Half-Life 2 turns 15 in a couple weeks, Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II turned 25 this year, and I'm working on a new ambient mod in the vein of my "Ghosts I-IV + Quake" piece from a couple years ago

This one won't just be a tourism mod where you move through each level space though, I'm trying out something different to put you in these environments. It's a lot more meditative and I'm not sure it's going to work, or that people will get it, but it's interesting to work on.

Show thread

Work is progressing on this so I feel a bit more comfortable talking about it. The first release will just be the album's first track, "Cliffs", paired with a single level from the game. I'll update the mod each time I do a new track/level.
Rather than normal or enemy-less play, each track will be a series of choreographed camera shots/moves, like machinima except you can look around freely. The idea is to "be" in these spaces, in the *context* of the music.

Show thread

I've been able to do this entirely with level scripting. However I soon realized that a level editor (Hammer) wasn't helping much for this kind of work, so I wrote some Python to generate map entity data which is then patched in during map load. I scout out and frame the shots in-game flying around in noclip mode, then paste the output of the "getpos" console command into a data table where I can define everything about a shot.
None of this requires (plat-specific) C++ mod code, which was my aim

· · Web · 1 · 1 · 1

What I find interesting about this is that even though I forsook a proven GUI for a code and text-based solution, I still think it was a major improvement in workflow because of how tight the focus of this labor is. The editor adds a ton of complexity that I don't need, especially factoring in the map compile process.
Tool design principle: cut away all data and process that isn't relevant to what the user is trying to express.

Show thread

It also means spending most of the labor time in-game (with a text editor open in the background) instead of in an editor that is a pretty indirect representation of what I'm working on.
Anyways this setup works well so far, and I'm interested in potentially live streaming my work on future tracks as it seems friendly to that.

Show thread

Heading home from work on Friday I had a tiny epiphany about this project: a lot of the shot sequencing could be done easily in a video editing program. So I took screenshots of each camera cut and brought them into kdenlive and started laying them down alongside the music. Once I had something I was happy with, I transcribed the start times of each clip back to my shot data "script". This saved a ton of time and I've now got something that is only some minor tweaks from being final.

Show thread

The tool design lesson here is maybe, if the data you're working with is similar enough to an existing tool paradigm, see if you can find a way to get your data in and out of an existing good tool. Wherever possible, only build things that there isn't already a good tool for.

Show thread

I'm really not sure what people are going to make of this project, but I don't care that much. I'm glad I went through this process. The work has been deeply instinctual and it's everything I don't get from a day job. Thank you for following along with this dev thread. The mod's first release will be next Saturday.

Show thread

@jplebreton I think I should know this already, but now I want to find out if there's some kind of standard text based format for editing instructions. Imagine how much time you could have saved if you could have just exported instead of copying out start/end times by hand. That's monkey work, we built computers to do that for us.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Server run by the main developers of the project 🐘 It is not focused on any particular niche interest - everyone is welcome as long as you follow our code of conduct!