Separate Ways – Chapter 5 (Part 2 – END)

And here goes the last part of the-most-elegant-spy-in-the-world minigame!

This post contains the last three areas of Separate Ways:

Krauser battle:

This is basically a touched-up version of room 327 in Leon’s campaign. They added some new geometry for the roofs and that’s it. But yet again, the developers used the lower quality PS2 version assets for the entire area.

So I ported all the work I did for Leon’s area, I improved those new roofs and the final path where the Merchant is waiting, and I added baked shadows here and there.

As you can see I also improved all the water effects as usual. I think the result is quite good, as the original one was quite a visual disappointment.

Saddler battle:

This area is quite an interesting case. It has a different structure compared to Leon’s counterpart area (room 329), which was an unexpected (and tedious to deal with) surprise. It seems the developers made the ramp wider and they removed the control panel next to the capsule. It all was done for playability reasons and I kept those changes, but it was a pain to port over all the improvements I previously made in Leon’s area because of these differences…

And again… all terrible looking PS2 version assets. Just take a look at the comparison shots and you’ll notice the missing objects (mostly cables) and that the entire corner with the desk and the monitors was incredibly simplified. In order to bring back those missing elements I needed to edit some of the collision data so that it now matches the new corner geometry. 

Oh! And I restored all the breakable screens all over the area and the windows in the upper cabin. 

I also added baked shadows onto all the floors and corrected lights and effects…

Final area:

This final room was quite a standard area to remaster. This is what I did:

New 3D models: All the scaffolding bars have been recreated. The mini “islands” in the water surrounding the area have been touched up. Hundreds of small details have been edited in a lot of ways. And new baked shadow textures have been placed onto all floor surfaces.

New lighting: The original light reaching Ada and the enemies was… well… ridiculously bright. I made it look more natural and adaptive to their location. In brief: If they are in a shadowed area they will look darker. If they are in the upper levels they will look lighter. And the light now comes from a coherent direction all the time. (In the original it looked like Ada had a flashlight lighting her back no matter her position…)

New effects: The bloom effects in this area looked especially bad. They are broken in the entire game, but this time it was terribly noticeable… I replaced them all and now they don’t appear and disappear when you are in front of them and move the camera to the right and left. It was really distracting… And again, the water has been fully recreated. In the original it looked like a mixture of sand and blue lava! :/ And now it moves in accordance with the wind direction ;P

New textures: Only a few of them were exclusive for this area. The rest were all ported straight from Leon’s main game.

 

And that’s it! Please, take a look at the entire video and at the comparison shots below. We’ll be waiting for your feedback as usual! 🙂
Happy Holidays to everyone!!

 

 

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Separate Ways – Chapter 5 (Part 1)

Hi! Here comes the Ada’s final chapter (part 1 :P)

I’ve spent more time that I thought in the first area… I didn’t remember it looked so bad! It seems they reused PS2 assets because the area was slightly different compared to Leon’s counterpart area. I guess it was too much work for them to use and adjust the better looking GC/Wii assets from Leon’s area,  so they simply used the PS2 version for the Wii port…

This means I needed to update almost every model of the entire place: the lighting, the effects, etc. Also, don’t pay attention to the water effect in the video – it needs to be upgraded. I’ve already done it in the Ada vs Krauser room and I’ll do the same here.

In addition, I’ve once again applied baked shadows throughout the floor and walls.

And I’ve included the “turn-off-the-lights-effect” when Ada is in a covered area (for example, inside a tent). (See the video below, at the 1:30 mark, to see what I’m talking about.) This feature is used all over the game but sometimes it looks like the creators lost the opportunity to use it in certain places that obviously needed it.

And that’s it! Next time: Separate Ways: END

PS: There’s a small Easter Egg in the video hehe.

 

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Separate Ways – Chapter 4 (Part 2)

 

Hello again!

And here comes the second update from Separate Ways – Chapter 4.

All comparison shots are from the first area, as the other 3 rooms are almost the same as what you saw in prior posts from Leon’s campaign (you can still see these areas in the video below).

What’s special in the first area? As you saw in last week’s update, this area now also has baked-in shadows, a lot of lighting adjustments, and 3D improvements. But for the first time I’ve done something really “big:” I created a new portion of a room from scratch!

Why would I do such a thing? Simple: Did you ever notice how the room transition from the destroyed road area to the room where Saddler kidnapped Ashley is somehow… forced? How is it possible that Ada climbs a ladder (apparently inside of a some kind of well-shaped structure), only to immediately break through a window and fall into a new room??

If you combine all the area maps, you’ll notice something is missing between the ladder and the broken window. I just filled in the gap between those two points.

You can see the result in images below and in the video: there is now a fully functional ladder that leads Ada to an upper level. The enemies will also follow you and you can descend and climb up again with no issues. All collision and gun laser limit data is adjusted to the new geometry, new light sources have been added, and all sizes and structures perfectly match the adjacent areas of the game.

I’m quite happy with the results because I’d say there’s no design / quality difference between the “official” part of the area and the new portion. The entire thing is pretty well-integrated.

Let me know what you think about this! 🙂 

Sorry Speedgamers! Your Separate Ways play-through will last 10 additional seconds. 😛

 

This video includes the first attempt of the new Ada’s path:

2nd attempt:

3rd attempt:

And after a lot of revision this is what I’d say is the FINAL version of the new Ada’s path:

 

And finally, a detailed map that combines both Leon’s and Ada’s areas so you can understand easily the reason of the new path I created:

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Separate Ways – Chapter 4 (Part 1)

Here goes another round!

Today I’m showing you the 4th chapter of Separate Ways. Since this chapter has some exclusive areas (or heavily modified areas from Leon’s campaign), I’ve split this chapter’s update into 2 parts. The first part covers rooms 512 and 513 (the destroyed road (first half) and the battleship areas).

I’m leaving the rest of the chapter for next week’s update, but if you pay close attention at the beginning of the video (and if you’ve played this game enough times), you’ll already notice something that will be different in the next area ;). Let’s see if someone figures it out!

2 remarkable upgrades are the “stars” of this post:

  • Baked textures: I’ve learned how to bake shadows into new textures and easily apply them onto the stage models. As a result we now have more realistic shadows!
  • Improved water effect: The water effect in the battleship area was terribly bad. The GC –>Wii porting team reused the PS2 water effect and it seems they didn’t notice it was way worse than the other areas’ water effects. I’ve ported several effect layers into this room and you can see the results in motion in the video. Remember that the bigger the water surface area, the more difficult it is to obtain good results, but I’d say the improvement is good enough.

Other than this, I’ve applied the usual upgrades:

  • Textures: Only a few battleship area textures were exclusive to Ada’s minigame.
  • 3D models: I couldn’t reuse Leon’s road models because they weren’t detailed enough. When you play as Leon you can’t see most of the detail at close range (he’s on the truck), which is why I didn’t upgrade some of the surrounding models. But now I’ve been forced to upgrade everything because Ada’s walking on that same road and she can see every single detail. And the battleship area needed hundreds of small (and huge) adjustments, too.
  • Lighting: The lighting in Ada’s exclusive areas is quite plain and/or a mess. There are a lot of unjustified inconsistencies, missing lights, lights coming from nowhere, the characters don’t cast shadows on the floor, light pop-in issues, etc…

And that’s it!

Please, take a look and comment on these work-in-progress pictures and video!

Have a nice weekend!

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Sub Screens HD Remaster!

Hello!

This week I’ll show you all the progress I’ve made with the sub-screen and inventory screen textures and models. This remaster work will be for all 5 languages. Please take a look at the entire gallery bellow.

  • OPTION SCREEN: I was lucky enough to find the original texture used for the OPTION screen. It was in a texture library (used by Capcom) that a colleague shared with us. The “HD Texture” option in this PC port simply used a random marble texture that was too saturated and not faithful to the original, as you can see in the first images in the gallery at the end of this post.

 INV_00c

  • INVENTORY BACKGROUND IMAGES: These textures were quite decently remastered, but they were not at a high enough resolution. So, I used the original Gamecube textures as reference for our own remastered versions of these textures. Again, I found some of the original textures Capcom used back in the day, and I restored the “My life has been saved” inscription from the original. I asked a friend of mine who knows Japanese about the Kanji you can see in the original Gamecube texture, but he wasn’t able to decipher that blurry mess… EDIT: Someone found the text! So, I updated the gallery picture 🙂 

 INV_01d

  • WEAPONS and other item MODELS: The models used for all post-Gamecube versions have less polygons than the original Gamecube version. It seems they kept (perhaps by accident?) the low-poly versions from the PS2 port of the game. I restored and even improved all of these models. There is a limitation with these models that crashes the game if the file size of certain files are larger than the original, but I found that there is some dispensable data that can be removed from the .bin files (the 3D models), and even entire .bin files that are unused in-game. And thanks to Son of Persia and his programming skills, we were able to generate beautiful and better 3D models at lower file sizes. Otherwise, these sub-screen model improvements would be impossible!

 INV_02c

  • WEAPONS and other items TEXTURES: The UHD team remastered the sub-screen items and weapons using higher resolution versions of the same textures you can find in other contexts of the game. But they didn’t notice that the textures needed to be lightened… because the sub-screen and Merchant shop backgrounds are quite dark…

 INV_19

  • BOTTLE CAPS, FILE ORGANIZER, MAP, MERCHANT STORE… Everything has been remastered but I’m not sure if the bottle cap icons need a remaster. They look quite decent. I only restored one of the Ganado’s wooden shields and the background, of course.

Ok! And that’s all for now!

Next week: Separate ways chapter 4.  Don’t miss it! There will be are a few nice surprises. 🙂 

 

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Separate Ways – Chapter 3 + BONUS

Hello!

Better late than never. ;P Here’s a new update covering the 3rd Chapter of the Separate Ways Mini-game.

There’s nothing new compared to what you’ve already seen in the Leon’s counterpart areas, nor the improvements we can do to Ada’s campaign. But I took the opportunity to further improve some lighting / shadow issues here and there.

SW3-D: There was a light coming from a non existent last window in the floor.

SW3-E: I added a new shadow in the torch corner. If the towers cast shadows, that small corner should have its own shadow too.

SW3-H: The entire room was filled with light coming from unspecified points for no apparent reason. I made all the lights to have sense without altering the overall atmosphere. I also added flickering to some of the lights coming from the candles (see video).

 

BONUS!

During the remastering process I found that a bloom effect was missing from another cutscene. We’ll have to compare all the cutscenes side by side with the Gamecube version to be sure there are no more missing effects…

Also, another sneak peek of what you can expect for menus and background sub-screen image remasters:

BEFORE

AFTER

Have a great week!

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Separate Ways – Chapter 2 + BONUS

Hello everyone!

Here comes the second chapter of our favorite spy mini-game.

Everything mentioned in the last post is also applicable here: Remastered textures, no more PS2 remnants (other than the video cut-scenes), and tons of lighting adjustments (especially during the night-time areas). The big barn area (with the Bella sister and the key) was terribly illuminated compared to the Leon’s counterpart. Everything is so dark for no apparent reason, and we also have that nonsensical yellow light covering the entrance of the area. 

I’ve added some comments in the comparison shots but don’t hesitate asking any of the adjustments I’ve made.

 

BTW, I recorded the video before taking the screenshots, and so some final touches like the super-bright boxes or the barn area being slightly too bright are not fixed. But these are minimal differences.

I hope you like this work in progress!
Greetings from Barcelona!

BONUS –  Improved inventory items sneak peek:

As I mentioned, the inventory item models have strict polygon limitations so, they can’t be as good as the “examine” models.

Fortunately, this is the closest (and static) view we have of them: the Merchant shop. They are the same models used in the sub-screen case, btw.

Absolutely all items and weapons have received the same treatment, but I want to re-create all background sub-screen textures before making an exclusive “Inventory Remaster” post.

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Separate Ways – Chapter 1

Hi!

I’ve been making great progress with inventory-related work over the last 2 weeks (including overcoming the crashing issues when improving Leon’s inventory models), but I still want to polish it up a bit more before sharing the final results. 🙂

So, as a “replacement” post, I’m showing you samples from the entire first chapter of the Separate Ways mini-game. (Chapters 1, 2 and 3 are already finished, but it would be too much for just one post XD)

It may appear to be a simple effort because these locations are rehashed from Leon’s campaign, but it’s not that straightforward. The order of textures, the number and order of stage “bin” files (i.e. the 3D models), lighting and effects, and a large set of technical details that I have no idea how to explain in a comprehensive way made the job not as simple as I thought.

In brief: All textures, 3D improvements, lighting and effect adjustments, and dynamic / breakable objects from Leon’s main game have been ported flawlessly into Ada’s mini-game!

And although the process wasn’t super simple, it was still 1000% faster than a regular Leon stage, that’s for sure…

The area I like the most is the church. I’m quite happy with the results because now it really seems like it’s daytime. The original looks the same as Leon’s nighttime church, but with some blue-ish windows and a cheap bloom effect.

I edited the entire entrance lighting system (the area where all the windows are, and where the candles are out), added new effects, and redid the floor / wall shadows around the windows. Now I’d say it really looks like the indoor and outdoor church areas match pretty well in terms of lighting.

You can also see all the exterior details if you look through the windows to the right!

And finally, I’m leaving you a few comparison shots (as usual), and a video covering the entire first chapter.

I hope you like them and don’t hesitate in posting your thoughts about it!

https://youtu.be/64tj_DG5F30

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The Mercenaries (Part 2)

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Hello everybody!

I’m back with renewed energy!

This week, as expected, I’m showing you the other two Mercenaries stages.

I’m especially proud of the results in the “Waterworld” stage. There were some weird and nonsensical shadows here and there and you could see cloud shadows moving on the roofs of the 2 biggest structures while there were no other moving shadows anywhere else in the area. Also… the sky clouds where static to begin with!!

Now the moving shadows are everywhere, some incoherent shadows have been removed / replaced and the sky clouds now move (this way the moving shadows on the floors make sense).

I also added a nice flare lens effect like the one you can see in the 3rd Mercenaries stage that matches perfectly the direction in which shadows are cast. Before that you could see several “sun lights” all around the “Waterworld” XD. It was quite weird…

In the 3rd stage I edited the global light that reaches the characters. It was dynamic and the back of the player was always lit. Now it’s lit when you are in front of the sun but you look darker when you are behind it, like in the real world. (I already applied the same trick in several previous Main game rooms and I really like the natural look of the results!)

Then we have the typical texture / 3D / light / visual effects improvements everywhere as usual.

I didn’t post and 3rd stage comparison shots because it’s basically a rehashed version of room 320 but you can see both areas in the video below.

I hope you like this work in progress update!

 

 

As a side note, I’m glad to announce I’ve been able to overcome the inventory limitations we had: The game would crash every time we replaced one of those blocky 3D models with a hi-polygon version. The problem was the filesize of the ss_pzzl.dat files. If it gets bigger, the game crashes. Simple as that.

But there are a few unused bin files (items that Leon never uses) that can be removed from that ss_pzzl.dat file. Also, the bin files (3D models) contain a few data blocks that are not necessary in the inventory context. This allowed me make the resulting bin files smaller.

As a result of these two “tricks” I was able to bring back the hi-poly Gamecube inventory items to the UHD version of the game, and I was even to improve some of them. But I’ll leave the details and a few more things for future updates. I want to polish it a little further before showing you the results! 🙂

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Life Update: Albert on Vacation

Hi there! I wanted to give everyone a heads up that Albert is on a (well-deserved, IMO) vacation for the next couple of weeks. On my end it’ll be a couple of weeks before pre-school starts and I can commit more time to the project. All this is to say that things will be a bit quiet here until then, though I will be replying to comments each day. Thanks, everyone, for your understanding!

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