Monday, March 1, 2010

Custom Content Joys and Woes

RWS has been very kind to area design, although I am having a heck of a time with a few tiles. For some reason, there are some key tiles missing from the various RWS tilesets in the all in one package. The placeholder is there for them, but they fail to render in the preview or in the toolset when attempting to place them.

For the most part, I have been able to get around them by using replacements. Although, I do think that the set could be much more versatile if these functioned in the combo hak, as I know that they work for the most part in the individual RWS Tile haks. It almost makes these beauties much like the Shadow Palace tileset....gorgeous, but limited in variation. I know if these pieces worked, that problem would disappear.

Pretty soon, I'll begin to assemble the required non-area hak assets. Sadly, that will have to be a custom hak in the absence of a 'Best Of' compilation that I don't feel would be a unneeded waste.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Building the Team

With a title like that, you'd think I was about to make my Mass Effect 2 confessions. So what if I sent Jacob to his death in the ventilation shaft. I'm pretty sure he was messing around with Miranda and got snippy with me about it. That and I like to have the weapons room all to myself to roll around on the ground with my sniper rifle. (oh, and as the ultimate in jerk moves, I dropped Miranda for Tali, then Jack after we saved the universe...sheesh, how's that for cold-blooded renegade?)

Besides that little incident and losing Legion somehow (I must have missed a transmission), we all got out alive. If you don't know what I'm talking about, get Mass Effect 2! Also, don't believe the message that has enhancement advertisement to become big like Krogan, that stuff doesn't work!

No, the title refers to the effort to make this latest NWN2 project a more diverse affair. I've had great fortune in the meeting of Jason D Smith aka shmity72, who has agreed to help put this thing together. There is another individual working through some WIN7/Toolset issues who I will announce as soon as I ask his naming preference.

Is the team complete? Heck no! Join up if you get the development itch. The more minds that collaborate on a project, the grander it becomes (to a point of course). I'd love to have a well rounded team who can get their hands dirty on all of the many aspects of building an adventure. There's plenty to go around, I assure you. I also promise not to send you into a ventilation shaft to override a blast door.

RIP Jacob, I just couldn't trust ya after seeing what your dad did on that planet. Why do you think I never left you alone on the ship with Miranda?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pseudo-Science and Companions

Anyone who's thumbed through the in game Tome of Koth knows that I'm a pretty big fan of pseudo-science and trying to attach semi-plausible explanations to certain elements of a fantasy setting. There's a pretty strong 'Unified Field Theory' involved in the gameworld that tries to further tie together matter, energy, gravity, time, magic, sound, etc. Thus the reason that bards can cast spells, or bards + mages = altered boom. Even the reason that the Ruins of Solvheil are a giant divot in the otherwise flat plane of the material world with everything bending around it.

There are a few good shows that also explore some of these "maybe this is why, and, what would happen if" situations. At least one of these has caused me to spit coffee across my desk, curse at my television, and rewrite things midstream because some elements were getting a little too close for comfort lol. Another reason that I'm glad the SoS trilogy is for the most part, done.

I've often thrown things into the story that were asides from my bad habit of watching the History channel (ala the Dwarven Bagdad Battery, or the Nalassian cliffside watermill). So here's another little tid-bit that will feed into the current adventure.

Silver, often revered in ancient times for its healing qualities (true) is the reason that it is a powerful ally against such afflictions such as lycanthropy or the undead. It's pure healing power is a bane to the sicknesses that twist and rot.

Silver was sometimes ingested which in some extreme cases, caused a blue tint to the skin (true). Now here's the rub:

A lycanthrope/undead hunter NPC of a sacred/secret order. This order of hunters ingests silver to purify themselves and cause their very bodies to be toxic to their prey. Naturally they sport the vague blue hue to their skin, and wear a cool looking Van Helsing-ish hat (well, maybe). I envision them using a heavy crossbow with wooden or silver-tipped bolts/stakes as they drop their foul foes. While not clergy, they do employ the divine tools of the temple such as holy-water, symbols, etc.

I've also been toying with the idea of this particular hunter companion to be taking the silver supplements to contain something within themselves as well, perhaps something to reveal late in the module as they utilize this innate ability in combat/cutscene.

This is one of those framed-out ideas that I just haven't had a chance to go flesh out. I figured I'd throw it out there to see if anyone had any suggestions or holes that could be shot in the idea before I get over that way.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tomb of Eldrynn and Mini-Map Lament

This is the Tomb of Eldrynn which lies partially hidden in the Great Forest of Dalreon. Again, this area is far from finished from a detail standpoint, but just getting the tiles in place and a few key objects sets the tone and allows me to feel like a little progress has been made.

The party visits this area pretty late in the adventure after learning that the key to defeating their undead adversary is finding a weapon used to injured them in their mortal life. How's that for semi-spoilertastic?

Now, on to my lament. I will never be able to use a mini-map until I can keep myself from jumping all over hell and half of Georgia. I seem to have this problem with writing stories that require long distance travel, like across the continent long. Maybe I should use the ole Indiana Jones airplane map effect.

Anyhow, I have always wanted to use a mini-map. I even made one long ago for the Isle of Sampeatos, although it just wouldn't work for the kind of location hopping that all of the adventures that I've written require. I will have to make myself the same promise that I've used to cheer myself up before: Next time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jungle Ruins

Have I ever gushed over RWS additions to the NWN2 toolset before? Yes? Well here I go again. These are the jungle ruins that reside beneath the pyramid structures from the Sampeatos Jungle shots earlier.

I used RWS Dungeons for the initial spiral staircase, then switched via stairway to their Dark Ruins tiles. I haven't done much in the way of detail just yet, but I seem to draw satisfaction from these initial rough sketches. Throwing together landscape and placeables, even in the mildest sense to set a tone is one of my greatest thrills in area design. In other words, this may not look like much right now, but serves as a sketched-up placeholder for when the story arrives here.

While I was doing this area, I happened to stumble upon 'Dusk till Dawn' (Clooney's best role evah! Keitel, meh, he's done better) on one of the countless movie channels on TV which really fit the mood perfectly. While the mod doesn't feature a truck stop on top of a pyramid it does connect a certain affliction to an ancient exotic culture.

Hopefully I can convey through the two areas that the blood of the sacrificed is gathered via the large snake statue in the temple structure and dropped upon some soil to be packed up and fed-exed. These shipments serve the main 'paper-trail' followed by the party bringing them to this point.

On a technical note, I am having some trouble with the walkmesh of this tileset. It seems that any offshoot door tile from a hallway tile (with the exception of the one door in the middle variety) has a broken walkmesh, thus rooms cannot be connected. It may be a good thing since I am trying to do something that I've had trouble with my entire NWN life, keeping area size small.

Next up, I'll show off some screens of another crypt that the party explores late in the module before their return to Lontharvia.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hey Man, Got Any Grass?

One area that I've never felt that confident about in area design is setting down grass on a rural area. I'm back to that point in the Shivering Pines since I've finished the trees, placebles, and texturing. This is the part where I make a quick backup erf and just throw caution to the wind.

It always comes down to how much is too much, and whether to use a pattern or subscribe to chaos. Actually, I think it is a combination of both. I normally plop down a humanoid creature to judge height and begin to throw a few patches here and there to see how it blends. I've never been one to use more than one grass type at a time, instead preferring to use the smallest brush possible and the lowest possible pressure to have the ultimate control over placement (I also use the hell out of my cntrl-Z).

Things are coming along nicely! Taking a look, I have quite a few of my main areas framed out nicely.

In Order of Appearance:

-Shivering Pines Forest
-Dra'ithkyrn Family Crypt
-Evertide Sewers
-Sea of Aluun
-Crown Port
-Sampeatos Jungle
-Jungle Ruins
-Crypt of Eldrynn

Now if I could just find someone to handle the NPC designs, dialogue, and scripting....badda-bing badda boom lol. Seriously though, I would like to bring in some additional writing talent to help fill in some of the gaps.

I'll have to work to get the design doc finished so that there exists a little clearer picture of what this adventure is all about. At the moment, the walkthrough reads like a bullet point list which I need to make legible paragraphs out of.

By the way, has anyone had a chance to try out this nice looking Mimic model that was put on the vault by ArtEChoke?

I haven't tried it in the toolset/game yet, but the screenshots look very promising.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Screenshots: Jungles of Sampeatos

Here are some in-progress shots of a jungle area for BTSP. I know, I know, what the heck is a jungle area doing in a module about classic horror? Well, that's a little twist of the story that I am currently working on getting out of my head and into the design document.

One of the hardest parts of the process is to take the fluid ideas and solidify them on paper so it is easily understandable to someone who isn't privy to telepathy. It also helps me keep things straight as well. While I know I want A, B, and C events to occur and I want to include areas 1, 2, and 3; it helps to keep the critical path of the story organized to help tie it al together.

I'm going to call this area almost finished. While I would like to be done with plopping trees down, I am far from finished with foliage. I am still currently creating the Shivering Pines forest, and have yet to begin a small area in Dalreon's Great Forest.

Oh, did I mention that I still have the overwhelming urge to do an Asian themed mod sometime soon as well? Will I be able to keep my concentration on one thing at a time? Probably not.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Misery Stone... just plain kickass, and I really can't review it any better than that.
The full title of the module should read, "Misery Stone: and THAT'S how it's done".

As soon as I finish it off, I'm going to finally dig into Trinity.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Of Our Elaborate Plans, The End

Granted, the trilogy is done and out, but didn't end exactly like I would have liked to. The original title to III was Chasing the Golden Dragon and was to take place in Orilyn (the Asian/elf inspired eastern empire). This was before MotB got released and I included Beneath the Hearleforne as part II. Crusaders of Shalihir was to be the middle or at least a jumping off point.

The original ending wasn't an ending at all, but had the player stop the chain reaction (which I know I failed to convey it's even existence in the current build) caused by the Sarcophagus of Rel powering/channeling the remaining crystals beneath Solvheil. In doing so, the player is transported through time (because time is an illusion/fluid) to Orilyn long before, arriving naked on a beach completely respecced.

At one point, I tried to think of a reason to include a shipwreck because it's always such a dramatic piece of area design, but couldn't. Although the use of ships and docks have been used pretty liberally throughout the series, sometimes even without water.

That mod, Chasing the Golden Dragon followed the player in their quest to ascend Mount Dramoto and face the worshiped Golden Dragon with full knowledge that it is actually Rel and that all regions basically follow the same creator, calling him by different names. Torrne being a channel to Rel as a combatant of demons and demi-gods.

So getting to Mount Dramoto was going to involve conspiracy in the empire, some Sabaril vs. Zinyari action (read: Half-elf Samarui vs. Dark-Elf Ninjas), as well as a need to travel to the Zhanthul Jungle to acquire rare spices to help make the journey up the mountain.

See, the top of Mount Dramoto is actually a pocket plane, or at least where the veil between the material plane is barely intact. That is the reason Orilyn is such a spirit-infested land is the ease of passing, at least to some degree, into the material plane. So one doesn't exactly "climb" the mountain, although it indeed feels that way.

There was also a bit of a subplot involved with lycanthrope melee fighters (ala Weretiger Kung Fu) and the experimentation of some to create a weredragon. This leads into the premise that both the Orilyn and Zinyari already possess dragon blood in their lineage; Orilyn the Golden Dragon, Zinyari a shadow dragon.

This dragon heritage is responsible for many of the races unique powers such as the Sabarils channeling of their interior power, to the ability of others to use charisma based sorcery instead of traditional casting.

Anyhow, at the end, the player meets the Golden Dragon. They acknowledge each other's true identities and the player is sent on to the next module: "Champions of Rel" to do some extra-planar battle with demons, dragons, and titans (basically this is where epic levels may have kicked in as Chasing the Golden Dragon would have been generous in experience to let the player take Weapon Master prestige).

I was always disappointed in a good Sphinx model for NWN2. In NWN1, I used the Wemic and had it winged. I know there were already androsphinx and gynosphinx models added in Shadows of Undrentide, but the original host of sphinx were much more armed melee combat centaur-ish winged lions with human torsos that kicked ass and left a glowing footprint. So the player would have led an army of them for great justice (with a side order of spaghetti).

These last few mods would have wrapped up the explanation of how Torrne could be exist in multiple places within the same period of time, and how he was indeed Rel's champion selected to stand watch over mankind (from either topside, or ground level). It also would have shed a bit more light on the entire portfolio of pantheon, how Rel was basically the lone deity and merely addressed by different names or through different channels, as well as the limitations of the subdieties who did achieve immortality, but not omnipotence.

Obviously that grandiose plan wasn't going to happen and I had to wrap things up a bit. All in all, it didn't end exactly how I would have liked, but I am quite pleased that it did have an ending. There were several times that I came close to perma-shelving part III and starting fresh. Luckily I have the greatest community of builders/enthusiasts around me, and one uber-talented cutscene guy that was willing to lend a sunbeam engulfed helping hand.

Now I'm toying around with a handful of pretty decent (IMHO) areas that all fit into a separate adventure. I've been considering asking a longtime old school friend of mine to join up with me and ratchet up this romp across the continent. Him and I both had the same enthusiasm for games/gaming/design/3D Modeling, and artistically, he is faaaar superior to myself. However, he has since wandered off and never focused on game design (hasn't even ever played NWN/NWN2/etc). If I could seduce him to the darkside without losing too many midaclorians in some freak severing of limbs, things would look pretty freaking awesome. As soon as I attach that carrot to a stick, I may give this pitch a go.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pea Soup and Docs

One aspect of design that I've never felt 100% at, environmental effects. Fog, shade, sun, etc. Anyhow, the challenge in this are was to have it dark/foggy enough to be forboding and dangerous, yet allow enough visability for certain background objects (like the mill and castle) to be visable from the far side of town. I think it turned out pretty good for just winging it. I will likely revisit it several times and keep fiddling with the settings.

In other woes, I'm learning just how many trees, vines, and canopies it takes to make a 20x20 jungle area, yikes.

I'm starting to consider putting a more formal touch to the storyline. Right now it exists as the normal collection of texts and spreadsheets (along with the stuff in my head). I have moved most of my stuff over to Google Docs to have backedup/accessed, so there is that. The main motivator was my Motorola Droid phone and the ability to access them all from anywhere.

Perhaps writing this out as an old-school adventure mod would be structured. Something like Isle of Dread or Palace of the Silver Princess (the two that I had lol). Where the story, description, stats are all there and seperated by visual dividers as to what was presented to the player(s), and what was for DM knowledge. That may just make it easier to stay focused on the critical path of the adventure while leaving the nessasary tributaries for side-quests (not that I ever have time to go back and add those in as much as I would like anyway).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Crown Port

A little more detail on Crown Port which is admittedly inspired by Port Royal in Jamaica. Crown Port is located on the Isle of Sampeatos and acts as a major trading hub between the kingdom of Dalreon and the Orilyn empire.

Because of the vast amounts of currency and goods that pass through the streets, Crown Port is a constant target for pirates and thieves. Backed into the untamed jungles of Sampeatos, the city walls protect residents from any number of untold dangers that lurk in the lush surroundings.

Design Documents: