Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Plans for 2016

I believe I was 16 or so when I was developing Blue Portals, and boy, I dreamed of having it on Steam. Being able to deliver updates easily was something I always wanted for the project; in-fact, that's why it was officially supported on that Desura platform. But time went on, and I started to look at Blue Portals more and more critically then I've done before. The mistakes we've made, and the complaints of users of the time just started to make more and more sense. It's not a bad mod, but I always thought it could be better.

Since Steam Greenlight became a thing, I thought about putting Blue Portals on there. It's a mod that people ether really liked, or didn't like at all. But I felt that it was a mod for it's time as there were many fling and timed puzzles; commonly like how most community maps were at the time. It wasn't until a month ago, I told Colossal to put it up there and see what would happen.

Now, my teenage dream came true. Blue Portals was lit (Thanks to all who voted!) and as of today, the full Blue Portals mod is now on the steam servers, with it's own app id, and fully playable! While this was at first supposed to be a quick thing of "put the mod together on Steam and move on", Something tells me that this opportunity can't be wasted. Colossal wanted to update his textures, and I wanted to fix a few map issues. After all, I wanted some reason for people to play the mod again on Steam. So, let's dive in and see what needs fixing, it can't be much... Right?

Blue Portals started as a mappack, and only became a mod because I wanted an easy installation among users. That being said, half the mod didn't fit with the second half, and there were a few elements that were just used once, and never again. There was also 'gimmicks' that were cool, but useless. Also, sometimes they plan didn't work and broke maps. (Something that started to happen as of recent.) We've did a lot of good things, but also a lot of poor things.

Of course, I knew most of these issues while I was developing Blue Portals 2; as with that mod, it was more of solving puzzles with the new elements, and how they worked with portals rather then the BP1 approach of "Here's a fling puzzle with a few magnets, a timer, and a fire cube. Good Luck!" I get asked about Blue Portals 2 a lot, there were a lot of things we liked about it, but our resources, and skills needed for the project at the time was way over our heads.  We did not know how to set up a mod for Portal 2, didn't fully understand how the file system or vpks worked, and I was just making puzzles with no real direction or goal. In-fact, the puzzles in the demo reel where the best ones.

So what about Blue Portals: Anniversary Edition? As of right now, the mod is working on our end, and fully playable. However, we would like to take the time to make it more special for us, and our fans. We have a few ideas and paths we might take, but overall it's gonna be a lot of work unless we just decide to release the exact mod how it was before.

With that being said, I'm no longer a teenager anymore. If I could live just making mods, Blue Portals 2 might have picked up again. It was just that since I graduated high school, I decided to look into developing a "real game" and for the past three years now, while my skill set increased, the project seems to keep going around in circles. Regardless, It made some progress seeing a playable demo, but as a full game, It's something that needs a lot of work and time that I don't seem to have anymore if I wish to commit the time I want for Blue Portals again.

I've been thinking about this for a while, and being that the new year is around the corner, Blue Portals picking up steam, and all, I decided to start a Patreon campaign,

For those who don't know, Patreon is a service in which you donate creators much like myself to continue doing what they love, in return for perks. While I can't offer a lot due to my slow internet speed, and limited cash at the time, I hope to make it grow, and reward patrons over time. You can add in a max donation limit, and cancel at any time! Any support would be helpful, since I really enjoy making content that you guys can freely enjoy.

I'll keep you posted. Feel free to give me feedback about the Patreon campaign and help it make it more of a win-win system.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Re-did this Blog.

When I first started this blog, I was mostly planning on reporting and going deeper on my logic I/O experiments of my Hammer Notepad video series. However, after 2012, my interest in making crazy things with just the I/O alone grew dull, and became more, and more simple. With this, Hammer Notepad videos became less of a thing. That, and I also forgot about this blog.

