DCUG Developer’s Journal #4

Howdy folks!  Time for another dev journal!  This one covers a range of topics but focuses on the addition of new characters to the mod’s massive roster.

First off, I am proud to announce that I’m no longer the only storyteller that will be featured in the DCUG!  Since the very, very beginning, one of my great hopes for this project was that it would serve as a springboard for others to tell their own stories in my version of the DCU.  I envisioned it as a massive sandbox that other DC fans could play in and help me flesh out.  Several folks started various projects to contribute, but they all eventually fell through for one reason or another, most because people just got busy with real life.  I actually still have a partially completed campaign called “Monkey Business” written up that a great guy named lmalonsof and I were working on back in the day, featuring a team-up of DC ape villains.   It promised to be a blast, and I should probably dig it out and try to finish it up one of these days.

Anyway, the new (and, really, only other) member of the DCUG team goes by Or Wolvie, a fellow FF modder who started a very promising project a few years ago but put it on hold after running into technical difficulties (I still hope he’ll finish it one of these days!).  I asked him if he’d like to tell some of his own stories in the mod, and to my delight, he agreed.  I gave him his pick of characters and teams, and he dreamed up some really fun adventures for Green Arrow and for the Teen Titans.  He’s well on his way to having his two new campaigns scripted up, and hopefully I’ll have some previews of them to share before too terribly long.  I for one am really looking forward to them!

Now, on to the update!

In preparation for the finale for the JLA/JSA crossover, I’ve been working on adding some new characters to the mod.  My plans for the mission involve a host of villains of the two teams, drawn from all points in time.  I find myself needing some more of the JSA’s villains, as they were relatively poorly represented previously.  This seems like a good opportunity to offer some reflections on my design philosophy and some info on how characters are built.

It starts with tracking down or requesting the art assets for a character.  At this point, almost any comic character you can imagine has been created, at least in some fashion, by our wonderful FF community.  So, I created my wishlist of JSA foes, posted on Freedom Reborn, and within an afternoon, the community pointed me to where I could find all of them.  Then it’s just a matter of dropping the meshes, skins, and keyframes into the FFvTTR Custom/Library/Art/Characters directory, where I can check them out with the CharacterTool.  When I have chosen the ones I want, I launch the current DCUG build and use the in-game character creator, which is wonderfully flexible and user friendly, to create a character file, or “Herofile”, which records and interprets their stats (like strength, speed, agility, etc.), powers, attributes (like if they can fly or climb walls), material type, and voice.  I often use existing HF packs as a starting point, but I always customize the characters with my own interpretation.

The DCUG was the first mod I ever created, and my character design philosophy has evolved a bit since I made all of its characters.  Now, this means I have to keep an eye on myself so that I don’t screw up the balancing by designing a character the way I did for my more recent mods like Marvel Adventures.  In general, my biggest priority for the early DCUG was comic accuracy and breadth, and I would just provide enough powers and abilities to capture the character, not paying as much attention to playability and fully realizing them as I could have.  I’m in the process of going back and polishing the existing characters to reflect a more comprehensive approach, and I’m building new ones with a more thorough eye as well.

I put more focus on making characters interesting to play and filling each one’s Herofile, giving them a full range of 10 powers whenever possible, as many attributes as made sense, and generally trying to use all available slots.  So, the first new characters I was developing were JSA foes, as I mentioned, and they posed a challenge because I really wasn’t all that familiar with them, having read few of their stories.  Fortunately, the Internet is full of information on ridiculous minutia, like the powers of 3rd stringers like The Fiddler.  My go-to sources are Ben Reily’s excellent Marvel RPG page, which, counter-intuitively, also has info on DC, and the great site Rapsheet, which has info on comic villains.

So, I built the Fiddler, giving him a range of powers to represent his magical violin (yes, that is a real thing in the DC Universe.  Aren’t comics grand?).  I also gave him some neat FFX (Freedom Force community expansion) attributes that allow him to use his music to affect the actual environment of a level.  He can do things like bring inanimate objects to life to fight for him.

I also built The Gambler, who is just a normal human with trick guns and knives.  He proved a challenge because of his limited powers.  While FF is perfect for depicting super-beings, it can get a little tough when you’re making normal humans with any variety or interest.  Fortunately, The Gambler has enough gimmicks to keep him interesting, and I came up with a fun HF.

