3/31/10 -Wednesday: HOW NEW CHARACTERS ARE BORN...
This probably isn't unique to me, but I just wanted to chat tonight about how new characters are born in Rose of Eternity. Most were already brain children of mine since 1999, and I won't go into how those particular ones came to be. The ones that are really exciting to me are the ones that are created while I develop the game. Here's a perfect example for players of Cry The Beloved:
Raina Lannen, Arik Lannen, & Claudian Sensbane were never part of the my original story. But as I developed Cry The Beloved, I realized I needed to give faces to the Boundary Wardens. Raina in particular, was just supposed to be a typical one, leading you through East Shinkara Forest to Bannerman Hill. As time went on, I started coming up with little stories for her, and in short order, I said screw it, she's gonna be a full fledged party member, with her own unique custom abilities and story.
Well, the very exact thing is occuring right now. There is a particular character, who was going to exist only as a short term sort of guy, and after writing some dialogue for him, I decided to expand on him greatly. Hell, I think I even have a unique music theme for him as well. The end result is, it ties the story together better, and is a great reference for older players at the same time (cannot really go into more details than that).
Now, some people would say that's the product of bad planning. I'm sure many people have already plotted out their entire game, written all the dialogue, mapped out the areas on grid paper, etc. I would love to have that. Sadly, that's not how I roll these days, especially because of everything else I do during the day. For me, just having the over arching story in my head since 1999 is enough to get me by. If anyone has read old journal entries, you may have read things like me suggesting I need to change this and whatnot. Lol, I'm not there yet.
3/30/10 -Tuesday: IS VO NECESSARY?
Let me start off by saying that Federer is currently playing, and has been for the past 3 hours. That should tell you how much work I got done tonight. Moving on...
So, the concept of VO, and the
of it has been on my mind for quite some time. Listen, I'm as forward a thinker as anyone else. It's 2010, people don't want to read text anymore. I understand this. What about for modders without a budget? How do we approach this? Here are my concerns:
- First and foremost, quality. For me, I would rather have players read dialogue than listen to horrible VO.
- Next up is quantity. My games are big. Do I have every person VO'd? Only the important ones? I can tell you right now, I won't cut down the word count of the dialogs for VO. No way I'll make that compromise.
- Next up is, well, who is going to do it? Who's willing to stick around for the long haul? If I do have VO, it will at the very least be for important people in the game, and just like my older games, they're not just one offs. You will continue to see them game after game after game. What happens if the person who voices a certain character just can't do it anymore? What if they fall off the face of the earth? I dealt with that with my last game. People get all ready to help out, they do some work, then you never hear from them again. I understand it, as shit happens, and they're not getting paid, but the problem exists nonetheless. That's one of the reasons why I tend to do a lot of development by myself at the moment, so I can learn every facet of the toolset, so I can step in and complete stuff that people leave behind. Can't exactly do that with VO.
At this point, the only person doing VO that I know isn't going anywhere is me :) So, I think I'm going to really leave it towards the tail end of development. I'll continue to do my narrating thing, and leave it at that. Once I do start looking, I'll start internally, with friends, people who I know won't/can't disappear on me. Then I'll branch the search out further, and see how it goes.
3/29/10 -Monday: DAMN ROGER FEDERER!
Tonight was just one of those nights that tennis took precedence over, well, everything. I'm a huge tennis fan, and my favorite player, Roger Federer played at 1pm at the Miami Open. I was at work of course, so I DVR'd it, and the first thing when I got home was watch it. I won't go into many specifics, but when I say I'm a fan, I'm more of a fanatic. In a few weeks the tennis tour will begin the european clay court season, and with most of those countries being 6 hours ahead of me here in New York, let's just say I'm up pretty early to watch matches, even when I have to work. Gonna be a rough next few months leading up to the French Open.
With regards to the game, I unfortunately didn't finish anything tonight. The plan was to continue writing dialog, and start the new level work Wednesday night, since I'll have extra hours since I'll be working from home on Thursday.
The particular dialog I am writing is now getting into the realm of stuff that old players will recognize, while newer players will of course not. It's a little difficult to handle, because I don't want to overburden new players will things that just won't mean anything to them, at the same time, I have to give something to the old, returning players.
Sticking with what I discussed yesterday, most subjects like this will be handled through core path sequences. So, as the new players continue to play on, they will get to learn about this old world and it's people, like Aramus, Clopon, Kira Allendry, etc. At the same time, the old players will hopefully get that nostalgia feeling, while still learning new things about the aforementioned characters, and what they have been up to over the past 20 years. New players will get to learn about old events that occurred in the last games, while old players will say, "Hey, I was THERE! *I* did that!". Well, this is what I'm hoping will happen. Only time will tell.
Edit - I've also been slowly finishing the conversion of all my old daily journal updates. Only June 2006 - September 2006 left to go!
3/28/10 -Sunday: MORE DIALOG...
I staretd the day off by attempting to fix some lighting issues that have been annoying me to no end lately. Essentially, when the PC is running in a room with multiple light sources, in between each light source, the lighting gets a little weird, and the face of the PC gets a bit darker, and weird looking. Now, I'm overlapping all the light sources, so I'm not sure where that gap in the lighting is coming from. While I didn't fix it, I did get rid of a bunch of superfluous ones, which greaty enhanced the performance of the level. So not a total waste of time.
I finished the day off with a bunch of dialog writing. One thing I am striving to stay away from is giving the player too much world information through dialog trees. What I mean is, I don't want to have NPC's whose only function is to answer questions for the PC, with regards to things around the world. It just doesn't seem natural to me.
On the flip side, I think it's much more organic for the player to learn about the world, cultrue, etc. by simply playing the game. It's hard for me to explain, but instead of running up to some master NPC, that happens to know everything about everything, and allowing them to sift through tree after tree of dialog nodes, I want to present that information through cutscenes, combat sequences, and core path/side quest story segments. Of course, some dialog will be used to give information to the player (I'm not crazy!), but on the whole, you're just going to learn everything by simply playing. And just to reiterate again, of course there will be some nodes of the "Can you elaborate on this particular thing" kind, just not a lot.
Well, that's the plan anyway. Things in development always change, so who knows what the future holds :)
3/27/10 -Saturday: ROLEPLAYING A PRE-GEN CHARATCER...
Okay, back to our normally scheduled daily updates!
Before I get to the topic at hand, I'll just briefly go over what I did today. I finished integrating the stage into the convo that runs after the cutscene, and I added appropriate animations/emotes/camera angles for each like of dialogue.
After that, I sort of sat in my chair for like 20 minutes, and decided I was going to make it a dialogue day. So, I essentially started to work on all the dialogues that I know will be used in this area, as well as some others. I'll just test them in the current area until the appropriate areas are created, which means there is no reason to bother with stages at this point. It's just straight dialogue. Which sort of segues into the topic I want to talk about tonight... Roleplaying a pre-gen chaarcter.
So, if you haven't figured it out, or haven't played one of my previous games, I supply you with a *gasp* pre-generated character. Heh, I wonder if visits to this site will drop off after that statement :) There are many reasonss for this, but I won't go into them today. If you sift through the site, or old daily journal entries, you may find me going on and on about how it's the best decision for me.
At any rate, even though you're given a pre-gen, you will still be able to roleplay within those constraints. For instance, in The Coming & Cry The Beloved, Aramus was the PC the player controlled.. His path was pretty much setup for him. He had a pretty well defined personality, more or less. Even still, there were many chances for roleplaying, most of all, with your party members. Like the reputation, or whatever they call it in Dragon Age, I had a favor system for party members, that would go up or down depending on what you did. There was a particular scene where you were only allowed to bring one party member out of 4 (3, if you had denied Auden) to Bannerman Hill. . Depending on who you brought, you got a lot more out of their story, a bunch of favor points, as well as a custom Unison Ability.
Going back to Aramus' personality, he definitely wasn't "evil" (I put it in quotes, because, well, what is evil?). Yet, you were still able to make roleplaying decisions. Did you tell Fram's father that he was hiding behind the barracks, watching the Boundary Warden practice when he should have been working? Did you lie to him about it? Did you accept the gold from the Ministry of Justice solider, and turn your back as that woman was raped, or did you bust through the door and help her? Did you kill that lady who was keeping food from the Dematolians, or did you persuade her to give it up?
My point is, you will be able to shape how the protagonist's story plays out. While the character won't be yours, I hope that throughout the game, you will still feel a connection, and still feel that you are making the choices, not the game. It's still my goal to bridge the gap between the East and West with regards to RPG's. When the best of both worlds are integrated properly, I think only good can come from it.
3/26/10 -Friday: DAY FROM HELL!
Excuse my language, but today was a total cluster fuck. I turn my computer on, and I have a virus, a particular virus that doesn't even allow me to open certain applications, saying I don't have rights! I don't have the right?! I'm the damn admin on this machine, stupid virus! Then, it keeps popping up these things, saying that I have a virus, do I want it to be cleaned up for $29.99? I already know that scam, so I just kept X'ing them out. Sigh...
Of course, my first thought was of Rose of Eternity. No way I'm gonna lose all that work. What was so frustrating was that I couldn't even open up the damn toolset! I somehow got lucky, restarted my machine, and was able to open it. I then began to do the following:
- Checking in all designer resources into the DB. Would be nice if you could just click on a folder and check in all checked out files, but since I couldn't find anything like that, I have to manually select every file before doing it. Whatever it takes!
- I created a B2B file of everything for my module.
- I created a backup of the DB.
- I checked in all my art resources into my subversion repository.
- I backed up all my saves and screenshots onto a portable hard drive.
- I backed up all this website content. Technically, it's all on the server that hosts it, but I wasn't taking any chances!
- I backed up all miscellaneous Rose of Eternity content (i.e. videos I have yet to put up on the site)
My thinking was, ideally, if I had to reformat my hard drive, I had everything needed to pick up where I left off. Of course I had to back up a bunch of other things, but I won't go into those details.
Then, my Father tells me he can most likely just restore my computer to Thursday's state. *Double Facepalm* Well, I learned my lesson. I needed to organize and back things up anyway, so this little fire drill was what I needed.
And it should go without saying I didn't do a damn thing tonight. Tomorrow's going to be one hell of a day of development!
3/25/10 -Thursday: MORE BUSY WORK...
I'll keep this short, as nothing really important happened today. I created a stage, did some scripting work to make sure it's called at the end of the intro cutscene, and I created the new plot/plot scrips files for this particular area.
Then, I played Battlefield: Bad Company 2 online with a friend for 3 hours :) Nothing better han a nice tactical shooter played with a friend who thinks tactically as well.
Oh, and just to be totally random, I really hate when people use the word visceral to describe the combat in video games. Okay, I know, it sounds cool to use. No stop it! Why is everything so visceral all of a sudden?! And while I'm at it, why is any DRM that people don't like (i.e. all DRM) have to be called Draconian. Can't people come up with something non-cliche?
That is all :)
P.S. I am aware that these updates are filled with cliches all the time, so don't bother pointing it out :)
P.P.S. I promise to have something interesting regarding development tomorrow!
3/24/10 -Wednesday: A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING...
First thing I did tonight was add dialogue to the cutscene I finished yesterday. As expected, it was very quick and easy. Only like 5 lines or so. Then, I moved on to some lingering lighting issues that have been bugging the shit out of me. For whatever reason, whenever I turned around some corners, the PC would turn totally black. After some searching, I realized that this properly on static lights, affects characters, was set to false on some of them. Changing that fixed things. Of course, I had to run the lightmapper first... sigh...
Speaking of which, I may need to re-adjust how many lights I am using in this level. First off, the damn lightmapper takes too long for my liking. Also, I've noticed a little slow down here and there, and I read it may have to do with the number of static lights I have. This will be very annoying, because I will have a lot of trial and error, removing lights, rendering light maps, rinse, repeat. Again, sigh...
I also created a new NPC, and created the starting dialogue tree for them. It needs to happen after the intro cutscene, but I haven't hooked things together yet. First, I'll need to make sure the appropriate plot is called at the end of the cutscene, and then, I need to create a stage for the dialogue.
Well, off to bed with me. I'll be working from home, and immediately afterwards, start on the aforementioned stage and plot setting after the cutscene.
3/23/10 -Tuesday: OKAY, NOW I FEEL BETTER...
Right... So, I finally can breathe a sigh of relief. The shot I was planning yesterday worked out just fine, and the main components of each sequence of the intro cutscene are done. Of course I need to touch up some animations here, mess with the positioning of an actor there, but overall, it's done.
Of course, this wouldn't be game development without an issue! Yeah... I'm not a fan of getting actors to walk up stairs. I know there is a snap to walkmesh option for cutscenes, which assumingly makes them respect the walkmesh boundaries, but hell if I can get it to work! So, I have to painstakingly modify the height of each actor every second or so, so it looks like they are touching the steps. Of course, I can use my trick of just not showing the feet, but I still need it to be somewhat realistic. Honestly, that was my only issue. It wasn't so much difficult, as it was just a pain in the ass, and time consuming.
Tomorrow, I will add in the dialogue that goes along in the scene. It's only a few lines, so I should be able to knock it out. I hope to have a big night tomorrow, because it's sort of my Friday. What I mean is, I work from home on Thursday, so I don't have to go to sleep as early, which means more development. It would be nice if I could knock out the dialogue, tweak the things that need tweaking, and fix up some lingering lighting issues. Here's hoping...
On another note, I noticed some The Witcher 2 videos popping up today. Here are some:
Now, I admit I am not one of those people that will only play a game if the graphics are great. However, if the gameplay is good, and the graphics are great, it's win win. Well dammit, so far, The Witcher 2 is looking phenominal! Seriously, the lighting and texture work is just great. I actually have a copy of The Witcher from the old days when I was working on a mod for it, and as expected, I never beat it. Just watching these videos is making me want to. If only there was more time in the day.
One final thing... There is a particular person that you may or may not have seen in some screenshots on tis blog, that I just realized looks a lot like Geralt from The Witcher. Purely coincidental, I can assure you. It's actually a little scary, yet coincidental just the same. Of course some people will see it as me ripping off from The Witcher, but this wouldn't be the internet without idiots, would it :)
3/22/10 -Monday: *LIGHT BULB*
And then, there was light! Absolutely nothing was done today, but I did figure out how I'm going to do the last shot. If I hadn't come to my epiphany, I would have thought the entire night a waste of time. Even though it didn't come to me until it was too late to do it, it feels good knowing how to proceed. So yeah, I am seriously going to finish this thing tomorrow. No distractions, no more developer's block, nothing, damnit!
On another subject, while at work, in between running builds on my machine. I'm using a company laptop at the moment, so trying to build code, then deploy it to the application server takes way too much time, and locks up my computer. The trick is to open up a web page beforehand, and just know that that will be the only thing you will see for the next 5 minutes :)
Anyway, I came across this article at IGN. It essentially talks about pacing in today's games, and how to keep players enthralled in your world. I remember making the cardinal syn of having MMORPG style fetch quests in my first game, The Coming. There was the kill 10 burrowing beetles quests. There was the get 10 wolf pelt quests. Yeah... At the time, I thought they were fine, but after reading a lot of reviews (which module makers should really listen to), I realized it was a mistake.
For whatever reason, since then, I've been a proponent of the no-filler rule. Everything has to be in the game for a reason. No silly fetch quests. If there is going to be a quest in the game, it will be directly tied to the main story, and hopefully, a party member. No dungeons that go on and on (I'm looking at you, Deep Roads, in Dragon Age!). Now, some people may like stuff like that, but then again, it depends on the type of game. For this game, it just isn't going to make sense. Everything is very story based, and I need to keep that the focus.
With regards to combat, another thing I'm striving for is uniqueness. What I mean is, every different set piece of area should have different enemies, with vastly different ways to defeat them. You won't be able to get away with just using the same tactics throughout the entire game, replacing level 1 talents with level 10 talents as the game goes on. One benefit I have is that I am more or less know what custom abilities you will have at each part in the game, and you should damn well know that I will make sure you have to make the most of them. Plus, I feel it just keeps the player on their toes, and they are never getting bored doing the same things over and over again.
Well, that's it for me tonight. I'm really looking forward to development tomorrow, and I can't wait to see how my idea of how to finish the cutscene pans out.
3/21/10 -Sunday: NOT TOO MUCH TODAY...
I was actually up pretty early this morning, so I was able to get some more work done on the 2nd segment of the cutscene. Unfortunately, it just wasn't panning out how I originally envisioned it, and to be honest, I was getting very frustrated. It all came down to the camera angles, and what I wanted the player to see, at a particular section in the music. I ended up creating a bunch of different camera objects, and modified the movement on each one, so I could flip back and forth to see which one I liked. I think I have what I want, but right as I was about to implement it, I was essentially pulled away for the day. It'a a shame, because I could have definitely finished the entire thing today. Plus, I hate coming back to something like this, after being away for a day. I thrive on being able to be focused for a few hours when making these cutscenes. Oh well, can't have everything!
Another thing I have been doing lately is starting to diversify the equipment of people in this game. Originally,I wasn't really worrying about what they had on, because armor can be changed at any time. Even still, things you see in these screenshots definitely aren't final. I purposely waited for the custom content community to get their teeth into the toolset, so they could start producing some new models. I was sifting through the DA Item/Armor/Weapon Mods section of the social site, and was happy to see some things I would definitely like to use. It's weird, because when I worked on my original NWN games, the community was already 2 years old. There was already a TON of custom content, especially the CEP. I took for granted the fruits of the labor of the CC gurus. Fast forward to last November, and I'm thinking... "Damn, this is all I have to work with?!"
So, while it's not exactly where I would like it to be, it's getting there. I'm not in a rush anyway, but then again, it is nice to see some new colors/models :)
3/20/10 -Saturday: MORE CUTSCENE WORK...
Today, I decided to switch gears and start working on the intro cutscene for this new area. As epxected, things started to come together pretty quick. Then, I ran into one of the more annoying aspects of cutscene design: walking.
There are various animations available to use for walking, but they don't always work in every situation. There is one particular one that once enabled, will handle where the actor will end up after it's done. Too bad it only walks 5 paces, and if you try to link another 5 pace animation, it just looks weird. At least, that's what happens with my attempts. I'm probably missing something somewhere...
So, if you want the actor to walk more than 5 paces, you can use some other ones, which essentially just give the actor the walking animation. You need to explicitly place them in their starting and ending positions. What this means is that you need to start messing around with the actual animation speed. For instance, if you are using the default speed of 1, but have the actor moving a long distance, when you view the scene, it looks as if they are sliding across the ground as they get to their destination. So yeah, I had to do a lot of messing around to make sure all the footsteps synced up with the ground. Sigh...
Besides the walking issues... Well, actually, those were the only issues I had. Of course, since there is so much walking in the first part, that I had to adjust things all over the place to compensate for it. For instance, one trick I use is simply not showing the ground when the actor is walking. Then, if it's not totally synced up, the player will never be the wiser!
All of that said, the first segment of 3 for the cutscene is done. The next one should be relatively straightforward. The 3rd and final one should be the easiest of them all. After that, I'll get back into some dialog writing, and then, see where things go from there. Most likley start on another area, but we'll see...
3/19/10 -Friday: JUST ABOUT DONE...
So, I'm just about done with this area. I went through all props and placeables, and made a list of the stuff I would want to use, I just haven't integrated them into the area yet. Even still, it feels good to have the core of it done. I've actually learned alot over these past 10 days or so...
Even though this was my 2nd interior area, it was really the first in depth one. I learned so much, that the next areas should be finished a lot faster. Much like with the development of The Coming, things go really slow at first. Interestingly enough, The Coming took 15 months to develop. Cry The Beloved also took 15 months to develop, yet the amount of content I squeezed into it really made The Coming look more like a prelude than anything else. Once I get a handle on the development tools, I start pumping out the content like crazy. Also, it turns out that this set of areas is actually one of the biggest ones in the game, so everything after this is going to just seem easy.
After I add some more props/placeables, I will create the intro cutscene for the area. It should be pretty straightforward, because as always, I've had it designed in my head for many years. From running around the area while testing, I already know the shots I need to get, just as the music hits the right spots. I don't remember off the top of my head, but according to the music that goes along with it, it should only last about 1 minute and a half. Nothing too crazy, like the last one I did!
On a non-game related note, looks like the software company I've been doing contract work for is going to hire me full time. Now that I know I'll have this extra income for a while, I've been thinking about a laptop again. I kid you not, when I say development will go twice as fast. Remember, I have 4 hours to kill on the train. One can only dream...
3/18/10 -Thursday: SAME STUFF, DIFFERENT DAY...
So today was just more of the same stuff I've been doing all week long. I've finally decided that this area will definitely only contain 3 rooms. 2 of the rooms are done, and the 3rd one is getting there. One issue I was having today was with doorways and doors. I've using the Tevinter Imperium structure set, and they have a lot of, what appear to be, doorways. Well, after I export the level, and open it in the area editor, I cannot get the doors to snap to them. If anything, I'll just place them myself, and put some custom scripts on the doors to do the transitions explicitly.
For the rest of the night, I went through every prop again, just to make notes of things that I will want to use in this particular area. Besides that, nothing really else to say. I did get a lot done today, it was just boring things. Plus, I'm tired, so.... yeah... :)
3/17/10 -Wednesday: OKAY, NOW I'M JUST HAVING FUN!
So now, things are just getting weird. I'm really enjoying level design at this point. Go figure! Now that I've just been investing like 3-4 hours a night into it, I'm really able to just start knocking things out extremely fast. It's like I just get into the zone. I have a playlist of all the music from my first 2 games in iTunes, which is about 69 tracks. So, I just put that on repeat, and it just motivates the hell out of me.
First and foremost, shout out to community member TimelordDC. He saw what I wrote the other day about room connectivity and my issues with it not work. As a refresher, in another interior area where I tried this, the supposedly connected rooms were still pitch black until I stepped foot into them. Anyway, he directed me to a wiki page that I am sure I had read, but I followed the directions again, and voila, room connectivity worked. It was easy enough to move all the props and such from the one main room to the new split off rooms, because if you look at conceptually, it's just another folder you are keeping the files in. Another nice benefit of having separate rooms is that you can render lightmaps on selected ones, instead of in the entire area.
Another thing I was messing with was the color of lighting. After some weird trials, I just settled on the fact (which I guess should have been common sense) that I should just stick with a consistent color, at the very least, in each area, unless otherwise warranted. So far, the only color besides the default light color is the orange coming from the torches. It looks a little weird, so I may lower the brightness of them. Another thing that is strange is when I have say 2 strcutures that are squares that are near the light, the light shines in an exact square, not in a more organic, roundish shape. I'll have to look into that more.
Lucky for me, I have been performing well at my new job, and I am not trusted enough to work from home every Thursday (well, as soon as our EVP of technology gives the okay). This translates into more development time, since I won't be wasting 4+ hours on the train. So, once I am done with work tomorrow, I plan on getting a lot of stuff done. Can't wait!
I've also been attempting to hold off on getting Dragon Age: Awakenings until at the very earliest, the weekend. I fully expect to lose at least one day's work while playing it... Oh well...
MY THOUGHTS ON FINAL FANTASY 13
Just want to preface this by saying that I have not played this yet. To be honest, while Final Fantasy will always hold a special place in my heart, I've fallen out of love with it for damn near a decade. It's crazy. I still remember playing Final Fantasy 4 (2 in the US) way back in 1992. How could I forget the opening sequence, watching the airships approach the mystical town of Mysidia so that Cecil, the Dark Knight could steal their magical crystal for the King of Baron. How in the hell do I remember all those names, and such?! Just stuck with me, and will always be with me.
I moved on to Final Fantasy 6 (3 in the US), and can likewise remember watching the opening scene when Terra, Biggs, and Wedge marched through the snow on their magitek robots while the credits rolled. It was 1994, I was 14, and nothing else mattered to me.
When Final Fantasy 7 hit the streets eventually, I of course picked it up, beat it, and overall, enjoyed it, though I don't rank it higher than Final Fantasy 4 and 6. For whatever reason, Final Fantasy 8 just didn't do it for me, and I never even picked it up. Final Fantasy 9 was a return to the true roots of the game, and sadly, that was the last Final Fantasy I have liked/beaten. That was in 2000.
I honestly cannot explain what happened with Final Fantasy X and XII (won't count XI as it was an MMO that I played more than I care to say), but I just... fell out of love... Likewise, I really wasn't too interested in Final Fantasy XIII... That is, until I saw this trailer. Yeah yeah, I know, can't judge a game by a trailer, especially a trailer that consisted mostly of cutscenes. Even still, something just grabbed my attention. Damn marketers and their schemes!
Maybe it's because I know that I won't get that type of emotional acting in Westerrn style RPG's, Dragon Age included. I love me some cutscenes, and I am glad Final Fantasy as a whole isn't scared to use them.
However, as the launch crept closer and closer, all I kept hearing about the game is:
- It's too linear
- There are no towns
- There are no towns!
Sigh... Is there where we have come? With regards to towns, must all RPG's have these arbitrary entities? People always clamor for realism in games, but then get mad when something like the arbitrary town in between dungeons and cutscenes are taken out. I mean, does it really matter, especially if it's not part of a story? Must we force these things in, just because it's an "RPG" (whatever the hell that means). Why can't things be different.
And the linearity... Well, I've heard the "This game isn't non-linear enough for me" argument since the beginning of time. Everyone is different, but I just never understood it. A game being linear in itself isn't a bad thing, it's how the game handles it. But, "linear" is just a buzzword that is thrown around now, much like "immersion". Bah.
Interestingly enough, all of this negative talk of Final Fantasy XIII on all the major sites has me wanting to get it now. Perhaps even before Dragon Age: Awakenings.
Okay, I'll stop rambling now! Here's some interesting links to other people's thoughts on this game:
3/16/10 -Tuesday: I'M BACK IN BUSINESS!
Well, I got the answers I was looking for, and more in this thread. Thanks to everyone who helped. Long story short, a couple of stair models I am using weren't connected properly. There was this ever so slightly gap in between them, which messed up the walkmesh for the rest of the area. And as community member Sunjammer pointed out, since I walk around using the WASD keys, I wouldn't have noticed a thing. If I was trying to move by right clicking, then I would have realized something was up much earlier. Oh well, you live, and you learn.
With that behind me, I was able to start working on the next room of the area. I should point out, at the moment, I just have one big room for this area. For those not familiar with level design, for interior rooms, you can have multiple rooms that are connected to each other. The general idea behind it is, only the current room you are in is totally loaded into memory. Besides the performance bonuses, it's nice to be able to just select an entire room, and move it, and everything contained in it, all at once.
Now, the reason I have one big room is because one downfall of multiple rooms is that you cannot see into the other room from another room. At least, I can't. I know there is a way, I just can't figure it out at the moment. And for this particular area, seeing from room to room is very important. Once I do figure it out, splitting everything up into their corresponding rooms will be a cinch.
All and all, I am very impressed with interior level design. The flexibility really allows you to just create things tailored to the experience you are trying to give players. There's a hell of a lot of models, props, etc. for me to sift through, and I haven't really had a hard time finding things I need. And personally, I love the transformation of said level, as things are slowly added to it. It's that sense of achievement thing :)
Anyway, once this next room is finished, I can call this particular level a wrap. There will of course be other levels to create which will encompass the much larger area I am attempting to create. But with those, I'll leave them as separate levels, and just add them to an area list so get rid of load times as the player passes back and forth between them.
Once I'm done with the level, I'll start adding in NPC's, write a bunch of dialog, and most likely finally get around to creating the intro cutscene. In general, this next section of the game is extremely story heavy, and there will be a lot to do and see. As always, just have to chip off one part of it at a time.
3/15/10 -Monday: OKAY, NOW I AM GETTING PISSED!
Okay, I will keep this short, as I need to get some sleep before I destroy my monitor. I'm still having walkmesh issues. I just cannot figure out why I keep slipping into the ground at this one particular point. I've added some screenshots at the thread so if anyone is reading this who has experience in this area, feel free to drop a line there.
