Half-Life 2 Mod: Week 3 — Trees, Wall Sconces, Ceiling Fixtures

Mod03.pngThanks to a comment a former student added to last week’s post, I found some pleasant, lush models of trees, along with numerous other realistic residential items. I’ve added the fluorescent light fixtures and wall sconces inside, and some pretty trees outside. I also started working with a street model (curbs and sidewalks), but ran into some file-name snags. Nothing major — I just didn’t feel like doing a lot of renaming manually. (There’s got to be a way to batch process this kind of thing.)

Since this past week was Spring Break, my wife scheduled a lot of family activities. I still got to the office three days during the week, but much of that time was taken up with writing a letter of recommendation for one student, helping a different student apply for funds, and working on a new website for one of the campus units. I enjoy doing that stuff — it’s the kind of thing that gets squeezed out of a typical day during a typical week. I wouldn’t exaclty say I enjoyed looking over 10 folders from applicants who don’t meet our SAT admissions requrements, but it is important work that I take seriously; we actually have 20 folders to look at by Tuesday, but I wanted to get a head start on the stack. In addition, the pending release of an update to the interactive fiction programming language Inform has gotten me to pay more than the usual amount of attention to the world of contemporary text-adventure gaming.

So I haven’t fired up Hammer (the Half-Life 2 world-building tool) for several days.

I have laid the groundwork for some future accomplishments. I had to leave my work computer on overnight, but it finally downloaded Steam. I confess I didn’t get much modding done, since I took the opportunity to replay the beginning of Half-Life 2, marvelling at the graphics (which look great on the screen of my tiny Dell 700m laptop, but which look even better on my more powerful work computer). But theoretically, now I can test out the FacePoser (which crashes when I try it at home).

I also asked my university for the funds to buy a few copies of XSI, a powerful 3D model tool. For the purposes I have in mind, each student won’t need an individual copy. In a note I wrote to my dean, I likened XSI to a kiln, and noted that when I did a ceramics project in the third grade, I didn’t need my own kiln. I molded my clay and gave it to my teacher to bake. Later, I put on the glaze, and she baked it again. Okay, that metaphor sort of messes up the whole Steam/Hammer/Forge thing that Valve Software has going, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I also let our networking folks know about my desire to teach with Steam this fall. I’ll need to find out what computer lab I’m going to have to use, so I can book it now.

Also in the “planning ahead” category, I’ve got to put together a syllabus for a games programming course that a nearby college has asked me to teach online.

From my server logs, I’ve noticed that my modding diary is starting to attract hits from search engines. I can’t imagine that I’d be of much help right now, but I plan to keep chronicling my progress, so that people who are even greener newbies than I am might learn a thing or two, and people who’ve been so kind to post helpful online tutorials can bask in the link love I shall bestow upon them.

Next on my modding to-do list: Probably working a little more on the lighting, adding a working light switch and some exterior light fixtures. Maybe some grass, too. I’d also like to figure out how to get bright sunlight to come down from the sky — right now the only light comes from artificial sources I’ve placed around my model.

I don’t know that I’ll get to it in the coming week, but I’m eager to figure out how to get my NPCs to respond to my actions. I’d also like to record some original dialog and get an in-game NPC to speak it.

Half-Life 2 Mod: Week 3 — Trees, Wall Sconces, Ceiling Fixtures (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)