Well, I suppose it had to happen at some point... My beloved NWVault seems to be on shaky ground. A few days ago, it simply didn't exist... Well, unless you modified your host file on your machine to point the iexternal IP -> nwvault.ign.com. But, I would imagine a huge % of people wouldn't know to do it.
The main issue is why did DNS stop working? Is the writing on the wall? I mean, I've sent emails to people who run the site reporting troll votes, and other oddities, and I never receive a response anymore. The old admin (is he still there?), Maximus, was damned good at getting back to me. Good times.
At any rate, a group of people have actually put together a backup site. Not just a archival site, but a site to keep things going. They have written a program to scrape the site for all content, including models, hak paks, images, votes, download counts, etc.
Me, personally? I'm going to write one myself to get all of my stuff so I can back it up for my own reasons. No longer will I be a slave to the whims of people running these sites. Now, to be fair, NWvault has done a lot for me and my career. And you can't expect sites like it to stay around forever. So, instead of whining about it, I'm just going to get all of my own stuff, and at one point, when I'm done with this current game, integrate it into my own website.
Oh, and I have done a lot of work lately. Nothing important, just a lot of improvements...
What can I say about this track? This solidified this game as one of my favorite SNES games of all time. And, this is only like 10 minutes into the game! Enjoy!
6/20/13 -Thursday: STUPID LAST RESORT BUG...
Stupid Last Resortbug... Things were working so well with them, even since I initially implemented them a few years ago. Recently, however, I needed to integrate some of the custom skills into the system. More specifically, there are some skills that can raise the % of health you need to be under in order to activate a Last Resorts. It's broken down like so:
At any rate, somehow, I sort of messed up the math in determining the % of health of the user, and making sure it's <= the target %. I must have been tired when I implemented it, or something, because it was just horrible, horrible math work on my part. Terrible...
But that's just the beginning. There's also the wrinkle in how they work for enemies. You see, I needed to add their ability to use them in their AI 2DA's. They also don't have the skill that determines what % they can use them at. It's predetermined, and static.
Again, this is pretty simple stuff, but I overlooked the hell out of it, unfortunately. All I have to do is add a condition to check if they're a party member, or an enemy, and then just run the proper functionality.
Tomorrow, I'll continue to knock out some of these little bugs that have been pestering me the past month.
Now it's time to move to the 16 era of Zelda games. Well, game, I guess. Anyway, here is the opening theme to A Link to the Past. Enjoy!
6/18/13 -Tuesday: DAMN, WHAT A DIFFERENCE A LITTLE TIME MAKES!
So, I had RP Singh's friend do some VO for me a while back. Maybe 2 months? Development's all one big blur to me at the moment... Regardless, she did some work. The key word being, "she", because it's been damn hard to find female actors. Err, I mean, I had some great ones with Elise Harris, John's wife/daughter, Lucy Glitter, but that's been about it. All the other ones didn't pan out, more or less because of conflicting schedules, other things going on in lives, etc. You know, the normal stuff you go through when asking someone for their free time to do something for you for... well, free...
Anyway, so she did the lines. However, with the 2nd scene she did, she interpreted it wrong, which is my fault, because I should have been more explicit in how she should have sounded and such. Anyway, RP Singh worked with her, and re-sent the lines, and man, what a difference a little time makes. It's like night and day, and the scene is now playing out exactly how I planned it out in my head. Very, very happy to be done with that.
And with that, there is only one more major character that needed to be voiced, this character being the most important in the game series as a whole: The Keeper of the Rose.My plan is to take the VO I receive, and try to add a sort of ghostly, ethereal sound to it, sort of how Galladriel (sp?) sounds in the Lord of Rings movies. That's the plan anyway...So if you'd like to try out for the most important role in the game, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
In the interim, on the train ride into work tomorrow, I'll be working on some minor bugs and other things I've sort of left in the dust since working on this new sequence. Then, once back at home, I'll start on the last major cutscene of the game, ironically, the first one the player will see. It's a tradition, so people who played The Coming & Cry The Beloved will know exactly what I'm talking about.
Another dungeon theme from Zelda 2. I think this might be the final dungeon, not entirely positive. Anyway, enjoy!
6/16/13 -Sunday: SCENE FULLY INTEGRATED...
So, I was able to finish integrating the rest of the VO from John, and after a bunch of tests, I was able to put the final touches on the scene. All the transitions between the current game and this scene are done, and the only thing that is left is some minor journal entry work. There are 3 different outcomes from this scene, so I just need to make sure it's properly reflected.
After that, I have a huge assignment. Sifting through 63 retakes I received from RP Singh. He's the point person in between me and a female actor who is voicing a particularly important cast member. She initially did the lines a month, if not more ago, and I had some slight changes to how I wanted some things. Well, I received those changes, and because of the volume, it's going to take a while to just sort through them. In the end, however, there's nothing better than receiving multiple takes of lines, so I have more to work with.
The only other important VO I'm missing is some stuff from Alexander, but he's good for it, so no need to harass him for it.
So yeah, the next few days will be journal/plot work, followed by a lot of VO integration.
Just like the first Zelda, there was something super creepy about the dungeon music. Enjoy!
6/15/13 -Saturday: STILL ALIVE!
Sorry for the lack of posts this past week, I was hella busy. The Shadow Sunis in full BETA, so I had that to focus on. I only had a few subquests to focus on, but since I had actually played the entire game start to finish, I wanted to do that, and get the full experience in. Was fun to see all the stuff I worked on in all of its glory.
Another thing was E3. New consoles only come around every 7 years or so, and I really wanted to get the entire experience of it. Lucky for me, I was home Monday and Tuesday, so I was able to watch Gametrailers/Spike's entire coverage. I'm talking 12+ hours, on the nice big screen, thanks to the Gametrailers XBOX 360 app. I'm not going to even go into the debate of "who won E3", and all that stuff. I really came away with one thing on my mind: The Witcher 3!
Finally, because why the hell not, we were in the midst of yet another datacenter move at work. Every time we change one, I keep saying, "Okay, this is the last time". Ever the optimist, I am :) Anyway, I was held hostage at my house for 2 straight days, trying to work with people all over the place to get it done. And I really mean it. Worked from 8:00am - 1:30am thursday, then got up at 6:00am friday morning to make sure one of the processes we moved was still work, went to sleep until 9:30am, woke up, and then worked till 6:00pm to make sure another one of the jobs we moved worked. Sigh...
In between all of that, I received a ton of VO from John, integrated that, then sent him new lines, which he also recorded. At this point, I just have 1 more set to integrate, one more glue script to check, then I can finally say I'm done with this scene... For now...
Okay, even though I finished the core of this scene back during memorial day weekend, all the pieces are finally coming together.
On the VO front, all of the lines for one particular character John voices is done. Well, to be fair, I just added 6-7 new ones tonight, which I'll send to him tomorrow, but if he could get through 30+ in minimal time, I assume 6-7 won't be hard :) There'a a lot of branching dialog in this scene, so I had to mess with plot variables a bit to make sure I heard all the VO in game, but once I did, I was very satisfied.
With the cutscenes, I polished the hell out of them. I was expecting to just leave them for another time, when I would go and polish all the cutscenes, but I was feeling pretty bold, so I just knocked it out today. This just consisted of adding sounds where applicable. For whatever reason, not every animation in the game has sound associated to it, so you have to manually add them in yourself. And of course, not everything is listed properly, so it's a lot of trial and error until you find what you need. I am still missing one sound effect, but I'm sure I'll find it (or something close) at some point. All that is left is one cutscene, where I'm essentially swapping out one cast member for another (the cutscene you get depends on the dialog you select). The plan was to get the first cutscene as good as possible, then copy it, then make the switch. I'm at that point, so it's something I'll knock out tomorrow.
The final thing I did was glue everything together with the rest of the game (that's where the new lines come from), and that was pretty easy. I haven't fully tested it yet, but that's something I'll do tomorrow as well.
Ha, still can't believe they had random encounters in this game. This game is really different from any Zelda. Anyway, enjoy this randon encounter music!
6/8/13 -Saturday: LOTS OF VO INTEGRATION...
I sent the lines for this scene out to John friday morning, and by the end of the day, I already had the first set of lines to integrate from him. He works damn fast :) One interesting thing he said was that of the 2 characters he had to do, one was going to be tougher, because it's hard to get that voice. Alexander has mentioned similiar things to me for one character he does. I guess it's interesting to me, knowing nothing about acting, realizing that it's not always easy for them to just change their voice and start recording. Makes me appreciate their craft even more.
One little issue I had was I'm using this one predefined animation that sort of has some embedded facial expressions in it, and I can't seem to override it. So when the character is saying their line, the face looks a little weird. I may have to come back to this cutscene and modify the camera angle a little bit. Besides that, things looked/sounded good, and it was nice to finally get some voices into the scene.
The only other thing I did was integrate the scene into the game itself. There needs to be a little more, a conversation or something that does the transition to the scene, but at the moment, at least it's in the game and something I can see during a playthrough.
Tomorrow, I will finish integrating some VO that came in later tonight, and then see about the aforementioned transitions for the scene.
Here's the overworld theme for The Adventure Link. Enjoy!
6/7/13 -Friday: THE SHADOW SUN...
So, frequent readers will often remember me saying that I was distracted by "other" things during this 3 year and a half long development cycle. The above would be one of them :)
Around mid 2011 (or was it 2012? can't remember, so busy!), I was contacted by Alan Miranda, CEO of Ossian Studios. I had previously done contract work with them on the cancelled premium NWN module, Darkness over Daggerford, expansion pack for NWN2, Mysteries of Westgate, and a cancelled expansion pack for The Witcher. So as you can see, I have a lot of experience with them, dating all the way back to 2006.
Anyway, he was looking for a software engineer to help with this latest iOS game, which utilizes the Unity Engine.I was brought in to do some work on the area map system, utilizing pinch/pull and scrolling, as well as activating/deactivating map pins by touch. I also did some work on the world map, handling scrolling between different views of it. It was a great learning experience, and I ended up writing some of the best code of my life. It's one thing to develop a game using an engine like NWN/NWN2/Dragon Age, it's another to be doing low level code.
After I was done with that, I took on the role of working with a cutscene designer to implement cutscenes throughout the game. It was very similiar to my work with cutscenes in NWN, so I felt right at home.
Anyway, this game has been in development for a long time, and it's good to see that things are finally coming to an end.
Ah, the red-headed step child in the Legend of Zelda series, The Adventure of Link. I rather liked this game as a kid, and actually have more memories of this game than the prior one. I love that Nintendo decided to just straight up switch everything about the game, something people are crying for today, but would assault the Nintendo headquarters if they ever did :) Anyway, enjoy!
6/6/13 -Thursday: DAMN DISTRACTIONS...
Sigh... Of course when I've got something going, it all goes to shit with distractions... Oh well, I'm back, and hopefully, I have another good run in me. So sad, really... If this was 2006, I wouldn't be having these conversations of having "good runs". I was on a "good run" for 15 months straight. Ah, the good old days :)
So, last time, I talked about this brutal cutscene I had to design. I had all the animations in place, and just needed to make the camera angles. Well, it turned out that I needed 1 more animation for the participants, and then, I was good to go. I ended up using utilizing 5 cameras in order to get my quick shots, and while I'm not 100% happy with it, it's a good start.
Once the shots were done, I linked the cutscene, and the preceding conversation to the existing sequence of events. There is one little bug that is annoying me, where when the cutscene is done, the game just hangs, and you need to press ESC kickstart it, so to speak. I'm sure that will go away once I totally integrate the sequence into the game. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe there will be one more conversation that takes place, setting up the transition to the next part of the game, long finished.
All in all, I'm happy with how the sequence turned out, and how easily I can slot it into the existing game. Nice when things just sort of work out.
However, the true test will be the VO. As I mentioned before, John Erath has the honor of voicing both characters in the scene. I would have liked to have more, but that would involve contacting actors long past, and honestly, I don't like harassing people like that. Certain actors are very eager to do work, ones who I have been in constant contact with since the beginning, but then there are others who do there work, and move on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that (hey, I'm not paying!), but it's something I am very aware of when putting together these scenes, late in the development cycle.
So yeah, once the VO is in, I'll start to have a better feel for the scene, and then I'll start putting in extra camera angles, and of course, generate gestures and such.
Next up for me is taking all that dialog and sending it off to John. From there, I need to do some plot/journal work for the scene (different plots/journals for how things play out). Then, by that time, I'll know exactly how I want to integrate the scene, and will do as such.
6/2/13 -Sunday: DESIGNING A PARTICULARLY BRUTAL CUTSCENE...
I've made many cutscenes in my time, especially in The Coming & Cry The Beloved, so when I found out the Eclipse Engine had a full featured cutscene editor, I knew I was in heaven. Now, since that time, I have yet again made a shit ton of cutscenes. It's my style, I stand by it, and I think I've gotten to the point where they're not too intrusive, but at the same time, it gets across the cinematic flair I'm looking for.
Now, most of my cutscenes have a very distinctive style. I don't do lots of quick cuts, or anything like that. I am more of a "let one camera follow the action from place to place" guy. I can't think of the term, but it might be "walk and talk", something Aaron Sorkin (west wing, the newsroom) made famous. I really only remember it in CSI, back when I actually cared about that show.
That's just been my style since 2004, and of course I've grown since then, but it's still my hallmark. And yet, there are certain times when I am forced to go out of my comfort zone and do something extra. This "extra" stuff involves using some custom animations already in the game. Actually, there are a lot of animations, prefixed with "cs_", meaning they're used in Dragon Age Origins specifcally for one cutscene, and that is it. Now, since I'm not creating any new animations myself, I've been trying to re-purpose some of these animations for my own needs. Some are very specific and won't work, but some are generic enough, and are simply perfect.
Finding these animations is made much easier by using Beerfish's DAAnimationListingV3 spreadsheet. I highly recommend it to anyone doing any cutscene work. Using that sheet, along with the animation manager, I'm able to sift through all the cutscene animations, and find ones that work.
So, putting all of this stuff together, I have found some perfect animations for a particularly brutal scene (hey, and it happens on the same day as that Game of Thrones episode!), but because of animation blending and such, I'm going to have to use some quick shots and only show certain parts of the animation, so it doesn't look out of place. I'm probably not making any sense, but once you see the finished scene, it will make more sense.
So yeah, that was my day. The animations are in place, I just need to finish up the actual camera angles, and that's that!
When I first played this game in 1988 when I was 8 years old, this music scared the shit out of me. Enjoy!
6/1/13 -Saturday: HAVE TO KEEP, KEEPING ON...
STATE OF THE UNION
I think the theme of where things are with development is simple: I have to keep, keeping on. During the times when I think development will never end, I just have to keep my head down and keep carving away at things. I mean, it can't go on forever, right?
I definitely added a few weeks of development to add in this particular sequence, which I think really helps to flesh out the lore of a very important organization in the game. I could have written about it in a lore codex entry, but I'm of the mind of "Show, rather than tell", whenever feasible. In the long run, what's another 2 weeks?
At any rate, after that sequence, is done,I'll move on to one I started more than a year ago, but for whatever reason, got distracted from it: The Keeper of the Rose intro cutscene. It's a staple of all Rose of Eternity games, and there was no way I was going to miss out on doing on this go round. I've already had the scene planned since the summer of 2010, as well as the music. It's just the execution at this point. I mean hell, I even have the majority of the exterior level done. I may have to go back and tweak it a bit, possibly even make a new, bigger one, but all the hard work (props, atmosphere settings, etc.), can be copied over.
And after that, it's another playthrough... I know I'm backed up a bit on this, as I had wanted to have a playable alpha this month, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized I wanted to get that last bit of content in.
Okay, it's time to take it back to video games... What better way than to start with one of my favorite series of all time: The Legend of Zelda, specially, the first NES game. I own a lot of my game design to this series, so it's only fitting. Enjoy!
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