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Things to avoid like hell in mod making

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jammer64
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Subject: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 24 Oct 2020, 09:47

What are your biggest personal no-nos, speaking of U1/UT mods you're familiar with or your own ones you've made so far? Here are couple of mine picks:

- throwing earthquake on narrow passages/pipes - DON'T, just don't - it's annoying like fuck and doesn't add any fun to the puzzles
- horrible sound mix / playing multiple instances of sound at once for jumpscares (sometimes like 4 times (!!!)) - UT has always suffered from horribly balanced sound to begin with but what some mods did in this department is absolute ear bleed (Waffnuffly's mods take the cake here - sorry dude ;)) - isn't it better for example to lower down some objects with iterator in script before gameplay instead?
- bullet sponge boss fights without any cover - first Praetorian from Xidia comes to my mind - bullet sponges are annoying per se but this dude gave me real nightmares :D
- trial and error death traps without any hint - I hope we've already grown up from these :D

What would you add to the list? :)
Last edited by jammer64 on 24 Oct 2020, 14:07, edited 1 time in total.

UB_
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 24 Oct 2020, 13:51

Any form of exploitation that sorta makes your map ridiculous/dumb to look at. You need to make sure that nothing can be exploited, as in that any player decision can be punished by an outside force.
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jammer64
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 24 Oct 2020, 14:05

Things like illogical invisible walls or instadeath can be really annoying for player, speaking of punishment - that roughly covers my point about death traps, I guess ;)

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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 25 Oct 2020, 07:53

jammer64 wrote:(Waffnuffly's mods take the cake here - sorry dude ;)


Got any examples? I've tried to really refine the audio in EXU2 over the years to the point where it doesn't sound like that, because I know exactly what you're referring to having heard it in other maps and it definitely sounds like ass. But I've often had little choice but to make some sounds play more than once since for some reason custom sounds frequently end up way too quiet when played only a single time -- and it varies by sound file.

I definitely don't want to have anything left that qualifies as ear bleed, though! I know there are still some old offenders, like sometimes the RFPC select sound plays way louder than it should while other times it sounds normal (still not sure why it's so inconsistent with some of the weapons).
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jammer64
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 25 Oct 2020, 09:32

Buff Skeleton wrote:Got any examples?


My personal 'favourite' would be big Brute's custom rocket launcher from The Last Fortress - distortion is kinda understatement here :) In EXU soundmix is in general way beyond 0db threshold so it's hard to handpick anything particular. I assume samples might be overly boosted individually which makes things even more difficult afterwards. It's kinda unfortunate as sounds and music are for a change nicely picked and work well as a whole.

I know well in general, that's really hard to fit in original UT mix as it's already horribly unbalanced between various sounds and cranked up to the point of discomfort - rocket launcher and pulse gun are a few notable examples. If you try to make your soundwork correctly - it eventually drowns in a cascade of original 'screamers'. The only but partial solution would be iterator for map actors that reduces ambients and transients for actors. But neither it solves problem of actors with sounds triggered via script with custom volumes, nor badly prepared samples.

I'm on my total conversion 'secret project' for long years with shorter and longer breaks, and for that matter I decided to make all content totally from scratch - without any trace of original textures, sounds, tunes, models etc. That was the only method for me, especially having worked with game audio for a living before, hence I might be kinda biased here.

If you need comparison how bad sth might sound - launch any more recent title, set game volume at max level, set appropriate comfortable volume for your soundgear. After that run UT with identical gear volume and set game volume to the max and you'll hear how much difference is there.

UB_
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 25 Oct 2020, 10:19

Galaxy is really garbage and outdated but unfortunately the other audio renderers lead to crashes often (and they're barely an improvement).
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jammer64
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 25 Oct 2020, 10:28

It's not a problem of renderer in whole case ;) It's bad sound design and implementation/mixing job :)

Here's my approach to the audio:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQPkW1xxbYQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp8pI9nDrVQ

My total conversion is generally a total mess and there's lot of temporary stuff inside but it demonstrates how my audio subsystem, written in UScript, works via regular Galaxy. I've created custom soundcue system for my conversion with couple of features:

- pool of sound emitters than can be assigned on demand
- zone's 'stereo' ambience, played via two actors glued to the camera
- realtime calculated zone reverb - traces updated with each our step
- sound pitch can match game speed to produce efects akin slow motion in F.E.A.R.
- samples are prepared in 3 variants - dry, room reverb, distant - my routine checks sound distance from camera, makes room calculations and blends between these accordingly

That's for now - I don't want to hijack proper thread here :D Gotta disclose my attempts one day as soon as they're not cringy anymore :D After over 10 years of fiddling around it I'm still burried in engine and gameplay features :(

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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 26 Oct 2020, 03:18

That's some incredible-looking stuff! And it's quite interesting to hear a professional audio (engineer? designer?)'s take on things. Game audio really is an underappreciated field.

Though in EXU's case, I can't imagine it being easy to balance that stuff out without a custom system that allows giving more focus to sounds from important sources like dangerous monsters in the crowd, etc.
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jammer64
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 26 Oct 2020, 11:02

Level design is not yet existent, these are only test maps for different purposes :D

What I loved in EXU is that it features lots of custom content, speaking both of visuals and audio, and it's really ambitious here. And very coherent as Quake/Painkiller pastiche ;)

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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 26 Oct 2020, 21:05

I'm particularly interested in the dynamic 3rd person camera you've got going on there - eerily similar to what I've been trying to achieve myself :O nice work, hope to see more from you jammer!

More on the subject of the thread - 1st person weapon animations that get in the way of seeing what's actually in front of you, I'm looking at you Smartdisk from Legacy :x
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jammer64
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 27 Oct 2020, 12:46

SteadZ wrote:I'm particularly interested in the dynamic 3rd person camera you've got going on there


It's still very flawed but I'm not going to adjust further it until I finally have my custom player model with animations.

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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 27 Oct 2020, 20:23

jammer64 wrote:If you need comparison how bad sth might sound - launch any more recent title, set game volume at max level, set appropriate comfortable volume for your soundgear. After that run UT with identical gear volume and set game volume to the max and you'll hear how much difference is there.


Interesting -- I'll give this a try, as I've had my UT volume sliders set pretty much dead-center since time immemorial for SFX, with music usually a little bit below that. I've heard scratchy audio from too many of the same sounds playing at the exact same time, but not the other stuff you mention (except in extremely heavy firefights). Maybe it's less noticeable if the ingame volume slider is at 50%?

Thanks for pointing this out and sharing your thoughts on the matter! Audio quality is really important to me, so I try to make everything sound as good as possible while still delivering the kind of oomf I want.

I've long considered a massive sound overhaul of the entire mod, basically eliminating any instances of the same sound being played more than once and just muffling the stock UT sounds to compensate for the lower-volume custom stuff, but it's a massive undertaking D:
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User avatar Buff Skeleton
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 27 Oct 2020, 20:46

Oh, and as for the actual thread, oh man have I got a laundry list from personal experience! Here are some of the biggest ones I can think of:


> Avoid overwriting changes to your content without making backups first! Ideally, use a version control system if you do any kind of scripting, or even extensive mapping, in case you break something in the future and need to revert. At the very least, make numbered versions for map files like Mapname01, 02, 03, etc., incrementing when you make big changes. It inflates filesize locally for a while, but when you're done, you can trash the inconsequential iterations once you release, or just keep them for nostalgia's sake. And it's not like a dozen 10mb maps are going to choke a modern hard drive when AAA games are eating like 150+ gigs all on their own.


> Avoid feature creep as much as you can, or you'll end up working on a perpetual project that never sees final release! It's much better to put out imperfect releases than nothing at all, especially stuff that's been in the works for years.

The temptation to hold off until everything is polished is a strong one, but it's ultimately a detriment. There are folks who could be, right now, enjoying what you've already produced. Even beta and episodic releases are better than one giant drop after a decade or so. "Release early, release often" is a widespread development adage for a reason.

Exception: incomplete maps -- those are usually better off finished, even if unpolished, rather than left totally open-ended. If it doesn't at least have a level exit teleporter (whether it be to the title screen or the next upcoming map), it's not really done, IMO.


> Avoid overpromising and underdelivering as well. This is something I see happen all over the place for basically every single game community I've ever been a part of: someone shows up, posts a thread about some grand project idea they haven't even started, and then it fizzles out once the poster realizes the amount of work required to make it actually happen. It's much better to keep a project quiet until you're at least well on your way or, better, almost done, and then announce it. Some folks don't announce projects until release!

