Half-Life: NightWatch

Development Diary

27th December 2002 - by Francis "DeathWish" Woodhouse

Particle man, particle man, doing everything, a particle can. Or that's the theory, anyway.

Lots of people have expressed a liking for the effects we demoed in the recent particle system pimping video, and I'm glad of that. The particle system is a make-it-or-break-it kind of thing; one or two particle systems doing the right thing in the right place can really spice up a map, whereas too many can really bring it down. At least we know that people like what we've been trying with it, encouraging us to carry on.

Now, as I'm sure lots of you know, we're not the only mod to have a particle system. They're starting to become commonplace among high-profile mods, and with good reason - they can produce fantastic visual effects. However, it's what you do with it that counts. You can have an all-singing, all-dancing, quartic polynomial-solving make-the-tea-whilst-climbing-Everest particle system, but what's the point if you don't know how to use it properly?

That's why I tried to create a compromise with the Nightwatch particle system. If you don't have the means to create great visual effects with a fair amount of ease, then there's no point having it as no-one will want to use it. On the other hand, if it's got too many possible effects, movements, spawn methods and so forth, then no-one will want to use it either, as they'll have to sift through the irrelevant fields, tickboxes and drop-down menus.

Despite all that, it still takes some effort for someone new to using a particle system to start creating nice effects. There's a significant learning curve involved in it, where you start to learn exactly what's possible and what's not, and this is mainly done by simple trial and error. The time needed to familiarise with the system is minimised by the creation of efficient documentation, but even with reams of paper detailing exactly what everything does and how it interlinks with x, y and z, you still have to just sit down and learn.

With the particle system pretty much complete bar bug fixes and one or two additions and changes, we're looking into the future at what we can achieve with our arsenal of maps, code and models. And believe me, that future looks bright. There's no boundary to what we can achieve if we know what we want to achieve; it's just believing in ourselves. And do that we shall.

Previous diaries:
11th April 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
7th April 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
28th March 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
21st March 2003 by Mohammad "BadMofo" Alavi
14th March 2003 by Matt "Chalupamonk" Michelson
7th March 2003 by Ryan "Professional Victim" Desgroseilliers
21st February 2003 by Adam "WhoMe" Foster
14th February 2003 by Dan "coil" Johnson
7th February 2003 by Francis "DeathWish" Woodhouse
31st January 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
24th January 2003 by Mohammad "BadMofo" Alavi
17th January 2003 by Ryan "Professional Victim" Desgroseilliers
10th January 2003 by Ken "ken20banks" Banks
3rd January 2003 by Dan "coil" Johnson
27th December 2002 by Francis "DeathWish" Woodhouse
20th December 2002 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon