NEVERWINTER NIGHTS
  • 22 January 2017 15:06:45

    The Sunday Discussion - Gambit77 - Author of the Armorsmith and Weaponsmith Extended mods

    posted by BlindJudge Interviews
    Hi everyone, welcome to another 'Sunday Discussion'. Over the last few months, I have had the pleasure to talk to a number of people from all over the modding community and the reception has been great.

    Today I bring you Gambit77, author of the hugely popular 'Weaponsmith Extended' and 'Armorsmith Extended'. He talks to us about his favourite 'things', his friends down the street, his history of gaming and what he has lined up in the future. Gambit77 is just a really fun person to chat to...  enjoy!

    Firstly, I would like to thank you for the time you are giving up to speak to me, it’s most appreciated, would you mind letting us know a little bit about you?

    I like Twizzlers, I like the Alligator Bob, and my favorite drama movie is Bloodsucking Freaks, just like your mama. I’ve got Kudos for the first person to get that reference. I am a monk/artist/activist/DJ/music producer/audio engineer/network engineer/gamer/hip-hop hippie.
    My top eleven list of MCs in no particular order is Mos Def, Talib Kweli, KRS-One, Mr.Lif, Immortal Technique, Posdnuos, Gift of Gab, Guru, J-Live, Brother Ali and Homeboy Sandman.
    My two favorite bands to see play live are Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Sound Tribe Sector 9.
    My favorite movie is Bladerunner.
    My favorite series of novels is Robert Jordan’s Wheel Of Time.
    My favorite cuisine is Thai.
    My favorite superheroes are the X-Men.
    Comedy is what keeps me sane in this crazy world, and my favorite comedians are Dave Chappelle, George Carlin, and Bill Hicks.



    Before we get into the modding side of things, would you mind telling us all a little bit about your gaming history?

    The first game I ever played was Donkey Kong on arcade. Lance (a kid on the next street over) had it in his garage, next door to him Seth and Lee had a Colecovision. Eddie (down my street) had a Commodore 64. The first gaming system that I owned was an Atari 7800. After that I had a Nintendo (favorite games were Baseball Stars and Final Fantasy), Sega Genesis, Playstation, Playstation 2 (favorite games were Tekken 4 and Twisted Metal 2), Xbox 360 (favorite games were Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Skyrim), and now I’m a PC gamer. So I was in the position to get to see the history of video gaming from the very start, which I can say along with the other amazing technological advances of this day and age have been what I find most interesting this lifetime.


    Your gaming history is pretty vast and varied then. So, if you had to try and choose a favourite game, or at least the one you have the fondest memories of, what would it be and why?

    My hands down favorites have been the ‘Fallout’ series since Fallout 3. Just on a game design level, I consider them to be the gold standards for their time. My favorite aspects are the open world, “doowhatyoulike” concept and the engrossing stories. I also think on a psychological level that they’re really important. For so long now humanity has been living on the verge of destroying itself, that I think humanity, on the whole, has become desensitized to the fact that everything could be destroyed in a matter of minutes. I think the theme of the Fallout games is a timely reminder of what the stakes are in the game of life, and I hope that reminder influences enough people to act in ways that continue to prevent our demise at our own hands.


    What first attracted you to begin modding? Did you have any previous experience?

    Well, I tried on my last computer to mod TES Oblivion, after playing it on Xbox360. I came across a site like STEP, and I followed it and tried jumping in full steam, but it didn’t turn out too well. Either from jumping in too far, too fast, or my computer just not being up to the task. It just didn’t turn out well, tons of crashing and what not, so I only got a brief glimpse of the greatness that is modding.

    After playing Skyrim on Xbox 360, I came across the Nexus. Later that winter I built my first gaming PC, and after that checking the Nexus became pretty much a daily ritual to me. I made a handful of mods for Skyrim, but they were pretty much just vanilla companion tweaks and compatibility patches, nothing fancy.

