel of texture then I redo it trying to keep a link to the original image. The tricky part of textures in Arena is that they were clearly make at a higher resolution with higher color depth then downsized. The mish mash of pixelation left is barely recognizable as anything. When you add in the very low resolution of the Arena engine, it can be quite hard to look at. This is the whole reason i started this project. I hope by simplifying and redesigning them, the in game experience will be better.

What the heck is muxing?

I spent a good chunk of my free time in the first 5 days of the week experimenting with the file data for Arena. I spent some time researching and trying to decode image files using a hex editor and the internet. Needless to say, I was way over my head. I did find a few odd things. For one, I tried editing the .MNU files with random hex values just hoping for it to show up weird in the game but none of it had any effect. My presumption is that either I messed up the checksum (file verification) and the game defaulted to the artwork in the BSA or those files serve another purpose than image data. After researching more on the compressed images, I couldn’t get more than 8 bytes in before I couldn’t tell what was going on (the height and width are in the first eight). I read through some of WinArena’s source files (partial attempt at a remake of Arena) and saw the insane “muxing” that Bethesda did. Apparently, they pulled some crazy tricks to conserve valuable disk space. Remember this game came on a 3.5 floppy originally.

For extra giggles, I looked at the Arena executable in a hex editor (it’s only 171KBs). Turns out the executable is compressed too and like the image files decompresses realtime when launched (the compressed images are uncompressed in a similar manner). The header in the executable listed an old version of a compression software  called PKLITE. I searched on the internet and found a whole page of decompressing software for dos that could decompress the executable. Just curious, I downloaded one called xtract and put it in the Arena directory. Now this is a dos tool, so I had to use Dosbox to even run it. But it worked. The file went from 171Kb to 300+Kb. Woohoo (i think). I checked it again in a hex editor and saw that I could now read all the hardcoded text strings in the file. Beyond that, I had no idea how to interpret the rest. Just to test it, I ran the game and it worked just as if it was compressed. Not sure what benefit this would bring but it’s nifty to know if anyone is every interested.

After all that, I decided to get back to what I’m better at. I am now 45 of 185 SET files done. I initially thought the low resolution 64 x 64 pixel pictures would be easy but it still takes some time to get such few blocks to look good. I spend about 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours on each individual SET file trying to get the look just right. That’s the same amount of time I spend on a single Torchlight texture! Basically, I’m editing every pixel by hand. Good thing it’s fun to me 😉

Still a ways to go

I have completed 33 of 184 image “SETS” in for Arena. Each set contains usually 2-5 “tiles”.  The sets are what is used to texture walls, floors, and ceilings. That’s cover all landscaping and buildings. That still leaves “IMG” image files. Those are static objects such as barrels and trees. These come in two variants. Onces that load basically like a SET file but with only a single “tile” and meant to always be 64 x 64 pixels. The difference for the other ones is that they can be different sizes. Since they don’t have the predetermined size, that information has to be included in the file.  There are alot of those. I can manually do those but the Arenamodder .95 doesn’t support it yet so it will be slower going once I get to those (unless he fixes it by then).

Slow week

Didn’t get as much actual work done on my current project. But did make some headway organizing my previous efforts. Here are some results from my various projects (all in various states of completion).


Arena Depixelization Project


More screenshots




Exit to Forest
Exit to Forest

More screenshots




More Screenshots



Morrowind – Pinkerton’s Mod Renovation – Sea of Destiny

More screenshots



Morrowind – Pinkerton’s Mod Renovation – Dragon’s Perch

More screenshots



Early experimental runs at changing Morrowind Textures

More screenshots

What kind of ground is that?

Complete 5 more “set” images for Arena this week. Most of the images with set shapes structures (square windows, block patterns, etc) are fairly easy to plan out. They just take a little planning and footwork. However, there are quite a few that don’t have a distinct form. That’s because the resolution is so small that images such as sand and ground doesn’t really look like anything (when not in the game). I added the file name to all the files that were indistinct so that I can check them out in game and get an idea of what they are supposed to represent. After that I’ll figure out how to change the image. I did that for over 20 of the “sets”. Unfortunately, some hurricane preparation took most of my other free time.

Hopefully, Arena Modder will work with all image files by the time I run out of “set” files and the 1/2 of IMG files that do work.

