In common with most ‘opinion’ features on this site, this one’s commentable. I decided to do something a bit different this time and show the complete development of a mod to show some of the processes that go into it.
The second thing that struck me about Canterbury Commons – after the cool sidequest – was that it was too small and dingy to support itself.
Uncle Roe is the self-appointed village leader, and takes considerable pride in the town he’s built up. It has a lovely, friendly “small town Americana” vibe and it’s a real shame that there’s only about five villagers and two houses and those are awful and grotty.
So, it became the logical focal point for a town expansion mod: to turn Canterbury Commons into the sort of town it ought to be – a sort of makeshift frontier town where people are making the best they can out of what they’ve got, and are welcoming to strangers provided they’re not after trouble.
I decided to start with Patsy’s Diner – the boarded up cafeteria, named at the suggestion of Greenwarden on the forums.
What Happened Here?
That’s my first question I always ask myself when building a cell because the cell should tell the player the answer to that the minute they open the door. The sense on entering Patsy’s Diner should be that the player has interrupted something: either the ordering and consumption of food or the cleaning and preparation of the diner for the next guests.
Where Am I?
To build the interior I placed together two of the exterior buildings to form two walls of a square and to build the rest using the rooftop restaurant cell of the hotel from the Reilly’s Rangers quest.
The trouble with that cell is that though it has a great set-up spatially, the last thing that Happened There was that a bomb went off destroying everything. Patsy’s, by contrast, is an active business so it should be functional for eating. The nature of restaurants is that guests tend to make a mess, but it should not look like a bomb site – just somewhere where a careless diner has dropped a cup or plate, which any minute now the staff will get around to clearing up. It’s a bit of a dive, sure, but it’s not awful.
To create this scene, I set about clearing it up so that there would be about 80% less litter in the place than the cell I’d copied over – it had to be the sort of diner that people would actually be prepared to eat in, even if it was hardly The Ritz. The vibe I was going for was the sort of roadside eaterie with renter rooms upstairs that people stop off at for coffee and pie before resuming their onward journey. I put in pool tables, a jukebox, and laid sofas at opposite sides of tables to get that real Pulp Fiction 50s feeling.
I also spent a lot of time cluttering the bar – filling the shelves underneath with bottles, cups and plates. It’s often the thing I find lacking both in the game and in many mods – no doubt for framerate reasons – that there just isn’t enough clutter in a bar to look like a real place where the waitress is always pulling the next glass out from under the counter.
Who Lives In A Place Like This?
Since Greenwarden had come up with the name of the diner, I named two of the inhabitants after her and her husband, and then built in some regulars to make it look a bit less empty. I was amused when hitting the random ‘Generate’ button in facegen came out with a face to look like my friend Matt, so that became the NPC’s name.
The thing about Fallout 3 is that all the NPCs require AI schedules, which in turn means everyone needs a place to sleep. This is actually beneficial in immersion terms because you expect the landlady to have a bed to sleep in at night, but it does mean extra work for the modder.
Fortunately, the “donor cell” contained the structure of the requisite rooms, which didn’t need a great deal of extra work to add in doorways for the private apartment
and lodgings for the staying guests.
The next thing to add were the kitchens to serve the diner. The Statesman cell that I’d copied over had destroyed kitchens that I could use as a basis, so it was really a matter of cleaning and cluttering
and building other functional rooms such as the public toilets. Once all that had been complete and the room was structurally finished, the tedious task of “navmeshing” the cell – providing a map of the floor for AI pathfinding – had to take place. Navmesh is new to Bethesda games with Fallout 3, and can easily take as long as the actual worldbuilding stage. A room the size of the main Patsy’s Diner took about 2-3 hours to complete.
So, with the diner built, staff to work it, places for them to stay, guests to eat there, kitchens to cook their food in, toilets to lose it again in, and rooms for them to sleep in, it was done. It was then a case of dropping the NPCs in, linking the correct person to the correct bed, setting up the AI and markers for them to move around, and making sure they can walk a straight line without banging into the walls.
The last stage was pushing the boarding from outside of the door to safely out of sight (I’m wary of deleting refs so just move them out of the way), and popping a door into the exterior that was linked to the interior.
Still to do: vendor dialogue for the owners, and building the rest of the town so the NPCs aren’t trapped in there 24/7 …