Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Just a quick little tip on building exteriors.

I was doing some exterior designing and thought I might share a few tips. This might be old news since NWN 2 is starting to be ancient, but I know designing exteriors is not easy. Something looks good, but when you switch your camera angle you will go "oh what the, oh, jees, that's not good, oh, what, no" or you are happy with the layout, but when you test it everything is HUGE or tiny.

1. Turn your camera a lot when you work with the terrain tools. Player will see the landscape from all directions, and so should you when you're working on it.
2. To get a proper sense of the scale add some NPCs standing around the area (at least the part where player will be moving in). This will prevent a lot of too steep hills and such.

3. Don't follow an ordered pattern when creating natural areas. Generally the more random your first draft is, the easier it will be to make it look like real terrain. Just... try to avoid flat surfaces as much as possible, unless there is a clear purpose for that in your area.

Reaaaally general, I know. Still, I thought I would throw these out there.

Polishing my sloppy areas & random stuff about setting the mood.

Being the obsessive compulsive artist that I am, I felt I couldn't start designing the beach random encounter before I had finished polishing the ship wreck area. Immediately when I opened the area I was appalled by the beach and the transition between the beach and grass. Tsk tsk, I thought and got busy.
Now the area has more small hills, more palms, shrubs and plants. The rocks were given some green tint so they wouldn't blind everyone with a bright white light. Transition to the grass is still not perfect...but it's better (it used to be a rather violent change with a straight border). Now I'd only need to populate the area...ahem, maybe next time, or some day. Creating NPCs is one of my least favorite things to do. Right after editing long 2DA files.
Also I tested the new mountain road encounter area. It's pretty as hell, dare I say so myself. It's actually a shame it turned out so well and it will just be a fleeting moment during the whole campaign compared to everything else. Maybe that's okay. The main reason I'm doing this after all is the joy of creation, to better myself and to create various set pieces that convey a certain mood I'm looking for. Atmosphere is maybe the single most important thing to me when doing game designing or when I'm examining a game. That's not to mean I don't care about the mechanics and the story, I do, very much, but I'm just being honest here. Also you CAN create a terrific mood through mechanics, story and dialogue; I'm just relying heavily on area design, sounds and music.
I'm actually starting my IT studies next fall just so I can actually learn all the basics. My school luckily has a game lab and a chance to focus on game studies. Thus I'm hoping to actually make a full fledged game in some years. A game that is pretty much focused on creating mood and emotions, all while telling a story. Very ambitious etc. and I need to look out for the scope. I'm a prime example of poor judgement when it comes to scope. Just look at Crystals of the Lost. Playing the "prologue" part of the game takes most likely two to three hours, depending if the player decides to snoop around and do some side quests. And I immediately follow up with a choice between three quests, of which two were rather tiresome to make with all the scripting, planning and conversations, the third one was almost purely combat focused.

That being said, there is a LOT to be done, so I better go start my design on the beach encounter area.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Brace yourselves, more vertical areas are coming.

If you are anything like me, you might have noticed how most areas in NWN 2 OC and the mods are relatively flat. There is an easy explanation: the more vertical differences your area has, the more harder it is to edit in the toolset. I think such areas are a welcome change in the game though. I'm not going to overdo them, but I'll have a few areas with some verticality. Like this mountain road encounter area I'm currently working on.
It's satisfying to notice how one can still remember the important hotkeys and where all the settings, properties and blueprints are. I was worried for a while that there might be another learning curve ahead of me when returning to the toolset.
Which I'm sure there is. I just haven't noticed it yet. I will most likely revisit the areas I'm designing now and give them a bit more gloss and polish once I've recovered my touch. 
 Mountains are rather boring, so I don't expect this area to blow anyone away. It is also a very small part of the overland map, so players will most likely do only a little combat there. However avoiding spawning enemies on the narrow road should be rather hard, so I'm fairly sure players will get to see it often enough to make it worthwhile to create a separate road encounter for the mountains (flat road on a mountain path just doesn't feel right!).
 Now if I could only make the Bellbay area look a bit more like a real town... It's hard to clutter up the streets. I see no reason why a town would have an abundance of barrels and crates on the streets after all. Anyhoo, that's it for now.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Back. With a frustration.

Rumors of my passing have been greatly exaggerated.

A lot has happened. For instance I've graduated and I'm a normal working adult now. Which means after working from 7am to 3pm I'm free to do as I please and I actually have the money to do as I please - well, at least some of it. Thesis was a major headache until I gave in and changed its subject into one that focuses on video games. It was worth it as I got nearly full scores on it - thus I recommend anyone to bravely write their thesis on video games even though you or someone might think it's not serious enough of a subject. If you feel passionate over it, the reader will feel it and you can only benefit from that.

I'm a librarian...buut I've managed to study some really basic programming of several languages during my free time and I'm pleased to inform you Neverwinter Nights 2 scripting is not all that mumbo jumboish as it used to be. Sure, it's complicated, but it's relatively easy to see what any given part of the script does. I'm still not good at writing them from a scratch, but I can see what ready scripts aim to do.

Reading scripts, having patience and studying the SoZ modules was rather vital to my CotL campaign. Back in 2010 (wow, it's been four years) I used similar methods, I'd copy and paste from SoZ and poking the things with a stick to see what's going to happen. Some of the overland map functions worked, but some didn't. It drove me pretty crazy when I had no idea why some random battle transitions worked and why some didn't. Turns out I should have just imported a few scripts and really read through them. I used to know I had to name my road encounter's waypoints as wp_road01_player_default etc. without any idea why I was doing that. Turns out ginc_overland_constants defines these tags for each terrain.

I'm still not sure if you can create more random encounters than the basic nine SoZ introduced without writing bunch of lines into om_terraintypes.2da, ginc_overland_constants and ginc_overland. While I think I have a more keen eye, more patience and perhaps some wisdom, I'm not very patient. Especially since the toolset's editor for 2DAs is horrible and Excel keeps messing them up. I've found that Notepad++ works okay, but still I'm getting some issued with adding some rows for some reason, could be just that I'm sloppy.

Anyhow, I'm back. I've fixed a ton of bugs and weird things my mod used to have - a lot of them were misspelling and just forgetting to set some variables or arranging them correctly. Finally worked around the player not being able to use spells in the first module as well. It's not perfect since it only adds a arcane spell failure to all spells, but it's something. I was hoping to add a custom animation and a spoken line whenever player tries to cast a spell, but alas, there is no OnPlayerCastSpell to call on the area/module properties. Shame really. It might be possible to use the OnPlayerDefinedEvent or something, but I haven't studied that yet.

The important thing is that I'm back and I think I know what I'm doing now. Bugs have been fixed, dialogue has been tweaked, areas have been given a facelift. Now I'm ready to create more areas! I need only, oh, about 6 random battle areas and a bare minimum of 15 areas plus another town to create. It's a good thing the toolset is like a close drunk friend you have. Sometimes it acts all funny, but with years of experience you knew to keep those back ups in case your module got corrupted etc.

What I'm really bummed out about is the lack of information on the toolset functions and the tips given to players on how to create actually good looking areas and interesting interaction. I've been speculating on should I make some tutorial texts or just some general tips on some of the more abstract or advanced stuff of NWN2 modding. There were none of the kind I was thinking when I looked, but then again the game is I'm not sure if I'd just be writing them for nothing. There are some tutorials on how to build exteriors, interiors and some ready packages to use for overland maps, but there are no guides that tell you how you can create that overland map yourself. There are no guides or tips on how to make interesting exteriors that look natural with only a bit of extra time involved.

I guess I'll still think about it. There's so much I could ramble about those things. But for now, I'm signing off! Be at peace knowing that CotL might yet see the light of day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Whoa, take a look at those areas!

Yep, I've been busy during the past few weeks working on some exteriors and interiors. I still have so many great ideas to design, so much to script, so much to write. But the module is starting to take shape - finishing that overland map really helped getting a good grasp of the way that the module should be built.

Also, run into a weird bug, which is probably due to my graphics card driver. I was unable to see characters in the Appearance Wizard or the Grinning Fool's creature builder. Also some exteriors were invisible. I could see characters again once I clicked off the Sky-option, and exteriors became visible once I assigned some Sky Rings on them. Pretty weird, huh? Oh well, take a look at the few new areas. Two of them are a bit incomplete, though!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Uhh, I'm a lazy writer.

My last update was about the shipwreck shore? Really? Gee, I'm sorry for neglegting the blog! I will fix this injustice, I promise. More frequent updates ahoy!

I wish I could say I've been busy working with the mod during my absence, but... I've spent my holidays studying new languages and trying to finish Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins and The Longest Journey. All three are great games by the way, I suggest you all play them! Working and studying has really been draining my inspiration, but luckily two new nice & positive comments on Hearts of Endia gave me new courage.

I've created new areas for a new set of quests and it feels like a lot of work since a player will choose only one of the three quests. Of course all three can be experienced with multiple playthroughs. Still, the quests are pretty simple, one is a straightforward hack 'n' slash quest, second one is one where you need to talk a lot and think your way through, and in the last quest you need to search every nook and cranny to find clues to solve a mystery.

For every quest the PC will be accompanied by a different henchman that will be keeping an eye on the PC and their performance. However, as long as you complete the quest, you will pass the test and join a faction. However, performing well will give you some influence over the henchman and maybe the faction leader. I won't be releasing any screenshots about these quests so they will remain a surprise until the launch of the mod. :)

I will add some screenshots on my next post though. I'll add the few first monster hunts into the mod - an optional way to gain more experience and nice rewards. Oh, and I haven't showed you any overland encounter areas, expect those as well.

I hope I have resurrected your interests again!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just a progress check

Yep, just reporting on how the beach area is turning out! Also tested a few of the earlier areas and had fun&giggles - even though I know it's lame to laugh at one's own jokes :( Well, I'm tired, not paying attention to my lecture at the moment and can't find anything clever to say. So, look, pretty pictures!