Sunday, March 30, 2008

When good scripts go bad!

Or "The importance of playtesting for balance". Took this screenie on a quick run-through of a 'trap' I scripted for an arena. Needless to say, the trap went a bit haywire, and my poor debug character was getting chewed to pieces. Made me giggle

Friday, March 28, 2008


Just written a long rant about how builders should play more mods and players should give more feedback to builders, but deleted it as rereading it, I came across as a dick, and I hate those kind of preachy blogposts anyway. It's often important to review things written in haste or in anger - the number of draft emails I've written at work to have a go at someone, only to delete once things have calmed down.... but it is fun to vent sometimes... ;)

Some time ago there was talk about starting a consequences style module - like the dinner table game where people fill in their own parts of the story

  1. There was a man called .................
  2. And a woman called .................
  3. Who met at .....................
  4. He said .......................
  5. She said .......................
  6. And the consequence was ...........................

So people would take it in turn to collectively build a mod, without necessarily knowing the overall direction or how it would end up. I thought this was a pretty interesting idea but it seemed to die a death, and given the builders that read the blogs, wondered if there was any interest? I could imagine a contribution of any size to be worthwhile - someone builds a start area, the next person might take that and add a dream cutscene to the on enter, or add a trapdoor to a basement etc, the next person might add a companion to that area, or whatever inspired them. Not sure how well a freeform plot might work, but it might also be something to help builders keep their own projects fresh -- a break in doing this could be good. What do people think?

Oh, and sticking with the theme of consequences... my girlfriend asked me if I had 3 wishes, what they would be...

  1. That I had the guitar playing skills of Randy Rhoads and Eddie Hazel in their prime
  2. That I had a fully functioning Holodeck with safetys that wouldn't go haywire and end with Prof. Moriarty taking over my life
  3. That the wishes would be interpreted benignly, and not in the old edition D&D style of screwing me over, so I wouldn't be given the guitar skills, but not be able to use them due to a sudden freak deformity (actually happened in a game when i was younger..)

And the consequence was I was told to grow up

Oh, and finally for something actually module related - I've never been happy with my choice of portrait for Briars... if anyone has suggestions or links to gnome farmhand/monks, then I'd been keen to see them!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Area contest entry

Well, I bit the bullet and finished off my area for the contest and you can find the Forgotten Ziggurat here. I'd had the idea for this area for a while - based on stacking the mausoleum placeables as building blocks to create a large structure. The area is actually planned for Dark Avenger - but not until sometime in Chapter 4 where it would be involved in the culmination of Gork's sidequest. I deliberately wanted a dark dank swamp environment, and I am quite happy with the way the building looms out of the fog as you approach.

Some screenies, then I'll get back to the proper business of finishing chapter 2.

Thanks to all voting in the poll - bit suprised at the overwhelming desire for more cutscenes and speeches, but thanks for the feedback (and extra work!). Just finished a sidequest in the miltia base involving a Sembian ambasador, but will add in more bit like this too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Realm of the Fey Princes

Well, I put together these areas (not for the contest), as the idea had been running around my head for a while and I wanted to see what they would turn out like, and it was a break from dialogue writing. They're based on the idea of various fey princes having castles in the treetops, interconnected by walkways. But I don't have a use for them in DA - well, I could shoe-horn them in to let players go slaughter some fairies, but I'll save that sidequest until I'm desperate.

Each area is based on the same basic template, and I've kept things fairly empty so they can be used for different things - e.g. the Crossroads would make a cool bazaar of merchants gathered around the central trunk. Anyway, the whole idea of prefabs is that someone might find them useful - once approved, the areas will be here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Quick update

Meant to be on holiday today but last minute crisis at work dragged me in so I'm in a bit of a dark mood. But should have a the rest of the week off to catch up on missed toolset time.

Have decided I'll persevere with the two quick areas fo the contest - more because I've had them in mind for a while now, and even if they aren't great, they should provide a resource to be 'sexed' up by others for use in their mods. I'll post some early screens later.

Poll closed on customising companion classes -was suprised how many players either didn;t know or didn't use it. Contessa works well as either Eldritch Knight to provide bow support, or Arcane Trickster for the party rogue. Seich can either be the party cleric or the party fighter/divine champion. Briars can take up old rogue skills he'd rather put behind him, and Gork can focus on his shamanic skills, or his (and Brother Spirit's) sorcerous abilities. In chapter two, there is the option of unlocking two new character classes for Briars, and one for Seich. So all in all, it does let you build the party your way.

