Friday, August 15, 2008

Coming 'Round the Mountain

The Coldlands is a mountainous region that is rich in heliotrope, a gem that is better known as bloodstone. Despite the abundance of gems in these mountains, only the toughest and most desperate prospectors dare to stake a claim here because of the savage humanoids that infest the region. Gareth Dragonsbane, the king of Damara, offers a bounty on the heads of these creatures, but in attempting to collect these heads, many adventurers have lost theirs in the process.

The initial part of Faithless is set in the Coldlands, where the player characters will eventually stumble upon an adventure far more dangerous than collecting monster heads. The very first area that they will find themselves in is a mining camp. Although I had created the initial area last April, I decided to change it because it does not measure up to the prefabs that I've been adapting for my module.

I searched the Vault for an area prefab that would make a suitable location for the mining camp. I wanted the area to have tall mountains with sufficient space for a mining camp and a pathway to the mine itself. The camp must be large enough to have the usual tents as well as a crafting station for players who want to craft weapons or armor.

Needless to say, the camp must also have space for other amenities.

I downloaded several mountain prefabs from the Vault, but I was dissatisfied with nearly all of them. The way the textures were applied was often bad, and the choice and location of placeables and trees left much to be desired. I've come to realize that making a convincing mountain area strains the capabilities of most modders.

Fortunately, I found one prefab that was perfect for my needs. Not only were the mountains realistic, but the prefab also had level space for a cabin and an animal pen. I took away the cabin and most of the surrounding placeables, but I retained the animal pen. I also added some non-hostile NPCs to the area, as may be seen from the picture to the right.

The only real problem that I had with the prefab was that it didn't look like it could be set in the Coldlands. The place had a very arid feel to it, so much so that I could almost feel my skin drying when I took a virtual stroll through the area. The prefab that I am referring to is the Surague Escarpment by Anduraga, who also answers to the name Josh. Readers may recall from my last post that Josh had done a wonderful job revamping the Basilica of Lost Hope, an area that was originally featured in Mask of the Betrayer. I am fortunate in being able to call upon Josh's talents a second time, albeit indirectly.

Adapting the Surague Escarpment for my module called for an extreme makeover. Firstly, I replaced all the trees and shrubs with flora that were more suitable for a cold mountain region. This task is actually easier than it sounds. All I had to do was to select all the trees of each type and change their Appearance Type in the Properties window to a more appropriate tree. I also used the texture replacement feature of the toolset to replace some of the textures with mud or grass. With the new textures in place, I found the mountain pathways too dark, so I painted over the pathways with a lighter shade of gray.

With the easy part over, I had to manually apply other mud and grass textures to make the area look more convincing. I also tweaked the grass a bit. The thing about grass is that it doesn't look good when viewed from afar. Since there were a number of non-walkable spots with grass on them, I weeded out the grass from those spots. On the other hand, grass looks good over the roots of trees, so I added more grass in places that didn't have enough of it.

I wanted the area to look like it is set in early spring, so I adjusted the light and bloom settings accordingly. For the daytime, these settings are as follows.

  • BloomBlurRadius = 3
  • BloomHighlightIntensity = 0.3
  • BloomHighlightThreshold = 2
  • BloomSceneIntensity = 0.85
  • Fog: FogColor = 173, 183, 201
  • ShadowIntensity = 0.45
  • SkyLight: DiffuseColor = 153, 125, 68
  • SkyLight: Intensity = 1
  • SkyLight: SpecularColor = 163, 125, 105
  • SkyZenith = 107, 126, 196
  • SunMoon: DiffuseColor = 232, 220, 169
  • SunMoon: Intensity = 1.35
  • SunMoon: SpecularColor = 234, 230, 210

There is still the question of where to locate the mine entrance. The Surague Escarpment is a very large area with quite a few caves in it. I can choose any one of them to be the mine site, or I can choose to have all of them as potential sites for exploration. If I choose only one, I should probably reduce the size of the area. I want to defer this decision for when I'm designing my encounters, however. For now, I can move on to designing other areas of my module.


Josh said...

I'm glad you were able to find a use for Surague in your module :) The changes you made definantly changed the arid feel to a more somewhat chilly atmosphere. The Sky settings usually assist with this kind of thing alot.

Great work, Elysius! :)

Frank Perez said...

Thanks, man. It was a pleasure working on the Surague. :)

Phoenixus said...

I admit, I'm pretty impressed there Frank.

Your last few batches of screenshots are incredibly mood inducing. My hat's off to you, you did a good job with that.

Liso said...

I swear Frank. you have some of the best updates on your blog! Always a pleasure stopping by and seeing what you have been up to!!!


Frank Perez said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Phoenixus and Michele. They are always a pleasure to hear. :)