Sunday, December 20, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
"Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. And the nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression."
- Sir John Harvey-Jones
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Some screenies below, initially from a WPM area, but the from the in-progress area I'm going to send to Chaos Wielder. And yes, I am too addicted to the jungle fog vfx. It's too good and hides too many sins. Hell, I could be happy just putting down caves filled with that fx and nothing else sometimes....
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
So, probably around about a year ago now, just over, DA2 had been released and I was working on the first segment of DA3. The party were fleeing the massacre at the militia's fortress and looking to sneak into the city of Marsember. Then, real life got very busy as work took off in all sorts of crazy poorly thought out directions and the staff struggled to keep up with it. And in the spare time I did have, all I could do was feel awestruck by what lay ahead of me to finish the DA series. I still laugh when I dig out my old notes right back from the begining (2006-7) to see that the whole DA series was going to be 5 chapters and each chapter cover 5 maybe 6 areas. Heh. piece of cake, huh? 2 Years, 2 chapters and 20 areas later (OK they were areas made by *me*, but still I mean c'mon), it weren't looking so simple. I had the biggest chapter facing me - a trek through the Vast Swamp, meeting *another* companion (who I might come back to at some point), sneaking into Marsember to find a paranoid Elder, lots of city sidequests involving attemtping a coup in the town, and winning round the Purple Dragons and the fleet, being shadowed by an assassin from the lower hells, culiminating in a showdown with the paranoid hedonist Elder Hasturn in a masquerade ball (natch...). Then, there was the other two chapters, Chapter 4 in a race across the Stonelands to find Elder Porphyrrion's lair, and the final chapter piece de resistance as the players soul is dragged down into Hades and he has to fight against the very devil who gave him/her a chance for revenge - to either redeem the PC him/herself and all the other vengeful souls, or to usurp the Keeper and replace him as the might power on the Planes. Aye, it was all mapped out. Even finally meeting Gork's dead Brother Spirit... (Gork was going to die, but his spirit find rest, so when the PC arrived in Hades, Brother Spirit was there waiting to help him/her).
There wasn't time. As much as I wanted to, this was too unwieldy a beast, and my free time was sapped. So I left the toolset alone. But it never leaves you alone, I find. Anything can be a trigger for a "I wonder if I could do/mimic/use that in a module...?" moment. But I needed a way of working that would allow me to still build with the toolset, and indulge this drug-like habit that modding can be.
So, I took to picking up bits an pieces of old areas, resusing them, dabbling in the prefabs on the vault. Picking mini-projects like the Cormyr Overland Map to try and get more content out there. And slowly, picking the odd hour's time on the toolset here and there, things began to piece together. And the germ of a simple idea took hold. The biggest time sinks in the toolset are area building and writing. So, let's not do either...
Doesn't sound like much of a prospect huh? Not quite from the Azenn school of self-deprecation but getting there. But it underpinned what I thought I wanted to do with the toolset. Something that harks back to pen-and-paper D&D sessions. Exploration and player interaction. I wanted to create a multiplayer (or single player party creation) sandbox game.
So, I started piecing things together. I'd learnt the basics of an overland map, I had a broad array of prefabs to exploit, there was some custom content itching to be used. Now I needed a framework to hang it on.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
..but we did both just score a pretty sweet hat-trick!
(Soccer reference might be lost on some of you, but any fellow Liverpool fans will know what I mean!)
Check out the AME NWN2 Golden Dragon winners here
Proud, humbled and guilty given some of the competition.
Slowly getting back to reality after my wedding a fortnight ago. Was a great, but exhausting day. It was fun to see the guests reaction (depending on comprehension) to the geeky touches I'd put in - my bride walked down the ailse to the refrain from The Princess Bride, each guest recieved a custom six-sided die with our names and the date on the 1 spot (in the planescape font AvalonQuest), and the tables were named "Worthington", "Braddock", "Wilson", "Bishop" and "Wagner" - 50 xp for anyone spotting the connection! ;)
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Meantime, highlighting overlooked custom content, I like mushrooms. Fried in butter and garlic, a little cream. Atop a toasted brioche.
Anyone else have fungi-based recipes to share?
Friday, August 14, 2009
But what are people's pet hates in modules? We often talk about what people like, but what about the flipside -little things that become big turn-offs? Feel free to mention burning horse companions that can't navigate the walkmesh, poor area design, unfinished campaign series... ;) . I guess for something to be a pet hate it has to be common enough amongst different modules to become a grind. Mine is probably lip-flappers on PC responses -perhaps because I read fairly quickly, but I find it slows the flow down too much, especially as 1) you've read the PC options already before deciding on which to pick, and 2) there's no PC voice-over anyway...
