Monday, May 23, 2011

Crowded Cities Improved

I must immediately apologize for the delay between when I posted the video for this post and the time that I now have to actually publish the post on this blog. I finished editing the video the night before going out of town for a wedding, which I didn't really think about until after I had already uploaded it. Hopefully I haven't had anybody overly concerned for my well-being. I am most assuredly alive and well.

So the past couple weeks have been spent doing quite a bit of research on how to add more life to the cities of Cyrodiil. I was really hoping to make a post and video similar to Living Roads, which covered several mods that add a larger population of travelers, guards, and traders to the previously desolate main roads of Cyrodiil. However, there aren't as many mods that add to the city populations, which is likely due to the conflict between adding more people and taking the time do make their behavior in the cities believable in relation to the original residents. The one mod that adds NPCs similar to those found in Crowded Roads was created by the same author and was not surprisingly named Crowded Cities. Sadly there are several issues with the design that make the new citizens appear and disappear in the player's line of vision, which doesn't allow to the new NPCs to blend well with the behavior of those from the original game.

To remedy this problem and other small issues with the original mod, a new author rewrote a few sections of script and released the mod upon my request as Crowded Cities Improved. This new mod is still being worked on, and the author hopes to add more realistic behaviors to the new NPCs eventually, which will make the mod an even more valuable addition to the cities of Cyrodiil.

Some have noted that despite the nice appearance of having bustling streets filled with travelers and the like, the interactions between the player and these new NPCs are often too generic to be believable. For my game, I edited the script for the mod to eliminate the possibility of interacting with them, allowing your character to assume that these people are either too busy to take part in conversation or just don't like you enough to give you their attention. As with strangers in the real world, it make sense for your character not to be able to effectively communicate with everyone. Hopefully this non-interactive version of the mod will be released publicly soon along with the next update of Crowded Cities Improved, but until then, be sure to try out the current version. You can find Crowded Cities Improved on TESNexus.

That's all there is to say about NPC additions to cities at the moment. I'm hoping to go into detail on more mods that add to or further affect gameplay, so be sure to keep an eye out for that. Until then, goodbye for now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Normal Maps

After taking a very short-lived break from the blog to try Nehrim, I realized that I prefer Oblivion just in time to completely wreck my current setup. Because of this minor tragedy, I was forced to start fresh with the game and start up my mod research from the beginning again. And since I had nothing to lose, I thought I would begin by trying an alternative to installing a massive texture replacer such as QTP 3 Redimized.

Before I begin discussing the two mods I chose to use together, I should start by explaining normal maps. Every texture in Oblivion is given a normal map, which essentially gives the model the illusion of having more detail than reality. You see this being used in wood to give it splinters, stone to give it cracks, and even metal to give it rust. Textures provide expressions and normal maps give them character. Because of this, just giving Oblivion's original textures a more detailed set of normal maps would add a whole new level of depth to the game. This is what led me to be interested in these two mods.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Really Almost Everything Viewable When Distant

This post may come as somewhat of a surprise for some, since I've been spending the majority of my free time on the official forums discussing my research regarding adding to the cities of Cyrodiil. However, my attempts at tweaking a mod that I was considering were getting too tedious, so I figured I would move on for now to something a bit simpler for myself.

Distant land has always been a troubling issue when it comes to Cyrodiil's atmosphere. Although the land occasionally is pleasant on the eyes from a distance, further exploration allows the player to discover that several structures and rocks that should be visible from afar seem to disappear after a certain distance. This results in forts, ruins, towns, and rather large rocks to instantly pop into view when approaching them and erasing themselves from existence when walking away. In order to give the appearance of a more consistent world, Really Almost Everything Viewable When Distant (RAEVWD) was created. When watching the video, be sure to note the ruins and forts that are visible when the mod is activated.

The models that are used to represent objects in Oblivion have two different forms, the structures you see when close to them and the images that you see of the objects from a distance. In the original game, distant models could have been generated for all the existing models of Oblivion, but only certain objects were classified as visible when distant. The reasoning behind this was probably due to the desire to produce a game that would be easier to run on the computers of the time. RAEVWD adds to the distant land a variety of structures that should always be easily seen from a distance, such as settlements, ruins, and larger rock formations. Since computers are much more capable of higher processing levels today, there is only a small decrease in game performance. If you have a more recent computer and like the idea of adding more to Cyrodiil's distant landscapes, you can find RAEVWD right here. Be sure to keep in mind that you won't see any changes without using TES4LODGen, which updates the game to recognize all new distant objects added into the directory. Also note that installation of the mod is much easier when using the Oblivion Mod Manager. If you'd like to use this method of installation rather than attempt doing it manually, you can also find the script and instructions for installing RAEVWD this way on TESNexus.

So that's that. Hopefully I'll be able to talk about adding life to cities in my next post, but I won't stop myself from posting if I can't. Just know that I'll definitely be discussing that sometime in the near future. Until next time, goodbye for now.