7/15/14 -Thursday: MORE NWVAULT CLEANUP... AND NOSTALGIA...
So, not entirely sure what's going to happen with NWVault. Someone (Proleric?) reached out to the folks that ran it, and they said they didn't know there was an issue, but that they would look at it. So maybe it's not going away? I mean, I can still get there, albeit, through an entry in my "hosts" file. But when I do get there, it's like the sytlesheet doesn't work, or is not available. In the end though, having managed many different systems at my current job, I know this is just the way of the world. The less important things tend to get disregarded so that other, more important things can be done. In other words, you stop checking on 10+ year old things, and worry about the future. I have literally had folks email me to tell me that some system I wrote 4 years ago isn't working the way they think it should, and it takes some time to find the place where it's deployed, and DEBUG things. Hell, most of the time, I just sort of tell them "This is not a high enough priority for me, so unless the CEO of the company is complaining, I'll get to it later". I'm hoping it's something like this that is going on.
In the interim, I'm doing my due diligence by getting as much of my content off the site as possible. I actually already downloaded all the mod files/hak paks/software updates/CEP last year. This time around, I just needed to get the most updated version of the ratings page.
Forgetting about the status of NWVault and whatnot, I actually want all that content so that I can one day integrate it into this website... well, when this website gets revamped, that is. I actually don't have any specific plans at the moment, but I know that I'm pretty much done with the volunteer route. Paid contract work is the way to go, so at the very least, it ups the chances of someone not disappearing.
But getting back to the ratings...
That's one thing I'm really going to miss with this latest game. I've browsed the pages of many of the current projects at The Nexus, and while people leave comments and such, it's not on the level of NWVault reviews. Man, back in the day, people took that shit seriously. You'd have like 5 paragraph reviews, highlighting different components of the game, the highs/lows, and much more. Whether it was good or bad, you were getting a lot of feedback. Now, it obviously depends on where your head is at, regarding this. If your'e trying to grow as a developer, then this is something very important. If you just put out some stuff, then never got back to the page, then it's not a big deal. As I'm clearly the former, it pains me to have spent so much time on this game, thinking that I already won't have that many people play it due to delays and whatnot, and those that do, I may not get the type of NWVault feedback I'm used to. But, what can you do?
Today's music from my New Age (Best of best) Spotify Playlist is from David Arkenstone, called, Tears In The Rain. Enjoy!
7/13/14 -Sunday: ANOTHER CHARACTER DONE, 3 MORE TO GO...
Was a pretty boring weekend for the most part. As I've been doing for the past few weeks, I just spent my time recording scenes from the game, creating HD videos of them, uploading them to my online storage, and sending out the links to each actor(s) they belonged to. Luckily, most of the actors have been accounted for. I only have 4 more to do. Well, 5, I guess. John Erath has, by far, the most lines in the game, so I'm going to do things a little different with him. Since he has played the BETA, I'm going to ask him to tell me what scenes he would like from me. Well, that's in addition to scenes he is already in that have been uploaded. Because there are obviously scenes he's in that other people are in, which allows me to kill multiple birds with one stone. But you get my point.
Just when I thought the night was over, however, I received some final VO from Aurora Price. She had previously did a few lines of the scene as an audition, but then moved on to another scene once she joined the project. So she technically only had a few more lines to do, but lucky for me, she just re-did everything.
One thing that I've learned a while ago is that when you get one off line(s) from actors from previous scenes, there's usually something a little off. Maybe they didn't use the same mic/computer combo as they previously did, maybe they were doing the accent a little bit different, etc. Maybe most people won't notice it, but when I play, I can immediately pick out spots where I'm like, "Ah shit, that's the line I got from him 4 months later". So the fact that she re-did it worked out perfectly. Even better, besides a little noise removal, and some volume work on one particular line that is spoken during a high point in the music of the scene, I used everything as is. Integration took about an hour, I'd say.
Once it was done, I immediately recorded it and created a HD version of it. Unfortunately, my cable company is terrible, and whenever I'm uploading large files, depending on the time of day/night, it just cuts out. It's very annoying, but not much I can do about it until we switch to Verizon. In the meantime, I'll just do the upload at the office tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I'll be back to recording more videos, and hoping I get lucky and receive more, if not all of the VO I need :)
Today's music from my New Age (Best of best) Spotify Playlist is from David Arkenstone, called, Tower of Light . Enjoy!
7/10/14 -Thursday: WHY DO LARGE MOD PROJECTS FAIL?
There has been another scare at NWVault, where it looks like maybe the site is finally going to go away. I have great memories of that place, so of course I'd like it to stick around. On the other hand, it's a business, and they need to do what they need to do. During the scare last year, I made sure to download all my files (including the Community Expansion Pack and software updates) so that if the site was to ever disappear, I would have everything I need to play it again, or even to distribute it.
While reading through the various posts on many forums, I started to get nostalgic, which led to me thinking about the old modders and mod groups, like Adam Miller, Rick Burton, CODI, DLA, and many more. When I first joined the community in 2004, these were the top dogs, the ones that everyone was talking about. When NWN was ending, I got to see the beginning of the NWN2 scene, and a few years later, the DA one. I've seen many great games come out, and I've also seen many fail.
In particular, I've seen many large scale, multi-developer projects fail. Things always start out promising. A bunch of people get together, they have a great idea, they have a goal, and a pretty good plan. The hype begins immediately (youtube videos, forums posts, etc.), which lead to a lot of people becoming interested in the project, and along the way, they get more recruits. And hey, why not? There's level design, custom asset creation, writing, cutscene design, scripting, etc., that needs to be done. The more people there are, the faster things will get done, right?
You obviously know where I'm going with this...
...Eventually reality begins to take hold. Level design is time consuming. The writer has been sick with the flu for the past 3 weeks. The 3d modeler, using his work on that particular game in his portfolio, has just been hired by Valve. One of the scripters doesn't like that the other scripter uses curly braces on the same line as "for loops, while loops, etc.", and not underneath (for the record, I prefer the later, but I always conform to whatever the standard is. It's just code for christ's sake.), and contemplates leaving to starting his own project. The project lead just got married, and she honestly just wants to spend more time with her new husband. The composer has lost interest. Quality assurance have been playing the same build over and over again.
Then there's the target audience, the people who have been waiting with baited breath for this game to come out. They were promised an ALPHA a year ago, and now, there's just silence. Those updates that were regular have dried up. The dreaded term, vaporware, is whispered amongst everyone. The loyalists demand answers, and can't believe that this great project is not going to make it.
Look, we've all seen this very thing play out in front of us many, many times. It's not like I'm exactly bringing to light to some ultra-super secret set of circumstances people haven't seen before. And yet, it keeps happening. Why? Is it the developers biting off more than they could chew? Did they not properly vet members of the team? All of these are valid reasons. However, there is one thing I think ultimately kills any project like this... Team size... Let me explain...
For every project that I've seen fail, they have dozens and dozens of people working on it, just like a commercial product. It's one thing when everyone is working for a paycheck, because at that point, they have just as much of a reason to see the project through as anyone else. But if it's something they do in their free time? Yeah, you already know. It's obviously not a scientific fact, but I feel like the odds are heavily stacked against them.
In my personal opinion, I think a project has a better chance of making it if there are an extremely small set of people who are all on the same page, and also know how to do every aspect of game development (to some degree). This way, if a level designer disappears, the project doesn't end. Sure, it gets tougher, but at least you can pick up where they left from. But if you only know how to do 3d model texturing, and have no idea how to program, you're pretty much fucked if that programmer leaves.
This is sort of what I had in my head going into this current project. At first, I was thinking, "I should just go looking for an exterior level design guy to help". I'm pretty sure I have a blog post about 3 years or so ago. But after thinking about it, I was like, "Naw, fuck that, let me at least learn how to do everything, just in case". What is the end result? Well, things haven't gone as fast as I'd like, but I've never been dependent on anyone else for that particular component of the game. Could the levels look better. Hell yeah! But, it is what it is, and I'll just have to continue to learn. If I'm ever working on another project, that would be the time to bring someone in. And if they can't do the work anymore, I'll be able to pick right up where they left off.
Okay, so I'm rambling at this point. Let me try to tie things together... If I ever had to give any advice to aspiring modders, it would be this: Learn how to do everything yourself. Build a small project, and do it all. Then slowly create larger projects. Get to the point where it would be great to have others working, but not to the point where the project dies if they go away.
Oh, and special shout out to the folks who created Baldur's Gate Reloaded. I know there were more than 2 people on the project, but I really only know of Drew & Shalina. Think about it. A Baldur's Gate mod that was actually completed. And no, it didn't have dozens of people working on it, which you would assume it would. Nope, just a small core of dedicated folks. And that, I think, proves my point. Small and lean is the way to go.
Today's music from my New Age (Best of best) Spotify Playlist is from David Arkenstone, called, The Rug Merchant. Enjoy!
7/6/14 -Sunday: PLAYING THE WAITING GAME...
STATE OF THE UNION
With the exception of one minor VO related bug I found yesterday, the game is 99.9% complete, and I haven't so much as touched anything in weeks. As of now, I continue to play the waiting game. I currently am still waiting on:
- a few lines (like 7?) from one female actor for one cast member
- 30+ lines for one character. This particular character had already been half voiced, but subsequent emails had not been replied to, so I moved in a new direction. At this point, if I don't receive replies to my emails from the new actor, I may end up moving in another direction
- 20+ lines from an actor, some of which will be used in a trailer, the rest, in game
I also still need to cast The Keeper of the Rose, but I'm not even going to touch that until I have all the marketing materal ready, since some of that VO needs to go into a trailer. Oh, so yeah, that's another thing I'm waiting on: the marketing material.
My thinking is, if I find someone to voice her, they'll most likely agree, as usually happens. Then, I'll most likely receive the lines for the in game stuff in short order. However, if the marketing material isn't done for a few weeks, that may be a few weeks too late, meaning, the person who did the lines will have dissappeared from the face of the earth. These are the little things I've learned over the past 4 1/2 years. So yeah, better to bundle everything up together at once.
In other related news, I've been spending all of my time recording in game conversations, creating HD videos via Camtasia Studio, and sending them out to the actors who have finished their work. Once they have it, I'm allowing them to do whatever they want with it, for demo reel stuff and the such. I'm just requesting that they add some details pointing people to this project.
The first person I did this for was Elise Harris, who voiced 2 major characters, and one minor one. One of the major characters is honestly one of my favorite cast members in the game, and I think she brought her to life with ease. Anyway, I felt like she deserved to get them first, because she was one of the first people I worked with, and she was so professional about it all. In fact, if I recall properly, Jason Melancon, who was serving as audio producer in addition to lead editor, found her. Not sure how, but he did, and what a find it was. Even though she only voiced 2 major characters, they characters had extremely long conversations (hundreds of lines each), and I can still remember taking DAYS to integrate all the VO into the game. But the quanity of lines didn't deter her. She just got on with it, and it knocked it out of the park.
I'm not so keen on having VO in my next project (depending on the project, that is), but if it's needed, she'll be one of the first people I hit up. If she was so professional with it all and wasn't even getting a single dime from me, I can only imagine how it would be if she was getting paid :)
So yeah, while I continue to play the waiting game, I'll continue to record video every day, until that work is done. From there, not entirely sure. I guess hoping that I've received everything I need so I can put this game behind me?
Today's music from my New Age (Best of best) Spotify Playlist is from David Arkenstone , called, Cailleach's Whispers . Enjoy!