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!