Friday, October 26, 2007

Finally the Lighthouse!

But first, the second part of the Ossian interview with Alan and Luke is officially up on Warcry and will almost certainly soon be on the Vault. Make sure you read that goodness.

Now for the Lighthouse
I've been promising this for days. I'm really proud of this map, the upper level of the lighthouse interior. The lighthouse, as I mentioned several posts ago, is in ruins, so I needed to have the roof somewhat open to the sky. In the NWN1 toolset, this would have been trivial, but after messing around with the interior tilesets for a while, I was utterly frustrated as to how I would do this. In desperation, I tried an exterior map instead, and I'm pleased the way it came out.

The only things I may still play with are (1) introducing some appropriate MotB placeables and (2) finding a way to get a roof that is both visible from below and will fade from above. The one there now only handles the visible from below part. It makes it awfully difficult to explore the one interior room.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mysteries of Westgate Presses are Rolling

Not only did the first part of the Ossian interview with Alan Miranda and Luke Scull get posted to the Vault today, but it looks like we got our very own forum on the Bioware website to discuss the Adventure Pack. According to the Vault posting, part two of the interview goes up as soon as tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it as well. I was asked for a very minor amount of input, but by-and-large I'm in the dark here as well.

Bad on Me
I realized a day late that I made the point to name all the designers and writers for Ossian and yet did not name our area designers despite praising them highly. So let me rectify the blunder. Ossian's area design gurus are Alex Wagner (called Shadovar and EvilShade in various places) and Raphael Faccioli. Both are supremely talented, as a whole bunch of people are about to find out (if they don't already know).

Mask of the Betrayer
At long last, I got my copy of MotB, and I am right now in The Death God's Vault, so I just started. Already, I'm favorably impressed in comparison with the NWN2 original campaign. My first impression of the companions is that they are far better done than the original group outside of Khelgar and Neeshka. They seem to interject more and have more to say in conversations... a great improvement. I also think the new lighting evident in the Shadow Mulsantir bit is quite nice. I'll post more impressions as I progress.

But this in conjunction with general MoW excitement and discussion will explain why "The Maimed God's Saga" is a bit on the back-burner for the next week or two. However, tomorrow I will work on it a wee bit, and I promise to (finally) post the long-talked-about lighthouse interior shots.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

NWN2: Mysteries of Westgate! (MoW)

Before being brought on board for this effort, I knew nothing about the city of Westgate, having spent most of my Forgotten Realms life on the Sword Coast. However, the Dragon Coast has made a nice little switch, and I thought I'd provide a bit of background on the setting for the soon-to-be most talked about event in the NWN2 multiverse.

I've included a close up of Westgate's part of Faerun and a map of the city itself. It's interesting for me to gaze at that map and see where we placed a bunch of... uh, secret stuff.

I want to say that I was blown away the first time I played through the campaign. The talent in the team is amazing. I even wrote to Alazander shortly after my first play-through absolutely commending the area designers. In fact, I then wrote each of them a congratulatory e-mail as well. Personally, I've always thought I lacked a bit with area design, but I have definitely been putting some of their ideas to use in some of my Maimed God maps.

On one of the Bioboard forums, Alazander said:

We have several new monsters, some of which have never been seen in a D & D CRPG before.
And the initial announcement mentioned a new sewer tileset, so I'm not revealing any secrets when I say that there is some nice new custom content. That added to the talent of our area designers means that you will be blown away visually. I had seen all the stuff in the toolset before playing, and I still had my breath - almost literally - taken away the first time I walked through the streets of Westgate.

And that's not to say that other areas of the campaign aren't top-notch either. The writing and quest design is outstanding if I do say so myself... *ahem* In all seriousness, given my preference for mod building myself, I've been woefully lacking in actually playing any, so it was a treat to see first-hand what some of the best known modders in the community can do. Um, for completeness, that would be Alazander, Hugie, and Mat Jobe (of Dastard's Morrow fame) who shared design and writing duties with me.

I struggled to find some background information on the net about Westgate. I found a brief synopsis here that gives a basic background and won't take too long to read.

The rough-and-tumble city will soon be brought to life NWN2 style. I would say people would be more than justified in getting excited about now.

The Maimed God's Saga
Yes, I still owe pictures of the interior of the lighthouse. It is very cool, but I've always said it needs it's own post, so it gets pushed again.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Even a Blind Squirrel...

Many of us bloggers have been promising an announcement, guessing on the timing, and generally frustrating the entire world for months. Well, after promising and being wrong, promising and being wrong, my last blog entry said that this would be the time... As the saying goes, "even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again."

As I've mentioned before, it's been extremely frustrating from our end as well. We at Ossian have worked quite a while on the "secret project" and have had to keep all our excitement bottled up within the group. Simply put, that really sucked, because the project is first-rate, I know a lot of people are going to be really amazed by it, and we were utterly unable to let anyone know anything beyond some nebulous... uh, secret stuff.

Well, now the cat's out of the bag, though I'm still not allowed to say more than the official press release for now. That said, I'll post parts of it here. I have edited it down to the parts that I think will be most interesting. To see the full article, click above.

LYON, FRANCE – 22 October 2007 – Atari today announced the forthcoming launch of the first Neverwinter Nights™ 2 Adventure Pack to be available exclusively via digital download... Created by Atari and some of the most prominent members of the Neverwinter Nights 2 communities, Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate provides hours of additional entertainment with all new engrossing storylines, professional voice acting, enchanting musical scores, new in-game content, and much more. Neverwinter Nights 2 is set in the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® Forgotten Realms® universe...

Developed by Ossian Studios, Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate is the first full featured Adventure Pack available from Atari. Set in the infamous Forgotten Realms city of Westgate, players find themselves in possession of a powerful but cursed treasure that threatens to destroy them. Linked to the underworld organization known as the Night Masks, the treasure will draw players into a city-spanning clash between warring factions. Players must choose their allegiance in order to break the curse and ultimately uncover a plot that threatens Westgate itself.“

From the creators of the critically-acclaimed Neverwinter Nights module, Darkness over Daggerford, Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate will feature a non-linear, open-ended single-player campaign with numerous side quests covering more than 15 hours of game play. Atari’s new Adventure Pack will also feature 3 new companions; an entirely new underground sewers tile set themed after the seedy underbelly of Westgate; a host of new monsters to do battle with, including some truly epic foes; an exciting new and original musical score; as well as thousands of new lines of professionally recorded dialogue.

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate
is scheduled for release in autumn 2007.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm Alive!

I suppose it's not good form to write a post with the big bolded title "I'm Sick!" and then disappear for several weeks. Could have been a bad sign, I guess, but the truth had more to do with extreme business mixed with a healthy dose of procrastination. However, today I'll be different. I'll do my blog post before I sit down to work instead of waiting 'til the end when it's easier to push it 'til tomorrow.

Maimed God Update
My lack of blogging does not indicate a lack of progress on TMGS. As a matter of fact, I've made quite a bit of progress on the Act II blueprints, and I'm done with 14 out of the 20 maps I need for Act II. In addition, I've written several thousand words of dialog in Word, though none of them have been transferred to the toolset. Finally and most importantly, I've ironed out all the final details surrounding how Act II will work. I had the plotline for months at this point, and I'd ironed out many of the back-details a while ago as detailed on this blog. The final step was figuring out all the variables I'd need to pass, the exact conditions that would need to be set in order to progress... in short, all the algorithmic-type stuff.

It has occurred to me, however, that my ability to post pictures is going to dry up soon. Until now, I've basically revealed nothing that won't be known within five minutes of the campaign's beginning. While the player will not reach Navatranaasu for a good hour and a half, the name will appear quickly, so there's no harm in showing pictures of it.

However, some of the things I'm detailing now will not be known for quite a while. As a result, I would consider them extreme spoilers that may ruin the essential experience of the module. On the one hand, anyone who checks this blog may be making a choice to learn more about the module. On the other hand, I mean this to be more NWN2 musings than just my humble effort, even if that dominates my posts... This second argument wins out with me, so I think I'll tend to curtail more specifics about the campaign as time goes on and discuss more of the features I'm implementing instead.

However, I still owe pictures of the lighthouse interior, which I'm going to push until next time, and the VanGhaunt manor interior when it's ready. .. Oh, and the occasional screenshot without commentary.

Yeah, it's frustrating. What can I say? Well, the answer is nothing, of course, including any speculation as to what the hold-up is. And it would be mostly speculation on my part. You see, I'm on a "need-to-know" basis, and I don't need to know. So we're all in this same boat.

However, I've a twinkling suspicion that the suspense is about to pop, so keep a sharp look-out. And if I'm wrong about this time, I pledge 100% not to even mention the name Ossian until it finally does.

Lots Going On
I'd be wrong if I said my lack of posting could be laid entirely at the feet of procrastination. No, there's a lot going on too. Yes, work is part of that, but that's boring. Moving on...

It's Time for some Football!
And by football, I mean the real stuff, not soccer. Oh, relax, you 12 non-Americans who read this. I like soccer, especially with the new fad in head-butting that's coming in, but let's face it. Soccer ain't football...

However, my football team... well, I weep when I think of it all. A decade ago, they were the greatest dynasty that has ever been produced in the sport at the college level. Year after year of utter domination. National titles, regular drubbings of the mere peasants... Yes, they were practically football gods. Now...? Not so much. They are but a pale shadow of their former glory.

Last week... another loss. I wish I could say it pains me now; that would mean it was a rare occurence. Losses used to feel like kicks in the groin, which is to say "less than pleasurable," but alas, it is all too common anymore. Of course, this doesn't mean I can find no solace in a bottle. In fact, hold that thought. I'll be right back...

Elizabeth: The Golden Age
OK, I saw this movie. Regular readers of this blog I'm sure will be amazed that it would attract me. Nevertheless, I forced myself to go see what the film was all about.

According to the wikipedia article, Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune said "... as a pseudo-historical fable, a romantic triangle and a blood-and-thunder melodrama, the film can't be faulted... This isn't historical fabrication, it's mutilation." Wow. I'd love to know who this Colin Covert is, but he sounds like yet another pretentious film critic who thinks trashing films makes him sound cool. Well, move over Colin. On this blog, only I get to sound pretentious!

First things first. Let's get my background out in the open. I like medieval history. I specifically like medieval English history, but the Tudors aren't considered medieval. This period (1585) is about 100-250 years after my true specialty, so I wouldn't say I'm a bonified expert, but I know enough to be dangerous. And while I'm certainly aware of some minor and one major historical inaccuracy, I'd hardly call it a "pseudo-historical fable." That's a dude trying to sound cool, and he actually sounds like a snob.

I'm no film critic, but I thought the acting, costumes, and sets were pretty good, and the dialog was suitable. The music had a few nice soaring themes, but for the most part I didn't notice it, and that's a good thing. I can see how people with less familiarity with the history could be a bit confused by the rapid development and lack of exposition on a few topics. On more than one occasion, my wife had to lean over to ask who various characters were and how they fit in. So if you're not all that up on the who's who of Elizabethan politics, a short perusal of a couple Wikipedia articles might be beneficial before going.

I do wish they spent more time with the actual battle with the Spanish Armada, not for the cool battle sequences, but to expand on just what an amazing and frankly freakish victory it was. I think it would be easy to come away with the impression that the English navy just whipped that Spanish ass. Unfortunately, the era of English naval superiority was at least 150 years away and probably closer to 200.

In fact, the English navy did well to hold the Spaniards off the English coast, and the crucial role of fireships to break the Spanish formation was admirably depicted, but the role of the weather in forcing the Armada around the north of Scotland and then into the Irish coastline was not made clear in my opinion. OK, there were a few shots of ominous waves crashing against the shore, but I don't think that quite depicts the magnitude of it all. I've heard a hypothesis that it was an incredibly rare (for that area) full-blown hurricane that wiped the armada out as they rounded the north of Scotland and headed south. While I doubt it was a true hurricane, it is clear that incredibly bad weather defeated the Armada far more fully than did the English navy.

And of course, the fact that Cate Blanchett portrayed the then 55-year old queen is rather amusing, but I guess we have to keep those flirtation scenes with Clive Owen's Walter Raleigh all titillating somehow...

Overall, the movie did a great job of depicting the religious tensions of the era, the scandalous affair and eventual marriage between Raleigh and Bess Throckmorton, Raleigh's relationship with Elizabeth, an abridged version of the Queen's Speech at Tilbury (amended to make it more suited to 21st-century sensibilities), the adversarial relationship between Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, and the general political intrigue of the period. Yes, there were some minor historical inaccuracies, but a "pseudo-historical fable?" I think not.