Friday, October 15, 2010

The Future of cRPGS...?

Am I the only one who reads this list and feels a little disappointed?

What next for someone that doesn't want MMO/MP-style mundanity? Why does it always seem that RPG elements in recent RPGs have to be hidden behind more arcade-y gameplay/graphics?

Don't get me wrong, there's interesting stuff on that list I'll likely pick up, but the grognard / old-schooler in me really feels there's something missing - something new yet harkening back to good old story-driven SP fun that will keep me locked in a room til the wee hours of the morning.

Trouble is, sometimes I keep thinking back to ToEE when I think about what style of game I really want to come out, and so far nothing's looking promising on that front... Fallout: New Vegas I'm expecting a lot from, but we'll see.

What are others looking out for?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Legacy of White Plume Mountain: Released

I'm happy to report that Legacy of White Plume Mountain is now released on the vault.

Thanks to all the custom content creators whose work I've tried to also showcae in this project, and to the playtesters for perserverance, feedback and advice.

And to those who've stuck with the NWN2 community, I really hope you enjoy my little sandbox in Faerun.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Uploading to Vault

Weekend was spent mainly doing final bits of testing and tweaking. And getting the final battle in place.
This is me just before the final battle kicks off...

And this is me a few minutes later...

I'm really hoping people get a kick out of playing this. It's not a style to everyone's taste (mine included being story-lite), but I've had a blast building it, and I hope that shows. I'm upoading to the Vault as we speak but it may take some time (>600Mb in optimised RAR files). Will post again once it's approved.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Old School Dungeon Crawl of Doom

Feel bad that I've not been active on my fellow builder's blogs recently (so much juicy stuff going on for NWN2 now! Hoping I can help play/test your work soon!) but that's due to lack of time - but the upside is that most spare time has been spent digging into the toolset. And hopefully I should be getting close - if all goes to plan, this weekend I intend to run through the main plot path - party of 4 level 7 PCs tackling in order White Plume Mountain, Return to White Plume Mountain, and the climactic Ex Keraptis Cum Amore. That's one long old school dungeon crawl right there, weighing in at a solid few hours. Focus will be to check for balance, but also to see if I can finally overcome the clingy bugs that have been plaguing me e.g. creatures that refuse to jump to a waypoint even when there's no good reason they shouldn't (will likely end up using script-hidden as a workaround). Plus there's a few old-school aspects that will need testing like magic decks of cards that completely screw up your PC (does anything cry classic D&D more than that?).

Since the last few play reports I've overhauled the balance of the entire campaign, but I think tweaking that could go on forever and I'll never please everyone, so I'll likely release soon and make any alterations on the fly. Hopefully the upcoming spate of releases will see more traffic back on the Vault and all new content can benefit from that.

So. If I'm lucky, end of the month doesn't look like too unrealistic a prospect.... eek.

Here's some screenies of the specific dungeon areas i've just finished adding scripts and dialogue to. Strange pools of bubbling alchemical mixtures - drink, swim, or avoid like the plague? Time to make those Wisdom checks....

Monday, August 02, 2010


Needing a break from the continuous debugging of Dead Gnolls EYe Socket (pinned down crash to corrupted triggers, but its time consuming and repeptitive to delete each, test, repeat)... So I dropped into Alpha Protocol. Fun game with very nice ideas for roleplaying. But this, suave...?

Bond, and i'm going to stick my neck ou and say that Roger Moore is the definitive James Bond, would never type that email. if he'd just been given a cover identity inn an arms manufacturing plant ha may have stretched to a "I don't suppose you'd mind cleaning my rifle" with a raised eyebrow, but this...

still, fun game

But back to the debugging...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Building a head of steam

It was great to finally feel I've settled in the new house by setting up a (disturbingly clean, at least for me) computer desk, and to sit back and have the toolset open. Usually that desk is also piled high with D&D books and scribbled notes - my mind is no way near as organised as that desk. Its slow going at first, getting back into the toolset, but I liked going back to the scripting and refreshing my memory. And after feeling my way round over the first day, reacquainting myself with just what needs doing, I'm starting to pick up speed on the bug quashing and polishing.

So far I've been working my way through the bug reports and the list as transposed over to the Bioware Social Forums. Most are fairly easy, and I've finished scripting a Geminator as a way to lighten the load for all the gem loot drops you pick up out in the field. That list has almost halved, which is a great feeling. Annoying the real time sink has been going into the game to test things out, but that's good in itself to keep me testing the gameplay.

Some screenies from a testing jaunt down into the bowels of Bright Mountain - also to serve as a reminder of the great custom content I'm showcasing from the community in the campaign. Here's hoping the move to the new forums will maybe bring in new/returning NWN2 players.

Monday, July 12, 2010

SomethingAwful : White Plume Mountain

Stopped by the Something Awful site for the first time in ages and randomly noticed they had one of their WTF, D&D! articles on White Plume Mountain! Might not be to all tastes, but a bit of an insight into the module nonetheless! Plus an omen maybe..?

Finally moved in, and just managed to get computer up and running before the World Cup Final started. So hope to get an update out soon. Got quite a backlog of updates/fixes to work through (on top of the inevitable time to reacquaint myself with the toolset after the few weeks break).

I've had one report of a tester reaching the fane (heart of the volcano, see above screenshot) of White Plume Mountain, meaning completion of two of the module conversion segments, and about as far as its possible to go in the current test version. Next up would be the final showdown in the Arena of Devastus on the Plane of Shadow where Keraptis awaits (below). Also glad to hear the miniquest of obtaining the Holy Avenger was working.

Then there are the bugs (mistyped waypoint tags) and the BUGS (beholders that are immortal despite there being no valid reason why they should be so) to iron out. bugs I am happy dealing with, but the illogical BUGS can be incredibly infuriating. With somethign teh size of WPM, i'm fuilly expecting bug reports to trickle in post release, but as long as I can solve the BUGS, I'm hoping I can get this out by August. And then , finally, to enjoy playing some of the other projects nearing completion (see blogroll, which I've been reading but not commenting on due to limited internet access - hope to make amends). Seem to be quite a few exciting sparks in the embers of NWN2, which is nice to see.

Friday, July 02, 2010

RPGMaker software

Anyone tried this? A generic RPG making software.

seems like a neat idea. Torchlight is on my list to check out too - any played that and dabbled in the mod making?

Tho maybe I'm getting ahead of myself...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Agonising wait

Work is busy, and home-life hectic as we wait to finally move into the new house. And the biggest frustration of all is that I've managed about 3 hours on the toolset in the past month. Not just because i'm keen to get bug fixing and working on the polish for WPM, but its made me realise how much modding (and computer gaming) had become part of my routine and a means for me to switch off from external stresses and relax. And that lack of relaxing isn't healthy for me (mentally or physcially, I'm the worlds worst fidget in mind and body), tho I am trying to use things as an excuse to get to the gym more.

But the agonising wait on the house has hopefully crested the hill today, and latest estimate is end of the month to be moving. What's made it all the more irritating is that the house we're moving into has been empty the whole time - just sollicitors and red tape holding up what should have been a simple transaction.

Meanwhile, testing reports have been thankfully positive on the style and content of WPM which has been great to see. I've a slog through SpellPlug ahead of me, and some niggling bugs to fix (immortal creatures that shouldn't be, spurious area corruption), but on the whole it's seeming playable. The main issue is the size - to cover everything would take too many people too long, and it's a lot to expect. But I'm thinking, with a good debug system in place, there may not be too much more to do before this can be released in a workable form.

