I started by taking a new melee creature I created, and creating some custom gear for them. I already knew I wanted to move up from medium armor to heavy armor, so I just needed to figure out what look I wanted. Once I had that, I began the process of creating custom tints so that, you know, they had a more unique look to them. Remember, if I can make it custom within reason, I will. Now, you can sort of say they are an extension of the last tiers of melee enemies, but this time, I wanted to move in another direction. Whereas the last ones were more offense minded, using abilites such as Shield Bash, Shield Pummel, Precise Striking, etc., this time, I wanted to give the player another look.
I'm all about making new enemies, making them look different and such, but if they end up just being a palette swap, that's not good enough for me. To compliment some of the other allies they will have in combat (which I'll talk about later), I decided to give them more of a defensive role. With that in mind, I wanted them to use abilities like Shield Wall and such. Since I'm only slightly lazy, I was hoping to find an existing AI package for them to use. At first, I wasn't having any luck, then I looked at the AIP_Weapon_Shield_Dwarf AI package, and saw it had everything I needed. Shield Wall, Shield Cover, Shield Defense... These were the basic abilities I wanted them to use. So, I guess this sort of makes them more of the stereotypical tank character, which is what I was looking for anyway. I may end up adding some custom abilities, possibly a Last Resort, but at the moment, I'm happy with what I have. Once that was done, I did some test combat, and after some fiddling, got things where I wanted it.
Next up was a custom offensive magic user. As I really wanted to get some testing going, I just gave them the first enchanter's robe (Irvin), and got on with it. Now, since they were supposed to be more offensive minded, I was hoping I found a corresponding AI package. And boy, did I. Holy hell, they had names like Nuker 1, Nuker 2, etc. Those ones had all offensive spells, and no healing whatsoever. When I got into combat however, I realized it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I switched to a Caster Balanced package, and that was a little better. At this point though, I realized that I would need to create my own custom package, as I really wanted a more custom set of spells they would use. At any rate, I needed a custom one, because I need to give them a Unison Ability. I definitely found AI conditions to match the situation when they should use it, so it should just be plug and play. I decided to leave it for tomorrow, mostly because of the spreadsheet work I need to do.
So tomorrow, I'll finish off the work on the mage, and then may move on to a ranged enemy type. I'm not totally decided yet, so I'll just see what happens. I also need to finally do a full run through of the game, for many reasons, but mostly because I need to know the approximate level the player will be at this point in the game. I set my initialization scripts to set 2 party members at level 4, and one at level 3, and the battles were doable, though you definitely needed to use some strategy. As always, balancing will be occurring until the day I finally release the game.
Today's music comes from one of the memorable scenes in any RPG for me... The great opera scene from Final Fantasy VI. Enjoy!
3/30/11 -Wednesday: VERY GOOD DAY!
I was very focused today, doing as much work as I possibly could, without losing my sanity. Every once in a while, these days come around where I'm feeling like this, and I know that I need to take advantage of it post haste!
Today was a real milestone, game wise. I have finally added the 2nd party member to the party, including the the implementation of the iconic Rose of Eternity new party member cutscene. Fans of the original games will know what I'm talking about. Since I've already done one for the first party member, I was able to just open that cutscene, and copy things over, like vfx's and such. I'm personally proud of myself, as I got the camera movements worked out all in one go. So, I just sat down, focused as all hell, and knocked it out in like 30 minutes. Very proud indeed.
I also did some work on the staged conversation that takes place before they're added to the party. With regards to the conversation, it's purpose is to let the player know what this person is all about, and more importantly, how it will change the dynamic of the current party makeup. The hardest part was actually placing the stage in the area. 2 of the party members need to be standing on steps, and one on the ground, so I needed to place it just correctly, but when you adjust the Z axis of it in the area editor, it always goes up/down too far. I could have manually entered in numbers until I got the exact value I needed, but I just did it the hard way, and kept messing with it until I got what I wanted.
Now, when I was driving to the store to get lunch, I had the music playing in my car that will be played in the next area, and as always, started brainstorming. While I had a general understanding of what the level should look like, things started to come together even more. I still have some other things to consider, so I may hold off on level design for another day or so. Which is perfectly fine, because there are other things happening in the level, like...
