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Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Is Totally Takei The Duke Nukem Forever demo is out. I can't even convey how surreal it is to me to be typing those words. But anyway, I've been poking around the demo for the last couple of days, and a new version of Noesis is up now that supports extracting 5 different variants of its included .dat packages.

The picture is of the world's first (well, probably) right and proper DNF content mod, with Duke sporting his brand new Takei Pride tanktop. Noesis spits out all of the info you need to re-inject textures while it's extracting them, and I've already got a fully functional repacker that I intend to release sometime relatively soon. I've also finished hammering out the model format now, and Noesis v3.27 and later can view/export them.

Duke modelDuke model
Duke modelDuke model

The process of exporting the models is pretty simple, but requires a few steps. Here's a step by step of what you need to do.

1) Using Noesis, extract the contents SkinMshes/defs.dat, SkinMeshes/meshes.dat, and SkinMeshes/skels.def. By default, Noesis will want to extract these to separate folders. You don't want this, and instead you want to extract them all to a single folder. (e.g. "c:\steam\steamapps\common\duke nukem forever demo\SkinMeshes\allfiles")

2) Browse to the .msh of your choice in Noesis and open it.

3) If .skl or .def files cannot be found automatically you will be prompted for them. Additionally, Noesis will attempt to find MegaPackage.dat and TextureDirectory.dat relative to the path of the .msh file. If it cannot, you will be prompted for those files as well.

4) Export and enjoy. Note that materials are still a work in progress, and it can't automatically find the right materials in most cases. But certain models are working. (like Duke and one of the Holsom twins)

I've got model re-import/modification working, but the material situation limits it pretty severely. In the coming days/weeks, I'll be continuing to reverse that data and trying to figure out a reasonable process for replacing/overriding assets that doesn't involve rebuilding all of the game's packages.

Also, if you haven't heard yet, you can play the vehicle sequence in first-person. It's much nicer this way.

Update: I've successfully exported a model to COLLADA, modified it (re-weighted, added and modified geometry, modified the texture), re-exported it to .msh using my in-progress Noesis exporter, and got it to load in the demo. Have a look:

Wait for the scene with the twins.


129 comments in total.
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Rich Whitehouse

June 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm (CST)
Nope, that's not really how it works. :) Its rendering features are well beyond UE2.5, and most of its asset formats don't resemble UE2.5 anymore. Additionally, no UE2.5 game/toolset even has deluxemaps as far as I know. You really want something that can already produce lightmapped geometry with per-luxel light vector data (that's what deluxemaps are). UE3 is a format nightmare on all fronts as well, and trying to make its maps exportable to anything else would waste days/weeks of my time. So I think q3bsp is the best choice with features and ease of implementation in mind.

The other thing is that q3bsp tools are all opensource already. That means they can be easily tweaked to produce geometry more ideal for DNF's rendering pipeline - better and wider batching of leaf nodes and fewer draws is probably important for them. UE2.5 did not do a very good job at this either, and I think being constrained to what closed-source UE2.5 tools spit out would be really damaging in the long run.

But hopefully Gearbox will just release their editor and make all of it unnecessary. :)



June 11, 2011 at 8:03 am (CST)
Would'nt it be easier to use the Unreal engine since the DNF engine is more or less UE2.5?



June 11, 2011 at 5:05 am (CST)
For the mighty boot, the "easy" way of implementing it is to edit the weapon models and animations to add duke's leg behind it and animate it instead of the weapon. The only issues with this is that duke will have three legs when using melee (body awareness + weapon)(hind the leg behind the camera when melee is not used). The other issue is that duke world model will still use normal melee animation (but I believe this can be edited too).


Rich Whitehouse

June 11, 2011 at 3:57 am (CST)
I agree with everything you suggested there, "always bet on mods". :) Getting rid of health regen is the one I see as the most problematic to deal with. There are some creative solutions (determining when to auto-drop health items, or even trying to sprinkle them through the map based on AI pathing node placement and some kind of pre-determined "difficulty" scale - or something a bit more off the wall like bandaging, though that has its own issues), though, so I'm sure something will work out that feels good and gets rid of that annoying "hide and seek" gameplay that interrupts combat with recharging health.

Carrying all weapons should be no problem. Then it's just a matter of adjusting the ammo counts given by each weapon, and the way the game is "balanced" in its current 2-weapon mode almost works perfectly already, if you don't limit Duke's arsenal and simply reduce the amount of ammo each weapon gives instead.

I agree again, stamina has got to go. So does the entire idea of sprinting. More intelligent/plentiful enemies is the offset for this. More intelligent enemies will be tough without getting that logic properly exposed, though. Hard to say how much of it is in compiled script and native code, too. Writing new AI via x86 disassembly wouldn't be a fun task. :)

I think the "press E for shotgun" prompt would just go away without the weapon limit. It's only there at the moment because it's a conscious decision to have to switch weapons.

Functionally, the mighty foot and weapon melee are probably about the same thing. I think they were just trying to be "more modern" when they did that, but they didn't implement their weapon melee very well. Like a lot of the up-close-and-personal actions in the game, it feels like you're hitting an invisible plastic screen even when you're making contact with an enemy. So... we'll have to see what happens there. Could do something crazy with melee combos that incorporate a separate mighty foot bind too, but that's getting into advanced-logic territory again.

murphy: The glasses seem to be in with the static meshes. I'll be getting to those in a bit.

Bloodshot: I'm hoping so too. I'm a bit torn at the moment, because I'm not sure if I should be starting work on my own level editing and custom unrealscript paths or not. It's a hell of a lot of reverse-engineering work, and it would be pointless if Gearbox intends to release DukeEd.exe. If they don't intend to release it, though, then I do intend to make the necessary tools myself. I'd probably be going the route of allowing existing Quake 3 (with deluxel) maps to be translated into .dnf format, in that case. Mainly because I already have a bunch of tools that do all kinds of things with q3bsp, and it's an easy base format for me to retarget from.



June 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm (CST)
Thanks for the hard work man. Duke 3D and Quake were my games growing up too, so I know how you feel. One thing that just annoys me is that 3DR allowed Jace Hall to show the level editor, and now we don't have it. I make levels a lot so you could imagine the killjoy it was to not have access to a level editor for it. I really hope GBX gives it though, because it would elevate this good game (or so I hear from most people, some reviews are giving it low though) to a much higher status in my book.



June 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm (CST)
Any idea where you can find Duke's Glasses? They seem to be hidden quite good :|.


always bet on mods

June 10, 2011 at 12:48 am (CST)
Your comment gave me a geekasm!

I really don't get how they could end up giving Duke the same mechanics and feel as the games he is making fun of. It's gutwrenching since this is obviously not an issue of 3dRealms' engine changes, too few programmers, or Gearbox rushing the game. It's a flawed design choice that has been made way back at 3dRealms. In this regard, George B. reminds me of George Lucas, who also didn't realize what made the original trilogy legendary...

Some suggestions for you and all the other great modders who will hopefully fix the Duke. Starting with the most obvious and probably most important:

-- fix cowardly health regen / ego system
- If it can't be removed completely, it should be fixed into its original form: only small regen as reward for kicking ass, no regen for hiding like a coward and chewing bubblegum.

-- carry all weapons
- it's obvious.

-- remove stamina system
- it's Duke goddamit! Always run, always in action, always bad ass!

-- remove all the consolized hints "press E for shotgun"
- I don't need highlighted items and hints telling me every step of the game what to do and which button to press!

-- fix driving
- I see you're already on it :)

-- everything you said about stepping on / finishing enemies
- as you said, in its current state it really feels unpolished, breaks immersion and takes away from Duke's greatness

-- bring back mightyboot
- could be a lot of work and is not essential, but I know most people miss the mightyboot and don't understand why it has been replaced by weapon melee


Rich Whitehouse

June 9, 2011 at 7:44 pm (CST)
Thanks, that's motivating to read! I've been a Duke fan for all these years as well.

I haven't played the full version of DNF yet, as I'm still waiting for my Amazon pre-order to ship on the 14th. From what I saw of the demo, though, there's a lot of great potential already in the content, but a lot of the game falls short of that potential. The vehicle sequence was a prime example of that - they had a better option (first-person mode), which added a lot to the general feel and intensity, already there and ready to go. But for some reason, they ignored it. Things like that are just ripe for the picking by modders. There's also just a lot of "feeling" issues. Stepping on enemies after shrinking them feels rigid and has poor feedback, finishers feel too mechanical and don't quite do the right thing for actual view feedback (jarring at the right times, making the right sounds at the right times), and I could go on there for pages. I'm not sure how much of that has been cleaned up for the final game, though.

Bringing the game back to more Duke-feeling roots (removing the whole stamina thing, playing with the recharging health mechanic, re-balancing ammo/weapon counts/placement to make holding more than 2 weapons possible while maintaining a good challenge in the existing maps) will require some more significant game-spanning balance changes to feel really right, but it's high on my list of things to do as well. I understand why 3DR/Gearbox went with some of these choices, but I think they lost sight of what made Duke3D great in some cases, or maybe didn't realize how nicely some of those key Duke3D gameplay elements could have transferred to this generation of games.

So there's all of that motivating me, and there's the fact that modding Doom, Duke3D, and Quake is what got me into the videogame industry. Those games basically shaped my professional career path, so they hold some significant meaning to me. Things aren't the same now as they were then, and Source seems to be king of the mod hill these days. But it still just feels really fucking wrong for the game that should be Duke3D's spiritual successor to be closed to modification, without even an official level editor presently in the cards. I'm really hoping Gearbox will change their mind on that and get DukeEd.exe out there to the public, but until then, I plan to be reversing the shit out of the game and making it possible for people to mod it one way or the other. :)


I waited so long

June 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm (CST)
Do you realize quite a few people who waited for over a decade for this game, were totally let down by what Gearbox is about to release, have been given hope for mod fixes by your post?


Rich Whitehouse

June 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm (CST)
You should have bones, if you exported to a format that supports bones. (COLLADA, SMD, etc. - OBJ does not)

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