So, I didn't do any actual development today, ratherr, I did a lot of brainstorming. It all started when I made a post on the dev forums detailing the events of the next act of the game. In it, I was discussing a certain structure that the player will encounter, and Jason responded with a bunch of questions, like where it is in the country (we have a map made a few years ago), it's relation to some other places in Cry The Beloved, and other general questions. Damn him and his logic, and his logistical questions! :)
So, I literally put on some music that plays in the area, and stared at the map for a long time... And I mean, a LONG time. There were a bunch of factors involved in answering his questions, which is why it wasn't as easy as just saying, "X structure is here". The main thing was making sure that my decision was somewhat consistent with the existing lore, and all from the previous games. Anyway, after giving it some though, I came up with a pretty good solution. I've made a reply on the forums, so we'll see what he thinks.
The other thing I did a lot of thinking about was the upcoming sequence I need to implement. With regards to the music, I literally had 3 pieces picked out, and just couldn't come to a decision until very late in the night. It's just a forest area, and while I really wanted to use one particular piece, in the end, it just didn't fit. It had too much of a magical feeling to it, when these particular woods are nothing of the sort.
I also pretty much knew what the actual level itself would look like, and while I didn't initially have plans for it, a little short intro cutscene may be in the works. So, I sort of mentially scoped that out, to go along with the music.
My next step is to just start making the damn area, starting with a prototype, so I can mess around with some atmosphere settings, and see how big of an area I really need. As for level design in general, the plan months and months ago was to have brought on another level designer, but honestly, I want to do it myself. I still have plans to bring someone on at some point to help with props and whatnot, but as for overall design, I think I'm good enough to do that for the moment. Plus, it's just more efficient in the long run for me to do it.
So, this daily journal is very much supposed to be a small glimpse inside the life of a modder, and all the ups and downs they go through. That said, I didn't want to make all the posts drone on day in and day out about my crashing issues. So, while I've made all sorts of progress, I have still been dealing with the crashes, albeit in a more productive way. Whereas if I found a crash, I would spend the rest of the night tracking it down, going crazy, trying to figure out what was wrong. Not anymore. If I come across one, I do some minor work trying to see what is causing it to happen (i.e. the potion bug I talked about earlier in the week), try to make sure my test cases can skip over said causes, and keep on with the building.
Well, it was a while ago, and I'm not sure if I even talked about it, but when my friend came over, we discovered that the crashes I experienced had to do with sound effects, or music, or something sound related. When we disabled all sound, the game did not crash. In fact, the last playthrough I did before cutting ALPHA VERSION 1.1 was done with the sound disabled. As hard as that was for me, it was more important to get the alpha out. I knew the core issue was the sound, and it was something I would just come back to when I had the time. Well, tonight was the night...
Since I knew my laptop build was stable, except for the sound issue of course, I re-built everything on my desktop, and went through the following steps:
Reproduced the issue
Diabled sound, and made sure crash went away
Took a look at the existing sound effects in the area, and removed my custom ones that I'm using for music. Crash went away. DING DING DING!
So, I was already expecting it had to do with my custom sounds, I just had to prove it. Once that was out of the way, I decided to look at how I was creating and exporting my sounds in FMOD, compared to how Bioware did it. So, I downloaded their FMOD projects from BSN, and got down to work, doing a little comparison.
Now, I knew something was up with the way I was exporting them. All the audio files I had were barely taking up 100 MB, but the exported FMOD project ended taking up 600 MB! This was known the day I cut my first alpha, and realized I had to upload this half a gig file to my drop box folder so it could be shared with others.
After a little comparison, I saw 2 things that stuck out:
The output format of my files was PCM, while Bioware's was ADPCM
My particular set of sounds wee being uncompressed into memory, while Bioware's were just being loaded into memory. That would account for the huge size.
Once I change my settings to what they had, and rebuilt the project, the size came down to a little over 100MB. Woo hoo! Next thing was to test the problem areas, with sound enabled. Success! I just had one more thing, which I didn't really want to do, but knew I just had to knock it out... Go through the entire game again, this time, with sound enabled. Well, let me tell you this: This was the first time I've gone through the game without a single crash since like... late summer?
Now, could this have been the culprit all along? Could it have been one of the factors? Remember, I was also dealing with crashes due to what I think was an issue with stuffing 10+ areas into a single area list (who would have thought!). Also, how come I didn't have this issue before? Perhaps as I kept adding more and more custom music, the size of the uncompressed files was getting to be too big for the game. I mean, the settings/formats in FMOD aren't necessarily supposed to be totally compatible with DAO, as it wasn't made just for DAO.
Whatever the end result, I'm not going to do any touchdown celebrations just yet. I've learned my lesson with that. But, at the very least, the overall size of the module has gone down considerably :)
This is the theme to one of my favorite characters of all time: Rydia from final Fantasy IV. You initially meet her when she was just a child. You had just slayed a dragon, but it turns out that the dragon was summoned by her Mother, and thus when the dragon was killed, so was her Mother. Not exactly the best way to meet someone!
Later in the game, while sailing, you're attacked by Leviathan, and she is thrown overboard, presumed dead. Later, while in the underworld, you encounter her again, but she is grown. Turns out, when she was knocked overboard, she ended up in the land of the summons, where time moves faster.
Needless to say, the transformation from a young girl, who barely knew magic, to a full fledged summoner was a great story arc, as welll as some good game design on their part. Below is a cutscene showing when you first encounter her, and then of course, her theme. To setup the cutscene, Cecil and Kain have been asked to deliver a package to the Town of Mist by the King of Baron.
12/28/10 - Tuesday: A NIGHT IMPLEMENTING A LAST RESORT...
Today on the train into work, on the train ride home from work, and at home, I did one thing: Implemented a Last Resort for a particular enemy. Now, this is an existing LR I had in The Coming & Cry The Beloved, and likewise, the enemy is the same. I sort of lucked out with the existing creature models and found one that fit, more or less.
Now, I did struggle with the idea of bringing back an existing enemy/ability. On the one hand, I always want to be innovating, doing new things. And, the beginning of the game is definitely a testament to that. At the same time, I would like for there to be some continuity betweem the games. Think of the Legend of Zelda series. As far as I'm aware, there have always been Stalfos Knights. Or, look at Dragon Quest. It wouldn't be the same game without those blue slimes. On the other hand, I'm still not convinced that the majority of people who will play this game will have played the NWN games, so it will be all new for them anyway. In the end, I just need to strike the right balance of old and new.
So anyway, as I was saying, I spent my entire time developing this one ability. Now, it should have been easier, since I've done it before. It really just came down to how abilities in general are used in Dragon Age. I don't want to give too much away, but it involves the firing of a projectile, and so I had to make sure to embed a custom event in the projectile so when it hit the target, I could run more functionality from there. I had done work with projectiles before, but I sort of hacked it up to get it working, whereas this time, I used the same standard as what Bioware does. My thinking is, if anyone decides to sift through my scripts, if they are already familiar with how Bioware does things, my stuff should be easy to follow.
The next part had to do with the enemy actually using it in combat. I had already setup a custom AI package for them, but they just wouldn't use it how I wanted them to use it. In The Coming & Cry The Beloved, most enemies fired off LR's when their health dropped below 25%. Some enemies were special, and had one that fired under 50%, then another under 25%. Anyway, there are existing conditional ids that are associated with a specific % of hp. After going a little crazy, I found out that I was using the wrong one. I was using the one that checks for the most hated target's HP's, not the actual HP of the enemy itself. That would explain why it was firing off erratically.
Once I had it working consistently, I ran a bunch of tests, which as usual, was good fun. I essentially had to play around with how much damage this particular LR does, so that it is a near death experience, but not cheap if you are using the right tactics. Plus, since I don't use the standard level scaling, I'm trying to make it so that when you first fight this enemy, you will be scared... Very scared... But, as you level up, you'll get that sense of accomplishment being able to handle them a lot easier. That sense of accomplishment will be fleeting, as there will be more tough enemies to handle. As always, gotta keep that eb and flow of being weak, having a hard time with enemies, getting stronger, having an easier time with said enemies, then feeling weak again.
So now that I have created 4 custom enemies and given them 3 LR's, and tested the combat a bit, I am technically ready to start doing some level design, or maybe cutscene work for this next sequence. However, I think I will take a step back. So, I will be working from home tomorrow and Thursday, then off until next Tuesday. This is the perfect time to actually write out a story document, and pass it off to Jason so he can give me a little feedback. Plus, it's nice to bounce ideas off of him, as the end result is usually better than what I started with. This will also go a long way towards being able to lock down many of the dialogues from the first part of the game.
I know I said I need to keep track of what songs I've used, but I really mean it this time, as I am realizing I probably have stuff for years! Anyway, I simply adored Chrono Trigger and the music. While Chrono Cross was a great game in my mind, I almost appreciate the music even more. This particular track is just so damn... soothing...
12/26/10 - Sunday: COMBAT DESIGN CONTINUES...
Man, what a day/night of development. As expected, I'm really hitting my stride now, since it doesn't have anything to do with tracking down bugs and level design :) Well, no level design yet...
So, work continued on combat design. On a high level, the work consisted of making various changes to various custom enemies, adding a specific number of them in my test combat area, and then fighting them. It doesn't sound too exciting I'm sure, but I was having one hell of a time, tweaking this and that, trying to get things as perfect as possibe. Some things that popped up were:
ALL THINGS POTIONS
When I first created the enemies, it was becoming all too clear that things could have quickly degenerating into a game of "How fast can I keep chugging these potions to survive". I already went through that shit in Dragon Age Origins, and other RPG's in general for years. It may have even been a useful tactic in The Coming & Cry The Beloved. Well, I've grown as a designer, so I need to put that "tactic" to rest.
Now, of course potions will be in the game. And they will be useful. The difference is, they will be rare. The hope is that as I slowly ramp up the difficulty, stagger the release of new custom abilities, players will learn how to get through the game without having to rely on potions. Well, as always, that's the idea. I hope things are intuitive enough for that.
Now, I can't go into that much detail about it, but many of the custom core abilities will help address this issue, where if the player is utilizing them, things should flow well for them. I feel comfortable doing this, because in my NWN games, the main core ability was Illuminate. The game was tested with this ability being used to the max. If the player didn't use it, I imagine the game would become a lot tougher. At least from all the reviews I've had, while some people commented that the game was tough, they didn't think it was "cheap" tough, which tells me that what I sought out to do worked.
Speaking of potions, I found out what was crashing my game. If the player drank 3 of my custom potions in succession, the game crashes. Everytime. Reproducible in the desktop as well. I decided to move on, and use the regular healing salves, or whatever DA uses. Well, things seemed good at first, but then I saw that when I chugged 6 in a row, the game crashed as well. Heh, this actually led me to re-work many things so the player wouldn't have to chug that much. But, the issue remains, and I will keep an eye on it.
SUPERFLUOUS CORE AI PACKAGE ABILITIES
So, when creating custom enemies, I essentially duplicated existing enemies in the game, and then went from there. In all situations, these new enemies would still be using pre-existing ai packages. Again, as I want to have a tight reign over these new enemies, I essentially have to create new packages for some of them (this was already expected). These new packages really just amounted to 2 things:
getting rid of superfluous core ai package abilities
adding in my own custom abilities, mostly Last Resorts
changing how often certain abilities are used
With regards to that last bullet point, it essentially means I altered the % of a chance that an enemy will use an ability. For those that haven't delved into package 2da editing, the last column is for said %. Now, I understand why they were what they were. Bioware wanted to add some randomness into things, so that things didn't play out exactly the same way with every encounter. It's a sound idea, actually. The problem for me was that since I removed abilities, those %'s needed to go up so that the enemies were doing something. I mean, if there were 8 abilities with a % of 50, there's a higher chance of one of those abilities being used, as opposed to 2 abilities with a % of 50. This of course is assuming that when they are using abilities, it just goes down the tactics list. I could be wrong.
Once I made my changes, combat started to play out much better, in my opinion.
So as you can see from the length of this post, I did a lot, and dammit, I'm having a lot of fun again. I've been listening to the music that will be playing throughout this sequence, just brainstorming little things to add here and there. But, first and foremost, I need to lock down the enemies. Once they're done, everything else just builds itself. Creating the actual combat situations can be something I can do in my sleep.
Okay, I know I said Soul Calibur is the best fighting series yesterday. Hell, I ever did the happy dance finding out there is a new one coming.That said, I still respect the hell out of Street Fighter, considering how much time I logged into that series as a while. Actually, like Soul Calibur, the musc was one of my favorites parts of it. Back in the original, Vega's theme was my favorite.
12/25/10 - Saturday: COMBAT DESIGN *DROOLS*
I am not that cocky about a lot of things when it comes to game design (that I know of!), but 2 things I am very confident about are finding the right music for every scene, and combat design. Today, I was able to unleash all my pent up rage, as I've wanted to get back to the latter for quite some time. The best part was that I already had my approach to it planned out. So there were no moments of, "Hmmm, now how shall I proceed?".
