Blog 492: The 0630 Train to Y4

RDZ tells no lies — Project Y4 has suffered for the few months as The Elder Blogs progressed from Arena to Oblivion, not to mention the (somewhat brief) sojourn into Mass Effect 3.

Of course there has been sporadic small-scale work along the way (the gate can never close completely), but it’s hardly been a focused effort.

Naturally, this cannot be allowed to continue.

Retaking Y4

When I switched employers a few months ago, I ascertained that I would save 1.5 hours a day (a combination of travel time and a nine o’clock start) — over the course of a week, that’s 7.5 hours, a full working day at the old place.

The problem is that one of those daily bonus hours occurs in the morning, when one is traditionally in bed.

I had originally intended to use the time between breakfast and getting ready to leave, by getting out of bed early enough to continue breakfasting as before. But there’s a peculiar psychological trait that I manifest, in that I find myself completely unable to get out of bed before I actually balls-to-the-wall going-to-be-late have to. The schedule became breakfast at ten to eight, get ready and out the door for quarter past.

One of the first morning tasks has been to spruce up the rocks.

The solution is to attempt to subvert the natural order. If I can’t get out of bed to have breakfast early enough, why don’t I get out of bed before breakfast…

By some peculiar quirk of biology and psychology, this plan (so far) seems to have worked. The radio comes on at BBC Radio 2 (I am an old man, but Real Radio is incorrigible (in a bad way)), Chris Evans says something shouty or plays a shouty sound-effect, I roll out of bed and Daedalus roars into life (probably making my parents think somebody is having a drag race in the street outside, but there’s little I can do for Y4 on Astradyne).

Granted, falling out of bed at 6.30 in the morning doesn’t exactly put one in the finest frame of mind for hard-core development work, but with no internet (I steel myself and keep the network card firmly off) and no distractions it’s so far been rather useful for powering away at grunt-work that would (at any other time of the day) just descend into more fine-tuning of the terrain (among other avoidance tactics).

I also finally got around to filling in a large hole in the ground with a specialise prop.

Node Hunting

I’m also going to be on holiday for all of next week (that’s an unbroken 9 days, including weekends) due to a quirk of annual leave scheduling, so I’m going to get back on track and blitz the node hacking maze minigame — because it’s a fairly major part of the main quest and it’s been languishing for far too long.

There are quite a few bits needing work — I intend to rebuild the player heroes, add more environmental decorations, add more enemies and hazards… Generally, doing all the things that’ll turn it from a hazy concept into some meaningful piece of gameplay (considering you’ve got to get through eight hacks over the course of the main quest).

If I’m a good boy and get a lot of good work done, I’ll reward myself with Skyrim at the end of the week — the Elder Blogs lie for now but are certainly not complete…

Manual Control

One thing I have been having fun with of late is the mock game manual I intend to produce for Project Y4. I know this is the age of digital distribution, so most of you probably won’t remember when games had manuals in their boxes (if you even remember them having boxes), so it’s basically a glorified readme. But with timelines, fluff text and all the good stuff it’ll provide some cuddly background for those so inclined.

No, I’m not going to go to the lengths of actually printing a manual (though if Y4 was a stand-alone I would deffo attempt to produce some kind of souvenir real-DVD-real-case-real-manual package for my own posterity, but since it’s just a mod slamming a single W3X and a single PDF onto a disc would be pretty low), but with the magic of the recently purchased MS Office 2010 (still hate the ribbon, very happy with the rest) I’m going to produce a manual and export it to PDF so it’s about as authentic as you can get.

Gonnae be totes greyscale an' aw.

Onwards and Updates

Otherwise, the schedule has been fairly mundane. Along with the previously mentioned drive to replace complex agglutinations of individual doodads with singular giant models, there is an environmental move to upgrade the rocks — a very simple of addition of a flat-shaded bevel to the top of each stack, but you’d be surprised how much this adds to the environmental look (not to mention that it makes the solid rocks consistent with the walkable ground lumps).

Another minor project has been to re-export and rebuild all the Delta mechs. I recently settled on (hopefully) a final set of base animations, so I’ve been using my new morning time to do such thankless tasks as piling the all different permutations of weapons onto the base model. The best thing is that the most difficult parts — arrangments of death and wreckage, and the particle emitters that go with them — are taken care of by a single standard Delta death model (which only has to distinguish between having blast shields or not, as the geometry is warped enough to get away with it).

The new Delta "Suppressor" platform is guaranteed to keep you from being able to achieve anything useful.

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