Sunday, August 19, 2007

Act I Polishing Continues

I was engaged in Ossian work earlier in the week, but that slowed considerably this weekend. It looks like a huge chunk is coming in the next week or two, and my hope is to finish Act I and stick it on the shelf so that, when I can finally return to The Maimed God's Saga, I can just start on Act II.

I've done tons of polishing. I ran every conversation through a spell-checker, standardized a lot of my writing conventions and spellings, adjusted encounter CRs, and so forth. For the most part, the things I've been doing don't translate well into pictures.

However, I did spruce up some of my maps. For example, I was never entirely happy with Riverford. I had an image of the town in my head already because I had written it into the opening chapter of my now-aborted novel. Unfortunately, I didn't like the way it came out in the NWN2 toolset, so I took a step back, thought a bit outside my original concept, and remade large portions of the map.

A before and after is included along with a closeup of the temple. I added another street with some more houses in the background, tree-lined the main boulevard, narrowed all the streets and did away with the wagon ruts, added a gazebo used for public pronouncements in the main square, paved the pathway up to the Temple of Tyr and gave it a bit of a gradient upwards, and added a bit of landscaping to the temple grounds. I'm much happier with the result now.

Today I worked on one of the sidequests and spent a lot of time with the non-conventional paths through the quest. By that I mean when the player does something screwy like refuse the quest, do some of it anyway, then go to the next map, then come back and accept, then refuse again... the types of thing that 99.9% of players will never do, but one will, only so he can happily run to my Vault page to report that he's found a bug! I think such people are now officially screwed on this one quest I worked on today.

One thing I have not done is start on the camera corrections for the conversations I mentioned last time. Luckily, I think the number of instances that I'll need to handle is now very low - maybe about nine in total - and a couple will allow me to reuse some work between Verona's and Tancred's dialogs.

Companion Influence
It occurs to me that I've never outlined how I'm going to do companion influence. Suffice it to say, I will not be using the OC method, which is to have about ten points where you get a massive boost to your influence announced with blaring trumpets and so forth. Instead, there will be literally hundreds of chances to gain or lose influence, the scale will be between -100 and 100, and you won't be told when a situation has passed - though one will occur in almost every conversation, even with 3rd parties. Most of the shifts will be one point, but big events can lead to three or - very rarely - up to five points.

Act I is all about building the relationship (positively or negatively). Starting in Act II, the way the companion interacts with you will be based upon the sum total of your interaction up to that point. There really isn't a huge risk that they'll leave; the story has a very strong rationale for them to see things through even if they hate you with every fiber of their being, but their responses in that case will tend to be one word answers in clipped tones. "I don't like you, let's talk as little as possible, and just get on with it."

The other extreme is, of course, the romance, but there are going to be at least two and maybe three levels in between. I'm thinking the levels will be (1) Like a lot, (2) Like, (3) Neutral, (4) Dislike/Distrust, and (5) Hatred. If I need to, I'll dump level 5 and then 3 depending on how things go.

The more trust you build up with your companions, the more you'll move towards "Like a lot", and the further towards that extreme you go, the more forthcoming the companions will be in their answers. This will, in turn, reveal more information about them, which will then open up more dialog options. Again, some of this information may come out in 3rd party dialogs as well.

I tried to think about how real human relationships develop. Yes, there are big events that can build trust quickly, but these are (hopefully) rare in most people's lives. More common is the paradigm whereby a small non-threatening piece of information is given. If that is handled well, then a slightly bigger piece is given. If it's not handled well, then less is given in the future until the initial mistrust is overcome by future actions.

That's what I'm aiming for here. This will lead to huge dialogs even by Act I's standards, but I think it necessary to build truly dynamic characters.


Lariam said...

The influence system sounds great; that's how it should work.

Also, wanted to say that the before & after pics of the village worked very well. I mean, the village really does look much better (and very good, indeed) now. Good job there.

Very much looking forward to playing Act I.

Tiberius209 said...

Unfortunately, lariam, Act I will only be released with Acts 2 and 3. I'm just happy to have Act I nearing completion because it's the first major milestone I can call done. Each act is largely independent of each other as well, so I'll be able to burn Act I on a disk and put it on my shelf, confident that I have a secure, uncorrupted version for the future.

I think a Christmas release is the best I can hope for. Hopefully, I'll make that.

Lariam said...

I see. Indeed, I should've remembered that; you've mentioned this at some earlier point.

Still, what I said is true (even if it carries false conversational implicatures): I very much look forward to playing Act I (and II and III). :)