Like the chosen undead they follow, there are few walls in the Dark Souls modding scene that can’t be broken without persistence. Since the original PC release was salvaged by stubborn fans, Dark Souls’s modding community has spent years breaking a game that defies being broken. For the longest time, though, getting custom level geometry was a boss beyond modders’ might. But once more, through bull-headed trial and error, another obstacle has been knocked away with Dark Souls’ first third-party map, seven years after launch.
Naturally, they’ve done that by dropping a cursed undead into Half-Life: Deathmatch’s best/worst map, Crossfire.
Modders have been able to mess around with maps for a while, mind. There’s even a third-party Unity tool kicking about for mixing up NPC, monster, prop and item placement on existing maps. But getting full-blown new levels into Dark Souls has been a massive challenge for creators.
Redditor Katalash explains that pesky collision maps – the bit of a file that determines where a player can or can’t walk – were near impossible to get their hands on. Fortunately, the Havok tool used to create Dark Souls 1’s collision maps were (temporarily) available to the public way back. With a bit of work, it’s possible to create entirely new collisions for entirely new geometry.
There’s still the problem of populating these new maps, mind. You’ll notice that Dark Souls Crossfire looks quite barren up there. Modders are still working out ways to generate navigation meshes – a layer of data that sits above the level floor, telling NPCs where to walk and how to behave. It’s still early days, Katalash notes. “One thing to keep in mind is that this is essentially a proof of concept: a lot of manual effort was needed to create this, and our modding tools have to mature more before making custom maps is easy to do for the average modder.”
But the implications are wild. Plenty have pointed out the potential for entirely new dungeons to explore, built by players who have spent the better part of the last decade exhausting Dark Souls of challenge. New arenas built by these folks could be absolutely brutal.
Another commenter hopes that one day, fans may remake Lost Izalith. An infamously rubbish part of the first Dark Souls, Izalith was a flat plain with a bit of lava and some half-baked encounter design. It might be another seven years before easy map-making becomes the norm in Dark Souls modding, but I’m quietly excited to see what comes of it.