New poll to the side - something I'm torn on. When dungeon crawling (or in this case military base storming/destorying) do you want more cutscenes to break up the pace, or uninterrupted H&S? If you walk into the military chapel, do you want a quick speech from the clerics cursing you before they attack, or just handle that as barkstrigns above their heads? Do cutscenes in the middle of H&S sessions (which this, by its nature, will be) spoil people's buff spells with durations too much? My concern is that I want some action (and storming a base has to be full of it), but I don't want to get away from the fact i'm after a more story driven experience - which I know some felt missing with the Bandit approach section of Chapter 1.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Stupid stupid stupid

For some reason, rather than open up DA2 in the toolset and finish furnishing the interior of the militia base, I started a new mod to work on 2 area ideas I had, maybe for the Area Design contest. After telling myself I wouldn't. Think it was just because i wasn't in a rinse-repeat placeable postioning/environmentalling/walkmesh cutting kinda mood for interior work. One area I'd had in mind for Chapter 4, but the other is just a whim. Wasted most of today not getting very far with them... will sleep on whether to push them any further, but I know it's not the best use of my time...

On plus side, I've rounded off my impromptu sidequest (with a nice bonus for anyone playing a female PC, especially nature lovers). And being a loyal employee for Her Majesty's Government, I get an extra day's holiday this week for Easter. We also get (one of) the Queen's birthdays off work in May, so there's a 4 week period where i only have to work four days a week. Looking like I'm off to San Diego in June on business - only been to Washinton DC in the US before, so if anyone has tips about that region and California, I'm tempted to make a longer holiday of it.

People should check out some of the areas being entered to the contest as they're pretty cool. One has a skyship cobbled from existing placeables, which is quite cunning (although I know Amraphael and Ernie have airships set for Hythm which look pretty funky). I've looked into using area prefabs more to save time but can never find ones that quite fit my ideas right for what I needs in an area. Might say more about me needing to change my ideas...

Next toolset work is going to include some riddles and puzzles I have in mind for a 'wizards tower' type section. Picking riddles that aren't tired/cliched or obsure is tricky, but I have a couple in mind, where player knowledge and lore checks should work well together. Anyone have favorite riddles or puzzles from RPGs?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Eurgh take 2

Still feeling a bit icky, but managed to get something done today

Poll running to the right - bit worrying people didn't realise you could change the level up package of the companions, as it really adds something I think. If you talk to the companion about their skills, you get the option to change their focus. In chapter 2, you can unlock new options for some, based on sidequests that you complete.

Spent today working on two new areas I hadn't accounted for all because a certain goblin companion wanted to collect animal dung for a side quest of his - note to self - don't mod on medication...

After a request from a player, I'm posting some more Zabados screenshots for people - introducing some of the tension he brings - 1. by being a rival for Contessa's affections if you're male, 2. Being competition for Seich in the romance stakes if you're female (not that Seich has much of a hope..) and 3. generally arguing theology with Seich.

And yes I know about the spelling mistakes... :-P

And remember, in the Underdark, no one can hear you scream...

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Typical. I get a clear weekend, and really looking forward to spending some time on the toolset, and I get flu (not just man-flu, but full blown aching joints, blocked nose, loss of balance). So I've not got much done so far, which is annoying me even more. Damn snot goblins in my head. Most toolset time is spent staring dumbly at the screen unfortunately.

At the time of writing, 100 votes cast in the Module of the Year competition. For EU readers - with Eurovision approaching I was dreading a 'nil point', but no fears now :). I've cast my vote (after finally picking between the two contenders for my vote) and urge any readers out there to do the same to support their own favorite mod from 2007. I see PORR is doing well - I played an early version I think of this and wasn't keen, but might be something to go back to now it's a lot more fleshed out.

A few people voting on Dark Avenger mentioned similarities to a series of stories by Roger Zelazny about Dilvish the Damned. I've read, and enjoyed, Zelazny's Amber series but not heard of this so decided to check it out. And it's spooky - the main character is banished to Hell by an evil sorceror, and returns to seek his revenge and track down this mage. And the thing is, he returns with a demonic horse called Black, and manages to acquire a powerful sword too! It feels quite odd that I've inadvertantly paralleled this with my own story. But then I often found inDMing pen-and-paper that I'd come up with a villain idea, only to have a player mention an obscure source where it had been done before. As they say, there's nothing new under the sun. I'm actually now planning on incorporating some of the Zelazny lore into Chapter 3 - your PC hears of someone else who has gone through what you have, and can choose to investigate it!

