So I'm not quite going to manage to hit my goal of getting this update out this year, clearly. In a way I'm actually okay with that, as it means I won't have to put the dread name of 2020 onto my work. But I should be able to get it published in the very near future, barring any fresh disasters. It's basically done, but I've still got some error checking and housekeeping to do before it's ready to get put up. I've also got to decide exactly how to put it up; the whole mass of this together is about 815MB compressed (and something over 5GB unpacked), which puts it well over LL's 250MB upload limit. I could chop it into parts like I did for the Type XXX release, but all the stuff added in for the NPCs complicates that to the point that I don't want to bother. I'm leaning towards just putting the whole thing up at once as a Mega link.
And, as you might've expected, I spent some time making last-minute changes and additions, as is my wont. One of the more extensive changes actually has very little visible impact, as I followed through on something I mentioned in the last post and built a whole new race for the NPCs that don't have Live faces, solely for the purposes of getting rid of that damn disembodied mouth bug that I kept running into with them. It took a while to get working, but it lets me freely make faceplated NPCs without having to worry about that issue.
These guys are a little bit different from the 'regular' Automated in that their nude body is reverted back to the bare torso frame instead of being changed to a head, mainly so they can fit better with the original DMA concept of being 'built to suit' that got slightly lost with the Live faces.
I also very briefly poked at the idea of making this race playable, but ended up cutting that for now after running into a couple of complications. One of the more glaring ones being the question of how to change their starting outfit; in the test run I did it just kept sticking them back into the prisoner rags, which does this concept no favors at all.
So you won't get to have a playable Automated race just yet, but I do intend to package up that stopgap version I've gone over previously that just replaces the default head mesh with a modified version that supports the Live Face effect. That method has mostly worked fine for me in my test runs so far, but I did run into one notable side-effect. While the NPCs with existing FaceGen meshes (i.e., every properly built one) don't display the effect outside of a very brief moment when they first render into a cell, NPCs that do not have FaceGen meshes and who display the resulting Grey Face bug also now have this problem:
This is something I probably should've expected from what I could figure out about how both the Live Face effect and FaceGens work, but it's still freaky to see it in the wild. And a good reminder for me to double-check my packaged FaceGens, which was useful because I totally forgot to re-point the textures on a bunch of the converted Vanilla NPCs.
In terms of the less under-the-hood additions, the biggest is probably the new swords you might've noticed in the images above. These were another thing that I actually kinda forgot for a while. When I was putting together the weapons for this mod that ended up getting released as the Relic Armaments, one of the variants included parts taken from the Dibella shrine. I wasn't quite happy with how it turned out, though, and when it turned out that the shrine parts had to be rehabbed to keep the weapon from crashing the game when equipped I just cut it from the stand-alone pack, intending to get back to it later when I rolled them all back into DMA. And then I completely blanked on it until I was finalizing the outfits for the Statues and Idols and thought, 'Boy, these really could use some themed weapons... Oh, right. Crap.'
Fortunately with my previous practice it was fairly easy to toss these together once I fixed the shrine parts. First up was an evolution of my original take on the concept, a version of the disk-hilted shortsword incorporating the mirror piece from the shrine. This originally had the flower part of the shrine grasping one of those swirly orbs stuck onto the pommel, but poking at it again I felt it worked better with that taken off.
That pommel didn't get dropped entirely, though. I just migrated it over to a version of the orb-hilted dagger with the swirls recolored kind of pink to function as a Dibellan ritual dagger.
Both of those are just rehabilitations of earlier ideas, though, and since they were done quickly I wanted to try building out something a bit different using the parts. One thing I didn't quite manage to do with the Relics was make a rapier-type sword. I approached that with the 'needle' blade, but that's too plain to really hit the 'rapier' boxes, mainly because of the complete lack of an ornate hilt. And I still didn't have anything put together that would be quite right for the full hand guard of a proper rapier, but I was interested in seeing what I could do with that flower structure from the shrine...
Yeah, I'd say that works pretty well. Maybe still not a true rapier, but it's ornate as hell and that's half the battle. It also inspired a bit of a change to the shrine parts; originally I had them recolored brass in the usual way, with the main texture replaced with the Dwarven tile and the environment map added on, but on the larger and more noticeable hilt piece here that just felt flat and washed out. So I made a quick bronze version of the shrine's texture to use instead, which added a lot of depth back in.
