It cries impolitely when idle. It draws attention when in the company of others. It's needy and insecure, and screams bloody-murder when I don't give it enough respect.
The truth is, questions like these are a little less polite than a vulture eyeing my free time like it was some unsuspecting field-mouse. And I resent it all the more because with some begrudging disdain I know, it does have a point...
Building a library of thousands of assets is a tough slog. There's no getting around that unhappy truth. And it was obvious from the start that sorting through everything would take a degree of organization.
Yet, naming schemes aren't sexy. No one's going to preorder a AAA title based off of how neatly you've labeled a half-dozen referenceIDs. To most I'd imagine it's appropriately insignificant. But perhaps you'd be surprised how often I've stared at the screen and been transfixed in slack-jawed thought, wondering what to call a chair or simple doorway.
They're hardly something you'd advertise front and center. But for any project of scale they can make or break the whole endeavor. And many modders and game designers alike have struggled with understanding the peculiar and sometimes mystifying ways that things are organized. Outlander's no different in that respect, it needs a proper structure. So every name has been given thought, and most everything has its proper place. (I hope!)
But even so, I've been left feeling unsatisfied by the lack of transparency. After everything's been labeled, boxed, stacked and arranged. After I build that final asset and rubber stamp the last item, where exactly would someone new start?
Eventually a release will come, and what then?
It's not an issue that's limited to just Outlander alone, this effects everyone. From Tamriel Rebuilt to Morrowind Rebirth. All projects at one time or another will have to deal with what comes the day after. And just as important, the days it takes to get there.
To get up to speed on any given mod you need to burn through quite a bit of time simply to know what new pieces you have access to. This has been a problem for Morrowind for 15 years, and presumably quite a bit longer. So with this in mind, one reason why Outlander has taken the form it does is to showcase some of the new objects and to give people an idea of the possible uses of the new meshes and textures. It serves as an interactive gallery. A jumping off point so that you and other creators like yourself can create with greater ease in the long run.
The vulture is still hungry.
Since starting work on Dash a little under a month ago, I've known getting it to a serviceable state would be only half the battle. Building the tools needed to make its new palettes would make up the other side of that coin. And as luck would have it, it'd be the more interesting bit. While Dash takes its cues from the Visual Index and is in a very real sense iterative, this new tool would have to be created from scratch to fill a tailored need.
Enter Strider, the counterpart to Dash. Although Dash may be a competent viewer, Strider is designed from the ground up as a tool to create. I'll be using this to flesh out all the palettes. And in much the same way the construction set was given freely for modders to use, so too will this new kit.
By default Dash will come with literally hundreds of prebuilt palettes covering most of the vanilla assets within the game. But with Strider you'll be able to build the links and connections using the backbone of this system to build your own custom palettes. Instead of non-interactive images and charts, you'll be able to link any object you'd like to any image you design.
What seems clear in hindsight is that all that worry about names and conventions, while still very important, can be sidestepped entirely. As more palettes are built each day what's coming into picture is a WYSWYG model. What you see is what you get. Soon memorizing names of thousands of assets won't be as important as visually picking and choosing the exact model you'd like.
And maybe then the buzzard will finally shut up.
So the work continues. There'll be more updates as I get the time to fill you guys in, but sufficed to say there's a lot of bug fixing and testing in the future. Oh, and a very special thanks to Greatness7 who I would be completely at a loss without on this project. Truly one of the greatest morrowind modders out there today. If you haven't checked out his most recent work you should give his nexus profile a look. His alchemy ui overhaul is something of a minor godsend.
With a bit of luck we'll have a Beta for you guys to play with, although I don't want to tempt fate by posting a release date. As always, thanks for the continued support everybody. It was really wonderful to take a breather and chat with all of you.
You guys are awesome.