The last two or so weeks haven't been as fruitful as I was hoping, but there's still some stuff to show off.
In this release there's a new version of Midgar which will be visible outside the window as well as in the Midgar cell accessible from floor 59. In the midgar cell there's now two additional vantage points you can view from, just use the extra doors on either side of the elevator to travel to a different angle.
61 now has a reflective floor as well as texture and lighting updates:
A WIP floor 62 has been started:
I've been working on some placeholder NPCs so that we have people to interact and setup quests with before actually having good customized ones. I know some of them don't look right and others look down right silly. It can't be helped at the moment. Here's the executive team:
And a shot of a very angry mob, uh, company boss.
Lastly here's the Turks. Looks like Elena didn't get the memo about the uniform but somehow remembered the gloves. Goddamnit Elena, you're always cramping their style!
Reflective Floor Woes (now solved!)
As some of you may or may not remember, many of the upper levels of the Shinra Tower had reflective floors. I was really excited when I thought of a way to include this in the mod. I did it by making the floor part of the model semi-transparent and then putting opaque, fully reflective placeable water beneath it. The reason I did this is because I couldn't texture the water nor could I get the reflective part of the water onto a textured model. They use two different shader types which, going by the immediate crash to desktop they cause when both enabled on a model, are incompatible. Anyway, it looked perfect! That is, until I spotted a new problem:
It appears that meshes which are semi-transparent can only be lit by two light sources at a given time. As you can see from the video, those two light sources change with an undesirable abruptness as the player moves around. I have no idea why it does this, but I did numerous experiments confirming that it is indeed the transparency on the model causing it. I tried breaking up the floor so that only two light sources would hit a given floor mesh piece, but it still produced poor results. Eventually, after mulling it over in the back of my mind for a couple of months I've come up with a solution (there's a shot of it in action on 61 above in the 'Content Updates' section):
The new way of creating reflective floors involves putting the now semi-transparent water above the floor. For some reason (magic, possibly) the lighting issue doesn't affect transparent placeable water, only textured models. Obviously, we don't want the player splish splashing around and drinking from the floor so there's an invisible collision plane just above that to prevent any funny business. I'm the first to admit it's not an elegant solution, but it works - if you have a better idea feel free to let me know :-)
Your Settings for the Mod
I was fiddling with different graphical settings and noticed that disabling HDR prevents emissive settings from rendering in game. This is important for your playing experience (particularly when looking outside) as low emissive settings are used on models outside to fake lighting, rather than using extra directional lights which would be expensive performance wise. Ambient light isn't appropriate because it can't be masked like emissive surfaces can with a glow map. So basically I recommend turning on HDR (open FO3 Launcher > options > screen effects > HDR) when playing this mod.
I have my settings turned up to the max, but you mightn't have that luxury. There's not much I can do about the reduced draw distance on really low settings... I don't know whether FO3 prevents a crap computer from using high settings or not. If it doesn't, I'd suggest sacrificing AA, reflections, etc in favour of a longer draw distance.
A full design doc is currently being written. You're probably thinking "What? You mean there isn't one?!" (and if you're not thinking that you should be) to which my answer is no, there isn't one. Really the mod should have had one years ago, but it didn't. So until I have access to a time machine to allow me to go back in time and slap myself, I'll have to settle with writing one now. An edited version of the design doc will made available to the public.
Since November 2011 I've been keeping monthly progress reports for the mod on Google Docs to help evaluate the mod's development process and spot weaknesses and patterns as well as track what's getting done and what isn't. I've personally found them helpful and surprisingly motivating. It's nice to look back at previous reports and see what's already been done.
They've evolved over time. I find jotting down concise dot points with links to images (where appropriate) to be the best method so far. When there have been team members I email them out and that way everyone can see what everyone else is doing. If development were faster and the team bigger (or existent, haha) progress reports would probably serve their role better as a reference for a weekly IRC or Skype dev meeting.