Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Moving Forward a bit with NWN2

I've decided to do some more building in the NWN2 toolset, just because it is comfortable right now and I'm not in the awkward, learning mood this winter break. So, here are a few screenshots of the yet unnamed village (juggling between Stormhollow and Spinehollow) that sits at the base of Dra'ithkyrn Castle in Lontharvia.

Hak wise, I am sticking to using the RWS All-In-One combo as it gives the most bang for the buck as far as combination haks go. The way I have this baked right now, all three RWS tower models in the castle have walkable balconys each set at varied heights. The biggest trick will be getting the fog settings set well enough to allow visability between the two, while maintaining the creepy musty ambience of a forest/mountain setting.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Decisions Decisions

One nice thing about having a semi-short attention span is that when you finally do finish and release a project, you have lots of leftovers. Such is the case with a few areas that I built before I finished Crusaders of Shalihir.

Now I stare into the abyss of starting a new adventure that I have semi-written, and asking myself which toolset to use. These areas are quite a few points in the NWN2 direction as a few major locations are already plotted out. I think, in the end, it will come down to market. The question will be, are there still enough people playing NWN2 mods to make it worthwhile.

Honestly, I'm hoping that there are. It's not that I don't want to use the Origins toolset, I just don't want to start right now. I'm going to let my just released module test the waters. That should help me gauge whether to stay with the whats familiar, or attempt to blaze a new path.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finito: Uploaded to the Vault

While it seems like I've been working on this forever (and in truth, very little work was involved), Sands of Solvheil III: Crusaders of Shalihir is uploaded to the vault and sitting in Pending Approval status.


It's like having labor pains when the kid is 2 yrs old already (best analogy I could think up on the spot).

Well that's that, it is done. Three mods that I intended to be a different three mods (this was originally only part II) have been designed, developed, and delivered. The story is told, although maybe not as originally intended. Naturally had I made the one after this the ending would have been changed slightly.

Now it's time to kick back, play a night of Modern Warfare 2, drool over the prospects of playing Arkham Asylum II, and Force Unleashed II when they come out, picking my Jedi/Sith name for Bioware's Old Republic, and decide which toolset to have my next affair with. Electron, you're not out of the running just yet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Home Stretch

Well the module is getting some last minute magic. The last battle/cutscene has been spruced up and bugfixed, and now it is a matter of looking a few things over before a final test. I have reloaded my laptop with a fresh version of NWN2 + Expansions and it seems to have done the trick. I can now build/test modules again.

I had forgotten that I had an old extended RC on there before. The desktop, I'm still not sure of the error, but at least one of my machines runs NWN2. Interesting as I look between the two toolsets side by side for the first time. Funny the strengths between the two and what of each I wish I could cherry pick.

It shouldn't be long now before I'm asking for the vault FTP login information for the first time in a long long while.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Beyond the Shivering Pines (Intro)

Since SoSIII is pretty much in the bag (or at least as much of one as I can put it into), here is the rundown of my planned DA:O project. Same setting as the trilogy, almost completely removed from that story arc (as in, let's pretend most of that didn't happen).

This is about as spoiler free as I can make it. I'm going to put together a complete rundown for those who may be interested in joining in as I have most certainly run out of solo-team-steam. Things are so much better in a group...that's why most RPGs let you make a party!

Anyhow, here goes:


In the far reaches of Harrn, beyond the Shivering Pines, lies the small region known as Lontharvia. It is ruled by Baron Dra'ithkyrn from his castle in the Caspez Peaks. The territory was claimed by the Baron's ancestor, a Nalassian prince, long ago before the flood.

King Ulivon maintains the long tradition of allowing Lontharvia to operate nearly autonomous from the crown of Harrn in Jarldorf. Because of this, the Baron has been able to continue the enforcement of Lontharvia's embargo on silver as he suffers from the same allergy to the metal as the rest of his bloodline.

After the end of Dalreon's war with Harrn at the surrender of Storneth, a new initiative arose to reforge the kingdom and access its nobility's commitment to the crown. Two emissaries were sent from Jarldorf to Lontharvia to meet with Baron Dra'ithkyrn and discuss his loyalty to Harrn.

Their badly mauled bodies were found a few weeks later in the Shivering Pines forest. As news of this grim discovery reached Jarldorf, it was decided that an investigation needed to take place without the stigma of acting as agents of the crown. Suspecting lycanthropy, an outsider is recruited by the court to travel to Lontharvia and look into the deaths, as well as any possible corruption in Dra'ithkyrn Castle.

Beyond the Shivering Pines takes the player into the cold reaches of northern Harrn as they travel through the frigid evergreen forest to reach the territory of Lontharvia. The village beneath the castle is home to mainly farmers and completely devoid of clergy. It also serves as a waypoint for gypsies who transport gems and goods from the dwarven kingdom.

Once there, they discover a culture far removed from the daily life of Harrn. One that lives in constant fear and subservience of their surroundings. With constant peril wandering out of the woods and the shadow cast on them by their local regent, they consider everyday survival a success.

Dark secrets await in the Dra'ithkyrn family crypts as they search for the source of the scourge that plagues Lontharvia. Taking advice from some gypsies, as well as some pages from the local history books, they find themselves on a quest South for an elven artifact to counter the ancient curse of blood.

Will their efforts save the land, or will they simply become another corpse that the locals fear rising from the grave.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Little Spit and Polish

Thankfully, the module release will have to wait about a week or so. This is actually great news because JasonNH is using the time to take a look at a few cutscenes. Honestly, his cinematics are truly the best part of the adventure, so the time is well worth it.

I've been shuffling my time between writing out the complete story/details for my next project, and trying to learn a bit about the new toolset. I decided (after giving area/level design a quick try) to start with facial morphs. Here's a few of the early ones that I have put together by tweaking the properties a bit here and there.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Bit of a Snag

It appears that even though the toolset runs on my laptop, I cannot actually launch/test the game. I'll have to rely on the previous beta tests and double-check that I set all of the new conversation pieces correctly.

I've also noticed that I am unable to save to a mod file. The ole lappy seems to only work in directory mode. I don't suppose there is any kind soul out there that wouldn't mind taking a directory and saving it as a module for me?

Sigh, I'm pretty sure I couldn't return to NWN2 development even if I wanted to. The gods of hardware/software don't will it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SoSIII: Released This Weekend

No joke. After looking at this directory sitting in modules folder for about half a year...its time. I blew the dust off and finishing up the final battle that has been undone for too long.

Now that most of the interest has shifted toward Dragon Age, it will go out with a whimper instead of the original intended bang. In other words, the quality of the final battle and cutscene(s) will not be on the same level as the rest of the module. A comprimise I know, but the time has come to ship.

NWN2 toolset doesn't play nice with my Windows 7 64bit install, and I haven't had much of a chance to do finish this off. I still have the toolset on my laptop though and can at least get the last part working. Honestly, I need to get this old business taken care of so I can focus on new business.

New business will start right after this weekend release. I will follow up with details of my planned DA:O module: Beyond the Shivering Pines.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Game to Finish

I don't often finish games. Especially those that include a toolset.
DA:O is an exception. I stand on the savegame before the end and actually surprised that I made it this far. The story has been pretty darn good so far. The companions are engaging, the ambience pretty stellar (and funny all too often), and the backdrops are rather eye-catching.

Anyhow, just wanted to say a quick kudos to Bioware for coming through on a great SP adventure (or OC as we like to call it). I know this means that I am about to dive into dangerous waters with a toolset that has yet to see a patch, but as I charge the arch-demon sword drawn, I'm shocked that I not only lived this long, but that I kept logging in for more.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

DA Toolset Released!

Remember how lost you were in the Electron (NWN2) toolset the first time?
"This isn't anything like Aurora...why did they make it so hard?"

Get ready for that overwhelmed feeling all over again. The new Dragon Age toolset is a completely new animal that befuddles and amazes all at the same time. Some intial thoughts as I have only been able to toy with it for one evening:

1) Complex as all get out...but reassuring that it can do so much more than previous toolsets. The learning curve is much higher, but so is the ceiling of what is possible.

2)Levels vs Areas. Here is one of the first things a new builder must grasp the difference between. Terminology in this toolset is completely different. Levels are landscape, decoration, basically all of the static elements of what we are used to calling an area. Areas, on the other hand, inherit the elements of a given level, and allow you to add the in interactive elements. Bioware basically split area design into two facets: static and dynamic.

3) Um what are these models again? The organization of the models used to create levels and areas is far from intuitive. They are put together in folders that prefix the first three letters of th model, relating to what area of the SP they were used.

4) Thank the Maker for the Wiki. Serioulsy, without the hard work, effort, and screenshots of the beta testers that has been documented in the toolset wiki, this might be a mission impossible. Beerfish went through and snapped shots of many of the models. JasonNH went through and put together cheatsheets of the textures. This is truly a community learning effort.

I have many more thoughts on this but I hesitate to follow the rabbit trail too far before I get some more time logged. I am once again experiencing the exciting feeling of curiosity, terror, and power all wrapped into one.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bioware Social Site (DA Toolset Wiki)

I haphazzardly stumbled upon checking up on this at a great time. The Bioware social site is up and even appears to have project tracking in place on top of the normal player/developer/project profiles.

Very well done from what I see (albeit a few bugs still). The Dragon Age character creator is out as well, and showcases some nice facial customizations to give an idea of the flexibility of the toolset. I do hope skintones go a little darker than provided in the CC. Dark elves would have to change to really tan elves.

Ultimately, I think that will be the biggest challenge in creating a "traditional fantasy" setting in the DA Toolset, the creature pallette. Using their own IP means that Bioware will provide the custom creatures that then need to flesh out their own world. While there are some matches that can be used (Genlock = Goblin), there will be some places that noticeable differences (ogre == ogre).

All in all, reading through the toolset wiki is exciting...kid at Christmas exciting. Whatever the limitations, this is obviously the clear cut winner in a new development environment. While I highly doubt it can replace what NWN/NWN2 has come to represent, it will be nice to work with a new system for a change of pace.

Hopefully this new social site venture of Bioware's pays off for everyone involved. I think it will all come down to user buy-in, but so far they have me hooked.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What Happened To That Deadline?

Good question. Well, I have not forgotten about release. Things just got very very busy. I had to write my first ever technical paper to present at a conference (good for tenure they told me...and I'm too new to say no). The new academic year at the university started, and my first full one heading up the Software Engineering program.

Things are great with a new batch of very talented freshmen, as well as my first graduating class entering their senior year. While the economy took a giant dive over the summer, putting a serious damper in the plans of getting all of my upperclassmen into software engineering internships, I do have a few that have survived the great Jedi Purge.

One of which is the only female in the program getting accepted as an intern at NASA. Well sir, I just don't think that it gets much better than that. I am extremely proud of her achievement and look forward to hearing about it all as she progresses.

Now, back to NWN. I am seriously at the end. No, really. My partner in crime is still plugging away at some of the last cutscenes and then it's just a matter of plug and play (as in put it in place, and test to make sure it's all good in the hood).

While I'm not at a place that I can predict a release date, I am comfortable enough to say: soon. ;)

Bored? Try the Batman: Arkam Asylum demo for either PC or XBox. Now that is a total thrill!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Approaching End

Well, I am finally finished with all but the final battle. The last stretch was a real bear. I guess you don't truely know what you don't have done until you get there. Anyhow, things are really falling into place and I am finally starting to be pleased.

Luckily a new tester has come forward (and one that has recently re-completed parts I and II), and may be giving things a semi-final runthrough this week. I'd love to expose any potential problems or unfinished aspects before I seal it all up.

I do know I have to complete some companion chatter for both Malcarus and Anziath, and I may want to go back and add one more triggered encounter in the late plot discovery. I think there is a bit too much fact-finding and not enough violence right before the final series of sequences so I may try to mix things up a bit there.

In the meantime, here are some shots of dimensional ruins after I spent an evening tinkering with placed effects and environmental settings:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

If I Had Free Time..

...I'd be playing Zork. Seriously. I don't deviate from the Forgotten Realms often (which is odd since I've spent almost all of my NWN2 time outside of them), but Zork is a classic. A classic's classic. I'm talking your first text-based CRPG classic when the only other thing you had to occupy your time was Oregan Trail and Logo the Turtle. Probably one of your first real experiences with some sort of AI built into a game that in ways far exceeds the actual thinking algorithms that we enjoy now. It seemed like anything you could imagine doing with the environment could be done. To me, especially back then before I knew a little more about logic and design, it was mind-blowing.

ZORK – Rediscovering the Great Underground Empire

Do yourself a favor, and see what Amraphael has done with one of the genres that helped set the foundation of computer based fantasy. If I had some more free time, I certainly would be. It's one of the proverbial carrots I have been dangling on a stick to work towards getting to enjoy.

If I was a wiki kinda guy...I would think it was time to update this: in the See Also section.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Did I say July?

Wow, why does the end always take so long? I had really hoped to have a stuck a fork in this mod by the close of the month, and now I know that is crazy talk. As the summer winds down and my first summer break since becoming a working man, I find myself busy as Hades doing all of the things I neglected all season. Extracting weeds from the back of my house that have larger trunks than my new apple tree for example. Y’know, you have to be careful when you have underground cables. At least that is what I’ve been telling myself to avoid doing it.

Anyhow, I’ve made some nice progress with the wrapping up of the last sections of the module before the endgame sequence. Just 3 areas to populate with encounters and the final battle to finish up. There are a couple of important cutscenes coming up that will rely on things I’m always shaky doing (during combat). My new estimate is if I hit this hard and everything works out without fighting back too much, I should be finished by the time I have to return to the world of academia (Aug 21st).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Campaign Mimosa

I’m starting to wonder how difficult it would be to wrap all three modules together in a campaign. I’m also trying to establish the benefit of doing so. The first two did not utilize haks so there would be no 2DA conflicts. Although, what would really be gained?

An overland map or even campaign map is out of the question as most of the travel (albeit some great distances) are already handled via conversation. I do have the map of all of the areas already finished, polished, etc. Heck, I had that before I even broke ground on the first one. I just can’t see how to incorporate it at this point.

One upside would be the ability as a player to play through parts 1-3 taking a character from 1st to 12th (or so, haven’t tested upper cap). The module endings and beginnings do match up nicely as well, so from a continuity standpoint, that would work.

Admittedly, I haven’t done too much research into what it takes to make things a campaign as an afterthought. There would be no campaign variables, conversations, or scripts, as each mod is already self-contained.

Also this presents a possible release situation. While I like the idea of having an all-in-one option, I don’t want to have 2 separate releases (one for part III, one for campaign). I’m weird about wasting vault space, which is why I always host the beta downloads off of my server.

I also don’t want to force players who just want to pick up at part 3, either because they’ve already played the first two or just because, to have to go back and do it all over again. I’m not sure if the ‘lobby’ area could be used to select which chapter of the campaign, and then either do the appropriate leveling or not.

I might just be over thinking it all.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"That's right boys, it's Doctor Venkman."

"They hate this...I like to torture em."
(I actually have a piano in my house that only has two keys ever played for just that line)

So here is what I've been doing when I need a sanity break from finishing up the mod trilogy. I have to say, I consider myself a pretty skilled gamer. I mean, I'm from the Atari generation. Although, this game on medium difficulty whooped my butt good. I had to humble myself and drop down to casual setting. (How anyone defeats 'The Collector' on hard is beyond me).

The graphics are amazing, down to the facial flaws on Bill Murray's face on an HDTV. The gameplay is fun, the levels filled with puzzles and uses for the PKE meter. Great game, lots of fun. The Ramis/Ackroyd writing style really shows through. While some elements are reused/rehashed, it never feels cheap (like for some reason Ghostbusters 2 did).

