Tag Archives: Deus Ex

More Mods and Modding

Epic Games Mod Music

In a continuing effort to further perfect my mod music library, I’ve been redoing my conversions of the music from several of my favorite Epic MegaGames soundtracks, specifically Unreal, Unreal Tournament, and Jazz Jackrabbit 2.

My previous efforts were all plagued with improper volume levels as I naively thought that music should just be normalized and that’s it, job done. Since then, I’ve come to understand about loudness levels and limiters that can increase the volume without clipping. To be fair, normalizing is still the most appropriate way to level audio as it doesn’t alter the dynamic range. The only problem is that normalizing alone is impractical as all other music these days is boosted to a loudness of around -10 LUFS, and you don’t want to constantly adjust your speaker volume to account for the variance in volume. It seems mod music is particularly susceptible to being problematic in this regard as well since many tracks were made to just slam up against 0dB and let the player’s Auto-Gain Control sort it out.

Unfortunately, the automated mod conversion process that I mentioned last post has one major flaw in that it just kinda makes all the tracks the same volume. -10 LUFS loudness is fine for most lively music, but for softer tracks (like that of Unreal’s ambient music), you might want the volume up to 10 LUFS quieter. You really have to listen to each track and decide on an appropriate loudness. So, that’s what I did. You can download all three game soundtracks and listen to some samples from the Epic Games Tracker Music project page.

The majority of the three soundtracks were converted in the automated way using FFmpeg’s OpenMPT library and built-in audio filters. Some of the tracks were ones that I selectively recorded/remastered and then released here back in 2008, but just with the fixed volume levels. Luckily, I still had all the wave files available to use. And a few tracks I actually remastered recently in the same way that I did for the Deus Ex Soundtrack remaster. So, it’s kind of a hodge-podge of different conversion methods, unfortunately, but I wanted to just make it available for people as-is and hopefully add more remastered tracks later. It’s still very listenable, though, as long as you don’t mind some clicking and pops from bad samples and sudden track ends.

There’s also a bit of an issue with much of the Unreal music included as it only contains the ambient sections of each track. It wasn’t until after I had everything ready for upload that I finally figured out how to get FFmpeg to convert the other sections of the tracks. These sections are often referred to as “subsongs” (at least in contemporary mod players), but the mod formats don’t have a specific mechanism in place to define these sections. Instead, they merely use the Bxx effect command to jump to different patterns in the song. These can be used to loop different sections of the song and be programmatically switched between, e.g. in a video game. The OpenMPT library actually has a process included that can identify these sections, and it’s also available as an option in FFmpeg by utilizing the option -subsong. However, I couldn’t find a single example of how this option is used anywhere online and only later (through shear persistence… or maybe just dumb luck, I forget) discovered that the subsong option has to go before the input file is given (-i). Maybe that makes sense because it’s technically modifying what the input is…? I dunno, it seems pretty stupid to me, especially undocumented.

Regardless, I need to reconvert a lot of the Unreal soundtrack as such. I would have just gone ahead and done it, but many of the sections are rather long and perhaps need to be a separate track. Some people always complain about how I did the Deus Ex soundtrack remaster with every section included in one track, and I still think that was the right choice for Deus Ex, but it’s making me hesitant to repeat that arrangement for Unreal. It just needs further consideration.

And honestly, Unreal is probably the weaker of the three soundtracks. There’s definitely some great tracks in there, but UT and Jazz 2 just have some seriously bangin’ tracks. Alex Brandon really did some amazing mod compositions back then. I actually also realized that the versions of the Jazz 2 soundtrack that I had (from Lori Central) were slightly different from the game versions, so I converted all the Jazz 2 music a second time to see which versions I should include in my compilation. I ended up writing a whole PHP script to extract the mod format files from the j2b files that come with the game, and then found out that OpenMPT will just open the j2b files as is. 😄

Borderlands Modding

I’ve been playing a lot of Borderlands 2 recently. There’s just something about that game that makes it probably the best “looter shooter” AKA first-person action RPG—it’s probably the very satisfying visuals combined with the endlessly-humorous dialogue. Seeing damage numbers fly out of enemies as you shoot, punctuated by the occasional “CRITICAL” hit really prods those dopamine receptors. And all of the characters being just such over-the-top caricatures with the most irreverent dialogue—Scooter’s incestuousness, Moxxi’s innuendos, Brick’s insatiable bloodlust, all the bandits’ ridiculous one-liners, etc.—it always lifts my spirits.

