4/30/11 -Saturday: EVERYTHING IS WORKING OUT SO FAR...
Well, what do you know? A Saturday where all things went according to plan. I created the brief cutscene very quickly, as I just needed to have 2 camera shots, with some minor animations. I then moved on to the staged conversation. Again, this was pretty easy, as I just had 5 actors, and 4 camera angles to get set up.
Now, finishing the writing of the the dialogue itself took a little longer, but relatively speaking, it wasn't that bad. It's the first conversation which involves the new party member, so it was nice to write different branches for them. One thing I didn't like (but totally understand!) is that you never really had many party member to party member discussions back and forth during certain conversations. Yes, I know about the ambient banter, but I mean during certain key conversations. All we would get is the camera facing on whatever party member was in the group, they would say their one liner, and it would move on to the next one, they say their one liner, etc. As I said, I know why they did this. It's just too damn hard to write that many unique pieces of dialogue with all the various party combinations. Well, not a problem here :)
Besides that, there wasn't really anything else to do. As I was still feeling sick, I decided to call it a night, knowing I had achieved my overall goal for the weekend. Tomorrow, I can focus on getting things ready for the BETA.
For today's song, I honestly don't even remember hearing it in the game, but that still hasn't stopped me from falling in love with it. Enjoy!
4/29/11 -Friday: COMBAT IS LOOKING GOOD...
So, now that everyone has their appropriate custom abilities, as well as their custom potions, I was really able to do some more combat testing. Nothing too crazy, just enough to make sure that things are balanced, for the most part. Well, I am happy to report that while the boss fight was difficult, it was definitely doable, assuming the player makes the most of their abilities. I only tested it on the Hard difficulty, which is more or less becoming the baseline for combat in general.
Now, because of a cold, I haven't really been able to do much of anything else, but now that I am feeling a little better, the next steps include:
Once those are done, I think it's time to cut another BETA. This really just amounts to playing through the game from start to finish, collecting bugs, fixing bugs, rinse, repeat. Some other important things I will be looking for are actual game flow/pacing, and # of fights the player is involved in. Don't want this to turn into a game where you're thinking, "Oh look, another fight. Yawn...". Finally, I'm really interested to see what level the player and party will be at the end of each sequence. This is important, as certain abilities are gained at certain levels (i.e. Last Resorts), and I want to make sure they are available at just around the right time.
Without a doubt, I will be able to finish these tasks this weekend. This is because in the coming weeks, life will be getting a hell of a lot more busier, so I need to knock out as much as I can now.
Today's music will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was the music playing when I was finally uploading Cry The Beloved to the NWVault. It was like 5:00am, I had been working all night doing a final play test, and in general, was just burnt out. Interestingly enough, community member and friend Alex "Hugie" Hugon was online, helping me with some upload issues, while lead artist Oli Ferrando was up as well, scolding me for not getting any sleep.
Anyway, the music itself just had a sort of "victory" feeling to it. Like, "You have finally finished your quest. Good job!" Heh, good times.
4/27/11 -Wednesday: A LITTLE SPRING CLEANING...
While the initial plan was to do the final combat testing, while I was in the midst of various scripts, I decided to do some spring cleaning, and get rid of a bunch of small issues that have been prevalent for months and months.
The big one was some issues with my death system. Long story short, when they were supposed to be ready for combat again, and re-join the party, party members were staying in their ghostly forms. Jason had actually wrote a bug about this like back in November or something, and while the fix I put in may not fix his particular issue, it goes a long way towards locking the entire system down.
Another thing I decided to do was make a core script for the party member, that if I had to say was the leader, it was them. For non-scripters, this just enables me to have them handle certain events (i.e. on-damage, heartbeat, on-death, on-level up) in a unique way. I had already done this for other party members, but had no need for it for this particular one, until today. Since this party member now has a fully functional Last Resortthat they receive at level 3, I had to make sure to catch the level up event, and add the ability accordingly.
I can't really talk in more detail about some other bug fixes due to spoilers, but let's just say I was pretty busy. So yeah, I keep finding excuses to not work on that damn cutscene/dialogue, but in the end, it's all gotta get done anyway. *shrug*
Today's music is the theme to General Mullen, from Grandia. Enjoy!
4/26/11 -Tuesday: DESIGNING A NEW CUSTOM ABILITY...
So today, I decided to stop just designing this new Last Resortin my head, and simply start to implement it. I was very much under the assumption that the idea would be thrown away once I saw how it worked in game, but that's the risk you have to take sometimes. By the end of the night, I would be satisfied enough to add it to the ever growing list of custom abilities.
Frequent readers already know I'm a man of quality over quantity. I make it very clear at least a few times a month. Custom abilities definitely falls under that umbrellla of thought. For me, I have to ask the following questions:
Is it unique enough? Is it too derivative of other abilities the owner possesses?
Is it overpowered? Underpowered?
Will the player even need to use this ability?
Will the player feel cool using this ability?
While these are the basic questions I always ask myself, other things come up as well. I think the main point is that this ability needs to stick out, not just be another throw away ability that the player doesn't even have to use in order to win battles with their enemies.
Look, I understand that if I was making a huge, non-linear game that allowed you to pick your race and class, that would be one thing. People want/need variety, so they can play how they want to play. But in the end, this Rose of Eternity team is small, and so, instead of trying to cater to everyone out there (which isn't really feasibly to begin with), I'm limiting my focus, and therefore, everything that I do put in the game has to have a point. This worked well with my NWN modules, so I don't plan on changing that model now.
Anwyay, after this new ability answered all of the aofrementioned questions and more, it was just down to one thing: implementation. Luckily for me, I've been doing this long enough that I was able to knock it out in about 4 hours, maybe a little less. Whereas this one particular party member was seeming to be the runt of the group, with this new ability, they are now just a tad better. I mean, they will always be underpowered in relation to other party members, for specific story reasons, just less so now.
Now with this ability out of the way, and the fixes to that other one, I can do some real testing of this boss fight, before moving on to those cutscenes/staged dialogues I've been yapping about for a week. In the end, all of the work has to get done, so the order isn't that important. Plus, sometimes it's good to take a break from one aspect of design, and moving to another. Meh, I guess everything works out in the end.
Today's piece, from Grandia is a piece I actually don't remember from the game itself, but when I was listening to the soundtrack, it caught my ear, and well, he we are :) Enjoy!
4/25/11 -Monday: FINALLY!
So, after hours upon hours of DEBUGGING, I finally fixed 98% of the issues with this custom ability. I can't go into the details oh how I fixed it, as it would spoil it, but suffice to say, all my years as a software engineer definitely came handy during this arduous task. In the end though, this just comes with the territory, especially when you're creating custom abilities that do all sorts of things that perhaps the engine wasn't made for. Luckily for me, the engine has been so flexible that I have been able to really implement whatever crazy thing comes to my head. While in a perfect world, I would have created this damn staged conversation and cutscene by now, it's nice to finally be able to put this ability to bed. One less thing to worry about.
In terms of this Last Resort for this particular party member, I'm more or less done designing it in my head, so next time I'm on the train, I'll start the implementation. It should be straightforward, but then again, so should have this other ability :)
At home, I will definitely finish up the aforemention dialogue scenes, which culminates in the boss fight, where things should be slightly more even, with the inclusion of these 2 new custom abilities. Once that is done, I'm going to make a new ALPHA. For one, I'ts been way too long since I've been through the game, and I need to really see if everything is flowing from sequence to sequence properly, and that the pacing is just perfect.
This week, I will be presenting music from one of my favorite RPG's of all time: Grandia. The story itself was pretty forgettable, and the only thing I really have fond memories of is the combat system, and the music. The combat system is still in my mind, one of the best ones around, it's just a damn shame it has to be wrapped within a nonsensical story/world. Oh well, there's still the music. Enjoy!
4/24/11 -Sunday: QUIET DAY...
Being Easter Sunday and all, I didn't get that much work done today, as I mostly spent it with my wife's family. Now usually, I get a tad irritated that I didn't get much work done, but as I've been pretty consistent this past week, I was a little easy on myself :)
Actually, it was a perfect storm of reasons why I didn't get much done. I Woke up early for church, went to the gym, went to wife's paren't house, came home and watched 2 episodes of Deadwood (finally getting around to watching this fantastic series), and finally, watched the pilot episode of Game of Thrones "again" before watching episode 2, which premeired tonight. So yeah, I was definitely busy.
When I finally settled down to do something, I figured I would take a look at that issue with my custom sustained ability being deactivated. The plan was to do some final research before creating a thead about it. Well, as I did my research, I pretty much found the issue, and think I have a solution.
Essentially, the way the ability works (I'll go into greater detail at another time), when you activate it, you get some attribute bonus. Every so often (i.e. 9 seconds), that bonus increases. Now, the way I was handling the extra bonuses was by apply another effect on the target, using a method called ApplyUpkeepEffect. As an aside, just because that is how it usually is in the software business, sustained abilities have 3 different aliases in various scripts, which are:
Anyway, I was essentially creating the same upkeep effect over and over again, and that seems to have FUBAR'd something. When I only had it applied once, when I was hit, the effect remained, as it should have. So, the solution I have in my head is to apply those secondary effects as just standard effects, and see if that fixes it. Here's hoping.
Alas, we come to the end of another week of music. To send things off properly, there is only one piece of music that totally embodies everything about Final Fantasy 7, and it's long lasting appeal. Enjoy!
4/23/11 -Saturday: MINOR ANNOYANCES...
Besides some minor annoyances towards the end of my development day, things went pretty good. As I had planned to do yesterday, I spent some time creating some custom potions, essentially ported over from my NWN games. The work consisted of editing some 2DA's, integrating some custom icons, actual creation of the items in the toolset, and some minor scripting. It was a long time coming, and I was glad to finally get it out of the way.
The one thing I wanted to keep in the back of my mind was that even though they existed, they shouldn't just be dumped everywhere. Keeping in line with my less is more/quality over quantity way of thinking, you should be happy when you come across one of these potions, and not think, "Oh look, another potion for me to sell... Sigh...".
On the custom abilities front, I'm still going through the song and dance of coming up with the specifics of this new Last Resort for a party member. I do have a semi-candidate, so I may just go ahead and script it and see if I like how it plays out. Sometimes for me, seeing is better than just imagining.
Then there is the issue of Bonds of Battle.I also need to come up with a tier 1 ability as well. This one isn't as difficult to brainstorm as the former, and I actually have a pretty good idea of what I want. In terms of how it will be displayed to the player, I will have the actual icons for the abilities along with the other abilities, just grayed out. Then, once you reach that Bonds of Battle point threshold, then it will be activated. Unfortunately, there is no elegant way of displaying how many points you have, so unfortunately, it's still something that will have to be reported from simply talking to a party memeber. Sorry guys! Now on to the annoyances...
...First up is some pathfinding issues I think I talked about a few days, maybe a week ago. Essentially, I have these tower structures with these small doors. Now when I run through them, sometimes the party members behind me simply stop at them. At others, they actually run through. I admit I hadn't done that much research on it, but from a quick glance, I'm not sure why it works for some, and not for others.
Then there is this persistant issue I definitley brought up a few months ago. Whenever a certain number of custom potions are drank, the game crashes... Consistently. The interesting thing is, even with the stock health poultices, the same thing happens. This will definitely have to be addressed post haste!
Finally, there is an issue (again, I may have mentioned it before) where this custom sustained ability is being deactivated when the target is hit with magic. That's all fair and well, what I'm looking for is a way to intercept that event, and do my thing. Alas, I have not been able to find out where this occurs. More than likely, I'll be getting around to making a forum post about this tomorrow.
Today's music from Final Fantasy 7 is the world map theme. Enjoy!
4/22/11 -Friday: SOMETHING'S BROKEN...
So today was more of the same with regards to combat testing. In particular, I worked with the boss battle, and the battle that precedes it. While testing however, I started to realized that a particulat core ability I created a while back just wasn't working properly. It just seemed broken.... Opening up the script, I realized that I myself broke it a few days ago. This is quite embarrasing, because it's something I should have noticed earlier, and would have helped make some of these battles a little easier.
As I continued to do my testing, I started finding all sorts of things that needed to be done. One for instance was the stats on the armor set of a particular party member. When I initially created it months ago, I didn't mess with the materials. It was all cosmetic back then, and I kept telling myself I would come fiddle with the stats later. Well, that time was today, and that will definitely give that particular character a boost.
Some other things included custom potions from my earlier games, that I haven't ported over yet. One in particular would definitely help in some battles, and it will also give me the ability to add even more hidden loot around for those that take the time to explore things. The best part is, the actual implementation of the potion wouldn't take long at all. If anything, just finding a suitable icon until I can reach out to Archon for a custom one is my biggest concern.
After I do some more things, I will call it quits on balance testing for the moment, so I can focus on this upcoming cutscene and staged dialogue. Plus, so many things will most likely change at some point that it's not worth it totally balancing things, just to have to go back and do it again.
Today's music is the theme for a well known party member that keeps popping up in every Final Fantasy: Cid! Enjoy!
4/21/11 -Thursday: CORE LEVEL DESIGN DONE!
So, the core level design has been wrapped up. As always, I'll go through and all props and such later, but the corfe stuff is done. This is important, because it allows me to do important things like cutscenes and staged conversations.
You know, the more and more I build levels, I'm really starting to appreciate it. I know there is a ton of more things I can learn, but coming as far as I have, I'm quite proud of myself. So yeah, it takes damn long to create a level: the key for me is the flexibility of really being able to create something as unique as you want. If you think my initial ideas for this game have changed when creating levels, you should have seen what happened with my NWN games. There were only so many different tilesets to play around with, so I was constrained even further. Sure, I could knock out areas in a day or 2, but they were always vastly different than what I wanted. All of that said, for my next game, I think I have learned enough about the process to bring a level designer on board. As I said months ago, besides some key things, such as 2d/3d art, if I can do it myself, I want to learn, before getting someone else to help me. With this being a non-paid, come as you want to (let's be serious, real life happens sometimes) arrangement, I would always want to be able to pick up the pieces if need be.
Anyway, tomorrow's plan is to continue with some combat testing. I've identified a few ways to more balance a few core abilities, and of course, I need to actually design/implement a new Last Resort. Somewhere in between of all of that, I really need to get this stage convo (and possibly a short cutscene) done as well. Thank god the weekend is upon us!
Here's your daily music, still from Final Fantasy 7. Enjoy!
4/20/11 -Wednesday: 12 YEAR ANNIVERSARY FOR ROSE OF ETERNITY!
Yep, 12 years ago, it all began. Back in 1999, my best friend and I began to just come up with ideas for a fantasy game, and things just took off from there. Hell, I still have the notes to prove it! Back then, there were very vague descriptions, like "magic user" living in a clearing (who would turn into Challseus), blue hooded woman (would would turn into Clopon), etc. I know it sounds like the worst cliche ever, but I never imagined how far things would come, or rather, change. It's been a wild ride, one that I don't plan on stopping any time soon. One way or another, Rose of Eternity will always be a part of my life. The tattoo I plan on getting this summer will cement that fact...
So, today was all about combat design and testing. Man, what a day! Where to begin... So, I created some named versions of some of the new custom enemies I created a few weeks ago. Just gives things that extra touch if you're fighting against a "real" person with a little personality, not just some clone. Anyway, to further differentiate them the others, I decided to give them some Last Resorts. At this point, I'm just so damn used to creating custom AI packages, I could most likely do it in my sleep. Still annoying monkey work, however.