I have to admit that when going back to the library to face 'The Gray Lady', I had to turn the thing off for the night and wait until my kids woke up the next morning to help me (by sitting next to me lol). I was maybe 8 years old when my parents drug me to see Ghostbusters in the theater...a movie for which I had never seen a preview before I found myself standing in line.

Immediately after Dan Ackroyd yelled "Get Her!", my face was buried in my coat like a little sissy mary. Facing the librarian again brought all of that pre-teen dread rushing back like your first time in a haunted house.

Watching my 5 year old flee the room in terror when the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man came on the screen gave me the same twisted smile that must have been on my parents face in that theater way back when.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hakpak to Snackpack

Did a little trimming of the unused hak assets and shaved about 50 megs in MDB and DDS files. Mainly it was items from the BCK (Builders Construction Kit). I used a few select pieces in some areas like the Temple and the Aquaduct, only about 7 out of hundreds of models. Didn't feel right to leave the whole thing in there unused and force more vault space and bandwidth.

Although there is no way I'm going through to remove all of the unused item placables. Then again...have to see what the late night hours bring.

All the Small Things

Loadscreens. Nothing exciting or jawdropping about making and/or viewing them. Just something that I had no excuse not to do now that the third module is using a custom hak.

On a related note, I need to go back through and trim some fat out of that hakpak. I took inventory of the pieces of larger sets that I've used, and think I could save a bit of space if I removed the rest now that things are pretty much sealed up.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Screens from Playtest

Here are some screen captures from my most recent playtest:

You Heel of a Sand Titan, a common insult in Shalihir, takes on new meaning

Insert lame mummy reference here

If there's anything Romancing the Stone taught us, it's that great things lie beyond waterfalls.

The Oasis of Azullain by moonlight, good for the killing

Oh, Mr. Orilyn decides to get philosophical about materialism

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Poll: All About the Whys

I've posted a new poll that explores what people want as their excuse for risking their virtual lives for a given adventure. Not quite backstory, as this looks more at what circumstances put this individual into the prediciment presented to them.

Hopefully I get some decent poll results and can better formulate how to establish my next project. While I have several details, events in mind for the next adventure, I want to take a look at what really pulls the player in on mod load ;)

I've posted a working beta of SoSIII: Crusaders of Shalihir that covers a very large portion of the module. After any bugs/issues are discovered/stomped with that portion, the rest should be a breeze. I'm very optimistic about a July long as Dunkin' Donuts keeps selling large iced coffees with cream and sugar.

No screenshots tonight...all conversation work (pretty boring stuff visually). Although I must say positioning camera angles for various nodes is probably my 2nd favorite thing to do (right behind area design).

Choice in Conversation

Here are some screenshots from inhouse testing of one of the more dynamic conversations in the module. I decided to move the Diplomacy node to the top after looking at these.

While I'd like nearly all conversations to have this level of decision and skill usage, I just can't within the constraints of time and story. This one turned out alright though. Just about every choice has a slight alignment adjustment.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Beta Testers Needed

There will be a working version of [Sands of Solvheil III: Crusaders of Shalihir] that covers the first 2/3 ready by this Sunday or so. I'd like to see if anyone would like to give it a run, make sure that the story, conversations, scripts, cutscenes, encounters, etc go smoothly under a variety of circumstances.

My preference would be individuals who have already played through [SoSI: The Ruins of Kazatharis] and [SoSII: Beneath the Hearleforne] so that the overall story arc and reveals can be gauged. Although, new players to the series are also welcome to give it a go.

I estimate completion and release of the module by the end of this month should the tests go favorably and the last major battles are finished without too many snags.

If interested, please respond in this thread, on my blog, via private message or email, smoke signals, etc.

Thanks in advance.

Here are a few screenshots from the completed sandstorm cutscene by JasonNH. I can't convey how cool this looks ingame. Great cutscene work like this turns a seemingly mundane aspect of gameplay and turns it into something great to behold.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Adding Some Frosting

A few toolset shots of some painting in of details. This first one is a shipwreck in the desert that serves to shelter the party through a violent sand storm. I'm just adding a few item-based triggers as the larger cutscene is being added externally.

A shipwreck serves as shelter from a sandstorm

These are a few speaktrigger based smaller cutscenes that offer a bit of flavor to the main town area of Tahamman. While nothing plot dependant or groundbreaking is achieved in these, they do add the opportunity to break up the linear story a bit.

Smaller cutscenes set around the town of Tahamman
I'm really happy with how things are moving right along now. This is, I hope, that part of the process where seemingly seperated segments fall into place like magic. I like seeing a more and more complete playthrough each mini-test.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Addam's Family?

You raaaaang?
No, I am not making an attempt at anything crazy and kooky. I am just doing a bit of playing around to see if I can use some of the RWS assets to create a nice mountaintop castle that would serve as a decent vampiric abode. Long before I start shaping terrian, I like to work with strictly placeables to see what I can fit with each other to anchor the look.

I'm kicking around a few ideas for my post-crusaders development life. I have a few nice projects in mind, with this being near the front of the pack for tying it all together.

Don't worry, I'm not content with staying in one setting throughout a module, so this adventure I'm tossing around has a spanning storyline that also visits the depths of the forest, an island jungle, and a few other scenic places to die.

Sigh, I suppose I should get back to progress on SoS:III, while I have made a good dent in the first third, I am realizing that many of my ideas had not yet manifested into actual conversations. Hopefully I can take care of these pick-up shots without a noticable difference in style.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Next Two Thirds

I finally get to start revisiting some areas that I have had semi-completed for some time. Normally, almost all areas in my modules reside as prefabs from the moment the story is determined. Then I have to take it a little at a time filling in all of the non-visual parts that make that happen (dialogue, waypoints, scripts, etc.) forcing me to shelf some of the later areas.

Anyhow, with the first third of the module in a working order, I can begin to open these back up and start adding the filling. I'm sure I won't be able to stop myself from retouching here and there.

Temple Exterior
The temple in Tahamman sits in the middle of town near the bazaar

Temple Interior

A very old bell adorns this temple sitting below a mosaic of the sun

Oasis Crypts

A recent archeological find of a Dalreon expedition, these crypts will require your usual services

Ruined Tower

A relic from the Age of Burning Towers, this ruin houses those who were lost

Alakanthor Exterior

The desolate monestary of Alakanthor sits like a fortress upon the cliffs

Alakanthor Interior

Within the walls of the ancient structure lies both a link to the past and new dangers

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Scarcrag Pass and Cliffside Battle

Here are a few screens. One is the introduction to Scarcrag Pass which connnects the kingdom of Dalreon with the Shalihir Desert. This is the first area the player encounters after leaving their estate in Albrynn where they headed to at the end of SoSII.

The other screenshots are the setup and battle along the edge of Nalass. Nalass is a former island kingdom in the Imlan Sea that is now just a large plateau littered with ruins in the desert.

The beginning of this area is some fabulous cutscene work put together by JasonNH. I still love watching this thing and an earlier one he did for the town of Tahamman everytime I test the mod.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Conversations in Nalassian Ruins

Just a few screenshots from an area I'm trying to finish up the functionality of. These are the ruins of Nalass where you, Malcarus, and a few of his holy brigade to to capture Anziath Aers and recover the Tome of Koth. Naturally there are plenty of Ith'inaar dark-elves waiting there for you, as well as some of their new breed. Hazards of playing with chaos magic I suppose.

Friday, June 12, 2009



Hopefully the reports on the gaming sites are just idle speculation. I guess I wouldn't mind if the NWN Name/Title went to an MMO, as long as something else stepped up to replace the toolset driven community development suite that we know as NWN. I don't know, the DnD Ruleset Fantasy Module Creation Studio would be fine. I don't care what you call it, just don't take away our ability to mod.

On the flipside, anyone know of Dragon Age user created content can/will be deployed to consoles via live connections?

On the upside, finally a DnD MMO that isn't set in Ebberon? FR > Ebberon.
4E is practically screaming to be made into a game with it's cooldowns and such.
Design Documents: