Dec 31, 2009

The Assembly line begins

Well I am doing everything I can to get this out during my semester break (which is till the 11th I think).

I keep falling into my old habbits of screwing around with something stupid but time consuming (and ultimately maybe unecessary) like trying to control my companions in a cut scene. They keep running all over in the most irritating fashion possible when I've gone through numerous hoops to prevent it. CutSceneImmobilize and forcing a jump to a precise way point is not enough most times. Then it works, but 1 in 3 tries someone is still puttering around. I look forward to leaving this toolset behind for DA: O. There is a lot of things done better in that toolset such as how your party is perfectly lined up and facing the right way at every cut scene. I will miss the fun things NWN2 has like multiple particle effects and the 3 ed D&D rules. Then again I hear 4th edition will totally botch those, so maybe that point is not valid.

So specifically to my project, I can NEVER get my water to reflect. I crank the reflection power to full 10, and the bias, and I get green watercolour paint as my result:

Perhaps any of my readers will be able to help. Before we go further though, yes I know how reflection settings work and it does work in game for the OC or other mods, mine just never reflects. I have noticed it gets better if its during sunset or sunrise but I use default settings, so if anyone has a quick way to set my scene up to mimic sunrise sunmoon settings do tell!

I'm also looking for suggestions on how to make the stone/dirt hills blend into the grass nicely. I just cant envision it, should it be a rough drop of about 6 feet, or a smooth hill that gradually grows more grass? What kind of textures?

Dec 20, 2009

Working on it... barely

Well my last final exam was this morning. I thought I would procrastinate longer for sure, but here I was working on it already today. Chapter 3 is removed from all the areas I've been working on for 2 years so it has an element of freshness to it. Here are some shots of the mountainous isle, the last area of the campaign. Above is the shore. I kind of stole it off the vault and modified it without too much butchering of the higher quality art. As always, click the images to see a full size version. Sorry but I was lazy and these are just toolset shots, lacking the fine settings. It's conceptual though.

This next area is scary... I'm attempting to build a whole exterior myself and I gotta say its not my forte. This is an early shot, with much left to do but I would welcome any advice to make it look more like the linked pics, of Lake Louise, near Calgary.

I'm hoping for the treed in like crazy effect:


However I see how this might be unrealistic since trees that heavy will slow things down and there are no individual tree cut out 2d placeables, whose low overhead would make this possible. So in lieu of that I'd just like advice on making this look more convincing.

I'm in touch with voice actors and Im racing to finish so they have something to read and we can cut this diseased limb off by new years. :) But man it's really hard forcing myself to do it right now but maybe having nothing to do for 2 weeks will improve my motivation.

LATE EDIT: I did happen to find relatively cardboard cutout trees by accident in the RWS cliff pack so yay for that. Still looking for general tips now to "reality"-ize the area or at least improve it.

Nov 24, 2009

Passage of Time

So as my birthday looms in the next few days, I am reminded of just how long I've let this project drag out.

At this point, I have tried playing DA: Origins and it's fun. But I think I can safely say I prefer finishing my campaign before finishing more.

I'm kind of in a lull now, you know the kind where... the toolset is kind of like an ex girlfriend you aren't seeing right now. But you often get back together, and although she seems distant at this exact moment, once you get back around her, everything seems familiar and like you haven't left. That's where I'm at in a nutshell. Well, at the point where I'm NOT seeing her currently.

This is for the best since it's the final two weeks of school and then I'll have two weeks to hopefully wrap this up.

I wonder what people think of changing (expanding) a work already mostly complete. I have 3/4s of chapter 3 to do and it's finished. But I'm feeling the need to make the campaign something broader; until now I just focused on making the quests as fun, physically rewarding, unique, and doable in any order as possible, with a huge helping of custom content. Now I feel like I would like the companions to have some depth, and an increasingly philisophical verbage to their banter.

I just wonder, how bad does shoe horning actually come off to the player? For me I've never noticed it when someone said they did in their campaign. But if I don't know how the project looked previous I don't know what polish might have been ruined. Assuming I don't do it stupidly though (like having silent companions for 2 chapters and all of the sudden a 16 hour running cut scene) is it likely it will be an overall enhancement?

Once again I long to go back in time and PLAN the campaign exhaustively, and even do all or reasonably close to all dialogue first. Then I would know when the story is complete, as I find I only stray because it seems things are missing. One can rip out an impressive amount of work if it's pre-planned so that you don't stop and think. Right now I just feel the need to outlet some thought-provoking concepts; illustrate a point of view on life after death in the realms (and life before, and again after, for some), a remark on mortality and aging. Too heavy maybe, but I think I can delivery it in a way where one can choose to stop and ponder or just reply with generic "you're crazy/you need some rest" remarks like a good little monkey and continue with the conflict.

Nov 9, 2009

Early troubles

Turns out my campaign was quite horribly corrupted. Im working around it, trying to finish it completely, despite a persistent journal bug. At first I was just going to cut it short, but as it showed signs of cooperating, I've actually gone ahead and added not only the content originally planned in the final 2 side quests, but some bonus cut sceneage to make it a lot more story-based. Not just throw-ins to give some personality to the NPCs but some thought out stuff, complete with epic symbolism and foreshadowing.

I have to say cut scenes were not an early interest of mine, but it's almost as addicting as custom particles. Gives me a good reason to make some as well to show all the spectacular dream-scapes and powers being used. Regular conversations I prefer to do in NWN1 exclusively, but when doing something cinematic or from a dream or vision, that's when I let cut scenes out of the box.

So I was on a good role, but school work has picked up and at the same time I am finding toolset work more tedious again. I will just plow to the finish with the release version coming no later than december. Whatever is there at that time will be the finished game.

Here's an example of such a scene, where I did my first real ventures into bloom use. Really makes the magical white balls blurry and dreamlike.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at

Click twice to see the full size images, rather than the 1/4 size one it links to. THANKS :)

I never even gave personalities to the companions until now. In the end my hope is the story, (though light on words when compared to works like Azzen's new "Live Forever" campaign), should be compelling and thought-provoking enough that the campaign would have seemed empty without it. I'm only one third done and it already feels that way to me.

Sep 27, 2009

TESTING TIME.... Alpha alpha alphaaaa

That's right it is time for Alpha testing, in the month of september as promised, I kept my dead line! This has to be a first for modders and commercial software makers, right?

Anyway I have no idea where I am going to put these honking files, please comment if you know a spot.



Sep 16, 2009

Well I have declared alpha testing this month, and basically set out to have one play through front to top to make sure everything worked from A to Z. Of course it didn't, but the good news is I have not only fixed bugs but while at it, made a lot of the non-working quests (which would have been left out of alpha for now) workable, so it will be a more complete alpha test in the end.

As always, I've found reasons and excuses to create more custom VFX. Here's a screen shot update of a quest that will now function in any release, alpha and beyond.

Well these guys don't belong here!
And you don't belong here!

Aug 27, 2009

So much to do with so little effort...

I am definitely going to release a VFX override after this campaign for general use. Just to override the boring same old every day spells. There is so much that can be done in little 10 minute efforts.

Picture the earthquake spell for examble (or any AOE knock down spell). You could have the bigbys fist graphic show up, do its open handed down ward slam animation. Except you could have two fists appear and slam the ground as the initiation of the earthquake.

I've already reenvisioned popular low level effects and here is some more visuals:

Mage Armor - The key here is to update the spell without making it look too fantastic and therefore more powerful than it is. I've opted for rotating columns to give the impression of magical defenses at work.

Fireball - Everyone knows magic fire is green. If you don't you need to watch more obscure 80's tv shows. Either way there are way too many stock orange fire explosion vfx in game. It needed a change.

Bull's Strength - pour that sugar on me mr giant fist!

As a more concrete statement on where Islander stands; I am in the final area (3 of 3) of the final dungeon of chapter 2. I have to put in some landscaping and some interactions and one big cutscene and well... it's done. Polish and two optional quests will be added later but it will be a stand alone, playable 2 chapter campaign at that point and the testing calls will begin.

Aug 26, 2009

Alpha close in sight...

(click image for high res - full size view)

Well it looks like I might actually have enough "game" to make a late alpha test of both chapters 1 and 2. Some optional content will be missing, but there should be more than enough to qualify as a functioning stand alone campaign.

I've been keeping with the spell effects touch ups as promised, and am still learning more things that can be done. Check out the new bull strength vfx! I'll half to flip the other fist over somehow, but I think you can get the idea.

Aug 20, 2009

More sizzle, less fizzle

It occurred to me that the whole of the game, both in original expansions and other provided modules, is relatively repetitive and with little variety. Talk, fight, buy stuff, fight, fight, talk.

And frankly that was perfect, if done just exactly right, like in Infinity engine games. However, despite the temptation to skip all scripting and lay down some mundane time absorbing dungeons to fill out my campaign, I have had good success with quick and easy scripting that didn't require outside help. And with it, a change from the standard options of "fight or die". Indeed, for some areas in the 2nd chapter, fighting is an option that cannot succeed (although still provided :) ).

Picture if you will, running your party across narrow planks as a plague of insects runs hot at your heels, and should they catch you, you will be covered in an instant and devoured. Too numerous to fireball into oblivion (and well, before you even have fireball powers), your other option is to jump into a whirlpool in a dark, seemingly shallow water pool, wi th the full weight of your armor pinning you for certain under the water...

If you can't picture it, it's here.
It doesn't do the area justice, but that just saves more for the game.

God willing this project will be ready for testing by September, since I certainly won't have time after.

Jul 31, 2009

Special Effects you won't see in your typical vault submissions

I've been doing a lot of scripted effects lately. You can really get bogged down though doing fairly unimpressive things that take a lot of work. Knowing this I've added a lot of "sizzle" scripts and spared the steak if it wasn't necessary.

Examples are an earth elemental who dies, but splits into two with a little flash vfx thrown in, and my latest: A stoney graveyard of petrification victims, complete with the ability to smash their statuey forms into rubble:

Rolling Stones!

simply click to see the three stages of the process.

Jul 15, 2009

The Setting

Far to the west of the southern sword coast, an archepalego that is completely unknown to the outside world thrives with a small population of mostly humans. Scarecely more than a generation ago, the their grand parents fled the continent of Faerun and escaped the cruelty of their lords and masters. They named their new home the Avorin Islands.

Led on an impossible year-long voyage by a man who came to be known as "The Founder", they gave up everything and took a single boat on a journey in so long that all food would spoil, and no one could possibly follow.

It is here the hero and his childhood friend were raised, well schooled and trained on the history of Faerun and other continents, but yet secluded in the peaceful community of the small islands.

Master Fane was less than a father but more than a mentor as he trained the hero of the story in a rounded curriculum, including combat, history, and law. The fate of the PC's parents is unknown, but what is known is that Fane was not born of the Avorin Islands, but rather settled here shortly after the hero's birth, as he sought "retirement" from his adventuring days.

Fane seems a tad young for retirement however, and as the hero reaches age, they start to find their surroundings a little snug for their liking. Soon after however, the Avorin Islands are revealed to be somewhat larger than at first thought... and somewhat more dangerous, as a new threat is about to unfurl...

The Resurrection

Few remain who would remember when I joined the community over a year ago and announced the development of a campaign named Islander. I have been purposely quiet about it since as it had more or less been worked on faithfully for about 3 months and then more or less ignored during a college school year.

At this point it continues, some re-working, re-learning and some actual progress. The main hurdle that kept it back so long was a lack of pre-planning. Now with a main plot path ironed out it moves rather quickly. So I will be adding information here to re-introduce the concept and help me keep on track.