    My transition from mod user started out how I assume it did for most people. I got started down that path by using xEdit to merge mod plugins so that I could use more mods. The more complicated the plugins I merged, the more I learned about how the various types of records interacted to make the game. After modding Skyrim, I moved on to modding New Vegas.

    That is where I started to make mods, and it’s when I got started making textures and altering meshes with Blender. I got pretty comfortable using GIMP, not so much with Blender. I’m still pretty noobish with mesh work. For years I would switch back and forth from New Vegas to Skyrim, although I did mod ‘State Of Decay’ for a little bit.


    To further your modding skills you must have to learn a lot of new things, what would you say is the best resource to do this?

    Honestly, I’ve learned mostly by doing. My skill set has just expanded by doing increasingly more and more complicated tasks. I haven’t sought out tutorials on technique, although I know they’re out there. Sometimes, when it’s just an answer to a question I have, I usually get it from forum posts that I have found through Google.



    Do you have anyone that you can turn to if you ever get stuck with a certain aspect of a mod?

    Yes, the Nexus modding community is the best. They’ve never failed to help me get past something I’ve been stuck on. Like I said prior, I’m still pretty noobish when it comes to meshes, so Ousnius has been the person that I turn to most often when I get stuck on something. From trouble with weight painting to fixing meshes with errors, he’s been super helpful.

    Elianora helped me get up to speed when I had to start using Photoshop to make normal and specular maps in the new file compression type. FadingSignal has been helpful with information on processing sound files.


    As a Mod Author do you check out other Mod Authors to either compare or learn from?

    Absolutely. First and foremost I’m a mod user. Right now I have 485 active mods. Most of my modding knowledge has been gained by reverse engineering the Fallout esms and other peoples’ mods. By knowing what they did it’s great to look into their plugin to see how they accomplished it.


    Are there any Mod Authors that you look up to or who inspire you?

    A ton, I’m sure I’ll forget to mention some of them there is so many. I think the people that I look up to the most are the ones that do things that I don’t know how to do. So especially the coders impress me a lot.
    The people that make the tools like ElminsterAU, Hlp, Zilav and Sharlikran for their work on FO4Edit, and Ousnius for his work on Bodyslide and Outfit Studio. That group of people’s work I feel is the most important contribution in our community. Other coders whose mods impress me a lot are Expired6978, Chesko, Talkie Toaster, Fore, Registrator2000, Wenderer, Engager, TheLich, FlipDeezy, and HydrogensaysHDT.

    The 3D modelers that make new stuff from scratch impress me a lot. People like Dragbody, DogtoothCG, Tumbajamba, L0rdOfWar, GrinnginUrchen, Lagrie, Yogensia, Billyro, Jordan1q2, MrRadiactive, MAIBATSU, m150, MikeMoore, Niero, Nivea, TrickyVein, TrophyHunter, InsanitySorrow, Isilmerial, Ghosu, FavoredSoul, ImsumDave, YYK Moral cat, Newermind43, AmethystDeceiver, Caliente, Dimon99 and ZeroFrost.

    Some of the texture artists that I look up to the most are Millenia, Deserter X, Hein84, Ellise, Jester, MadMax713, Printerkop, Ramccoid, SparrowPrince, Vasstek, Vurt, Cabal120, HelloSanta, Xenius, Maevan2, Navetsea, Zonzai, ZZjay, Dreamburrow, Gamwich, and Geonox.

    There are the mashup modders that piece together great stuff like Hothtrooper44, Elianora (whom I also consider the best world designer out there), Moore, Brokefoot, Aarwyn, Skibadaa, Henkspemadres, and Calyps.

    I also look up to FadingSignal; I don’t know how to generalize his place since he does a bit of everything. Usually, his work is needed to fill a void (sometimes one that you didn’t know existed until you start to imagine playing without it), and it’s always creative and well executed.

    And last, but not least, I have a lot of respect for RoyBatterian. I see myself as following in his footsteps making 'plugin' work my specialty.


