Once again I find myself opening with a comment about how doing all this stuff would be a lot easier if life would just stop being such a pain in the ass. I actually felt like I had the start of a decent flow going after the last post, but then I ended up having to retire my car for mechanical issues all of a sudden and lost a lot of my free time for a few weeks to dealing with the consequences of that. I rather liked that car, too, which made it all a real downer. The blatantly obvious problem with GM's completely idiotic plastic head gaskets was always looming over it, but I would've liked to have at least gotten the thing to 100k before those went.
And also once again it doesn't help that the bulk of what I have left to do is solid Creation Kit work, which as always is a tedious goddamn grind. Finishing up the beast race support and rubber versions for the Type XXX parts, putting together the NPCs and their default outfits, and very especially building the locations to house those NPCs given that I've had to learn how to fuck around with dungeon building all over again some five years after the last time I gave it a try. I've had some success with the repurposing of Raldbthar that I mentioned in the last entry, but it's also provided a good example of how this shit can get obnoxious.
You see, one of the things that sold me on reusing that particular cell was the room mid-way through it that looked like it could be cast as an output area for the machine that created the Automated living in the ruin.
After some modifications, cleaning, and giving the place better lighting, it works out just as well as I expected. And the centerpiece, of course, is the actual birthing tube.
This isn't actually what I originally had in mind for it. In fact, this is the third go at it. I originally gave it a longer passage leading into what would've been an actual 'reconstruction chamber' using the Dwarven Repository interior space, but I was already having a hard time getting its entrance to match up with the stone tunnel meshes before trying it out in-game and finding that the whole thing wouldn't visually render until you were actually in it. I did some digging and figured out that this was caused by the 'room' system Bethesda used in a lot of the dungeons, where the spaces are marked off by large invisible boxes that limit how much of the dungeon is rendered at any given time. These are also not visible by default in the CK, you have to go into the settings and turn them on to see where they are. Of course my new space was completely outside of the existing room structure, and since it's not really clear how you go about editing the damn spaces that whole idea had to be abandoned. My next thought was to use a scaled-up copy of one of the Sphere launchers to provide a fancy irised door for the newly-made Automatons to 'exit' through, but apparently scaling it up large enough to match the tunnel put enough of the mesh outside of the room space to cause it to not render in-game either. So this third-try 'fuckit' was to cram the Observatory dome into there. It does look pretty good, but it doesn't actually look like a door per se. I guess the machine could teleport its creations out? Yeah, sure, we'll go with that.
Rehabbing the rest of the ruin is a bit more straight-forward, for the most part. Mostly cleaning and re-lighting, then adding in more stuff for the NPCs to do. The sheer number of Automated NPCs I've put together after discovering that stupid-easy Live Face method does add some wrinkles to that, though. This is a decently large space, but having that many people running around can get messy quick. An idea for handling that that I've mentioned before was to use the door guard idle to lock certain characters to an assigned position in the style of a charge bay or the like. This does mostly work. In the absence of any overriding idle package, the characters placed near the idle markers seem to be quite happy to enter the pose and stay there indefinitely.
Seeing that got me wondering if I could mix this with the Pedestals to produce a display of fully inactive Automated, and it very nearly works.
Annoyingly, the pose doesn't quite stand straight, which results in a slight but noticeable cant to the pedestal bases. They also aren't exactly 'inactive'; they move around a bit as part of the idle's animation loop, and they'll sometimes headtrack apparently at random. Which isn't exactly a bad thing in and of itself- seeing a pedestal'd Automated move around a bit has its own appeal- but it isn't quite what I was going for.
The problem is that pretty much the only usable idle I've been able to find in the game that produces anything close to the effect I want is that single gate guard marker. Nothing else comes close.
There's custom idles out there that are closer to what I have in mind, particularly the static Goma poses, but getting them into the mod as a custom idle marker/furniture thing opens a whole fucking can of worms that I don't even begin to know how to deal with, thanks to all the various complications involved in adding animations to Skyrim. The only really feasible route at my skill level would be to outright replace the guard idle, but I definitely don't want to do that because then all the various guards in the game who use it will be stuck with whatever static pose I replace it with. And that route's also more limiting than I'd like. The ideal would be to add in multiple markers that work the same way as this one covering a variety of static poses, because that way I could also use it to build a statuary hall using the stone versions of the bodies. Unfortunately I don't have the slightest idea of where to even start when it comes to making something like that.
Even with using an idle to shunt some Automated out of activity, though, it's still pretty easy for the space to get overcrowded. It definitely doesn't help that the DMA parts are pretty complex, and I've found that having a bunch of them trying to load in all at once can cause some significant slowdown when entering the cell. So I'm going to have to find some way to split them up more instead of just warehousing them all in the same space, and I think I've found some ways to do that as a result of the location I've picked to center the Facility in. I'd originally thought of this as something that should be placed by Deep Folk Crossing, but after actually trying to build some exits there I've pretty much given up on it due to the really spotty navmeshing in the area. I mentioned last time how I've been looking around for an alternative location, with the ideal criteria that there'd be an existing Dwarven surface ruin with no associated dungeon that I could place it near, in a place pretty well isolated from regular traffic, and with little nearby Falmer activity. There were a number of potential options scattered around the map, but all of the ones I could immediately bring to mind had one thing or another that I didn't care for. Reachwind Eyrie could've been interesting, but it's already a frequent mod target and has a dungeon associated with a Daedric quest right under it, so that ruled it out. The Dibella shrine across the river from Old Hroldan was also tempting, but it's in way too public of a spot. One place I had completely forgotten about, though, was this little ruin at the top of the cliff above the shrine.
At first glance this looked like the ideal place to put my entrance. Out of the way but not too hard to get to, very usable navmeshing, etc. But after scouting around I realized that the Falmer cave Gloomreach was right nearby, which put this out of line with my 'no nearby Falmer' idea.
And then I realized that actually made this location better.
You see, Gloomreach is a surprisingly empty dungeon. It's got a couple of decently sized zones, some fairly neat bits of layout, and absolutely nothing going on in it. There's a suggestion of a backstory from that layout involving a bandit camp getting taken over by Falmer, but there's no associated quests or notes or anything. You just kill some Falmer, then leave. Well, I've got a bunch of Automated that I made from hostile in-game NPCs that I didn't really have any idea what I was going to do with, and they can kill Falmer as well as anyone else. In fact, that's the whole core of my head-canon for why they were created in the first place. So having some of their natural enemies moving into a cave right next to their HQ gives me the perfect excuse to dump a bunch of them in there to battle it out with them, doesn't it? If that also takes some of the stress off of the main location, hey, two birds.
I'll still probably end up having to build some more housing, though. Both to spread the Automated out, and in service to the bits of story I'd like to try to work in. I currently have an exterior entrance leading directly into the Facility cell, but part of the idea I've had bouncing around for why these guys aren't running around all over the place and how these people got converted to begin with is that getting into the Facility is 99% deadly and getting out is nearly impossible (or at least was until recently, still workshopping that), so being able to just traipse in doesn't exactly work. But actually building the long drop and etc. that I've had in mind would add that much more time to getting this out, so I might just skip it. I'd also like to add in a few side-rooms, something to connect the place to Gloomreach, and maybe something reflective of the Dibellan theme I was working with before hitting on the Live faces that I could link to the nearby shrine.
So there's still a lot of work to do there, and I also stumbled on another rather annoying bit of further work that I'll have to do if I want to decorate these spaces with random DMA parts like I had in mind. Turns out when you place an item into a cell in the Creation Kit, it uses the male ground model meshes. Pretty much all of the DMA parts, however, do not have male ground model meshes set. There didn't seem to be much point in the extra work while I was building them, given that they're female-only, so most of them are either left on the Dwarven armor mesh from the armor entries I built everything from or blanked. So in the CK it either drops that armor model or... nothing, which can get kinda weird. I'm going to have to go back and point the male ground model entries to the appropriate models for all of the DMA parts if I want to place them in-game like this, and that is going to be tedious as fuck.
And that tedium combined with the hassle of all the car stuff is why I've mostly been doing something completely different the last few weeks.
The part I really enjoy about modding all this stuff is actually building the models. It's a lot more fun than the Creation Kit work, and has the distinct advantage of being a lot easier to pick up and put down as needed, so I tend to fall back on it when I can only catch a bit of time here and there to mess around with things. And while I know I've said that I really need to stop adding things to this already, while I was kitting out the NPCs I did feel a distinct lack in terms of the weapons I had available to them. You see, while I don't dislike the Vanilla Dwarven weapons at all, the sword in particular is a lot more bulky than I personally like my swords to be. There's already a good alternative in the Third Era designs that are available in various mods, but I wasn't exactly keen on the idea of putting them in yet another one through mine, and I do actually like the styling on the Skyrim versions and didn't want to lose that.
So I figured I'd try building my own.
I'm rather fond of the sort of guardless design found on the Roman Spatha and many Bronze Age swords, so I decided to work with that in mind. My first attempt used parts chopped out of both of the Vanilla swords and Keening, and ended up... Not quite that.
Which isn't to say that they don't look good, mind you. I ended up having to bulk up the hilt from Keening to get it to fit well on the sword's handle, which left it with more of a proper guard. I also ended up with a pretty bad gap between that hilt and the shrunken-down greatsword blade that I had to fill. The original part that was there on Keening didn't really fit, so I spent quite a bit of time casting around for and trying out replacements before settling on the crests from the Lexicon for the normal version and a combo piece made from a couple of DMA eye elements for the fancier one. All in all a perfectly serviceable longsword, but still not quite what I had in mind. So I played around some more with ideas for alternate hilts, and ended up with this:
This got me a fully guardless design reminiscent of a Bronze swords, replacing the hilt with an assembly made from those Lexicon crests and the ever-useful ring pieces that I've been using all over the place. Using those without making them too thick compared to the blade did require me to compress the end of the handle down a bit, and as a result of that and the way the mesh was built I ended up having to cut out the wooden core of the grip due to it coming out somewhat distorted. But that gave me the opportunity to replace it with something more interesting, like the stretched-out black soulgem here, or a rather nice metal core made using some disc elements cut from the greatsword's handle. The whole design turned out to be quite flexible, as I was able to quickly whip up a fancy version with another eye orb from the Vanilla masks in place of the crests, and additional shortsword and dagger variants of all of them.
There's also a Dibellan variant using parts taken from her shrine's model, but unfortunately that needs some mesh rehab on those parts to keep them from crashing the heck out of the CK before it'll be usable.
But while this turned out quite nice, it still wasn't hitting that 'spatha' spot for me, so I kept looking around for another hilt. After various failures, I happened take a look at the latch piece on the Dwarven gates.
That's what I was looking for. Especially since this also let me do a particular variant I had in mind, a sort of 'needle sword' with a blade only barely wider than the grip.
That gave me pretty much the entire range of variation I was looking for, so once the car stuff started getting resolved I went to work on putting them into to game for testing. For the most part they worked out great, which was kind of a surprise since these are all built with Outfit Studio. There was one definite annoyance, when it turned out that using the greatsword blade produced a couple of distinct seams in the enchantment overlays...
...but I generally prefer the look of its blade aside from that and really don't feel like going through the trouble of replacing it with the regular sword's blade, so meh.
Much more of a problem was getting the Dual Sheath functionality to work. I've never really built my own weapons before and certainly haven't messed around with adding Dual Sheath support to anyone else's, but these absolutely need it. It looks great on them!
...Aside from this part.
Since I'm pretty committed to the 'one-handed swords on back' look for my player characters, getting them to not occupy the same space was a priority. Fortunately, that just required moving the left-hand models down by about their own thickness.
Unfortunately, I was learning how to do this as I went and managed to hit just about every possible damn malfunction, from sheathes ending up on the wrong side after their sword is drawn to sheathes not un-equipping along with the weapon to right-hand swords not drawing in third-person. It was a whole bag of WTF that kept me running around trying to find solutions for a few days.
I was fully prepared for this to be a whole frickin' project by itself to fix, but then it turned out that I was just a doofus and forgot to make sure that the 'WeaponSwordLeft' string was on the sheath models. A-heh.
Works fine now.
There are still a few things that need work there, especially on the daggers which ended up too far apart when worn on the back and with the left-hand one in kind of an odd position when on the hip, but otherwise the whole thing's perfectly functional.
They also look pretty neat racked. They stay in place just fine as well, which I was a bit worried about as that's an issue for some weapon mods.
And they look quite nice in use:
The only problem I have left is that I'm not really sure what to call them. I had a spatha in mind when I started, but only the third one really turned out along those lines and only barely at that. The amount of variants in the second one makes it harder to categorize it as such, too. Maybe I'll just classify them by type, Oakeshott style.
The shields have been much easier to deal with.
I'm not personally a big shield-user, but the Vanilla Dwarven shield is absolutely A Problem. It does look pretty neat, but it's also massive and unwieldy and tends to clip through the body all over the place. As such finding a replacement for it that the Automated could use seemed like a damned good idea, and the crest I'd already pulled off of the Dwarven greatsword seemed like a great place to start. Once I had that scaled up to size it was just a matter of filling in the back.
That ring piece is really damn handy.
Unlike the swords getting this on the back was a piece of cake, since it only required duplicating the model and changing one string. Hasn't given me a bit of fuss.
More importantly for my purposes, it works just as well on NPCs.
The only real downside to it is that the symbol getting scaled up this much kinda skates the edges of its texture's resolution. I also figured that I could use a more direct replacement for the Vanilla shield, and I had a part laying around that I thought would be absolutely perfect for the job...
This one was a bit trickier to get working, though. Turned out that just dropping it in unaltered aside from the scale produced just about as bad arm clipping as the Vanilla version.
Rehabbing that required flattening it out and shoving it forward a few times, each of which also necessitated alterations to the already kinda iffy handle mount, but I eventually got something I was happy with.
This is obviously a lot massier than the round shield, which can be a bit of a problem when you have it up to block. The cutout does give you a pretty good view but it's well off-center.
It's also pretty enormous on the back, but that just adds to the tanky charm.
All this gives me a much better range of armament options for the Automated once I get these all finalized and into the main mod, but honestly they all turned out nicely enough that I'm very tempted to release them as a stand-alone pack as well. Aside from the Third Era stuff, I've long felt that the options for Dwarven weapons were a bit lacking. All the guns and chainsaws and whatnot are cute, but they're not really on-theme with what we've seen from the Dwarves in Skyrim and stuff that was just wasn't really there. I don't know about anyone else, but this is certainly an itch that I've wanted scratched for a while.
One more thing to bring up before I go. As part of my flailing around trying to fix those Dual Sheath issues, I finally got around to upgrading to the latest version of Outfit Studio. I ended up not needing it to physically flip all of the left-hand sword models, thankfully, but I did find the texture map editing tool they recently added to it. The first thing that came to mind when I saw that, of course, was re-centering the pattern on the Edhildil bikini top.
This worked out exceptionally well, but also leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. You see, the upside of this is that it gets the radial grid pattern centered on the nipple. The downside of this is that it gets the radial grid pattern centered on the nipple.
It's not a huge change, but it definitely ups the sketchiness factor. Takes it from arguably immodest to distinctly lewd. For something that's supposed to be the more 'presentable' outfit available for the Automated to run around in, that's a significant change. It does look nice...
...But given that it's no longer quite managing to fulfill its intended purpose I'm not entirely certain I want to move forward with it. Also applying it to all the fixed-weight versions would require completely regenerating those, which would be a pain. I don't think I'd want to have both in, either, and not just because jfc the parts count. I'd probably be fine with that if I ever find a more genuinely modest outfit that can work with the body parts, but just having two slight variations of the same top doesn't really cut it.
Eh, I'll figure something out eventually.