I've been wanting to post this topic for many months now. It's a continuation to ideas I posted a while back, regarding my wish to create a total conversion for TDM, adding a cyberpunk theme alongside the original steampunk world. The reason for making a new thread is that I have a plan laid out by now, but will need help from the community with it. I wish to know how many people would be willing to help out, so that I may know whether I should start laying out the foundation of this project. I will explain exactly what I plan to do in the form of a FAQ below, so that I can easily cover every aspect. This is going to be long, so make sure you have some time before diving into it! If you want to go straight to the points about what I require and skip the rest, read the titles in red which cover the essential paragraphs.
- What is this all about?
The idea is in part inspired by one of the favorite games in my childhood, DeusEx - The Conspiracy. I used to spend weeks playing through it every few months, drawn by its adventurous story and its dark yet appealing environments. Since the last few years, it's been a dream of mine to create a FOSS cyberpunk stealth game with RPG elements, that would be entirely unique (similarly to how TDM is unique from Thief) yet have the same feel and atmosphere I loved about it (once again like TDM has the same atmosphere as Thief).
My earliest thoughts were on trying to achieve this in Xonotic, which is a GPL licensed arena-type shooter I've been a long time contributor to. Of course I eventually abandoned the idea... mostly given that Xonotic has no features for single-player mechanics, such as saving / loading or any kind of AI except bots treated as real players. Then more than two years ago, I finally discovered The Dark Mod. After playing it for some time, I quickly realized it's by far my best option to making such a project come true.
- Why The Dark Mod, instead of building the game from scratch? It was designed to be a steampunk stealth game after all!
The first reason why I want to use TDM as a basis is that it already has every crucial mechanic I need, in terms of AI and interaction and world programming. It does of course lack a lot of the features I ultimately hope to include, although most are optional and I could attempt scripting them at a later stage... for now little to no game code chances would be required. The most significant features are the AI (very advanced and intelligent), carefully balanced gameplay plus other common ideas, as well as the mapping system with its intelligent area portals. It should also be considered that while I'm usually a competent contributor, I'm terrible when it comes to programming something from the ground up, so there's no other way this could happen as a FOSS project unless I hire an entire team. The project aims to be a stealth game that works the same way after all, so why not?
To exemplify what I mean: You can open DarkRadiant and build a medieval town with a tavern, then add a guard patrolling the tavern with a bow and a sword. In the conversion, you'll be able to build a futuristic city with a club, and have a guard patrol that club with a knife and a rifle. In both cases, the AI will do exactly the same things with equally correct results: The guards take the same patrol routes, chase after the player the same way, vocally alert one another in the same fashion, and search rooms and hiding spots as efficiently once the player disappears from view. There is no "medieval patrol style" versus "futuristic patrol style", the choices and decisions are exactly the same! The only considerable difference will be the assets and animations and settings.
The second reason is that I'm a fan of the idTech engines as well as gtkRadiant based editors. idTech 4 is in fact one of my favorite engines in the line, due to how intuitively it was designed at its core and how much it pulled off during its day. Its only problem is that it hasn't had as many developers forking and modernizing it, unlike idTech 3 with say Daemon engine (for Unvanquished)... that is of course not its fault, and in part due to being open-sourced much more recently in comparison.
- How exactly would the mod work? Are you thinking of creating your own TDM fork?
I don't plan to create an actual fork of TDM, which would be impossible to maintain on my own and only divide the community and its efforts. My plan is to create a mod that will run on top of vanilla TDM, adding new content without affecting any of the existing functionality. The mod would be distributed as one or many pk4 files, which are simply dropped into the main directory next to the stock pk4's! Its assets will be grouped under the mod's own name, so that they're always distinguishable from the normal ones... just like every default component is listed in a "thedarkmod" directory inside DarkRadiant, they would be listed in a "howeverthiswillbecalled" group. Once you have the pk4(s) of the mod inside your TDM installation, normally download any mission using them it in order to play it!
- So missions will be able to use entities and assets from both stock TDM and this mod?
My plan is to allow that, and nothing should prevent maps with mixed assets. Keep in mind however that I ultimately want the mod to be independent, and encourage relevant missions to only use textures and entities included with it rather than a mix! If you take out every single stock TDM asset (excluding md5anim's which will be reused) the mod will be expected to work on its own.
- Will the new assets also be non-commercial?
Unlike vanilla TDM, I don't wish to include any CC-*-NC and CC-*-ND assets with the mod. That's primarily because I find them limiting, and feel that they ruin the openness of the project.
- Is there a name for the mod yet?
I've been thinking about it but haven't fully decided so far. I want it to be something familiar and related to TDM; Initially I wanted to call it The Dark Modern, but that sounds rather silly. The name I'm considering now is The Dark Machina, which retains familiarity with TDM and is also more theme relevant... further suggestions are appreciated.
- What is the benefit for the community? Why should anyone put any effort into this?
The project is targeted to everyone in the TDM community who alongside a steampunk stealth game, would enjoy a cyberpunk stealth game of equal or greater visual fidelity... with exactly the same base gameplay and core functionality, but an entirely different world and atmosphere. The project will be publicly available on a Git repository of its own (most likely Gitlab), and anyone will be able to easily install it on top of vanilla TDM. Simply put: If you help and things go according to plan, you'll have a triple-A scifi game inspired by the look and feel of the DeusEx series, just as you currently have a triple-A game victorian game inspired by the look and feel of Thief.
- What do you need help with exactly? What would others have to do?
Obviously I'm not asking others to do the work for me. But at the same time, it's not something I can just go ahead and do on my own either! For this reason I've come up with a plan, which would allow contributions to happen gradually whenever someone willing to dedicate their time to helping adds something new. This is mainly a call to existing TDM developers, who know best how to export and define new assets. If the project takes off, based on the answers I get in this thread, the starter plan is as follows:
I will be creating two Git repositories. One will be the official repository of the mod, which will contain assets in working format and condition... the other will contain images, sounds, blend files, and other resources in their native format. This will include freely licensed assets I find on the internet, which I will hand pick and tweak to make sure they're in the readiest state possible, then sort them in a way that's easy to work with. Most will be taken from http://opengameart.org and http://www.blendswap.com and I'll likely use a few things from Xonotic altogether! The assets included in this repository are to be exported and / or converted to TDM compatible formats, then included in the real mod repository. A list will be maintained in order to keep track of which assets have already been ported. Every ported asset can be issued as a pull request, or sent to me personally in case the contributor doesn't have access to the Git service that will be used.
The rigging, exporting, and conversion processes are what I require the community's help with! As far as models textures and sounds go, no new content will need to be created... I plan to use freely licensed resources which are already available and plenty, enough to create a full mod out of. Obviously I'll be doing some of the exporting and definition writing myself, but since there will be so much new content I can't do it all on my own... unless I dedicate every waking hour of my life to it for over an year, which would be more than I can handle
TLDR: I'll be compiling a repository of game-ready assets, such as textures and models and sounds. Anyone who wishes to help is only asked to pick them up, adjust the TDM specific necessities (exporting to md5, creating material definitions, etc) and publicize the results for inclusion.
- So no new content is going to be needed?
For the most part, no. There is only one exception to this rule: Voices. As they're something TDM specific, they have to be created to match the world and what's happening in it. They are however not a priority, and can happen at a later stage in the project. Until then we can live with a few cyborg troops saying things like "in the name of the Lord Builder, you shall go to the gallows, you heretic"
Other than that, I will eventually want to add new functionality. Including a Minecraft type inventory system, computer chips the player can install into their suit or body in order to gain enhancements (modules / augmentations / whatever), and most importantly a re-implementation of the interactive touchscreens in Doom 3. Those are however even more distant needs in comparison, and not what this thread will focus on at this point... I plan to look into such once I'm sure there are enough contributors to be certain this is happening altogether.
- What do you need done for each type of asset explicitly?
Here is a list of every new asset type the mod is going to introduce, and the steps I estimate to be required for each:
- Characters: I will be offering the blend files of all characters scheduled for inclusion. They will contain the mesh, textures, as well as the rig that the character comes with (if available). Steps to be taken include: Rigging the character to the TDM animation skeleton after using the original rig for initial posing (including face rigging), generating the shadow mesh, making sure polygon count is within acceptable limits, and finally exporting to md5. Lastly, generating and tweaking the character definitions (stats, team, social status, voice, etc) and the material definitions for the character's textures, which should be all that's needed for the model to become a working character. Notice: I'll be preparing a blend file containing the simplified / optimized TDM rig in order to ease the process, including the face rig which I remember had to be extracted from existing characters.
- Models: A similar process would be needed with static models and simple entities: They will be distributed as blend files which include the model and texture, and need to be exported to ase / lwo, with entity and material definitions in place.
- Textures: Most will likely be distributed as jpg and png, and will need to be converted to dds and tga. The material definitions will need to be created as usual.
- Sounds: Will be distributed as wav or ogg, which normally don't need to be converted. Sound definitions need to be created however.
As far as specific TDM functions go, this is how I intend the modifications to work per component:
- Weapons: The plan is to keep each weapon the same in terms of purpose and functionality, and mainly modify the models animations and sounds. The same core code will therefore be used by each, but new entity definitions should be made in order to not affect maps using the existing items while the mod is installed.
- Menu: When a mission intended for the mod is installed, the main menu will use different textures and a different background song... no modifications to the entries or functionality will be made otherwise. I'm uncertain as to how this can be achieved, although it is lower on the priority list.
- What will be the modern equivalent of existing TDM items, as well as new content?
Like I said, I plan to keep the functionality and purpose roughly the same, at least for a while. Therefore items will serve the same goals, and work almost exactly like the existing ones in TDM... it will be basically the names and appearances that change. The important replacements I currently have planned include:
- Weapons: Blackjack becomes Police Baton or Taser. Sword becomes Knife. Bow becomes Crossbow or Sniper (arrow types and behaviors unchanged).
- Items: Lantern becomes Flashlight or Keychain Light. Telescope becomes Binoculars. Compass remains Compass. Snake and Triangle lockpicks become Physical and Electronic lockpick (mechanical doors are unlocked with the first, electronic doors with the later). Potions become Medkits, Syringes, or special types of enhancements.
As far as completely new content goes in regard to items and entities, here is a rough list so far:
- Books & Notes: Alongside the existing books and notes, laptops / smartphones / tablets will be added. They are unrelated to future plans for interactive screens, and simply refer to new types of visuals for readable items found throughout the world.
- Lighting: The replacement to existing candles and torches will mostly consist of desk lamps, particularly neon and LED based ones.
- Characters: A similar structure of factions will be followed, compared to the existing guards + thieves + civilians + beggars + nobles. In this case the main categories will be: Police (ideally different suits for various units), gang members (once again different clothing for each gang), with modern looking civilians of various classes. There will also be entirely new outfits covering jobs existent in modern times, such as scientists or industrial workers.
- Robots: The existing code behind the Steambot will be used to implement multiple kinds of security drones patrolling an area. Especially in early stages before new scripts are considered, they can have the same function of only sounding an alarm when the enemy is spotted.
- Props: There will be various modern props added throughout the world, depending on what content I find. This will include: Flaming barrels for poorer areas, futuristic cars and bikes parked on the sidewalks, televisions that play videos (in case itTech 4 allows video textures), and the list goes on.
- Closing thoughts:
First of all, thank you for reading this enormous post, regardless of whether you wish to support the project or not. This is something I've dreamed of creating for a while now, and I really hope at least a few artists out there are willing to support it! Please leave your thoughts if you want, as well as voting on the pool so I can more easily estimate the help I may expect.