But even for all its good qualities, the game isn’t without its faults. And I’m apparently perpetually drawn to attempting to fix such fault in the form of game modding. However, I specifically remember trying to find some BL2 modding tools several years back and coming up empty-handed. But after a recent playthrough, I looked again and was delighted to see that a modding community has sprung up around the game after a couple of different modding methods were devised.

The first modding method is quite straightforward and intrinsic to the Unreal engine that the game is built on, and thus I am surprised there weren’t more mods made for the game sooner. It relies on the console being enabled and then using two console commands to override game settings. The first being the set command, which changes any variable to some given value. And the second being the exec command, which reads a text file in and executes whatever commands it finds. These allow one to change as many game settings as necessary and then package the changes all in one convenient text file. There’s even a tool made to help format and merge multiple mods into one file called OpenBLCMM.

The other method I only started looking into recently, but it is very powerful if you have enough motivation to figure it all out. It’s of the variety of DLL-injected code wrappers that can load any number of external scripts and is called succinctly-enough PythonSDK. Unfortunately for me, I’ve been neglecting to learn Python for years (mainly because of my illness to be fair). Mostly I just find Python to only be popular because of this one gimmick it has where text indentation and line breaks also control code blocks. It is nice that all Python code looks really clean and uniform (boy, do I hate people that put beginning curlies as the only thing on a whole line in other languages), but it really doesn’t seem so groundbreaking that everyone needs to switch to it as the new hotness. But that’s probably just my uninformed and biased position as a newcomer. 😛 I also thought Half-Life 2 was overrated at first. 🤐

Anyways, I’ve already fixed a number of small nagging issues with BL2 and have a basic framework for a larger change mostly figured out. One thing that’s always annoyed me about Borderlands games is their inclusion of an accuracy attribute on all weapons. So, you can have your crosshair directly over an enemy and the shot just plain misses or hits but isn’t a critical hit. It removes a lot of the skill from the game and replaces it with luck, which feels less satisfying.

I’ve changed the game to always be completely accurate when aiming down the sights, and to also have slightly better accuracy control when hip-firing. It’s totally revitalized the game for me, making me rely much less on sniper rifles (which were always close to 100% accurate when aiming down the sights) and experimenting more with the other types of weapons. I’ve also been tweaking some of the recoil characteristics of the guns to make them more controllable, especially for the SMGs, which I could never quite put my finger on as to why they felt so bad to spray, but have since realized that it’s because they recoil mostly only horizontally—try keeping the reticle on-target when it constantly bounces left and right randomly.

I’d like to release my BL2 mods, of course, but the weapon handling mod will need a lot more testing and tweaking until it’s to a point where I’m satisfied with the feel and game balance. I guess it does make the game easier, provided your aim and recoil control is good, so that’s something I have to look into as well. Check back later to see if it gets completed and released. 😛

Deus Ex Soundtrack Videos

One thing I like to do these days when I’m feeling only-slightly crappy is edit videos. It requires only a modest level of thought and creativity while being mostly an engaging yet repetitive task—make a small timeline tweak, rewatch to see how it looks, repeat. My CPU is over 10 years old now, so it chugs a lot when editing HD video, but it’s bearable I suppose.

One project to come out of this video editing recently has been a series of music videos to accompany my remastered versions of the Deus Ex Soundtrack. I really wanted to expose a wider potential audience to the remasters, and I thought YouTube was a good platform for that, being so open and also having a huge library of music already. I thought about just putting a static image, the cover image, for the video portion (as so many people do for music videos on YouTube), but that seemed too lame and uninteresting for someone that was watching on anything with a screen. But I also didn’t want to have a lot of fast-moving gameplay captures since that would massively increase the file-size (for variable bit-rate video compression at least, which is what YouTube uses) for users only listening. So I decided on a compromise of in-game capture with a stationary camera to keep the motion down.

I ended up creating a little library of shortcuts and console commands to help simplify the process. Luckily, Deus Ex has all its scripts easily editable from inside UnrealEd (the original one still runs if you have all the ActiveX library files installed) unlike Borderlands 2. Here are the edits I made to the “DeusExPlayer” class.

var bool bToggleHud;
var bool bToggleGhost;
var bool bToggleInvisible;

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------
// ToggleHud - Snake Modification
// ----------------------------------------------------------------------

exec function ToggleHud()
{
    if (!bToggleHud)
        ShowHud(false);
    else
        ShowHud(true);
        
    bToggleHud = !bToggleHud;
}

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------
// ToggleGhost - Snake Modification
// ----------------------------------------------------------------------

exec function ToggleGhost()
{
    if (!bToggleGhost) {
        Ghost();
    } else {
        Walk();
        ClientMessage("Walking");
    }
        
    bToggleGhost = !bToggleGhost;
}

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------
// ToggleInvisible - Snake Modification
// ----------------------------------------------------------------------

exec function ToggleInvisible()
{
    bToggleInvisible = !bToggleInvisible;
    Invisible(bToggleInvisible);
}

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------
// SpawnMassPawn - Snake Modification
//
// Spawns a bunch of pawns around the player with an optional number, alliances, and weapons
// ----------------------------------------------------------------------

exec function SpawnMassPawn(Name ClassName, optional int TotalCount, optional Name Allies, optional Name Enemies, optional string WeaponPackage)
{
    local ScriptedPawn spawnee;
    local vector       spawnPos;
    local vector       center;
    local rotator      direction;
    local int          maxTries;
    local int          count;
    local int          numTries;
    local float        maxRange;
    local float        range;
    local float        angle;
    local class        spawnClass;
    local string       holdName;
    local float        rnd;
    local int          i;

    if (!bCheatsEnabled)
        return;

    if (!bAdmin && (Level.Netmode != NM_Standalone))
        return;

    if (instr(ClassName, ".") == -1)
        holdName = "DeusEx." $ ClassName;
    else
        holdName = "" $ ClassName;  // barf

    spawnClass = class(DynamicLoadObject(holdName, class'Class'));
    if (spawnClass == None)
    {
        ClientMessage("Illegal pawn actor name "$GetItemName(String(ClassName)));
        return;
    }

    if (totalCount <= 0) totalCount = 10; if (totalCount > 250)
        totalCount = 250;
    maxTries = totalCount*2;
    count = 0;
    numTries = 0;
    maxRange = sqrt(totalCount/3.1416)*4*SpawnClass.Default.CollisionRadius;

    direction = ViewRotation;
    direction.pitch = 0;
    direction.roll  = 0;
    center = Location + Vector(direction)*(maxRange+SpawnClass.Default.CollisionRadius+CollisionRadius+20);
    while ((count < totalCount) && (numTries < maxTries))
    {
        angle = FRand()*3.14159265359*2;
        range = sqrt(FRand())*maxRange;
        spawnPos.X = sin(angle)*range;
        spawnPos.Y = cos(angle)*range;
        spawnPos.Z = 0;
        spawnee = spawn(SpawnClass,,,center+spawnPos, Rotation);
        if (spawnee != None) {
            if (WeaponPackage != "") {
                //clear the default inventory
                for (i=0; i<8; i++) {
                    spawnee.InitialInventory[i].Inventory = None;
                    spawnee.InitialInventory[i].Count = 0;
                }
                switch (Caps(WeaponPackage)) {
                    case "PISTOL":
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponPistol');
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.Ammo10mm', 2);
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponCrowbar');
                        break;
                    case "MELEE":
                        rnd = Rand(3);
                        if (rnd == 0)
                            spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponCrowbar');
                        else if (rnd == 1)
                            spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponCombatKnife');
                        else
                            spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponBaton');
                        break;
                    case "ASSAULT":
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponAssaultGun');
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.Ammo762mm', 12);
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponAssaultShotgun');
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.AmmoShell', 12);
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponCombatKnife');
                        break;
                    case "FLAME":
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponFlamethrower');
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.AmmoNapalm', 8);
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponCombatKnife');
                        break;
                    case "NONLETHAL":
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponProd');
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.AmmoBattery', 6);
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponPepperGun');
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.AmmoPepper', 2);
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponBaton');
                        break;
                    case "PLASMA":
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponPlasmaRifle');
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.AmmoPlasma', 20);
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponNanoSword');
                        break;
                    case "SWORD":
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponNanoSword');
                        break;
                    case "STUN":
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.WeaponProd');
                        spawnee.AddInitialInventory(Class'DeusEx.AmmoBattery', 50);
                        break; 
                }
            }
            spawnee.InitializePawn();
            if (Allies != '')
                spawnee.SetAlliance(Allies);
                spawnee.ChangeAlly(Allies, 1, True);
            if (Enemies != '')
                spawnee.ChangeAlly(Enemies, -1, True);
            count++;
        }
        numTries++;
    }

    ClientMessage(count$" actor(s) spawned");

}

The first three functions just allow you to have a single key for each of the commands by toggling them. The last function is a modification of an existing function that lets you spawn a bunch of objects around the player, but I’ve expanded it so you can set alliances and give them weapons. This was handy for spawning two groups of characters and then having them fight so I could record it. 😄

To use all of these functions, you need to make some modifications to your Deus Ex keybinds in the User.ini file. Find the section [Engine.Input] and add the following commands to some keys.

L=legend
K=set deusex.jcdentonmale bcheatsenabled false
J=set deusex.jcdentonmale bcheatsenabled true
I=ToggleInvisible
H=ToggleHud
G=ToggleGhost
Tilde=type

As for what these keybinds all do: J will turn cheats (and the type command) on, K turns cheats back off. The game puts a “cheats enabled” watermark on save game screenshots to make you feel bad about cheating, so it’s helpful to be able to turn it back off. Tilde (~) opens the command line so you can type in commands like the SpawnMassPawn() defined above. H toggles hiding the HUD, useful, of course, for getting clean screenshots or video captures. G toggles “ghost mode”, which is basically just noclip plus fly, so you can position the camera wherever you need to get the best shot. I toggles invisibility, which is useful for making actors not respond to you. You’d think ghost would be enough, but they’ll still target you if not invisible. And L opens the in-game debug / “secret” menu. It’s useful for switching maps without having to type in the open console command. See the screenshots below.

So, utilizing all of these tools was how I was able to record all the b-roll footage for the YouTube videos. I guess it’s nothing special, but maybe it helps give people the nostalgia berries even more, really putting them into the levels, plus some silly fight scenes for the lulz. The response from YouTube comments and views has certainly been positive, at least. For the record, I only did videos for the tracks that I redid in the recent soundtrack update. I’m hoping to do the rest of the videos when I do the rest of the remasters.

What Else I’m Up To

As I spend most of my days feeling unwell, I end up watching a lot of gaming streams. I’m quite thankful that such lengthy forms of entertainment exist these days. There are three streamers that I watch pretty much exclusively. I got into ChocoTaco from my PUBG addiction, and I think he best mirrors what my playstyle would be if I weren’t sick–extremely calculated and with good instincts. Unfortunately, Choco’s sense of humor is a bit lacking, so for a dose of levity, I like to watch a British streamer called Platform32. I also discovered him through PUBG, but he plays a fair amount of other games that I enjoy as well, all laced with copious amounts of witty and raunchy banter. Finally, and this is bit of an odd one, but I really enjoy watching Felicia Day for some reason. She’s not the greatest of gamers, but she does okay, and the arc of her failing repeatedly before finally overcoming challenges is entertaining somehow—Felicia can be quite bombastic. That, and she talks a lot and is generally insightful enough to keep it interesting.

Like I said earlier, I’m doing a fair bit of video and audio editing. I’ve become rather decent at it, frankly. I’m also doing a lot of home improvement since it allows me to not have to think so much. Plumbing, electrical, woodworking, HVAC repair, painting—I’ve been dabbling in it all. Getting people to come out on my schedule and fix things has become quite inconvenient and expensive these days, so DIY almost seems like a necessity as long as it’s not an emergency repair.

And I’m still playing some video games, though not for as long or as wide a variety as I would like. I played a lot of Vampire Survivors and Ooblets last year. And, of course, I have my yearly replay of Slime Rancher and Stardew Valley to occupy me.

Well, this is an epicly-long post, so I better end it already. I do appreciate the comments everyone leaves; sometimes they do encourage me to poke around with a project again.

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Mods, Mods, Mods: A few updates

I’ve been publishing some small projects lately, so I thought it was a good time for an update on them and how things are going.

My health is still not good. I think the progression of my illness has slowed slightly as I’ve become more aware of how it functions and how to manage it.  However, I’m still not aware of what it is.  I’m still researching and analyzing and fighting to figure it out, though.  But it is probably some kind of rare genetic metabolic disorder.  Regardless, I have to take things slow and put any energies into smaller, less-intense projects.

Mod Music Conversion

One such project was converting all my old mod music into MP3s so I could listen to them more conveniently.  I’ve been manually converting small batches of mods for years and found through that process that many automated ways of transcoding mods had issues.  Either metadata would be left out or certain bits wouldn’t sound right or the volume was too low or the frequency balance would be muddy sounding.  This is why I would always just playback the mod in ModPlug Player (my player of choice) and directly record the output into Audition, tweak the volume, save to MP3, and done.  You can’t reasonably do this for a library of over 400 songs, though.

The first problem I wanted to tackle was getting as much metadata out of a module file as possible and putting it into an MP3 file’s ID3 tags. I started looking into libOpenMPT as a way to open the four major mod formats and grab their metadata in a standardized way.  It’s a decent library, but the documentation could use some work. I had to read through its source code for hours until realizing that it returns strings as UTF8. This was only a problem because .Net can only marshal strings from unmanaged memory that are ANSI or UTF16 by default, which seems pretty weird given UTF8 is so common.  But one custom UTF8 marshaling function later and I was in business.

The next problem was that the mod metadata ended up being not the greatest. Almost all mods have a title and a field for what tracker software was used, but modification date only became a feature by the Impulse Tracker format, and none of the main formats have artist fields.  I had to use a lot of regex magic to even get a fraction of the date and artist metadata from the song comments.  The comments, by the way, are another quirk of the mod formats.  Artists typically put notes about their work in the comments; however, only Impulse Tracker had a specific field for this. The earlier formats used either sample names or instruments for these notes.  Being that I wanted to preserve all of this in the extracted metadata, I just concatenated all three fields together with some delimiters between them.

Luckily, getting the extracted metadata into an MP3 file is a bit more simple as there are a number of ID3 libraries for .Net.  TaglibSharp is the most popular one, but it is not without its quirks as well.  Particularly, trying to delete specific user text frames (TXXX) is not the least bit straightforward.  But in the end, I came up with an imperfect little tool to copy module metadata to an MP3 file (or output to text if necessary for your purposes) that I put up on Github.  Thankfully, ID3 is a much better tagging format than what module files used. 😄

As I was trying to figure out how to work with libOpenMPT, though, I discovered that ffmpeg also uses this library to load module audio. Given that libOpenMPT was basically the evolution of ModPlug, I thought that the playback might be comparable between the two. I did some test runs converting a few songs to MP3 and found the results to be promising.  Obviously, the aforementioned muddiness of the sound persists, but I then found that ffmpeg has quite a vast library of audio filters to utilize. One EQ later and that issue is fixed right up.

What was more of a struggle was how to balance the volume of the songs.  Naturally, you don’t want to risk clipping the audio data by doing a straight up amplify.  ffmpeg does include a hard limit filter to avoid clipping, but how do you know how much to amplify?  You can’t normalize a song’s audio without having the whole song to analyze and ffmpeg only works in streams of audio data.  It’s a problem I have yet to find a straightforward way to tackle. In the end, I used the loudnorm filter to extract the loudness of the song, calculated the amplitude needed to reach about -10 LUFS, and then did a second pass including the desired hard limit.  More information on the whole conversion process can be found on the Github page for the metadata extractor.

Ultimately, I’m fairly pleased with the results of this project. I did get my entire mod library converted to MP3 with some snazzy album art and good sound.  But I also did end up having to manually adjust a lot of the artist names and titles in MusicBrainz Picard to catch all the missing artists and make them all uniform, so that was a bit of a drag. Also, there are a few songs that seem to have minor issues with conversion accuracy, primarily Necros songs coincidentally.  I may still end up manually recording a number of the songs ultimately, but what I’ve got so far is pretty damn good.

Mods MP3 library in Dark Audio Station

Mods MP3 library in Dark Audio Station

Deus Ex Soundtrack v2

Given that I was already binging old mods, my conversion of the Deus Ex Soundtrack—which was originally in the mod format—kept coming up on shuffle.  However, I was getting pretty annoyed at how quiet the songs were as I had stupidly only normalized the volume instead of hard limiting it.  I thought it would be a quick couple day project of loading up the original wave recordings and tweaking the volume levels, but I soon found lots of other lingering issues with those recordings.  It was mainly just clicking from bad sample loops or poorly recorded/encoded samples.  I imagine this was due to a combination of time crunch and crude audio tools during the soundtrack’s original creation, so I can’t fault Alex Brandon too much.  Coincidentally, if you need to go insane, try finding the right loop points that make an audio sample not click and sound decent. 😛

Eventually, I ended up re-doing from scratch about a third of the soundtrack as I had also stupidly not saved the intermediate mod files from the original conversion. 😄  So, every one of the those bad 8-bit samples had to be cleaned up again.  To be fair, I think I did an even better job with that as audio editors have gotten a bit more advanced in the interim.  I’d like to redo the entire soundtrack, but many of the songs were pretty decent already and I’m kinda burnt out on it for now. But maybe in the future…

At this time, I’ve already uploaded the MP3 version of the new soundtrack conversion to its page.  I’m still working on getting a new FLAC version done as it has a different tagging format.  And I’m also thinking about making the intermediate mod files available for download, although obviously that would only include the tracks I redid recently.  These files would be Impulse Tracker format with all the samples cleaned up and other fixes and new outros included.  Additionally, I’m also exploring the possibility of copying the cleaned up samples back to the original UMX files to improve the game music as well.

Deus Ex Soundtrack Cover Art

Deus Ex Soundtrack Cover Art

Diablo 2 Mods

And in another kind of modding, Diablo 2 mods!  Yes, I am still modding this old ass, janky game.  However, that may be changing soon with the imminent release of the Remastered version of the game.  Blizzard said modding is still possible in the new release, but I highly doubt it’s as comprehensive.  I would be delighted to hear they switched the data format away from TSV text tables, though.  I’d think something more object-oriented where you could define a default item, inherit and change what needs to in child items, and modify some of the raw functions would be the dream.  But, I’d be pleased with at least a switch to JSON for the data definitions.

Regardless, I haven’t done too much modding this time around. I just overhauled how the respec and socketing mod works.  I realized that I could just add the Token of Absolution—an item which resets your skill and stat point allocation—right to a vendor instead of continuing to use the Horadric Cube recipe.  It’s a little janky this way as I had to change its item type to that of a potion to get the tooltip to work, but right-clicking on the ToA still gives the desired result, albeit with the drawback that the game crashes if you try to give the vendor more than one to sell, it can be put on your belt, and its cost changes based on what level the character is.

I also realized that I should include a recipe for adding sockets to items in the mod as there already is one but it’s crazy high-level and convoluted.  Tangent, but, isn’t it lame how you have to “remember” all these cube recipes to play the game.  We’re all looking them up on a wiki anyways and that’s not fun.  I’m glad Diablo 3 got rid of that aspect.  Anyways, I changed the recipe that adds sockets to something more reasonable but still balanced.  And I also discovered that there was an unused recipe function that allowed gems to be removed from sockets without destroying them, so I added a new recipe for that as well.  However, both of these recipes require gems to perform.  I’ve been thinking about adding a new rare crafting material that could be used in the socket recipes, but it seems like a lot of work plus would take valuable inventory space even if the mats stacked.

I’m also thinking about removing the Magic Find attribute from my drops mod.  It’s kind of a counter-productive stat to have on items, like it doesn’t help you survive or kill monsters but you want it maxed out so you can find the best loot.  I just feel like the loot drops should always be good—in a fun and balanced way.  So I might just remove magic find and increase the drop chances even more, but it’s a tough one because it needs lots of testing before release.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this developer diary of a post.  My apologies for not doing more awesomeness in recent years, but… it’s something at least.  I think next I might try to give this site an overhaul; I’ve been neglecting to add proper mobile support for many years and the WordPress theme is like a decade old.  I’m still dreaming of doing an update to Cursor Lock, though; I think it’s passed about a half-million downloads across all sites now.  However, I’d really love to do a major update on File Lister as it’s the program of mine that I use the most.  It’s just so crazy useful for doing batch operations and management on files, and I’d like to extend that capability.

Take care, everyone.  Stay safe and don’t get the ‘rona!

Posted in Media, Miscellaneous, Modding, Programming | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Diablo II Mods and Code Stuff

Hello all. My apologies for not updating this website more.  My life has become complicated lately, and in these uncertain times I find it difficult to want to write about it.  A shame really, as the site has never been more popular.  Seems like every time a new game comes out lacking multi-monitor support, I get hundreds of new visitors and users for Cursor Lock; a few weeks ago, it was Cites: Skylines.  And today with the announcement of another new Deus Ex game, my version of the soundtrack is hotter than ever.  It does make me feel good to know that I can produce things that people need, even if it’s only for video games.

Speaking of video game content, I spent a lot of time a few months ago working on a new class for Diablo II.  Well, it’s not really a completely new class, more like a subclass since I only changed one skill tree for the Amazon.  It just really bugged me how the Amazon felt so lame compared to the Diablo 3 Demon Hunter.  It’s really difficult to keep the monsters from swarming the Amazon, so I designed some Demon Hunter-inspired skills to help remedy the problem, such as caltrops, turrets, and smokescreens.  You can see these skills in action in the video below.

I also just wanted to fulfill my desire to do some really hardcore modding for Diablo II.  The game has a rather awkward system for making modifications.  If it were made today, we’d probably have XML files and LUA scripts to work with.  But since it was made 15 years ago, we instead have to settle for massive CSV files.  You can find the Demon Hunter mod on my Diablo II mod page.  And massive props to the Phrozen Keep for continuing to support D2’s modders.

