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. πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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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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Weapons & Mercenaries (Part I)

Here comes another update!

It’s time to apply all of the knowledge and edits we made in the main game stages to the Mercenaries areas. I’ll show you in the following video the first and second rooms. I recorded 2 complete walkthroughs because I really enjoy playing The Mercenaries with HUNK, and I got pretty decent results. πŸ˜›

But before that you’ll see before-and-after in-game weapon comparisons for some of the weapons. I’ve ported all of the “examine view” hi-poly models into the in-game view. In order to do this, I adapted the original low-poly model bones to the new mesh, and then I applied custom specular values to the resulting 3D file. For now we are using the original “examine view” textures which are already a lot better than the in-game weapon textures, but they will definitely be improved further. So, this is a work in progress. Fortunately now it’s just a matter of doing “simple” Photoshop work.


You’ll probably notice some additional improvements here and there in the video: in-game item models, some sub-screen improvements, a new barrel model and texture, and so on.


And there’s a small extra at the end of the video πŸ™‚

That’s it! I hope you have a good weekend!

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Save/Load Typewriter Screen

Hello everyone! This is just a quick update.

I wanted to show you this work in progress save/load screen. I’ve re-created all the pieces but the platen knob with Photoshop. This one was re-created and animated in 3D.

I’ve been doing multiple minitasks all at the same time the last weeks. For example, I’m porting all hi-poly “examine” weapons models ingame, optimizing sub-screen item models and refining a few Village inaccuracies, etc…

Let’s back to work!

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Back to the Village for Some Fresh Air (Part VIII) – END

Hello again!

Finally, I’ve finished all Village area refinements. What does this mean exactly? This entire section finally received all needed 3-D, lighting, and effect adjustments, just like Castle section. So, the Progress Table now is accurate when it says the Village section is “complete.” (When we created the table originally, we didn’t know that we’d be able to make these additional kinds of corrections, so instead of creating a more complex table, we simply left it as it was.)

What’s in this update:

  • The night-time lighting on the character models is a little more realistic (I really enjoyed a lot calibrating these lights!).
  • I also made Leon’s flashlight light 100% white. It was yellowish but β€”correct me if I’m wrongβ€” flashlights usually use Xenon or LED bulbs, which cast white light…
  • You’ll also notice in the screenshots the typical reddish tone removal. So, everything looks slightly cooler, like in the original GC/Wii versions
  • I’ve improved hundreds of 3-D models in every possible way: remapping, improving models, location corrections, and other slight adjustments…
  • Some texture improvements here and there

What’s next:

Right now I’m working on a way to optimize the file structure of the game. People who are into modding already know that every single room pack contains ALL the item textures. For example, the green herb texture is inside every single room’s pack file (along with all other pickup-able items). However, there is a way of including just one instance of those textures in another pack file, and then make the 3-D model to call the texture from *that* pack file instead of calling it from the room pack file. We would then be able to replace all duplicates with dummy 4×4 pixel textures. This would reduce the total final pack size by a few hundred MBs!

So, I think I’ll also take the opportunity to revise all of the item and treasure textures and models (if needed). Let’s see if we also can replace the low-poly item model versions from Leon’s case with hi-poly models. Right now the game crashes when we replaced one of the models included inside the ss_pzzl.dat file, but we should be able to find a way to avoid this problem!

Have a great week!

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Back to the Village for Some Fresh Air (Part VII) – CHURCH

Hello!

It’s time for another Village revision. Only 4 more rooms and I’ll reach the end of the lighting/effect/3D model Village revisions! 

This time the post is focused on just one room: the church. The reason for this is that it needed tons of corrections (see the gallery below). Its architectural structure makes inaccuracies much more obvious and I found graphical issues at every turn. Updates include:

  • Re-revised textures
  • Improved 3D models
  • Lots of remapping work
  • Adjusted shadows
  • Corrected, improved, and additional light sources (where applicable)
  • Adjusted, recovered, and improved effects

Also, I removed the inaccurate red tone again. It would appear after the lights puzzle and was terribly apparent during the long cutscene. 

About picture V-VII-C.jpg: That sequence of “light shadow-dark shadow-no shadow” made no sense: the entire corridor is behind a wall and the only light in there comes from the 2 small candles. This is the reason for those edits. If you play that portion of the room you’ll see what I mean ;).

I hope you like the edits and don’t hesitate in commenting about them!

 

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Back to the Village for Some Fresh Air (Part VI) – MISCELLANY

Hi! As I promised last time, I’m showing you a pair of cool improvements among the ragbag of edits I’m posting this week πŸ™‚

  • Collision edits are now possible thanks to our tenacious friend Son of Persia, who’s assisting us during this long journey with his inestimable arsenal of tools.

  • Lighting edits. I’m showing you a few more examples of how these kind of edits are handled. Now we know the relationship between breakable items (torches, for example) and a light source, and how both are linked. There is a blue fire on the left in the image below. Also, you’ll notice something is wrong while watching the video…

  • Water edits. Yes, more of them! This time it’s not an improvement, per se. It’s just… a hidden layer of moving water that was underneath the quiet water. This moving layer disappears after activating the dam mechanism. πŸ™‚

  • Fire edits. Another example of how can a fire be “embellished.” πŸ˜›

  • And last but not least: Tada!! Again, courtesy of Son of Persia. He was able to understand the unusual bin file structure for those models. I suspect many of you will notice the difference simply from the screenshot below. πŸ˜›

And here goes the video. I hope you like it!

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Back to the Village for Some Fresh Air (Part V)

Hello! Let’s continue with our Village area refinements post series!

This time I’m resuming the “normal” Village progress update you saw in Parts I & II. This means I’m focusing mostly on 3D edits and some texture, lighting, and effect improvements in rooms 109, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 10c, 10d and 10e.

Fortunately nature is not as strict as a castle’s architecture in terms of model precision, and several inaccuracies can be understood as “variable.”

I also tried to make the rain effect more intense and closer to the GC/Wii version’s rain.

This gallery is a small selection among the hundreds of adjustments done and I’m saving a pair of surprises πŸ˜€ and a more in-depth lighting and effect difference analysis for the next update, so… don’t miss it!

 
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Back to the Village for Some Fresh Air (Part IV) – WATER!!

Hello everybody!
This week’s update is all about broken water effects and my attempts to restore things to the original GC/Wii look (as much as possible).

I’m not sure how… but I got some decent results! πŸ˜€ I was even able to adjust some water sections to behave more dynamically than in the GC/Wii version of the game.

I’ve edited both the water animation textures and the data containing the water effect configurations.

Please note that this is not about editing a single file that will have impact on water throughout the entire game. Every stage has its own water effect configuration and textures, and it must be calibrated room by room. This is a good thing because if adjustments had to be made globally, the results might work for some rooms but not others. But since everything is room-specific, we can optimize the results for each area!

Anyway, this is a 2005 water effect, and it has a lot of limitations. So what you’ll see in the video is (for now) the best we can get. For example, the ripple radius / size is tied to the water effect surface. The bigger the water area, the bigger the ripple will look. This is also the reason that the Lake water wave area is delimited inside a defined square (you may not have noticed this before). Beyond the square you can see some weird texture distortions (a simplified version of the water effect). The main water effect is inside the square and if it was bigger, the ripples would look gigantic!

All these limitations were already in the original. The “broken” part of the effect (and it’s been broken since the PS3/X360 HD ports) is the specular texture mapping over the water plane. It’s all messed up, as you can clearly see in the first cave puddles in the video below.

And that’s all! This time I’m only posting a video since the differences can’t be captured with screenshots. I hope you like it! Try not to fall asleep listening to that music for 13 minutes. XD

Have a nice weekend!!

 

 

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