Earlier last month, I was like "I should really make sure that everything (well, mostly everything) I released is up to date, and can be downloaded and installed after the trillion updates that happened over the years." I started with A Little Higher, and Tornate by fixing a few hiccups on the workshop version, and re-releasing the manual install version with detailed instructions. After those two series was done, I started to look at my other maps which where finished. For Old Times Sake did not need to be updated, and Feather Away was intended to be a Workshop only release. I'm still working on Blue Portals. I prob still should release that update that I said I would release months ago, but I haven't yet.

Along with all that work, I was in the mood of cleaning out my Google account. over 2,000 emails I saved from 2010 was deleted, cleared my Drive storage, and on this blog, I listed all of the maps, mappacks, and Blue Portals up top. If you have not checked any of my works yet, feel free too!

Sorry for the lacking of posts for those who check frequently, Intentions of this blog changed over time. This will now be a hub for all my Source projects and I'll post another blog post if I feel it's something really big.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oh yay! Another update!

It has been over a year since the last blog post. Sorry about that. I would usually post things if I wanted to share information, talk about projects, or announce releases of Portal maps. So what happened?

From the time I last post, PUNT has been on and off with it's development progress. With it, I learned so much more about the Source Engine, how to do more things with code, how the engine mostly works. So, even if it does not pull through, the things I learned are greater then the time I spent on it. So, is it dead? Tsh, No!

After a while, I was questioning about the overall game play mechanics of the mod. I felt like it was just  "Press Mouse 1" type of game. You turned things on, you turned things off. There was no spark that Portal had. I talked about the game play changes on ModDB over the summer. This was a much more fun game mechanic, and it was really fun having power balls bounce all over the map! But with this, the Retro-Futuristic look had to go.

In the early summer of last year, Valve FINALLY released a new base which has faster load times, (thanks to vpk system) optimized for modern hardware, and can run on Windows, OSX, and Linux. There are a bit of back workings that were changed, but nothing too major. The thing that did get people flipping tables was that the tools shipped non-working, people could not get code to compile, and tools needed to be loaded via batch. It took a bit of time before Valve and the community made it better, but still somethings remain broken.... *cough*Hammer's cursor calls*cough*

I knew that support for 2007 was going, so I ported PUNT to the new base. With it, I made a rough campaign with the former style with new game play elements and such and it felt right. However, it still looked like a Portal knockoff although the style solved design issues differently. Talk about map design went back and forth until the project just stopped being talked about. Also what did not help was the engine's handicaps which I did not learn to hop through until later.

Putting PUNT a side, I started to "Play" with the engine and my little coding skills a bit. From scaling, random colors, to breakable doors!

I've also did other stuff along the lines of porting some things from Alien Swarm's code such as HDR fog scaling, fog_volume, and beam_spotlight to name a few. Pretty much, it almost has all the features of the Left 4 Dead 1 engine, minus post processing control.

Work on Portal: Alive and Kicking started back up again although everyone thought it was dead. We've found the flaws and missing elements and popped the mod back into shape. In January, it went up on Steam Greenlight, and was ranked #1 when it was lit a few weeks ago. Since then I've been working non-stop on this project, and I try to do at least one thing a day on it.

As for the future of PUNT, it's undecided at this point. I really want to use my edited branch of the 2013 engine, but there is a feeling in my heart that the project would be perfect for experimenting in a different engine sometime in the future. But for now, Alive and Kicking is pretty much on my plate everyday, and what helps keeps it on my plate is the fact that it will be available on Steam!

I have future plans with this blog. I want to get a full, legit tutorial series explaining EVERYTHING I know about the Source Engine. I kind of want to do this so if I go to a different engine, or just get too busy to do these things anymore, you or I can go back to these and reference it. Other then that, smaller updates will be on my Twitter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Work on it until you are sick of it!

People work on mods when they have spare time, and when they feel like it. But since last week, I've been working almost non-stop on PUNT since the art style change. Non stop development since November. There was always something I was doing for PUNT.

To make developing easier, I composed the puzzles as separate maps and then later stitch the maps together. This would be slapping level transition prefabs to the ends of the map and re-saving under the final name. But while developing the chambers, I configured the 2009 tools to work with PUNT with a work around with appid and file reading. This gives me the availability to use instances which are the most useful thing when developing a mod, and a better model viewer that lets you see the loaded vmts. During the finalization process, the doors and other instance-able elements will replace the prefab counter parts, and the level changing prefabs will be slapped on. I already did this to some maps so far, but not all the beginning maps are finish yet. I still got one more map before we start to see any flow in the mod.

It was last week when all of this became too much for me to comprehend, I got lost, and I had all these tasks to do at once. I was pretty much getting sick of the project after a full year of working on it, although there was a pause in development early on. I had these moments with Blue Portals, and this is when I drop development for a short while, and get myself into it by playing the project a week or so later. Forgetting all what you have to do, and going back in with a refreshed mind works for me.

So what have I been doing in the meantime? Well, I been doing some illustrating art work, and playing around with Ubuntu. on a different drive. Yes, I was going to get my TF2 Tux, but it seems like Steam and the current version of the OS conflict and it causes Ubuntu to not boot after an installment of Steam. I'm gonna wait until that gets fixed, or preform a work around. Other then that, it is a fantastic OS, but it is a darn shame that I can't fully migrate from Windows because of things like Source SDK, and Adobe software. Still playing with the open source alternatives, my goal is to make that my "art OS", and my Windows drive my gaming disk. I do plan to get, or at least start looking at a new PC in the next year or so which I'll end up getting a SSD drive for Windows.

Again, just a short little post here to let you in what is going on. Hopefully later this week/next week I'll boot up PUNT and the tools again. Right now, I still get a headache just thinking about it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Little things...

It is not the big things that are an issue, it is the little things you can live without that are. The little things that are nice to have, seem easy to implement, but you end up making a bunch of nonsence to get it to work. This may not be with Hammer I/O, but as I learned with PUNT, it can be with code.

Last night, I finally tackled something I wanted to do with the PUNT cubes in a while, and that is to make the player be able to pick up the cubes without the Puntgun. Why? Because how I modded the physcannon code, the pickup system is not the greatest. First, there was an animation bug, and no matter how many think functions, bools and other filters I placed, the bug kept coming back. When picking something up with the Puntgun, if you were to double click to pick it up, the model would animate to pickup and drop although the cube remained held. 

Another thing is that randomly, the box would FLY across the map towards you if you tried to pick it up from a far. The pickup distance was made to a short distance to avoid this gameplay issue, but out of the blue you would try to pick it up from a far, and it would work for some odd reason. I was remaking a map that included the player punting a box from a distance. Normally, when you try to pick it up, the gun would shake and play a sound. But this time, the box flew across the gap and into my hands. Welp, you can't have that happen in puzzles like this, time to open Visual Studio....

 You may be asking yourself  "Why couldn't you pick up the cube to begin with? It is just a physics prop, right?" No, its not. It is a CBaseAnimating class with the Physics and Physcannon properties tied to it. The issue is that it's Use function was blank, and we need to tell the box that the player alone can pick this up. The only entity that you can pick up and comes to my mind is the prop_physics entity. And here I find
void CPhysicsProp::Use( CBaseEntity *pActivator, CBaseEntity *pCaller, USE_TYPE useType, float value )
CBasePlayer *pPlayer = ToBasePlayer( pActivator );
if ( pPlayer )
m_OnPlayerUse.FireOutput( this, this );
pPlayer->PickupObject( this );

In this function, it is first finding/linking/defining the player. Then it says "If the player hits +use, check a spawn flag and fire an output. Then if so or not, go back to the original function, and make the player pick this up.  Ok, seems easy, I just need to define Use in my header and copy and paste this into my code.

Well, it did not work. I would have guess that Use is called like Precache, Spawn, or Think, but it needs to be called. After looking around in the Alyx file, I notice that there is a SetUse line in the spawn. So replicate that and still nothing. I've spent an hour playing with the Use function, adjusting flags and nothing. Then I noticed that before the Use commands of both the physics prop and Alyx, there was this magical function called "ObjectCaps()" and there it had FCAP_IMPULSE_USE. I'm not to sharp on binding buttons, I've tried before, but I knew what that was when I saw it. Copied and pasted from the Alyx code, and when I pressed Use on my cube, the game crashed. Now we are getting somewhere.

I simplified the ObjectCaps to a basic lines of

int caps = BaseClass::ObjectCaps();

if ( CBasePlayer::CanPickupObject( this, 45, 128 ) )

return caps;

Compiled it and at this point, I did not expect it to work, but as I picked up the box, my eyes widen as I succeeded in doing something very simple. Yeah, I'm not really a pro at this, but after a few hours, I can find myself out of a maze.

So with this being done, we can say Good bye to the physcannon pickup system. It was fun, but it was buggy. The only downside to having the player pickup the box instead of using the physcannon system is that the gun hides instead of acting like a Portalgun and doing an animation when the player picked up something. Meh, it is a small price to pay, and it helps PUNT be less Portal. Besides, it is a cartoon theme, it does not have to make sense!

Flip Flop

Friday, September 7, 2012

For Old Times Sake - Release


For a while now, I had this itch to make a map for the original Portal using the stock visuals, elements, and have it be a nice blast from the past. Back in June, I was playing with the functionality of instances with the 2009 SDK, and a test mod was created called Portal: 2012. I make sourcemods because I like the main game files stock in case of a problem. Along with playing with instances, I also edited the viewmodel position, the field of view, swapped some sounds and scripts around, made and ported a few things, and gave Portal an updated feel.

I backed up the mod, and continued on other things. The folks at at MyApertureInnovations (Formally MyApertureLabs) are getting ready for a mapping contest, and I thought a nice, classic Portal map would make the map stand out from the other Portal 2 maps. However, while I was adding to the map, I've encountered many vvis and vrad errors, so that forced the map to be small, removing the idea of this being a contest map. So I used that time to focus on small details such as ropes and other aesthetics.

I only spent 3 days on this map, but the outcome is a nice small map with a challenge script. (Remember those?)

From this map I learned that although it is a skip down memory line, it is way way harder to make puzzles for a Portal 1 map then for Portal 2. Now that players and mappers are use to a variety of elements and their combinations, it is hard to make a hard puzzle with flings, and energy ball stuff. Some may disagree, but unless you make your own elements by I/O much like Blue Portals did, you can't do as much with just the stock elements, and maybe some things Valve reused from The Flash Version/Still Alive.

Speaking of Blue Portals, I bet you're wondering about that. Yeah, its a long story. It is not dead, we are just.... stuck. I'll write up a juicy article along with the Anniversary stuff we were going to release last year. Trust me, we've been doing a lot, just not sure which way to go.

Thanks, and enjoy For Old Times Sake!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sorry for being 'Dead'

No, I'm not dead, but it looked like it with the lack of content. Its been a while since I've posted anything on Youtube and here. So what's been happening, well to be honest, nothing much. I'm trying to finish up school, I've been experimenting with code and ideas, and I've been working in Alive and Kicking. You may have a lot of questions, and I'll answer hopefully most of them here.

First things first, Blue Portals. I know, its been since November since we posted anything! So what happened with that? Well, I originally wrote an article describing what has been going on with Refresh, and to my luck, Zilefile is no more, which contains a lot of WIP screenshots during the development of Blue Portals, Refresh, and other things. And since the maps were gone (They just needed to be recompiled and fixed up.), the article felt pointless without them. Here is the article:

First off, we would like to thank you for being to patient on us, and we really feel bad to keep you waiting, and the fact that we have been quiet for the last four months. After that whole period of time of silence, it is time to let you in on somethings we have been doing, and experimenting with.
After we decided to pull the plug on Blue Portals 2, we had no idea what to do with Blue Portals: Refresh. Refresh was really suppose to be a promo for Blue Portals 2. With no Blue Portals 2 to promote, the motivation on Refresh kind of came to a halt. With that said, I've gotten 2 maps done, and relied on the other members of rHetorical to make the other maps. But in the end, all the maps I got were kind of rushed, and put together very sloppy, which would have meant that I would need to redo the entire maps all over again. This was due to people working on Alive and Kicking, along with their own projects. I can't blame them.
Around December, I've been experimenting with the idea of mapping you you would in Portal 2 in the original Portal. These elements included the aesthetics, level translations, fractured glass, and other things. And I only used the Blue Portal 2 stuff due to the fact that they were already extracted, and could already work in Portal. The project was looking good, and it was at one point was going to be the Blue Portals 2 substitute. with the few simple edits to a few convars, textures and adjustment of the viewmodel, it felt like a nice Blue Portals and Portal 2 mix. 
So if it was going well, why have we dropped that? Easy. We found out that the original Portal manages its budget so most resources go into the Portals. That is, we can have a nice looking map with damaged walls and nice shadows, and everything, but when you place a portal, the framerate gets cut in half. And on top of that, development on this was not really taken seriously. After all, it was just a test to see how much new we could apply to the old.
So now we are here in April, and no new Blue Portals content to show, and we feel really bad about it. The issue is that we spent on time on Blue Portals 2 for Portal 2, and the more we made ours out of it, the more it fought back with non-working scripts and a never ending rising file size unlike what the original did with Blue Portals.
We loved Blue Portals 2, and we still love the original. Right now as I'm writing, we at rHetorical are trying to finish Portal: Alive And Kicking, as well as experimenting with newer ideas, and getting us off the Portal boat. Its just right now, we don't have that magic spark to keep us working on this mod at this moment. But this does not mean we are going to let Blue Portals end without a ending. In fact, it may just be left open, which will allow us to add anything to the series that we want at anytime.
So all in all, we are not canceling Refresh. Its just going to come at a different time, in a different form, with different energy. We have talked about a lot of ideas on what to do with the series, and how to recreate that inspirational spark and movement we had developing this mod.  Until we scale on what we wish to go with over other projects, we really don't have an answer about the future of Blue Portals. 
This still holds true today, the next installment of Blue Portals is coming, and the entire mod will just be left open. Although no one plays or map for the original Portal anymore, it should make playing Blue Portals more unique then it was. So why not just make it into Portal 2? Well as I said a hundred times over, we feel more limited in the Portal 2 engine expressing creativity, in exchange of looks. I'm still happy with the 2007 engine, a canvas with so much to add!

Since we are on the topic of Portal 2, let me bring up Portal: Alive and Kicking real quick. We are almost done with the test chambers, and are still pushing forward. Of course, there are still problems we need to work out, but other then that, things are looking good.

This Tuesday, Portal 2 gets another (I think this is the last!) update. In this update, people can make maps using a in-game editor, and share your maps on the Steam Workshop. I've been getting questions on what I thought of it and my responds as always been "Meh." I had the liberty to beta test this update since April, and it grew a lot since the day I got it. I'm impressed on the whole system, it's really neat, it can get ideas going, but its not a way to be a serious mapper. I admit, I used the editor not only for testing Valve's new elements, but also I used to to build ideas, then I exported the maps out, and redid it in Hammer. Why did I redo it? Well, because the vmf exporting is a mess. But I need to say, Valve made the right move, Portal maps is what keeps the game alive, and making so any chum can do it, who knows how lasting Portal 2 will be.

A group of people, including myself are trying to rebuild the myApertureLabs community. Just making a short note here, but this new community will support showcasing Hammer and Editor maps. I'll post more about this once the data base gets up, and such!

Finally, I am working on a new Portal 2 mappack, and it may be my last 'pack'. Using puzzles I made in the editor, this collection will contain 4-5 maps in a newer style. I have no idea when it will be out, its more of a "here and there" project. So far, I gotten 3 maps done, so I'm not far!.

Hopefully it will not be another 4 months before another post, I hope to get some videos of the mappack, and other things as well!