Sunday, February 24, 2008

Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

So here I was plugging away on my maps for Act III just like I had for Acts I and II and then I check out Maerduin's blog page and see these magnificent shots of his upcoming mod. Instantly, I realize I have something to learn. I had the same feeling walking around Westgate, but I didn't really know what was hakpak material for that mod and what was part of the toolset. One quick e-mail to Zach later, and it turns out the toolset is so much better than I had ever thought for customizing interiors. In short, walls can be colored and re-textured and floors and ceilings have multiple textures as well. Suddenly, I have some reworks on all interior maps in my previous two acts.

I guess it goes to show that after working with the toolset for more than a year, I still have things to learn. It's just another example of how the NWN2 toolset is a serious upgrade from the NWN1 variety.

Mysteries of Westgate
It's been a while since there was any excitement regarding the upcoming Adventure Pack, but there was a new promo release recently outlining one of the major NPCs and the three companions. After months of only getting to praise the area designers - which is all you can really talk about with screen shots - we finally turn to something I as a designer put a lot of work into. I'm rather proud of the three companions, and I think that they will be interesting company for those who choose to adventure in Westgate. I don't think I can say much more at this point.

There is, apparently, some hubbub on the BioBoards concerning the fact that two of the companions are blonde. To tell the truth, I don't think a single one of the designers even thought about that during the development; it certainly wasn't mentioned. I must profess to being mystified as to why this is an issue. I count twelve companions for the NWN 2 OC: Ammon, Bishop, Casavir, the Construct, Elanee, Grobnar, Khelgar, Neeshka, Qara, Sand, Shandra, and Zhjaeve. MotB had five companions: Safia, Kaelyn, Gann, Okku, and One of Many. Of these seventeen companions, zero are blondes. That means only two of the twenty companions in the thus-far official material are blonde. Hardly a problem as I see it, but if that's the biggest problem some people have with the companions, then I'd say we've been wildly successful.

As an aside, as anyone who has played the "Saleron's Gambit" series can attest, my own personal preference is to have "normal" companions. Of the nine henchmen I wrote for that series, seven were human, one was an elf, and one was a tiefling, and that one was only introduced in the trip to Sigil in Part V. It's not that I'm against having a half-celestial dragon disciple in the party, but I think they should be as rare in modules as they are in Faerun - which is to say very rare. Modules that have a freak show running around tend to get my eyes rolling, as I think that is often a cheap method of making companions memorable as opposed to the writing or their personality. Anyway, I was quite content to write up some normal-looking companions for MoW.

Btw for completeness, my tolerance for freak shows goes up in epic adventures, as planar travel and such are more common in such adventures. Thus, I really didn't mind carting around a magic bear in MotB...

Maimed God Update
I've made some minor progress on the Act III dialogs, but most of my work has been mapmaking. I now have 8 of the 14 maps I need for Act III finished and two more started. In keeping with my pronouncement last time regarding the need for secrecy of Act III's content, I'll simply leave you with a screenshot of my newest map entitled "Glade of the Miracle." Oooh, that sounds religious, doesn't it?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Constructing Waterdeep: Part III

The main Waterdeep map's done. Previously, I've finished two other interior Waterdeep maps, so that leaves only two more interiors and a very small exterior left to complete all the maps for this section of the adventure. I'm guessing Waterdeep will comprise about 1.25 to 1.5 hours of the campaign, after which it will switch to the environs around the city. Essentially, the character is just here to learn some information, and that means slumming it in the Dock Ward for a bit.

Creating even this minor part of a city has given me a whole new respect for the area designers in Mysteries of Westgate, and as regular readers know, I already had huge respect for them! Cities are definitely more time consuming than nature, but ultimately very rewarding.

OK, no more words. Just pictures. First we start with the statue of Piergieron the Palidinson, one of the Lords of Waterdeep.

Next it's a small side alley.

Third, we take a walk along the docks with the Temple of Tyr dominating the backdrop.

Finally, Fishgut Court at night. The building in the middle-left (with the lamp post out front) is the rough-and-tumble dock tavern called "The Keel Hauler."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Constructing Waterdeep: Part II

And an update one workday later. I got to spend about four to five hours on the map today. This was spent working on:

  • Restructuring the docks and adding ship placeables.
  • Adding about a half dozen trees.
  • Adding background buildings. Now characters will see random towers and spires in the distance as they walk through Waterdeep. On the map below, note that some of these are 1-dimensional cards that are not seen from the provided vantage point.
  • Textures. This was the big one. All the area the player can walk in and those areas viewable by the player had to be textured. This was mostly the brick roads seen, but there's a lot of overlaid cracked stone, mud, dirt, and grass in there.

Major tasks left to do:

  • 99% of the non-building placeables
  • Walkmesh shaping
  • Sounds
  • Lighting

OK, here's the picture of Waterdeep one workday later. Again, the walkable area is outlined by the red square. That little square is Fishgut Court in the northern Dock Ward for those interested. The massive building at top is the Temple of Tyr. Yes, in the Maimed God's Saga, the shadow of Tyr hangs over everything.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Constructing Waterdeep: Part I

Another quick update. As opposed to what I said last time, I decided not to start scripting Act II, but rather to start on Act III. My output since then is 5000 words of dialog, three of the thirteen maps I project I'll need, and the start of a fourth (more below).

I also did a lot of tactical planning for Act III and began to get the impression that it was a bit too linear. To a degree, this is unavoidable given that the adventure will need to be driven to a conclusion at this point, but I thought it was nevertheless too much. Therefore, I revised a couple aspects to give the players some extra choices along the way, and I think the campaign is stronger for it as a result.

The nature of those choices - and of Act III for that matter - will have to remain a secret. There's a huge twist at the end of Act II that launches the final act, and any concrete information I give will have a seriously deleterious effect on player enjoyment, so I'm not even going to use my secret spoiler trick. Just silence.

However, I'll post the occasional screenshots. I began to think that maybe people might be a bit interested on the design of my map of the Waterdeep Dock Ward, so I'll post the map at different stages of development. It's the first true "city map" I've done, and I've already found it to present very different challenges from nature maps or even village maps. The attached screenshot represents about four hours of work yesterday and shows the basic outline of the ward. It's just the building layout along with a small bit of texturing to show the roads, and then I added the river-walk docks and the water. The red square indicates the area traversable by the player; everything outside of that is background scenery. More later as Waterdeep develops.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Quick Update

I can report that all the dialog writing for Act II is 100% done, though I'm sure I'll add the odd line here and there. The whole act clocks in at 80,028 words, which I've managed to write by my estimation in around 3.5 months. I'm exhausted I don't mind saying.

Normally, I would finish off the writing by knocking out the journals next, but somehow I just can't work up the enthusiasm for that right now, so I think I'll just dive into the scripting. When I'm done scripting what I have, then I'll go back to writing the journals and then finish by scripting those in one big sitting.

Lots still to do, but - other than the journals - all the creative "stuff" is there. Now I just need to glue it all together. Screen shots next time.

So Close, Yet So Far...
And I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to the NY Giants, who are now officially the champions of my favorite sport. (That would be football, and I mean the real football!) Normally, I would never root for any NY team, but when the alternative is a perfect season and endless crowing about "the best of all time..." Well, that would have made me vomit. Thankfully, the Giants pulled it off and downed the Patriots 17-14 in what was damned near the most exciting ending to any Super Bowl ever.

It's got to suck to be the Patriots. They finished 18-1, but there's no way a single person on that team can be happy and consider it a successful season... Schadenfreude on my part to be sure.