Thursday, February 28, 2008

Status Update 28-Feb: Area Design, a tale in two parts (part 2!)

It's almost the end of February, and I'm almost finished the Rich Quarter. I've been busy the past couple of days, so haven't had that much time to spare, but things are still moving along well. I've not really that much to say aside from to post the following screenshots to follow the evolution of an area...
The first is the area after a second pass of texturing and an initial bit of colouring. The colouring that has been done has mostly just been adding a bit of brown to the landscape, either for wear and tear, or to exaggerate the dirty look of the ground.

The second is post-decoration and a second round of colouring. This is adding in trees, extra placeables and general decoration in terms of rocks, dirt, grass, etc. Even so, there's still a few more things that have been added since this shot. Some minor terrain, texture & colouring tweaking was still done even at this late stage.

Lastly, here's a shot of the level from the ground... looking boldly where no adventurer can actually go. I'll probably post a few more of the actual walkable area over the next few days.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Status Update 25-Feb: Area Design, a tale in two parts

Firstly, I'd like to thank my friend Ferris for linking this dev blog from his blog/website. His glowing review is very flattering! His blog is an interesting read, with musings on cars and games, and there is also a must see clip on his page of Reyn Ouwehand doing a live musical performance showcasing his skills and the power of sampling/looping. It's definitely worth a look.

Next, it's time for a status update. Things are proceeding nicely, with progress on the Rich Quarter moving along swiftly. With a couple of outdoor areas under my belt now, I'm finding the going much quicker, as I've got a bit of a workflow organised. I'm sure there's ways I can improve, but I feel like I'm working at a productive rate now. This is in definite contrast to my first exterior area, where I felt like I was struggling to do anything! Of course, the process is expedited by having a rough pencil sketch of the city layout, though I've been using that as a guideline rather than a hard and fast plan.

In the absence of any comments asking for particular types of screenshots, I've decided to give a few shots of the development of the Rich Quarter. Of course, it's not finished yet, but I thought I'd show its current evolutionary stages. The first stage was to lay down the buildings to get the core structure of the area.

Note that the first stage above already has a little bit of terrain/texture modification - while I wanted to get the core structure completed, those parts have been done in order to match up the edge of the area with the adjacent city district.
With the buildings placed, it was time to add a bit of depth/height to the equation, by modifying the terrain...

This step required some minor tweaking of building positions, though that is to be expected. A building doesn't simply have a door open out to a sharp drop... well, not barring some unusual circumstances, that is. The final step for the moment has been a first pass for texturing. While I've only currently used 3 textures, the area is starting to take shape. Of course, there still remains a lot of work to do in terms of additional textures and using the colour tool - which I use quite heavily because it is such a fantastic tool for creating variances in the look of the ground! Regardless, I feel like it has been a fairly solid start for one night's work...

Lastly, I like to comment on "realism". For those of you who aren't familiar with the toolset, that white box that appears in the first screenshot defines the walkable area for the player - so 8/9ths of the terrain that I've created cannot ever be accessed by the player! However, the work in creating that extra landscape is worth it, in my opinion, because it really gives a sense of verisimilitude. For me, it's so disheartening to see a well crafted city district (or any exterior area for that matter) spoiled by having the surrounding visible area taper off into a monotonous flat mono-textured plane. Sure, you can't explore that little pond or that building that looks remarkably like the ruins near West Harbour, but they make you feel like you're in a real city. Well, as real as a city in a fantasy setting can be, at least.

Status Update 24-Feb: Getting around

Another quick update just to let people know what's happening. The store I mentioned yesterday has been completed, and I revisited the tavern and the inn, or rather, their owners, and made them a little more helpful in telling you about the city and places to go. While my areas do feature plenty of map notes to help people navigate, it's always handy to get some pointers from the locals about things that may be of interest. This is (of course) in addition to the general chatter and tidbits of information that you can garner just from talking to the wandering local populace.

Currently I'm working on the rich quarter of Darthall. For those of you that are interested, there will probably be a few more screenshots in the following couple of days, though I'm yet to decide whether to do an "evolution of an area" set of screenshots, or perhaps some of the stores, or maybe perhaps of more dialog between characters. If you have a preference for any particular type of screenshot, then let me know! I'm always happy to cater to player desires!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Status Update 23-Feb: Release Dates... aren't

A little while ago I drew up a new schedule for my work on the project, as I've found I don't have enough hours in the day to do everything I'd like/need to do and stick to my first (somewhat ambitious) schedule. So, apologies to all those people who were waiting/expecting for it to be released at the end of next month. If all goes according to my new schedule (which it has been so far), then the projected release date will be the end of April. However, just to make sure that this is a high quality module, I'd like to set my sights on a release at about mid-May. If things change, I'll be sure to keep everyone informed. On the plus side, this means you'll get to see more snippets before the module is released! (Yes, I know that's not much of a consolation)

In a related aside, I know release dates are annoying things for everyone, and gamers are always unhappy when release dates get pushed back. Yes, it would be nice if release dates could be accurate, but personally, I would much rather have a game delayed (for up to several months if necessary) to undergo serious playtesting rather than have a buggy, unbalanced or otherwise unenjoyable game experience 'on time'. Patches are a way of life for modern games, and that is a good thing, but sometimes they are used more as a crutch rather than a tool to fix totally unforeseeable circumstances. I won't name any titles in particular, but I'm sure many people have had an experience of a showstopper or near-showstopper in a product that is fixed scant weeks after a product is released. Then again, I may just be a grumpy gamer with a stickler for quality.

In terms of actual development, progress continues quite well. The tavern and Inn have been completed, and another store featuring a few choice beverages is undergoing construction. Expect there to be a few drinks for sale that have different effects when compared to your standard brews.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Status Update 21-Feb: First Look at Dialog

Another quick one just to let everyone know things are going smoothly. I've been working on an Inn, trying to get that busy and semi-crowded look and sound perfected - plus, the player has to have somewhere to sleep! I've also been doing some dialog - just tweaking things to make characters have a little more personality and individuality. To that end, here's a couple more screenshots.

The first of a heated discussion between two characters - Kyandra (on the left) and Gershum (the orc on the right). If you've been looking at previous posts, you might recognise that this exchange occurs in the market district. I will say that Kyandra will probably feature in a few more screenshots down the track, as she has the potential to play a significant role in the events within Darthall. That is, if you choose to let her.

The second is an encounter with someone who has a troubled mind, and getting through to someone so touched may not always be a simple task...

My dialogs are aimed at letting the character play their desired persona. If you wish to be an altruistic savior, then you certainly can. However, should you choose to be a greedy, merciless killer, then you're still catered for. The one thing to remember is that how you treat people may affect events in the future. For sometimes a kindly act is rewarded, and other times it may turn out to place a new enemy in your path, so be prepared to live with the consequences of your actions...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Status Update 18-Feb: A Local Tavern

I've been fairly busy over the past few days, so there hasn't been a lot of time for working. However, another side quest is completed, and one of the taverns is pretty much completed as well. The Bleary Tavern doesn't have terribly much vigour in the way of its decor (hence the name), though the patrons are lively enough, whether it be the fairly unfriendly card players, crabby wenches, crabbier wenchers, or just your general drunks.

Of course, no tavern would be complete without a couple of drunken patrons arguing near a fire.

The next couple of days will hopefully be polishing off an Inn and another merchant.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Status Update 13-Feb: Quest Scope Creep

Quick update today. It's been a whole lot of dialogue tonight, sorting out various options and choices for a side quest with multiple ways of progressing and finishing it, meaning that I had to write a lot more than I'd initially bargained for when I'd planned the quest. Again, the whole revision/reinvention process makes things more time consuming than I'd planned. That end-of-March timeline is looking a little unreasonable when I factor in additions like this, though I'm still trying to push towards it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Status Update 12-Feb: Two Interiors

Housekeeping: I forgot to make it so that anyone could post comments. I'm always interested in feedback and what people want to see in modules - so if I post anything you like/don't like, I'm always willing to take advice on-board.

I didn't get as much done tonight as I had hoped, but I suppose it's nearly impossible to do that most of the time. And then NWN2 decided it wanted to revert to taking screenshots in jpg format, and needed some "coaxing" in order to change its mind.

That aside, I managed to get some dialogue for a side quest ironed out, though as per usual, it seems that the ugly beast of scope creep has reared its head again as a few new ideas popped into my head for ways for the scenario to play out. But those ideas involve more choices, which is only a good thing as far as the player is concerned.

In wrapping up, I have a two more screenshots to post, the first of a wealthy merchant's home/store. This was completed yesterday.

The second is one that I whipped up today, and gives you an idea of what happens if your internal decorator likes a bit more wilderness indoors than normal. I'm sure you can use your imagination to work out what kind of person would live in a house like this...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A First Look At The City

Hello all, and welcome to the 'Fate Of A City' blog. I'm using this blog to spread a bit of information and some status updates on my forthcoming single player module for Neverwinter Nights 2. I will attempt to update this blog as often as possible, though I'm going to steer clear of discussing plot points.

As a quick outline, the module is set in the city of Darthall, a moderate sized city located a little off the normal trading routes, nestled between Mt Pada and Lake Gynnai. The module is set entirely within the bounds of the city, with the player becoming embroiled in plots and dangers inside the gates.

Story and player choices are key to the journey through Darthall, and while the player's alignment will be affected by their choices, many decisions will have ramifications beyond those immediately noticeable.

Currently, Fate Of A City is expected to be finished around the end of March, though given this is a one person project, and game project to boot, it is highly likely that the release will be delayed due to design refinement, scope creep and playtesting/bugfixing.

To finish my first post, I'd like to show some shots of the Market Plaza, one of the four key districts of the city. Like every project, there's bound to be some iterative development as the plans and design are tweaked, and the market area is a perfect example of how an area can grow.

Please keep in mind when looking at the screenshots below that I've taken them in the toolset, and have posted them in a lower quality for size reasons. (I'll likely post high quality shots in the future). Disclaimer aside, have a look at the Darthall Market Plaza in its first incarnation.

When I first did this, I was fairly happy, though after a little while I started to notice significant defects in the design. I mean, after all, this is a fairly well trodden area, a bustling hub of activity and general thoroughfare to get around the city. As a result, I felt it needed a lot more wear and tear... as can be seen below.

I hope you agree that the second looks a lot more like a well used city bazaar.