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The pitter-patter of tiny steps

Well it’s been a while since the last update, been so caught up in working on the mod it hadn’t dawned on me to post an update, so while my brain is engaged I think I should probably do so now to avoid an information overload.

More Zombie Customisation:

The first thing I did after the last update is sort a few minor annoyances with the zombies which, for me, were destroying a lot of the basic immersion in the game. I started by putting in a bunch of new (albeit temporary) sounds for each class of zombie which are now more fitting with the classic zombie moans and groans which you can hear if I ever get around to posting a video. Secondly I replaced all of the yellow blood with custom red blood and also customised the blood particle effects to give gunshots a more realistic yet gory feel. I also noticed that the Zombine NPC uses a lot of the regular zombie’s animations, so I decided to do a test and decompiled the regular zombie, recompiling it as the Zombine. The result worked perfectly, and once the grenades were removed from the Zombine in the code, they now add some nice variation to the slow zombies — It’s cool to walk past a group of zombies thinking you’re safe, and then, all of a sudden, one of them starts bounding at you!

I also added a nice little gory feature which allows zombies to be split in half by the shotgun if they are almost dead and the damage is high enough. It adds another unpredictable element to the zombies which I think adds more variety to the game play. Finally I also added better reactions when being shot with a powerful weapon like the shotgun. Now when you unload a heavy weapon they will show a heavy flinch animation which I think helps ground the heavier weapons a bit better.

Will try and post a video of this in action tomorrow as it’s better demonstrated in motion!

Level progress:

Next up was the daunting task of transferring my ambitious level design off paper and into source. Due to the nature of the environment this meant that there will be a lot of terrain which, for Source, means a lot of displacements! Building it took a lot of planning due to the way displacements work in source. First off I did a few performance tests in source to see how the engine would cope with a lot of displacements in the world, and to my surprise, it handled it very well! This helped me to decide upon a method for constructing the map. The basic layout would be blocked out in large brushes, and then, with brushes of 512×512 units I coved the areas as best as possible in a kind of patchwork design. The reason for this was so that I get a good density of geometry to sculpt and texture and also to allow for more efficient culling which I will explain later on.

After the BSP was laid out I converted my surfaces to displacements, and in the case of the cliff faces, I also used the ‘subdivide’ feature in Hammer which smoothes out any sharp edges and will make sculpting them easier later on.

After subdivision:

Once the displacements were in place I did some basic sculpting of the terrain to further refine the height and shape of the terrain and help me navigate my around a little easier.

It’s wasn’t all smooth sailing though I had problem getting the scale of my map right at the beginning and my first map was extremely big which caused an “hunk overflow”(!!?) error in the Source Engine. After a few tries I got to the scale down to a reasonable size that worked but then ran into problems with one or two displacements causing CTD’s whenever physics collision was turned on them (that took forever to figure out). I remade the layout from scratch many times and always ran into the same problem, so for now I’ve just disabled physics collision on the two offending displacements until I can figure out a solution.

Art

Finally after all this was done, I began on the art side of things, starting with the cabin which you start out in. I’m trying to make as much of the environments as possible out of meshes as it allows for better geometry detail and more creative use of textures as well as being cheaper all-round. The new Orange Box engine also allows per-vertex lighting with self-shadowing which also help models light a lot better and blend with the rest of the world (I also like the ‘ignore surface normal’ lighting option-awesome for foliage!).

The exterior is completed and im satisfied with how it looks and the interior is also done excluding details such as furnishings etc which will come later when i start detailing:

The Cabin alone has 5 different areas to explore including a basement and attic. Each area will have lots of different things to search and explore for goodies etc.