Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Status Update 30-Apr: Custom Items Ahoy!

The past couple of weeks have been fairly busy, so I haven't been able to dedicate a whole lot of time to the mod, but I've been back to the introductory scene within the module, tweaking and testing it to make sure everything runs smoothly. As I'm sure any of you would know who've done involved cutscenes, getting things to happen exactly how and when you want isn't always the simplest of tasks. There's also been some fine touches to some of the areas I'd already created, just adding in little bits and pieces to increase the overall ambiance and visual appeal based on things I learned while creating my entry for the area competition.

And based on the poll results, it seems that (almost) everyone is a fan of custom items! In light of the votes the poll was receiving during its time, I'd already started work on a number of custom items over what I'd already created. At the moment, there's over 20 custom items create (which have varying degrees of usefulness), each with a backstory or description (ranging in size from short to fairly lengthy). But I'm by no means finished yet... perhaps the more difficult thing may be trying to work out where I'm going to fit them all into the module!

While I won't give away any of the details of the items just yet, I thought I'd post a screenshot of an outfit you could construct from the items created so far.

I should also mention that this is a shot from the Rich Quarter within Darthall... I believe I promised another screenshot of it quite a while ago!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Status Update 23-Apr: Conversation Progress

This week has seen a bit more interior area design and a bit more dialog. There's also been the addition of a couple more stores around the place, just to make sure that there are enough people to cater for your item needs. No new screenshots or other big developments to share at this point, this is just a small update to let people know that things are ticking along nicely.

I'm also encouraged to see a number of votes on my poll, but if you haven't voted already, please do so! So far it does seem that custom items are definitely a popular choice...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Status Update 18-Apr: Building the Background

This post isn't exactly a repeat of what I've posted on the forums, but there will be a few bits and pieces here and there that overlap. :-)

My time recently has been spent tweaking and testing, combined with a moderate amount of background writing. Most of this information will appear in books that will be scattered around various places in the city (no, there's no central library that acts as a repository for all knowledge!) and will provide a bit of background and setting for the city and the adventure in general. I'm a big believer in having a realistic and fleshed out environments, so I want to let the player experience that should they choose to scratch the surface behind the plot of the module. Most of the bits and pieces will tie in to the main plot somehow, but there's no need to feel as though you'll be lost if you don't go around trying to be the city librarian - it's there for your information, but it's not crucial to understanding the plot. (Though there might be one or two hidden bonuses you may acquire through being a scholar!)

The other thing I've been working on is a couple of interior areas. Here's one of the interiors I've been working on which has a bit more of a magical feel...

And here's the other, which is significantly darker and a bit more foreboding...

Also, I'd like your feedback on the poll that I put up this evening! The topic for decision is whether or not you like custom items! Would you like to see additional items/item blueprints put in that have their own unique attributes, abilities and backstory, or are you entirely content with the stock standard items that come with NWN/MotB? I've been contemplating developing some custom items for the adventure, but if people would rather see NPCs and the plot and other areas fleshed out more, I'll stick with the stock standard items that come with the game. Let me know, and I'll cater to your whims and tastes!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Status Update 14-Apr: Conversation Creation Shortcuts

Conversations are the order of the month it seems, for that's what I seem to be doing most days, though I must confess, there's been a couple of interiors I've been working on of late, and a couple of scripts that were required a little more testing than I'd bargained for in order to get them "just right". Sometimes being a perfectionist is an annoying habit, though it is nice when something eventually looks just the way you had imagined.

On a bit of a different tack, I'd like to let everyone know about a little time saver that I have for creating dialogues in my module. Everyone knows and loves the new cinematic conversations, but getting them to look like you want can be an annoyance. Especially so with camera angles, which becomes even more annoying because you can't change camera angles for multiple nodes at once. In order to get around this bugbear, I generally try to stick to either one of a few different shot types (if I'm not using a static camera) - namely Two-Shot, Three-Fourths Shot and Over The Shoulder. Additionally, I often have my companions adding in their own opinion in the middle of a conversation, but of course, they can only do this if they're in the party. Which is why all my cinematic style conversations get made from a template conversation that looks something like the picture below...

Tags in {}s let me know the shot type (though 2-Shot is typically my default), and I've easily got my conditional companion interruptions (yes, I did sanitize the companion names!) as necessary. Also, the addition of Check and Action tags makes it easy for me to put those in wherever I need. Lastly, because I have a lot of alignment changes in my module, I've put in a node that allows me access to those functions quickly. Lastly, I'd suggest calling the conversation something like "aaatemplate" or "zzztemplate", that way you can easily jump to the top or the bottom of your conversation list and grab and duplicate it easily. I realise some people may have been using this idea for a while, but I thought I'd put it up here as a suggestion in case people hadn't thought of it.

On a final note, I use a spreadsheet that roughly tracks my progress through the mod, in terms of areas and quests. Areas are broken down into the subcategories of Structure, Placeables, Light/Sound, People, and Dialogue. Quests are broken down into People, Dialogue, Journal Entries and Scripting. This is rough, and doesn't accurately reflect comparative time requirements, but based on it, I'm a little under 40% done in my module.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Status Update 10-Apr: Polish and Bugtesting

The past couple of days have been focussed on conversations and scripting, all to polish off another quest. 'Polish' being the operative word, because the past couple of days have been tweaking conversations, adding extra nodes so that characters react differently based on your previous encounters (if any) with them. While little touches like that are time consuming and make things take longer than planned, I enjoy making them, and I hope people enjoy seeing them in a game. However, on reflection, I think I could easily argue that such inclusions are perhaps done perfectly when they are not noticed by players, but that is another discussion entirely...

Various scripting nuances have taken up a bit of time, primarily because I've been testing them numerous times to see how I can possibly break them, and then coming up with ways to avoid those situations. While I've managed to avoid game-breaking scripting errors through my Neverwinter Nights experiences, I know that they have plagued and irritated other players, so I am attempting to avoid any such difficulties by testing my module thoroughly as I go. Hopefully no-one will come up with anything radically inventive that will cause errors!

I know screenshots have been light on for a while now, but there's been a few reasons for that, not the least of which is that I haven't really been doing that much area design in recent times! That said, there might be a few tidbits I can show soon without giving too much away.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Status Update 7-Apr: A Little More Conversation...

In the time I've had recently, it's been conversations, conversations, and more conversations. Oh wait, there was a house interior as well. There was also a bit of background design writing, just fleshing out individual bits of background and other pieces of information that may never make it into the module itself, but just serve to add to the verisimilitude. Such a task may be much maligned by many, but its worth cannot be underestimated.

In all that writing, I've nearly polished off another side quest. As usual, there's both good and bad ways to solve the quest, including violent and non-violent options. I've occasionally wondered how my characters in RPGs manage to rack up such a significant body count at times without serious repercussions from the law... though there are (almost!) always reasons and excuses that one can invent to avoid getting in trouble with the long arm.

I've also been working on various conversations with the potential companions to add extra flavour to your interactions. They will interject in conversations, but they will also initiate conversations of their own based on events and surroundings. Players will need to be mindful of the feelings and tendencies of their companions, otherwise you might find your compatriots rather unhappy with your company!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Status Update 3-Apr: Darthall Description

As I said I'm my previous post, I have resumed work on 'Fate Of A City', and things have been going along quite nicely this week. It's been very heavy dialog work, and I think I've done about 4500 words over the past three days. Of course, there's plenty of choice in these dialogs, so I'd be surprised if people feel hamstrung by their conversation options.

For something a little different today, I've decided to discuss the setting a little more... So here is a brief history and description of the city of Darthall.


Lying in the foothills on the Thunderpeaks, Darthall dwells on the fringes of both Cormyr and Sembia, and although it belongs to former, it is somewhat removed from the dealings of both. The city is considered too remote for the Purple Dragons to patrol the city, and most locals hold little loyalty to Cormyr.

Originally established as a keep for training priests, the city established a post of order on the potentially dangerous route near the mountain range. The keep eventually became a haven for travelers and traders, and eventually evolved into a small trading city that served to bridge the gap between the two empires.

The area has been ruled for several years by Lord Tumoni, a noble with links to the much-fallen Illance family. However, he inherited a failing trade city from his father, as other routes have become safer for travel since Darthall was established, which means few people travel through the city anymore. However, this does not mean that Darthall is uneventful or dull, for the city has a constant undercurrent of activity that bubbles beneath the surface.