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.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Loadscreens 3

Couple more shots trying ideas out - but I could easily get caught fiddling with this forever without making any real progress. I've made the logo slightly transparent, and tried a frame and title. Kamal's been helping out toy with hiding the logo in the image too. So I guess I'm now left to decide on the presence/absence of the frame, logo, and text.... and after all of this, I think I'm prefering the simplicity of the shots in the previous post, but with the new faded logo)... as ever, comments/thoughts welcome

(FYI the font is that used in the 3rd ed Forgotten Realms logo)

Right, this weekend I stop messing about in photoshop and focus on the content!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Loadscreen take 2

Having played with borders and not found one exactly right, I've come up with the following as a sample - using FilterForge's 'Film effect' (at minimally intrusive seting as I didn;t want it too stylised) and I've added the symbol of Keraptis - the arch 'villain' from the White Plume Mountain modules. There's a sample below. The scheme seems to work well, especially given a lot of the interior loadscreens are quite dark, and it's not too intrusive.

I feel I should also throw in the disclaimer, that there's several prefabs in use, albeit most modified to vary degrees - so I haven't suddenly become some mad area-baking fool...!

Friday, January 15, 2010


OK to make up for lack of screenshots, and to give me something to do with the 30 minutes I've had on the toolset before work for the past week or so, I've been starting to collect the loadscreens for the areas. I'm still torn about how to to display them - whether to add a border, if so what type (a full blown WPM border was what I'd err towards but is beyond my artistic skill sadly), whether to 'artify' the images e.g. stain glass, mosaic, brush-strokes etc - or to leave as is. I've be keen to hear any thoughts on this. The basic images I'll use to create the loadscreens from roughly a third of the areas so far are below, some you'll recognise form prefabs/earlier screenshots. These correspond to ~50% of the sidequests done so far, none from inside White Plume Mountain itself just yet.

SO let me know if you have any thoughts about how you like your loadscreens to look

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Rock and Gnoll

Keep forgetting to take screenshots when I'm testing things in game, which isn't very helpful. Couple of shots above from the latest work - fleshing out the cave known as Dead Gnoll's Eye Socket from the original White Plume Mountain map - see below.

I've used this map as the basis of the overland map as the sandbox for the player to explore, and its regions like Dead Gnoll's Eye Socket that I'm populating at the moment. Gnolls are nice in the NWN2 toolset as they are one of the few 'monster' creatures that let you play with different armour appearances so you get a bit more variety.
Not had as much time on the toolset as I'd hoped over the holidays. But did get to contribute to the SoZ Expansion project led by Chaos Wielder and play through Trinity by E.C. and GPS, both of which I highly reccomend and urge you to check out - those of you still with an eye for NWN that haven't been comepltely seduced by the harlot that is DA:O - be a lady/gentleman and keep in touch with your old loves, especially when there's such great stuff they have to offer you now. Don;t worry, I won't tell ;).