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Modding Research Slowed?


MrElephant
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MrElephant

I was a semi-active member a number of years ago.  At that time, research and development of modding tools for Lego Racers 1 was going fairly well.  However- very important tools such as a track editor, a path editor, and a a custom car importer over AI opponents was never created.  It is semi surprising no progress has been made on this in the past 5 years.  Meanwhile, the Mario Kart community now has the ability of creating new tracks, new custom characters (which is admittedly easier), and can edit paths of course.  I know its comparing very different games, but just trying to understand what would be needed.  Part of it could be the Mario Kart community has much larger support.

 

My question is, what would be needed to create these types of tools and resources for all users?  Is an idea like this even feasible, and where would a team of programmers/programmer begin?  I know there are many tutorials from different individuals explaining some of characteristics.  It doesnt seem like the community has had very many good programmers ever since Origamiguy moved onto better things.

 

Just thought it would be good to get some sort of discussion rolling.

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RobExplorien

This reply is really a result of chance encounter. That is already a telling statement; I hardly visit this forum these days.

 

I remember those days you mention too. I think I joined around the peak of the Lego Racers modding days. in early 2013. That was around the time origamiguy posted the binary file editorgrappigegovert and his in-game coordinate viewer and ghost path recorder (note: distinct from AI paths in regular races), le717 who designed a software to facilitate the patching of the LEGO.JAM with modded content, JimbobJeffers who soon after wrote a tutorial on modding LEGO Racers, did a Rock Racers texture overhaul, and constructed a 3D model of a Rock Raiders truck to race with, and later on I believe Sluicer pushed the field forward significantly again somewhere around 2015 (I do not remember which fields exactly), followed by a track viewer/editor from grappigegovert as a result. Aside from that, many small things had been made or discovered. What pops to mind is controlling transparency of textures that Brickulator reported on, and the custom powerbrick lay-outs by Creator who in addition also made many new textures. All this was precluded of course by the LEGO.JAM file extractor originally posted by JrMasterModelBuilder, which was posted a year or so prior to the mentioned tools/mods (in any case, before I joined this forum). I hope I recollected my memory correctly in this little paragraph of history.

 

Now that I had some looking around, a similar question was made seven years ago in this topic about what holds us back from making custom tracks. The challenge seems to be mostly in creating custom collision meshes to make new track lay-outs (the .BVB files) and the objects appearing in the game (.BDB files). I recall Sluicer working out the file format, and now that I search it did experiment with.

 

From my perspective, I made grateful use of these tools, spending hours with them to make things like LEGO Acceleracers, a silly checkpoint generator, and creating custom texture packs for minifigs. I never was a programmer by heart though, so my contribution only went as far as using the tools to make some additions to the modding community. I recall working with Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Express to make these console-based GUI tools. It is all Python and MATLAB for me these days.

 

About a year after graduating high school I gradually, but soon after, lost my interest in the modding, both due to a change of interests and the resultant lack of time, occasionally lurking on the forum to see updates on things like that LEGO Racers online effort, which probably also stagnated years ago. While I am a bit pessimistic about the future (since most of us grown up with the late 90s LEGO games have gone into their 20s and 30s by now with a) a lesser chance of possessing or finding back the dedication and time to mod the game to such an extent as we did a decade back, and b) having a smaller 'customer base' for the modded content), there may always be another individual who picks up enough enthusiasm to give it another go and continue where others have left off. Every bit of extra research, even if the interest dies out eventually, is worth the time; it adds some new perspective and hopefully you had fun in this endeavour. (I think a lot of academic research too works this way, lots of ideas that are tried, make a bit of progress, but then die out either in favour of other projects or because the 'returns on investment' are not great.) The fun I sure had when I was active on RRU, and it would still spark some excitement in me seeing new updates. But in reality the sporadic activity I show on RRU nowadays will likely limit itself to complimenting others when they find a new breakthrough in LEGO Racers modding. To actually use their tools/research for new content is a closed chapter for me I'm afraid. Though this also has a lot to do with the effort one needs to put into modding. In other words, once the tool is there and it has a user-friendly GUI with little need to dig deep into the LEGO.JAM, then it will help a lot in removing the entry barrier to users for making custom content.

 

I also uphold replay value as mattering a lot in getting the modding off the ground. RollerCoaster Tycoon for example has a large 'customer base' due to this aspect and the creative outlet it provides, and so the development of OpenRCT has continued steadily. But in that instance the developers rewrote the whole source code after they 'cracked' the original Assembly code. This may have been too much effort for LEGO Racers, of which the way the game operates is perhaps not as intuitive from the get-go.

 

I started writing this and am not sure now what point I am trying to convey, but like you said, if it gets a discussion rolling then I can rest my case.

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