Curse of River's End Spotlight

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Dec 16, 2014
Messages
92
Hi!
Deathcom3s contacted me a few months back about a possibility of featuring my map Curse of River's End (Dota 2) as a special/spotlight-project, we have been working on updating the map since then and most recently ported it to the new Dota 2 Reborn,

Here is the QnA between me and Deathcom3s (questions are marked in bold), if you need anything else I'd be happy to assist!

Thanks,

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Curse of River's End

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It will contain a basic intro, including some details about you (ie. past experience, how you got started, relevant interests, etc.)

My name is Invalidnick, been modding various games on and off for some 16 years now. I started playing around with the Warcraft 2 map editor a long time ago but it wasn't until Half-Life was released that I started making maps for real. I've also done a maps for Quake III, Unreal Tournament and various Source mods like Counter-Strike and Natural-Selection. All time favorite games are Half-Life, CS:S, D2:LoD, vanilla WoW and recently Dota 2, combined I've probably spend at least 10 000 hours playing those games.
For the past 10-12 years I've been employed in the game industry, working on games like: Just Cause, Battlefield: Bad Company, Just Cause 2, Renegade Ops + Cold Strike. Always had design oriented positions, like level designer, level art, mission designer, lead world-, lead level designer etc. When I'm not creating worlds I like to take long walks on the beach...with my dog.


It will contain a brief synopsis of the map, and any screenshots that you would like included.

Currently we have released a DotA-styled version of this mod the Steam Workshop with the classic DotA-game mode (kill the other team's Ancient) found here: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=381995351 (you need to have Dota 2 installed to play it)

We decided to put the custom PVP-version of this map on ice, while Source 2 is making its way from Alpha to a more releasable state, we will continue to work on that as soon we have time, and will hopefully be able to release it this fall together with some new content and a alternative updated map.

Curse of River's End is set somewhere in the Dota 2 universe, it is build around the small town of River's End and the close by church. The somewhat cheesy lore includes Roshan, the Secret Shopkeeper and a huge sword. There is also a few Half-Life references like "Freeman's Inn", Lamarr in the town fountain...you can also find G-man somewhere in the map.

The origin of the name comes from the fictional event that cursed River's End; one night Roshan stole the Aegis from the Shopkeeper, when the Shopkeeper found out his precious Aegis was stolen he prayed to the gods to strike down whoever had stole it. In response a massive swords were conjured and shot from the skies. In the mood shot one can see Freeman's Inn with the big sword and the broken church in the background.

Here is another picture of the sword with the Graveyard in the foreground.
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I had a friend of mine helping me re-write all the lore:

The monastic town of River’s End had always been quiet, even after the fall of the Mad Moon. From time to time, merchants brought news of skirmishes and bandits, but they seemed always to be far from the sleepy township. Instead, life in River’s End revolved around the production of the beers and cheeses that had made the town famous.

At the height of its popularity, River’s End played host to a visit from the Secret Shop itself, its lone attendant hawking rare artefacts like none the townsfolk had seen. The Secret Shop attracted the attention of heroes from far flung regions, searching for ways to augment their strange powers and unnatural strengths. Far away, curled in his rocky nest, Roshan sensed the gathering power and stirred.

Reaching River’s End in the dead of night, Roshan found the Secret Shop unattended, its wares strewn hither and thither across the countertops. Buried among the relics, there pulsed an ancient power. He raked a claw across the treasures, scattering swords and precious stones, revealing the Aegis of the Immortal. Satisfied with his theft and with the sun rising, the ancient beast retreated to the basement of the town’s chapel, where the cool stone walls reminded him of the pit he was spawned in.

As the sun rose, the secret shopkeeper rose and repacked his bedroll, readying himself for another day of explaining basic economics to the Ogre Magi. When he saw that the shop had been plundered while he slept, he flew into a rage and cursed the town of River’s End. He swore on any gods that would listen that he would strike down whoever had raided the shop.

The sky darkened as he made his oaths, a thick layer of cloud dimming the morning sun. Thunder pealed and lightning rent the air, but he continued, invoking names and creatures that none of the townsfolk had heard from, calling on debts and favours in languages long since extinct.

The gods answered his prayer, a vast blade fell from the sky, tongues of flame creeping up its leading edge. The sword cleaved through the chapel, missing the sleeping Roshan by inches. Though he escaped being crushed by the blade, he was bound to it, destined wait in the shattered chapel for death to find him.

Despite their innocence, the curse left none of the inhabitants of River’s End untouched. A tide of avarice turned friends and neighbours into enemies as looting and pillaging swept the town.

As a wandering hero, you spawn outside River’s End…


A basic Q&A, including the process of developing CORE, issues you may have had during development, plans for the future and advice for anyone interested in getting started with Dota 2 modding.

A year before the Dota 2 Workshop Tools were released me and Daskaren were casually talking about how cool it would be to make a map for Dota 2. Fast forward one year and the tools were released, as a old time World Craft user (what the Source editor was called before it was renamed to Hammer) this was super exciting news for me.
After a few weeks of trying out the new tools we picked up the theory crafting trying to decide what to make. Compared to me Daskaren is an experienced DotA/Dota 2 player and well familiar with the old and new meta and all heroes.
The actual development of CORE (creating assets, textures and the level) has been straight forward without any real issues, mostly because the new tools are well designed and easy to use, previous knowledge of Hammer and other editors has of course been very helpful, and the fact that we know each other very well.

Having somebody to bounce of ideas as well as splitting up the work and working in iterations is the core to efficient workflow and will greatly help to keep (in my opinion) the most important reason why we are doing this alive; to have fun!

Depending on how you like to work and what skill set you posses the development might look a little different.
For us it started with grayboxing a layout, trying to get a general feel for size and shapes, then iterate on the different areas it until it feels good, I'd say it's extremely rare to nail something on the first try, at this point we probably have around 40 revisions of CORE.

This is the first layout of CORE:

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Compared to the current (version 0.3.5) layout of CORE:

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Rule of thumb: if it doesn't feel good, rework it until it feels good (which is easier said than done), sometimes you are better of leaving a area for a while until you can come back with a fresh pair of eyes, forcing things will make it feel...erm, forced and in the end you will probably end up re-working/deleting it anyway. When creating levels; depending on how comfortable you are at projecting and iterating on the vision in your own head it might be easier to get a general sense of what you want to make by sketching something down on paper. CORE is a example of a map that has evolved without any initial sketches.

If you are adding custom content it's usually very helpful to have some type of style-guide or a few images/screenshots as reference of what you want to create, for CORE I put together a few sheets of reference pictures and notes that Daskaren and I used throughout development, does not need to be fancy as long it helps you out. Valve has a excellent style guide for their heroes, and Blizzard are usually very good at making inspiring style guides.

This is a lights only screenshot we used as reference for one of the CORE mood paintovers done by a good friend of mine:

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Version one of the paintover, it looks cool, but I wanted some more contrast and colors:

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This is the update version we have been using for our cover art:

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I like the rich and dark lore of the Diablo universe, and I think Blizzard did a good job on the assets for Diablo III, the CORE assets are very much inspired by that game. We also looked for inspiration from the Dota 2 comic "Are we heroes yet", in one of the last slides Sithil and Quirt are sitting in pub-like environment, the interior seen in the background was the inspiration to the exterior of the houses in CORE.

Regarding content development...
In (any) editor; to make life easy for yourself you should always work with groups, instances and prefabs. For example every custom asset in CORE that blocks fov, cuts the navmesh or influence the gameplay is either a instance or a prefab. A instance is a group of entities saved in your vmap file, editing one of the instances will automatically update all other instances in your map. All pillars, trims, railings, fences and lamps in CORE are instanced and were placed around in the map before we had made the final art. Replacing all those items individually would have been very time consuming, by having them instanced we saved a lot of time since we only had to update one copy of each instance.

It's also important to test your stuff frequently, to make sure that everything works etc. Compile times in previous version of Hammer took a while, but in this newer version (Source 2) its a lot faster, its also possible to reload a bunch of things inside the game which makes testing faster and easier. The model editor supports a range of formats, OBJ, FBX, DMX and SMD, and its possible to source PSD files in your materials. When exporting your map it will automatically convert your (large) source format into a (smaller) compressed format, its possible to select how much you want to compress your textures. The source textures for CORE is roughly 500-600 mb and exported textures under 100 mb.

In Source 2 the original format of BSP has been replaced with 'mesh', you are no longer limited to the editing restrictions BSP had. As a person raised on BSP games and BSP editing; I've been editing BSP longer than I've done anything else...in my life, how do I feel about it being gone? I absolutely love it! The current mesh editing is a fusion of your favorite 3d program mixed with the speed of sketchup (yet more user friendly), Valve has managed to removed all the quirks of BSP editing yet keeping the good things. I salute you!

However all the raw mesh data adds up in the end (increased drawcalls and file size), so it's good to convert your mesh data into (vmdl) models. This could be done at anytime during the development, since its fairly easy to convert models back into editable mesh. I have roughly 40 hours of (super boring) plain mapping on my youtube channel where I go through all the different steps I just talked about, it also shows the development of CORE (from grayboxes to complete).

All the houses in CORE are build modular, they are a combination of different custom made house-addons, this allows cross editing between the different instance to go fast. Later all the walls, foundations and roofs where baked into individual vmdl files to reduce drawcalls and mesh data.

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Constructing larger assets (buildings) like this will hopefully pay off when (if) we ever get around to add some destruction.

Here is a walkthrough video made a community guy Icarus and some additional screenshots from the current (ver 0.3.5) version of CORE:


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Looking ahead we will continue to work on CORE, the "dota"-version is starting to feel good, future playtests will hopefully provide us with feedback and bugs, and we will update the map as we go.
We will also start to re-implement the custom PvP game mode (that started this project) now when the new Dota 2 Reborn client is out.
You will be able to read all about it in the Dota 2 section here at The Hive Workshop.

Thanks for reading,
 
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Interesting information. Thanks for taking the time to write this up! I really love the theme of your map, and the house assets turned out great in particular. They fit in so well.

A few questions from someone who doesn't have experience with Source 2:
  • You mention that compile times are faster now than before. How long are the current compile times, on average?
  • Have you gotten far into the mechanics yet? I know atm the current version is standard AoS style, but your WIP page notes that it will be a FFA (which seems awesome, btw). Any progress/thoughts on the programming aspect thus far?
  • Thanks for the time lapse videos! They are always entertaining to look through.
  • Have you experienced any shortcomings/irritations with the editor yet?
  • What was the funnest stage of development? :D
  • How will destruction work (if you end up implementing it)? Sounds exciting.

Great job on the map. I look forward to seeing this project come to fruition, hopefully you'll keep us all updated. :)
 
Level 16
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
1,455
Interesting information. Thanks for taking the time to write this up! I really love the theme of your map, and the house assets turned out great in particular. They fit in so well.

A few questions from someone who doesn't have experience with Source 2:
  • You mention that compile times are faster now than before. How long are the current compile times, on average?
  • Have you gotten far into the mechanics yet? I know atm the current version is standard AoS style, but your WIP page notes that it will be a FFA (which seems awesome, btw). Any progress/thoughts on the programming aspect thus far?
  • Thanks for the time lapse videos! They are always entertaining to look through.
  • Have you experienced any shortcomings/irritations with the editor yet?
  • What was the funnest stage of development? :D
  • How will destruction work (if you end up implementing it)? Sounds exciting.

Great job on the map. I look forward to seeing this project come to fruition, hopefully you'll keep us all updated. :)


"Have you experienced any shortcomings/irritations with the editor yet?"

I can answer that for him, the main thing is basically that right now the map has a size limit and over that size maps have fog of war that can't be removed, i think it's a placeholder limit though and it's not intended to stay there forever.
 
Level 5
Joined
Dec 16, 2014
Messages
92
Interesting information. Thanks for taking the time to write this up! I really love the theme of your map, and the house assets turned out great in particular. They fit in so well.

A few questions from someone who doesn't have experience with Source 2:
  • You mention that compile times are faster now than before. How long are the current compile times, on average?

    The Source and goldSRC had a different way of compiling the maps than Source 2, it used Carmak's old (but brilliant) BSP code, all light/vis was done during compilation which made the process a bit longer, depending on map complexity/size/amount of light/amount of models etc. the compilation could take hours. Compiling CORE in Source would also probably take hours, compared to the Alpha tools where it took/takes ~10 minutes, and most recently the Beta tools where it takes ~3-5 minutes, so the turnaround times has really improved!


  • Have you gotten far into the mechanics yet? I know atm the current version is standard AoS style, but your WIP page notes that it will be a FFA (which seems awesome, btw). Any progress/thoughts on the programming aspect thus far?

    We have a early prototype of the FFA/objective mode running on the Alpha version of the tools, we managed to make what we initially wanted. Since the tools were early in development we did not want to go too much into detail and script around issues we thought would be updated at a later stage, with the Dota 2 Reborn update Valve released the Beta version of the tools (which features some things that the Alpha version didn't have), my guesses are that they will keep updating and adding stuff that will make everyone's life easier, since the game mode we had in mind was fairly simple I don't think anything has broke in the update but you never know,


  • Thanks for the time lapse videos! They are always entertaining to look through.
  • Have you experienced any shortcomings/irritations with the editor yet?

    Most of the time developing CORE was done in the Alpha version of the tools (which pretty much is the same as the Beta version - with a few fixes etc.), they are in good shape and easy to work with, there were a few things I was missing from Source Hammer - like keybinds etc, but that was quickly re-learned, everything else if pretty straight forward and intuitive,
    They have kept all the good things with Hammer from Source, and improved on the weaker areas - like adding a new material and model editor,
    I'm super excited to see what can be done in the full Source 2 SDK when its released!


  • What was the funnest stage of development? :D

    The best part with hobby projects is that you are your own boss and you have 100% control over everything yourself, you can always take help from others but completing the project is entirely up to you - when you are not happy with something you can afford taking the time until you are happy,
    In this case learning the new tools have been very exciting and inspiring,


  • How will destruction work (if you end up implementing it)? Sounds exciting.


    We have done a few tests, and it seems like what we want to make is totally doable, it will be a cocktail of hide/show meshes on events, timers, some animations and then sprinkle some effects on top. Destruction is usually something that eats performance so one needs to be smart about it, we will start by adding it as a visual flavor in some areas, monitor how it is received...then see how far we can take it,

Great job on the map. I look forward to seeing this project come to fruition, hopefully you'll keep us all updated. :)

Thanks! Good to hear! Replies to the questions in your quote...

This is a awesome community and my wip-thread seems fairly popular so thought I would do a little mash up from behind the scene, hopefully people will find it useful, thanks to Deathcom3s and Ralle for making this happen!
 
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