Sunday, April 22, 2007

Moving On

NWN2 Update
Well, I've officially broken ground on 'The Maimed God's Saga,' not that I've done very much. I have a bit of the opening dialog, but I don't think anything major will get finished until I finish with Ossian... uh, secret things... and of course there's also my upcoming trip to Portugal that may slow me down.

Anyway, feel free to read ahead. This is spoiler-free for now.

Title Screen Goodness
Today I contacted Alex Hugon, aka Hugie, about the possibility of his brother, Nicolas, who's an aspiring graphic designer, making a title screen for the upcoming 'Maimed God's Saga.' I thought the one he did for Alazander's upcoming project looked quite cool, so I thought I'd join in the fun. I think he's in, but thus far I have only Hugie's word on it. Assuming everything goes well, I'll post the design as soon as I get it. Here's hoping everything goes well...

I am heavily considering custom music tracks for the module. I think I would need 3 or 4. Who would compose them, you ask? Me. I've written hours of music of my own, though most of it has been for the piano only, and I briefly considered that as my career path before I decided that I'd rather eat every night. I know that game tracks provide a different challenge from pieces that are meant to be listened to on their own, but I feel I'm up to the challenge. Maybe I'm simply naive.

Still, I have neither an orchestra nor a recording studio at my disposal, so my biggest issue is coming up with software that can make the tracks sound right without breaking the bank. Once I get serious about this aspect, I'll need to start asking people who have actually done it to see if it's even economically feasible. The good part is that any expenditure won't simply be for NWN, as composing has been a side-hobby of mine now for, oh, 15 years or so. That will probably make it easier to justify in my mind.

When I originally conceived of the project, I thought I'd do VO, but some recent discussions on other blogs and the Bio-boards (such as here and here) have convinced me not to do it. The main point that pursuaded me is that even if 90% of the VO is great, it's the bad 10% that will be remembered. I think they're sort of right given my own memories of games. I actually think the best 10% and the worst 10% will be remembered, but either way, I don't want such a small percentage of such a huge effort, as VO is, to be what's remembered about my module. So unless I hear new persuasive arguments otherwise, VO's out.

For those familiar with my 'Saleron's Gambit' series for NWN1, 'The Maimed God's Saga' will seem very linear, but that won't mean lack of choices. In every Saleron chapter except the first, the module opened, basically, with the mission to find something. In Chapter 2, it was to find Saleron, in Chapter 3 it was Fred, in Chapter 4 it was Silastheras, and in Chapter 5 it was the Varosian Gem. This is one of the great contrivances to make it believable that your character would and should accept sidequests that have no bearing otherwise on the central plot. The other is the brilliant BG2 method of asking you to collect a lot of money for something.

However, if your character knows exactly what (s)he should be doing and where they should be going, and if the situation is serious enough, there is no reason to stop to help someone find their camel, retrieve their amulet, etc. "The world's about to end, and the priest that's summoning the fiend is in that temple yonder, but some thieves stole my secret documents. Can you take a couple hours of your time and get them for me? The world will end, but you'll get 1000 XP and 50 gold!" Doesn't make much sense.

So your character will know exactly where to go in the new module (at least in the first chapter), so the number of sidequests will be more limited and tied more directly into the main story. There will be a journey kind of like the interlude in 'Shadows of Undrentide' where you go from one episode to the next and have to solve each before moving on. Unlike 'Shadows', there will be different paths to take, and the situation you'll find at the end will depend on the path you took to get there.

The first module will be designed probably for a fifth-level character with all levels taken in the Cleric class, though I may up that to sixth level. As Tyr is of lawful good alignment, the PC's alignment will be limited to either LG, NG, or LN.

Restricting the character to the above will allow me to write dialog that doesn't have to take into account the traditional 'evil' options. I am aiming for a bit more subtlety in the writing. The definition of 'justice' will be central to the module, as the subtitle would suggest, and the PC's pursuit of it will be the overarching theme notwithstanding the immediate need to stop the plans of the fell diety that is scheming against his/her own god, Tyr.

In this, I have surrendered. I'm not big into module romances myself, but I recognize that the overwhelming majority of the community is, at least if Vault polls are anything to go by, so this will be the first of my series that features a romance. However, if I'm going to do one, I'm going to do it right. That means it will develop reasonably slowly and at a believable pace. Rather than having different companions every module, as was mostly the case in Saleron's Gambit, I will have returning ones, though I may still employ temporary additions to the party as the story calls for it.

So another major goal is to vest significantly more time into the companions. There will be two, but only one will be available. Male PCs will only get the female companion and vice-versa. That one companion will be it for the first module at least. Both companions will be statistically the same (both 5th level rangers), so there should be no differences in party mechanics, but the personalities will be separate and distinct. The male romance will not simply be the female romance with facial hair.

Oh, and there is much gnashing of teeth on the Vault about how female gamers are not well-served in the romance department (for example, see this thread). I'm not sure that's true, but it certainly won't be in this case. My female fans of Saleron's Gambit have been the most vocal in this department, and so the male romance option has actually been the character who has had the most work thus far. In fact, in my aborted novel, I made the protagonist female so that I could use that character instead of the female romance option.


Berliad said...

I've avoided getting involved in the romance discussions on the boards, and don't want to be discouraging. .. But at this point I just feel compelled to say that I'm not a big fan of romances in modules. They're extremely hard to do right, and in my opinion, they're rather unnecessary. I'd much rather builders spend time creating deep, interactive characters with whom one can develop a real sense of friendship than to try to put together a romance.

Among NWN1 modules, I think the only one that worked for me was the rogue from Adam Miller's Shadowlords/Dreamcatcher/Demon series. And I don't think I've enjoyed one in a commercial game since the one in Planescape: Torment (and that's probably the only one that worked for me).

Some romances have even hurt my experience when playing the modules (I'll provide examples in private if you like), to the point that I'd do everything I could to get out of it.

I fully realize that I'm in the minority here. Maybe I'm just old and jaded, or perfectly content with my real life romance, or whatever. But I think they're unnecessary risks that are likely to cause more harm than good. -B

Berliad said...

Re-reading that, it sounds unnecessarily harsh. You're experienced and know what you're doing. I guess I'm just urging caution, and you've already expressed that you're aware of that. So I guess it was just a rant. :)

Tiberius209 said...


I agree with pretty much everything you wrote. I'll just make two comments. First, you and I are in the minority on this point, as several Vault polls have made clear. Second, it is my intention to make the companions optionally be 'romance-free' as well and yet still be as well-developed.

I know some of my plans are ambitious, but I intend to make these two characters extremely well-developed. Hey, it's still early in the development cycle, so I can promise the moon right now.