Thursday, November 29, 2007

One week past Thanksgiving, and still whacked out on Tryptophan!

Can't let a little something like nap-inducing turkey drugs keep me down though. I've been toiling away at SoSII:BtH trying to get at least the core plot playable all the way to the end. It is then that I will step back and see where some additional fleshing could be used. Although I do want something playable very soon so I can begin releasing a few beta-tests and identify potential problems and head-scratchers before things go too far.

The good news? The module is very playable/testable (whoah, gotta be careful with THAT word) in both Evertide and the Great Forest. The trick will be merging these two areas together without delving too deeply into some of the sidequest action planned for Evertide.

I am about 1 or 2 areas shy of a total, only about 1/3 of the conversations, and the module is still approaching SoS:tRoK size very rapidly. Needless to say, for a throwaway middle adventure, this thing is turning into a behemoth. Not that I'm complaining, it is just funny how quickly things can snowball, even when adhering to a predefined scope.

I had originally planned ending this module with a little romp through some dwarven mines. I may cut that portion depending on size/time limitations (and the fact that I can't easily integrate RWS Deep Tilsets). Not that I couldn't make do with the default tiles, RWS has just done such a stellar job that it really pains me to leave it by the wayside. I'll have to see how the flow of things goes to judge how far to take the ending.

One of the most lacking portions of the first module seemed to be the relationship building with the companions. While they all had their own agendas and motivations pretty well laid out and diversified, there seemed to lack the casual conversation and comradery aside from the speaktrigger huddles that took place from time to time. While I'd really like to expand on that in this module, I'm not sure if I will have the time to do so. The upcoming few weeks will determine how much I can get done before the close of 2007, and how much room for improvement and time to do so remains. It's not that I'm necessarily looking for talented individuals to step up and take care of some of the more intimate portions of dialogue...however if one were to fall in my lap (figuratively speaking of course).

In the back of my mind, I am slowly developing some finer detail for the third (formerly second) module, Crusaders of Shalihir. I am going to make sure that this module completes its intended purpose of setting things up nicely for the remainder of the story. I really dislike the idea of going back and retrofitting in clues and nods to things that will become relevant later, so I want to make sure I have it right the first time. I also like some of the rough layouts I had done up for a few areas in part III, and cannot wait to get back to them.

By the close of this coming weekend, I'd like to have a playable module all the way up to the druid grove. I'd also like one million dollars so I can work on NWN fulltime, but eh, whattyado?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Toolset Oddity

In a rather frustrating night of work, I discovered an anomaly I can only describe as Disappearing Dock Syndrome. I was attempting to export a few of the Evertide areas to upload to the vault as prefabs when I noticed that the Underwater City Walkway that I used for the docks had disappeared. Well, naturally I panicked and began to open all 3 backups of the module, only to discover that it was gone in all of them.

Looking at the file size, I decided that the toolset must be lying to me so I closed it down and reopened one of the main module files. There stood the docks in all its glory, however upon attempting to open it outside of the module such as from an ERF, it would not be displayed in the area. It was still there, listed under placables. The walkmesh was still present, but the dock itself couldn't be seen. This took a good two hours of constant opening, looking, swearing, closing, and repeat before I decided to call it a night.

Oh well, after all of the progress that I made over the Thanksgiving weekend, it is only fitting that there's a few bumps in the road to balance things out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You wanna talk progress?

After a long weekend of some pretty hard-hitting toolset work, I have a good playable beta for the first third of the module.What a sense of accomplishment it is to take a bunch of separate sections and paste them together with the proper transitions, scripts, conversations, and journal entries.

I'm pretty stoked to see it fall in place like that, and knowing the areas that I have ready, very excited to get to the rest of the adventure.
I even set the foundations for a few sidequests in Evertide since I'm so pleased with the way it turned out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Storneth and Lorn Grove Ingame

About to post my Module Update of the day in the NWN2Forums. Just wanted to threw some new images up for everyone to view the progress. These are of various locations around Storneth in Harrn as well as one of a druid grove in the forest.

Lorn Grove
Titan's Tankard

Mangled Mane Inn

Mangled Mane Inn


From here on out I think it's going to be a large amount of time spent fixing up the conversations, adding the animations, adding the blank soundfiles for mouth movement, etc.

...Pray for Mojo

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Holy Diver

A few additional shots of the underwater area, this time in-game. I'm considering applying a minor slow effect in the area to simulate the restricted movement.

More underwater imagery

I have to be careful to not make it too slow, or else it could prove rather annoying. Also playing with the look of the adversaries for this area, which should look pretty cool if I can pull it off.

Life amongst the azure shade

The Design Document also underwent several changes and additions, and version 1.2 was uploaded to the vault today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One Vote Away

The first module in the series, The Ruins of Kazatharis, is sitting at 24 votes. One away from the fabled 25 votes required for ascending to a higher plane. I wait with baited breath for the next vote to be cast and silently hope that it is a good one.

I've learned, and already kind of known, that different players prefer different play styles. Some think combat was too easy, for others, too difficult. Some enjoy the more freeform parts of the module, while yet others prefer the story based second half. What I take away from all of this is don't change a thing. I will continue much of the good points in the next module and attempting to mix these various tastes and play styles together to create an experience that is enjoyable to almost everyone at some point during the adventure.

I have also learned to not base changes on a single piece of feedback alone, aside from obvious bug fixes, as the desires of one player don't always translate across the board. All I can do is take every piece of advice to heart and consideration and make an educated guess based on the feedback as a whole.

Anyhow, one vote to go!

Monday, November 12, 2007

SoSII:BtH Logo/Cover Art

After a bit of messing around in the toolset and photoshop last night, I think I have come up with a graphic for this second module that I rather like. Not that this does much in the way of finishing the module, but it does give me something pretty to look at while it's in progress.

Sands of Solvheil II: Beneath the Hearleforne

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Completing a campaign

I've decided to lay it all on the table. I want to come clean and address my track record for completing official releases. For some reason I seem to have a bad batting average for actually finishing releases all the way to the end credits.

Module: Played/Finished
SoU: X/X
HotU: X/X
MotB: X

Some may call it 'Completion Anxiety', some may even dub it as 'Attention Deficit Disorder', while others would argue it was a result of bad things my parents did in the 70's. The truth, though, is that I enjoy behind the camera more. I guess that makes me the Michael Nesmeth of the NWN world. Although my mother did not invent white-out (nor sniff it despite my earlier comment), and I've never been in any musical ensemble. I normally play just enough to catch a glimpse of the new building resources before I tear into the toolset to see how much has been added to the palette.

To me the NWN toolset is nothing more than a giant glorified Colorform set, and nothing makes me happier than peeling the reusable sticky creatures off of the pad and slapping them down in the landscape. I realize this is an over generalization for one of the most revolutionary concepts of disturbed development. It is just my way of explaining it to the outside world without sounding crazy(er).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Beneath the Surface

Well with a little lighting, a little visual effects, and some Hollywood magic, the underwater area is really coming to life. I must say that I am very pleased with the results and this screenshot really does it no justice.

Release the Kraken!

One thing that really brought it all together, aside from Adam Millers bubble VFX, was the use of the Aqua Area Fog that I raised just slightly above the Player's head on the Z-Axis. While it looks a little blurry in this screenshot, from PC level it looks quite amazing.

This is a huge load off of my mind as I was really worried about creating a realistic looking underwater area. Now I can spend my time worrying about more important things.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Appearances and Release Date

Normally I don't complain too much about undocumented changes in patches and/or expansions. I just have to say how disappointed I am in the change to the 'Warlock Leather' armor appearance. The changing of previously bare portions to a dark fabric really throws the entire previous look into disarray. I don't even want to post a before/after shot of Anziath up because it really just turns my stomach to look.

This completely destroys the look I was going for when I designed the character and his respective armor set. Granted, his look will change in subsequent modules, but for Ruins of Kazatharis, his appearance is ruined. Not a happy camper with the rampant retro-censorship at work here.

On a lighter note, I have set a hard release deadline for myself for Sands of Solvheil II: Beneath the Hearleforne. I am aiming to get this module finished, tested, and ready for release by February 2008. This will allow me ample time to continue work on the third module and have it complete well before the two year anniversary of the NWN2 release.

I began importing most of the content from the mini-modules I use for development into a master module, and can now see the entire project taking form. Again, I could spend years on Evertide alone and the endless adventure opportunities yielded by such a medieval metropolis. For the sake of the story though I will have to narrow my focus as there is quite a bit of ground to cover with this module and hanging about town just won't do.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

NPCs and Conversation

Well this was one of those nights where it feels like accounting. Making sure all of the nodes are set for conversations, animations are keyed, and lipflapper sounds assigned to control the mouth movement. Now I have the first third or so of core conversation in a completed state.

First batch of NPCs

I then went to work filling in some missing NPCs from Evertide. I definitely skipped around the whole module and made some key names first, but it is time to start fleshing out the named shop owners and other notable people. The screenshot shows the core creatures of Evertide as well as some from Lyritholln. Just the ones that I considered 'ready'.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Storneth and the Flooded Roots

The last few evenings I have had the change to add the interiors to Storneth as well as begin design on the flooded roots beneath the Hearleforne. Storneth now features the citadel, the Mangled Mane Inn, the Titan's Tankard tavern, and the Inked Blade tattoo/rune shop.

Rough Design of Flooded Roots

The flooded area beneath the giant tree and elven capitol is going to be a rather significant area of action occurring about midway through the module. I want this area to look just right and will spend some time on the lighting. This shot is a quick look at the terrain before finer details area added.
Design Documents: