Dark Souls may have came out all the way back in 2011, but modders have finally figured out how to bring custom levels into the game.
The first custom map for Dark Souls, Half Life's Crossfire map, currently exists solely as proof of concept for aspiring modders and fans of custom levels. According to a number of modders familiar with the process, the project was a team effort that required getting over a number of technical hurdles.
Among those hurdles is what modder Katalash calls the "main roadblock for custom maps in Dark Souls," and that's the tool FromSoftware used to engineer in-game physics and collision detection. The modder wrote at length about the process on Reddit and what it means for the future of Dark Souls custom maps.
"All the games' collision data is stored in a proprietary Havok format, and From added their own customizations on top of the format. To further complicate matters, the file format and stored data change drastically between game to game. The collision for this was made using an old version of Havok Content tools that was released publicly for a short amount of time before Havok stopped distributing new versions of the tools," Katalash said.
According to a Twitter thread by modder Zullie, modders Meowmaritus and Horkrux are responsible for two breakthroughs that led to the first custom map for Dark Souls. In the simplest of terms, Meowmaritus designed tools that could import custom models, and Horkrux discovered a way to add collision physics. The result is Half Life's Crossfire map being brought to Dark Souls, and a breakthrough that should eventually make custom maps more approachable for modders.
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