While I was at it I also wanted to do something non-sword. I had an idea for something along the lines of a mace, but first I started out with something simpler and more brutal than what I had been going for with the other designs.
This is fairly basic, just a modification of the Dwarven mace's handle with a recolor of the spiked ball trap stuck on top of it, but it's very satisfyingly mean looking. It works quite well in the hands of the enemy Automated.
But in the end, this was just practice. What I really wanted to do was to stick Dibella's shrine on the end of a rod and beat people to death with it.
What can I say? I'm easily amused. The Fragment in the mace head is a particularly entertaining element, given how it retains its glow cycle.
There's other things that I wouldn't mind doing in this vein and might play with later, but this was enough to satisfy my thematic requirements and properly arm the Dibellans.
Aside from that I've mostly been hammering out various tweaks and improvements to the Facility, one of the most notable being a revamp to how I'd been doing the containers. I'd originally set up a bunch of the big Dwarven chests placed around the Facility to serve as distribution points for the DMA parts, but I was never really happy with that. They were kind of a pain to get into the positions that I wanted, so a lot of them just ended up being sorta scattered around. It didn't look great, and it didn't really work with the theme of being output points for the Facility's hidden production lines. But I had also been poking around with modifying and subbing out meshes with the idea of creating new doors for some other concepts that aren't quite going to make it into here. I figured that since I can just sub out meshes to make new containers as well, why not use that to do something more on-theme?
This mesh is the spawn portal for the Dwarven Sphere with the chute part chopped off so it can be repurposed as a general portal. Sadly it doesn't seem to be able to activate its animations when used in this application, but it gets the general idea across rather well. So much so that I also used it to rebuild a lot of the safe storage I have scattered around the place for the player and add a couple a resource points in crafting areas.
This change also let me clean up the main machine chamber some, now that all the chests were out of the way. That gave me space for a quick little control panel type of thing...
I also leaned into the idea that the machine teleports completed Automated into the chamber by adding a SFX mesh to the output area like I've done with the other teleportation devices.
This came about as a direct result of the in-game books I wrote for this update, which were the single biggest time-sink of the last few weeks. Hammering out the head-canon I've got around all this and trying to put it into the voice of the Researcher was a giant pain, and there's still a lot of stuff that I could probably clarify or expand upon that I'm just gonna skip because I've already got ten damn volumes and a sampling of character write-ups.
The researcher is also a part of the handful of things I've added to the world outside of the Facility, in the form of a copy of herself that she sent off as a messenger didn't quite make it.
There's a couple of other spots in the region where you can find stray Automated. I didn't go too ham with this, largely because finding good places for them is annoyingly time-consuming, but it's nice to have a few encounters.
And lastly I found a couple more NPCs to cram in, specifically some humanoid Automated that use the full D2 torso like the Beast race ones. Partly because I like the look, but also because I'd mentioned them as rare cases in those books. They're... not exactly high-effort characters, being quick copies of Lydia and Jordis with fancy hair as generic Automated Housecarls. Not my best work, but whatevs.
I put a little more effort into someone that's not actually going to be implemented in this release, as she kinda serves as a test for something I want to do later on: a Live Faced statue character.
This was a 'there's no reason this shouldn't work' sort of situation. Doing it with the metal faces might be a bit trickier, as getting the environment map to work on those requires running the mesh through an .obj conversion which seems to have negative effects on its interactions with the .tri files, but the stone textures can just slap right onto the native face meshes without issue. All I had to do to get it to work with the Live Face effect was cut a mask shape out of it. The problem is doing it with a Vanilla face, as those only work middlingly well in stone due to their low-poly nature, and there's no decent way to give them stone teeth and tongues to keep those on-theme. On top of that it also keeps coming out slightly greyer than the texture on the body, for some damn reason. As a result of those issues this test isn't placed anywhere in the game, although I did leave her floating around in the CK files if you want to use the console to grab her. She mainly serves as a proof of concept for when I get around to working on my next plan for this mod, which is to finally re-incorporate all the Charmers of the Reach content along with some Live Face NPCs using that headmesh. The Charmers head works much better in stone and has retexturable teeth, so this idea is much more viable with them.
But all that's for the hopefully less terrible future. For now I'm just focusing on getting this batch of girls out into the wild.