Winter is Coming

So I’ve decided to take a quick reprieve from making space stuff for a little while.

Before I begin, I finished that sniper rifle. It took ~20 revisions, 10 for the rifle itself and another 10 for the round(!). Between Nirrti and myself, we had to do some texture splitting to get the vmt parameters we wanted for certain parts of the model. It’s in the fine details of material properties that the source engine really shows its weaknesses; this is where you turn to dirty tricks and workarounds to get that subtle shine you have envisioned.

The final render of the Overwatch Sniper Rifle (from my end - there were a few microchanges after this)
The final render of the Overwatch Sniper Rifle (from my end – there were a few microchanges after this)

A ‘small’ project
So back to winter. The temperatures are finally going below 80F (~26C) for most of the day here so for the rest of the world, that means winter and snow. I thought a side project that uses that theme would be fun.
It was going to be a single model hack – there was this set of models ported from Metro: Last Light that had this pretty nice heavy jacket that I thought could be repurposed. I decided to take that to heart and do some modifications to the textures and mesh, now it’s an arctic parka.

A Half-Dead release - the jacket is today's project.
A Half-Dead release – the jacket is today’s project.
A first pass in mudbox - it never looks this good after bake.
A first pass in mudbox – it never looks this good after bake.
Yeah, it looks more like this. It took me about two days to make the sculpt and two day to fix it.
Yeah, it looks more like this. It took me about two days to make the sculpt and two days to fix it.
Ha, still slipped some scifi stuff in here!
Ha, still slipped some scifi stuff in here!

I thought I’d throw together a single generic soldier/explorer, and even got a friend, Bloocobalt, to add a nice head and some fitting gloves. I planned to do maybe one or two heads for possibly a small pack.

After some additional work with textures and Bloo's model hacking, we have this.
After some additional work with textures and Bloo’s model hacking, we have this.

People, of course, want more, so I’m going to be adding some additional bodygroups and skingroups, and I’m doing some content scouting with my a few fellow hackers to see if there is an equally fitting female counterpart model.

There will be patches. This is a confirmed feature.
There will be patches. This is a confirmed feature.

And mapping?
As I fleshed out the idea, I thought it would need some decent release pictures, and for that I’d need a nice snow map. If there’s one environment that sticks out in my mind , the exterior maps from Black Snow. BS is a short suspense mod that takes heavy visual and story cues from The Thing; it’s very atmospheric, a little frustrating at times, and ends quickly, but when I think of mods that have a great atmosphere, this one tends to come to mind. When it was released a year ago, I (and everybody else) had no luck getting anything to work in gmod or SFM, which is probably a solid reason why so few people remember it. Since the maps are decompile protected, I decided to reach out to the mod lead, and simply asked for the source files, to which he replied with a yes. I’ll admit, I was a little surprised, but I’m happy. After I received the files, a simple point entity strip and quick compile worked like a charm. I’ll be putting some more effort into anything release worthy, but Black Snow is well on its way to getting an unofficial SFM compatibility pack. (And possibly a daytime/normal map version)

Not quite the ‘one guy in a jacket’ project it started as, but I hope to see some kickass The Thing remakes being done.

Oh and learning face flexes
Never knowing when to quit, I’m also taking this model hacking project to try my hand at making face flexes. I decided to go for full Valve FACS compatibility, meaning I’m going to be making about 40 base flexes that will then be converted into about the same amount of mirror split sliders you can control ingame. This process means that the face is going to work great with lipsync in SFM, which in turn means that these are actually useful.

Yeah okay so I'm not a pro, it's a work in progress
Yeah okay so I’m not a pro, it’s a work in progress

The head is a German scientist from Sniper Elite V2. (The character artist is the same guy that did the mostly unloved art assets from AVP. If I knew who he was, I’d send him fan mail, no joke.)

In order to facilitate the flex creation process, I rewrote the compile script for L4D’s Bill (.qci) to make the base shapes in the .vta (the raw file that stores the modified vertex animations that face flexes are made from) display as movable sliders. This is a ten-fold improvement over the old non-interactive reference of several 100×100 thumbnails available on the VDC site.

Hooray for cryptic naming conventions!
Hooray for cryptic naming conventions!

You can download a pretty packed file I made for these modified models as well as a .qci with some simple inline documentation here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/21161113/releases/flex_refs.7z
This is not exactly something to download unless you have an interest in making useful face flexes for source.

The base flexes are also pretty interesting to play with – they’re a good bit more potent then the valve standard controllers, but they ‘break’ the realism barrier with bad combos pretty easily. Many people don’t like the complexity of valve’s face controller system, but the more I play with it, the more I appreciate the good deal of work that was put into making it not just work, but work well.

who needs lipsync when you can make faces like this?
who needs lipsync when you can make faces like this?

That’s all for now, I’ll post updates with my success or failure in the flex making thing as well as what I learned.

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