Speaking of chapter 3 - I find myself more and more thinking about planning that out, and how it will work - rather than thinking about rounding off chapter 2. It will be city based, and there's quite a few ideas that I'm looking forward to doing - e.g. the masquerade ball - but I know have focus on the task in hand - just a shame these ideas are a long way from coming to fruition until I finish chapter 2.

In the news - the NWN Podcast team have put the roundtable discussion up - check it out. There's a preview trailer of Adam Miller's next Dark Waters project on the vault, which looks amazing - really taking the engine and stretching what it can do.

SO not much new to show with this post - couple of early screenshot from a temple shrine and entrance hall below, but nothing special and not quite finished yet. SOme screenshots of Zabados have been requested so I'll grab them from my next playthrough. Every time I work with the multilayered tilesets, I end up regretting it - and find lots of mistakes with missing pillars I have to go back and fix...but it is nice building interiors that arent all flat cave systems. The militia pay homage to several deities, and so their main temple has shrine to each. Touch wood, I've got a system working whereby the altars will automatically heal the priests of their respective deity during combat, so hopefully will add something to that section - the player can benefit from something similar if he/she worships the same.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Few screenshots

Did a quick playthrough of the main plot so far and quite happy with the generally bug free (or bugs that were easily fixable) experience. Some quick screenshots follow

Shot of me attacking the militia camp from the front. As you can see most of the party died...

Seich and the new companion Zabados argue theology

Quick shot to show that now there is a party roster interface - handled by talking to your horsey and getting him to ferry companions between your position and a hideout. So the party can be more fluid. But you will be limited to BlackDeath + 3 companions, so who you have could impact on the story/insight you get

This simple shot was only intended to show a new system I've been working on - whenever you change your party composition, there is a random chance it will spark some party interaction - here, Briars talks with Seich about how happy he is having his Master/Mistress back. SImimlar discussions will happen randomly at/during rest.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Quick update

Well, I breezed through Sands of Solvheil 2 and had a good time. Played an invisible Blade properly for the first time and quite enjoyed using the Feint mechanic - great fun cutting something up, leaving it half dead, then ignoring it to pick up loot whilst it missed all the AoO's and bled to death :)
And thanks to Raith, I had a bit of inspiration to get back to writing, and got a key dialogue done. Took most of the afternoon once you inclide adding in all the speaker/listener tags and scipts. It includes another flashback, which was fun to script out, and gives a little more motivation for the PC...

Got a few days off work, so fiddling with the toolset some more - been making militia blueprints all morning so feeling a little cross-eyed. Touch wood, the rank and file will now spawn with a random race and random weapon, to add a bit of variety, rather than having all soldier humans with head 1 and hair 7. Speaking of blueprints, I get to move onto the captains and leiutenants next. If anyone has a fun warrior build they want to see incorporated, give me a shout - open to suggestions.

New Obsidian contest is announced - area design. Now, I know I wouldn't have a hope here, but I do have a nice idea I've been wanting an excuse to try. And the prize they're offering is so funky it might be worth a quick entry...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Poll results: sidequests

Thanks to all who voted in the poll. Answers to the question "For those who played Chapter 1, do you think later chapters should have more sidequests?" were
  • No, it's story-focussed and too many sidequests detract from the flow - 2 (4%)
  • Some companion-specific sidequests but nothing too unrelated to the story - 25 (60%)
  • A few random sidequests to add variety perhaps? - 6 (14%)
  • More sidequests - you betcha! - 8 (19%)

I found that reassuring, as I know DA follows a tight storyline and doesn't allow as much freedom as some other mods. Needless to say, there are more sideplots to come (especially so in chapter 3), so stay tuned.

I'm actually finding building a little difficult at the moment - I keep opening the toolset and fiddling, not getting much productive done, or starting new areas before I finish old ones. And avoiding writing some cutscenes, which is bad because i know the dialogue and cutscenes should be my bread and butter.. The drive to get this finished its there, but think I need a mental break. Sands of Solvheil 2 is up on the vault (well, I'm cheekily nicking it from the ftp site ) so might try that out for a bit.Congrats to Raith on getting part 2 out.