So, here's the setup: I have 3 party members, and it's just the 2 enemies. One is a magic user, the other, a warrior, and they both have boss status (meaning their name is in orange, etc etc.). Now, I'm going ahead with the test, just destroying them time and time again. I'm basically thinking, "Damn, this is mad easy. Maybe I need to mess with their attributes or something". Then, just to be sure, I checked the difficulty settings, and realized I had it on easy from the last time I was doing some testing. Doh!
Once I put it on hard, well... I don't know... I continually got my ass handed to me. Which is a good thing! For those people who played The Coming, it was really representative of the first boss fight that included Aramus, Challseus, Clopon, against Oracine and 3 other Ministry of Justice soldiers. You essentially had to use every custom ability, every tactic you had learned up to that point in order to prevail. It's the type of battle that give you that sense of accomplish it (at least, I hope!).
Anyway, there is one thing that I need to do to slightly tip the scales in the favor of the player. One particular party member needs a Last Resort! Keeping in line with my previous games, you will receive one at level 3, and another at level 7. Well, 2 out of the 3 have one, and for some reason, I just didn't give one to that last person. The only issue is, I'm currently going through designer's block. Like, I could just give an existing one to them, but I want to make it more unique. As I'm always harping on, I'm always looking for ways to make party members as distinctive as possible.
So, I spent probably a good 2 hours just listening to music that represents that character, coming up with various ideas. I haven't totally locked it down yet, all I know is that I want it to stay in line with the same theme as their other core abilities. Hopefully, it comes to me soon... In the interim, I will continue with plot related scripting and such in the area.
Today's music is another classic from Final Fanatsy 7. Enjoy!
4/19/11 -Tuesday: LEVEL ALMOST DONE!
So, the principal work on this current level is coming to a close. At this point, it may be the biggest deviation from what I initially conceptualized way back when (which is okay!). While I usually like to save the adding of most props and such for a later time, I've still done some of that work upfront, if not for anything else, so the level looks halfway decent while running around in it. Other times, I really need to see some key pieces of it before moving forward with changes in layout and such.
At this point, the biggest thing that is left is to handle the remaining combat sequences. Each subsequent one slightly cranks up the difficulty, as well as introducing new custom creatures. While the last one won't neccessarily be a boss fight, it will be damn close. I've already totally completed 2, and have the enemy loadout for the 3rd. For the 3rd, I just have some enemy placement issues to workout, to overcome the standard AI of the game. With the 4th and final one, I'll need some pre-combat dialogue, which will of course include a stage, and perhaps a little cutscene. The plan is to create the fight itself first, and balance it a bit, then go back and do the aforementioned convo.
So yeah, that's the plan for tomorrow :) So um... Till tomorrow!
Today's music from Final Fantasy 7 is Tifa's Theme. Enjoy!
4/18/11 -Monday: SAVING THE PLAYER FROM THEMSELVES...
Many of the things I've been doing is trying to save the player from themselves. More specifically, I'm trying to logically place encounters in a way so that the player has to finish one before moving on to the next. Normally, I wouldn't give a damn, and I would let the player run around and do whatever the want. If they want to run from one encounter (with the enemy in tow) and run into another encounter, so be it.
However, if one of those encounters involves a pre-battle conversation, then you have to be smart about things. To be fair, I'm not even sure what happens if there are hostile enemies around you when someone initiates dialogue with you, but I imagine they just freeze, and then resume their fighting when said dialogue is over. That's a little weird to me. So, while it's not that big of a deal, I still had to put in some effort in order to make sure this doesn't happen.
Another thing I did was some research into how sustained abilities work, and how they can deactivated when attacked. Essentially, I create a custom core ability that is a sustained one. All works fine, but when the party member is attacked, it is deactivated. I began looking in rules_core.nss in order to see how the game handles spell interruption, but may case didn't fall under that situation. I did find a nice little gem, where this speed attribute of an ability in the ability 2DA determines if a spell can be interrupted or not. Essentially, if the value is greater than 0, then it can. Something to remember... Anyway, I was not able to figure out what is going on with my situation, so I think tomorrow on the train, I'll put in some DEBUG lines in various places, to see who/what is causing the deactivation. Luckily, in the code that handles the deactivation, I have access to the event that initiated it, so I should be able to get all the info I need from it.
Besides all of the above, level design continues. As I stated yesterday, I know what I need to do, it's just actually doing it. I'm thinking the level I created is too big, but since it sort of takes place on a penisula, I can just bring the water in a bit, so there isn't all of this empty land with nothing in it.
All in all, I'm feeling very good about the state of things.
Ahem... Little Game of Thrones rant here. Look, I know I read the books, and therefore know how complicated things get, but some of the freaking reviews are pissing me off. If you don't like it, that's fine. But when get a hold of one thing, and then base their entire review around it, it really makes me question how they got their job.
That one thing in question is the sexuality of the show. If I recall, there are the following scenes in the opening episode:
Tyrion Lannister in the whore house with the 4 topless women.
Dynaeres' (I know I'm spelling this wrong) brother taking her dress off, confirming she has a women's body, and is ready for marriage.
Dynaeres' wedding night when Khal Drogo takes her shirt off before they consumate their marriage.
Jamie & Cersei Lannister having sex in an abandoned tower in the Winterfell Castle. I mean, it's only like half the book's story is based off of this relationship (including Bran Starks injury when pushed out the window).
Okay, so 4 instances of this, and all of a sudden, that is all the show is about. Forget Eddard fighting his inner emotions about going to Kings Landing to become the King's hand. Forget Jon Snow, and the way he is shunned from most family related things, because he is a bastard. Forget the white walkers. Forget that maybe there is a reason that Tyrion surrounds himself with whores.... Forget about all the other things that will happen during the season.
Let's just label this show a sex show, and call it that.
Today's piece is of the most recognizable pieces from the entire franchise: Aeris' Theme. Enjoy!
4/17/11 -Sunday: FINALLY, FANTASY DONE RIGHT (ON TV)....
After I watched the Game of Thrones premeire episode tonight, I could finally say to myself, "Finally, fantasy done right (on tv)". When I first heard that they were putting together a show for the Song of Ice and Fire series, and that it would be on HBO, that was all I needed to hear. Don't get me wrong, I would have watched it if they put it on the CW, as I did with Wizard's First Rile, ahem, I'm sorry, I mean Legend of the Seeker :) But, there's a certain quality that you know you'll get with HBO, and after tonight, I'm glad they went in that direction.
For me, this has been something I've been eagerly anticipating for a long time, and I was not dissappointed in the slighest. As each minute passed, I died a little inside, knowing the show was that much closer to being over :( Anyway, if you want a review, google it, because I'm just really lazy at the moment. Suffice to say, it's going to be a long week until the next episode...
So, I'm on a little bit of a roll at the moment, that I'm just going to ride out until it's over. For me, there's nothing better than knowing exactly what I have to do, and just implementing it. No niggling questions of how something should work, how it should look, etc. That's where I am right now. Things are crystal clear, and so I'm just going about my business, doing as much as I can.
As usual, I left all the level design related things for today. For me, it's weird. Even when prototyping, things have to look semi-good. I have a good imagination, but when it comes to seeing something in game, it has to look decent, or I just don't feel good about the process of the design. It's a fine line. Don't do too much, but still do just enough.
Anyway, there's a common theme in this level, with regards to certain structures, so once I built the first one out of various smaller structures, I was able to just copy and paste them where I needed, light sources and all.
After that, I messed around with various enemy set ups, trying to strike that right balance. As you have just gained a new party member with a new custom core ability, I again need to slowly ramp things up, so the player gets a chance to become accustomed to how things will be playing out. At the same time, the difficulty still need to be higher than other parts of the game. As always, it's that damn fine line!
Tomorrow on the train, I'll handle some scripting related things. I think I have a solution to a problem, and hopefully, my first try works. We'll see...
Today's song is the battle theme of Final Fantasy 7. When I think about it, this is most likely the best battle theme in the entire series, with Final Fantasy 6 & Final Fantasy 9 close behind.
4/16/11 -Saturday: LEVEL DESIGN IS COMING ALONG...
Must not make comment on where the hell I've been...
Ahem... So, level design has been very tricky for me with this game. And, I'm not talking about the actual implementation (though that is very tough as well). It's more of an issue where I have this abstract idea in my head, and it's the transition from the abstract to concrete that gets me time and time again. When I finally do settle on what I want, I'm always very happy with it, but getting there is something that I just can't rush, unfortunately.
So, I just started building a prototype of what I thought I wanted a few days ago. Over the next few days, I added/removed many things, set up various combat encounters, until I was able to have a final idea of what I wanted. True to form, it's different than what I had in my head, but I'm used to that. In terms of why things change, it usually comes down to a few things:
Actual effort on my part
Effects on gameplay
With the "effort" bullet point, well, that should be self explanatory. While I am not a fan of taking the easy way out of things (if that was the case, I would have been done with this game months ago), at some point, you need to weight the amount of time it will take to do something, versus the end result.
With "feasibility", again, this is pretty straightforward. Some things I imagine just can't be done with this current game engine. Sucks, but that's how it goes sometimes.
The last bit, "effects on gameplay", come down to a main question: How does this idea effect the gameplay? Does it hinder it? Does it make it repetitive? Things like that.
I won't go into all the details of why certain things have changed, but suffice to say, it was a little bit of all of those above bullet points. However, the good thing is that what I have come up with is very good in my eyes, and works almost as well as what I had originally envisioned.
Tomorrow, I will continue to add in various components to this level, and hope to essentially have the core of it done tomorrow. Then on the train, I can handle all of the plot related scripting and such.
This week, I'm going to be playing some music from Final Fantasy 7. This first piece is the opening bombing theme, where the party infiltrates one of Shinra's mako reactors in order to blow it up.
4/4/11 -Monday: NOT THE TIME TO PANIC...
So, I didn't get as much done as I wanted to, for a few reasons. First up is some financial data entry crap I need to do (and should have done months ago). Essentially, because I'm anal like that, I track all monet that flows into and out of my account, down to the transaction, using Microsoft Money. This allows me to analyze certain trends, determine where I'm wasting money (you would be surprised on how much I spend on food in the city a month!), etc. Well, for whatever reason, I stopped doing it last June. So, I downloaded PDF's of all my statements, and I'm going through the extremely boring process of entering in all that info. Since it was the first year of my marriage, I really need to see what we were doing with our money. On the plus side (or negative, depending on how you look at it), our account balance has stayed the same for the past year. That's with buying all sorts of new things for our new apartment and such. So, this is more of a "I just want to know" type of thing, not like we're about to be kicked out or something.
Anyway, I decided to devote my time on the train to that. When I got home, I was to start prototyping this new level. However, there is a firedrill at work, and the person who would normally handle it is on vacation in Brazil, so it falls to me. I think the hardest part is trying to digest all this information about a part of the system I'm not familiar with, and in a timely fashion. Because of how I am, I continued work on it when I got home, so that bit into my development time.
When I did get to development, it was pretty straightforward. I created a standard 64x64 exterior level, then began to create the atmosphere settings for it, which mirror some of the other ones I've been using. I may mess with the sky a bit to make things look different, but everything else will stay the same. I need to keep the same look and feel of all these connected areas, while still keeping things fresh. Because, no one wants to feel like they're running through the same area multiple times (I'm looking at you, Dragon Age 2).
After setting all of that up, I added the entire party to the area, as well as a bunch of the new enemies I've created. I wanted to try out various combinations of enemies, to get things just right for the encounters that will occur here. I'm looking for at least 3-4, semi-important ones. This means each one will have at least one lieutenanrt, who will hopefully have some custom abilities, at least a Last Resort. Which of course means more custom AI packages... Man, someone *cough* Sunjammer *cough* needs to write some UI layer that sits on top of everything I'm doing manually :)
So, while testing combat, I did notice that one particular core ability was grossly overpowered, so I cut down it's potency by 75%. Gotta walk that fine line of giving someone an ability that feels good to use, but it's overpowered.
Tomorrow, I plan to sift through various models, so I can start to piece together different set piece structures. I have an idea of what structure set I will be using, but I'll still go through them nonetheless. If I'm lucky, I'll get through that, and the only thing left in the prototyping is some terrain work. From there, I'll have an idea of how big the level will need to be, and then start it in earnest.
Seeing as how I've been working on this game for over a year, this is usually where panic starts to set in for me. The usual questions of "Are people going to like this game" and "Will there actually be anyone available to play this game" run through my head ever so often. Nothing will ever beat the last 2-3 months of development of Cry The Beloved, where I almost had a nervous breakdown! But, the tendency at moment like this is to just knock things out and get it out the door. But, I will remain steadfast, and keep implementing things as I always envisioned them, even if it takes a little longer than anticipated.
Finally, a nice little fun fact. The Coming was started in April 2004, and was released in July 2005 (15 months). The game was on average, 4 hours long. Cry The Beloved was started in July 2005 and was released in October 2006 (again, 15 months). That game was on average, 12 hours long. This current game was started in January 2010, but I've definitely lost close to 2 months of development time due to getting married, Dragon Age 2, and those notorious crash issues last fall. So, let's say March 2010. If the trend continues, this game should be released in June 2011. Just saying...
I'll finish off Final Fantasy VI week (more like month!) with this final piece, a piece I used in the opening cutscene for Cry The Beloved. Enjoy!
4/2/11 -Saturday: MAN, TIME FLIES...
So today, I spent time my time doing all sort of configuration changes to apply 2 custom enemies to make use of a Unison Ability.As I alluded to yesterday, I was hoping there was an existing AI condition that I could use, and I in fact found one. Because of the nature of the ability, it involves a mage casting it on a n ally that is a warrior. Luckily, that exact combination already exists, so once I setup the custom AI package, it just worked as expected. Things were looking good...
...Then I thought about what would happen if I wanted to have 2 mages, and 2 warriors. Let's say mage A uses it on warrior A. Next, mage B tries to use it on warrior A. Well, the way I implemented it, if the warrior already has the ability enabled, nothing will happen. The problem is that it was essentially a waste of time for the mage to attempt to use the ability. Even worse, they could get stuck in this loop where they keep trying to do it over and over again. What I really need is a 3rd variable in the condition: Ally, warrior, and doesn't have the ability enabled. Unfortunately, unless I'm missing something, you can't do AND/OR conditions. Now, I know there was a community member a year ago named Anakin that did some work with AI conditions, so I may check out his work. Or, I could just try to create my own custom AI condition. Whatever I do, it won't be until some time in the week on the train, sicne it's just going to involve some scripting, possibly 2DA work. Since this is my last 2 days of freedom, I would rather spend it start to prototyping this next level.
That's the plan anyway...
STATE OF THE UNION
Well, the previous month was a little weird... I essentially took 2 weeks off while playing Dragon Age 2. Maybe subconsciously, I just needed a break, because I can tell you, that game was not worth not doing any work for 2 weeks! :)
At this point, from a critical path standpoint, I'm almost done with the game. I need to design 2-3 more levels, some more combat sequences, and some cutscenes. Of course, when that's done, there will be the arduous task of getting VO in, as well as corresponding animations in the conversations. But as I've been saying over and over again, I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
Finally, some interesting news has come my way in the past few days. I'm not at liberty to say, but it has the potential to be something really big in my life. At the same time, I won't let it slow down the production of this game. In fact, it has given me the energy to work even harder.
I won't even lie. I am anticipating the next few months to be very busy indeed, just like the summer/fall of 2007. And it begins...
For today's Final Fantasy 6 music, I give to you, the ending theme. This essentially mixes in the themes to all the various party members of the game, on the backdrop of them attemtping to flee a crumbling dungeon. Enjoy!
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