Yesterday, July 30th, was my 30th birthday. I guess I'm supposed to start feeling old, and all those other cliche'ish things... On the contrary, I understand in the grand scheme of things, Im not that old, and in fact, life is as good as it's ever been. Go life!
So today (and a little bit yesterday), I decided to go through my text document, that holds a bunch of bugs, features, and improvements. I originally compiled the list a while back when going through the game, and since I've been watching tennis all weekend, I figured I needed to do something that didn't require as much brain power.
Some items on the list included scripting the ability to close doors. For whatever reason, there is a PLC_STATE_DOOR_OPENconstant, but there is no PLC_STATE_DOOR_CLOSE. I've know about this for some time, but never really did much work to figure out how to achieve it. Turns, I can just use PLC_STATE_DOOR_UNLOCKED. Was nice to delete that from the list.
Another one involved splitting up a piece of dialogue into 2 separate files. It's not interesting enough to tell you guys why, but it was pretty important nonetheless.
One annoying one involved adding cast members I created a few months ago into a cutscene I created many months ago. All they had to do was stand there, but it was still annoying opening up the file, finding the right point in the timeline, adding them, etc. Mostly because, the bigger cutscenes get, the longer it takes to do pretty much anything with them. If said cutscene has actions where one actor looks at another object, just forget about it. Everything will slow down to a crawl. I don't look forward to having to editing such cutscenes. So, I'll leave them on my list until last :)
Tomorrow, I'll do more of the same, since there is still more tennis to watch :)
7/29/10 -Thursday: MORE WRITING...
Design for this game has been happening as I expected. I'll spend a long time doing one type of thing, like scripting custom abilities, or designing levels for instance. This time around, it's definitely writing. It hasn't been a few long pieces of dialogue, rather, it's been a lot of smaller ones that connect all the combat related sections for this particular area.
I've also started adding in some of the little touches to the game, like party members commenting on specific situations you're in, and what not. With regards to party members, and how you interact with them, you can look at it as if I'm taking a page from the Dragon Age OC, as well as Awakenings. You will be able to talk to them at any time, ask them certain questions, etc. However, they will definitely have conversations with you, commenting on various things going on around you, as you go from place to place. I'm not entirely sure why I actually need to say I'm doing this, but every once in a while, I find people on the forums are not used to this, and expect most dialogue to take place at a camp fire or sometihing.
At the same time, it won't be using the mechanism that Awakenings used. I haven't actually played it yet, but as I understand it, you need to click on certain objects in the world to initiate those conversations. Seems a little too... mechanical for me. No, the way you will learn more about your party members will be more organic. Since they are inherently tied to the main story, their "stories" will be relayed to the player more naturally, as you progress through the game.
Consequently, I actually had an option to allow the player to talk to their party members at any time in The Coming. I removed it in Cry The Beloved, thinking there was no need, as you'll already learn everything in more about them as you progress through the story. Well, there weren't many things people complained about, but one was the lack of that feature, so yeah, it's back!
I was kind of bummed that I was really getting into development tonight, only to have to go to bed. I hope I have the same zest for it tomorrow, as the weekend begins...
7/27/10 -Tuesday: NOT MUCH TONIGHT...
So, around 3pm today, I got a called from a close friend, saying he was in Manhattan for business. He ended the day earlier than anticipated, and wanted to meet up to get drinks and/or dinner. He was lucky I was in the city for work that day, since I work from home once a week. He was at the Marriot Marquis right down there in Times Square, so it was only a short subway ride, and a short walk to get there. I actually hadn't been in mid-town in a few years, since I work down in SoHo, and I had forgotten how crowded it gets. Damn tourists! :) Anyway, it was nice to catch up with him...
...Which of course meant that I wasn't going to get any development done, since I didn't get home until 11pm. And since I had to be up for work at 5:45 the next day, well... you can do the math.
7/26/10 -Monday: <TOO TIRED TO THINK UP A TITLE>
Tonight, I finished the last of the 3 dialogues I had created over the weekend. I could have finished it Sunday night, but there were some logistical things to consider, that I wanted to think about a little more, while listening to some music. By the time I got home from work, I had come up with something I liked. That enabled me to finish said conversation.
Some of those logistical things had to do with introducing another character, one people would definitely remember from the first 2 games. The only issue is, this cast member had 2 pieces of custom clothes equipped, courtesy of NWN's Community Expansion Pack. We definitely don't have those 2 items in the DA community yet. One I could get away with, another, I definitely can't. So, I'm going to implement things assuming this person is in the game, because it's really important to the flow of the story. I'll just need to reach out to some people about see if this piece of custom gear is doable. If not, then I'll work around it, as I always do.
Speaking of custom gear, I created a new set as well. Custom as in, color and stats, not new models. I didn't get around to creating the set bonus, but I'll actually worry about that later. I'll need to have designed some more combat scenarios after the particular party member gets the gear, to see what makes sense. It's funny, when I tried to make it a month ago, I was never happy with the custom tints I created. It turns out, I never deleted the tint file, so when I went to create the gear, it was still there. I applied it to all the equipment, and I ended up liking it a lot.
So tomorrow, I'll work on yet another piece of dialogue, though this one will be quite short. Then, I was supposed to work on a short little cutscene, but I realized the area I was going to do it in is in this weird placeholder state. It's definitely usable, as events happen there, but I know it's going to change. I essentially created it too small from the start. It's not really a big deal, as the level it's that big, and I'll be able to port over all the strcutures. I'll just have to do the terrain over again, but it's not so bad. Even still, I'm hesitant to create a cutscene in an area that will be disappaer. Now, I do know that you can change the area existing cutscenes, so if I keep the dimensions of the area where the cutscene takes place the same, it should port over. Should is the key word, so I'll have to do some more research on it.
7/25/10 -Sunday: GOOD WEEKEND OF DEVELOPMENT...
While I could have done more (there's alwyas room for more development!), I'm quite satisfied with what I accomplished. More than, more than being official back, I'm really hitting my stride again. This usually happens when I work on things such as I did this weekend.
It was all about writing dialogue, advancing the story, and adding more depth to the current cast of characters. Personalities are well established now, so now comes the part of the game where their layers are slowly peeled away, so that the player can get to know them better, as well as become more immersed in the world. One of the charatcers is returning from the original games, so fans of them will definitely remember him. Even still, players never got to really know him. They'll get their chance now.
I ended up writing 3 pieces of dialogue, as well as the scripting/plot related tasks that wrap them. I did come across a weird bug, actually. I was attempting to start a conversation through one of my generic talk triggers I created, but it wouldn't fire. After a lot of back and forths, I found out it was because the first line of the dialogue was empty. Even though there were other branches under it, if the master node was empty, it just wouldn't fire.
The reason I feel I am hitting my stride is simple. This is entire sequence of events, as well as the aftermath events are finally coming to a close. I long ago stopped attempting to speculate when it would be finished, and I won't start now, but it feels good to be making good progress. All the next parts of the game involved some shiny moments, attaining some new custom abilities, some cutscenes I have had in mind for years (what else is new), and the introduction of yet more characters. Speaking of new characters, I long ago learned to deliberately stagger the introduction of new characters, so as to not overwhelm the player.
Best of all though is a change in scenery. This current section of the game essentially takes place in the same set of areas, and I've been working on that for months now. As I move on, so shall the scenery. In fact, I think I said this months ago, but the next sequences will be a little easier to development, as they will be a little tighter in game design, so to speak. I can't really give anything else away.
Finally, and most likely the most important, I've been in contact with Jason Melancon, the lead editor from Cry The Beloved. It looks like he'll be able to give some assistance to me this time as well, in the form of editing and writing (as usual), plus in a new area: Voice Acting. Besides the aforementioned things, there is probably no one else in the world (besides me of course) who knows as much of the story, lore, etc. as he does. I mean hell, he edited every single piece of dialogue, even in all the cutscenes. It'll be nice to bounce ideas back and forth.
So, tomorrow I will be putting the final touches on a piece of dialogue, and then starting another real short one. Then, if I'm lucky, I'll be creating a new set of armor, and if I'm really lucky, I'll be able to create a custom set bonus. I've seen tutorials around on the forums and wikis, so I'm not really worried about it.
I recently picked up this soundtrack, and I'm really blown away by it. I got the first one a few years ago, and actually had no idea this one existed until I listened to a song from it on You Tube. It's crazy that so many years later, this music is as good as ever. It's damn near timeless. And yes, I already came up with a bunch of ideas while listening to it. Hell, I still have a bunch of ideas from listening to the first one. In fact, one partiuclar piece from it will be played during no doubt, one of the most important scenes in the game. I shudder when I think of how I will implement it...
COMIC CON -
I've never really followed this convention, or any of the panels. But, when I saw that 38 studios and Big Huge Games were going to be talking about their new RPG, I decided to watch. I won't spoil much, but the credits include:
R.A. Salvtore - Bestselling author of fantasy novels
Ken Rolston - Lead designer of Morrowind and Oblivion
Todd McFarlane - Creator of Spawn
Curt Schilling - Ex-baseball player who founded 38 studios
It was great fun to watch them discuss what went into developing the game, and one of the more interesting bits was when Ken Rolston went on about how he wanted the combat to be more, action like. He immediately stressed they're not making an action game, because he knew the fools on the internet would take that comment as such. I'm paraphrasing, but he said they want to take the best parts from action games, and blend it into their RPG, while still keeping the game... an RPG... He then goes on to say that there is nothing wrong with borrowing from other genres (or something like that).
Hmm, sounds strangely familiar. Almost as if I was saying something similiar only last week. *Looks both ways* :)
7/23/10 -Friday: LITTLE THINGS...
Tonight, I just did a bunch of little things, and of course, it wasn't really stuff I said I was going to do, at the end of my last post :) I first started setting up a lot of the transitions, plot related stuff, etc. for the conversations I talked about yesterday. I of course didn't write the dialogue :) I'll do that tomorrow.
After that, I did a full run through of the game from start to finish, mostly to see how the XP is shaping up. I am proud to say that the player literally gains a level right before, or after the last encounter of a certain sequence. For me, this is good, because you will have gone through a lot of difficult encounters, and to gain that level will mean that much more. At least, I hope that is what players will feel. Oh, and I found some more bugs (arrg!).
Tomorrow's goal is simple. Turn on the music that will be playing during these different conversations, and just write them. It's weird, but I really need the music playing, so I can get immersed in the scene, in order to write my best dialogue. Though, my best dialogue is by no means what will end up in game, as I am sure I will have to get someone to give it a once over. But, as long as the core is there, it's all good.
7/22/10 -Thursday: OKAY, I'M OFFICIALLY BACK NOW!
I knew it would take a few days to get back into the swing of things, but I'm back! I did some level design tonight, doing more work on an existing area I created months back. I still have one more room to create, but I should be able to knock that out really quickly tomorrow. As I was building, all those little nuances started coming back to me, especially with regards to lighting. Lucky for me, I've made good use of selection groups, so for instance, the candle in the screenshot is already created to my standards. That includes the lighting, the vfx, the model, etc. Now, I can just put them down anywhere, and I'm good to go.
Now that I've built the core room of the area, I can glue some more pieces together. This will involve some exposition dialogue for a particular character. This of course brings up an important point. One thing I learned from fans, perhaps even inspired by, is that people don't like being forced down certain paths. They like to do things at their own leisure. This of course means that you have to design some things that people may not see. I had a really hard time with that years ago. Back then, it was just me, and I was like, "Why waste precious development time on something not everyone will see". If I had a full development team like a huge commercial company, it would be different, of course.
I finally cracked during the development of Cry The Beloved. During the siege of Khal Rock, there is a sequence where you need to take a 2 person team behind enemy lines to rescue some kidnapped villagers. At that point, depending on your actions, you would have between 4-5 party members. Depending on who you took, you would:
Get a unique Unison Ability with them
Receive a ton of favor points
Have a long, unique, dialogue with them after the mission
This meant that people would have to play through the game 5 times in order to see all of that content. I really wrestled with that idea, but after some pushing/nudging/pointing a gun to my head by some members of the development team, I decided to implement it. Actually, my editor, Jason Melancon, wrote the special dialogue for Challseus for that sequence. It definitely took a load off my back.
Anyway, I now face a similiar issue. If the player doesn't talk to this particular NPC, it's not going to make sense for them to get that dialogue after a particular sequence. It's just a small piece of dialogue, but it's still semi-important. In situations like this, sometimes a game design change may have to occur, I just don't know what it will be. As always, it will just work itself out :)
Tomorrow, I hope to finish up said dialogue, then do the setup (and possibly implementation) of more dialogue that takes place in this same room, after a particular scene. I hope I can ride this momentum into the weekend, getting as much stuff done as possible. It's weird. When I have my back up against the wall, and I should be getting sleep, I get the most work done. When I have all day to do stuff, I waste it away surfing the net, watching TV, etc. This weekend in particular, I need to get focused!
7/20/10 -Tuesday: BABY STEPS...
As suggested yesterday, I took baby steps today, to slowly get back into the groove of development. I immediately opened up my custom XP scripts, and started looking for a way to transform the existing XP given per kill, by add my own % modifier. Since all combat XP gain functionality was being routed to my own custom scripts, it was easy to just add the modifier there. At the moment, it's at 50%, meaning that the party is now receiveing half as much experience as usual. I'm sure I'll be playing around with this modifer as development goes on, but for the moment, it is working quite well.
Next, I took a look at the exptable 2DA, to see about reversing the way in which XP is given out. In a post last month, I talked about how I found it odd that the higher the level of an enemy, the less XP was given out. I wanted to have this be reversed, and have more XP given for higher level enemies. My thought was process was simple. Since I have a fine grained handle on enemy levels (I'm not using the scaling system), there are examples where you're fighting both level 1, and level 2 enemies. It just doesn't seem right when you kill that easy, level 1 enemy, and get 84XP, while that tougher level 2 enemy only nets you 42XP. While I thought just reversing the modifiers in the table would do the trick, it seems that even in that table, they don't ascend or descend consistently. For instance, a level 6 may gave 50 XP,a level 7 may give 60XP, and a level 8 may give 30XP. In the end, I decided to leave it along for the time being, but I will probably come back and modify each level's modifier according to this game's standards. It may not even be that much work, because I only expect level gains of 5 at the most, if that.
The last thing I did was make sure that the PC of the game was being properly represented in cutscenes. Earlier, since I am using a pre-gen, I was just dropping that pre-gen in as the actor for the scene. Obviously, as the game goes on, their appearence will change, armor wise, so that little quick fix wouldn't work. Luckily, I found out by reading the cutscene tutorial that all you have to do is set a mapping tag of PLAYER the actor you want to represent the PC, and they will be represented accordingly in the scene. So, it was very easy for me to open up every cutscene, and add this mapping tag. I know there is something similiar for party members, so I'll have to look that up as well. Like the PC, I'm just grabbing the stock party member blueprints from the palette, which won't work as their armor changes.
All in all, it was a pretty successful night back at it. I didn't get too distracted, and I simply got things done, minor as they were. Tomorrow, I will finish up the design of this level I left half done (because it was all I needed at the time). Then, I'll finally end this one particular sequence, and move on to the next.
7/19/10 -Monday: BACK ON THE GRIND...
Well folks, I'm back home now. The wedding was great, I survived the flight, and the Bahamas is a wonderful country. Now, it's back to reality, and the grind...
The anticipation of going back to work was, by far, the worst fear. It's like, I couldn't really enjoy my last 2 days of freedom. When you're gone for so long, it's like you almost forget that you need to work in order to pay for the things you did the previous 2 weeks. Well, it was a lot easier than I expected, so that was good. Sure, I had work to do, but within an hour, it was like I hadn't even left for 2 weeks.
Of course there is the new apartment to deal with. I feel like every day, there is some new piece of furniture that needs to be built, some new bill that needs to be setup online for auto payments (cause I will miss it otherwise), etc. In short, it's a pain in the ass. I've talked to many people, and this is normal, but damn, when will it ever end?! I just want to come home and relax, and...
...work on Rose of Eternity. God bless my heart, I haven't even done anything significant for... well... I have no idea how long it's been. 3 weeks, maybe? But screw that, no more. I'm back! Things seems to be in order with regards to the apartment (more or lesss), so starting tomorrow, after the gym, I'm getting back to it.
The toughest part is figuring out where to start. I do my best work when I'm in the zone, but getting to that zone after essentially 3 weeks off is hard. I think starting out with some scripting may ease me back into things. I still need to override the existing XP system, and give out 50% (or whatever calculation I come up with) of what is currently being given out. As stated before, I want to slow down the leveling, because it seems to go too damn fast. You have to put in work to get that next level :)
Next, I need to confirm that when a a certain party member levels up to 3, they get their respective Last Resort.I'm pretty sure I've seen a "on level up" event for players, so I just need to catch it, and run my own functionality for this particular party member.
Once that's done, I should be ready to get back to the meat of things, which is really about continuing the plot. I actually more or less finished up the bi sequence I had worked on for months, now I just need to write some dialog to close it out, and move on to the next sequence.
And with that, I will end this update, put on some music, and brainstorm some more things, because I'm not exactly happy with what I have for the conclusion to the sequence.
7/17/10 -Saturday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS: APPLYING THEM...
Okay, let's just get right to it. I'm just going to talk about each previously listed inspiration:
Working hard for what you get - For the most part, I subscribed to this design decision quite well. You don't get Last Resortsuntil level 3. You don't get Passive Abilitiesuntil level 5. You need to earn 100 Bonds of Battle Pointsin order to move up a tier for each ability. The glue that holds all of this together is slower paced leveling. Now, in my NWN mods, the leveling was slower than normal, but not slow enough. For this next game, I will be essentially cutting what you normally get, in half.
With everything else in game design, there will be a fine line. It's not like it's going to take you 10 hours to gain 1 level. On the other end of the spectrum, you won't be gaining a level every hour. That's the plan anyway.
What's the end result? When you get that new skill/ability/spell, you will feel like you worked damn hard for it.
Enemy Difficulty - I have always been able to do this quite well, because of the forced PC. I know what abilities you will have, what level you will be at, approximately, etc. I wrote about this earlier, but I'm a fan of tougher enemies at first, followed by a temporary lull when you feel powerful (most likely after gaining a new item/ability), followed by tougher enemies.
Also, enemy difficult isn't just the amount of HP's they have. It's about finding their weaknesses, and exploiting it. It's about knowing which ability to use, at the correct time. I'm striving to do this even more in my next game.
Solitude - I haven't done this yet, and I am not about to give away any spoilers!
Charm - This is hard to measure, being an intangible and all. I would like to think that this series has it's own charm, but I'll have to leave that up to the fans to decide. There is definitely a unique style I am going for, so perhaps that's where the charm comes in? Perhaps having a decidely old school flavor to some aspects of this series gives it an old school charm? *Shrug*
FINAL FANTASY IV
Large cast of characters - Just go to the Castpage for proof of this. And, it's missing people. It also doesn't take into account all the new cast members in this new game. This is very important to me, in terms of trying to create a somewhat believable world, so I'll continue to put a lot of effort into this.
Effectiveness of music - My first 2 games have a total of 69 custom tracks in them. This new one is around 45 so far. Whenever I am brainstorming, I am listening to music. Entire scenes, especially cutscenes, have been created around a single piece of music. In reality, music is the driving force behind this series, and always has been, creatively speaking.
SECRET OF MANA
Multiplayer - Nothing I can do at the moment, but I can dream!
FINAL FANTASY VI
Large ensemble cast of characters - While already having a large cast of characters, I've also attempted to not center all the action around one particular person. Sure, Aramus would seem to be the hero in the first 2 games, but that's because I had to pick someone to focus things on, as I simply don't have the resources to tell everyone's story.
Still, this approach is bearing its fruits now, as I design this current game. The "hero" won't be Aramus, and that's fine, because there are so many other stories that need to be told, to tie everything together.
Opera scene - I plead the 5th!
Dynamically changing world - I was able to do this a little in my earlier games. In the first one, you start in Aribine, and things in it, and the surrounding areas are, for the most part, okay. However, in the 2nd game, once the Boundary has expanded, things change dramatically in the surrounding areas.
Once lush fields turn into toxic wastelands. Where once, it was raining all the time, now there is nothing but a certain calm to things.
The thought process is simple. If the player has been somewhere, gotten used to it, perhaps learned to love it, seeing it destroyed should evoke some sort of emotion. Like I said, that's the plan. I'm just making this shit up as I go :)
Double/Triple Tech System - This is pretty straightforward. The evolution of this system became my Unison Abilitysystem.
Tactical Combat - This is a big one, actually. Before even deciding on the aurora toolset as the platform to make my first 2 games, before I even implemented anything, when everything was still in my head, the gameplay was... *gasp* action oriented. Yep, that's right. If you simply click the "A" button, Aramus would swing his sword horizontally. If you clicked the "B" button, he would swing it vertically. In fact, Soul Calibur was one of the models I used for this.
Then I played, Baldur's Gate, found the Aurora toolset, and realized this game was definitely a game that needed that overheard tactical combat system. So, while I was sort of forced into it because my lack of resources in engines, it turned out that when I got was the right thing all along.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME
Shiny moments - Ah, I love these. Aramus has his Sword of Galladoran upgraded in South Shinkara Forest. He finds the Left Ring of Galladoran. Clopon passes her first trial in the Dungeon of Summons. Challseus remembers how to brew potions. Aramus has his Sword of Galladoran upgraded again in Stramadon.
All of these were special moment, and I designed them as such, usually with a nice little cutscene, and some pomp and circumstance music.
Items/Abilities that matter - I didn't do enough with this, but the main example that comes to mind is Aramus' Illuminate. It can scare away Shinkara Worgs, and Shinkara Shadows. I can stun enemies. I can be used to light green crystals. It can be used to reflect magical spells.
Now, I just need to implement things like that for more items/abilities, and I'll be straight.
Emotional cutscenes - This remains to be seen. It's easier to do this with the Dragon Age toolset, but again, it will be the fans that let me know if I succeeded or not.
DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS
Voice acting - Never had this in any of my games, but I am striving to get it in this time. Only time will tell if it's worth it. I still believe that no VO is better than subpar VO.
WHEEL OF TIME
Multi-chaptered stories - This is pretty obvious. There's already Rose of Eternity - The Coming & Rose of Eternity - Cry The Beloved, which deal with the same set of characters. This next game, while 20 years in the future, is still very much a part of the first 2 games. I've had this saga mapped out in my head for years, so get used to the world, the characters in it, etc. I won't be moving to anything else, that's for sure.
Fan reaction - This is really important. The following has changed dramatically, because of fan feedback:
Less cutscenes, more pc driven dialog interactions
The last bullet is worth mentioning further. When I started modding, I wasn't familiar with DnD, or roleplaying in general. I was obviously a JRPG fan, but even when I played Baldur's Gate, I wasn't roleplaying. The combat and story drove the game, not me imagining I was the PC I created. It just wasn't I knew of, or cared about.
So, I felt the scourge of the community. Fair enough. That was enough inspiration to start thinking about giving more roleplaying options in dialog, as well as giving multiple ways to complete certain sections of the game. Players obviously never got the level of roleplaying they would get with their own created character, but it was something, and for the most part, the reception regarding this in my 2nd game was quite good.
All of the above, and more, is what has contributed to the development of Rose of Eternity. It's funny, there was this thread a while back on the forums talking about possibly borrowing some ideas from a JRPG, and using them in Dragon Age. Oh man, people did not want to hear that! Screams of "I don't want linear, metrosexual content in my RPG's". Mind you, the person was just talking about possible changes to the combat, but just using the term JRPG elicits some sort of paranoid fear. It's silly, really.
All games can learn from other games. Obviously, all things won't translate from game to game, but if it does, why not use it? That's really the core of Rose of Eternity. It's why I don't like to use categories, because you get shoe horned into things, taking all the positives and negatives. I still refer to it as an RPG, but inside, I hate it. Oh well.
7/16/10 -Friday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 11...
PEOPLE WHO ENJOY THIS SERIES
PEOPLE WHO DO NOT ENJOY THIS SERIES
The biggest source of inspriration in the past few years has been, well, you! Not just you, who are reading this, but anyone who has left me feedback, positive or negative.
I will admit that when I started out back in 2004, I thought I knew what I was doing, and was above criticism. I mean, who the hell gives someone, who doesn't even design games, the right to criticize my work?! Lol, yeah, I've grown up a lot since then. But man, when I used to get bad reviews, which resulted in my overall rating going town 100th of a point, it ruined my day. For your viewing pleasure, I have picked out some scathing reviews, some reviews I thought were negative, which years later turned out I was just being an ass, and some positive ones.
NOT SO GOOD REVIEWS
1.00 - MY GOD! This module SUCKS! Goblins with dozens of HP? Asps with 50+ HP? 15 min of "movie" everytime you meet someone? Who the hell designed this? What a waste of time! Oh, and all the "custom" music is ripped off FF and Chrono Trigger...classy.
2.00 - worst playing experience I've had. I have no idea why it's gotten such a high rating. very heavy handed.. too many movies. The author should have made a movie instead of a game... there was NO game play in the 6 hours I struggled with this module before giving up.
4.00 - Didn't like it. 4 for effort
6.00 - I don't understand why everyone is sweating this module. I will give props were they are due, the scripting is simply amazing, but other than that there is nothing here. The story is so goofy it makes the OC seem like LOTR. I think the author read one to many forgettable fantasy novels as a teenager.
As far as the building goes it's better than most stuff on the vault, but when someone grabs NPC's out of the standard palette, I know they didn't work very hard. And for shame, letting the innkeeper wear standard pallet commoners clothes! I mean how long does it take to make some clothes, yo?
Why the author didn't add a decent clothes hack is beyond me, considering he's using every other tileset hack produced in the last year, I don't think one more clothes and armor hack would hurt (Baulders Hauberks and Commonerclothes, comes to mind). And for future reference, lime green is not a good color on anyone, let alone rangers and for god's sake, never garb your hero in lime green!
What's funny is the three qualities this mod has in spades (great scripting, juvenile story and lazy area design) will get this man hired by Bioware or some other company. Good luck with your future mods and employment and remember, lay off the standard palette and the lime green, yo.
REVIEWS THAT PISSED ME OFF, UNTIL I LATER REALIZED WERE QUITE INFORMATIVE
3.00 - Very, very unimpressed. Obviously, a *lot* of work has gone into the module, but the results did not produce a module I enjoy at all. Unskippable, extremely long cutscenes bog down gameplay on a constant basis, and the writing is cliched and painful to read. Some excellent and innovative uses of scripting, but character progression (for Aramus at least) is very directed (WW with a greatsword, no other real options). Ditto for plot progression and the ability to choose methods of advancing the plot. I almost regret leaving such a poor score, but on an enjoyment level, this module simply fails entirely for me. The poor writing and constant dragging on of cutscenes bring it down even further, overshadowing the excellent aesthetics and obvious amount of effort.
9.00 - The Rose of Eternity is a very interesting module by first-time builder, Challseus. In some ways, it is the one of the most innovative modules to come out for nwn, ranking right up there with Twilight, the Lord of Blight, and Demon to name a few. With several innovative combat devices, two distinct storylines that are played with different characters, as well as absolutely spectacular cutscenes, this module is full of bling and is a delight to play. But it's not perfect, and is sometimes bogged down by some uninteresting side quests and some occasionally poor dialog.
The story itself is really good. The Keeper of the Roses is a mythical being who oversees the Rose of Eternity, which has been losing petals for 4000 years. The Keeper is committed to maintaining her rose garden until the last petal falls from the Rose of Eternity, at which point she will destroy the world…UNLESS mankind stops all the terrible violence and oppression to which she has tried to put an end for her entire existence. Sweet concept.
You play two characters. The first is Aramus, an amnesiac, who has “befriended” Clopon, a strange young cleric whose master has just been killed by a rather terrifying villain named Kain. These two characters know nothing of the Rose of Eternity—they are just trying to get to an old ally of Clopon's former master to get some help. All the while, they are pursued by the Defenders of Legacy, a powerful yet corrupt group of fighters. The second character is Challseus. His story precedes the first one chronologically, but is meant to be played second. It is the story of his service to his order of magic users, but also his belief and secret workings supporting the cause of the Keeper of the Rose. Both storylines are interesting, although given the more grand and mysterious nature (at this point) of Challseus's plot, I thought his was a bit tighter. The quality of the story bodes very well for the future of this campaign.
The author readily acknowledges the strong influence of console games on his module design, and it definitely shows. The system is still AD&D, but the style of the world feels very much in line with a medieval Final Fantasy. It has a lot of the elements of the final fantasy series – a hero who wields a huge sword, a female healer, a wise older magic user, legends and prophecies, a powerful but corrupt government, and a more sinister, intelligent, and downright frightening villain who seems to be operating above and beyond the government. I really like the world he's created. Furthermore, Challseus also makes use of a lot of custom music, much of which comes from console games. Hearing some of the cuts from Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy Tactics really pulled me into the game, and they meshed very well with the events on the screen, be they cutscenes, battle sequences, or simply wandering around town.
Combat was innovative and fun. Last Resort abilities are awesome – every bit as interesting as the limit breaks of final fantasy vi, but perhaps a bit more strategic. Since you can only use them when your health is low, you have to often make a judgment call between using your last resort and using a healing potion. All your enemies have them as well, and it certainly ramps up the stakes during fights. Often you'll have to make sure that you focus on one enemy at a time for fear that you'll unleash too many last resort abilities at once. Aramus also receives an “illuminate” ability early on, which comes in extremely handy. Not only will it stun enemies for a round or two, it also causes several types of enemies to flee from your character, allowing them to enter areas that would otherwise be very deadly. Challseus possesses a very useful wand of power, which not only deals big-time damage to foes (10hp/level), but also pushes them far off the screen away from your character! Finally, the unison abilities are also pretty sweet, although you don't get them until later in the mod. Still, I successfully used whirlwind heal (an ability where Aramus couples his whirlwind attack with a heal from Clopan, which spreads the healing effect to the entire party) 2-3 times, and it made a huge difference in at least one fight.
And I have to comment again on the cutscenes. Some have complained that they are long, and they are, but found them absolutely captivating (though I do encourage the author to allow ESCing from them, since I'm not sure I'd want to sit through them all if I played the mod again). The opening cutscene, in particular, is just spectacular. The shot where the camera pulls away with the Keeper of the Rose framed precisely in the notch above the garden gate made my jaw drop. And the music in that scene was amazing. Others weren't quite on that level, but were always well directed, effective, and interesting. Emotes are effectively used in time with the dialog during scenes, and again reminded me a lot of cutscenes from console games. The cutscenes in this module are at least as good, if not better than those in the Lord of Blight and After the End: The Penumbra, and Hordes of the Underdark. Really well done.
Unfortunately, I can't really give this module a perfect score. There are two main reasons for this. First, Aramus's story takes a long time to get going. You are supposed to do a lot of side quests and the like for townspeople. Many of these are not very inspiring. There's the “go kill 10 things to get a discount at the store” quest. And the “go kill 20 other things to get access to the real store” quest. And the “go fetch berries for my cooking” quest. And the “go fetch my supper” quest. I did enjoy the “convince my husband to stop praying” quest, and I apparently missed a somewhat interesting quest involving a boy (who I did see) who is fascinated by the local guard target practice. In fact, it's very easy to miss several of these quests, which actually can result in a penalty later in the game! Consulting the walkthrough, I apparently didn't talk to the right people to get the boy quest, the meat delivery quest, the berry quest, the chicken quest, and the lazy farmer quest. This resulted in me getting penalized for not only helping insufficient numbers of people in Aribine, but also for not having enough experience because I didn't do those quests. I'm not sure how I missed all of those quests, as I thought I talked to everyone I saw—part of it may be that there were day/night NPC schedules, and my main pass around the (rather large) town happened at night when many NPCs were inside. I think all of these quests were designed to make the game seem less linear, but I would frankly recommend dropping most of them. .. Or, at least, not doing something similar to this in the next chapter. The strength of this module is its story, and these quests seemed only to put off getting to the story a bit longer. In comparison, I thought Challseus's story was very well done and immediately engrossing (even if massive amounts of resting were needed to keep the spells fresh). If side quests are added, they should at least be interesting in their own right…it's even better if they can add some information about the history and legends of the land.
Furthermore, there are some issues involving overall polish. This was an ambitious module with many very innovative systems, and thus it is not surprising that there were occasional bugs with the new systems. I'm sure many of these can be addressed, and I am reporting them to the author. There were also some problems with the dialogs, particular among NPC's in Aribine. For example, you would start a conversation and go down a particular dialog tree. You'd then finish that thread and say you wanted to ask something else. Instead of the NPC saying “sure, what?” they instead launch into their entire introductory schpeal. It was very jarring to read and immediately removed me from any immersion I was experiencing in the game.. This is very fixable in the conversation editor, it just takes a little extra effort – but it would be well worth it. Finally, the writing in general could sometimes use some work. Overall, the style of writing is quite simple, which is fine – the flower scene, for example, was charming in its simplicity, and reminded me again of scenes from console games I've loved. But I think it would be worthwhile to do a complete pass on all the dialog once again to edit, revise, and spice it all up a bit. There are few typos, but sometimes grammar issues occur.. and sometimes the writing is a bit boring. I tried to write down specific instances, and I will relay those to the author.
Despite these flaws though, the Rose of Eternity is a good, extremely innovative module with a great story and setting that I would encourage everyone to try. Just make sure you get past the opening town. Thanks for all your hard work Challseus! I very much look forward to playing the second chapter! –B 21 July, ‘05
10.00 - Need I actually give an explaination for a 10? :)
Just wanted to say this was by far the most original module I've ever played. Generally I'm not much of a fan of heavy hack n' slash modules for NWN because of how repetive it can get (the ole click and wait), but with the custom battle skills RoE offers that isn't the case. Now because of this I can see why some people would give the module a low vote, if you're one to just click and wait there is going to be encounters that will be near impossible. You actually must become skilled with using the special/unsion abilities provided to overcome some battles rather than just having your character a certain level, and that in my eyes makes for a great module alone.
The writing and detail put into this module though makes it a classic. Honestly I haven't felt so immersed in a game since Baldur's Gate and thought I never would again. This module kept me up all night because I refused to stop playing until I completed the whole module.
The riddles and puzzels too were great, they had the Zelda feel as you mentioned. Some of them were pretty challenging, the riddle Jarl (I believe) gave me in Stramandore made me feel like quite the idiot. Once you understood the principle of the module though, that being some things you need to come back later to, they really weren't all that difficult or 'show-stopping' as some people have called them.
10.00 - The continued story of "The Rose of Eternity - The Coming" becomes even better than the first part of the story. Playing this module, is like playing one of those old-school roleplaying games like "Final Fantasy", "Chrono Trigger", "Dragon Quest" etc. and it really succeeds in bringing this old roleplaying magic back to life; once again ... but with an originality beyond limits. :)
Great job Challseus! I really enjoyed your work and I must truly say that the wait was well worth it. :) Thanks for putting your soul into this project, since it really shows and you manage to bring this feeling out to the player as well (at least, to me you did). Hope you enjoy your well deserved rest; you have really earned it. :) Later.
10.00 - Today, we're all about junk - junk food, junk movies, junk TV. They may be momentarily satisfying, but there's no substance. I loved this module because it's the five star cuisine of gaming. Most of the puzzles were well thought out and well executed. The characters were believable and worthy of empathy. The story was interesting and the world was detailed.
Usually, games are created with a story that is an excuse for the action. It was obvious with this module that the story came first and any action flowed fairly naturally out of that. It was a well-written story, too. There's nothing I like more than sophisticated "bad guys." The enemies in this mod had a reason for doing what they do and it was easy to see how they could think that way... even while pounding the snot out of them.
I've been trained by games to expect loot off of every thing I kill (who knew woodland critters had pockets!) so the low levels of treasure in this mod took some getting used to. The thing is, it made finally getting something a notable event. I didn't find money just lying around the forest. I had to work for it, worry about having enough, and then spend it wisely. It added a nice touch of realism.
I am willing to forgive any rough patches I ran into while playing because this was a professional level game without professional level staffing or a professional level budget. I can't imagine the time and effort put into this by the people who worked on it. I am seriously impressed.
I read somewhere that you were trying to get back to the games of your younger days. You learned your lessons well because the characters and the story drove this module and that's what makes it so great. I look forward with great anticipation to the next chapter.
10.00 - I am at a loss of words to describe this module - I never actually rated a module before
despite having played many, but I just have to give this a 10. I can't recall any single
player game before being this much fun to me, and... I paid for those! ;)
I love the characters, each of them. I was worried about the premade char at first, but I
grew to like Aramus quickly. His companions all have wonderful, interesting backstories and
personalities, and each is very handy in combat. I especially liked Clopon, but then I
always liked love-hate relationships in media.
The cutscenes were wonderfully made, and the music selections through at the module was
simply great - I can't remember a single time I had to fight back tears in a single player
game, but you managed to make me have to do it! My favourite cutscene probably was Clopon's
flashback when you first go to Adaramus Property. Music-wise, I loved the soundtracks for
the battles with Castias and Kain.
The special abilities in combat were great. One has to get used to them first, but... wow!
The unison attacks are simply spectacular (though I have only used Whirlwind Heal, Antipode,
Sym Link and Trinity Beam till now). All of them look great and are very handy (... well,
Sym Link wasn't pretty, just very handy - and there is a bug with it, but more of that
Seeing as there was little equipment to give permanent boni, and Clopon and Challseus
prepared very few buff spells, the passive abilities/BoBs were very useful. Especially
Stramadonian Regeneration III was a blessing.
Many people seem to have found the combat rather hard, but... I personally think it was a
bit easy actually. Not -to- easy, but I never had the feeling I was really close to loosing
besides in the few battles where Aramus doesn't have Clopon with him.
10.00 - Just finished. It rocked.
I liked the first one okay, but it just didn't stay with me very well. However, I decided to give this one a try recently, and was hooked from the start. I can't even begin to imagine how you manage to make such complex character interaction, new combat systems, and such detailed story and setting in the NWN toolset. I never knew it could be this colorful!
The characters were what I really loved. Clopon is my favorite (and I think her interaction with Aramus were so cute). I like the hints of possible romantic feelings between the two as well . . . course, Aloia would not like that at all, so it's danger all around. :D Anyway, Clopon's arrogant demeanor being a cover up for her own insecurities makes perfect sense once you know her entire story. I don't care what her face looks like, I love her!
Challseus is an interesting twist on the "wise, old mentor" type, since he's so forgetful and, despite his wisdom, a little bumbling. And, urg, at the end I wanted to kill those stupid genius kids; obviously intelligence does not grant common sense. But Challseus is a tough old dude, I have to give him that.
Raina and Auden were interesting, though I missed out on Raina's favor points. As a whole, all characters (and villains) were well-fleshed out. I kinda have to feel for Aloia, although she seems scarily obsessive.
Thanks sooo much for making such an involved and well-crafted game. I was actually dreading my level-ups because I knew they were bringing me closer to the end . . .
Essentially, once I pulled my head out of my ass, and actually started reading more into the negative reviews, my game design got better. Of course, there are a lot of negative reviews that need to just be discarded, but if you sift through the hatred, you can find legitimate concerns.
Tomorrow, I will conclude all 11 pieces of inspiration I've received over the years, and talk about how I have applied it to Rose of Eternity.
7/15/10 -Thursday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 10...
Let's just get this out of the way. I'm not here to talk about the quality of the novel series, why it dragged on for years, or even the untimely death of the original author (RIP, Mr. Jordan). I'm here to talk about what inspired me as a kid, which would ultimately translate into how I would design Rose of Eternity. It turns out, this could be applied to many fantasy novels out there, but since this was the first major one I read, and fell in love with, here we are:
Multi-chaptered stories - To be clear, when I say chapters, I mean books. Or, acts if you. The first book, Eye of the World was great. There was so much characterization, plot progression, etc. And still, there was more?! Remember, this was my first real book series, I was a young teenager, so I wasn't used to this. I loved how each chapter in the book would add more and more layers to all the main cast. And yeah yeah, I know that main cast grew to like 100's, but I'm talking about the real main cast, Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Elayne, Lan, Morraine, Nynaeve, etc.
It was the journey, the changes they made, who they became, things like that which I fell in love with. I know complete stories can be told in a single chapter, but I've always believed that the more time we have with a character, if done right, that characterization will end up being better. Who would have known Egwene would be come the leader of the Aes Sedai? Who knew Nyanaeve would cure the taint? Who knew Mat would have the memories of 100's of dead generals, and would end destined to marry the pricess of the conquering Seachan? It was changes like this that I really loved, and I'll say it again, I know it has dragged on, but for the first 1-8 chapters, it was great stuff.
As I say, all of this stuff could have been put into a single book or two, but to me, it would have seemed rushed. I like taking the long, scenic path with regards to stories, and I definitely got that in this book series.
7/14/10 -Wednesday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 9...
Another CRPG?! Someone must have put some 20 sided dice into a sling with +2 damage, and aimed it at my head, and told me to put down the gunblade. I mean, this is the internet, right? Sigh...
For the record, this game is in my top 5 RPG's of all time, It was the first RPG in like what, a decade, where I put in like 8-9 hours in a row... no food... no breaks... no shower... just pure gaming... Haven't done that since Chrono Trigger. Besides those damn Deep Roads, I really enjoyed the game. There was one thing that really stuck out to me though:
Voice acting - I'm not one of those gamers who knows the names of voice actors and whatnot, so fogive me for not knowing who they are, but... whoever voiced Alistair & Morrigan really brought them alive. I also loved whoever voiced the head of the templars at the mage tower, I think his name was Gregor. Oh yeah, and Irving was cast very well too.
Point is, I can't believe I did this, but I really sat and listening to like every conversation with every main character. And, I mean, every dialogue option I could get. The world was made so much more believable because of these actors, and I cared enough to hear everything they said.
So, I put in about 70 hours my first playthrough, and then started modding. I do want to go through the game again, picking the Mage origin, I just hope I get the chance. I have instantiated a rule to continue playing games even while modding, so I don't lost my sanity, and I keep up with all new things, but Dragon Age is a different beast. It's so damn long!
But, before that, I need to play through Awakenings. I'm waiting for the patch which apparently will be released on Monday, July 19th, which will fix a lot of issues with it. Then, I'll get Leliana's Song.
7/13/10 -Tuesday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 8...
Ah, Lost Odyssey. I can't say it's one of my favorite RPG's, but overall, it was a fun romp. It was created by the father of Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi, and was composed by music diety, Nobuo Uematsu. Speaking of which, I really hadn't heard much from him for years, and wasn't sure if he still had it, musically speaking. Well, I was floored when I heard the soundtrack for this game. As usual, it had its own distinct sound, and it was just amazing. As usual, I have all pieces from the soundtrack, and surprise surprise, I'm listening to it right now as I write this :)
So, this game more or less stuck to age old JRPG conventions, which was well and good. But, one thing stuck out to me:
Emotional cutscenes - Now, I know SquareEnix had been making extremely well done cutscenes for years with the Final Fantasy series, but there was something about these cutscenes here. They just had that extra emtional depth. Case in point, the following cutscene from the game, the only thing in ANY game that has made me cry:
It's no shock to anyone who knows me, or has read this blog that I love well done cutscenes. But for years, I was wondering when we were going to get to a point in video games, where cutscenes started to become extremely dramatic. There have obviously been other emotional cutscenes before this one, but none have touched me like this. Perhaps it was the tear effect they got on Lirum, Kaim, well, damn near everyone in the scene. Maybe it was because I had already invested 10+ hours into the game, and truly felt Kaim's pain even before this scene. Maybe it wad the facial expressions. Who knows.
Whatever it was, this is something that makes me very happy. We're getting there.
It's funny that there was about 10 years between games that inspired me, but then again, it took damn near 10 years for cutscenes to start getting to acceptable levels (for me, that is). All of that said, I expect to continue to be inspired by new games. Hmm, perhaps even another little game that I would assume most people reading this like...
7/12/10 -Monday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 7...
Right, so let's get some things out of the way before I begin.
Some people may not consider this an RPG. In the end, who cares. It's a great game, regardless of the "genre", and I have always been inspired by many games, that aren't "RPG's"
I could have technically picked any zelda game, because they are all the same with regards to how I've been inspired by them, I just chose this one because it was one of the most memorable ones
So, the release of this game was interesting. I had been anticipating it since the release of Super Mario 64, was gave me my first taste of 3d done correctly. The release date came, and me and Rose of Eternity co-writer, Brian Rhodes, realized we didn't pre-order it. Gah?! What took place over the next 7 hours was us driving all over the COUNTY to find a copy. When all else failed, I called up a store we never thought would be selling it, and it turned out a kid I knew worked there. He pulled some strings, and within the hour, we received our shiny new gold cartridges (as was the style whenever a new Zelda game was released).
There's no need to go into why I liked this game. It's been well documented. Usually, there are 2 camps. Those that would sell their first unborn child for it (me!), and those that stopped playing because they couldn't stand Navi's annoying sounds. Meh, to each their own. What I did like was:
Shiny moments - These are the moments when you receive some new item or power, where there is a bunch of pomp and circcumstance. These are the moments that stick with you in your memories forever. It's about the sense of accomplishment. You've worked tirelessly. This is your moment!
I've experienced such feelings whenever I have lifted the master sword, or whatever they decide to call it in practically every Zelda game I have played. It never gets old. Same thing goes for find new items in dungeons. You just never know what item you're going to get (for the most part), which makes scenes like this even more special.
Items/Abilities that matter - Nothing pisses me off more than getting items/abilities in games that don't really matter. You know what I mean... fluff... Now, I'm not saying that The Legend of Zelda totally gets away from this, but it does a damn good job. Whenever I get a main item, I know it will serve a purpose, if not 2 or 3. I love the concept of sections of games designed around the use of certain abilities and/or items. Now, when you get 15+ items that all serve multiple purposes, and you need to figure out the right combination of them to proceed in a game, that is pure bliss for me. For me, it's quality over quantity, and I feel I get that with this series.
Out of all the series of games I've been playing since 1987, this is the only one I have stayed true to. Even my beloved Final Fantasy has fallen to the wayside (though I am enjoying Final Fantasy XIII, for what it's worth). There's just something that keeps me coming back, and may be the 2 aforementioned sources of inspiration.
7/11/10 -Sunday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 6...
Wait, what? A CRPG on the list? What's this? Surely a JRPG fan such as myself couldn't possibly like an RPG such as this? Because, JRPG fans are idiots, that are only into metrosexual heros, and other such things? Surely, I don't know what a true RPG is, blah blah blah. I'll be going into why that's a fucking stupid argument to make at a later date, but yeah, here we are :) Baldur's Gate, a game I stumbled upon one night, my first year in college.
I was at my friend's house one day, and I honestly don't rememeber, but I believe he had a demo of the game. Back then, we all had computers and consoles, but only used the PC's for warcraft and starcraft. Anyway, I started playing this demo, and it just felt... different... The world seemed feasible, if that makes sense. Don't get me wrong, I love the earlier JRPG's I mention as inspirations, but they always took place in a world that didn't seem real. Baldur's Gate, seemed more realistic, minus the magic and such.
Oh, and I know it's a small thing, but I loved how whenever I equipped armor/weapons on my party members, you actually saw the difference. This was big, because all RPG's I had played up until that point, no matter what you wore, you looked the same.
Another thing I fell in love with was the fact that you could have 6 party members at once. I was getting a little sick of how this number kept getting smaller with each subsequent release of games during the golden age. 5 in Final Fantasy IV, 4 in Final Fantasy VI, and 3 in Chrono Trigger. I love tactical combat, and I always felt like the more party members I had, the more tactical the combat could be. Which brings me to the main point I need to make:
Tactical Combat - This is probably heresy, but the thing that kept me playing through this game, and its sequel was the tactical combat. The pause and play, real time features were just something I wasn't used to. Now, instead of just knowing which attack/ability/spell to use, I also needed to take into account their placement in the area, the topography, etc. Many a night, I would pause the game, and literally sit there for minutes, plotting my next move. In my opinion, that's what tactical combat is all about!
In my personal opinion, Dragon Age has refined this combat system for the better, but this was the first time I ever experienced anything like it, and it totally changed my outlook on how combat in an RPG could be...
Okay, so it's late summer of 1995. In 1991, we got Final Fantasy IV. In 1992, we got Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. In 1993, we got Secret of Mana. In 1994, we got Final Fantasy VI. Wait, what? There was more to come? Yep, just a little gem called Chrono Trigger! I assume most people who read this blog come from the CRPG side of things, but many of these RPG's are at the top of people's lists of top RPG's of all time (with regards to JRPG's), so trust me, it was a busy 5 years :)
What made this game great was it brought together a dream team of developers. The creator of Final Fantasy, the producer of Dragon Warrior, the artist of Dragon Warrior, the composer of Final Fantasy, and another relatively unknown composer, by the name of Yasonoru Mitsuda...
...Speaking of which, let's just get the soundtrack out of the way. It's was phenomenal, as was expected of a Squaresoft game back then. I can't say it's neccessarily better than that of Final Fantasy VI, it was just... different... He had his own style of composing music, and in the end, it definitely gave the series it's own unique style. Among other unique things was... oh, a little thing called... time travel!
I'm not going to go into it, that's what the wikipedia link is for. Suffice to say, they implemented it extremely well in my eyes, and it's definitely a well earned bullet point on the back of the box. What I'm here to talk about it:
Double/Triple Tech System - The concept was really simple. Each member of your party had their own individual tech/magic abilities. However, you were able to combine certain abilities into devastating double/triple abilities. For instance, Lucca had a fire spell. Crono had a leap slash attack. They could be combined into a fire leaping slash attack. For me, this was the first time I had seen anything like it, and I was blown away. Part of the fun of the game was getting different party combinations together, to see all the different types of abilities that were out there.
I'm honestly surprised that not many games have utilized systems like this. Bioware finally got on board with Dragon Age, but it wasn't done on the same scale, as you could only combine different spells together. They say that in Dragon Age 2, you will be able to combine spells and talents, so it's a step in the right direction.
I didn't know it at the time, and wouldn't seriously think about it for another decade, but this game marked the end of the golden age. Things change, and development times increased dramatically, so it just wasn't feasible to keep releasing great rpg after rpg every year. Plus, certain series, like Final Fantasy started moving in separate directions, stylistically, that just didn't appeal to me. Or, perhaps I was just getting older. You see, all I had known my entire life was JRPG's. There was another side of things that I was about to be blown away by...
7/9/10 -Friday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 4...
Right... So, I don't even know where to start with this... Okay, so every once in a while, I put together a mental list of my top 5 RPG's of all time. This is practically at the top of the list every time. This game, and the memories me and my friends have of it are the stuff of legends. I guess I'll start at the top:
So, as you have already read a few posts down, I liked Final Fantasy IV... A lot... For whatever reason, there was apparantly a Final Fantasy V that was never released in the US at that time. I remember seeing pictures of it in GameFan, not really understanding why we weren't getting it. Anyway, the next year, pictures started surfacing for Final Fantasy VI. As usual, they were on the cutting edge of what the Super Nintendo could do. No, seriously. This was the first 24 MB game released for the SNES, and it was the first to utilize all 256 colors the system had, at the same time. I was on the side of Nintendo during the whole Nintendo/Sega wars, and this added fuel to the fire. The Genesis couldn't even run the game if it wanted to, because it only had 64 colors. Yes, I remember things like that. Take that Genesis lovers!
Anyway, I obsessed over this game like I had never obsessed over a game before. I remember buying a Super Nintendo Buyer's Guide just to drool over 2 pages of information, for weeks. When the game was finally released, all my expectations were met, and then some! I'll never forget sitting there with my friend, Jason Folks, watching the opening scene with the mechs walking through the snow, as the opening credits scrolled on the screen. It was just so damn epic. There's no way I can do into greater detail about what was so great about this game, because I need to really focus on the inspiration I got from it:
Large ensemble cast of characters - Now, this may seem like what I wrote about when describing Final Fantasy IV, but this is slightly different. While the older game had a large cast of characters, 12 to be exact, this had 14, plus many temporary ones *cough* General Leo*cough*! And the best part was, as an ensemble cast should be, there was no true hero, or leader. Sure, some people could point to Locke Cole, or Terra Branford, but that's mostly because they are the first people you get in your party, therefore, you see more of them than anyone else.
But it's what they did with the cast, and the story. Early on, your party gets extremely big, so what do they do? They split your party up into 3 distinct groups and paths, and let you play out those scenarios in the order you see fit. There are many dungeons, including the last one, where you have to pick 3 teams of 4 party members, in order to complete it. It's moments like these that I enjoy the most. Instead of forcing you to leave some people on the sidelines, you get to utilize everyone, and all of their abilities. Good stuff.
Opera scene - Early in the game, there is a particular party member that has an airship the party needs. In order to lure him out of hiding, the replace an opera singer, Maria, with another party member, Celes, who also knows how to sing. They know this airship guy, Setzer, will attempt to kidnap her, so they set the bait and trap. It's a great sequence where you get to control Celes during the scene , entering in the lines she must speak/sing, while you also control other party members fighting monsters above it all, where no one else can see. This scene has stuck with me for so long, because it was just... different. You always felt like you were doing something different, and this scene definitely highlights that fact. And yes, I listen to the opera music frequently :)
Dynamically changing world - So, the real antagonist of the game is Kefka, is in short, a mad man. Years earlier, he was picked to undergo a test to receive magical powers (magic had long been extinct). The process drove him crazy, and he became the lunatic everyone loves to hate. Now, with regards to a dynamically changing world, well, a lot of antagonists talk about destroying humanity, the world, etc. Well, this son of a bitch actually did it!
Halfway through the game, the current World of Balance becomes the World of Ruin, during the process in which Kefka essentially becomes a God. Thousands of people are killed during his transformation, and the world itself changes dramatically. Continents split apart, some are flooded, some just straight disappear, etc. Essentially, the 2nd half of the game's world is totally different from the first. It's great to go back and visit areas you had previously seen, only to see a small remnant of what it used to be. Plus, that entire group of cast members are all dispersed all over the world, and it's great fun to find them, and reunite with them.
As I stated earlier, this game pops up at the top of my mental top 5 RPG's of all time, pretty often. Thing is, I haven't played it in years, so another play through is warranted, I believe. I hoping like hell they give it the same treatment they did for Final Fantasy IV, and release a DS remake of it. If not, I can always get the Gameboy Advance version, which will play on my DS as well.
Writing this has really gotten me to think about this game a lot (more so than the others), so one way or another, I will be playing this again very soon.
7/8/10 -Thursday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 3...
The glory days of RPG's continued with this little gem. I remember getting this game around Halloween of 1993, when I was in 8th grade. As usual, these were some of the best memories in my life, as if they happened yesterday. My grandma from Chicago was visiting for the week, and I had taken over a newspaper route for my close friend, Rob Redden, for that same week. All I knew at the time was that it was a spiritual sequel, if you will, to another one of my favorite games, Final Fantasy Adventure.That was good enough for me!
The improvements Squaresoft was making when it came to RPG's was readily apparent. The character/enemy sprites were getting bigger, the animations were getting better, the sound effects were improving, and even the color schemes were a nice change of pace. This was simply put, a beautiful game to gaze upon. Oh, and the music was on point, as usual. I mean, of course I'm listening to it while writing this. What better inspiration to remember things then listening to the music?!
The biggest innovation however was the inclusion of multiplayer. Before this game was released, Hudson Soft released the SNES Multitap. It plugged into the 2nd controller port, and added 4 additional ones, for up to 5 people to play at the same time. Rob Redden got it for free when he purchased Super Bomberman(classic game!), so me, him, and another close friend, Jason Herzlinger were able to test it out at his house. At any time, someone could plug in a controller, and take control of one of the 3 heros in the game. Of course there were limitiations, as you would expect. If one person walked left, and one walked right, there would be a "tug of war" effect with the screen. If one person went into a house, then all were warped there. Players would get stuck behind walls if someone else kept walking off the screen. When someone pulled up the ring menu to cast a spell or whatever, everyone's screen would freeze. At the time, these were all minor things in the grand scheme of things: My friends were playing an RPG together! This would end up inspiring me to design something in Rose of Eternity I have yet to implement:
c - You know, it's funny. There are always arguments over at the Dragon Age forums over if it should have been made to be multiplayer or not. I've normally been on the side of "It's better to keep it single player". Yet, I've always had aspirations of Rose of Eternity being multiplayer, from the day I started designing it. However, this multiplayer would be different than how NWN, or other CRPG's have done it. You wouldn't create your own character. No, you would just use any one that is currently in the party. Remember, this is a character driven RPG, and those characters are pre-defined.
So, let's take The Coming for example. At one point, you have a party that consists of Aramus, Clopon, & Challseus. Assuming I was already using Aramus, someone could connect to the game, and take control of Clopon. This would probably not work for people wanting to roleplay, but there it is. For people who like to play strategic combat based RPG's with others, this could be a solution. Plus, it would open up a lot of new gameplay ideas, especially Unison Abilities.
Unfortunately, I have never really thought this entire idea through, mostly because I'm not in a position to implement it. It's the little things that would cause problems:
if someone starts a conversation with someone else, does the entire party get warped over, or do they just miss it entirely?
if someone transitions into a store to buy some equipment, do the others transition as well?
how are cutscenes handled? does everyone have to watch them if one is initiated?
I could go on and on, but you get the point. I am sure these are things Bioware even wrestled with when designing Dragon Age. Honestly, I don't have any strong ideas, but the inspiration remains. If it could be done somehow, I would love to get multiplayer into a Rose of Eternity game.
Sadly, this is the last Mana game that I would play. They actually released a sequel in Japan, and surprise surprise, it never made it to the US. Unfortunately, all new mana games that have been released just haven't lived up to the standards set by this game. But, I still have my fond memories of this one, and that's good enough for me.
7/7/10 -Wednesday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 2...
While Dragon Warrior was my first RPG, this game is what really did it for me. I'll never forget my introduction to it. I was 11 years old, and in 6th grade. I borrowed the latest issue of Nintendo Power from my friend, and it was the featured game of the issue. Now, back then, when Nintendo featured a game, they would devote like 10+ pages to it, and even have a little walkthrough for early parts of the game. So, before even playing the game, I was able to get a pretty in depth look at it. And damn, what a look it was!
For reasons that still baffle me, I had never played Final Fantasy I, though I am sure I had heard of it. Well, when I initially saw the graphics of this game, I was amazed. These were top of the line graphics for 1991, mind you. More specifically though, it was how the battles were presented. I was used to only seeing my enemy (and one enemy at that!), the way Dragon Warrior handled things. All of a sudden, I'm seeing multiple enemies, multiple party members, and jaw dropping graphics. If you haven't already figured it out, I made it my mission to get this game as soon as I could! When I finally got the game, and watched that opening cinematic where Cecil and the red wings steal the crystal from the magical town of Mysidia, I was hooked. I didn't know at the time, but I was being enveloped in the aura of the glory days of RPG's, which would have a hold of me until 1995...
A few key things stick out for me, which have inspired me:
Large cast of characters- This entire game was one long drama from the beginning until the end. There were a total of 12 playable characters, with 2 of them having different forms along the way. The great thing about it all was how they were all interweaved throughout the story, and how you never knew what was going to happen next. You never got to choose who you had in your party at any given time, as it was always dictated by the plot, and it was something I really liked. This allowed the designers to really tell the story the way they wanted to. Party members were constantly being lost, killed (or so you would think) brought back from the dead, etc. An emotional rollercoaster, really.
Effectiveness of music - I had already been a huge fan of video game music, but the bar was raised with this game. Certain scenes just impacted me more as a kid, because of the music playing in the background. I also loved the fact that every party member had their own theme, which I am still not sure why other RPG's don't do this. Anyway, to this day, when I hear The Theme of Love, I can't help but think about the love triangle between Cecil, Kain & Rosa. From what I hear, this plays in malls in Japan, and music teachers use it as a lesson for their students. I've also heard it played at many video game concerts, and it's just thrilling. All in all, this really taught me how engaging an RPG really could be. Good times. Oh, and not that it's surprising, but I'm listening to the soundtrack as I write this :)
One more thing. I am definitely not talking from nostalgia, and remembering things better than they really were. I have the remake, Final Fantasy IV DS, and it was just as thrilling!
7/6/10 -Tuesday: ROSE OF ETERNITY - INSPIRATIONS PART 1...
Whenever one does any sort of creative work, there is usually some inspiration behind it, whether conscious or subconscious. With Rose of Eternity, that is definitely the case. Now, there are all sorts of types of inspirations, but I just want to talk about 2: video games, and a particular book.
This is where it all started. I was in 4th grade at the time, and my neighborhood friend's Father was a big gamer. One such game that he had was this. I had never played an RPG (that I can recollect), but I was immediately drawn to it. I used to love to come home from school, in order to kill as many gold golems as possible, so I could afford that broad sword!
Inspirations from this game are actually pretty core (or, things I am still attempting to emulate) to the Rose of Eternity experience:
Working hard for what you get - Man, anyone who has played this game knows you work DAMN hard for everything. As I mentioned, I killed gold golems for days to get that broad sword. Now obviously, we have come a lot further in RPG's, and that wouldn't really fly anymore, but I still love the concept of it, just the same, with minor tweaks.
With regards to killing monsters, you had to do a lot of that as well, just to level up. Man, when you hit that next level, it was like the greatest feeling in the world. Maybe, just maybe you could advance further up north to that first town in the game. Because at level 1, you could barely kill ghosts, but at level 2, you had a fighting chance. Speaking of which...
Enemy difficulty - You'll get your ass handed to you... countless times! Seriously, this is one unforgiving game. Stray two far from Tantagiel Castle in the beginning of the game, and you'll see what I mean. At the same time, the tenion that would build during fights (true turn base fighting) was amazing.
Solitude - Your party consists of one player, Erdrick, the entire game. You only fight one enemy at a time. You don't meet that many key characters. Now, I know that this is mostly because the genre itself was very new. Sequels would add more party members, more enemies to fight, better story, etc. Yet at the same time, there is something charming and aluring about being by yourself, the world against you, with no one else to help. I haven't yet, but I would love to experiment with something like that in Rose of Eternity, where someone from the cast is put in a similar, long term like situation. I would like to design experiences for them, such as how they deal with the solitude, how they deal with not knowing if they're going to survive. Just think of the movie, Castawaywith Tom Hanks, or I Am Legendwith Will Smith.
Charm -This is really an intangible. It's something that I can't really explain well. Sort of like trying to explain love to a 8 year old. Or hell, anyone who has never experienced it! Anyway, this game had that charm, whatever that may be. I haven't really experienced charm like this in a game since um.. well, Dragon Quest 8. So, 16 years later, and the game still has it!
Now, I need to note (and I will probably do the same thing for every game/book I talk about) that this is not nostalgia. I'm not saying Dragon Warrior is the best game ever, and that it holds up today. I'm saying certain key elements are desirable to me when designing an RPG.
7/5/10 -Monday: STILL ALIVE!!!
So yes, I can decree that I am still alive! I didn't particularly like going about a week without a daily update, but I've been so busy with the preparations for getting married and such. We had the ceremony last Wednesday (we're getting married in the Bahamas this Saturday, but needed to get it officially done in the USA first), then signed the lease to our first apartment on Thursday. I of course was working from home those days, so I didn't have that much time for anything else. Once the weekend came around, it was all about moving stuff and such. Oh, and yeah, I'll definitely be hiring someone for my next move, that's for sure. Anyway, our flight leaves tomorrow morning from JFL at 10:50am, so I figured I should just do a quick brain dump.
First and foremost, any few seconds I had to even open up the toolset over the past week have been devoted to squashing that annoying party member bug I've mentioned before. Everytime I thought I had it figured out, something else popped up. Well, I am happy to say that I have solved it, finally. You can read about it in this thread.
Now, some may question what the big deal was, or why I spent so much time on it. Well for one, it was the principle of the thing. I just couldn't believe there was no way to move around party members, without having to resort to having copies of them. The main reason was even simpler: It's a key system of the game that will be used a lot. It's one of those things that when implemented once, I can just forget about it, and use it from now on without thinking about it.
Let's take a look at Rose of Eternity - The Coming. The game took 15 months to develop, and lasted around 5-6 hours maybe? Of course much of that time was spent learning how to actually use the damn Aurora toolset, but a lot of it was spent building the systems that I would utilize later on. Systems like the Death System, Last Resorts, Unison Abilities, etc. I put a lot of time and effort into those things early on. Man, I remember all sorts of bugs when I was implementing them. Now, let's take a look at Rose of Eternity - Cry The Beloved. This game also took 15 months to develop, and yet, it was better in almost every aspect of the game, especially when it came to length. Besides the fact that I was obviously more comfortable with the toolset, the key was not having to waste time implementing that many systems. When I created new Last Resorts, the framework was already there. I didn't have to tinker with the Death System at all. It just worked. I had built up 100's and 100's of lines of reusable, utility code during the development of the first game. All the hard work was done. I was able to just focus on game design a lot more, instead of the more annoying technical aspects of things.
That's what's happening now. I'm setting the foundation for everything. It's an investment, really. In fact, a good commercial example is the difference between Baldur's Gate 1 & Baldur's Gate 2. As far as I know, the sequel was so much better, really because the technical desigers already knew the infinity engine inside out, and there were less technical things to worry about. They could just focus on adding as much depth as possible, and well, we all know the outcome of that :)
Anyway, like I said, it was nice to get that out of the way. Unfortunately, I was just so busy with the aforementioned wedding related things, I haven't had much time for anything else. And, I'll be gone for 2 weeks. But, there is a positive that will come out of this, I think. I do my best game design when relaxing, while listening to music. I expect to be laying on the beach, listening to music a lot over the next few weeks. I expect to be inspired by a lot of things, and I will have my trusty laptop with me to write things down as they come. In a way, this is a good thing. Before I started development, all I did was brainstorm things. Once development started, and I started working again, I just didn't get that same amount of brainstorming time. Sure, I brainstorm every day, but I remember last summer before I even had the toolset... I used to go down to the river, put on some music, and just brainstorm for hours. I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope to come back fully re-charged with some new ideas, and ready to get back into development full steam.
Well, this isn't it from me for the next 2 weeks (I hope!). I'm sure there will be some wireless connection in the hotel we're staying in, and I've been saving up some things I've wanted to talk about for a while, that don't have to do with the day to day development stuff I alwaays write about.
So, assuming I don't die in a place crash (yes, I am terrified!), you should be seeing some new updates very soon.
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