Another thing that bothered me about Diablo II for so long is that when you die your corpse keeps all your equipment on it, and you respawn basically naked and unarmed.  Your only options are to run in, snatch everything off your corpse, and teleport back to town, or rage quit and hope that your corpse returns to town like it’s supposed to.  Obviously, this is almost always zero fun and is why no games handle death like this anymore.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to change this in the game’s CSV tables.  But I didn’t let that stop me.  Every now and then, a problem comes along which must be solved through assembler hacking, and this was one of those times.  But I didn’t really have a clue which function was involved in character death.  So, I just put breakpoints on every function in IDA and attached to the running process.  It took a while of breaking, disabling breakpoints, and resuming, but I eventually narrowed it down to several dozen functions involved in death.  Some functions did death animations, some saved character data, but then I found a suspicious bit of code that would loop 14 times—the number of equipment slots.  This was the code where the game looped through each equipment slot and moved the item from the player to the player’s dead body.  And then there was nothing left to do but some trial and error to figure out where I could safely jump over the offending code and re-enter.  Now the only problem is that this mod will have to be updated every time there’s a Diablo II patch. 😥

Here we see the fateful jump operation to bypass the character equipment being removed.

Here we see the fateful jump operation to bypass the character equipment being removed.

Since then, I’ve been turning back to more PHP/HTML/CSS/JS coding.  I’m working on a project that I can’t disclose at this time but which quite possibly could be my most epic work yet.  Wish me luck in completing it.

Recently, I’ve also been using PHP as my go to scripting language for everyday projects.  A couple days ago, I wanted to be able to pull all GPS image data from a directory and display it in Google Earth.  PHP has file IO, EXIF, and XML libraries, so it was real convenient to bash out a script using that.  Then I realized I had created an account on Github recently to comment on some projects and thought why not just put this code on there.  So I did.  Maybe I’ll add more small projects like this in the future.

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Steam Widget in the Wild!

Steam Widget on WordPress.org

As I said I would last weekend, I got my new Steam Widget up on WordPress.org.  I still want to add some things like stats links and currently in-game, but I think it’s a good first release.

Also, I forgot to mention this in my last post, but it’s pretty cool still.  A German guy did a drum remix using my remastered versions of the Deus Ex UNATCO and Area 51 themes and posted them on Youtube a few months ago.  Check it out.

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Deus Ex and such

I just finished my second playthrough of the new Deus Ex game, Human Revolution. It has a few bugs but is generally the best game I’ve played in a while. Though, I must say that the original Deus Ex is still a smidge better. So far I haven’t given a full review, but if I did so it’d be on Metacritic where I’ve been doing my other reviews.

Also, in my last playthrough of DX:HR, I took a bunch of screenshots of the weapon mods and Praxis Kits that I found and then gave descriptions of where they’re located. With Steam’s nifty new screenshot management, I was able to easily upload them all to my Steam page for your reference. It’s probably the beginnings of a new DX guide.

So I’m still doing a ton of gaming since I started working full-time and less of being productive. However, one thing I’ve been contemplating is converting my site to WordPress for a few reasons. It would add commenting features for all my posts and other content, and I’m hoping that getting more feedback would be a good motivator for me. Also, having a slick backend should help me post more often. Plus I’ve been using WP a lot at work lately and I’m pretty comfortable developing for it now so it shouldn’t be much trouble to extend it to my needs.

The only thing I’m stumbling on is the design of the new WordPress site. I’ve been toying with a mockup for the last month but I’m not sure I like any of it. I’ve been trying to keep some of the colors and graphics of the current site’s style. Maybe I need to start over from scratch on this.

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OMG!! Deus Ex 3!!!1

I’m crazy psyched about the upcoming Deus Ex game. Maybe I’m just being a fanboy, but I think the trailers Eidos Montreal have put out for it are the best I’ve ever seen for a video game. The style, clarity, music, action, and glimpses of story are all hyper-intense–a couple even get me choked up at times. In the HD trailers, it’s hard to even tell the difference between pre-rendered CG, in-game cutscenes, or actual gameplay footage.

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Beyond the feel of the game, the play sounds like it’s shaping up quite nicely as well. PC Gamer has a couple of good articles about all the gameplay aspects up:

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