Sunday, December 21, 2008

Load Screen Sunday Once More

As Liso so kindly reminded me, I've not done a load screen Sunday in a while, so I'll catch up in a big way today. The following three load screens are for the first and second floors of the VanGhaunt mansion and the Navatranaasu cathedral. All three are essentially screen shots I've already given months ago, but I promise that next Sunday will be something heretofore not seen. Once again, the mansion maps can be found in this post. The first floor screen is of the Gallery of the VanGhaunts and the second floor screen is the sitting room of the PC's suite.

As I said in the comment section of my last post, the bad thing about working on Act III was that I couldn't post any screen shots. A big twist occurs at the end of Act II and so anything I post from Act III is by definition a spoiler. Now that I'm back on Act II, more screen shots will be forthcoming, especially once I get most of the scripting done and I enter testing.

As for progress, this weekend I knocked out the scripting for almost 10,000 words of dialog, including Jellica's 6800+ word behemoth. That accounts for a little over 12% of Act II's total. With lots of holiday days in the very near future, I expect that I'll move fast over the next couple weeks.

And now the load screens:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Something New

What the heck. We all need to try something new every once in a while, so I'll try a new template for my blog. I'm not sure about the look, but we'll stick with it for a while and see how it goes.

Briefly, since the last update, I cleaned up a couple more issues in Act III, handled some outstanding problems from Act I, updated the 2das to be compatible with SoZ, and then spent a small amount of time updating all maps to include some appropriate new placeables from SoZ. Mostly, this included some of the new spider webs in the VanGhaunt mansion, which hopefully lends most of the rooms an unlived-in look. Finally, I perused the available haks to see if anything interesting had popped up since my last look. Sadly, nothing caught my eye.

So there was no further excuse to delay things. On to Act II...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ode to an Idiot

Sorry, I just had to. I know football isn't the prime motivator for coming to this blog, but this might interest even non-football fans. About a year ago, I posted a diatribe against my favorite team's most hated rival, the Florida Gators. Occasionally, I look over past posts to remind myself of some things or to link to previous musings. Well...

Yesterday, I took another look at my Gator post to see that another wonderful comment had been posted. A few weeks ago, I removed an inflamatory comment from a poster and I was about to do the same to this one, but then I thought, "Tiberius, what better way to illustrate the idiocy of the average Gator fan than to leave it here." Folks, I may be a fantasy writer (of mods), but even I can't make this stuff up.

Now you may be thinking that I'm being a bit unfair to a whole fan base. I'd love to say that this poster is an aberration, but I can't. Sadly, most Gator fans I know are of a very similar level of intellect. The anomalies are those that are actually decent - and there are a few - but there's a reason that the Gators are hated by pretty much everybody (FSU, Miami, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, etc...)

So I'm linking again to the post so that others can read the wonderful comment. For those who want to get right to the good stuff, just highlight below to read. I've not edited a word; apparently, Gators do not understand how punctuation works. Warning, if you're easily offended, don't highlight!


It's sad to see how low the educational standards at the University (sic) of Florida are.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm Done...

... with Act III's scripting! That's right, after 4 months - 2.5 months not including a 1.5 month break to do little things like a Halloween project - I'm officially done with the "scripting" portion of Act III. I'll still have to tinker with scripts as I continue to test, tweak, and polish, but the heavy-lifting is finally done.

I've also managed to complete quite a bit of play-testing. I've already done three run-throughs of the first half, though there are several more left to do. In addition, unlike my normal methodology, I play-tested each part of the second half as I went, so I actually think that's all polished and done. So I'd conservatively place my testing and polish phase at 50% done, and it's probably closer to 75%.

The bad part is that it doesn't look like I'll be getting to that play-testing for a bit because of a rather nasty bug that cropped up in patch 1.21. In short, the OnEnter trigger for areas no longer seems to be firing conversation commands. In other words, people no longer initiate conversations upon entering an area. I can certainly confirm some head-scratching behavior that left me puzzled for a couple hours before I found that thread, and it seems that the same bug may have butchered MotB and several other user-made modules.

The funny thing was that my pre-release version of SoZ only took me to patch 1.20, and the programming I did during that time worked like a charm, but as soon as I went to the legitimate post-release version and patch 1.21, it got all goobered up. It's baffling how this can happen, but I'm not a programming guru, so I won't rip Obsidian too much until I know more. In the referenced thread, Obsidian has claimed that they will release a patch to fix this in "December or January," so other than a couple more tweaks I can test as is, I'm done with Act III until the next patch, at which point I'll return to finish it off.

So I'm almost on to Act II...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Storm of Zehir Review

Well, I just finished Storm of Zehir. As some may remember, I was quite complimentary of Obsidian in my review of Mask of the Betrayer. I will not be so complimentary this time. Needless to say, SPOILERS FOLLOW. Read on at your own risk.

My Party
I created four characters with the ending levels given:

  1. Male Human: Swashbuckler 9 / Duelist 10

  2. Male Human: Wizard 19 (Enchanter)

  3. Female Moon Elf: Bard 10 / Rogue 9

  4. Female Human: Druid 15 / Fighter 4

So it's obvious that I prefer not to have a "party of freaks" as I have called it before, just the straight-up old-school D&D races. Another thing I concentrated on was playing classes I don't normally play. Therefore, I chose the new swashbuckler as my tank, a druid to fill the divine healer role, and a dual-class rogue/bard as my stealth warrior. I orginally intended to really give bard a good try and only use 3 rogue levels to give a little extra oomf to flanking attacks until I was reminded of the experience penalty for uneven class distribution. That character was about 2000 XP behind the others for the nearly the entire play-through. I learned the following:

  1. Swashbucklers can be mean tanks. I gave him a keen rapier with massive criticals and maxed all the feats to up the critical range and he sliced and diced his way through the hordes. This class will definitely fill a roll in parties I create in the future.

  2. Bards kick a lot of ass too, not necessarily as solo characters, but definitely as amplifiers to allies in their party. I always knew that, but I never really "knew" that. I'm still not enthralled by their spell selection - however, I know I was also using a dual-class bard - but their inspirations and songs are amazing. Bards are in for me in all party-based games in the future.

  3. Druids still don't do it for me. The animal companion isn't overly powerful, but it serves well-enough as a meat-shield. However, the lack of restoration and resurrection spells really lower their effectiveness as primary healers. Back to priests for me.

So now let's get to this expansion in particular

In SoZ, Obsidian went the exact opposite route from MotB. Whereas the first expansion was essentially an interactive novel with a well thought-out and involved story, this one had only the barest bones of one and instead concentrated on a much more open gameplay. What story there was centered on a vague plot by followers of the new D&D version 4 deity of the yuan-ti, Zehir, to supplant Sseth, take control of yuan-ti society, and eventually control the world.

The vehicle used to get the player investigating this is an enforced relationship with a trading emporium headed by a mysterious woman named Sa'Sani. Having crashed in Chult, the party can only get permission to roam around by becoming employees of an established merchant; enter Sa'Sani. After the player uncovers hints of a yuan-ti plot in Chult, Sa'Sani is discredited, and the group is forced to move to the Sword Coast where a couple of Sa'Sani's associates have gone missing. Eventually, the player locates the associates, who are revealed to be agents of Zehir. When the player returns to their merchant headquarters, they find that Sa'Sani has murdered one of her henchmen and fled back to Chult. When the party catches up to her, she reveals the location of Zehir's followers temple where the players confront and kill one of Zehir's chosen. And that's literally the entirety of the main story of the 30 hour expansion.

The lack of an engrossing main story could have been mitigated with a bevy of interesting sidequests. However, SoZ completely strikes out in this regard. I can't remember a single sidequest that didn't fall into one of the tried-and-true stereotypes: (1) fetch-quests - i.e. go get a singing amulet, gather rare resources for the sensate, find exotic locations for Volo, (2) go and conquer quests - i.e. clear firenewts from the mine, kill the Luskans in Port Llast, or (3) kill the evil bad guy - i.e. the priestess of Umberlee. Add a healthy dose of one-off random encounters, and you're left with a game that feels old-school because... well, it is. Other than the graphics engine, this game could have been made 10 years ago. In fact, it was. I think it was called Baldur's Gate I, only that game was revolutionary for its time, and this one most definitely is not.

Having decided to do a "story-lite" expansion and pushing the idea of party created by the player, Obsidian obviously decided to devote zero time to their cohorts. Apparently, they are almost mute. To be fair, I don't say this from personal experience, but rather from comments I've heard elsewhere. None of the cohorts I came across screamed "take me with you" and it really seemed contrary to the idea of a user-created party game.

