Midsummer pipe-up

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Everybody loves pipes. Those bolt flanges came out better than I thought they would, despite being done completely in Radiant without resorting to Blender. Lazy! But anyway…

It’s been one year of Scout’s Journey.

In June 2012, I bailed out of the failing RMQ project after last-minute rescue operations had proven unsuccessful. So I took my stuff and set up shop across the street to do what needed to be done.

First on the agenda were some sweeping changes, such as switching the BSP format, the map compiler and last but not least the engine. These changes would have been practically impossible to apply to RMQ at the time because frankly, I was the only one who had already tested them before, and notably the only regular mapper on RMQ to use Radiant, as well as the only core team member with an existing plan for a completely new HUD using CSQC. I was also the person most interested in things like physics, higher quality lighting / high resolution lightmaps / hybrid static-dynamic lighting and use of normal/specular maps, using features like deluxemapping. It was also me who had pushed the most for unique custom keys, cutscenes, puzzles, platforming, extended movement, new items and powerups, a dynamic soudtrack using stereo samples instead of Quake’s mono, custom footsteps for player and monsters, monsters talking with each other and taunting the player, the concept of distinct enemy factions, monster summoning during runtime, a dedicated library of magical spells, real rotating entities and tons of other features.

I had actually converted some of my maps to FBSP and tested them in the Warsow engine a couple months before I left RMQ. I’d also begun to play around with CSQC. And finally, the list of things I wanted to do but couldn’t had grown into an almost-design document.

In May or so last year, I finally started writing design documents for a game I thought I might do after RMQ. Long story short, I found myself with a complete design for the game that would be Scout’s Journey (named after the main character from RMQ episode 1) within bare weeks, while RMQ kept going rapidly downhill.

So in June, I cut the lines and immediately committed to designing the new game, ironing out things like the factions, the combat, and the basics of gameplay. As Spike had just then added FBSP support to FTE, and I liked a lot of its other features such as the heightmap terrain (and Spike’s open mind for experiments), I adopted FTE as the game’s new engine and began to convert more maps to FBSP. Since that requires full retexturing and writing of shaders etc, it took me until October to get good results. Basic user interface design was also done pretty early on.

In September I shot my back and couldn’t do much for a couple weeks. When I came out of that, though, I did some of my best level design to date and began using Blender to create environmental assets (q3map2 allows for compiling static meshes directly into the map) as well as textures. I also got a Wacom and started drawing. October was incredibly productive. I think I also learned to make good use of heightmap terrain around that time.

Toward the end of the year, I decided to take Scout’s Journey standalone and spent more and more time writing an actual script for the game, including characters, major events and the like, and fleshing out the roleplaying side of the game. I also had to realize that some of the former RMQ maps didn’t work too well in the new setting and with the new design goals, so I would have to redo or rearrange them in part and even build some entirely new outdoor setpieces. I spent January mostly writing and drawing concepts, which probably made the project look pretty dormant from the outside, but in fact a lot of groundwork was being laid.

A lot of stuff then happened from February this year all the way into April. I got hybrid lighting and materials working. I built the large new Temple setpiece for SJ map02, the former RMQ e1m2rq. I wrote lots of script including biographies for the main characters. I designed the basics of the loot system, the journal, Charms, and the skill tree. It became much clearer to me who Scout is, what kind of Journey she is on, and how the entire story would go together. I started getting to grips with how it could all be done technically. I got heavily into Blender to model a lot of the weapons. I learned Sub-D modelling. I got much better at GIMP. And finally I started to write a completely new codebase for Scout’s Journey from scratch, making sure it was GPL-compliant, and implemented the entire loot system and the random item generation / loot dropping.

All the while, I was writing tutorials to help newcomers, which were well received and continue to be the most requested part of this site.

In April, a new map joined the family, bringing the total to six, after it turned out that no Hexen 2 compiler/engine could cope with that level. Well, I guess that was fated to happen. It later occurred to me that I probably was mapping for Scout’s Journey all along, without realizing it. The level of detail is just too high for older games. The map, with a medieval castle / lava canyon theme, was named “Dimensional Rift” and slotted into the latter half of the game.

April was also when Scout’s Journey ran standalone, using FTE, for the first time no longer requiring Quake.

In May and June, I finally started drawing the GUI and established a working CSQC HUD with mouse and keyboard input. The codebase was cleaned up in large parts, too.

The current rough goal is to have a vertical slice at the end of this year; a working prototype including all the basic gameplay, combat, basic art direction, working HUD with drag & drop item equipping, loot dropping, NPC dialogue, viewmodels and hopefully a player model.

My thanks go to everyone who helped me on the way (people too numerous to mention). Let’s see how it goes.

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3 responses to “Midsummer pipe-up

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