I should punch myself in the face

256 color limitation

Once of the tricky aspect of working with Arena textures is that they are only 256 colors AND that color information is indexed from a palette file. That means the image doesn’t have the color info in the file, it has a reference point to a master color file (this saved valuable space in the old timey 3 1/2 floppy days). Colors in an image have to be one of those exact colors in the palette file. To work around this, I have been only using colors contained in whatever image I was working on. It worked but it can be limiting in being creative.¬† Most of the project was done this way.

Palette image

DOH!

Now but a scant mere 9 years later, it dawned on me to import the color palette in as a raw image similar to how I first did early on in my hobby working on another project. Once imported, I was able to create a Photoshop swatch of all the working colors and boom. I’m blond, what can I say.

Palette swatch

More progress on actual files next update although you can see a preview in the image above ūüôā

– Martin

Time to clean up the mess

Begin again

So, I’ve finally got my stuff together, life has settled down, and the mojo to get back to my projects. I have a lot to post on other art projects I’ve done in the past (cough) couple years or so but first, I figured I’d give an update on where I am with the Arena Depixelization Project. Yes, it’s still on.

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Testing

I have loaded up the textures into OpenTesArena. It allows very easy testing of levels without having to play the game. You can just select what level at the menu screen and load it. Right out the gate, I’m very happy with the starter dungeon. No need to mess with that in my opinion.

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More testing

However, the wall textures in the very next main quest dungeon are too jarring. So I have already toned them down for next iteration (not pictured below).

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Then I skipped to the 3rd main quest dungeon and found these round blob walls that just don’t cut it. So next I will clean those up. My plan is to systematically go through them all, until there are sufficiently aesthetic pleasing (or tolerable) then I will release ADP 1.0.

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Limitations of Arena

There will be limitation right now as the texture combination for some of the levels is very off. Maybe one day, OpenTesArena will allow us to edit the level files and add new textures. Then we’d be able to makes matching or complimentary “tile sets” for each level, adding cohesion and variety overall. But, until then, this is what we got.

– Martin

Wait, the city is built from a crashed plane?!

The A to the D to the P

First up, I have been moving along quite nicely with the art for the Arena Depixelization Project (a name only a nerd could love). Not only have I got quite a bit of new stuff done, I have been revamping the ones I don’t like as I go. I’m focusing on one location at a time in game and redoing all the wall/floor textures that I find unfinished or that need a redo.

Brownout 3

I won’t post much on this for awhile but the previously unnamed but heavily hinted project, is Fallout 3. Yes, another Bethesda game….what can I say. Oh yeah, I don’t have to say anything it’s my project so pbbbbtttt. Really, I tried playing Fallout 3 and like what I did play but the artwork in the game is so (intentionally) degraded, it hides the games true potential. All they did was make super crappy textures and add a bunch of “noise” (dithering and random speckling) and a WHOLE LOT OF BROWN.

Fallout 3.2017-10-24.20.50.45.085

Original heaping pile of…..muddy desaturated textures

Cellout implies the wrong message

I know what your saying “I sure wish he would give it a cartoony makeover”….ME TOO! See great minds think alike. In reality, I’m using it to perfect my own take on the Borderland (game for the computer) cell shading style. While inspired from that game, my style deviates in many small ways from it (besides my not truly knowing how they did it).

Fallout 3.2017-10-16.23.10.15.440

When I was feeling out how I wanted the style to look

So much brown

It really struck home when no one realized that Megaton (the first city you reach in game) was built with pieces of a plane. There are pieces all over but the textures were so bad, you never realized that you were walking on pieces of a wing or that the shed above was part of a fuselage. Oddly enough, despite inspiring to make this a full project, I really not happy with how the jet pieces turned out and plan to eventually redo them.¬† I used them to learn how textures in FO3 worked and struggled figuring out the strange multiple way alpha maps were used along with normal maps. For the longest, I couldn’t get them to be selectively reflective of light. They were all shiny or no shiny at all regardless of light. I worked it out (more when I actually talk about the project).

 

It just needs a good scrubbing

Ultimately, I want to remove the noise, define the textures better, add visual interest as well as color: all while trying to maintain the feel of a world in decay. I still haven’t honed the process down completely, but I am learning quite a bit and pushing my developing Photoshop skills to the limit (TAKE IT…TO THE LIMIT…ONE MORE TIME). I want to perfect them before I return to my favorite game of all time, Morrowind. Oh yes, I’m not done with you yet, sweet Morrowind (too creepy?). Here are some more before and afters (note: some are still early prototypes or have already been reworked to be smoother and cleaner):

I’m gonna focus on ADP for now and honestly, this Fallout 3 project is going to take years since I’m just working on it sporadically until I have enough free time to hit it hard.

– Martin

Prodigal Blogger falls down well, not seen for months…again

WTF

I meant this blog as a history of my art endeavors not a graveyard. But I had this idea that I would wait till I finished the TES:Arena project before releasing my next post. So….about that. I didn’t finish ADP yet. I did work on it…ummm…some but I got distracted. Between the dreaded real life or RL (yes I do have one of those) and other projects (including some for friends), I just never finished. I have worked on several disparate things since then. I am susceptible to what I call “Shiny Key Syndrome”. Despite not being a rabid blogger, not posting actually demotivated me. Weird. Well, here’s a pic to fill the space (it’s my first project related pic on this site):

Starting dungeon

Starting dungeon

 

ADP 123

But first…yes Virginia, I will finish that Arena mod if it kills me….I mean maims me….or how about slightly vexes me…yeah lets go with that. No time lines…I think I proved that I’m terrible at that. I have finished doors but still need to do the framing to match the walls they are associated with. I hate to say this, but the extended time away has let me look at it with a fresh eye (no,no,no….figuratively). I think I want to make some changes…BUT first I’ll finish what I have. It’s only fair for those who have stalked this project like an Ex on facebook.

MAP or Monster

Caveat: I know WAY too much about how Bethesda codes it’s mod files. I’d actually argue that I have a Master’s degree level of understanding for Morrowind and Oblivion (from Nerd University, Dork Campus). I find it more fun to make the “perfectly modded” game than I do actually playing it. Now that I’ve scared all the ladies away…why do I mention this…well because this is my mega WIP…..

AIP Oblivion Overlay Map NG+ experiment-Recovered

This insane Frankenstein monster of¬† map, it a comprehensive guide to where mods overlap each other. Using modding tools, I’m mapping out every cell from each mod I use plus a few uber popular ones I don’t. It’s insane, OCD, and insane. I love it…my analytic brain can’t get enough of making order where there is only chaos. What’s that look for?!

MorrowLands 2.0

Remember when I did lined faces for Morrowind. Yeah…that’s back….but better. I already have learned more subtle techniques. Not really a project as much as a continued experiment to perfect the style I’m trying for (hint: it rhymes with Borderlands) mixed with my own vision. I’m still not completely feeling I have it how I want…I’ll come back around to it eventually, I’m sure.

What’s behind door #3?

The last project is the one I’m eager to actually finish (besides ADP) mostly because I think the game will most benefit from it. I’ll leave it a mystery for a little longer but here is a hint:

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Let’s have some fun again – Martin

Rolling a critical failure

Windows to the soul

Recently while playing around with “vanilla” (unaltered) Arena, I noticed that the windows turn on an off for day and night. I believe this is based on the window color being pure white. In quite a few of the SET files, I had made the windows yellow breaking the on/off effect. It’s an easy fix though.

Revised city wall and road

The most exciting screenshot EVER!

 

Borked Windows

Caveat: I’m a hopeless tech nerd.

I like trying out software and technology. Things like text-to-speech, software debugging, emulators, etc. are like candy to me. Why is this on an art blog….err i mean…collegiate journal? Because sometimes I mess stuff up. This time I was trying to get a Windows XP/7 program that doesn’t like Windows 10 to install on my computer. In doing so, I borked my login so that it wouldn’t accept my password. From that point started a chain of events (all my own doing) to fix it that made the situation worse and worse. Finally, I couldn’t even boot my machine. Seriously, I’m pretty good with tech but on this day I rolled a “1”.

