Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MoW Activation Limit Removed

The title says it all. As recently announced on both the Ossian website and the BioBoards, the much-maligned activation limit on MoW has been officially removed. Contrary to what many believe, it seems Atari does actually listen sometimes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Thinking of Another Snappy Title...

TMGS General
Since my last post, I've done a ton of work. As a quick run-down:

  • I've spot-tested all of the sidequest locations in the outlying areas and now have them as polished as the core town.
  • I've implemented and tested the last remaining sidequest. By way of explanation, there's been an idea I've had since the beginning for a puzzle-based sidequest in the mansion library that I've been struggling to figure out how to implement satisfactorily. I kept putting it off hoping that inspiration would just come to me, and it finally did. So the bottom line is it's finished and in the game.
  • I finalized the algorithm to determine the romance state with the companion. More on that later.
  • I implemented two ambient encounters in Navatranaasu I've had on my wish list for a while. Both are designed to further characterize the town. One will allow the PC to utilize another skill they may have, and the second will really bring home the fact that the PC is the only priest in the town. (Incidentally, there's no temple to go to for healing. You're the healer here!)
  • Finally, I'm about three hours into my next play-through with everything looking pretty good for now. I've switched to a male PC to verify that everything works as well with Verona as it did with Tancred. I've got a few extra polishing notes thus far, but nothing that could be classified as a true bug.
My plan is to finish this play-through, handle whatever notes come from it, implement the last two things on my "wish list," and then play through Act II one more time before moving on to Act I again. I'll need to make some minor corrections there to account for post-1.21 patch changes, and I'll want to verify that Act I transitions smoothly to Act II. Once that's finished, I'll need to finish up Act III, which is already in an advanced stage of completion. After that, it's just campaign-level testing and then release! The light at the end of the tunnel's getting bigger!

So what's this about romances? I've added tons of influence shifts. There are something like 90 throughout Acts I and II, some of which award or subtract more than one point. The full range of potential influence states is around +85 to -55. These shifts are not for things like what I've derisively refered to as "say you like my hair six times and I'm yours." Instead, they're for things you say or do which reflect similarities to the companion's background, thoughts, feelings, and values, and no, you won't know these up front. For example, there is a point where the companion will ask where you are from, and you get +1 influence if you're from the same area of the world and +2 if you're from the same city. Fair? No, but the truth is people are more likely to trust others if they share the same background. You also gain influence by asking for their opinions and advice. You can gain or lose influence by how you treat others in front of them, but don't assume that treating someone candy-sweet is the way to gain influence. You'll just have to read how they react to others and gauge accordingly.

In addition, there are what I call "flirt points" littered throughout the adventure. These are chances to fan the flame and show interest. Sometimes, they will initiate these encounters and sometimes you can.

Finally, there are shared experiences. In one sense, of course, the entire adventure is a shared experience, so this should mostly be covered automatically. However, there are a few things that aren't necessary to do but can be done ayway to build up the pool of "shared experience" points.

So after everything is said and done, the game will look at how much influence you have modified by the flirting and shared experience, and this will determine whether the romance will begin. Of course, it can also be shut down by the PC expressing a clear desire not to partake.

The Role of Religion in TMGS
Obviously, TMGS deals heavily with Faerunian religion. Of course, the PC is a Tyrran cleric, but the enemies are also followers of one of the evil deities, and there is a dastardly divine plan in the works centered on Navatranaasu.

One of the design choices I've made in Act II is to force the PC to pray every day at a chapel in order to have their spells and abilities restored. In Act I, the PC is assumed to pray when they rest, and Tyr obviously recognizes that the PC can not perform the normal rituals while on the road. But once an altar is available, the full treatment is required. Therefore, you can sleep in the bed in your suite to regain HPs, but you must then pray in the chapel to receive your spells. Oh, and while you can pray whenever you want, your spells only replenish once per day!

I realize that this might seem onerous at first, but as I've played, I've verified that it isn't. The design choice actually has several reasons and benefits.

  • First, I've always wanted this to be a uniquely cleric-based adventure, and one of the things most often glossed-over when playing clerics in D&D CRPGs is that their powers do come directly from their deity. So this is partly to enhance role-playing.
  • Second, it forces a strategic way of thinking for the player. Whatever choices you make in terms of your spells, you're stuck with for a day. Add to this that I've made a conscious effort to utilize many of the less common spells in unique situations throughout the adventure, and this creates an important element to the game. If you concentrate on only buffing spells for battles, you will miss large parts of the game and even slow your progress drastically.
  • Third, it adds another strategic element by forcing the player to use their spells judiciously. There are no huge dungeons in TMGS, but there are several smaller sidequest areas that contain 2-4 encounters. These have all been designed for one cleric and one ranger to be able to handle with one "batch" of daily powers.
  • Finally and most importantly, it is a game mechanism through which the PC can have visions from Tyr that allow me to drive the plot forward at certain points.

Screen Shot
With the above discussion in mind, I give you the next screen shot. Here the PC approaches the altar in the VanGhaunt mansion chapel for his morning devotional. This chapel is conveniently located next to your suite. The altar is also the scene of your first sidequest upon reaching Navatranaasu, but I won't spoil that for now!