Sunday, May 27, 2007

The End (For a While)

Things are more busy then I can say, all of it on non-NWN2 real-life stuff, so this will be a series of quick-hits.

Off to Portugal!

Tuesday I leave for Portugal and will not return until the 11th of June. Therefore, this is almost certainly the last update until a couple days after that. Tomorrow promises to be jam-packed, as I've not even started packing for the trip.

It seems I was wong...
No announcement from Ossian. I said I had no precise knowledge, but after so much promising, I was sure that a certain event would trigger one. Guess not. Anyway, work progresses on... uh, secret stuff. I guess I'll see what the progress is in two weeks.

Interview Due Tomorrow
I sent in the answers to my interview questions a couple days ago, and I was told it would be up on the Vault tomorrow morning. That's what I was told anyway...

As you would expect, the questions dealt mostly with Saleron reflections, but there is a big section at the end where I reveal a few more nuggets about "The Maimed God's Saga" that haven't yet been released. Oh, and I gave the interviewer a couple new screenshots that only they have. If they don't use them, I'll post them here. Otherwise, the shots are theirs. There's nothing truly spoilerish, and what little is kinda spoilerish should be clearly demarcated, so you can read without too many fears.

So people who can't get enough of my inane ramblings will have another dose. Bah!

Fester Pot Interview Canceled!
After I sent some questions in for Fester Pot to answer, it seems that he declined the interview from me and my partner. Wish I knew sooner. The story I got was that he declined Steve Savicki's initial request after "Almraiven" hit the HoF because he wanted his interview closer to when "Almraiven's" sequel was coming out. Well, that time is fast approaching, and he is apparently ammenable now to giving one, but he wants to give Steve first dibs. Sounds fair to me...

So look for that to happen... sometime? Maybe?

The Maimed God's Saga
I edited a few conversations, but otherwise there's nothing to report. However, as I'll be gone for the next couple weeks, I want to assure anyone new who happens by because of the interview (or even you old people) that I intend to hit my module hard upon returning. Ossian, of course, will still be around, but that"real life stuff" I mentioned above will be cleared. After my trip, summer actually looks fairly open, so I'm looking forward to making real progress.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Worn Out

The title says it all... I am utterly exhausted by the number of projects I have going on right now. Regarding the ones most readers are interested in:

Ossian Update
Naturally, I can't say much, but I just finished another huge chunk of work. Luke (Alazander) has promised on a couple occasions now that an announcement is imminent. My guess is that the announcement is very imminent. Let me be clear that while I obviously know what that announcement will be, I have no firm information on the timing (else this very post would be a violation of the big ol' NDA I signed). In this, I am guessing like everyone else. However, knowing that Luke's been promising it for a while and seeing the deadlines that have just passed, I'm just saying people might want to keep their ears peeled...

And I hope I'm right. After all, I'm heading to Portugal for two weeks starting a week from tomorrow. I'd hate to think that the announcement would be made while I'm gone and then I'd be wondering how the buzz is going...

Oh, who am I kidding? Once I'm in Portugal, I won't be giving two seconds of thought to any of this! But in all seriousness I'm hoping the timing works out so that I can participate in both.

The Maimed God's Saga
I did start the internal map for the Hall of the Mountain King, but I've been so snowed under by Ossian that there's essentially nothing new to report. Moving on...

HoF Interview
Well, I received my interview form over the weekend containing 13 questions. I haven't gotten to them yet, obviously, with all that's going on, but I intend to over the next day or two.

I also sent away 6 questions to be combined with my co-interviewer to Fester Pot for his awe-inspiring magnum opus, Almraiven. My questions were all very general, as I wanted to carefully avoid leading him along. However, I've requested a round of follow-ups with him once he answers the general questions so that I can dig deeper. It will take a while with my upcoming trip mucking up the timing, but it should be interesting once completed.

The Academy of Modding Excellence (AME)
Stop the presses! The current buzz, which everyone reading this simply must have heard about by now is the formation of the Academy of Modding Excellence (AME) being formed by some nebulous group with the purpose of mimicking the Oscars for NWN modules. This looks to have been in the works for months, but the story seems to have broken big when fellow Ossian-mate, Hugie "outed" the group in his blog.

Now I guess words like "nebulous", "outed", and so forth make it seem like I'm against the idea. That's not entirely true. I realize that I'm not the most plugged-in builder in the community, but I am fairly active, and I'm surprised that I had never even heard of this effort before last week.

A quick perusal of the group's message board indicates that there will be 21 members voting on different module categories. On the plus side, (1) this voting format is a great step up from current module voting and even the oft-abused MotY polling, and (2) the initial membership seems to be taking the subject very seriously.

The negatives are myriad and well documented on the Bioboard thread devoted to the subject. For my own part, I understand the need for keeping the voting membership secret; it's entirely necessary to keep the voters from being pressured to vote a certain way. However, I'd be lying if I said the secrecy isn't unnerving, especially given that the very existence of the group wasn't widely known prior to last Friday. I'd also like to see the membership expanded beyond 21 in an effort to dilute whatever individual politicking may occur, though that may be unrealistic. I have no idea how difficult it is getting even 21 people to do it. And then, of course, there's the fact that the selection of the 21 invites seems to be entirely the purview of a single person, albeit there was some discussion in an open forum.

As I said, the initial invitees - those like Hugie who have identified themselves - seem to be very interested in maintaining the "academy's" integrity, and all of them either have impeccable reputations or are (for me, anyway) unknowns. However, it is inevitable that initial members will drop out, and others will be asked to replace them... Well, I guess we'll deal with that if and when the situation arises.

So count me as a skeptical supporter of the endeavor... for now.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Quickie

I don't have a lot to say. I just wanted to post a quick screenshot of the map I've been working on today. I'm actually pretty pleased with it the way the gate and the fortress appear to be built into the mountains.

SPOILERS
This time we've broken off from following the Delimbiyre and headed into the Greypeaks.
END SPOILERS

It's my tribute to Edvard Grieg - I call it "In the Hall of the Mountain King." Well, technically, In the hall will be the next map...

Back From St. Augustine

I returned from our anniversary weekend refreshed and ready to go. As a quick aside, for anyone who's looking for a not-so-well-known and interesting vacation spot, I'd recommend St. Augustine. The oldest sight of European habitation on the North American continent (first settled in 1513) is unique in this country at any rate. Though it certainly has its cheesy "touristy" parts, it nevertheless has enough legitimate stuff to do to make it worth a look. Museums, beaches, water sports, historical monuments, quaint B&Bs, and an easy-to-walk small-town atmosphere all in one.

And now that I've done my duty for the St. Augustine Chamber of Commerce, I'll move on to my current projects.

Ossian
Yeah, I finished one round of deadlines for a secret project today, and that took most of my afternoon. Then I moved on to...

The Maimed God's Saga
My only work on this project today was completing what I thought would be a simple map. However, since it's actually a boat in the midst of the River Delimbiyre, it turned out to be a bit more problematic to get the walk meshes quite right. I'm still not 100% pleased with the result, but it might be the best that can be done. I might look into some custom content to see if I can make it look a bit better.

To those who wrote about my previous question about the leadership of Calimshan in 1361 DR, thanks a bunch. I've been busy, so I still need to look over some of the material, but hopefully the information is contained therein.

Vault Interviews
A week or so ago, there was a bit of discussion on the Bioboards that turned towards the subject of NWN Hall of Fame interviews. The turn hinged on someone wondering why Valine had not had her HoF interview (or even the more recent Module of the Year interview), and the poster's implication (I thought) was that the lack of an interview showed a blatant disrespect or even a systematic attempt by the PTB (Powers That Be) of the Vault to rob Valine of her just due.

To be fair, the poster claimed this was not his intent, and I guess I'll take him at his word. Additionally, this post is no attempt to start something with either Valine or her fans. My point - which I made on the Bioboards - was that the lack of an HoF interview hardly made Valine unique. I, in fact, have also never been interviewed, and I was certain that was not the full extent of the list either. After the exchange, I took a brief look at just the list of nominees for the 2006 MotY, and I found that the following modules authors also never received an interview for their 2006 inductees (though they may have interviews for prior works):

  • Fester Pot - "Almraiven"
  • Roy Boscowan - "Red Moon Rising"
  • Challseus - "Rose of Eternity II"
  • Poecile - "Aribeth's Revival II"
  • Aristan - "Avertine: A Nation Dreamed"
  • Havlen - "Endless Nights VI"
  • Fabien Cerutti - "Exile of the West"
  • John Bye - "Good vs. Evil II"
  • Trev - "Lloth's Revenge"
  • Hugie - "Perchance to Dream" and "The Island"
  • John McA - "Sands of Fate 3"
  • Savant and Black Diamond - "The Fall of Aielund Pt. 2
And there are two non-English modules I'm not including. This is just last year's MotY nominees, so that could reasonably be said to be the best of the best... and just about half of them did not get interviews! Valine is certainly not alone in this.

Well, a few days later, I got an e-mail from a group (I don't know if they want to be identified yet, so I'll refrain from naming them) asking if I'd be up for an interview. The relevant part of my response follows:

Now, about me personally, my view is simple. I neither want nor need an interview for my sake. I have a blog that I rant on and spout my nonsense, and many of my fans check it regularly. So I don't need a 'reward' for hitting the HoF, and I mean that sincerely.

However, if there is someone in your group who enjoyed the series and wants to ask questions that they think will be of interest to the community, then I'll be happy to take the time to answer them. I firmly believe these interviews should be for the community, not for the author, and I am perfectly OK if it turns out that no one is interested in a series for an obsolete game that hasn't had a new chapter released in 8 months. I'll only be a little bit hurt if the answer comes back 'In that case, no thanks'.

So the response came back that someone still has some questions they want to ask, so we'll see how that goes...

HOWEVER, part of this exchange also was that I suggested that Fester Pot be contacted about an interview for Almraiven, which is one of the very few modules I've played in the last year, and I volunteered to do it if no one else wanted to. As it turns out, I'll be doing a joint interview with him (assuming he agrees), so be sure to watch for that. I actually have quite a bit I'd like to ask him.

And for those who haven't tried Almraiven, what are you waiting for? It was a first-rate module to be sure!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Projects Update

Ossian
I spent a bit of time today cranking out some deadlines for Ossian. As usual, I can't discuss that, so onwards to things I can discuss.


The Maimed God's Saga

I've promised this now for a couple posts, so I think I'll drop a screenshot right off the bat of an example of the individualized items that the companions will be carrying with them. I'll let the picture speak for itself.

However, I have been doing some looking around on the net for information about who controls Calimport. I've been able to find a name for the 1372 DR range (shown in the picture), but I haven't had any luck finding a comprehensive list that will tell me about the 1361 DR time frame. If anyone reading this blog happens to know for 100% certainty, please post a comment, and I'll give you 1) sincere thanks and 2) a credit in the module readme file.

Areas
Finished off one area I've been working on and then ripped off another area from my old 'Diviner's Fire' module that hasn't yet (but will eventually) see the light of day. Hey, I liked the area. That means I have four of the eleven areas I need for Act I finished.

Above, the protagonist and Tancred take a stroll at dusk along the River Delimbiyre.

Conversations
I'm making progress on this front trying to set up a really heavily-scripted encounter that will allow the player a huge amount of leeway in choosing how to handle it - like a half dozen or so unique solutions. Let's just leave it there for now.

General
I'm finding that there are certain advantages to knowing the protagonist will be a fifth-level cleric and the one companion will be a fifth-level ranger. All of my battles can be exactly defined versus letting some generic AI spawn in a few enemies. I'm looking at between 15-18 major encounters that will feature potential combat, and I want each of them to be 100% unique. In some case, this will simply mean specialized scripting to have the enemies try to trick, surround, or trap the PC - in other words, show cunning. In other case, this means allowing the PC and the companion to formulate a plan ahead of time that will alter the way the battle develops. In some cases, there will be alternate ways around the combat, and I don't just mean the three tried-and-true dialog skills. We'll see how successful I am, but that's the plan right now.

I also have the intention of making every skill a cleric can take be potentially useful. I imagine many of the people who play this mod will take the usual cleric skills - i.e. Concentration, Heal, and Spellcraft, but I intend to make smooth talkers, item-crafters, lock-pickers, and so forth all able to bypass some problems others will face. In short, I'd like to be able to handle any cleric concept the players can imagine within the Tyrran dogma and still allow them to utilize their character to the fullest. Again, that's the plan, but I do have a bit of work to do to determine how I'm going to work things like Appraise and Slight of Hand in.

Gone this Weekend
I'm heading about an hour and a half north this weekend to St. Augustine, FL. My wife and I are celebrating our fifth anniversary by returning to the same B&B we went to for our honeymoon. I say 'celebrating' because our actual anniversary was way back in March, but the period of intense business interfered, and so we postponed until this weekend. Therefore, no 'Maimed God's Saga' this weekend, but truth to tell... I won't miss it.

Monday, May 7, 2007

CRUSHED!

The Maimed God's Saga Update
Finally, I was a bit ahead with Ossian's... uh, secret stuff, so I just knew I was going to have a good weekend to pull together some of The Maimed God's Saga... No dice. On Thursday, I got a call at my desk, and work went crazy. No sense reliving the nightmare, but I ended up putting in over 20 hours this weekend.

But there has still been a bit done. I finished the interior map of Riverford's Temple of Tyr and imported all conversations into the toolset. I have a wee bit of revision on one of the conversations due to a decision to change the spelling of some of my proper nouns, and then I need to add a bit of scripting to the dialogs, but that will be it for the opening scene.

In fact, I've already started on another map which will feature a major encounter, though I would call it about 33% - 40% done at most.

I know I promised some commentary on the unique items given to the companions, but I'm not ready quite yet to delve further into that, so it will have to get pushed to next time along with more screenshots.

A Word on Spoilers
I haven't worried too much about spoiler warnings until now, as I never really concern myself about giving away 'secrets' learned in the first five minutes of a module. However, work on the initial section is coming to a close, so for the time being, I'm going to try using to sections that look like this:

MAIMED GOD SPOILERS!
Tancred is actually a cross-dressing ranger who dresses his squirrel in red tutus!

If you don't wish to be spoiled, it should be easy to miss the sensitive information. If you want to see, all you need do is highlight the area to reveal what I have said. We'll see if this works.

Btw, the 'spoiler' I revealed above... is a little bit less than accurate...

Once Upon a Time
I've pretty much stayed out of the discussion of the recent module contest mostly because 1) I haven't had time to worry about it, and 2) I found the theme less than inspiring. However, after being slammed at work this weekend, I felt like cooling off by just being a player for once, and so I downloaded and played Once Upon a Time, the contest entry from my one-time 'Saleron's Gambit' beta-tester, Mungo_D. Reposting my comments from the Vault page:

Enjoyed the module. I was extremely impressed by the exterior and interior mountain maps, especially the cleverness of the latter. The opening and closing curscene was also well-done. I agree with other comments about the lack of conversation choices, but with only about a month to work, you can't do everything. Other aspects of the module clearly make up for that shortcoming.

I *am* upping my vote a tad, as I don't believe a one-month deadline module should be held to the same standards as the 'work 'til it's done' variety. By these standards, it's an excellent module.
I voted an 8.25. Congratulations to Mungo on a job well-done, and I wish him success in the contest.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

MGS Update

Riverford Complete
After much tweaking, the map for Riverford is complete and populated with merchants and peasants. A quick screenshot of the town square dominated by the Temple of Tyr for the curious.

Conversations
I've also been busy with the conversations for the first couple maps. I have written every conversation except Verona's that will be needed to get the PC on their journey, though the conversations I've written since last time are only in Word right now. Last time, I talked about badly overrunning the word count for the initial conversation of the Tyrran priest, Brother Ternias. A second conversation that I had initially classified as 'Medium' (i.e. roughly 1000 words) was Brannigan, a captain you can, but don't have to, hire (remember, different paths are possible!) to take you up the River Delimbiyr. The word count in Word and in the toolset are inevitably a little different, but it looks like I'm going to come out really close to 1000 words for Brannigan. So maybe I wasn't that far off with my estimate in the beginning. Perhaps I should have initially classified Brother Ternias as a 'Large' conversation, as he is the one that will give the module's initial exposition.

Item Templates
One way I'm going to give a bit of characterization to my companions is through the inclusion of a few personal items for each in their inventories that can't be dropped. I'll also use these to create some mysteries to their characters, as some of these items will be interesting (hopefully) while providing no immediate explanation or meaningful description of the item. I've now got most of Tancred's items made up, but I'll have to post more about this next time.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Maimed Gods Saga Update

Well, I seem to be a bit ahead of my deadlines with Ossian, so that means time to work on The Maimed God's Saga.

Initial Conversation Completed - Mostly

I got the first hint today that things might go a bit... um, long. A couple posts ago, I estimated I'd need 60,700 words for the module. That was based off classifying all my 51 conversations as either One-Liner, Short, Medium, Long, or Companion. The initial conversation I'd classified as Medium, for which I had estimated 1000 words... Well, it took me 2500. Now, that's bound to fluctuate a bit as I revise the exact wording, but I still need to add in a second part where the companion for the module is introduced... We'll see if the trend continues and if I have to revise the estimated word count upwards.

Riverford Nearing Completion
The map of the initial town of Riverford is coming along nicely. I would say I'm about 75% done with the map itself, not including populating it with actual people. The initial town will not be a major part of the adventure; it's basically a place to initiate the quest, meet your companion, and then purchase supplies for the long journey. Nevertheless, I had a very specific vision for the little hamlet that I had fleshed out for my aborted novel, and it's looking quite... um, familiar.

A Bit of a Quandry
I began writing the conversation for Tancred (male companion) today, and this got me thinking. It occurred to me that I have set the two companions up as rangers who are meant to guide the PC to his or her final destination. That's the hook to get them included in the story. However, what to do if the PC wants to solo the mod? I don't care from the romance standpoint, but if the PC can get where they need to be on their own, then there is no need for the companions after all...

Right now, I'm leaning towards forcing the characters on the PC at least for the initial journey, but I know some people hate that kind of stuff.

That's all. No screenshots today. I'll post a view of Riverford when I've completed it.