State of the mod
Version 0.9.4.0 has been rolled out to my beta testers. The revisions for this version, some of which I’ve posted about previously include
- Overhauled the BGA bunkers once again. I’m now using the default GCV bunkers, collisions, interaction triggers and bunkerSiloArea triggers, though I’ve spaced the bunker walls out a bit to create wider bunker areas thereby increasing the total silage each bunker can hold. Testing so far has been positive with no bleed through between the bunkers. Chaff and grass can now be leveled relatively flat, the expected behavior, and no longer exhibits the pyramiding effect I had with the previous set of bunkers.
- Replaced the default liquid slurry pit from GCV with a truly impressive model from Robbie. The detail on this slurry pit is top notch and the animations are very well done. I have not seen this model implemented on another map yet and its rewarding to add something that is for the moment at least somewhat unique. The prefab is available on the Giants ModHub so I don’t expect any exclusivity for long.
- Added snow mask for Seasons mod
- Replaced FS15 trees with FS17 trees to support Seasons mod.
I’d had hoped to have released the map by now or in the worst case have release it by months end but the issues with the BGA bunkers and RL have derailed that plan. I’ll be taking some time off from work next week and hope to devote an ample chunk of that time to testing the map with the Seasons mod, addressing a few remaining issues, and possibly adding an enhancement or two. While the BGA issues seem to be in the past a new issue has popped up. One of the fields, field 10 to be specific, has become a point of confusion for the Helper AI. Helpers will run down the length of the field, turn around and head back up field as expected until they’ve covered about three quarters of the field. They will then hit a spot, always the same spot, where they turn mid-field and head back to way they came leaving part of the field unfinished. Initially I had though it to be an issue with the growth management mod but disabling the mod did not solve the issue. In fact the Helper AI still performed the same mid-field turn even with all of the mods disabled. My next thought was that there may be an invisible collision that was causing the confusion but running the field with collisions highlighted using F5 did not reveal anything. Giants had place several restricted zones on GCV which had lead to issues with starter maps based on GCV if the restricted zones were not removed. A search of the scenegraph did not reveal any of these zones nor could I find them by opening the map01.i3d as a text file and searching in Notepad++. If this was one of my non-rectangular fields I would have suspected that the problem might be caused by overlapping field dimensions, but F10 is a rectangular field with a single set of dimensions so there is nothing to overlap. None the less I deleted the dimensions and remade them but that unfortunately did not solve the issue. The next step will be to erase the terrain detail for the field and redo the field from scratch. Fortunately I do not consider this to be a mod breaking problem. The section not completed by the Helper can be done manually, and the Course Play AI has not suffered the same confusion and seems quite capable of working the field as expected. In other words, while I would not have released the map with the BGA issues we found earlier I’m not going to hold the map back if this one remains unsolved.
From the start the guiding design approach behind Nagce Valley has been to build a map for myself that aligns with my playstyle, and while I’ve always intended to share the map, Nagce Valley is most likely not going to be a map the main stream players are going to take to. One of my design criteria is that realism will almost always trump convenience. To this point solid objects such as trees, fences, signs, and power poles will have collisions regardless of their proximity to a field. Grass run off areas between fields are relatively small and in most cases will not be deep enough to turn equipment around making the use of headlands more or less mandatory. I have not included any open lots for dropping placeables, you may still find areas with sufficient room for a placeable should you choose but you’re going to need to get creative. Production facilities have been kept to a minimum.
So what are the play style elements that drove the maps design. The first was that the map would have large irregularly shaped fields and would be big equipment friendly while still offering something of a challenge. I prefer to do the majority of the work myself rather than relying on the AI and this is reflected in the maps design. The proximity of field to each other and to fences should not be an issue when the equipment is driven by the player but may be more of an issue if you rely too much on the Helper AI though Course Play should be able to handle most of what I’ve thrown at it. The key will be the use of headlands, both at the ends of the fields to provide enough room to turn equipment around as well as along the fields edge to prevent the AI from working the adjacent field as well as the one you’ve set them to run. While fields surrounded by big grass runoff areas may be convenient I don’t find them terribly realistic and generally somewhat boring. I’ve never bothered with gold so it will not be making an appearance on the map. The rail system was fun for a bit on GCV but quickly lost its appeal and was never seriously considered for inclusion on the map.
I’m still undecided on the fate of missions and AI traffic. I’ve heard the argument that without traffic a map doesn’t feel real and while I agree with the argument at a base level I find the AI traffic to be so poorly implemented that the case for realism falls flat on its face. In other words I find the empty back roads of Nagce Valley to be far less immersion breaking than if they were filled with cars that drive in the on rails manner of FS’s traffic system. The lack of a town, and detour that closes the east west road to local traffic only make the lonely road theme somewhat more believable than running traffic-less on a map such as GCV might be.
As much as I liked the idea of how missions would be implemented in FS17 the reality of the implementation fell short of my expectations. First, I’ve always felt that even on hard difficulty missions were too profitable . Second missions lack any real challenge, they may become long in duration but I don’t find that tedium equates well with challenge. Almost all of the fields on Nagce Valley are over 10ha and thus likely to be too monotonous to be appealing. Another argument against missions on Nagce Valley is the bug that allows the NPC to plant poplar, grass or oilseed radish on maps that incorporate the addtionalMapTypes script. I believe I have a work around for the bug, however while the fix will keep the NPC from planting crops that it should not be planting it will also means that the NPC will no longer be able to plant the additionalMapTypes crops such as Oats or Rye. Missions will however most likely make the final cut.
The Seasons mod has been called a game changer in much the same way that the Soil Mod transformed FS15 and from what I’ve seen so far I would have to agree. I’ve just started a Seasons play through in SP running a 12 day season at 1x speed. As of this morning I’m about half way through the first day and just finished up the plowing on field 1 (43ha), with three more fields, field 5 (18ha), field 6 (7ha) and field 7 (11ha) to go. I’d like to have all four fields plowed, the first round of fertilizer down and the fields sown by the time I hit mid spring at day 5, so the 12/1 option seems appropriate. I’ve stacked the deck a bit by placing two of Stevie’s Hay Loft placeables near the BGA and then edited the defaultVehicles.xml to fill the haylofts with grass and chaff. This will allow me to test out the BGA bunkers without having to wait for grass to become harvestable, so any extra time I have after planting will likely be focused on the BGA. The haylofts are solely for testing and will not be included in the release of the map. We’re also running this version of the map with Seasons enabled on Iain’s server, IIRC at the 9 day/5x settings. So far the testing’s going well in both SP and MP, no issues have been noted with the Seasons mod other than learning the ins and outs of the mod.
As I mentioned previously, PS-SG.uk will be the only official site from which the map may be downloaded and it will be the sole forum from which I’ll provide support for the map. PC-SG will be migrating the site to new software on July 8th, there’s no word yet on how long the site may be down for but if all goes well I’m planning on uploading the release version shortly after the site comes back on line. That being said the release date is still subject to the usual it will be released when it’s done clause.