That said, it's tough to keep enthusiasm for a project under wraps forever, and sometimes it's helpful to get encouragement from other folks rather than work entirely solo in the dark for months or years on end. It's totally reasonable to want some feedback from people earlier in the process. So if you announce a project before it's ready, that's totally fine -- just don't promise the moon until you're at least in orbit.


> Don't beat yourself up if you make mistakes or fail to meat personal deadlines, and don't let your own personal projects stress you out too much. Bugs on release will happen, and other things will come up that take time away from project work. Unless you're getting paid to do it, you are under no obligation to work on or release any sort of mod, and can stop at any time for any reason. In short: if you aren't enjoying it, why continue?

This is especially true for old games like this one. Creative pursuits should be fun, not a chore! Yes, sometimes finishing a map can be a real slog (fixing geometry issues is a good example), but ultimately it's up to you to decide if the end result is worth the difficulties along the way. If it isn't, that's totally fine; it's your own time you're spending, after all!
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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 27 Oct 2020, 22:10

Philosophical things:
  • Avoid getting hung up on special features like custom meshes or weapons in maps - have a plan b for them.
    We all love them, but something always goes wrong and delays your map project into eternity.
  • Overwriting any stock package ever.
    Just don't do it.
  • Get too focused on details before the core of your project is in place.
    We all are really bad at this one too, and adding details is fun, and you can certainly add details sometimes, but if you don't at least try to block out the map it can feel like you aren't really getting anywhere. I'm sure we all have dozens of single-room awesome looking maps that never ended up being a part of anything.
  • Set reasonable, achievable, goals for yourself
    "I'm going to make this entire map in one weekend" no you are not
  • Don't underestimate what can be achieved and so quickly with only stock content, even stock meshes.
    Avoid making something custom when something stock will do just fine and keep you moving forward. Stock meshes can be re-textured and combined in interesting ways to create decorations that would be a million times more work if you used blender or wings and made it the "proper" way.
  • Don't be too proud to beg for help when you get stuck
    We've all been there, though remember that a true warrior knows to ask google for help first.

More concrete specifics:
  • Never ever have a semi-solid touch a zone portal
    This creates a portal to the hell-dimension and ain't nobody got time for that.
  • Avoid unpathed parts of the map
    Might seem unimportant to path that random hallway, but you never really know where pawns or bots might end up.
  • Make posts like this when you are supposed to be working
    Get back to work wageslave!
  • Bump open timed movers
    For nearly every situation, another trigger type would work better. If you keep the default move time and return when encroach too, shame on you!
  • Editing your custom packages in the editor
    Use an external text editor for your scripts and use ucc to manage importing your assets. It is repeatable and much more manageable and if you can use version control also so version history and changes are preserved. It might seem easier to just import this one texture but trust me on this one.
  • Overuse the MyLevel package
    As above. It starts with 1 or 2 custom textures and quickly grows into something unmanageable

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Subject: Re: Things to avoid like hell in mod making

Post Posted: 27 Oct 2020, 23:02

Buff Skeleton wrote:
jammer64 wrote:If you need comparison how bad sth might sound - launch any more recent title, set game volume at max level, set appropriate comfortable volume for your soundgear. After that run UT with identical gear volume and set game volume to the max and you'll hear how much difference is there.


Interesting -- I'll give this a try, as I've had my UT volume sliders set pretty much dead-center since time immemorial for SFX, with music usually a little bit below that.


Holy shit I just tried this and it's ABSOLUTELY AWFUL, holy crap. All I can say is set your audio volume to 50% max and increase speaker volume to compensate and it's a LOT better. I can't believe how badly Galaxy fucks up the sound quality just by cranking the volume slider to maximum! Even the stock UT sounds are pretty bad this way, yet they all sound fine at 50% in-game volume.

I wonder if Galaxy just does some really, really bad amplification or something, because it's hilariously bad :lol:

Funny how in like 20+ years of UT I never experienced this before. I guess I always kept my volume slider at 50% or less and never saw a need to go beyond that. Looks like I missed out on some quality ear-sandpaper, lmao
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