    Do you work in a team of modders? If so, how do you divide the work and how do you communicate with one another?

    I work with a few teams of modders.

    My first wingman was Valdacil. Once he explained how he wanted to handle the dynamic naming of armor and weapons I was sold on the idea. Once Neanka joined that squad with DEF UI it put all the pieces together for what ended up being a team effort at overhauling the inventory UI experience. Now with Omega9380 making new icons for DEF UI, it’s completed the polishing of the UI experience. For that the work was split up with Neanka doing the UI Flash work, Valdacil handling the dynamic naming rules and item sorting, myself putting all the needed keywords on everything, and Omega adding more texture work on top of Neanka’s work.

    My second wingman is DOOMBASED (Doom). I’ve worked on a couple of projects with Doom, Weaponsmith Extended and Cannabis Commonwealth. For the first version of Weaponsmith, which was a merged plugin for weapons, with a few features like the keyword cap workaround, crafting, and leveled list integration added, he mostly helped me with testing. But for the new version of Weaponsmith, which adds a lot more features, he also helped me with the plugin work. The way we did that was, he would work on a certain task, putting his work into a separate plugin, then I would merge his work into the main plugin. That way we could both keep working simultaneously without waiting on the other person.

    Doom helped me with several tasks like getting all the weapons up to a certain level of polish when the original author's cut corners. We made OBTE entries and modcols for weapons that didn’t have them so that we could do more sophisticated leveled list setups, helping with the ammo balancing, and probably some other stuff that I’m forgetting.

    I work closely with BrowncoatGarrus as there is a lot of interplay between WSE and his New Calibers mod. BrowncoatGarrus’s framework and it’s integration in WSE, the way all the caliber rechamber mods increase the variety of the firearms, is one of my favorite WSE features. I feel like it gives users the same kind of freedom to use whichever guns they like, similar to AE with outfits, in a realistic way that scales well. I also have to mention Battousai124 and ShawnPhillips contributions, as they were both great beta testers and put a lot of effort into helping people out in the comments. Also, Battousai124 does the unenviable job of handling all the outreach and paperwork involved in being able to bundle modders assets to make the install easier for users. It’s a drag spending time on a task that doesn’t have that reward factor of seeing that time materialize as something in the game, so I hope people appreciate Battousai124 spending his time just to save them a little time.

    Henkspamadres’s ‘See Through Scope’ framework is one of those mods that just should have been in vanilla. In a world where everyone has played a 1st person shooter that has ACOG scopes, you just can’t leave this out of your game. Henkspamadre does a lot of work adding STS support for mod weapons, so integrating his work for those weapons by default in WSE was a no brainer.

    Talkie Toaster’s ‘Loads’ framework should also have been in vanilla. We had part of it in FNV, and the way he handled explosive and incendiary rounds compared to the vanilla legendary effect versions I feel is a nice improvement. I prefer the idea of a finite specialty ammo over the magical gun route. It was a lot of work to add Loads support for all the added ammunitions from New Calibers and the mod weapons, but I’m glad I did because it’s a great framework and it’s nice to see it fully integrated with everything else.

    On Cannabis Commonwealth, which is a port of MadNuttah’s Cannabis Skyrim, once I found out that Doom was also interested in bringing it to Fallout 4, we discovered that between the two of us we had the skillset to bring most of it over. So for that project, Doom did all the work porting meshes and converting textures to FO4 format, and I did all the plugin work. Later FlipDeezy and Slevin4Mods joined the team. Slevin had made a mod adding visual effects to alcohol and chems, so I had tossed some ideas for visual effects for Cannabis Commonwealth, and he just nailed exactly what I envisioned. FlipDeezy had made a mod for smoking cigs and cigars with animations, so when he joined the CC team, he added the joint and blunt smoking animations.



    I also work with BigAndFlabby maintaining and updating DrDanzel’s ‘Crafting Workbenches.' I started working with DrDanzel when I moved the Armorsmith bench into AWKCR so we could both use it for our recipes which unified the vanilla outfit and mod outfit crafting, which at the time also allowed us to use shared crafting menu keywords to help with the former Keyword Cap issue.

    As far as communication methods we mostly use Nexus’ PM system, although I do also use Steam for communicating with some of my modder friends as well.


    When I began playing Fallout 4 I got extremely frustrated that I couldn’t put armor on top of some of my overalls, Armorsmith Extended has solved this issue, so huge thanks. With over 744,000 unique downloads did you expect it to be so successful?

    It took off too fast for me to ever form any expectations.


    What combination of armour and outfit do you normally rock in the game?

    I usually rock combat armor. The visual customization options in Endormoons’s Craftable Custom Combat Armor are cool, and there are some nice paint jobs in that. My favorite color scheme is the black with chrome paint job with the carbon fiber textures, and I love the Punisher decal for the chest. When I played a male character my favorite outfits were Unoctium and DogtoothCG’s Veteran Ranger Armor, Eferas’ Badass Vault Dweller outfit that I used one of Nitonizer’s vault suit retextures with, and L0rdOfWar’s Rebel Outfit and Scavenged NCR Armors. Now playing a female character, my favorite outfits are Jordan1q2’s Shirt and Jeans, DeserterX’s Commonwealth Shorts, Babzero’s Gurl outfit, and a bunch of Elianora’s outfits, with my current outfit being her Corset and Shorts outfit from Apocalypse Attire.


    Did you create the mod without the aid of GECK/CK?

    Yes, I made all my mods for FO4 using FO4Edit, Outfit Studio, and NifSkope. I have used GECK/CK for doing some work on FNV and Skyrim mods, but I mostly use xEdit as I have more experience with it so I can do tasks faster using it. I prefer the way XEdit isolates records by a plugin instead of the way that all the entries are compiled together in the CK. I think that makes it easier to learn from what you’re looking at. While xEdit has limitations in regards to scripting, nav meshing, and world edits, those aren’t things I usually deal with, so I never felt handicapped using xEdit. I think using xEdit is better for learning how records interconnect, while the CK is probably better for people that already know how everything works and already know going into a project exactly what changes they need to make.


    Did you expect the mod to become as popular as it did?

    It seems the most popular mods are the ones that have to add in features and content which should have been in vanilla to begin with. So, looking at it from that perspective I’m not surprised that ‘Armorsmith Extended’ and ‘Armor and Weapon Keywords Community Resource’ became as popular as they have. I think a lot of it has to do with not only the features that they add but the way they unify everything to a standard level of polish and integration.

    Honestly, my most popular mods aren’t even what I consider to be my best work.

    I think that the new version of Weaponsmith Extended is the best work I’ve done. I think the reason that hasn’t taken off is because of how complicated the install process is, with it having multiple dependencies on other mods as well as a list of mods that have to be installed for their assets. I know there is a segment of the modder community that finds making their mod dependant on someone else’s mod to be anathema, but I think that’s a ridiculous opinion because all the limitations that can be overcome by doing so.



    What was the hardest part in the creation of Armorsmith Extended?

    Probably the hardest part is the part that I haven’t done yet. Bethesda added the ability in FO4 to add bone weight adjustments to armor add-on entries to adjust the appearance of armor meshes worn over the outfits. This allows you set it up so that armor pieces won’t clip with the outfit under them. I had been waiting on the CK, with the hope that the CK would allow me to change those bone weight adjustment entries while seeing the effects of those changes in real time in the render window. Unfortunately, the CK doesn’t even allow you to view those bone weight adjustment entries. So to make these changes it requires doing the setting in FO4Edit and then loading up the game to see how the changes turned out. So to add these changes to all the outfits would be a massive undertaking of trial and error that would take forever. For that reason, I haven’t worked on them, because it feels like an inefficient use of time.

    I’ve also had trouble doing weight painting for meshes that I want to stay rigid, such as weapon wearables. That’s a skill that I still haven’t quite got nailed down yet.