Now, if you sift through older journal entries, like from 2006, you will notice that these things happen from time to time. Such is game development. I cannot tell you how many times things have changed in my previous games, due to issues such as this. I'll give it a day, and then, I will try something new. What I think may be the problem is that I am changing the elevation at a particular part in the room. It's not needed, I just thought it looked cool. So, the test is to keep everything on the same level, and see how that works out. If it does, then I'll just stick with that for the moment. I'll probably hold off on doing the intro cutscene for the area until I am positive that is the way I will be going. But, I'll still be able to continue development on the area in the interim.
One thing I have learned over the years is: When you're stuck on something, move to another aspect of development before you get burned out. And that is what I'll do!
3/14/10 -Sunday: YEAH... THIS WILL BE GOING ON FOR A WHILE :)
You know, the one thing about having a blog, and putting up screenshots like the one above is that days/weeks/months from now, I can can come back and see what these areas looked like then, versus the final version.
So today, I spent more time trying to figure out this weird walkmesh issue. Interesting enough, I always fall into the abyss at the same area, even though I am using the same floor models. I posted a thread about it, so perhaps I'll get an answer. In the interim, I added another floor model slightly over it, just for testing purposes.
My frustrations continue with the light mapper. Turns out, there is a project that contains a modified version of the python script used, so that may help aleviate any issues I'm having. To be clear, the lighting is fine, it's just that damned beeping sound!
All of the above said, the area is more or less done. Now, I need to figure out if I will create an entirely new area, and add it to some area list, or create the next area as a connected room. I'll contemplate that on the train while I wish I had a laptop :(
3/13/10 -Saturday: IT CONTINUES...
Today was more or less a continuation of yesterday... Nothing but level design. I'm finally getting used to the models that I need to use, and I am confident the next time I need to build something, it will go a lot quicker.
In terms of what I did, I pretty much finished up the rough parts of the 2 main areas of the particular level. I added a lot of props, adjusted models around, and did a lot with the lighting. I continue to get the light map rendering issue where my computer beeps, but I've gotten used to it, strangely enough.
The only real issue I had today, which I will have to continue tomorrow is the walkmesh. In some parts of the area, the PC can walk through walls. In other sections were I'm using multiple models for the flooring, the PC is falling into the abyss :)
Tomorrow will of course be more of the same. Luckily, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When this area is done, I can move to another one (cause oh boy, this is only the beginning!), I could implement the intro cutscene for the area, or I could add some more props and such. As always, I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
3/12/10 -Friday: AREA DESIGN CONTINUES...
Tonight was a very good night. For whatever reason, I was super motived, and got a lot done. It probably helps that I stayed up until around 3:00am! Really though, I feel like I have been falling slightly behind, so it feels really good to get back some of that time.
The first thing I did was mess around with adding ceilings. I didn't find any default ceiling models in the particular strcuture set I am using, so I decided to simply take a standard wall, rotate it vertically, and use that instead. It's probably not going to be final, but it at least gives me a chance to get a better feeling for how things should work.
Next, I started work on adding a chandelier to the ceiling. I quickly found a model worth using, and then realized that it contained 16 candles that needed lighting. For those that don't know, when creating items like candles, you need to supply the actual fire vfx yourself, along with some lighting. I use 1 vfx, 1 static light, and one animated light to get the little flicker effects on walls and such. Now, once you create an item with these things on it, you can export it as a group, and then import it as needed in other areas. This essentially means you only have to do the hard work once. So of course, I had to go through all the hard work of adding the 16 candle groups to the chandelier, and then saved the group. Then, adding additional chandeliers was as easy as just painting them into the area. I may have to mess around with the light color, or intensity, but for right now, it's looking pretty good.
Finally, I started adding props and creatures to the area. While the original plan was to do more level work, I was just too excited to see how things would turn out with some of the extras added in. Slowly but surely, it's beginning to look as I had imagined it years back.
As tomorrow is Saturday, I expect a nice full day of more level design of the other parts of the area I'm working on. I'm also going to look into some ambient sound effects, if not for anything else, just to see what is there. There was a really good selection of stuff in NWN1, so I expect it to be just as good, if not better in DA.
EDIT - No if ands or buts about it. I have to back up everything tomorrow, in the unlikely case that my machine blows up while rendering lightmaps :)
3/10/10 -Wednesday: MORE AREA DESIGN...
After taking a few days off due to work related things, I'm back into development full force, and more specifically, area design. I had a pretty good night of development, dealing with lots of different small things.
I have a pretty good rough of what I want this main hallway to look like, at least from a size/shape perspective. The actual walls themselves may change, and of course, I need a ceiling, but everything else is pretty much good to go. And obviously, lots of props and other creatures will be added at the end, but at the moment, I'm just focusing on the level design itself.
Another thing I've been dealing with is the lighting, and trying to perfect it. While on the Social Network forums, I came across this link to a page talking about how to use lighting effectively. It was actually a good read, at least, the parts that I skimmed. I may use it as a reference as development continues. I'm thinking that when I get a ceiling on this thing, chandeliers will be a good prop, as well as a good light source. Or, I could replace the walls with the ones that look like stained glass windows, and simulate sunlight pouring in. All in all, I am getting better at it.
Actually, one thing that is pissing me off to no end is sometimes when I am rendering the lightmaps, my computer starts beeping loud as all hell. I have no idea why this happens, and cannot even pin point when it started happening. And then later in the night, it just stopped. Perhaps a re-install is in my future :(
Now, after some point, I am going to try to bring in an area designer, but I am sticking to my plan on knowing how to do everything before bringing others in, and have to rely on them. Let's face it, no one is getting paid to do this, and people have lives, and anything can happen. So, I need to be able to pick up the slack if such an event happens. The other benefit is that it just adds to my array of skills in general, so when I apply for certain video game positions, it makes me look that much better.
I have a doctors appointment tomorrow, and will be working remotely after it. This is big, because I am saving 4 hours of travel, and thus, will have tons of time to devote to development tomorrow night.
3/7/10 -Sunday: AH, AREA DESIGN...
Sorry for the lack of updates, been very busy lately. That said, I've still been getting development done. As the title of this update suggests, it's been all about area design. As always, I've already had an idea of what this area should like for... years... Easier said than done...
I already picked out the structure set that I will be using for this area, and have laid out a lot of things. At the moment, the only issue is the lighting. I'm still coming to grips with it, and have some more things to discover. In reality, it's very small things that I will be able to get help with on the forums, but annoying nonetheless.
I'll be able to post up some pics in a few days, hopefully.
EDIT - I have been continuing to migrate more of my old daily journal entries.
3/2/10 -Tuesday: JOURNAL MIGRATION AND MORE...
So tonight, I began the long overdue journal migration. It's not really a big deal, but I would like people to be able to read my entries from 2005. Hell, even I like to go back and see what was on my mind! It's sort of a manual, arduous task, so I'm only going to do one month a day. I just finished up September 2005 tonight. Heh, I actually remember the month well. I have great memories of going to Toronto on a business trip, bringing my laptop with me, thinking I was going to get a lot of work done on Cry The Beloved . Even though I added a journal entry every day, it usually just consisted of me complaining about how I didn't have much time for development :)
As for work tonight, it was more of a brainstorming session. I started picking out the props and models that I will be using in my next area, by viewing them in Adinos' DATool. I also loaded up some save games from the first time I played through Dragon Age, as there was a specific area that actually looked like how I want my area to look like. I just ran through it, getting ideas on how my area would look, with different colors, different props, etc. It's an interior, so the majority of it should be easy. It's just the lighting that will take the most time.
Finally, I decided to just put this picture of Aramus up. For me, it's incrediby inspiring to have pictures like this to look at while developing. I actually blew up a bunch of them, and had them framed. They sit on top of my comuter desk, and every so often, I just glance up, and it re-focuses me. I'd give anything for Oli(the artist of all said pictures) to be able to do more of these for the new characters I will be introducing in this next game, but I've not been able to get in contact with her. Ah well...
3/1/10 -Monday: PLANS FOR THE NEXT MONTH
Ah, March. The most important thing about this month is that winter is almost over! Yeah, the cold and I don't really get along. Right, on to more important things.
So, last month was definitely a productive month, especially the last few weeks. I am finally adjusted to my new work schedule, and have been better about deciding what to work on, depending on if it's during the week, or the weekend. Here's what I hope to accomplish during March:
- Work out the issues I have with regards to VO (as stated in yesterday's daily update)
- Finish the next section of the game, which includes a bunch of new areas, conversations, cutscenes... Well, yeah, it includes everything!
- Create some new special abilities for the main hero, as well as a party member.
- Start integrating some new custom content others are making, such as items, weapons, and armor.
- Get myself up to speed on how to re-color existing items.
- FINALLY integrate old daily journal entries from my old site into this one. Seriously, I've got entries from like August 2005-July-2006 that need to be copied over.
- Figure out why the movies I created a few months ago aren't playing since making this site live again.
To expand a bit further on my issues with VO, I actually created a thread about it today on the audio forum, and actually got a pretty long and comprehensive answer. I haven't been able to try out any of the suggestions, but it seems very helpful nonetheless. I'll likely give it a go tomorrow after work.
Well, I am purposely keeping this entry short, as I want to get to bed a little earlier tonight, so my body can stay fresh for the entire week. Tomorrow, as I said, I will look into the VO stuff, but not for too long. It seems like the type of thing I should do on the weekend. So, the next thing would be to start working on the new section of the game, starting with a new area. This ought to be fun. As usual, I have had a vision of what this area should look like for like, damn.... 10 years. We'll see how close I can get things.