Overland Map
The overland map made a big initial impact, but it got tiring fast. One of the big no-nos that any modder learns from his first released mod is to never, ever make large areas that have to be repeatedly traversed during the course of the game. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the overland map is. Once you wander around it once and clear out all the mines, barrows, towers, etc., you're left with what seems like an interminable delay getting from one place to the next. Put that on the Vault, and you get major points deducted for poor design.

Obsidian tried to mitigate this obvious shortcoming by upping the number of random monsters to what I think is an absurd degree. (As an aside, I don't know how everyone on the Sword Coast isn't murdered by all the bands of high-level orc bands wondering around.) Unfortunately, there's only one battle map for any kind of terrain, and there aren't nearly enough different types of monsters to make replaying the same half dozen encounters on the same half dozen maps interesting. It wasn't long until I found myself fleeing from encounters not because I was scared of death, but because I was scared of being bored to death.

Some I have talked to have said the overland map reminds them of the wide-open exploration feeling they had during Baldur's Gate I. I agree to an extent, but there's one important difference. Because Baldur's Gate was still a "point and click" overland map that instantly transported you to the end location, once you cleared a map, you could skip it forever after. In Storm of Zehir, you'e stuck traversing the same terrain repeatedly, always being harried by the same orc tribe that will attack on the same battle map.

Party-Based Conversation
This is one of the few unambiguous improvements. If you're going to role-play a party, it only makes sense that all of them should be able to influence a conversation.

Area Design
Some of the area design was very nice, certainly better than anything I can do, but this comes from Obidian's designers' ability to envision the use of placeables in ways I apparently can't. Almost all of the maps are interiors, as the overland map feature removes the necessity of having normal exterior locations as we've become used to. This is unfortunate, as because exteriors are not tileset-based, they present the freedom to make jaw-dropping areas in ways that interiors are unable to match.

The music was generally decent. The main title is the type of grand sweeping theme reminiscent of old fifties epic films, and it has grown on me over my play-through. The rest of it really doesn't stand out.

I was under the impression that there would be several new creatures, but all I can remember is the yuan-ti abomination and the raptor. Maybe the re-tinting of existing models to make the yuan-ti purebloods and grey orcs are supposed to count. Anyway, I thought the models were pretty standard fare, though I do think the death animation of the abomination is a bit odd.

Of course, I have to also mention the same old epic non-epic monster again. Numberless warbands of 10th level orcs, gnolls, etc. There are encounters suitable for 10th level parties without making 1st level monsters into 10th level behemoths. Oh, well. I give up hoping for anything better in these adventures.

SoZ wasn't really my bag. Although there were a few good points to it, it wasn't nearly able to live up to the standard set by MotB. This game was sort of like what I envision crack cocaine to be like (having never tried it myself). My typical day would be to go to work and slowly have the desire to play build up. Finally, at the end of the work day, I was shaking in anticipation, and I rushed home to get my "fix." Unfortunately, after a couple hours of playing, I crashed when I realized how lacking the game was, so I quit and did other things. The next day, I went to work, and the process started again. Therefore, it did have something to it that drew me back, but it didn't have enough to keep me playing for long stretches.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Bunch of Quick Hits

Bunch of things happening, but not many details I can talk about...

Election News
As I said on my very first blog post, I do not speak politics here. This is not because I don't have definite views; it is mostly because I just want to enjoy my hobbies without the real world encroaching, so... Without getting into specifics, I'll just say that one of my long-time friends was elected to the Florida House of Representatives last week. It was a ton of fun and a little illuminating working on his campaign, minor though my role was. It will now be interesting to watch his progress. I know Tallahassee isn't Washington, but politics is still politics. My friend is what I'd call an ideologue, albeit one I agree with, so if this guy is corrupted by the experience, then there are no incorruptible politicians.

Halloween Mod
I haven't kept up with how mods are normally received by the NWN2 community, seeing as how I haven't actually released anything yet. Bouncy Rock's Halloween mod got around 800 downloads within the first week. That's huge by NWN1 standards, but it seemed small by NWN2 standards... but then I guess the game is about two years old now. I really have no idea if I should be disappointed by the reception.

As for the individual efforts, I thought there was a lot of good stuff there... too much, in fact, for me to remember everything. One mod stands out, though... and that's the one by regular reader and comment contributor liso... warped is all I can say. And, of course, I would be remiss in not singling out the homage to one my all-time favorite show, Dr. Who. Now that was cool!

Maimed God
I managed to work my way through all but the details of the most complex series of cutscenes in Act III. It's a group of four scenes that take place back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I know that may sound... uh, fantastic in terms of roleplay value, but it's not as bad as it sounds (or bad at all, really). The PC has plenty of opportunity to speak for themselves, and they make one big campaign decision during this time. The complexity comes from a boatload of characters coming in and out, getting all their animations and timing correct, and playing with the static camera angles so that the correct information is conveyed. Doing that for a twenty minute stretch of play is quite the effort.

Anyway, I was making good progress until something stopped me. What was it...?

Storm of Zehir
HAHA! I got my pre-release version and am quite a bit through the campaign now. It basically soaked away my weekend, much to the non-delight of my wife, who actually thought I might do some work. However, I can't say anything... NDAs and all that. I'll post a full review once it's released and I don't have to worry about stepping on people's toes or revealing what I shouldn't. The main point of this paragraph is just to make you all jealous. So there.

I will say that some of the area design in SoZ is so awesome. I know I say that a lot about a number of different groups, but I am just constantly amazed by the creativity of other people. I see how they set things up, and I understand how they do it by resizing and reorienting different placeables, but it would never occur to me to do any of that without seeing it first.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Yesterday, I got some work done on The Maimed God's Saga for the first time in more than a month. I tidied up a few bugs and integrated a few improvements I still had noted from my last play-through of Act III . Nothing much, but progress was made.

Next, I intend to start on the final few cutscenes. There are three big ones that happen within the last hour or so of gameplay, and each will take some time to complete. Then, a couple more play-throughs, and Act III should be able to be shelved.

After that, I'll wrap up one remaining issue from Act I, and Act II will be all that's left. Again, all the creative content for Act II is done, so it's just scripting and play-testing. It's by far the biggest act, but there aren't any cutscenes, so things should go quicker.

On another front, the 2D artist I thought I had a few posts ago, never sent over any work, so I guess I'm looking again. If anyone knows anyone good...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Halloween Mod Revealed

Warning! Spoiler Alert! Turn Back Now to Remain Spoiler-Free!
OK, so what's my mod all about? I would call it light. Heavy-hitting drama it is not, but hopefully people will find it a fun little romp.

The crux is that the player must enter a land of fiction to beat fictional villains, the greatest of which is Count Dracula, created and brought to life from the vast number of stories from the mind of the master-bard named Tiberius. Tiberius, obviously, is a good guy, so he was forced to create these monstrosities. Once in the land of fiction, the character makes his or her way up to Dracula's castle where there exists a series of puzzles that must be overcome before reaching the climactic showdown.

However, just as Tiberius created the fictional villains, so can he also create fictional heroes to aid the player, preferably heroes from his own stories. Thereafter the player can search through his manuscripts to find the following three potential companions:

Tancred of Calimport from "The Maimed God's Saga"
Yes, the intrepid ranger is temporarily taken away from Navatranaasu to aid in the battle against Dracula, and he brings his snarkiness with him!

Charissa Maernos from "Mysteries of Westgate"
Alan Miranda at Ossian was kind enough to let me use the companion I wrote for "Mysteries of Westgate," and so here comes the Tyrran priestess with an attitude. Who would have ever thought that the average NWN2 gamer would have traveled with Charissa here first!

And yes, Saleron Pymnot from "Saleron's Gambit"
OK, so I couldn't do this without the wiz, so he finally made the jump from NWN1 to part deux.

Here's a shot as the group approaches Dracula's Castle.

I took care that each companion had something to say about each puzzle. Some are helpful hints and clues, many are not. Here Tancred gives his input about the Modern Prometheus (aka the Frankenstein Monster)

And then some are just blatant excuses for more companion banter... like this exchange in Dracula's study.

So I'm not going to give away any of the jokes and/or puzzle solutions, so that's it for a preview. Hopefully, people will enjoy the 45-60 minutes it will take to complete this mod, and I can't wait to see what everyone else comes up with.

Halloween Done!

I submitted my module for Bouncy Rock's Halloween project last night... several nights later than I first envisioned but still well before the October 13th deadline. It was really a case of perpetual polishing - i.e. continual rephrasing of some of my dialogs, tweaking the visual effects, adjusting tints... but I'm now tired of looking at it. Barring any unforeseen bugs, I'm done.

Stay tuned for screen shots in the next day or so... and then maybe I can get back to TMGS.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I'm more or less finished with the essentials of my Halloween mod, and it's been pretty thoroughly play-tested. That said, there is still one slight issue I have to deal with. Essentially, I need to check at the exit to my house to verify the player doesn't have any of my companions attached and remove them if they do. There might be a slight logic /continuity issue if they start my little adventure, leave to go do some other houses, and then come back, but I think I may opt for the simplest approach and just have the player "start over" if that happens. After all, I have no idea what may happen outside my little environ.

So, there's that one little script and then I want to add some extensions to a couple of the dialogs... in essence, I want the companions to joke around a little bit more. I may then add one or two extra rooms to Dracula's Castle with a couple "script-lite" encounters. Then finally, I have 7 more play-throughs from scratch (one for each of the possible companion cominations), and I'm done. The deadline is Oct. 13th, but I don't envision working on this past next Sunday Oct. 5th.

Once I ship the final version, I'll post a much more extensive write-up of exactly what I've done.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Halloween Mod in the Crosshair!

Maimed God progress since last post = nada

Of the three projects I mentioned last time:

I'm mostly finished with the proposal and will be completely after tonight. Check that one off the list.

My pictures have been organized and identified. I still need to do some filing.

Now what the NWN community is probably more interested in. The Halloween "item" for Bouncy Rock is shaping up nicely. In general, I'll be submitting a short sidequest that begins in my "house" in the main village. There won't be much in the way of combat, although there will be some, but it will be puzzle-heavy. Unlike all the rest of my work, it will also break the so-called "fourth wall" with regularity. It will be rather light fare, hopefully with a lot of humor and inside jokes for the NWN community.

I'll post specifics later, but it will feature most of the traditional gothic villains: Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, etc., and the main point will be to advance through a series of puzzles in Dracula's castle. If anyone remembers the old game "The 7th Guest," it'll be a bit like that, although nothing nearly as elaborate. Right now, there are three puzzles, though I may add more if I get all the scripting for these finished and playtested and still have some time before the Oct. 13th deadline. To aid you, there'll be three companions who may give clues to the puzlzles if you're stumped. The identities of these companions may be a bit of a surprise... but I'll save that for next time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quick Update

I decided that I would allow myself the Labor Day weekend to work on Maimed God as much as possible and that I would thereafter turn to other projects with more immediate deadlines. As of last Monday, when I put TMGS down, I was mostly (80%) done with the Act III scripting and had done a significant amount of playtesting on Act III as well (maybe ~40%). I've done a ton of bug-squashing on Act III, and the first two-thirds of it is pretty polished.

The last part of Act III is fairly cutscene-intense as the story comes to a close. Once those individual scenes are scripted, there won't be many bugs to hunt down. Overall, I'd say Act III is pretty close.

However, since Monday, I've turned my attention to three projects, two of them non-NWN-related, that I simply must finish before returning to Maimed God. First, I'm going to categorize, annotate, and file the 400+ pictures I took in Europe. I'll make a post with some of my favorites when that's done. Second, I have a round of proposals for my own private business due on September 28th, so I need to knuckle down on that. Third, I have agreed to submit something for Bouncy Rock's Halloween project, and that's due October 13th. My idea is set, and I've finished a fair portion of it, but I'll wait until later to provide further details.

So it doesn't look like much progress will be made on TMGS until Oct 13th (or earlier if I can finish the Bouncy Rock stuff ahead of schedule).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

OK, So I'm Back

Actually, I've been back well over a week now, but I didn't want to post until I had something useful to report. First, though, a tribute to this little guy.

Those familiar with Brussels will recognize him as Manneken Pis, but I like to refer to him as The Little Pisser. The day we went to see him, they had him dressed up as a tour guide or bell hop. Hey, whatever; I traveled halfway around the world to see a 2 foot tall statue of a peeing boy dressed as a tour guide and wearing a rain coat... and I wasn't alone. There were hundreds crowded into that street.

More about my trip later when I organize all the pictures a bit more. For now, it's on to:

The Maimed God's Saga
So I was standing in St. Michael's Cathedral in Brussels on the first full day of my trip, and a strange thing happened. I began to hear in my head the main theme for The Maimed God's Saga. Some people may call that "insanity," but I prefer to call it "inspiration." I have to admit that my motivation was slipping just prior to my trip, but as I stared up at the vaulted ceilings of the gothic interior that day, I found myself rejuvenated, and I couldn't wait to go to work again on TMGS... only I still had 2+ weeks of my vacation left. Bummer... OK, not really.

So when I got home I started seriously kicking ass, and the recent advent of tropical storm Fay, which has basically hovered over my house the last two days, has meant much canceled work and lots of Maimed God time. The tasks I have completed since my last update are:

  1. All Act III dialogs (~ 50,000 words total) and Campaign dialogs ( an additional 3500 words) finished
  2. All Act II and Act III journals (~ 5000 words) finished
  3. The map updates I discussed last time finished
  4. The Act III scripting is about 35% finished

In addition to all that, I laid out a story board for the beginning and ending movies, wrote the scripts, and approached someone about drawing fifteen 2D drawings. He agreed to try one to see if everything would work. Hopefully, it will go smoothly, but I won't reveal who it is until I'm 100% sure it will. I'm a little stoked because this means for the only time in the development, there are two parts of the campaign being developed in parallel. This, of course, equated to faster progress.

Anyway, the new matrix as of right now is as follows:

I changed the journals so that they are all technically campaign journals, which explains the difference in reporting, but the important thing is that they're all done.

Three major groups of tasks remain. First, the scripting. Second, the extraneous art content (movies and music). Third, the testing. My plan is to bang out the scripting while "anonymous" works on the movie art. Whenever the 15 frames are completed, I'll do the magic to "movie-fy" them and check that off. Otherwise, I'll just script until I can do my own internal alpha-testing. Once I'm pretty good with all that, I'll send the module out for beta-testing while I nail down the music. At that point, I'll alternate music and bug fixing until both are done. Lastly, I'll do a final pass through the haks, one more round of testing, and release. With this coming weekend fairly open and next weekend a four-day holiday for me, I should have plenty of time to crank on the scripting... only football season is again approaching ominously on the horizon...

I also cruised the hak packs again and found some very interesting art content I'm going to add, but I'm going to do it in one big update to all the maps after the scripting and maybe alpha-testing is done, so I can incorporate in whatever new art content comes with Storm of Zehir. These include the vines and splatter pack, cobwebs, and mystic runes.

And that's it for the update: short, but dense.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm Out!

As I noted a month or so ago, I'm heading to Europe in the very near term - like tomorrow, so this is going to be my last post for a while. Regular readers will want to check back in mid-August.

What have I been doing? Well, I ain't gonna lie. Real life can be a pain; in addition to everything I've previously mentioned, I run my own R&D company on the side, and our first major contract is coming to a close. In fact, it will technically end while I'm in Europe, so I've been hecticly trying to wrap some things up while handing control of what's left over to my second-in-command.

As for the Maimed God's Saga, I have still been plugging away, though not nearly as fast as I would like. I've been chugging through dialogs, and I am now at 39,133 words, or 80.92% of what I'll need for Act III. In addition, I have another 7296 words - almost right on 15% - in various states of completion from Word document to partial transfer to the toolset. So the light is definitely at the end of the tunnel in this regard.

As I've written dialogs, I've come to see that I'll need to make slight modifications to three of the maps. Nothing big; I just need to add some placeables that can be interacted with via dialog, but then I need to do clean up and testing on that as well. Probably about 1 to 1.5 hours of work total.

Load Screen Sunday, no Monday, no Tuesday...
It's been a while since I posted one of my new loadscreens. This is another one that should look a bit familiar to long-time readers, but I really like this shot. It's the load screen for the lower floor of the VanGhaunt mansion. I might play with the picture a bit; it's a little dark, but I think it gives a good representation of the mansion.

And now... auf wiedersehen!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Tudors

OK, so following Michele aka Liso's recommendation during my NWN Podcast interview a couple months back, I picked up the first season DVDs of the Tudors and finally finished the ten episodes this weekend... just in time to scrounge around for season two I guess. When I first heard about it, I was dubious to say the least, but the show turned out to be quite impressive. It actually managed to hold my interest (i.e. someone who knows quite a bit about the subject) while also holding my wife's interest (i.e. someone who's interested but not interested enough to read a book about it).

I was pleased to see that the show concentrated on the broad picture of what was happening. Too often in movies on the subject - the two most notable examples being Anne of theThousand Days and The Other Boleyn Girl - focus almost exclusively on Henry's and Anne's relationship. Other major characters, such as Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, and Catherine of Aragon, are relegated to caricatures focusing on their perceived principle trait: Wolsey is either conniving, corrupt, or (in this matter) ineffective, More is sanctimonious and conscientious, and Catherine is frumpy and resigned. Other characters, such as Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain, or Pope Clement VII, are obliquely referred to or not mentioned at all. Still others, such as Charles Brandon, Bessie Blount, or Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, are not seen period. And yet all these people - not just Henry and Anne - played a role in the great drama that unfolded between about 1530 and 1533, and The Tudors does a good job of showing how they all fit together. I think anyone watching would come away with a solid understanding of the period.

Two performances I was especially taken with are Sam Neill's Cardinal Wolsey and Maria Doyle Kennedy's Catherine of Aragon. I was not initially taken with Neill in the role of Wolsey; I simply kept imagining him running away from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but I was eventually brought over. Neill showed that he is a terrific actor, as he deftly depicts the Cardinal's slow fall from power. In one moment he is terrified, the next he is desperate, and then his arrogance resurfaces. The moment where Henry first accuses the Cardinal of working against him particularly stands out, as Wolsey collapses to his knees in terror, desperate to assure the King that he is his loyal servant. Care was also taken in some of the dialogue. The line uttered as he is finally dragged away by the guards to be taken to London: "If I had served my God as dilligently as I did my king, he would not have abandoned me in my grey hairs," was actually said to be one of Wolsey's last words (if not his last).

Maria Doyle Kennedy puts in the second surprise performance. Far from the matronly cast-off Catherine is normally portrayed as, Kennedy comes across as classy, elegant, and assured. Her plea to Henry on bended knees during the trial followed by her dramatic exit from the chamber is both historically accurate and fantastically used to demonstrate her sharp mind, quick wit, and political acumen. Yet it is not just a game to her; rather, she is firmly convinced that, in time, Henry will see his folly, tire of Anne, and return to her. Her facial expressions in the scene towards the end when she tries to convince Henry (for the hundreth time) that she was a virgin at the time of their marriage and Henry turns to her and essentially says "yes, and so what?" was especially poignant. She finally realizes that Henry knows she is telling the truth, but the whole matter isn't really about that... and therefore Henry will never be coming back.

So these two actually became complete characters in The Tudors. Others, such as Charles Brandon... well, I guess I should be happy he's there at all. I'm less than enamored with Henry Caville's acting. Nick Dunning's Thomas Boleyn fares little better. Jeremy Northam's Thomas More dangerously flirts with the traditional sanctimonious portrayal, but the harsher aspect brought forth in the final episode as he starts the burning of heretics - an unfortunate event that would continue for the next forty or so years - adds some additional color to the character. James Frain's Thomas Cromwell shows initial promise as a double-crossing zealot, but Cromwell will really only rise to the fore during the events depicted next season, so I'll reserve judgment until then.

So now we get to the principles: Henry and Anne. As with Wolsey, I was not at all optimistic with either of these two. Natalie Dormer could reasonably pass for Anne physically, I guess. She was never supposed to be a great beauty; Anne's allure was (according to contemporaries) in her personality and slightly exotic look. I guess I don't see any of those qualities in Dormer, but it's a matter of personal preference. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is simply too young to depict Henry accurately during these years. The show claims to want to show Henry as a young man, but he was over 40 at the time of his divorce from Catherine. Nevertheless, both Rhys Meyers and Dormer do justice to their subjects as well as they can. Henry's unbounded energy and ambition, his notorious fickleness, and his horrific temper are well-depicted, and Dormer has softened Anne's traditional conniving qualities significantly, adding a new layer to the character, though she's picking up steam as the season progresses. As with Cromwell, the events of next season are where Anne's going to get really interesting, and it will be then that Dormer either puts her stamp on the role or else falls flat on her face.

The production values are also all very high. The costumes are brilliant, though one of the DVD extras indicates that some of them are slightly anachronistic. However, this kind of detail is not something I'd catch; I'll just take their word for it, but they look fantastic. The scenery,both indoors and outdoors is generally supurb, and the music is both dignified and understated for the most part.

So how was the historical accuracy? Well, readers will probably not be surprised at this point to see that I was quite pleased at just how historically accurate the series is. That's not to say there weren't certain errors, but there was an awful lot of truth there. Most of the errors, with a few exceptions outlined below, fall into the category of improper timing. As already stated, Henry should have been about 40 during the climactic events of season one. Also, his daughter by Catherine of Aragon, Mary, was 16 or so. Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII's illegitimate son by Bessie Blount, did die of the sweating sickness, but he was 17 when it happened, not 4 or so as depicted here. The Field of Cloth of Gold festival, which seems to be only a year or so before Henry's divorce, was actually more than fifteen years prior. And there are many others, but these kinds of errors are inconsequential because the essence of the events are still true. Namely, there was a Field of Cloth of Gold festival that went more or less as depicted, Henry Fitzroy was an illegitimate son by Bessie Blount, he did die of sweating sickness as mentioned, and so forth.

Slightly more problematic are the following substantive disagreements with history.

  • The Duke of Buckingham actually was beheaded, ostensibly for treason, but the charges are historically regarded as being largely trumped-up while the series shows the charges as being true. Also, the rivalry between Buckingham and Henry is probably overplayed by a couple orders of magnitude; I seriously doubt that Buckingham ever thought he should be king over Henry, though he probably thought he was next in line in case anything happened.
  • Henry had two sisters: Margaret and Mary. The series only shows one. They use the name Margaret but the events in her life are mostly those of Mary, though Mary married the aged King of France and not Portugal. In another of those timeline errors, the French King she married was actually the predecessor (and cousin I believe) of the French King depicted in the series.
  • Cardinal Wolsey most definitely did not commit suicide. He had been sick for some time and died of natural causes en-route to London after having been arrested near York.

But I admit that most of these are nitpicks. To be sure, I would definitely recommend The Tudors to anyone who's a fan of the subject matter.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Life Sucks Sometimes

Yes, I haven't updated in a couple weeks, and won't for a little while longer. There was a death in the family, and other issues have also sapped my time. Combined with Mrs. Tiberius' clutziness and the resulting extra chores, I just don't have it in me right now. A little progress on TMGS since last time, but not much. 'Til later.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Maimed God Quickie

It was another slow week with nearly no progress... until about Friday night when things started kicking into gear. Instead of working on some small dialogs I could quickly get out of the way like I normally do, I tackled one of the big behemoths head-on. As I started into one particular dialog that is very plot-heavy on Friday night, I started getting the motivation all over again. It's not very humble of me, but I really think this story kicks ass, and I was living one particular scene pretty vividly as I wrote. The scene just flew out of the keyboard, and I barely had to edit a word from the first draft. There's a real emotional punch to some of this story - a lot of the best and worst in humanity; I can't wait to have everyone else enjoy it as much as I'm enjoying making it.

So what did I get accomplished? As a measuring stick, on a good day with proper motivation and no distractions, I can write about 8000 to 10,000 words into the toolset. (Note that this does not included scripting the dialogs, just the writing.) In the last 48 hours, I've managed to get 8,400 words done, which would indicate I worked about half-time. I'd say that's about right. As it stands now, I'm at 34,893 words total, which is 71.32% of my estimated need for Act III.

Looking at the next few days, it looks fairly wide open. I think I'll be able to advance a ton this coming week. Fingers crossed!

Load Screen Sunday
This is close to a screen shot I've already posted, so it won't be thrillingly new, but it's a big one for the module. Players will see it a ton. It's the main loadscreen for Navatranaasu, which is the central hub for Act II.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Real Life Gets in the Way!

Regular readers may have noticed the distinct lack of an update last Sunday. Well, there's a very good reason for that. You see, last week, Mrs. Tiberius209 broke her ankle in a freak accident and is now laid up on the couch. In response, Mr. Tiberius209 now gets to shoulder most of the stuff she was doing in addition to everything I was already doing. The result is nothing getting done on TMGS.

My wife's primary job right now is to get her ankle better. The orthopedist said it will take "four to six weeks." I always thought of broken bones as closer to six, but he's the expert... The reason this is so much fun is that we leave on our summer trip in five weeks. We're already one week into the "four to six," so we're going to cut it close.

Speaking of Trips
Long-time readers may remember my wife and I went to Portugal last year. This year, it was my wife's turn to choose, and she opted for a Rhein River cruise, so it's a little bit of Switzerland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Honestly, I'm not sure what to think about it for two reasons.

First, I had a college internship in Germany back in 1997, so outside of the U.S. of course, it's the country I know best (well, possibly tied with the U.K.). Every city we're stopping at in Germany I've already been to, not that there's not going to be something new or maybe a different aspect to see, but I normally like to go places I haven't been to before.

Second, it'll be a much slower trip than any I've yet taken. Normally, I'm always on the go 'cause there's always something new to see, but this time... yep, we'll be on a river going slooooow. I'm keeping an open mind, though. I guess I'll have to figure out how to relax... and given her ankle, it's probably better anyway.

So next year it's my choice again! I'm still deciding, but the early favorite is to skip the summer and instead travel in the December, 2009, or January, 2010, timeframe, and go to... Peru! Machu Pichu, Cuzco, the Inca Trail, Lake Titicaca... If that comes to pass, I can bore everyone with tales of Francisco Pizarro and the Conquest of the Inca. Yay!

Saleron Reaches 100
I've been keeping an eye out for this for a while, and it finally happened a couple days ago. "Saleron's Gambit Part 1" now has 100 votes. The centennial vote was cast by shar_xx, and he/she ("shar," so probably she) was pretty positive in the review. And, of course, one of the comments seems to indicate we have another Saleron-lover - I mean the actual character. (I still sometimes have to step back and shake my head at that minor phenomenon.)

Anyway, I thought I'd mark the little milestone here... It's odd to think that something I first uploaded in 2004 is still being played at all! But then it's the only thing I've worked on that can be played. It's not like Westgate's out...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Life as a Moder...ator

Maimed God Update
Not much I'm afraid... Honestly, the thought of writing more conversations this weekend didn't really sing to me, and so I did next to nothing the entire weekend. I did manage to get a few dialogs done during the week, but I've only increased my tally to 26,500 words, or 57.5%. A paltry week's work I admit. Hopefully, I'll get the bug again this coming week.

So what did I do instead? Well, I have more work than I can shake a stick at, but during my computer time I decided on a little world domination, and that meant Civilization III. Yes, I have Civ IV, and while it's technically superior to Civ III in almost every way, it just doesn't have the "magic" for me that the earlier version does. And so I played as the Egyptians... and yes, the world will soon be mine... all mine! Hahahaha!

Witness the fall of the soon-to-be-extinct Sumerians! Uh, that would be the teal to the left of the screen. Yes, I know the orange are the Dutch. They'll get what's coming to them soon enough!

Some time ago, Alan Miranda, CEO and guru extraordinaire of Ossian proposed that I should be the Ossian moderator on the BioBoards. I guess this was because he didn't have the time, and I had this distressing tendency to actually read what went on there and even occasionally report to him when interesting things popped up. I was rewarded for this with... more work.

Stupid me, I agreed. It took about two months for all the approvals to fall into place, but as of about three weeks ago, I am an official moderator on the MoW board... and I'm already ready to gag. I may be about to come off as incredibly rude, arrogant, condescending, but you see, I have no idea how developers keep from absolutely telling off the ignorant masses, given some of the outright stupid things I have read. When I was just plain-old me, I had freedom to say what I mostly type and delete now that the Ossian tag is by my name.

Recently, Keehwan Her announced that MoW would be delayed yet again until July. I won't even start with the reasons for that, but the announcement seemed to provide certain people with all the justification they needed to be outright over-the-top rude. One poster typed three words in their response: "You are pathetic." That, of course, violates the board rules against directly attacking other posters, so I edited the hell out of the post. If you haven't already, it might be interested to scroll through the thread to enjoy the commotion, including said poster's response to me that he had only said Atari was "worthy of pity." You have no idea the amount of vitriol I typed and was ready to post... only to then hit delete.

You know, I'm thrilled to be working with Ossian, but things I say will (wrongly) have the veneer of coming officially from the company even though it doesn't. Oh, to be able to go back to just posting as me when the worst thing that would happen as a result of one of my posts would be for me to get banned...

Load Screen Sunday
If you all recall, part of Act I can take place on the River Delimbyre. Unfortunately, none of the included load screens were suitably aqueous. And so I made one myself. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Load Screen Sunday

Progress Report
No need to post an updated progress matrix; the only number that will change is the Act III dialog box. I have managed to add several thousand words of dialog since last update, and the total word count for Act III now stands at 24,682, or 54.5% of what I project I'll need. Still a long way to go, but I've filled in a couple of the major plot dialogs. I count 29 more dialogs I need to write covering everything from a couple line "commoner" bit to major campaign-changing monstrosities.

First Load Screen
I've decided I'll present the load screens in roughly story order with the ones you'll see first coming before those that come later. There is, of course, some variability in the play of the campaign, so some of you may see a slightly different order (not that you'll remember by then).

The first load screen is a bit of a general one I made for the opening area, though it will also be reused later on at a point I can't talk about. I'll present it without further commentary.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Update III

Not the greatest day of writing if I'm being honest. I only got about another 3600 words done, but that spans nine different dialogs. I also managed to make several item blueprints that I'll need for those dialogs, and I added the dialogs into their proper places in the module with the limited scripting needed for them to fire. Honestly, I had hopes of doing more, but it's not an entirely bad effort all things considered.

The updated progress matrix is included below. My immediate task is to finish the Act III and Campaign dialogs. Then I'll start on the journals.

Also, beginning this coming Sunday, I'm going to start showcasing one of my new loadscreens per week. There are 18 total. I will take about a two to three week vacation in late July into August, so that will get me about 20 weeks of goodies. And I'll try for other screenshots as I post other stuff during the week.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Update II

It really blows. I ended up wasting most of Saturday on chores. It's amazing how "To Do" lists grow when you own a house and a business. I only managed one roughly 800 word dialog yesterday (hence the lack of update).

Today, I finished off a bunch of yard work in the morning and ran some more errands in the early afternoon, but I managed to swing about four hours late in the day for the toolset, and so I cranked out another 5700 words of dialog (and one additional creature blueprint I had missed). I'm currently sitting on 15,300 words total for Act III, which is about 34.5% of what I'll need.

The good news for tomorrow is that I have literally the whole day set aside for toolset time. One small bit of bad news is that I discovered a slight change in some of my loadscreens will be necessary, so that will shoot about 30 minutes to an hour. Fun, fun...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Update I

Well, I didn't quite make my goal for the start of the weekend, but I managed to complete the final integration of all my loadscreens and the inclusion of the Tyrran shield as I indicated last time. In addition, I systematically went through and verified / fixed / added all door transitions between maps and world map triggers. Finally, I either imported from Word or else wrote from scratch about 3800 words spanning 2.5 dialogs. Overall, not a bad day's work, and I'm at last into full-blown dialog-writing mode with three off-days left to go.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Blueprints... Check!

Since my last update, I've been a bit slowed by losing two days to the trip to L.A. and then having to put in extra time at work to make up for it... not to mention other annoying real-life crap that... uh, won't be mentioned.

However, I've managed to finish off the 109 creature blueprints I'll need for Act III including all associated custom armor and weapons. In addition, I systematically assigned loadscreens to my maps and determined I would need 19 new ones to fill in the gaps. I have already taken all 19 screen shots. Now I need to convert them to .tga format, modify the .2das, update the campaign hak, and assign the new screens to the right maps, and that will be done. While I'm updating the .2das, I'll go ahead and modify the items one so I can include a spiffy Tyrran-based shield out of this nifty community hak (3rd picture down, top row, 2nd from left).

Tonight (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday) will probably be out in terms of working on anything NWN2-related, but hopefully, I can knock all that out Wednesday and Thursday. The real goal is the weekend. I have Friday off work, Saturday and Sunday are always off, of course, and next Monday is a holiday here in the U.S., so that will give me four straight days to work. There will be chores to take care of during that time and other minor annoyances, but I plan on putting a serious dent in all the needed Act III conversations during that four-day stretch. If I'm as productive as I think I'll be, that'll put me pretty close (75% to 80% of the way) to being done with all Act III dialogs. Here's hoping...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mysteries of Westgate Press Event

This past Wednesday and Thursday (May 7th and 8th), I attended the Mysteries of Westgate press event in Beverly Hills, and I must say it was a blast. California... well, it's California; it's got a culture all its own. All I could think of was, "we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto..." but it was a good time, great food, interesting hotel...

Of course, it was my first time meeting Alan face-to-face, and he turned out to be as cool as I thought he would be, and all the reviewers, some of whom I'd exchanged e-mails with, were all fabulous as well. Finally, it was great meeting the representatives from Atari (publisher) and fortyseven (public relations), and it was fascinating getting a brief glimpse of how at least this small part of the background to publishing games works.

Lastly, I've heard universally positive feedback about the event and, more importantly, the game. But rather than have me blabber on further about it, go and see what others who attended had to say:

Thieves' Guild


NWN Podcast

Just RPG

Neverwinter Vault


I'm still waiting on another article to be published and will update this post when I see it.

A quick note. This Friday, Ossian will release our final Spotlight covering not the lore of Westgate, but the Ossian perspective of the event. Until then...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Maps Done!

The title says it all. 53 out of 53 done. It feels pretty darned good to have such a massive piece of the module done for once and for all. The final map is of a small village built into some hills. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Progress Matrix
It's been a while since I updated the progress matrix, but with this milestone now out of the way, it makes sense to take another peek. I'm going to hit the Act III blueprints next. I have a list of 100 creature blueprints and a dozen or so item blueprints I'll need, and, given the number of hours I seem to be working lately, I estimate that'll take me about 7-8 days to finish off. After that, I have a list of 18 to 25 loadscreens I want to make up. I've never done my own loadscreens, but the process doesn't seem too hard, so I'm hoping that will go fairly quickly as well.

Wrapping those up will allow me to "check off" the two boxes with red zeroes in them, and then I can hit the Act III dialogs hard. I've only got about 13.2% of them done in the toolset, but I probably have another 20% - 25% done in MS Word format, so that portion will go quickly. The rest, however, still need to be written from scratch.

Doctor Who: The Poison Sky
Well... another finale that keeps an adventure from being a true classic. I guess the writers just don't know how to get out of the jams they get the characters into without resulting to "magic wands." At least this wasn't as bad as previous attempts.

And what is it about Helen Raynor that makes her want to write the Doctor with a death wish? It was outright pathetic in "Evolution of the Daleks" when the Doctor literally begged to be killed. Only slightly less pathetic was the Doctor's desire to commit suicide in finishing off the Sontarans. As Luke Rattigan asked, why not put the device on a sort of timer? I know the Doctor in the most recent series has to be shown giving everyone a chance to act right and leave, thereby justifying him when he finally destroys them. Normally, I'm OK with this. However, with the Sontarans, it is outright lame. It's as if he's never met one before! Hell, by that point, he had even met that specific one before... not that it matters, of course. They are all clones of each other bred within the same society under exactly the same circumstances. They are therefore likely to give exactly the same answer. Is it too much of a stretch to think the Doctor would just assume the answer when the alternative is sacrificing himself?

But the real pisser is that even if he just had to give the Sontarans their chance, there was a communication device in the Rattigan Academy. We know this because it was used by the Sontarans to communicate with Luke in the teaser to "The Sontaran Strategem." Did no one think of this? Bah!

Hey, Doctor, if you just absolutely have to die, put a gun in your mouth and be done with it.

That's not to say the episode was without merit. The three principals acquitted themselves well, and Tennant was a bit less hammy than normal. There were some nice family moments with Donna, though it is now clear that three companions in a row have had a shrewish mother. Russell Davies simply has to get some new ideas here for companion #4, whenever that is.

UNIT was handled relatively well also. Colonel Mace makes a worthy successor to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and there's even the briefest hint of pain (?) on his face when the Doctor let's slip that he's no Brigadier and Mace admits that "Alistair is a fine man, probably the best." As I said before, the Sontarans were well characterized, though slightly less so than in "The Sontaran Strategem." I thought their plan of rendering the copper-coated bullets useless was quite clever - unusually so for the current crop of scientifically-challenged writers, but I swear those nifty suits of armor they wear are next to useless if steel bullets can pierce them. I mean, even humans have Kevlar vests that take the punch out of bullets. Can a race capable of interstellar travel and maintaining a 50,000 year war with the Rutans not stop a bullet? As with so many other episodes in the new series, there's a lot that's good, but there's just enough for me to regret what might have been.

Next Up: The series takes on a long-standing question in "The Doctor's Daughter." Though some have since tried to discredit their relationship, it seems clear from interviews with the original creative team that Susan was meant to be the Doctor's biological granddaughter, so he must therefore have also had a son or daughter at some point. I'm not so sure how thrilled I am that the series is "going there," but we'll see what's in store.

Interestingly enough, the role of the Doctor's daughter seems to be portrayed by Georgia Moffett, another complete unknown here in the States, though she has some modest fame in the U.K., having appeared in, among other series, The Bill. Georgia Moffett is the daughter of Peter Moffett... who's stage name in the industry is Peter Davison. A clever bit of casting to be sure.

Friday, May 2, 2008

So Much Excitement!

First things first. Today is podcast day. Drop everything right now and go here to learn more than you ever could have wanted to know about the making of "Saleron's Gambit", design choices in "The Maimed God's Saga", and... well, listen to liso and me share thoughts on medieveal (technically Renaissance) history.

So I was happy because last night I had actually cleared about two to three hours - on a weeknight, no less - to work on TMGS... I was going to get the texturing on my final map done and then start on placeable placement... and then a fire broke out in the preserve near my house... and I mean a really big one! The fireman I talked to said there were 55 fire-trucks issued to the area from the entire county. I would have taken pictures except I was too busy taking pictures of my actual house, cycling my sprinklers, and then loading all my important papers and mementos into my car.

Fortunately, the wind was blowing exactly the right direction, and my actual house was never that much in danger. Some people in the neighborhood next to mine are not so lucky, though I don't think any of the houses are unlivable. Still what a pain for them! Oh, and the fire has been put out this morning, but it was a fitful night's sleep... and yet another example of real life wiping out Maimed God time. Trust me, I would have 100 times rather had a quiet night with the toolset.

Yes, I'm Still Working on The Maimed God's Saga
With all the polling I've been doing, it occurred to me that people might be getting a bit worried I'm switching projects. Fear not; the polling is just for informational purposes. I still have months to go on TMGS, and all my actual toolset time is devoted to it at the moment. I'm committed to finishing one project before starting the next.

Speaking of Polls...
The latest poll is now closed and, as I did last time, I'm going to record the results for posterity.

Question 1: After reading the four scenarios outlined on my April 17th post, which setting would intrigue you? (You may vote more than once!)
  1. The Viking Invasion - 19 (43%)
  2. The Norman Invasion - 8 (18%)
  3. The Hundred Years' War - 10 (22%)
  4. The Wars of the Roses - 16 (36%)

Question 2: After reading the four scenarios outlined on my April 17th post, do any of these hold absolutely no interest for you? (You may vote more than once!)
  1. The Viking Invasion - 5 (20%)
  2. The Norman Invasion - 3 (12%)
  3. The Hundred Years' War - 8 (33%)
  4. The Wars of the Roses - 9 (37%)

Clearly, the two most popular choices were The Vikings and The Wars of the Roses. However, the latter also had the highest negatives, so it seems pretty cut and dry that the best positive to negative ratio was The Vikings. That gives me a direction to head, though I'll still kick things around for a couple months while I finish off TMGS.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Steady Progress

Podcast Interview This Friday!
I mentioned this a little while ago, but now it's almost upon us! This Friday is the release of my interview with the NWN Podcast team. Find the interview at their website here and listen to me sound important for a day!

Maimed God Progress
I have spent the last week finishing off all the maps. Yes, it seems like I've been doing this forever, but NWN2 maps are a very different animal from NWN maps. I've revised all the "completed" maps from Acts I and II, handled the two walkmesh issues I mentioned last time, and gone on to create one of the two remaining maps. I have now completed 52 out of the 53 I will need, and the last one is (barely) started.

I'm including two pictures from the latest map I'm calling "The Ruined Village." Something destroyed it as you can see... something dangerous! Gee, I wonder what that is! Actually, this is one possible outcome to one of the choices you make, so not everyone will see it on every play-through. I'm not going into it further except to say that this is an example of my commitment to having choices matter in this game. Make certain ones - maybe even one you think is correct at the time - and villages get wiped out.

The Sontaran Stratagem
I'll refrain from commenting (much) on the latest episode until next week. Helen Raynor (the writer) has had excellent opening episodes before (see last year's "Daleks in Manhatten") only to then fall flat in the conclusion. In general, the new Doctor Who is great at setting up impossible situations for cliff-hangers that are only resolvable by the most implausible means. We'll see next week.

That aside, I can say that I appreciate the characterization of the Sontarans in the latest episode. As I said last time, they're absolutely my favorite Doctor Who villains, and their mythos was well-handled. Little touches like General Staal lamenting that the Time War "was the greatest war in all history and we weren't even allowed to participate!" go a long way towards fleshing out the race. They were always militaristic, but we now see that it is not necessarily forced upon them by their conflict with the Rutan Host. Notwithstanding their commitments against that enemy, they actually longed to participate in a war they saw as grander in scale than theirs!

Anyways, more next week, but if the conclusion holds up to the introduction, I'll be very happy indeed.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Meandering Thoughts...

Who'd have thought the Vikings would be winning both polls... Eh, we'll see when May 1st rolls around.

Lots of Maimed Work
I had a fantastic day of work today on TMGS... FINALLY! Tomorrow looks to be equally promising, and I'm going back again after I post this update. I completed and revised several maps, and I can now say that I'm 100% done with the maps for Act III. That's 19 of them. I had originally planned 21 for Act III, but one of these was a generic road where a chance encounter would take place. There are no other suitable maps already in Act III, but it so happens that I have a perfect map already in Act I. I was trying to have each Act be its own module in the three-module campaign, but I'll port the player back to the first module briefly to avoid increasing the size of the files further with a one-encounter map. The final map I had planned is for a sidequest that would extend off that encounter, so I'll also add that into Act I so the player is sent back to Act I module briefly, handles the sidequest, and then comes back to the Act III module. Done.

So I also started revising all my maps from Acts I and II. There are a grand total of 53 maps in the entire campaign, and I learned a ton going from 1 to 51 (two more left). I learned several lighting techniques, I think I'm much better now with blending textures, and there was the whole tileset coloring and texturing issue. Suffice it to say, the VanGhaunt mansion is about to get a visit from an interior decorator... Fortunately, the required rework is going very quickly, and I should be done in relatively short order. Then there's the map I talked about just now that needs to be added to Act I, I still have to finish the one sidequest map from Act II I talked about in this progress report, and I remembered that I have a couple walkmesh issues to handle on two Act II maps.

Yay For Zach and Alex
I am a bad Ossian-friend. A very bad Ossian friend! I'm weeks late in congratulating both Zach Holbrook and Alex Hugon for their Module of the Year finishes with Zach, obviously, pulling the top prize. Just goes to show how I lose track of stuff when I have no dog in the race... For the record, I did log into the Vault long enough to vote for Harp and Chrysanthemum. It was clearly the best user-made NWN2 module I played all last year. Actually, it was the only one I played... but it was damned good. Congrats both!

Is this the First Classic Story of the New Who?
I don't know. I waited a week after "The Fires of Pompeii" to say anything because I didn't want to post in the heat of the moment. Suffice it to say, TFoP was very good, but I really can't say it rises to the level of "The Talons of Weng Chiang" or "The Brain of Morbius" from the original series. I keep waiting for the magic episode of the new run, and while some have risen to the level of really good ("The Girl in the Fireplace"), none has been a true classic. Maybe I'm just romanticizing my youth...

Anyway, "The Fires of Pompeii" was pretty dang good. I thought there were a minimum of "magic wand" moments - what I call the times the Doctor waves his sonic screwdriver around and makes all sorts of "magic" happen, the costuming and acting was generally good, few cringe-worthy moments of dialog, only about one or two plot holes...

As an aside, I've never heard of Catherine Tate prior to her joining Doctor Who, but I understand she's a kind of "love her or hate her" personality in the U.K. Frankly, I neither love her nor hate her, but I think her character, after a rather daft start in "The Runaway Bride," is a breath of fresh air. I'm so tired of the "little girl pining for the Doctor" companion. And Catherine can really nail the horrified overwhelmed-by-the-enormity-of-it-all moments. In one episode, 20,000 people are about to be blown up by a volcano. In the next, she realizes millions of Ood are enslaved by the Human Empire. In both, she really brings home the vastness of the horror, something that has been rare in Doctor Who, both then and now.

Next up, an episode I've been waiting for for a while: "The Sontaran Strategem." The Sontarans, believe it or not, were my favorite enemies from the classic series. Maybe it's because they were introduced in one of my all-time favorite stories: "The Time Warrior," which took place in... medieval England! It took four years of waiting, but they're finally back.

Finally, it's time to say it. This is David Tennant's final season. I know what's been said in the media, but they're practically slapping us in the face with the signs. I forget what it was exactly, but something in one of the first two episodes clearly pointed to an impending regeneration. The final episode of the season is called "Journey's End" (compared with Eccleston's final "Parting of the Ways"). The Ood foretold in this episode that "the Doctor's song will end soon." Add to that that the average stay for an actor in the role is three years (this is Tennant's third season) and both Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper swore up and down they were going to stay longer than they did (so I don't believe a damned word that comes from press releases anymore). And, of course, both Liz Sladen and John Leeson are supposed to be returning as Sarah Jane and K9 for the final story. There's something big happening... I'm mixed with my opinion of Tennant in the lead role, but I really will be sorry to see him go.

The only alternative, which I pray does NOT happen, is that "Journey's End" refers to the fate of Sarah Jane. I'll be pissed if they go there.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yay! More polls!

So going has been sloooooow recently; there just always seems to be so much to do with real life. Oh, how I yearn for my twenties again... Anyway, I’m working hard on finishing all the maps for Act III, and I’m close. Luckily, this weekend is looking to be pretty wide open, so hopefully I can get lots done. I really need to get some Bastion screen shots out, and I’ll try hard for a Sunday update.

That said, I do have two follow ups questions to my last poll, but I need to give a slight bit of information first. I’ve thought about four potential eras for a medieval module, but I probably should give a slight description of each in case some or all are not familiar to voters. I’m all for informed voters...

I have the kernel of a plot hook that could be worked into any of the following. So you know, I would probably keep the skills and attributes and have new classes and feats, both of which would be dependent on the scenario. Some of these feats would be language-based like “Fluent in Latin” or “Fluent in French," which would allow conversation options. Others would be history-based like "Order of the Garter," which would possibly allow prestige classes. Some would be ability based like "Longbowman" which would allow the use of the longbow or "Song of Roland" and "The Epic of Beowulf" which would allow battle-inspirations for bard-like characters.

OK, now for the scenarios. Please read and then answer the poll questions at left.

Option 1: The Viking Invasions (circa 878 AD)
The 7th century began a period of near yearly attacks by the “Northmen.” Called Danes when settling and Vikings when pillaging, the “Northmen” began colonizing the British Isles around 800, waging a bloody war against the indigenous Saxon population for more land and resources. Throughout the 9th century, the Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, and East Anglia were all crushed under the Danish tide, leaving the West Saxons (Wessex) as the last Saxon stronghold. In 871, King Ethelred I of Wessex died, leaving his youngest brother, Alfred, on the throne. Alfred, a frail, thin, and sickly youth prone to severe stomach cramps, seemed always on the verge of death and therefore easy pickings to the Vikings, who invaded Wessex in defiance of a negotiated truce around Christmas of 877 and crushed the meager Saxon resistance at Chippenham. Forced to flee as the kingdom was consumed in fire and blood, the royal family and their most loyal followers took refuge in the fort of Athelny. For that winter, the last of the Saxon kingdoms was reduced to a population of 100 and an area of little more than two square miles of swamp. No one knew it at the time, but the pale and sickly king of Wessex, Alfred, would fight on, winning his kingdom back little by little through deft diplomacy and bold action to eventually win the title of King of all the Saxons. To this day, he remains the only English king called “the Great.” (i.e. Alfred the Great)

This would probably start at Athelny and feature the Vikings as the main antagonist. This would be the only one of the scenarios that would be set in a time when England was still predominantly pre-Christian. I’d like to work in the Celtic druid remnants and Stonehenge in some way too, though the druids would be very different from the D&D ideal. Initial concepts for classes would be Man-At-Arms (close to Fighter), Viking (Barbarian – not for PC), Priest, etc.

Option 2: The Norman Invasion (circa 1066 AD)
Christmas of 1065 saw the death of the childless King Edward the Confessor. On his death bed, the king pointed to Harold Godwinson, the greatest of his earls, and chose him as his successor. The nobles and bishops duly consented, and in January of 1066, King Harold I was crowned at Westminster. But a great comet blazing across the sky portended bad times, and his reign would indeed be a short and bloody one. Far to the north, near the town of “Jorvik” (York), the last great Vikings invasion under the leadership of the famed Crusader Harald Hardrada was underway.

But the Vikings were the least of King Harold’s problems. Across the English Channel, William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, fumed, for he had been promised the throne of England by King Edward, and the then-Earl Harold had sworn to uphold his claim on holy relics! The only answer was war! And so it would be that on October 14, 1066, the Saxons under Harold and the Normans under William would meet at Hastings; nothing less than the fate of England hung in the balance.

This is the mid-point of the middle ages and set amidst perhaps the most pivotal event of Medieval England. I would definitely work the great comet (Haley’s) into the story, and there would be a mix of Vikings, French, Saxons, and Celts. Initial concepts for classes would be Man-At-Arms (melee), Priest, and Rogue...

Option 3: The Hundred Years’ War (circa 1348 AD)
In January of 1328, as the French King, Charles IV lay dying, he declared that all were to wait on the birth of his unborn child. If a male, the child would be king. If female, the throne would pass to his distant cousin, Phillip of Valois. When the child was a female, Phillip VI was crowned King of France, but there was one man in the realm who refused to accept the new monarch, for Charles IV had a younger sister, Isabella, and Isabella had had a son... one who thought the crown was rightfully his. That son was also King Edward III of England. Determined to press his claim, King Edward declared war on King Phillip in 1337. It was a war that would consume the reigns of five English monarchs, five French monarchs, and last until 1453.

On August 26, 1348, the English would win a great victory that would become the model for many thereafter. Near the small town of Crecy, the English longbowmen mowed down mounted French knights by the thousands. 200 Englishmen died... compared to 18,000 Frenchmen. Soon after, however, darkness descended upon the kingdom, for a mysterious plague, given the moniker “The Black Death” raged across the land, decimating villages and forcing an end to the fighting. Within a year, 40% of the population was dead, and the prophets of doom surfaced to declare the end of days.

This is probably what most people think of as the high point of the middle ages. It would be an adventure that would take into account the Great Plague of 1348, so the world would be very dark. Lots of doomsday prophets and all that... Initial concepts for classes would be Man-At-Arms (melee), Archer (ranged), Priest, Troubadour (bard), and Rogue... maybe a Scholar. I might make a Longbowman prestige class for archer, or I might make it a feat requiring one level of Archer.

Option 4: The Wars of the Roses (circa 1455 AD)
The English collapse in the war with France in 1453 coincided with a collapse of the English economy and the bankruptcy of many of its most powerful nobles. Corruption at court, largely due to the presence of overly-influential favorites that lined their own pockets at the expense of other factions made it obvious to many that King Henry VI was not up to the job of kingship. This was a view only strengthened when Henry suffered a complete mental breakdown the same year with many saying he could not even recognize his own son. A regency council was hastily formed to manage the country’s affairs under the leadership of Richard, Duke of York, who boldly had the King’s favorites imprisoned. When Henry recovered his senses in 1455, the favorites were released with an eye to vengeance towards the Duke of York. Richard, fearing charges of treason, fled the capitol. With so many unemployed soldiers from the French wars now looking for work, the situation was ripe for a civil war. That war came on May 22, 1455 at St. Albans, where the Yorkist forces under Richard defeated the King’s Lancastrian forces, setting off the 30-year Wars of the Roses.

This is the very late middle ages and would be an adventure that would feature a lot of political intrigue. The classes would be the same as for the Hundred Years’ War.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Poll Results

Well, the poll is pretty conclusive. 52 out of 59, or 87%, of respondants indicated what I would call a definite interest. Frankly, I'm surprised, as my past inquiries have indicated extreme disinterest, though those informal "polls" constituted only a handful of people. Anyway, I've had a lot of ideas rumbling around in my head as to how I would implement such a module, but that will be left to another time.

For the sake of posterity, I'm going to record the poll results here. Check back soon for a follow-up question as long as an update on The Maimed God's Saga. I just completed a real bastard of a map, but it's a good one! The screenies should be cool!

Poll Results
Question: Assuming the writing, story, and visuals were up to snuff, would you play a non-fantasy RPG set in medieval Earth?

  • HECK YEAH! I would eagerly look forward to it! - 33 (55%)
  • I wouldn't wait with baited breath, but I would certainly play it. - 19 (32%)
  • Only if I was bored. - 2 (3%)
  • Highly unlikely, but possibly. - 4 (6%)
  • Not only no, but HELL NO! - 1 (1%)

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Little House Cleaning

Since the last update, I finished another map and worked quite a bit on another. Actually, I wasted a significant amount of work time on that second map because of one of the stupidest mistakes I've made in a while, but I'll detail that all next time. Hopefully, I'll wrap the map up tonight, but who knows...

My Little Medieval Poll
The poll results already look to be fairly conclusive, but I'll refrain from commenting further until it closes. To all who read, please vote if you haven't yet. Feedback like this is important to getting the type of adventures you like... eventually.

House Cleaning
It's time to overhaul my list of links, and I'm going to start with the list of blogs. As much as it pains me, I'm going to have to drop Berliad's blog from the list. As I noted back near the beginning of the year, Berliad was instrumental in my gaining notoriety back in the NWN1 days, so I'm not happy about it, but times change and people move on...

On a more positive note, as I also said recently in my discussion of the NWN Podcast team, there are all sorts of people doing things in the NWN community, many of whom I haven't really noticed before, SO... if you have a blog that's got a significant amount of NWN content on it, let me know and I'll add it to the list. Note that it doesn't have to be exclussively NWN-related (mine isn't!), but it has to have significant space devoted to NWN. As to what constitutes significant, I guess I'll know it when I see it.

The New Doctor Who Begins 4th Season
The current producer of Doctor Who is named Russell T. Davies. Yes, he was named for me... Just kidding, obviously. Anyway, let's just say that it is increasingly obvious that the other Russell Davies can not write good Doctor Who episodes, and I'm becoming increasingly suspicious that he can't write good TV at all. The episodes he pens, including the most recent lack-luster "Partners in Crime," lack imagination, fundamental understanding of science (important, I would say, in a science-fiction series), and frequently any witty dialog at all.

Luckily, next week looks to be a great improvement. It's an episode not written by Davies and set in ancient Rome! "The Fires of Pompeii" already has me excited... Come on, Saturday!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Slow Moving

Hectic, hectic, hectic... Easter last weekend and very busy on the personal front means distressingly little got done on TMGS...

Maimed God's Saga Update
Progress can be summed up with two more maps and another conversation written in Word format. One of the maps was a big one; it's the road from Waterdeep to The Bastion of the Maimed God, and it has many points of interest. A screenshot of one of the small corners of that map is included. While I don't believe the screen shot truly does the map justice, I admit I'm not 100% satisfied with it. I'm trying to decide if it's just a matter of more time needed - I've already spent ten or eleven hours - or whether it's just beyond my ability to make perfect. I'm leaning towards the former but may soon switch to the latter.I also figured out I need another map for Act III (it's getting to be huge). 15 maps are done, 3 more are started, and 2 are left.

Podcast Interview
No sooner had I given the Neverwinter Podcast crew a shout-out then they came asking for an interview. Coincidence? Who knows? What I do know is that last Friday evening was partially spent discussing topics ranging from my memories of "Saleron's Gambit" to "The Maimed God's Saga," my work with Ossian, and history-buffiness, among other general modding stuff. I've been told the interview will be released on May 2nd, so keep a look out for it then. And thanks to community member liso for the pleasant conversation and interest in my past and current work.

Musings on Future Projects
Following my last post, I began kicking around an old idea I had for a future project. Back in the concluding days of NWN1, I thought about a module set not in Faerun, but on ancient Earth in the land of "fantastical" Greece. It would have combined what we know historically about Greece with some of the mythology, so the player would traverse the streets of ancient Athens or Sparta but still encounter the sphinx, the medussa, and other such monsters in a sort of "Clash of the Titans." The idea still intrigues me, but it would require new building models, and who knows when those will appear...

Recently, I've modified the idea somewhat to consider a module set in medieval England. I don't really have a story yet. I'm no further than the setting really, and I'm actually considering several different time periods, but I find myself wondering if anyone would play it. So I'm starting to sense my first poll question... before I do any more work on the topic...