I immediately loaded up my test combat arena, and got rid of a bunch of enemies I had in there from the last time I was doing some testing. Then, I started creating the first of three new custom enemies:
Ever since The Coming, as far as I can remember, I've never used the stock creatures the toolset provides. More specifically, I don't just take them as is. I always modified their stats, abiliites, etc. so that they fit what I wanted. Now, when I was working with NWN, the CEPwas already released, so I never really had any problems finding creatures. Though to be fair, 50% of the enemies were creatures, while the other 50% were humanoids.
At any rate, here we are almost 6 years later with Dragon Age, and well... let's just say the number of stock creatures is a bit... smaller... Yeah, that's about right :) Now, there may be someone creating new creatures, but I haven't noticed. If there are some, someone can point me in the right direction.
Anyway, I remember a lot of arguments over at the old NWN2 forums with regards to comparisons between the 2 toolsets. One thing that kept popping up was the lack of creatures. Okay, fine, yeah, it sucks. But damn man, we gotta be more resourceful than that! We gotta take what we are given, and put our own spin on it.
So when people get to this particular sequence of the game, they will no doubt recognize some of the creature models I'm using. Though, to be fair, these models actually do fit with ones I used in my NWN days, not that most people will realize that, but oh well.
But as I said, the visual comparison will stop at just that. Why? Because of:
This is so very, very key to this game. Right off the bat, I have Last Resorts, Unison Abilities, & Special Abilitiesto play with. So from the get go, no one should be playing this sequence thinking, "Damn, didn't I fight enough of those enemies in the OC? Not again... Sigh...". Adding these to those creatures should really help differentiate them from anything else anyone is doing. Plus, I may want to take existing abilities and add them to a particular enemy's repertoire, or remove some from existing packages.
Speaking of packages, after doing a little testing, I know I'm going to have to essentially make custom ones for all of these new creatures. Of course I need to add in the aforementioned Rose of Eternity specific abilities. But, I will want to change how they use other ones as well. It's midly annoying in how I have to do it, editing 2da's and all, but that's just because I'm lazy :)
WHAT I HAVE SO FAR
So like I said, I created 3 custom creatures so far, and messed around with some of their basic attributes, inclduing their level. They're essentially ports of existing creatures from my NWN games, so I already knew what I had to do. Once I did that, I started up some test fights, and I have to tell you, I was getting my ass handed to me. Once I lowered the level of some of them, it was more manageable. For one particular enemy, you will be fighting a rather large number of them, so if they are weaker individually, that's just fine.
Now, I was using some default packages, but a lot of the abilities used were things I didn't want, and coupled with the fact that I needed to added a few Last Resorts, I started to think about the custom packages I needed to create.
Then, the unthinkable (well, maybe slightly thinkable) happened. The game crashed. Just when things were looking good... Thing was, it was 100% reproducible. Whenever I had one party member use one particular Last Resort, and then drink my own custom version of a health poultice, it would crash. Since I had a spell caster in the area, I started worrying my laptop couldn't handle multiple flashy like things going on at the same time.
Now, since I still had to package things up for ALPHA VERSION 1.1, I just stopped what I was doing, finished it up, and got all the content on my desktop. My theroy was this: If it doesn't crash on my desktop, then there is something up with the laptop, which is annoying since I just go it, and dammit, it should be able to run things. I didn't want to be resigned to writing dialogue and scripts on it. On the other hand, if it did crash on the desktop, then it must be something I'm doing, which is still irritating, but something I should be able to track down.
Well, it crashed on the desktop... Whew... So guess what I'll be doing tomorrow?
Another track from the best fighting game series of all time. Yes, you heard me right! That is all...
12/23/10 - Thursday: PLAYTEST COMPLETE...
So, my play test is complete, thank the gods! I have many 30 new minor issues, but I am 100% done with this. No, seriously, I can only polish things so much before moving on. My next steps are the following:
Check in all art resources
Check in all designer resources
Back up the database
Build, and check in a B2B file
Create new tag for this new alpha
After that, there are so many different things I could do, but I'm going to try to stay focused as all hell. First, I need to talk to Jason over editing/VO related things, which really means I need to go back to the development forums I've been away from for so long. Luckily, it's not like I need to hold his hand, or anything like that, which makes the working relationship work out perfectly.
In terms of development, gotta keep the ball rolling. I'm already listening to various pieces of music, brainstorming exactly how I want to do this particular scene. This scene introduces 2 new characters, albeit very briefly. When I do scenes like this, I like to use the theme for the particular cast member. Unfortunately, they both have their own pieces, so I need to find some sort of neutral piece, so one theme doesn't make one seem to be more important than the other.
Creating the level will be a breath of fresh air, because only a cutscene will take place in it, so I don't need to worry about all the smaller details I usually handle. I had an idea of what I wanted to use, but of course while listening to some music, that idea changed, so I have to make a decision post haste on what I will do.
After that little scene, it's back to level design. In general, the next sequences will be much easier than the last one. By multiple magnitudes! In general, it's more linear, and I'm not interweaving so many cast members throughout. It also gives me a chance to flex my muscles on something I have been looking forward to for a while: new types of combat.
As I have always said, for games like this, I think it's important to make all enemy encounters just a little different. And that's just for combat scenarios in the same sequence. Once you move on, you gotta keep the player guessing, slowing changing things up. So, for the beginning of the game up until the current point, I have slowly staggered the addition of the various custom systems. Things start out simple, and things are added at the right point (I hope), never really putting too much on the player to have to learn so much new stuff so fast.
Well in this sequence, the party has access to new abilities that will dramatically change how certain battles play out. Remember, it's quality over quanity with me. So when players do receive these new abilities, I want them to really appreciate them. Then, once they start using them, I hope it's intuitive enough for them to know how they need to change their tactics in order to proceed. That's a problem I had in DA, and other RPG's in general. From the beginning to the end, I can more or less use the same strategies to proceed. I think Morrigan's Cone of Cold definitely wins the MVP award for all abilities :)
So I mean, the stage is set. I scripted one of the abilities during the toolset BETA back in October of 2009! The other one, a few months ago. I've been ready as hell for this. I already know what types of enemies I want, as well as their custom abilities. I already know how the environment will affect things. I've been dreaming to get to this part in development for so long, I can barely breathe :)
Now, I was going to bring on a level designer for this part of the game, but I think I want to give it a go. I think I got better as I did more and more exterior levels over the past few months, so what the hell. At the very least, what I create can be a prototype, while I set up all the plot related things. Then, it can be swapped out at any time.
Oh, and I really need to play FerugsM's module, The Carrion Birds. I should have when it was first released, but that was when I was going through all that BS with my desktop. Speaking of which, I don't even use it anymore. It's the laptop all the way, which really handles everything better than I expected. Hell, even lightmap rendering and posting of levels is very speedy (relatively speaking), as it was on the desktop.
I really need to start keeping track of all the songs I post, because I think I may have done this one already. That said, this is how you do boss battle music!
12/22/10 - Wednesday: VERY SATISFACTORY PLAY TESTS...
Over the past few days, I've added more stuff, and attempted to run through the game a bunch of times. Of course, while parachute testing last week, I changed all sorts of things around, and of course forgot to put them back, so I came across the old plot breaking bug due to these things. It is quite frustrating to get near the end of the game, only to find out you cannot proceed due to you forgetting to revert a script you modified for testing purposes. Meh, what can I do.
In fact, the last run through I made, I was literally 3 minutes from the end, entered a room, and noticed all the doors were deactivated. Doh! I know it's a small fix, but just to do my due diligence, I will still run through it again. The plan is to finally cut this alpha, then move on. It's not perfect, but it's damn good in my eyes, and a lot better than the last one I did. Once it's done, I hope to get some VO started for at least one cutscene, and one piece of dialogue, just to get the formula down. A lot of that is dependent on Jason certifying the dialogue done thus far. I'm hopefuly that my skills as a writer have improved enough to make the process easier :)
Now, these next few days are very important. I have a ton of time off from work, so there is no excuse why I shouldn't be able to fly through a lot of development. I'm already on the right path, and as you can tell by the lack of journal entries, I'm hard at work. But, they should be a little more frequent during my x-mas break at least.
This is the title track from the Yanni album that just really blew me away. Many musicians fall apart, or are just not able to maintain quality through the years. Damn near 30+ years into his career, and he produces an album that has no skippable tracks, in my opinion.
12/19/10 - Sunday: RPG ENDINGS...
I seemed to be on another crusade today, fixing up many bugs/tasks/improvements here and there. Nice to see the list getting smaller and smaller. In fact, I actually did something I hadn't done in a while. I just sat, listened to some music, and brainstormed.
For the end of this sequence, I know it was supposed to end for a while. I've just been pussy footing around how the player gets there. It wasn't anything major, but it just had to make sense with the story. I know I'm talking all cryptically, but I obviously can't spoil the story! Anyway, after about 30 minutes of music, I had the solution, and began to implement it. The rest, I'll finish on the train ride into/from work tomorrow morning/night.
Tomorrow, after finishing up the aforementioned tasks, I'll continue to just keep at it. As expected, my productivity has skyrocketed since getting this laptop. And that is the last time I will talk about the laptop :)
Oh, and sorry for the length of some of these updates. Now that I can develop anywhere I am, I just feel like doing that more often than writing about what I should be developing!
While listening to music tonight, I ended up coming across a piece used during the end of Final Fantasy 6, which I sometimes consider to be the best RPG I ever played. I say sometimes, because I admit to flirt back and forth between Final Fantasy 4 and Chrono Trigger.
So, I've cited this game as being a huge inspiration, specifically, the large ensemble cast of characters. 14 in total. 14 different characters, very integral to the plot, with their own music themes. That last bit has always stuck with me.
Anyway, one thing this game did that was truly amazing to me was put on one hell of an epic ending sequence. I'm talking 26-30 minutes of epic ending, to be specific. As some background, the last dungeon, if you will, before fighting the final boss(es) was a level that you had to navigate 3 different groups through. So, out of the 14 you had, you had to form 3 groups of 4, and decide which path through the dungeon you wanted them to take. Of course there would be situations where you needed one party to get to a particular part of the dungeon, activating a switch, before another company could proceed. As innovative and cool as it was, that's not what I'm here to talk about.
Your goal was to defeat Kefka, who was unlike any antagonist games had seen before. Not only did he try to destroy the world, he did. None of that all bark and no bite crap from so many other RPG's. Halfway through the game, he unleashed the equivalent of a nuclear attack on the entire world, changing it forever. Great stuff. Anyway, once you defeat him, the epic ending begins.
The part I want to highlight is the first 10 or so minutes (which I have a video of below),which shows the party escaping the dungeon, as it is crumbling. The innovative part was that it used this part to highlight the party members in the game, and Nobuo Uematsu beautifully weaved all 14 character themes into one grand 10 minute long piece. No lie, I used to come home from school when I was 14 years old, hook up my SNES downstairs where my Father had our home theatre, and beat the game, just so I could watch this ending.
And even though when watching it now, it seems simplistic in nature, I can only imagine how RPG's these days could have just as epic endings, if they did stuff like this. Yes Dragon Age, I am looking at you. Not sure why, but I was just expecting some super epic set of cutscenes at the end of the game, showing stuff having to do with all the various important cast members of the game. Instead, I got some slides... Seriously... Sigh... And yes, I know how difficult it would be to show cutscenes for every different combination of ending. I understand all too well. It's still a shame.
Other games to let me down were Oblivion, Fable II, and especially Fallout 3. Seriously, 90% of the ending was credits. And I mean, there were credits for what looked like 1000 people. Christ, I want to see some epic epilogue, not credits. Maybe it's because the games I mentioned are games that had various ways to get through it, which like Dragon Age, makes it hard to put so much effort into scenes some people may not see.
Or, maybe no one really cares about that type of stuff anymore...
And for the record, I did this very thing in Cry The Beloved. I put a hell of amount of time into 6 different epilogue cutscenes, showing what all the important cast members were up to. I only received one comment that could have potentially been seen as negative. I'm paraprhasing, but it was something along the lines of "The epilogue was akin to watching The Lord of the Rings with a full bladded". Hey, you can't please everyone!
Anyway, without further ado, one of the best RPG endings I have ever had the honor of watching (like 1000 times!)
12/18/10 - Saturday: ON MY GRIND...
Man, I was on my grind today. I pretty much stuck to the gameplan as outlined in my post from yesterday. I fixed 3 P4 defects, 1 P4 enhancement, 1 P2 enhancement, and 1 P1 task. The P1 was particularly important, as it was a cutscene I should have made months ago. I don't know why I do that. I have this cutscene, I know what I need to do, tell myself, "I'll do this later", and then get back to it months later :) When I actually sat down to implement it, 2 hours later, it was done... Figures...
