Friday, October 10, 2008

A Milestone

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights
- Muhammad Ali

Today I released the BTH Weapon Pack, my seventh custom content submission for NWN2. By coincidence it is exactly twelve months ago to the day that I released my first NWN2 models.

The BTH Weapon Pack came together nicely with the addition of three more models in the Smouldering Weapon range and includes a tot
al of 36 weapons.

It's taken most of the day to collect the screenshots, package the model files and run a final test. The submission is currently waiting for approval on the NWVault site. The preparation for the release gave me the opportunity to look at some of the early weapon models I made for AussieNWN and reflect on how both my 2D and 3D skills have improved.

It's not at all difficult to pick out the short sword models that were my first attempts at making weapons. The dates on those first weapon models go back to December 2007. The BTH Weapon Pack has been a long time in the making. In fact, this project has been so stretched out that while I was preparing the files today I re-discovered a couple of models I'd completely forgotten about.

Anyhoo, here's the link to the BTH Weapon Pack on NWVault. I'll leave you with a screensh
ot of the the complete set of Smouldering Weapons. I'm going to fiddle with another short video.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Just a hunk, a hunk of burning love

Stop! Hammer time
- MC Hammer

Every now and then things just fall into place. The meshes work the first time, the textures seem to make themselves and the model turns out a treat. Today I had one of those days. Which is good, because yesterday I had one of the other sorts of days. Yesterday was a day where nothing seemed to go right and it was my own doing.

I had been trying to finish off the latest series of sword models and at the same time attempting to make efficient use of a texture by using it for more than one mesh. I like to produce models that are constructed with performance in mind. Using a texture for multiple meshes is one way of trimming the fat.

When I create a texture for a model I make extensive use of layers. In the case of yesterday's texture I had combined the texture for swords 74 and 75. The texture had 31 layers that include the UV layouts, the textures used to construct the normal map as well as the components of the diffuse texture. The idea is to blend various layers to produce a texture with the desired qualities.

Somewhere alo
ng the way I forgot which layers to combine to make the textures I needed. So in my quest to be efficient I burnt a lot of time. And it meant that all the swords in both the 74 & 75 series had to be tested in-game again. Sword model 75 had plagued me with small problems from start to end.

I've learnt my lesson. If a texture is already complex, don't try to utilise the spare space with another complex texture. In other words, I will try not to let my drive for efficient modelling impede my progress.

But even when I'm having a bad day at the workbench I try to reach a milestone. So the end result of yesterday's effort was the completion of the combined texture and finalising the sword series 75 with the addition of the short sword and dagger.

By comparison, today was a great day at the workbench. I started by taking my own advice about planning the model before I start. In this case it was a quick concept drawing of what I wanted. And what I wanted was a big mother war hammer with the same burning ember qualities as the recent quarterstaff and club.

I had none of the difficulties with today's war hammer that I had with sword 75. No folding meshes and no restarting the model. The texture came together almost too easily and in a matter of a couple of hours I had my big smouldering war hammer. Stop! Hammer time.

The whole effect I was chasing here was a weapon that is burning at its heart. The smouldering soul of this beast can be seen through cracked and fissured surface. Flames lick the head of the hammer, which holds the core of the heat and the glowing embers die out down the handle. The hand grip, while also burnt, is not smouldering with the same intensity as the head. It leaves a trail of sparks and flame in it's wake and gives off a feint flickering light.

With a successful day behind me I am loath to fiddle with the textures too much, but my original idea was for a cracked metal texture. The texture shown in this screenshot is based on a burnt wooden beam. I shall have a play with overlaying an iron texture. But that's for another day. I've earned a day off tomorrow. The weather is fantastic this time of year and I'm going to enjoy it.

Over the next week I shall put together an axe model in the same style and then, I think, my weapon pack will be ready to assemble.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Never give a sword to a man who can't dance

Never give a sword to a man who can't dance
- Confucius

I have made good progress on the latest sword model this week. I wanted to give the blade some etched runes and although I've done similar effects on other swords, the small scale of the graphics threw a few challenges at me. In hindsight, I could have made it easier on myself had I planned the mesh of the model to match what I had in mind for the texture.

The challenges that presented themselves while I was tweaking this model provided an opportunity to explore new ways of doing things. So while it look me a little longer than expected, I did learn a few new tricks along the way.

The screenshot on the left shows the Longsword version of the model. There are matching Bastard Sword and Great Sword models too. I should be able to scale it down further to make a Short Sword as well. A Dagger model may be a little too much to hope for this model.

The runes along the blade translate very roughly to Troll's bane sorrow and death. The claim made by the runes may be pushing it a little for a short sword, never mind a dagger. But it would be good to have the complete set as I've done with the other sword models.