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Last year was when the quality of the mods on the vault really ramped up as the community showed what it can do (and I think the next generation of releases such as Zork, Trinity, Misery Stone, Better the Demon, Shattered Dreams, amongst several others will be building on that even further). So was suprised to see Dark Avenger 2 up there amongst the great competition from the likes of AmstradHero and others. Good to see the Halloween mod being recognised too. It does make me feel worse for shelving the Dark Avenger project tho... still think it was the right choice, but
Being called a 'Veteran' is amusing given the noob mistakes and fudges that pepper my time on the toolset, and that my only other playable release that year was one-joke-one-trick pony The Elemental Plane of Rats. Was very suprised to see my foraging system up for nomination, mainly as it is quite a simple system, and something I think the goodie system in SoZ takes a step further, but glad if it's been of use to others.
So, NWN2-wise, now my head is less fuggy, and my Fort saves vs. disease seem to be kicking in, I need to catch up on missed writing time for Shattered Dreams. Maybe next time, I'll post more on some other plans...
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Reading this blog post from Kamal made me realise something. I always liked dark areas too, and have my preferred interior lighting to give the desired effect. Dungeons and caves should be dark and shadowy, to be atmospheric and tense places to visit. Most of the creatures have darkvision, so other than roasting hobbits, won't need lots of lit fires. But then along comes the PC. Chances are they will have a torch, but chances are they'll also have a mage. Who can cast Light. Or maybe a race with darkvision. And then all sense of atmosphere is lost. It's something that has always bugged me, but I hadn't quite put my finger on it. The Light and darkvision VFX makes things too washed-out bright - now everything is too stark, the murky cave walls look grainy - all that effort with carefully place lights lerping between phosphorescent colors is wasted. Yes, these effects should make things more visible, but it'd be nice if there was some murkiness left. Maybe having light create an effect like carrying a torch would be a better bet... or tweaking the bloom in these areas so the don't light things up as much (but then would need placed lights being tweaked)...
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Part of the shelved project, it has encounters balanced for level 7 (if you set global int nChapter2enc to 1, if left at 0 then tougher encounters will spawn), with some new encounters of my own devising thrown in too. Can be used with the Arabel prefab I've shared too.
It also has several hidden sidequest locations scattered over the map - but I haven't made the actual areas for these and they will need developing by the builder.
The goodie system drove me to distraction - as far as I could tell it should be working, but I couldn't get it going. That said, all the needed ipoints are in place on the map for someone who can.
In other news, David Eddings recently died aged 77. I read the belgariad/Mallorean as a young teenager and absolutely loved them. Might have to dig out some copies for a spot of nostalgia.
Monday, June 01, 2009
- if we modders are partly to blame for how the NWN2 community developed
- if the same mistakes are going to be repeated with Dragon Age
We all know the reason that's rolled out every time someone asks why so few modules for NWN2 are out there is the longer development time in NWN2 and the increased complexity of the toolset. But rather than tackling these problems, are modders acknowledging their presence then just carrying on regardless? How long have some projects been in development now, and how many of the players that we sought to cater to have long since gone?DA is only going to make things more complicated and involved from what I can tell...
Back on track, the main reason I've abandoned the-project-that-never-was is to help out with the writing on BouncyRock's Shattered Dreams. There's some interesting ideas in this and it's a different setting to writing in which is proving a fresh challenge. You'll have seen some of the development reported on Elysius' blog to give a hint of the effort going into this project.
So in case you thought this blog was going to turn into me sharing my holiday snaps and poorly-formed opinions on things, rather than anything related to building for the NWN2 community... afraid you ain't gotten rid of me that easily.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Entering the Coliseum at El Jem - the most intact structure of its kind left in thwe world, and used as a basis for the CGI in Gladiator. Amazingly intact, and quite awe-inspiring when entering the area. The 38 degree heat made you feel for those who fought in it even more. You can still head underneath the area to where the animals and gladiators would have lived and awaited ther next fight.
You can still climb up to to the top stands of the Colisuem and take in the view...
... and gaze down at the rows of seats that the crowds would have populated. Strane just how similar it is to modern sports stadia.
Tunisia has a large amount of well preserved mosaics dating back from the first few centuries AD - largely in part due to the different stone theyused in their constructions. There are museums teeming withthese mosaics, and the scale of some is incredible. This shot depicts Neptune and his horses, flanked by a triton and nereid
Finally, a couple of shots from the ruins of Carthage, one time rival to Rome, and has suffered much since its fall. Many of the columns found in other structurs all over Tunisia have been ransacked from the ruins of Carthage. The top shot is me standing above the calidarium in the baths.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Having finished the main plot with my good character (Playing as 'Wyrin' himself - Swashbuckler3/Bard5 finishing SB3/Bard7/DivineChampion5 - Rapier and short sword, maxed bluff, tumble, UMD), I thought i'd share my thoughts.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the campaign. It did remind me of the city quests in BG, and the style of quests from the BG series. The companions were well rounded and well-realised and fun to travel with - Mantides being a standout for me and the type of character I enjoy. Their personal quests were very good as well. I'm glad the bulk of their interaction came through interjections rather than having to trawl through their main dialogue for each new snippet. Some of the interjections were just banter back and forth between them, and a little more interjection from the PC would have been nice. Similarly, when it came to dialogue choices with NPCs that had an effect on influence, I felt a few more of these, and a few more conflicting choices where you favoured one companion over another, would have been nice. But hey, you always want more of a good thing, and what there was, was very well done. Writing on the whole was good, although I did feel some of it felt a little too modern (can something be anachronistic in a fantasy setting?) and jarred a little bit - 'D-man' just didn't sit right with me for some reason. But the NPC dialogue had a good tone, and there was a nice balance between cutscenes and NWN1 dialogue. Little touches like the protester really added character to the city and a nice touch of humour (without going OTT). Options for skill use were fairly plentiful, and the implementation of the 'Shady Huckster' as an outlet for the Appraise skill was excellent - clever idea. Voice acting was surprisingly good.
Area design was top notch - particularly the exteriors which were amongst the best cityscapes I'd seen and the Arena area perhaps the most varied and well done area I'd seen. Interior areas were good on the whole but not quite up to the same standard; in particular, more atmospheric lighting (rather than default) in some interior areas would have helped the mood. Good to see that everything I found that could be clicked on had suitable descriptive text too. It did show in some ways that it had been built before the expansions were available, e.g. some placed effects missing that became available later.
Custom content was good and not too glaringly different from the official models. Your nemesis Orbakh was nicely detailed and animated, little touches like the telescope suitably arcane. The behind-the-scenes devil was in fact based on one of my favorite D&D artists work, Wayne Reynolds, who has done some superb art for D&D. The sewer tileset added a much needed change of scene, although I did feel that something more could have been made from it in the area design to make it feel like the party were travelling in dark dank sewers, and it lacked some of the punch of other custom tilesets. But perhaps the least mentioned CC was the best touch to me - the pub and shop signs. Special kudos has to go to Ossian for making their models available so quickly after release to the community.
Gameplay - An 'intelligent' item which risks the user become evil, eh? ;) The mask and 'curse-that-isn't' (i.e. has no real effect) central to the plot was not as intrusive as I had feared, although some means of recovering an alignment shifts due to its use would have been good (I only recall one or two actual alignment changes). I was surprised how easy I found the combats - my builds don't usually have that easy a time - but there was only one reload on combat (spider lair tackled too early on and without all the companions!), and none on any 'climactic' battles, which was a little disappointing. That said, the flow of the battles was good, and I hate being bogged down in reloads just to get past one particularly tough fight, so I'm not really complaining here. I was glad to be playing an arcane caster, and perhaps it was this that tipped the battles in my favour so much. As some others have mentioned, several battles happened as soon as you entered a room often in cramped conditions, and I'm not so much a fan of this, as weaker party members are left exposed. Some consideration of this in the area design would have made the start of some fights less of a desperate dash for the pause key. There was a nice mix of puzzles and skill use thrown in there too, adding a bit of variety. A city adventure by it's nature will involve the standard progress quest - run to transition - load area - progress quest - retrace/rinse/repeat, but this only grated a little and by planning you could group quests by area involved to make more manageable. One aspect of the gameplay that I was a little disappointed by was the lack of open die rolling on skill checks. I like to see which skills are used and what I'm aiming for, particularly for skills that I might only be dabbling in rather than maximising. There were a few times it was clear that the skill descriptor was masking the fact that the outcome couldn't be changed. I'd prefer there to be no implication of a skill check if there isn't one. Skill checks are something to be balanced just like combat. I can understand the decision to hide them, but it's not something I like. Another small thing that struck was around the Knot quest and approaching the deurgar - i happened to guess the bluff that was played before it was revealed, and some means of spotting or sensing that would have been nice (might have missed it?).
Plot - there were many sidequests, each dropped in to the game in different ways and I never felt the 'Oh no suppose I should do this, just to get the xp, let's skim through the are loading screens then..' attitude some mundane sidequests can bring. The miniature giant space hamster homage was fun, although in a way I was glad it was brief before the tone of it detracted from the overarching plot. The dog racing was very nicely crafted set piece for a side quest, and enjoyed that. I felt the main plot lost something almost because of the lack of urgency to deal with the curse-that-isn't. I can understand the reasons not to make the curse intrusive and agree with them, but if the mask stayed in your pocket, there was little reason not to sit in the inn drinking. Perhaps some more nightmares on resting would have helped drive this. Minor niggle aside, the story was well done to showcase all sides of Westgate, the raising money section a nice nod to BG2 - as was the rival factions: I enjoyed the Ebon Claws/Night Masks plot, but did feel it could have been left at that 2-party rivalry without other twists that came at the end with less foreshadowing (admittedly played only the good path). The ending itself did feel a little rushed, with no character export, no resolution with companions.... But it's a testament to the story and how I was drawn along by it that the ending left me feeling a little empty, but wanting resolution. I did think the proper use of vampires becoming gaseous and regenerating was well done - although the number of times somebody dropped some clue as they were fleeing did feel a little hackneyed by the end (especially when the ability to turn gaseous effects all their gear, and I did wonder why an immortal archmage would not factor the time of day into his plans at the end, but for drama and cinematics, I can be less of a pedant ;) )
Glitches - sadly, I did have some problems with respawning dwarven rogues, and two manatides hanging out in the inn. The Okuzu exotic merchant quest semeed particularly buggy to me, with conversations not always recognising quest states, and some set pieces in the shop not firing (webs but no spiders). Might have just been me/my machine - nothing however was game breaking, and given the amount of scriping machinations going on behind the scenes, this was surprisingly stable. Kudos goes to the scripters for some tight work too.
So, in summary a great game in the style of the campaigns most of the community have grown to love since the BG series, with a strong plot that plays well on FR lore. Come for the scenery, stay for the companions, have to flee from Westgate when the plot comes to it's conclusion, but lick your wounds in anticipation of a rematch. £10 well spent. I haven't touched on the issues surrounding MoW's release, and I won't, suffice to say it's a real shame for me as a player and for the community that this fun Adventure Pack, and potentially others, weren't released sooner.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Friday, April 03, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
So I don't even have a voice for radio.. which I guess leaves writing..
Speaking of novelists - my main reason for posting is to highlight the imminent relesease of The Third Sign NWN2 novel conversion teaser from Hugie, based on the upcoming book from Gregory Wilson. Hugie had been planning a total book conversion, but with scope creep the way it is, and to coincide with the book's summer release, it'll be a 'teaser' of sorts to give people a feel for the story and the tone. I, with Indira Lightfoot, was only briefly involved in the periphary when Hugie looked for people to help with the project and couldn;t help as much as I would have liked due to time pressures, but having seen some of the detail going into Hugie and Greg's hybrid baby, and having had the priviledge of reading the novel prior to formal release, this is something to be excited about. It's also a unique approach to promote a book through the NWN2 module format, and to get a player involved in the character-driven story. The sheer amount of custom content including full voice acting for NPCs and specially composed music, makes this quite the tour-de-force. If people want a refresher on the background to the project, Hugie and Greg were interviewed for the (one and only) NWN podcast a few months back. I think this is a really interesting unique approach for promoting work, and also for examining the different ways of telling a story in a novel and in the computer game format, and hope it's well recieved.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
It's real... http://www.piday.org/ !
Saw Watchmen - couldn't wait long after it was released. Was in two minds about how I felt on a movie version, as it is kinda a quintessential comic story. But I loved it. I was amazed at how close the imagery was to the artwork, and some of the shots could almost have been lifted out of the pages. It translated really well, and had a blast watching it. A little sure at first about how they changed the ending (won't go into spoilers) but on reflection it probably fits the modern day better.
In other news, been getting back to doing some writing, which I haven't done properly in a while, and it's been fun.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
On my dummy overland map test, things were going ok - custom encounters now firing depending on terrain, added in a few custom random encounter areas cobbled from prefabs. Everything until the Goodie system - how random items of interestare found on the overland map. The more I've delved into the script system, the more I think that Obsidian had one system in place, and then changed it for another (not just with goodies but a few other things), but left some 'legacy' script functions around. So, I'm left not quite sure how the SoZ system actually works, despite attempts to unravel... might give this up and focus on something else for a bit.
Interestingly, I noticed Tiberius mentioned on the MoW forums that 'Ossian's next release could well be compatible with Kaedrin's PrC pack' - indicating (for the first time to me at least) that their next project is in NWN2 (rather than another system). Good stuff. Along with the Podcast news from a few weeks back that proposals for future Adventure Packs are welcomed, it'd be interesting to see what other plans might be out there.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Does anyone have any good Apps they can recommend? Any/all suggestions welcome. I was hoping to find some games that'd catch my eye, but nothign leapt out at me yet. Something in the AdvanceWars / Fire Emblem / Shining Force genre would be cool. Hey, if anyone wants to put together a 2da editor for the iPhone too, that'd be sweet....!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Trial overland map coming along - some more placeables and colouring to do. Been tricky to build in toolset and fully appreciate the effect of a fixed camera angle on the view in game. Started on the 2da system for wandering monsters too. The rules-lawyer DM in me is enjoying the number-crunching part of that. As an aside, I'm hoping someone wil come up with some different Overland Map GUI - SoZ's default is OK, but could be much more...