Working on a new MOD with a full Ragnarok sized custom map for my group

So this is my first time building a MOD for ARK, although I have plenty of experience working on game engines back in the day. The last time I worked with UE was UE2, although I have worked with another engine a while back. My post is about my ideas and ways to do things with the UE4 engine under ADK. I am using 3DS max with a subscription, so I’d like to at least get my $150/mo out of that as well, even though I am a coder not a graphics artist. So any advice on that end of things would be most welcome.

My original idea was to build a new map using the largest volume the game will support, and then create regional zones based upon climates using an Earth based northern hemisphere model for climates, then populate zones with Flora based upon the climates and water content of the area. Once that is done I intend to move on to populating the zones with creatures based upon habitat, climate, and food sources. Being realistic, to be specific. You don’t find many if any reptiles roaming in sub-zero temperatures, for instance. Wind behavior would be part of that process as well as rain, electrical storms, sand storms, etc.

I am also rebuilding pretty much every object in the game, starting with structures, and adding a large amount of new resources and materials. My reason for duplicating the structures is to create a new set that I have already created along with new sets using new building materials so that I can customize them as well as allow them to be configured to some extent using configuration files that go with the mod. To give some detail to it, I have added fieldstone and several types of brick to the materials list for structure components. Think cut stone, crude clay brick, and more modern style composite bricks that are stronger and more visually appealing. (I have also added a kiln for making bricks in.) I also have added wood beam construction that uses lumber instead of rough cut logs and planks like we currently have. Stronger and better visual appearance as well.

I have created a lot of new equipment as well as structures, and redesigned some older ideas. For instance a motive force system (gas engine, coal and wood fired steam engine, wind turbine, water wheel, electric motor for examples) combined with a transmission unit that allows connection to one or more load devices such as generators, pumps for water or air (diving needs air and scuba tanks only hold so much air after all), saws, grinding stones for grain, etc. I am adding a new set of crafting stations as well. Some of what I have completed are a weaving station for making cloth, canvas, thread, and rope. I intend to add more, but I’ve only been working on this for two weeks and other than some ideas from a couple of members of our group I am working alone. But the weaving station allows me to create “skins” for armor as well as some new types of armor so the fashion types can have some of their fun and fashion war stuff.

I am intending to create a full range of working furniture as well to give raw materials for players to customize their “homes”, so to speak. Mostly just RP, but also giving that furniture some useful features to give players more reason to bother with furnishings.

I have the beginnings of a blueprint book as well that will hold every blueprint in the game. You add a new blueprint, such as ramshackle chitin leggings, to the book and the blueprint is consumed but now you have the blueprint in a single book that you can use at the new crafting stations. It also could be traded, such as bartering, so making an extra book to use in trading can have great value. I have no plans for a monetary system so the barter system will work good for players, no matter if they RP or not.

The end goal I have is to expand the fun the game already has and allow players to RP things a bit more. One of the issues we have with our group and likely others have it as well, is that people get bored after a while unless they have something to become attached to, a.k.a. a deeper level of immersion into ARK. Keep it fun and keep people playing instead of coming for a month and betting bored then looking for another game to play for a while.

Anyone interested in helping or maybe teaching me some of the tricks to modding ARK would be welcome. I am not interested in protecting my ideas or work, just in helping everyone have fun. I have the time since I am retired and I couldn’t care less about making a buck or whatever they do with all of this. I will also mention that I am not artistically inclined at all. My current textures are made using a camera and things that I have made with my own hands as part of my hobbies because I couldn’t hand craft them using any kind of software such as photoshop. I use GIMP and when I have what looks realistic to me, I use the Map function “Make Seamless” and go from there. It takes me five times as long to create the textures than it does to create detailed models, and just keep adjusting the mapping until all of the faces of the model look realistic. My poly counts are likely too high because when I create a model I make each visible component and then assemble them and run the pro-optimizer. So, advice and such is more than welcome. Coding is more along my line, c++ being my strong point although I can handle most of the newer languages.