    Any plans for future mods in the pipeline?

    A few. I have a graffiti mod that, for now, I have just replaced textures and meshes from a different graffiti mod, so I need to do the plugin work for that to make them standalone. I’m going to continuing adding more mod weapons to Weaponsmith. I find it’s easier to add them in big batches, and I try to wait for new weapon mods to finish development because it can be a pain to integrate updates. Also, I plan on making an Armorsmith Extended 2, that is similar to WSE in that it merges lots of outfits into a single plugin and includes leveled list integration for the outfits. That shouldn’t take too long since most of the groundwork is already complete in all the AE versions of outfits plugins, so that will mainly just be doing the leveled lists.


    Do you keep track of recently released mods? Do you ever look at them and think they would be a good fit towards your mods?

    Yes, I check the Nexus daily to look at all the new mods. If I see an outfit I like and want to use, I make an AE version of that mod’s plugin. If I see a weapon I like I download it so it can eventually be integrated into Weaponsmith. My plugin count is high enough that I can’t just install new weapons solo, so integrating them into WSE is a necessity just for me to use them.



    Are you able to complete everything yourself or do you ever have to pass things off to other people?

    I probably could take the time to learn how to do everything I come across, but a lot of times it’s just far more efficient, time-wise, to pass off tasks to other people. When working with a team, it just makes sense for people to work on the parts that are already in their skillset. And when getting help, sometimes it’s easier for someone else to do a task for you than for them to take the time to teach you how to do it yourself.


    How do you take criticism from users? Do you find it useful or frustrating?

    It depends. Bug reports, I embrace wholeheartedly. Even with a team of beta testers, the scope of my mods means that it’s inevitable that a bug or two will sneak through and go unnoticed until a public release gets way more eyes on it.

    Some criticism I’ve gotten on Armorsmith that pisses me off is when people complain that it has too much stuff in it. To me when people complain that it adds apparel items, which if they don’t want to use them they never have to craft them, that pisses me off. What’s the point of complaining about features that are completely optional that you have to opt in to use in the first place?

    Or with Weaponsmith, people complaining about having to download other weapon mods for their assets. That pisses me off because I think they’re just lazy, entitled, whiners. I downloaded and installed all those weapon mods, what’s the big deal? Sure it’s great that some modders allow me to bundle their assets to make the install easier for users, but I don’t consider it a make or break issue. If someone else had made WSE, having to download all the included weapons individually wouldn’t have prevented me from using it. Also on WSE, I get complaints about all the framework dependencies and the scope of the ammo expansion. They want me to make a version that doesn’t integrate Loads and New Calibers. It doesn’t piss me off because it’s a valid opinion on game design, but it’s not one that I share, so it does annoy me because of the amount of effort that went into integrating those two mods. And ultimately people need to remember that I’m making these mods for me, so I make them to my specifications. Asking for me to cater them to you can range from maybe a good idea to pissing me off because you’re asking me to remove work that I spent a bunch of time on. I try not to make assumptions, but I have to assume that asking a modder to undo their work will usually piss them off.


    Do you worry about mod compatibility when you develop?

    Yes and no. I don’t let what other people have done effect how I go about creating what I’m trying to do. But at the same time if what I’ve done effects another mod, if it’s something I use then I usually make a patch to integrate them. I don’t make patches for mods I don’t use. Also, like with AWKCR and the Slot Usage Standard I’ve tried to create shared resources that everybody can use which helps everybody makes their mods more compatible with everyone else's.



    If you could offer any advice to our users who want to get into modding what would it be?

    Open some plugins up in FO4Edit. Take a look at how the records interconnect. A lot of things in the game are accomplished through cascading chains of records, so try to learn how the different record types interact with each other. Once you’ve figured out that then you can start adding new items into the game. Also, a lot can be learned by merging plugins. That’s how I got started, and it helped to learn by figuring out how to resolve conflicts between the source plugins.


    Many thanks for taking the time out to chat with us today.[

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