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.
Design Documents: