Friday, August 31, 2007


In designing more exterior areas, it's reminded me of something I noticed a while back when playing in the toolset - namely the different way that the exteriors in the OC were designed compared to how we're seeing them in community modules - namely, how they are textured.

The OC area tend to have a lot of textures painted down at 100%, and it's the use of complimentary textures that help them to blend. From what I've seen in other modules, and for me when designing an area, The only texture used at 100% tends to be base texture you start the area with - everything else is blended in. I thought I'd have a quick play:

The top image shows two overgrown paths I quickly threw together. The left path (below) uses blended textures - the path is first painted down at 30%, then a smaller path within that at 50-70%, and patches are strengthened at 80-90%. Overgrown areas are first painted in a wider brush at 20-30%, and then gradually strengthened with smaller and smaller brushes with increasing pressure. The aim here for me is to try and blend things together - the muddy path slowly gives way to the surrounding grass. It's not the best choice of textures and there's no colouring, but it should get the point across. Personally when want a grassy plain, I never use one texture - I use 3-4 grasses blended at different percentages. Somehow two grasses painted over each other give a much smoother appearance - and you notice the repeating patterns in the underlying textures less.

Below is the same path painted as how I understand the artists from the OC do it. What surprised me was that it wasn't as bad as I thought. The path is painted straight down at 100%, and patches of grass overgrowing it are also at 100%. Much quicker. And to be honest the effect is OK

SO as a little test to myself, I'm not sure what it proved. One issue that I find tricky is knowing where to start when painting textures, and combining that with shaping the landscape. But I'm now wondering if my slow blending approach might not actually be better as a quick 100% approach, with touching up left til the last. There's definitely an art to this - and when an area is going great, it's a lot of fun. I'm building an area very different to one I've built before at the moment, and it's almost as though a new set of rules needs to be applied for a different environment - e.g. grassy vs mountainous - compare the wilderness and Mountain areas in DA Chapter 1. But now I'm building Raven's lake, an abandoned gnomish village, which has many new things to think about in terms of darker textures and how they look in different lighting. Screenshots to come later.

On a slightly different note - my other project this week has involved tentacles. Or me trying to model them in game. I takes me back to playing things like Shining Force - when you boat would be attacked by a giant octopus / kraken and you had to fight off each tentacle and the head. Would love to do a Shining Force conversion.. Anyway, below is a poor attempt - only problem is getting them to face the right way...and I lack any sort of modelling skills (computer graphics or catwalk). back to the drawing board...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

1st area done

OK, despite a crash whilst baking, the first area is done, scripted and dialogued. Good to have mini-milestones like this to chalk off. The crash was really frustrating - and quite bizarre. There was no temp folder left for me to pilfer/recover from, and there was no area corruption - the main gripe was that I'd lost a full conversation (as well as the Hound Archon blueprint I was designing). In many ways I'd rather lose an area than a conversation. Writing something again, without notes, I find that once the inspiration has gone, it's hard to get it back. THe first conversation I wrote flowed really nicely, but now with me rewriting it from scratch, it's definitely not as good. Might have to come back to it.

So on to the next area... well, it was going to be the hidden military stronghold, but I've decided instead to incorporate a side quest based around one of the companions, Briars. There have been comments about the linearity of Chapter 1, which I'm not too put out by as I will openly admit that I didn't include countless pointless sidequest (as I think they would have detracted from the impetus). But I do want to expand on Briars and this is a good opportunity for his character development, and to explore other aspects of 'revenge'

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Three quick screenshots to show progress from last weeks toolset images - wasnt sure how it was going until I opened it up in game - and quite pleased with it. First image shows sunken path with (working) rope slide across it. Second image shows a watchtower actually being manned (shock, horror!) by a arcane archer with a longbow. Given him an increased AC to reflect the cover up there, but reduced his reflex save - you get fireballed and there's nowhere to hide! Final shot shows the view from the clifftops onto the sea. I have to say its the sounds of the seagulls that really makes the area. Now all thats left is to script the encounters and cutscenes, and I can chalk of the first area for chapter 2!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Chapter 2 underway

...albeit slowly. After only debugging, spell checking and stat-tweaking in the toolset for the past few weeks, I actually got down to building again last weekend. It's been a while since I sat down with a blank canvas in front of me, and I'd forgotten how daunting that is in area creation - despite my pages of notes and scribbles.

The first area leads the players to the coast, in search of the hidden militia training camp. I did a lot of grassy plains and cliffs/mountains in chapter 1, and it's moreof the same - trying to add in some differences tho - I think that it'll be the sounds that make the real difference

I'm by no means the fastest area builder, but i thought I'd post some shots every few steps along the way - to show things taking shape.

I'm going to use some 3D combat again - there's two main encounter in this area, and the first will involved the party being pinned down. I think the one thing missing from the many RPGs is an appreciation of the way buildings/areas can be made defensible, and tricks that were used by medieval craftsmen to acheive this - funnelling the enemy through a tight gap so archers can concentrate their fire, etc. I think these sorts of things can be just as fun in D&D as the standard dungeon - form both sides. As a player its fun to plan attack and defence strategies.

Most of my time so far was spent trying to come up with tricks to have players be able to walk under bridges that they can also walk over - the walkmesh doesn't allow this in exteriors as far as I can tell, so I've played with several options. IN the end they all got a bit messy/convoluted, and it would have detracted from the play, so I've opted for a rope slide/zip-line instead - simple = good

Monday, August 13, 2007


Wow, it's strange - I've not been on the toolset to build (other than some fixes to Chapter 1) for a 3-4 weeks now. Been spending more time letting real life catch up with me, but have found some time for playing NWN2.

Actually finished the OC. I'd not got through this very quickly as soon after I bought the game I started playing with the toolset, and that leaves little time to get through the OC. Plus, after I'd seen the Elanee nighttime cutscene in Crossroads Keep, I felt so dirty and disgusted, I needed a bit of a break - seriously, after somethign like Aerie in BG2, where it built up as a romance, this was crude horny-teen goth slash-fiction by comparison. *shudder* Felt like i needed to disinfect my keyboard and mouse after seeing that. But apart form that, I liked the OC, despite a few niggles in the story and how it was handled... I actually liked Shandra and felt much more could have been made of her, and her death. It was maybe too long and unwieldy - but it didnt help that I played in stops and starts so the story lost its flow. The ending was a disappointment - it needed a big cutscene so the tga stills were a big anticlimax.
I always use my character Wyrin as the first play through, and it's a testament to the game that I felt he was captured well y the mechanics and the engine - finished as a Bard11/Fighter4/DivineChampion5 - two weapon fighting, foci in rapier and short sword. If I play again, I'll go with my Wizard/EK/Duelist or Ranger/Wiz/ArcaneArcher/Assassin builds, but that won't be for a while.

Also played some mods. I've been trying to make sure I vote and give better feedback. I find this tricky Finished Subtlety of Thay. I voted it 8.75 - slightly lower than its vault rating. I think there's an issue of vote inflation still on the vault (that I've benefitted from, I can't deny), and it never ceases to amaze me the rationale behind some people's scores. I think this is the highest vote I've given a mod - I prefered it to Tragedy in Tragidor, and I've only played 90% of an early build of Night Howls in Nestlehaven. The latter I'd vote highly, but i do have some issues with it - mainly in terms of the combat difficulty, and for me, too many sidequests and things going on in a little town. But it is an amazingly built module that shows the builders story and understanding of the toolset as exceptional - no doubt in my next toolset break, I'll dive back in with a new PC and finish it properly.

But they are personal issues that occur to me more as a builder when I play. I also played The Chronicles of Azaeleus 1. and voted that 6.25. I found I played it a lot whilst thinking 'I'd have done that differently, or developed that more...'. I worry with the vote inflation that 6.25 is seen as a bad vote; I'd I'd not want to discourage a new builder as there were many positives about this - a vote of 6 is still good. But then it's got 2 votes of 9 already and it's not up to that IMO. I won't retype my comments - they're on the vault. But it's a fun little mod to give a go - and I think this builder could have some good stuff in him for the future.

As a side note, i did build a mini maze to showcase the toolset to a friend of mine. He works on rehabilitating people after brain injury to inprove their cognitive function, and uses the DOOM engine to devise environments for them to explore - he seems pretty buzzed about the toolset and what it can do now, so eager to see where this goes.

Next weekend - Chapter 2 starts in earnest!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Chapter 2

Despite feeling my creativity sapped by work stress and lack of sleep, I'd had some ideas for Chapter 2 development and execution. This chapter was always going to be more heavily H&S - you're trying to pin down the head of the militia, a military leader surrounded by his men.

I liked the H&S segments in chapter 1 - breaking the pace nicely, was my intention. But I'm wary of Chapter 2 becoming less focussed on my intention - and losing some of my 'philosophy' behind it. So I've been working up ways to add in roleplay. Seich will have a lot more to say as his character develops, as will Contessa. I've also come up with ways to add more variety to how a stronghold is stormed. Traditional in RPGs it's a case of finidng a disused secret entrance and storming form the bottom up - but I'd like to build a bit more colour and originality into that.

That said, the combat when it happens needs to be fast, frenetic and furious - high drama. Personally, I don't like mods where fights that arent showdowns with villains or pushing the plot forward get too hard - you lose realism if you have to leave a house to rest, then go back in to finish killing off the guys you just attacked - you would be hunted down and slaughter whilst you rested. So when you storm a stronghold - you shouldn't expect to be able to rest up after each level ready to face a new one. But this is going to be difficult to pull off effectively.

Some commented on the linearity of Chapter 1 - thing is I'm loathe to add in side quests just for the hell of adding sidequests. and to me side quests don't make something non linear - they just add variety, which is different. And too much can get silly- there's only so much that can happen in one place. Also, why someone with the motivation and goals in Dark Avenger - distracitons shouldnt matter as much. But i'm hoping to offer the player different approaches to storming the stronghold that will get that variety in there.

Psychology (another moan sorry!) and Subtlety of Thay

From my own experience and seeing it mentioned/hinted at in the posts by others, there's a definite psychology to building with the NWN2 toolset. Builders are committing such a large amount of time, that I suppose this is inevitable. And many of those that built form the early days of the toolset (and some still) do so with a toolset that gives them little love in return through crashes and corruption. I've found I definitely go through periods when I'm so focussed on working o nthe toolset and the mod, it occupies a lot of my time and thoughts. Right now, and it seems to be a pattern after releasing somehting for it happened after Walk in the Woods too, I hit a slump, when I can't gee up the enthusiasm to hit the toolset and start working. I think currently it might also be due to work and toher real life issues - general stress/tiredness stifling creativity. I so need a holiday. Sorry, I seem to moan too much on this blog about it all, but at least it seems a comon issue!

So I'm on a little break. I fully intend to get an update to Dark Avenger out this weekend, but I can't see much work being done apart from that. I am putting mor etime into playing - the OC and also Subtlety of Thay - I'd started this not long afte it came out, and whilst I was impressed with several aspects, the way I found my goody barbarian character going through the plot after an hour or so's play didn't inspire me. So I stopped. Retried now as a more mercenary warlock (firsttime tried the class and its not bad), and I have to say I'm enjoying it a lot more. Some vey nice technical aspects to the mod - mine cart was very well done - nice setup and execution. I'd like some more character interaction and development, but what's there is good. Looking to finish soon, then will get a vote up. Not eto self - must vote more

On a more positive note, =now all the Hall of Fame mods have been moved out of the top 15 list, I've got 3 entries up there! OK, OK its nothting to be too proud of givne they had to make way of all the 8+voted older mods, but it raised a wry smile when i saw it ;)