In general though, I was very good at blocking all other things going on in life, out of my mind. I just sat down in the living room, hooked up my wireless mouse to the laptop, and got to it. Yes, that's right. I haven't even used my desktop in days. So sad :)
At this point, I only have 2 P1 tasks to implement, and I'll feel good about the status of the game thus far. Unfortunately, the Giants play early tomorrow, so that may distract me a bit. Then, I have a friend coming over after the game, and if his previous trips mean anything, he'll be here for 4-5 hours. What this means is that I may just stick to some P4 things, little things I can work on while not needing total focus.
Another classic theme for another classic character, in another classic RPG. Simply classic :)
12/17/10 - Friday: KEEPING IT GOING...
I promise I'll only continue to gush about the laptop for another few days! But damn, I just love actually putting all that time on the train to use. When I come home, I don't feel as rushed because I know I already did a bunch of stuff. In fact, I'm even more productive on the train than I am at home, because there are no distractions. No TV, no internet, no nothing. Just me, my music, and the game. Doesn't get much better than that.
Now that I have moved all bug/tasks/enhancements/etc to Google Code, it really helps me define what I will be doing during any development session. For instance, I knew I just wanted to work on some high priority enhancements on the train the past few days, so I filtered all my bugs by those parameters, got my list, and got to work. Much better than just having some mental idea of what I need to do.
At the moment, I have 7 defects, 15 enhancements, and 9 tasks. Most of the defects are pretty minor, and non-game breaking, so they rank from Low -> Medium priority. It's a mixed bag with the enhancements, with all sorts of priorities. At the moment, I'm only really looking at 2 of the high priority ones. With regards to the tasks, 3 of them are critical, as in, they need to get done post haste.
So, by viewing the list, my plan for tomorrow is as such:
Fix the 2 high priority enhancements
Get at least one of the critical tasks finished, if not 2
Assuming it's getting late in the night, knock out at least 3 low priority defects
I think this is very doable, but obviously if something has to get cut, it will be the low priority defects. The reason I even have them in the list is because they look like 5 minute fixes, so why not just clear them off the list. Speaking of which, the one negative thing about this list is that since I do this at work all the time anyway, I'm used to just wanting to clear out as many bugs from my list as possible. It doesn't really mean anything, it drives me crazy to see so many. Maybe a little too crazy... I guess it's good motivation to work harder, lol.
On the actual development front, I'm still having issues using the area/leve/cutscene editor on the laptop. Sometimes I just want to move some things around, but I can't even do that. In the interim, I'll just plugin my wireless logitech mouse, which is good enough.
When this game came out, I sort of got caught up in the hype. I used to play the Gamecube version at a friend's house, and that was fun, because we had like 5-6 people at the house. So, when this came out, I got it, then people stopped playing it, and it just felt like a waste of money. One good thing that came out of it was the ridiculously epic main menu screen. Rumor is that Nobuo Uematsu did it. Shocker...
12/15/10 - Wednesday: IN THE ZONE...
Sorry for my abscence, but since getting this new laptop, I've been in the zone. While I usually write my blog updates on the train, I'm now developing. There has been this ever increasing list of minor tweaks that needed to be done, and when I'm home, I've been trying to knock out the really big things. Now when I'm on the train, and have 2 hours to kill, it's just natural to start completing the smaller tasks. But, as you can see by my lack of updates in the past 3 days, there were a TON of small tasks. That said, it feels damn good to see my productivity sky rocket. This is exactly what I needed.
Speaking of Rose of Eternity on the laptop in general, it's fantastic. I mean, it runs like a dream. I don't have everything maxed out, but it looks a lot better than I anticipated. I mean, a lot better. And, specs were just announced for DA2, and it looks like my laptop will run it comfortably. Woo hoo! Now, it is taking me a little while to get used to using the laptop to play the game, and even more so in the toolset.
I actually haven't done any research into yet, but I can't for the life of me, I can't figure out how to pan around in the area editor. I know it's something small, but I figured maybe it would be a little more intuitive than it is. Or maybe I'm just slow :)
Anyway, as I was saying, I'm just flying through a lot of the polish related bugs. Even still, I knew I had to better manage said bugs/issues, so I finally got around to setting up a google project in order to make use of its issue tracker. Now of course there are other features, like download links, your own WIKI, version control, etc. For the moment though, I'm just concerned with bug management. Once I had it set up, I went through the arduous task of entering them in one by one. No more hard to manage text files for me!
Tomorrow, I need to do a little more administrative work. For my custom music, my FMOD (utility you use to add custom sounds to the game) project points to files directly in my iTunes folder. This makes absolutely 0%, because as soon as that folder strcuture changed when moving to the laptop, it broke everything. So, I just need to add them to the existing folder structure where I'm keeping everything else (i.e. level files), and check it in. Then, I'll do some more work on some P3 (ah, so nice to be able to refer to them like that) bugs and enhancements. Rightfully so, I will save the P1's for the weekend.
One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite games. I would literally get in the airship, then just sit and listen. In fact, this was the piece of music I had my Mother listen to, attempting to tell her that video game music should be as respected as other forms of music. She didn't buy it. Oh well...
12/12/10 - Sunday: SETTLING IN...
So as expected, most of my day was spent configuring my new laptop, installing a TON of software, etc. I'm actually used to this by now, since I just recently did that fresh install of Windows 7 on my desktop. Now, I really, really wanted to do some actual game development, but I knew it would be better in the long run to just get all the setup crap out of the way. The big essentials I needed were:
Obviously Dragon Age & the Toolset
Microsoft Money (I ain't a cheap bastard for nothing!)
Knowing that I most likely wouldn't get Rose of Eternity on the laptop, I definitely needed Dreamweaver for my site, and iTunes, in order to listen to music and such while doing web related things.
The work I did do on the game was pretty minor, unfortunately. It just amounted to a lot of polishing (what else is new), things like making sure people are performing some ambient animation after certain sequences, adding more dialogue paths to various cast member's dialogue acknowledging you took a certain path, and some more codex related things.
The plan for tomorrow is to get the game on the laptop, and for the time being, just roll with the "b2b export/import solution" for the moment. When I have more time, like on the weekend, I can look into other solutions again.
Today's music comes from George Winston. As with most of my current music tastes, this one started when I was around 14 years old. My mom would listen to his piano pieces every once in a while in the house, and since I too played the piano, I of course was attracted right away.
This particular rendition is from an album that contained orchestrated versions of his songs.
12/11/10 - Saturday: LAPTOP IS IN!!!
It was scheduled to be here by 12/22, and I know they give a little extra time in case something happens, but trust me, I was surprised as all hell when I saw it had come in on Friday. I'm not complaining! For those that missed it, here are the specs:
Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit, English
Silver Anodized Aluminum 15.6" HD (720p) WLED Display
Intel® Core™ i7-740QM (1.73GHz, 8 threads, turbo boost up to 2.93GHz, 6M cache)
NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 435M 2GB graphics
6GB Shared Dual Channel DDR3 Memory
640GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
92 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
Tray Load Blu-ray Disc BD-Combo (Reads BD and Writes to DVD/CD)
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 1000
Even though I knew it was supposed to be able to run the game decently, I was quite amazed at how well it looked and ran. I just played through a little of the Human Origin, just to check it out. The only thing I changed was the resolution, so it took full advantage of the laptop's screen. Besides that, even at default settings, it looked great.
As an aside, when playing through the game, I suddenly remembered what had me play 9 hours straight the day it came out. The interactions with the various cast members, and the voice acting... It really all helped to draw me further and further into the game. Good times.
All in all, I'm loving it a lot. Of course I will need to spend time installing all sorts of crap on it, but I'm having so much fun with it, I don't even mind. Here's to a new beginning!
So now that I have this new laptop, I'm supposed to get 3 times as much work done now, right? Perhaps... There is still the issue of figuring out how to to handle it. More specifically, now I'll have content on my desktop at home, as well as the laptop. I mean, it's not like I'm going to move to the laptop full time, like I did with my NWN games. The game had been out for 4 years when I got that last laptop, so I was able to run it maxed out. Totally different situation now. So, once I get the same content on both machines, the obvious things are:
Do B2B's for any content I changed on the laptop, and sync it up with the master DB (i.e. desktop) every night
Literally just copy the DB from the laptop to the desktop, and vice versa
Have both toolsets point to a centralized database
The first one is doable, the 2nd one is out of the question, and the 3rd one would be the best solution, by far. Plus, if others start actively doing work on the game, it would be nice to have that setup as well. Now, I happen to know that Sunjammer has gotten that to work, so I may ping him about it. Ideally, it should be simple enough. I mean, I do do things like this for a living :) But with this toolset, nothing is ever easy.
Either way, the plan is to continue my work as planned, and get ALPHA verison 1.1 cut. That will be the perfect time to port things over to the laptop. Okay, back to work!
In honor of good days ahead of me, I present to you another cheerful theme from Chrono Trigger. Enjoy!
12/10/10 - Friday: DESIGNING PATH B...
Once I got home, I got right to it. I've had this particular sequence of events implemented for months, but I knew I wanted a path B. Thing is, as I mentioned in another post this month, I'm slowly coming around to the realization that I will have to create content that not all players will see. Well, I put those thoughts in the back of my head, and just started implementing the damn thing.
The changes weren't that bad, mostly consisting of different dialogue paths with various cast members during the sequence, some different combat situations, and other subtle things. With regards to the subtle things, I don't want to have bright neon lights saying, "Hey, thumbs up! You just took path B!". At the same time, I'm definitely a fan of letting people know that their choices have made an impact. It's a fine line to walk, for sure. At the moment, I just need to add some different rewards, depending on the path you choose, and the results of things that happen after everything is said and done.
At this point in the game, I technically can do another run-through, and put together ALPHA VERSION 1.1. I had been hesistant to do it, mostly because I'm tired of playing through the game, plus I didn't want to waste time during the week when I don't have that much time to do other things. Now that the weekend is here, however, I think I should just knock it out.
As for what's next, I'm done with promises I can't keep :)
I'm still surprised this artist can get away with calling himself Gandalf, but his music for than makes up for it.
12/8/10 - Wednesday: A LITTLE BIT OF THIS, A LITTLE BIT OF THAT...
I started out by finishing up some work on a minor side quest. I had actually written the dialogue for it back in September, but didn't add any extra hooks to it, or well, anything plot related. I always knew what I wanted to do, it was just about actually hunkering down and doing it.
As with the other minor quests in this particular sequence, they're not really big, but they are certainly not the types of generic quests that riddle RPG's these days. So far, they are all roleplaying type quests, with various ways to accomplish them. The player may not know it at the time, but these small decisions will have ramifications later on in the game.
In terms of the actual implementation, it was quite easy. I just had to add a new sub plot under the core plot for this sequence, and then set the appropriate flags, depending on what is said in corresponding conversations. There's a chance to get a little something out of it short term as well, but not everyone will get it. The one thing I'm proud about is how the actual stories of the quests themselves are really tightly coupled with the events that are currently going on, giving the player even more insight into the world. Remember, no information dumps in this game. You will learn about the world as you play.
Now, the one thing that has bothered me since The Coming is the creation of quests that players may see. I think because I put so much effort into certain sequences, I didn't want to chance that the player could potentially miss it. I've loosened up a bit, so for some of these quests, the player may just not find it at all. Maybe if I had a team of 100 people working on this, I would feel better about it, but when doing things on a smaller scale, for me at least, I want to maximize my development by working on stuff people will see, 100%. Oh well, as I continue to grow as a designer, these are the things I need to learn to deal with.
I also went back to some of the custom codexes I created last week, and tested to make sure they pop up in the game, at the right spot. Like, if you use a particular Timed Unison Ability, I need to enable that codex entry, and only that first time. Or, the first time you get some Bonus XP, I need to pop up something explaining how the system works. It's not hard work, just a bunch of small things.
Finally, I fixed the lighting in another level I forgot to do a few weeks back. You know, it's funny. I went through all of these things to fix what I thought was causing the crashes, when they didn't have anything to do with it. Even still, in the end, it opened up my eyes to how I could scale the game better, so in the end, there was a positive out of all that bullshit I dealt with for so long. Plus, my comp is actually pretty good, but since I'm not testing on lower end machines, I may as well try my damnest to make sure it'll work decently right off the bat, so I have a nice foundation to work off of if I do encounter issues down the road later with older computers.
Tomorrow, I will FINALLY work on that 30 second cutscene I should have finished last week!
As with a lot of artists these days, I discovered Hayley Westenra while listening to my Enya Pandora playlist. I finally went out and started listening to some of her old stuff, and came across this little gem. It's a shame the song is so short, but what's there is pure magic.
12/7/10 - Tuesday: ...
So, I've restarted my search for a suitable, web based, bug tracking solution, with little to no setup involved, cause I'm lazy like that :) Shout out to Sunjammer who graciously offered me a MySQL db and some space on his domain to setup a small web server for my bug tracking needs, as well as TimelordDC who pointed me to a deployment of Mantis that requires no setup at all. With the latter, it would be good, except no one else would be able to enter bugs except for me, unless I exposed my box somehow, which I just don't want to do at the moment. For the former, I'll take him up on it if the following doesn't pan out...
...I think I am going to go with Proleric's suggestion of using Google Code. I'll do more research during the weekend, but I poked around their bug/issue tracker, and it's exactly what I need. Will be nice to put this issue to bed soon.
In other non-game development news (oh, how I like to spend time not developing... sigh...), I continue to create the documents/scripts that will be sent to potential VO artists. As I actually add each cast member to the sheet, I'm realizing there are really a lot of positions to fill. Luckily, for the smaller roles, I should be able to get one person to potentially knock out 2-3 of them. As for how I'm doing it, I'm just adding everyone, then doing a little bio paragraph. Then, I need to scour the system and find the perfect lines to use for the audition. In terms of being able to tell the VO artist how many lines they will need to speak, I'm sure there is some way to query the database to get that information... I hope...
Once I was finally able to do some actual development (woo hoo!), it just really focused on more gluing tasks. The levels I re-created last week were never connected to the actual game, because I started running into that sound crashing bug. Now that I know how to work around it, it was easy for me to get them in. I'm extremely tempted to do a run through of the game, but I know better, so I'm just going to keep pushing that to the back of my brain.
Tomorrow, I'll focus on some minor quests that have been screaming to be finished for months now. Okay, you damn quest, I'll finish you! Jeez!
Let me preface this by saying I was one of the biggest Street Fighter 2 nuts when it first came out. No, seriously. Before it was released on the SNES, I had an issue of Gamepro, teaching me all the best combos of the game. So, before I even played it, I was mentally practicing these movies. Hell, they still work today in Street Fighter 4.
All of that said, I still to this day think Soul Calibur is the better fighting game. My experience with Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast may have eclipsed those 6 years of Street Fighter I had. I won't go into the merits of the gameplay, but the one thing that has always stuck out to me was the music. It's like every piece was epic. When I picked up Soul Calibur 4 a few years back, I went in expecting great music. What I got was a lot of this:
12/5/10 -Sunday: ALMOST BACK TO NORMAL...
You know, it's weird. When you're used to getting crashes for multiples months, it taints your play testing experience. Every time I test something, I hold my breath, cringe, and hope all is well. It's like I'm rolling the dice every session, not really knowing what's going to happen. It's not fun...
I was already getting better at ignoring the issue, knowing a solution would present itself, and now that it looks like at least some of my crashes are sound related, things are even better. Would I like to test with sound? Of course. But since a new week is beginning, I'm not going to mess around with it. I'm just going to continue to knock out as much stuff as possible, and worry about the bigger issues on the weekend again. I'm already able to test more than I've been able to in the past few weeks, just by turning off the sound, so I don't feel like I'm taking gamble every time. Less stress makes me a better developer.
Now, I admit I would have gotten more work done, but damn, there were some interesting football games on late in the day. After the Giants won in the early game, I figured I wouldn't watch any more. I mean, my team won, that's all that mattered. Then, I got caught up in both the Cowboys/Colts & Falcons/Bucs game. Well, at least tennis is over until mid January :)
Besides the same ole same ole work I've been doing for the past few days, I also started to compile all of Jason's feedback/bugs into a separate document, and even fixed a few. I'm still on the lookout for an online bug tracking solution, preferably one where I don't need to install my own DB, web server, etc. I was looking at Mantis for a while, mostly because I used it with Ossian Studios when working on Mysteries of Westegate, but I'm just too damn lazy/busy to do the setup. I really just want an entire solution where the company hosts the site and everything. For the record, I know the setup for Mantis isn't that much work, it's just that I'd rather spend my free time on development. Nothing every goes the way it should, and I don't want to have one more variable involved in development at this point. So, if anyone knows of one, let me know. Really, I just need to have a system that accepts different components, categories, and at least 4 different priority levels, though 3 would suffice.
So, here's the roadmap for the week:
continue polishing existing dialogue
add flavor text where appropriate
plot related scripting for 2 minor quests
minor changes to some cutscenes
Once I'm done with aforementioned tasks, I will actually try to do a run through of the game, without the sound enabled. If that works, I'll tag that code as the next ALPHA. Then, I'll try upgrading the game to 1.04 (yes, I am still on 1.02, and I know 1.04 fixes sound issues!), and attempt a run through with sound enabled.
Either way, my spirits are really high with the project at the moment.
Ah, this old classic. The Braveheart soundtrack was the first one I ever purchased, and I have great memories listening to this track over and over again while in Chicago, visiting relatives. In fact, it was through litening to music like this that I started to form little ideas, that would eventually become The Rose of Eternity.
12/4/10 -Saturday: SMALL REVELATION...
So as planned, I had a friend come over to try a bunch of things to see if we could figure out what was going on with my system. Of course, he forgot to bring his video card, which was really the whole point of him coming over. However, it was his birthday, so I forgave him for that :)
Now what we did figure out through the changing of settings and whatnot is that when we disable sound for the game, the crashes go away. DING DING DING DING DING! As I still wanted to get back to actual implementation, I just left it at that, and told myself I would come back to it tomorrow. But, it's progress, people!
As for what I did today, I wrote more dialogue, did some plot related scripting, added some journal entries, etc. All in all, just continuing with my plan to polish up as much as possible. Or, in other words, nothing that is really important enough to talk too much about here, as I don't want to bore people that much :)
Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow? *Gasp* More of the same. It's gotta get done at some point, so might as well knock it out while I still have the will to do it, before wanting to move on to something else.
In honor of today's revelation, I submit to you, Robo's cheery theme from Chrono Trigger. Me thinks this fits quite well.
12/3/10 -Friday: CUTSCENE DIALOGUE AND MORE...
So once I booted up the toolset, I immediately dove into the 2nd cutscene I ever created, and more specifically, the dialogue that runs during it. I needed to modify a bunch of text, as well as add more lines. It didn't take too long, but I was very happy with this newly fleshed out version. Now, I just need to shoot this to Jason so he can tear it apart, then build it up again (gotta love editors), then see about getting someone to read said lines.
So, I've said this before, but if anyone wants to have this part (male), which is really key to the series, please email me at email@example.com, and I will give you more details.
After that, I started creating a new piece of dialogue for a cast member that will be seen towards the end of this particular sequence. It's not really a lot of dialogue, but it is important. I just kept pushing it to the side for whatever reason. Well, no more. The plan is to knock out as much of this stuff as possible. If I have to spend the next 48 hours working to tie up all the loose ends, so be it.