It’s still Sunday for me… sort of

Very recently a Elder Scrolls fan with some programming skills released a working tool for editing Arena files. While still in-progress, it still does what no other tool (for Arena) does, allowing easy import and export of image files. Even better, because Arena uses a very old school format, his program converts the images to BMP when exporting and reconverts them when importing back in. Now I started making a graphic mod for Arena a year ago, doing it the hard way. I had to edit the images in raw form. I got about 25 of the files done (around 2-5 pictures in each set) but then got tired of all the manual labor involved. This program makes everything much simpler and I have already dusted off the old files, fixed a few, and completed a couple more.

Here’s the link to the program…Arena Modder .95

Where have I been?

Over a year without a post. Whoops. I have a plan to redesign my site slightly to more suit what I want to do with it. Right now the information I want to convey doesnt’ flow naturally or intuitively. I’ll fix it.

Till then, let me layout what projects I have in the works on the mod scene. These are only listed in chronological order from when the game was released.  Each will have corresponding links to the right for their particular projects in the short future.

1. Arena

That’s Elders Scrolls 1 for those of you in the know.  1994 game that hasn’t really been modded since it wasn’t a common activity back then. I have a texture pack in works with the aim of making it easier on the eyes.  I don’t have a catchy title yet so it’s just “Arena Depixelization Project“. I have all the processes down and have completed several textures (SET files) and tested them in-game.

2. Darkstone

This is another game that I have a soft spot for. And this is another texture overhaul project. This one will be titled “Darktone”. It’s kind of Tron/neon inspired…sort of.  All the file structure sleuthing stuff is (long done) and I have already had a proof of concept test run and It turned out better than I hoped.

3. Morrowind

Unlike the others, my Morrowind projects are not texture (art) based. They are more of design projects. I’m basically taking old mods and renovating them with a complete overhaul: new terrain, added clutter, dialogue, expanded quests etc. I’ve gotten quite good at the Morrowind file structure and using the editor. PMR stands for Pinkerton’s Mods Renovated…to kind of brand name it.

  • PMR-Sea of Destiny: Phase one is released. It’s basically how it all started. I was “cleaning”, merging, and moving one mod but realized how much work it needed. Now I have plans to terraform the entire mod and add a sense of history and purpose.
  • PMR -Dragon Perch: This one is almost completely redesigned but still needs dialogue and more/better quests.
  • PMR-Tusar: The very first mod I tried to monkey with was “Island of Tusar”. I actually ended up doing alot to it but haphazardly because I was learning/experimenting. So I plan to start over and now it’ll come after PMR-Dragon Perch.

4. Torchlight

This project is also a complete texture overhaul that I’m calling “Toonlight“. I had already completed every level set in the game but this was the one I learned how to use GIMP (can’t afford Photoshop yet) and its many options. So by the time I finished the last set, I was unhappy with all the others. Now I have a good idea of what I want and one levelset completed. Since Torchlight 2 came out, it gives me breathing room to get it exactly how I want it (i.e. who knows when I’ll finish it).

5. Misc

There are some miscellaneous projects I am working on (or did work on) that aren’t major. I’ll have a category for those too.

I’m going to try to have one update a week probably on Sunday.


From Darkstone to Arena

After getting the art files “extracted”, I expermented some with changing them using GIMP. For Darkstone, the art files (particularly for the ground and buildings) were a single picture composed of many smaller pictures.

The game engine would know that if it wanted image X it would have to look at a specific piece of art file Z. This meant when I wanted to change one art asset, I could edit 16 different ones at a time. To test it out, I would just draw a letter or number in a huge obvious way on top of the exisiting art for each distinct section. Then when I loaded the game and look for where that letter or number appeared in the game.

The problem I ran into with Darkstone was the changes didn’t take at first. I had to troubleshoot why. It turned out to be a issue with how the file was saved.  Darkstone required textures to be saved without any file compression. I simply had to resave the file “uncompressed” and it worked. With Darkstone, at that time I didn’t have any clear direction for what I wanted to do. It was more of a trial run to see how it all worked. Experiment done, my attention drifted away from Darkstone. It was more an issue of time since I didn’t have much so I would work on this a little here and there when I felt like it. Though later I would come back to Darkstone with a more focused purpose.