I also started working on the old war comic classic, the Haunted Tank!  That’s right; after previewing the art for this formidable fighting machine in the last journal, its now actually playable, though I’ll probably keep tweaking it.

As I went, my list of new characters to add continued to grow on me, as it always does, and I cast my net wider. I designed and added a number of JSA villains, but I also ended up adding some Firestorm foes and some members of the Suicide Squad that I had previously missed, taking advantage of some really lovely new skins/skopes by FR member Laughing Paradox.

In this batch of characters I ended up adding:

  • Abra Kadabra
  • Baron Blitzkrieg
  • Captain Comet
  • The Enchantress
  • The Fiddler
  • The Gambler
  • The Icicle
  • Javelin
  • Killer Frost
  • The Mist
  • The Muse
  • Nemesis
  • Plastique
  • Shade the Changing Man
  • Slipknot

After I had finished my designing and testing, it was time to add the characters into the mod itself. There are a number of ways to do this. My favorite has always been a special Rumble Room (the game’s sandbox mode) gametype that adds included characters to the games .dats, or data files. However, in my current Windows 10 build, that gametype doesn’t work quite right, being super, ridiculously slow, so I went with my second favorite, which is Alex’s fantastic Herotool. It has a ‘send to dat’ feature that is very strong and at this point may well be better than using the in-game method.

Now, you might think that’s the end of the process, but it is really just the beginning. Now comes the hard work. First, I went through and wrote all the strings entries, which provide the ‘cleaned-up’ names of characters and powers, biographies, and mouse-over descriptions. This is a little detail I’ve always been very intentional about including in my mods, and it is rather painstaking work, going line-by line, thinking up (hopefully) clever descriptions and names for powers and taglinles. Honestly, it’s one of my least favorite parts of the process.

With that done, it’s time for customizations. FFX has given mod makers and players an incredible set of tools to customize their FF experience. It lets you do all kinds of things that the base game doesn’t. For example, The Enchantress can transform regular items in her environment in interesting ways, like transmutating a street light into a poisonous gas cloud, while Abra Kadabra can trap his enemies in a crystaline cage with its own hitpoints. Some of these FFX additions will work ‘out of the box’ but a lot of them require at least an extra step of customization or setup, especially some of the coolest ones. I’ve given several of these charaters FF1 style active defenses, meaning they’ve got forcefields that have a limited hitpoint pool and can actually be battered down, but that took a few extra steps and some editing of files.

Once all of that is done, then I go through and choose voicepacks appropriate for the characters, drawing on the massive library I’ve acquired over the years, which was hugely expanded by VPMAX, the community voice pack…pack. Those final touches done, it’s time to re-brand all of the new characters with the FFX Control Center, which helps the game identify and understand them, and then it is time to test them out!

Hopefully, everything works right!

In this case, things went relatively smoothly, and I was on to other matters.

As is always the case, I was working on several things at a time, just as I remembered something or as a thought grabbed me. In my various modding meanderings, I also happened to solve a mystery that was partially responsible for me abandoning my Aquaman campaign way back when! I had a lot of big plans for that storyline, and they involved trying things I had never tried before, like adding new objects and maps into the mod. I had a mission planned that would use a huge freighter as a battle scene, and I even managed to track down a mesh for a freighter that I could use. I tried everything I could think of to get that mesh to show up properly in the game, but I never got it to work. However, my recent exprience with the map issues for my JLA campaign showed me the answer. Instead of trying to add the boat as an object, I just added it directly to the map. That still took some doing, but I eventually figured it out, and I now have a way to tell stories I’ve been wanting to tell for years and years!

And that is all the news from the DCUG at the moment! The roster grows, and things proceed apace. Please check back again soon and see what else is in store. Look for some information about Or_Wolvie’s new campaigns soon!

Modding with EZScript: An Outline

Howdy folks!  Some time back, in the process of trying to help a new modder in the FF community, I wrote a rather lengthy post on Freedom Reborn about the step by step process of creating a mod.  It occurred to me that this information, all gathered in one place, might prove helpful to other newcomers and folks who want to try their hands at modding.  So, I’m adapting that gargantuan post to a how-to-outline that I’ll share here.  So, without further ado, I give you a crash course in modding!

Let’s start at the beginning.  Make sure you have all of the necessary tools.  To mod successfully and without undue headache, one needs the following:

  • FF2 Mod Tools (FFEdit, Character Tool)
  • M25’s Mod Tools (EZScript Editor, Language File Generator, and more)
  • FFX (an amazing expansion to the core game mechanics that adds tons of new attributes and functionality)

So, install all of the various tools, and if you’re running a version of Windows newer than XP, as I imagine most folks are these days, it is probably a good idea to run all of these things in compatibility mode for XP SP3.  I’d also run them as an Administrator, just to be on the safe side.

Now, on to business!  Here is a rough, step-by-step outline that can give you a sense about what all goes into modding.

1) First, decide what you want to call your mod.  Then, copy the newest version of FFX (3.3 I think), and rename it to whatever you want your mod to be called.  The title should be simple, because you’ll have to use it a few different times, and you don’t want to be having to type out a forever-long name dozens of times.  Also, and this is something you’ll see me say a few times, make sure you don’t have any unusual characters in the name.  Limit it to letters and numbers, as FF has a tendency to freak out over anything else.  Next, make sure FFEdit is pointing in the right direction.  Do so by opening it up and directing the primary data path towards your newly created mod folder.  Make sure you leave the secondary data path alone.

2) Now, decide which characters you want/need in your mission.  Create herofiles for them.  Give them simple, lower case names without any special characters and punctuation marks.  Test and balance in the Rumble Room until satisfied.

3) Quit, rename your FFX3 folder to something different, FFX3a is what I use.  Now, rename your mod folder to FFX3. (This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but FFX Edit2 sometimes has something of a hard time with mods other than FFX.)

4) Run FFX Edit2.  Save.  This “Brands” all of the characters in that mod, giving each a unique “Complex” number, which helps FFX and EZScript tell them apart.  This is necessary to get stuff to run smoothly.  Once you’re done, don’t forget to change both folder names back.

5) Next, launch your mod, open the Rumble Room, and choose M25’s Add to Dat as your gametype.  Put your newly created herofiles into the roster, use the “———–” blank entry if you need to, and then run it.  It should only take a moment.  Now, quit, open FFEdit, check on the characters and make sure everything was added nicely.

6) Now, open up your EZScript Editor.  Go to “Panels,” “Config,” and set the Dat directory to your mods folder.  You can set the other directories or not, it won’t be super important for a simple project.  Now, I recommend working on top of an existing EZScript mission.  One of the example missions or one of mine would serve as a fine base.  Either way, compose your mission.  I STRONGLY recommend using:

#————————————–

to differentiate your encounters, to make it easier for you to read and for folks who help you with troubleshooting.  Avoid capitalization in composing your missions, except when writing encounter names, which are okay to capitalize, just make sure you are being consistent.  One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you is, keep it simple.  Keep your naming schemes simple, keep your layouts simple, keep your plans simple.  The more complex you get, the more chances you’ll mess something up, and the less chance you’ll be able to find it easily.

7) Next, click “Tools,” “Analyze,” and look at the report it gives you.  This should catch MANY of the careless errors and plain ‘ol mistakes that tend to creep in to this type of work.

8) After that (or really before if you want), you can create your map, adding in any encounter markers you need.  Make sure all encounter names match what your mission calls for EXACTLY.  You can point your EZScript Editor to this newly edited map to double check that.  Unless you are designing the FIRST mission of a campaign, do NOT put any heroes on a map you create if you are using EZScript.  The first mission needs for the heroes to be placed already, otherwise check out my tutorials on what markers are necessary to get everything to play nicely.

9)
 Open your mod folder and copy your mission’s .txt file into the mod’s Story directory.  If it doesn’t have one, just create a folder named Stories in your mod’s main directory.  If you have multiple missions, you can put them all in there, but make sure to rename the copies so you don’t just overwrite them in the Stories folder.  Now, run your mod again.  Go to the RR again, for game type, select M25 Generate Language Files (or something like that).  Just use the ———- character, that will work fine.  Run it, then quit.  You’ve just added all of your missions dialog to your mod’s caption.txt.  However, the game itself can’t read txt files, so we need to get this into your captions.dat.  Now, open M25’s Language File Generator that you downloaded before we got started, and run it, pointing it at your mod director.  This updates your Lang files.  Also, before you start this process, make sure you’ve got CLEAN language files.  If you’ve already been poking around in them, I strongly recommend you get your language files from a clean install or clean version of FFX3.

11) Open up FFEdit and click on the “Campaign” tab.  Now, you’ll see the default FF missions there, and I recommend you leave them be for the moment.  You can delete them all, but in general things work better when you just leave them alone.  They won’t affect anything.  Add your own missions in, set the required characters and and unavailable characters, and move your missions to the top of the order.  Save and exit.

11a) For your first mission ONLY, you’ll need to place your starting heroes on your map through the editor.  Don’t forget to do this, as otherwise your mission won’t start.  The game spawns no heroes for the first mission.

12) Now your mod should be ready to play!  Open up FF and click “New Campaign” and give it a test.  Chances are you’ll run into some troubles, but stay patient and try to eliminate factors.  Always double check the obvious!  I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent troubleshooting missions with inexplicable problems, only to realize that I misspelled “encounter” or forgot to do something equally basic.  Also, when in doubt, feel free to ask for help!  I’m always happy to help new modders, and the FF community is amazing!

 

DC Defenders

Historyofthedcu

Hello Freedom Forcers!  This is my first post in quite some time, but I assure you I have not been idle in the intervening months…and months…and months….*ahem*  Well, I haven’t been too idle.  I have been hard at work on more than a few projects, and I am just now finishing up my Pulp Adventures mod, featuring the likes of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Green Hornet, plus many more!  Be on the lookout for the release of this love letter to the classic pulp heroes in the next few months.  Once I finish that project, I’ll be revisiting a few previous undertakings, including the DC Universe According to Grey!  What follows are some ruminations and some little bits of fun on the subject of my sprawling version of the DC Universe.

I have recently been reading through a number of DC books, including classic issues of Detective Comics, Adventures Comics, The Brave and the Bold, and others.  All of this four-color goodness has really set my mind on fire to get back to my DC Universe mod and start telling stories set in my all-time favorite comic setting.  To that end, I’ve been toying with the hundreds of story ideas and half-finished plots that are lying around my hard drive in various stages of completion, and after hearing something interesting on The Who’s Who Podcast, of Aquaman Shrine and Firestorm Fan fame (say that three times fast!), I decided to play around with an old concept that didn’t make it into the first release of the DCUG.

One of the hosts of the show, the Irredeemable Shag, mentioned his ideal superhero team, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was, in large part, note for note the same team that I had created for a campaign in the DCUG.  I’ve got a few missions written, but nothing was finished when I released the mod.  However, it is on my list of campaigns that I want to finish when I return to my sprawling pet project.  You see, years ago I watched the JLU episode “Wake the Dead.”  In it, the Timmverse presented a DC version of the classic Marvel team, the Defenders, who took on a mystical threat.  The team included my personal favorite hero, Aquaman, and I found the idea of a DC team that including the Sea King and dealt with mystical threats to be pretty intriguing.  Now, I know what a few of you mega-DC fans are saying, ‘that team already exists, and it’s called Shadowpact!’  Well, I have to admit that I know next to nothing about them as a team, and even less of them as individual characters.  I’m afraid they don’t interest me much in any event.

On the other hand, given Aquaman’s connection to Atlantis, it makes sense for him to be involved in sword and sorcery type tales occasionally.  So, I created my own version of the team featuring a number of second string character for whom I had a soft spot, and I penned a story arc for them that promises to be great fun.  The team featured:

As I started to think about these stories once again, I got an itch to throw part of the team into the Rumble Room and see how they played together.  I took some screenshots, and I’ll share them with y’all now:

picture010

I began by choosing a subset of my nascent mystical team.  So many choices!  It’s getting hard to find anything among the huge roster of the DCUG these days!  I’m pitting my team against a semi-random assortment of villains on a fantasy-style map.

picture016Heroes assembled!

picture018

Matchstick is undaunted in the face of evil!

picture019

The heroes move out in search of some villains to vanquish.

picture020

And the villains find them!  Yes, that’s obscure Hawkman villain I.Q.!  Will his technological marvels be enough to stop our stalwarts?

picture025

He uses one of his hi-tech devices on Blue Devil…  picture028But it isn’t enough!  Ouch, that’s going to hurt!

picture023

But I.Q. has distracted the heroes while the rest of the villains arrive, led by the powerful sorcerer Wotan!

picture033Zatanna finds herself surrounded!  Which spell to use, which spell to use…

picture037The Mistress of Magic drives them back with a burst of dinw…errr, wind!

picture035Aquaman uses his telepathy on Wotan, hoping to stun him and disable his defenses.

picture039Zatanna prepares to finish off the Trickster, but Wotan prepares another spell!

picture042The Shade enters the scene, stunning the Nuclear Man!

picture045Meanwhile, Aquaman squares off with his half-brother…

picture047And Firestorm is airborne again!  Perhaps a little creative transmutation might be in order…

picture052The Battle rages on!

picture053Aquaman corners The Shade!  Let’s see that nightstick save him now!

picture063And Firestorm provides the coup de grace!

The heroes won the day, though Zatanna fell to the villains.  I think I’ve got the beginning of a good team here, and I am looking forward to completing their campaign over the summer when I return to the DCU!  I hope that y’all enjoyed this little bit of silliness as much as I did!

Marvel Adventures Released!

Ross_Marvel_Universe_1970s_Canvas

It’s done!  Welcome to Adventure in the Marvel Universe!   This is a gigantic mod that encompasses large swaths of the Marvel comics universe.  It attempts to capture the classic feel of a large assortment of characters with new stories set during the heyday of such icons as Captain America, Thor, the X-Men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four, as well as a bevy of villains and guest stars.

This mod gives you control over some of your favorite superheroes and lets you fight for justice in four color glory!  Included you will find a total of seven campaigns for a wide variety of characters and teams.  You can face the villainous Hellfire Club as the X-Men, or struggle to save all of the nine realms as Thor and his allies.

Check out the Marvel Adventures Album HERE!

Campaigns:

So, what are you waiting for? Join the fight!

Download Marvel Adventures now!

This mod is akin to my massive DC Universe According to Grey, though on a much smaller scale.  I have not tried to capture the entire width and breadth of the Marvel Universe, just my favorite corners thereof.  You’ll still find a very large mod here, with most of the classic heroes and many of the classic villains of the Marvel Universe.  On the other hand, this mod embraces a similar design philosophy to the DCUG, not trying to completely capture any interpretation of the Marvel U., instead trying to create an idealized version, something of the best of all worlds, in my opinion.  It is most closely based on the Bronze Age, but I took liberties to clean up continuity or for the sake of the story I wanted to tell.

Keep in mind, not all of the campaigns tell complete stories, and all of these are intended to be expanded and continued.  In the future I’ll add a Spider-Man campaign, Dr. Strange, perhaps Captain Marvel, and others.

Turtles Fight With Honor!

Howdy folks!  I just finished a full version of my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mod.  I had previously released a mini-mod of sorts, but this release will have almost the entire first story arc included, along with a whole passel of TMNT characters, including fan favorites (and personal favorites) Bebop and Rocksteady, but also including Krang and the Fly!

This mod has 9, count them, 9 missions, which will take our half-shelled-heroes from their first encounter with the Foot Clan up to their discovery of a strange and sinister secret hidden below the streets of New York!  Along the way you’ll take command of the green teens as they battle the deadly Foot Clan, face the mechanical menace of Baxter Stockman’s Mousers, struggle against the mutated might of Bebop and Rocksteady, and even cross blades with the mysterious Shredder!

Krang and Baxter aren’t featured as opponents in the campaign itself yet, but they are both included, and you can play as or against them in the Dangeroom if you want to test their metal!

This mod also features the first contribution to the FF community by newcomer Adam Winters.  He has really increased the quality and comprehensiveness of this mod by creating three new voice packs with samples pulled from the original Turtles cartoon.  He’s created packs for Splinter, April, and Shredder, bringing the memorable and excellent voice work of that classic show to life in Freedom Force, and bringing a lot more personality to their respective characters within the game.

We are also lucky enough to get some custom mission music from the multi-talented ow_tiobe_sb!  Now we have some music made especially for the levels of this mod.

So, what are you waiting for?  Take a walk down memory lane, and see if you can keep from smiling when you load this mod and hear a familiar song on the main menu.  Take some time to remember why you loved the Turtles way back when, and why you should definitely still love them now!

Download Now!

Here’s a quick PATCH for some missing textures and an FX.  Just drop this folder into your FFvTTR directory and overwrite all.  (You only needed this if you downloaded the mod before 08/30/11.)

Or you can Check out the Readme!

Look for more Ninja Turtles action coming soon!  The next installment will take the Turtles into the Technodrome to face the cruel alien warlord Krang!  With any luck (and with YOUR help!), it will also see the introduction of a host of new characters, including the Punk Frogs, the Rat King, Metalhead, Leatherhead, and others!

Shell-Tastic Previews

Howdy folks!  We’ve had a pretty quiet few weeks here on the Greylands, but I have not been idle.  I’ve been hard at work on Marvel Adventures, but with the new semester starting and several missions and a good deal of work still to do, I decided that it was time to change tacks, which brought me to the TMNT mod sitting almost finished on my hard-drive.  I just recently got a beautiful and shiny new Splinter skin from the ever talented Daglob, who deserves a lot of our gratitude for everything he’s contributed to this mod!  Receiving this skin gave me pretty much everything I needed to release the finished set of seven missions that I’ve been sitting on for quite some time.  However, a new development has convinced me to add two more to that number, which will bring us almost up to the end of the first story arc.  That even, for those who have been following, was the multi-talented Cmdrkoeing agreeing to make, and then making with lightning speed, a skope of the Technodrome!

So, to make a long story short, I decided that I’d use my limited time to go ahead and get a project ready for release, and the good news for you Turtle fans is that the TMNT mod was already pretty close, so it made the cut!  Look for a full release coming soon, and in the meantime I thought I’d do a series of previews, teasing a few of the upcoming missions!

Below you’ll find some snapshots from the third mission of the campaign, where Raphael meets a personal favorite of mine, Casey Jones!

These two get off to a somewhat inauspicious beginning…

Okay, very inauspicious.

What, you’ve never seen a four foot tall humanoid turtle who knows ninjitsu?

However, it isn’t long before these two are brought together by their mutual love of senseless violence…erm, justice, I mean justice!

These punks have no idea what they’re in for…

Casey’s at the bat!

Well folks, I hope you enjoyed this brief preview.  Keep checking back throughout this week to see more, and look out for the full release sometime at the end of the week!

Marvel Adventures Preview

Hello friends and fans, I’m sorry for the long silence, but hopefully what I bring with my return will go some way to assuaging any bad feelings about my absence.  I’m afraid that last year was nothing short of terrible, and we in the Grey household have been working hard to make sure that 2011 turns out to be a better one.  It was a long semester, but now I’m enjoying something approaching a summer vacation, and although my blog may have been dormant, I have not.  Since my last releases I’ve been working on a half dozen projects or so, and I’m still going to keep most of those secret for the moment.  A few of these are obviously the finished versions of mods I’ve already released, but there are several more that I just about can’t wait to reveal.  I’m hoping they will really send some waves through the community.

In fact, I was simply going to sit on all of these secrets until I was ready to release, but a post someone made on Tomato’s excellent discussion board (which is serving as an interim home for the Freedom Reborn crowd) provided me with simply too much temptation.  A community member started a thread asking if anyone was working on any Marvel mods, and another member very kindly mentioned that he hoped to see one like my little DC project, the DCUG.  Well, some time passed with no one really answering these guys, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.  So, I released some teaser shots of one of my projects, the one I’m working on at the moment.  I still don’t want to say too much, but it is going to be called Marvel Adventures, and those of you who have been following my blog, such as it is, may find some clues about this mod in one of my ‘From the Ether’ posts.

I will tell y’all that this mod will include several different campaigns with a wide variety of characters.  If you are the observant type, you probably already have a pretty good idea of some of the roster.  Let me reiterate something, though.  This project will most certainly not be of the skope of the DCUG.  I’m afraid I’m not up for another 3+ year project!  I hope that folks will find plenty here to enjoy, though.  But why talk you to death when I can show you some screenshots of your favorite characters in action?

 Check out the Marvel Adventures Album HERE!