Tomorrow, I will finish up this one, then I will get back to those one liners I talked about the other day. After the one liners, I have some other minor quest dialogue to write, as well as some journal entries. Really, I haven't written many journal entries, so now is as good of a time as any. Just gotta keep knocking out thse small little things.
As far as I know, this is Enya's latest album. This is the first track off the album, and after hearing it, I immediately got the entire album. In retrospect, it's probably the only track on the album I can really stand, so I have learned my lesson.
Even still, when she wants to, she can knock out a classic. Oh, shout out to the album cover too.
12/2/10 -Thursday: BACK TO WORK...
So, I stuck to the gameplan today. I finished up some work on some dialogue, and created the respective stage for it. I wrote this dialogue months and months ago, but after a lot of the brainstorming I did with Jason a few months ago, we ended up fleshing out a lot of details about this one particular part of the world. Because of this, I wanted to reference this in said conversation. Now, I know I said I should be able to write pieces of dialogue without having the toolset, but for whatever reason, if I don't have access to a branching system like the dialogue system uses, I can't seem to make myself do it. If it was a total linear path, that would be one thing, but as soon as the PC has multiple responses, it's a wrap. So, I just threw on the music that plays during the sequence, and just mentally wrote everything. When I got into the toolset, the translation was swift and to the point. Hmm.. Maybe someone needs to construct some utility to allow people to wrote dialogue in the branching format. Hell, maybe even be able to import it into the game. Right, I know, wishful thnking...
Now, the next piece of dialogue I need to add on to is very linear, as it's some narrator text during a cutscene. That I can write on the train tomorrow, and that is exactly what I will do. Even though Jason and I agreed to wait a while to get people for VO, because of the ever changing dialogue, this is one that will need someone sooner rather than later, since the VO is very key to the scene, as I need to sync up the camera angles, the music, as well as the aforementioned VO. Speaking of which, if anyone wants to try out for the part, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As an aside, I still have people at my job who don't take me seriously because of my email service provider. He even said if he got a resume from someone with an optonline.net domain, he wouldn't even look at it. Pricks...
Besides writing the narrator text, I should be able to knock out some contextual one liners. I already did a bunch of this work already, but I want to just finish it out right. It's a lot of bang for the buck, in my eyes. It doesn't take too much of my time, and it just adds that extra something to the game. For the main cast, there will be at least 4 different ones, up to like 7-8. Besides doing this for party members, I also need to add some more triggered one liners, where they comment on something going on in the world. The benefit of having a more or less set amount of party members is I can better integrate them into the world.
I've harped on this for so long I feel like I'm annoying people, but party members are not henchman, or whatever people refer to them as. They are not your subservients. You don't find them sitting in the corner of an inn, just waiting to be asked to help you with something. They have their own lives, and will do what they want, when they want. Furthermore, they are as integral to the story, just as much as the main PC. In fact, just because I don't have the resources, you're only going to see things from the one perspective. If I had my way, you'd have at least 4 different perspectives, which would highlight exactly how imporant they are to the story.. Heh, again, I know, wishful thinking...
So, Christmas of 1991 for me will go down in history as the best one. I freely admit I was an only child, so I pretty much got whatever I wanted. Anyway, that year, I got the new Super Nintendo, which came along with Super Mario World. Then there was still this other weird looking gift that I thought was 2 VHS tapes or something. I opened it up, and inside was Gradius III, Final Fight, and finally, this little gem called Actraiser.
At this point in my gaming career, I was just getting into game music, and this was the one that took it to new heights. For me, before there was Nobuo Uematsu, there was Yuzo Koshiro. I still listen to this soundtrack to this day, and I used a symphonic version of one of the songs in Cry The Beloved.
12/1/10 -Wednesday: NO MORE MESSING AROUND!
Tonight, I finished implementing some more codexes. This time, I focused on my new Bonus XP system. I used one plot file for it, and I have different flags for each different type of bonus xp you can receive. So, the first time you receive *any* type, you will get the default description of what it is, and undeneath, you will see a description of the type you just received. Going forward, every time you receive a new type, it will be appended to the codex entry. I'm essentially following the model Bioware used when you would get a new codex entry after successfully performing some spell combo. The difference is, at this point, I've bundled them all into one entry. In retrospect, I may need to split them out into their own logical types, as I continue to add more. But, for the time being, I'll keep it as is.
There are also some other codexes write, mostly history related ones, but I'm going to wait on that for the moment. Jason and I are currently discussing how to present them, when, etc. There's no rush, since there are so many other things to do, and giving it some thought won't hurt at all.
Tomorrow is going to be a dialogue day, that's for sure. I wanted to do some tonight, but got caught up in doing some other things. But, no more pushing it off anymore. Gotta get it done.
STATE OF THE UNION
So, as mentioned in many posts last month, I've come to terms with whatever issues are casuing my machine to crash. At this point, it's not stopping me from what I need to do, so pushing it to the back of my mind is the absolute best thing I can do at the moment.
In terms of where I'm at, well, the last month was really about polishing. I re-worked the lighting in 90% of my levels, improving the performance along the way. I've added the aforementioned codex entries, and I am going through and finishing up the last bits of dialogue. I will continue to do little things like this during the week. On the weekends, I'm going to spend my time figuring out what the hell is wrong with my system. There's no reason to panic, because I do have a stable build from October that both Jason and I played through, so if it is something with what I'm doing, incrementally adding things into the game won't be hard, because it's mostly codexes, convos, and re-worked levels.
I also have a laptop on the way, which is going to really speed up how much stuff I can do on a daily basis. No, seriously, I'll get like 4 extra hours worth of work done a day. That's big! I'll need to figure out how to handle moving work back and forth between the 2 machines. I'm one to try to do things the most efficiently, and I know the module database can be shared between multiple toolsets (as Bioware did during their own development), so I'll just need to setup something like that. I believe Sunjammer got that working, so I may ping him about it.
Anyway, ideally, I would put this entire sequence to bed finally. Been saying that for months, and if it wasn't for the crashing issues, I would have, but I really think I can do it now. All the levels have been created, the plot related scripting has been done for months, it's just the little things. Even then, just to keep my sanity, I may just move to the next section, so I don't get bored. Let's see if I can stick to a months' plan for once... Damn, I need to be doing this full time...
Finally, I decided to show this particular piece of art that Oli did for me back in early 2006, right before I flew out to San Jose for the Developer's Choice Awards. It kept my spirits up back then, and I hope it can work its magic now, almost 5 years later...
EDIT - Last month was by far the biggest, in terms of traffic. It actually began towards the end of October, right around the time I started complaining about my crash issues. Hmm, I guess people like reading about my pain :)