Thanks to all who've fed back comments so far - I really appreciate your efforts on this. Reposting links to files below; if I'm lucky I can get an update done in the next day or so:

Hak file 1 (78Mb) - put in hak directory
Hak file 2 (176Mb) - put in hak directory
Campaign folder (21Mb) - put in Campaigns directory
Sidequest module folders (216Mb) - put in modules directory
Overland map module folder (70Mb) - put in modules directory
WPM conversion module folder (25Mb) - put in modules directory - new download

Brief walkthrough for sidequests including recommended party level can be downloaded here (Word doc) . Quests range from level 7 to level 16-18, so try any PC group you like and dive in.

A Readme can be found here - please bear in mind my design goals when giving feedback.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

White Plume Mountain: Final Testing

Just posted call for full and final testers on the forums. Due to a house move that will keep me busy over the next month, I wanted to get this out first so reports can trickle in, and i will update in the spare moments I have computer time. All content is there, just a few dialogues needing finishing in the last two chapters of the White Plume Mountain conversions (Return to WPM, and Ex Keraptis Cum Amore). I'll finish these dialogues soon and post when the files are updated. Jumping between modules should see the updates kick in. It's soooo close... so bear with me til I have these done. It's almost there and my paranoia levels about file corruption are through the roof knowing how much work is at stake! Had to reinstall NWN2 and made more back ups of the campaign than you could imagine!

Right, now I need to convince my wife that the computer is the absolutely last thing to get packed up into boxes....

Hak file 1 (78Mb) - put in hak directory
Hak file 2 (176Mb) - put in hak directory
Campaign folder (21Mb) - put in Campaigns directory
Sidequest module folders (216Mb) - put in modules directory
Overland map module folder (70Mb) - put in modules directory
WPM conversion module folder (25Mb) - put in modules directory - new download

Brief walkthrough for sidequests including recommended party level can be downloaded here (Word doc) . Quests range from level 7 to level 16-18, so try any PC group you like and dive in.

A Readme can be found here - please bear in mind my design goals when giving feedback.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

T is for Testing

(download details reproduced at bottom of post)

Testing is still underway, though the forums and community seem a little quiet generally and in terms of playtesting. From my own testing, I've been really enjoying playing on the overland map, which is getting me quite psyched about the eventual release. Bugs seem relatively minor so far - couple of stupid things like me setting doors to static - but no game breakers so far. I'm updating the files in the links below as I go so they should always have the most recent version.

Last night I tested the assault of a Zhent stronghold which was great fun for mass combat play. The battle set-ups worked quite well; as I ran the gauntlet towards archers, manticores and Zhent Skymages peppered me with spikes and spells from the hills to the side. Talos bless Chain Lightning is all I can say.

This weekend I focus down on the White Plume Mountain module itself and bringing that up to scratch - there's a few subsystems that I implemented later in development I need to go back and include in these areas, some quest scripting, and a final battle to script. I'm hoping its a good indication the buzz I'm getting seeing this get so close! And hope that entusiasm will hook the players too!


Hak file 1 (78Mb) - put in hak directory
Hak file 2 (176Mb) - put in hak directory
Campaign folder (21Mb) - put in Campaigns directory
Sidequest module folders (216Mb) - put in modules directory
Overland map module folder (70Mb) - put in modules directory

Brief walkthrough for sidequests including recommended party level can be downloaded here (Word doc) . Quests range from level 7 to level 16-18, so try any PC group you like and dive in.

A Readme can be found here - please bear in mind my design goals when giving feedback.

Please use the following format for reporting bugs - feedback form

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Testing - Part 1: The Sandbox

Well, well. Here goes!

As mentioned before, I'm opening up the sandbox portion of the campaign for testing, and would be really grateful for any and all help and feedback. Not just reporting bugs but also mentioning gameplay elements that do/don't work or could be improved. In particular let me know about combat balance and variety, treasure/weapon/armour balance and variety, areas that feel empty or needing a little more attention. And of course the numerous spelling errors that will no doubt creep in.

I've uploaded the overland map, and all the sidequest areas for testing. The main plot (White Plume Mountain itself) is deliberately missing, and I'm finishing off that whilst this test is ongoing. Overland encounters are currently placeholders and will be changed (made more thematic to each area).

Hak file 1 (78Mb) - put in hak directory
Hak file 2 (176Mb) - put in hak directory
Campaign folder (21Mb) - put in Campaigns directory
Sidequest module folders (216Mb) - put in modules directory
Overland map module folder (70Mb) - put in modules directory

Brief walkthrough for sidequests including recommended party level can be downloaded here (Word doc) . Quests range from level 7 to level 16-18, so try any PC group you like and dive in.

A Readme can be found here - please note, I try and set out my design philosophy in it, so don't test this expecting a tight plot and varied romances; and please bear in mind my design goals when giving feedback.

Please use the following format for reporting bugs - feedback form

Thanks in advance for anyone who can help with this!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Joyous sight to behold

My notepad checklist - full of ticks. Felt damn good checking that last box off today!
What does that mean? I now have a functioning overland map with ~25 sidequest locations ranging from 1 to 6 linked areas each. Checking my loadscreens.2da, and adding on the main quest areas, that's ~95 areas in total across the campaign. This looming testing phase is starting to scare me...

Friday, April 09, 2010

Dungeon of Swords loadscreens

I'm at that stage where there's no real new content to add (barring something I plan to do whilst waiting for bug reports), and I'm left to go back through the content so far and polish off all the blanck conversations I left as placeholders swearing I'd finish later, and tidy up the journal, then tackle the overland map and all its intricacies. It's all getting there but this last stretch is a bit of a slog - plus trying to complete it on top of work and the looming spectre of moving house is leaving me a little frazzled!

The last sidequest area I finished was the Dungeon of Swords - the loadscreens of each area involved in this overland map location are below. It started off as a mid-level dungen crawl, but then I got kinda vindictive and threw in some higher level beasties with tricks up their sleeves to spice things up a bit, including a half-balor half-dragon I thought would be fun!

Back to it - and hopefully some clear time over the weekend to focus. Been starting to think how I'll handle hosting the campaign for testing; any good reccomendations for hefty filesizes (haks total ~250Mb compressed, and modules more) with stable connectivity (had too many clunk out on big downloads)?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back from Egypt

It's been a long-held dream of mine to travel to Egypt - there's a version of me in a parallel universe that ditch biochemistry at school and ran with my passion for latin, ancient history and archeology instead. True that version is likely broke, unemployed and with moth-eaten straggelly beard, so perhaps I shouldn't feel too regretful, but still...

And so Egypt was our choice of honeymooon destination, to cruise down the Nile and see the sites I'd read of and the depictions of all the deities that captured my imagination from a young age. We started off in Luxor (to see the Valley of the Kings, Colossus of Memnon, Hapshetsut's Temple, Luxor Temple and Karnak), sailed upstream to Edfu (Temple to Horus), onto Kom Ombo (Temple to Sobek, crocodile headed deity), then to Aswan and the Temple of Philae (dedicated to Isis). A selection of snaps below.

And it was all I had hoped for. I love poking about these places, and it was awe inspiring how huge and intricate they were. And what I loved the most was finding these patches of heiroglyph-covered wall that still had the original paint on (see second shot below) - these places weren't just beige stone covered in carvings, they were brightly coloured and intricately patterned. And the detail is incredible. Sights that I'd definitely recommend anyone to see.

So, now its back to reality with a bump. I always find that a break from the toolset means that you then approach it with a bit of trepidation and fear over what you've forgotten. Just before I left, I finished off a dracolich lair that the party might stumble upon. That now brings me to the last couple of areas to flesh out the sandbox. And hopefully i'll have some screenies of those soon.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Joy of Prefabs (and intermission)

Had quite a productive past ten days, despite spending a lot of time bug hunting and testing in game. The Forgotten Ziggurat I mentioned in the last post is finished, and I've gotten a 4 level Worg Warren and 4 level Dungeon of the Hark completed, scripted and 'encounterrified'. On top of that, having seen Lugaid's post about a new prefab he's come up with, I decided it would be a nice way to join the Worg Warren and the Dungeon of the Hark together (as they were in the Living Forgotten Realms campaign I'm loosely following for this) through a jaunt into the Undermoor. This of course mean that I had to go back and ensure that encounters fired regardless of the direction the player chose - which can require quite some mental gymnastics to visualise sometimes.

None of this would have been possible without the prefabs. I'm guessing I now have 5 modules with on average 12-15 areas each maybe, perhaps 60-70% of those are prefabs - the only times I rush to delve into area design myself is actually in White Plume Mountain itself where I'm following the canon maps. That isn't to say that I can always just plug and play these prefabs in - most of them I've spent time playing with the lighting, walkmesh, chucking in some custom content placeables or added a little of my own touches. But man that's such a more relaxing way to build areas for someone like me - I know where to hang a painting but don't let me near the brush, mkay?

The Dungeon of the Hark

In the lost sewers under an abandoned town...

The eagle-eyed will spot a gelatinous cube filling the corridor in the distance

The lycanthropic hordes are under the Hark's command

Showdown with the Hark himself

The Worg Warrens

Goblins and goblin worg-riders stalk the plains

Bugbears defend the snowy pass


Through buried elven ruins...

A fire giant camp

And with that, I'm soon off on belated honeymooon to Egypt for two weeks! A Nile cruise and exploration of Egypt awaits! A long held ambition of mine so really looking forward to it. One last foray to the toolset over the weekend to finish off the areas and encounters in this region of the overland map - then that should mean all the content is in place for the campaign, and all that remains is to go back and finish off placeholder conversations and script some battles. A little intermission in the building should be good, and then I can come back and press on with the final round of polishing and testing balancing and debugging. Hmm... maybe I'll just stay on holiday...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Against your better judgement...

Found myself convincing myself I needed to add in some new locations to the overland map - trouble is the last thing I need now is to add more content... But, it makes sense - there are some spots in the overland map are feel a little empty (plus some key canon locations that I'd be neglecting if they weren't included). SO rather than making progress it's kinda been running to stay still.

Here's some screenies from a new location, that's turning into a homage to another classic module, the Isle of Dread. An ancient tribe have turned to dark powers instead of their old ways - go teach 'em a lesson...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Progress update

I realised the other day that I don't think I'd gone much into the Overland map I'm using for WPM. I used the 'tracing technique' described on here previously and in the shot above you can see the area map alongside the tracing template. There's some colouring and texturing to be touched up, but I'm fairly happy with it. You'll see in the swamp a slight ridge that is unfortunately due to the terrain megatiles and the need to lower the water level, but its not really noticable in game.

Sidequest encounters covering the southern part of the map are done - barring some dialogue I keep putting off. I'm currently working on the NE swamp sidequests and these are ~80% done, then there's just the NW swamp side quests, of which there are only a few - areas prepped for 60% of the quests, but no dynamic content as yet.

Some shots of the locations on the original map that have translated into the game are below (still playing with overland scripts so there is double the XP at the moment but that will be fixed). Bah, my texturing always looks so much better in the toolset than in game... Lighting settings aren't final, I need to get back to that.

The weekend was spent working on a quest around House Orogoth which as a sidequest has been jumping between the include/drop list more than the others, but I found two prefabs that were just right, and I figured I needed more BIG dragon encounter (now there are 2 at CR > 15 plus one CR 11 and one that's a dragon but then again not...). So Orogoth was slotted in. Then I moved on to some mines occupied by the Zhentarim - who really should have got more love in the existing FR games as bigger villains, although their presence to the west is less than in the Dalelands. I'm playing on the link to Darkhold nearby to justify the presence and give people the chance to kick some Zhen butt. Overland map sidequests are bigger than in SoZ - this Zhent one covers 1 exterior and 6 interior levels, and hopefully sees the challenge increase significantly the deeper the player ventures. This is all part of the goal to allow players (and multiplayers) to pick and choose sidequests if they only want to play for 1 hour - 3 hours on something they can drop in and out of, rather than the core central plot.... which I really should get back to at some point...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

b0U/\cYrOc/<: m|sErY sTo/\e

I'm on a break from Dragon Age as it lost a lot of charm for me slogging through the Deep Halls. Story was fun, but too much tedium and repetitiveness in combat meant I needed a break. Which has been good for WPM - an Underdark sidequest nearly finished, and some of the subsystems I implemented later on in development now included in the earlier areas.

So for playtime, I've been venturing into the mists of Misery Stone. Been reassuring for the NWN2 community to see the reception and appetite for this. I've got about as much playtime as I had during testing of this under my belt, and am having fun - the difficulty is toned down significantly from what I recall of my testing, tho. But scenery, atmosphere, custom content and execution are top notch. A few niggles for me in terms of combat variance and companion interaction (and psst! the dryad's animal companion is still nameless ;) ) but nothing to detract from it being a great fun game with bags of character.

But as I stood in the whispering woods area early on in the game I got to thinking. The area is great - looks stunning visually and had buckets of atmosphere. And you know I kinda prefer the areas I've seen here (and from other work e.g. by Anduraga, Azenn, Maerduin and Chaos Wielder, and Amraphael's exteriors for Zork) to anything I've seen so far in Dragon Age. But, DA does have better looking character faces - but hang on, Misery Stone has custom faces for the companions that look amazing... So you know what? Misery Stone, just ended up making me want to play DA but in the NWN2 engine. Three years on, it's shown that the engine has a lot to offer still and look current.

Kudos to the team and all involved, especially Jclef.

edited to include authors I shouldn't have forgotten - thanks Starwars!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Loadscr... nah, only kidding! Manticores!

Had a little departure the last couple of days to work on something slightly different but related to WPM - Manticore! Hellfire of Robinson Worshop fame had kindly got in touch and offered to give me an advance showing of the manticore model he was working on as I'd mentioned it in relation to WPM. Indeed, the manticore is an encounter inside the mountain, and it's image graces the cover of the original and second printing module itself

These images might have more to do with a misinterpretation of the first encounter which is actually listed as a gynopshinx. But the tail spikes are clear to see. So it was my hope to use the manticore model here and in the later encounter to replace the Spectator Beholder placeholder I had currently -the cover images are to iconic in relation to this module not to use it. The creature in the first encounter is described as mangy and bedraggled and sitting atop a pile of bones. So here we are:

The later encounter occurs in the Terraces of Doom (a level I'm fond of and may release as a prefab)

the terraces from above - run the gauntlet from the entrance to the exit in this inverted ziggurat!

In return for the favour, I offered to work up the creature blueprint and AI. Coding the AI was fun and I emulated Dirtywick's approach to implement the tail spike attacks without using 2da modifications (essentially spell creation) so the model is more widely usable. The script got a little cumbersome to take certain things into account such as deflect/protection from arrows, but now seems to be working fine - while it has tail spikes left, the manticore will unleash them and try to keep at range. If caught in melee, when it gets badly injured and has spikes left, it will try to flee to fire them again. Here some screenies showing the test module I used for trialing this out.

(Without resorting to bundling up more custom content and custom vfx I can't have the spikes fire from a tail node, sadly, but I think this effect works well and is less noticable in game. For scripters, I'm using the SpawnProjectile function and manually coding hit/damage in the custom AI)

This aside, I've also just made 7 stores for a hidden market to be found in the game at later levels. Store building is mind-numbingly time consuming if you want them to have flavour or a theme, so a trip tothe gym might be in order to wake me up.