Long story short, I recently had to wipe my boot drive (no important files were on there but the OS) and install a clean Windows 10. I tried to cold turkey eliminate using GIMP since I already have Photoshop. That didn’t work too well. Photoshop is different enough that some very common things I was used to doing all the time in GIMP didn’t work. I’ll probably start watching some intro videos to see how Photoshop works before I try that again.

All in all, not my proudest tech week (or two).

MIF

I did some research into the MAP files for Arena. However, I want to compile it in a cohesive manner so that post will wait till I feel it is ready enough. My hope is that the information that I have uncovered might help others if they decide to “crack” the format.

Martin

Doors and Floors

 

Get it together man

Now that I have finished the “walls and halls”, it’s time to renovate the doors and remaining floors. I have finished almost all the ground textures though (well a few could used tweaked too). In the past, I just worked directly in the directory where I extracted the files and reinserted them into the BSA from there. However since there are so many IMG files (949 to be exact) and that isn’t the cleanest way to work from a project management perspective, I pulled all the door files out to a separate folder/workspace and created a completed folder to use for importing files back to the BSA.

Tavern with old door art

Must have ran out of paint

Doors, Doors, Everywhere there are Doors

There are 112 door files not including non-doors that would serve as potential transition points (e.g. ladder up/down, stairs, etc..there are about 12 of those). These IMG files come in two variety, framed and whole texture.

I’ve been framed

The framed doors are “framed” with the texture of the building to which they belong (e.g. the Mage Guild door has a frame art that matches the building). ¬†To do these, I’ll just copy and paste a wall from the matching set file and layer it under the door so it’ll be a perfect fit with the rest of the building. All exteriors and some interior doors are framed doors, pretty much any door that transitions between outside and inside.

 

That’s no small wall…it’s a door!

The other type of door is the whole texture door. I have done a few of these previously as you can see in the screenshot. These doors belong to all the interior rooms and are the ones that swing open so you can enter a room. Although they are relatively simple (as they repeat the same textures over and over for different files), I’m hoping to add a little more variety to them.

 

First things first though,¬†I will test to see if each IMG file is¬†used in game (i’ll probably do them in batches). I have already found several that aren’t. I will likely still redo them just in case. Worst case scenario, if I ever can get anyone to figure out how to decipher the MTF files, I will use them to make new dungeons and buildings.

– Martin

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State of the Blog 2016

Went away

I know, I know. I have been away for some time. 2015 was a very difficult year in the non-digital realm and some things had to slide to offset the stress.

Came back again

However, despite my my absence on this blog, I was actually quite busy on the graphic arts side of the house. I either oversaw or personally completed several projects for coworkers and friends. One of which, I am extremely proud of (more on that hopefully in a future post…i.e. one that isn’t written late at night when I should be sleeping).

It’s all fun and games

While I didn’t really work on the Arena Depixelization Project too much (it had to slide too), I was involved with design aspects for a couple of mods focusing mostly on 3D layout & set design and got some interesting practice on cooperative project management as a graphic artist/designer. I even every so slightly fiddled with 3D modeling.

Accelerate to 88 mphs

I have Photoshop now, guess I should actually work on learning how to use it.The problem is that I’m so used to GIMP, Photoshop seems downright alien to me. I imagine my warm up period will probably not be¬†the speediest.

I want to experiment a little with my art projects. I am thinking of “remastering” some of my very very early and¬†juvenile (i.e. decades old) artwork. I don’t know how it will turn out but at minimum, it seems like a interesting experiment.

Another similar idea I read about was to take kids artwork and reimagine it. I have a lot of that lying around from over the years and that just seems like a fun concept.

I guess we’ll see what the year brings but overall I feel healthier happier and more like my old self. I miss my old blog…and I seem to hear a certain collection of 64 x 64 pixel sprites calling my name ;

Р Martin