Jul 30, 2013

Lessons from Islander

To this end I think Islander was a hybrid test/playable work.

It was my first campaign and it was intended to break the ice. Now when something goes on as long as it did (I still cringe thinking about the years filled with 10 month development voids throughout), it certainly qualifies as a finished work and then some. So again I say, it was a hybrid.

I knew I had to make something to test the toolset, as I did not want to do work for the sake of learning and destroy it after.

I also knew I would not put up anything that didn't make the player want to play. The term "sample adventure" comes to mind, and those completely turn me off.

So what I ended up with was Islander. It's actually very long, fairly depthy in parts and I went the extra mile in some areas such as voice acting, original music and art from community members who helped me. I also managed a few "escapes from the norm" to break up the monotony that can build in a stereotypical D&D game. Some inventive quests, the odd pull to another plane, a rogue only mission that was unusually generous in loot. In my opinion, there are parts (such as the flashbacks) where it is polished and cinematic enough to rival any commercial game. There are also parts where I found the fun/creativity level very high.

...however there were a lot of shall we say "holes" along the way. The campaign never was fully stable because of corrupted data that caused me to question completing it. This resulted in a lot of hit or miss areas for the public unfortunately. It was still largely a "test" adventure in parts. I will remedy this in my next campaign, Karmic Troupers, currently in progress.

I also noticed, that a lot of peoples comments both positive and negative actually coincided with my own thoughts. Which is good because as an author you always assume yourself immune to perceiving your own deficiencies. I don't need to post about the positive remarks, I just need to keep those features strong going forward. These are all things I noticed and were also pointed out by players as flaws:

  • Inconsistentcy... companions are lively then go silent then talk too much at the end.
  • Plot pacing: same as above. Too long of a silent portion followed by a information dump later
  • Creative quests/puzzles were fun but too sporadic. Essentially, do more
 I would agree with all this. I authored my campaign fully aware that I was putting less effort in some areas and I was actively curious if it would even matter or be noticed. Now I am aware.

Creative writing on it's own I would enjoy, and I think be at least above average in my ability to do so. But within the toolset it seems like a time waste, I despise doing it, I tend to dump information and then change a word here and there to create a personality. And I find my characters all sound the same because I spend as little time thinking about it as possible.  Using a smaller cast and going "back" after the game is complete to establish personalities behind the "shell" conversations is how I plan to handle this going forward. I will also work on adding foreshadowing after the fact as well, once I know the plot fully.

Creative quests... say no more. I am going to spend a lot more time in this area. I didn't do many in Islander as I wanted to keep the infinity engine theme (largely combat based) going. But I found it is far too easy to do much more with the nwn2 toolset. And people liked what little I did. It's also something I will enjoy if it ends up being a really fun break from combat. It's also a theme that is largely missing from the original game and the vault... the menacing room of traps, where no monster looms but it's just as deadly none-the-less.

A personal observation is just the general polish of Islander. I left too many "meh who cares" spots where I could have went the extra yard to clean it up. Design, writing, scripting, many spots really. I blame this partly on a lack of interest as the project lagged on, but also on the repeated fixing of the same bugs over and over that no one in the community seemed to understand ( due to corruption again). I think having a cleaner shorter campaign will be a lot easier to work on. I'm keeping a tidy "workspace" this go around.

Planning: I've always harped on this but never got to do it by the time Islander was done. I know how many maps and the layout of each of them already, for Karmic Troupers. It's helped a lot. And on a personal note knowing you are xx% done your campaign is a lot easier to stomach than "when will this end??".

I have to learn to enjoy authoring as I seem to want to do it in my head, but the toolset gets in the way often.

Here's promising the players of Karmic Troupers a polished work worthy of their time. Next update will be specific on Karmic Troupers.

1 comment:

  1. Hi E.E.

    Interesting post ... One point that stood out to me was the interest in the "creative quest/puzzles". I agree that many adventures I have tried to play rely too heavily on a standard format, mostly involving combat. Not that their is too much wrong with that, except it can be a little dull if your an old timer who has played more than their fair share of RPGs.

    And for those with a PnP (Pen and Paper) background, D&D was as much about overcoming difficult situations through thought and roleplay as combat ... which I am sure you are aware. The problem is, incorporating such ideas into the game without it affecting the pace and playability.

    It's good to hear you are focussing on this as one of your points moving forward, and encourages me to keep applying myself in this direction too.