... more combat encounters! Now that there are 3 full party members, combat has to change yet again. This includes different enemies who use different abilities and strategies to win. Remember, things always have to feel just a little different, so you don't get sucked into that "been there, done that" blackhole *cough* Dragon Age 2 *cough*. Anyway, one of these new enemies is really an extension of an existing one. I will of course have to change their colors, and upgrade their gear, but they should be semi-recognizable to players. On the outside, that is. Underneath the hood, I'll have to add new abilities as well. Well... maybe... I'll have to see what some of the default AI sheets look like, and see if I can just make use of them... We'll see...
Another concern with combat is how to integrate some new Unsion Abilities for the enemies. The ability itself is done, the question is how to make them use it. Presumably, I'll be able to find some existing AI conditions in the current tactic system, so all I need to do is create a custom AI sheet for them, which is easy enough.
It's a little intimidating when I think about everything that has to be done just to create these new enemies, but if I slowly chip away at it, I should be able to have it done relatively soon. Here's hoping...
I just wanted to point out that I've been listening to Yanni's latest album, Touch of Truth. So, I just don't know how the guy does it... His last albums since the beginning of the 21st century have always been like "meh" to me when I first hear it. I listen to it, get disappointed, and shelve it for some time. Eventually, I find my way back to them, and it just begins to grow on me. Well, same thing has happened with this latest one. I went from only liking 2-3 songs, to only not liking 2-3 songs.
How he has been doing this since the 80's, I'm just not sure. Good stuff.
Today's epic track from Final Fantasy 6 is the final boss music against Kefka. When I say epic, I'm talking everything, from the music, to the actual fight itself, to just.... damn... Just enjoy :)
3/29/11 -Tuesday: BUNCH OF STUFF...
Today, I did a bunch of small things. Nothing too fancy. There's a little stretch of the game where a very short cutscene plays, followed by some dialogue, followed by a short cutscene, followed by some dialogue, followed by a short cutscene, followed by a boss fight, followed by some more plot related scripting..... Gah! Seriously though, as usual, I did all of these in isolation, so I just spent some time gluing them together. What I didn't get to, which I'll do tomorrow is integrate yet another piece of dialogue (that I wrote weeks ago) after the boss fight, followed by... yes, another short cutscene. By the way, so people don't get the wrong idea, this isn't turning into a movie. When I say these cutscenes are short, I'm talking like 4-5 seconds.
One little issue I ran into yesterday was the question on how to determine if the game is in dialogue mode or not. I essentially have a script running on a heartbeat that does something every iteration. The only little wrinkle is that I don't want it to happen if the player is in the middle of talking to someone. I seem to remember NWN having a IsInConversation() method, or something like that, but I wasn't able to find anything. Then, a light bulb went off in my head, and I thought about the game mode functions I saw in module_core. After sifting through that code, I found what I was looking for!
There is is a function called GetGameMode(). Now, I haven't tried it yet, but there is a constant that should be returned when in a conversation, called GM_DIALOG. So, I just check the game mode every iteration, if that constant is returned, fall through. Seems simple enough, just simple enough that with my luck, it won't work :)
I haven't talked about Dragon Age 2, mostly because there isn't really much to talk about anymore. I personally didn't like it as much as DAO, and it became a chore towards the end. Thankfully, the forums have seemed to quiet down as well, as people are finally letting to go. I mean, it's not like Bioware raped and murdererd a family member. I like games as much as the next person, but at the end of the day, it's just a game!
Anyway, I did find it funny when a close friend texted me telling me that since he had off tomorrow, he was going to buckle down, and just beat DA2, more because, he felt like he had to. Funny how that happens with certain games. Maybe like me, he thinks something will happen at the end to make everything worthwhile. Jason, if you're reading this, the answer is a resounding NO! Nothing at the end will change your opinion of the game. Hell, it may even make it worse :)
I was on the toolset forums, and came across someone who was having issues trying to back up his mod after a computer crash. While I wasn't able to help them, I did come across their blog, and subsequently, a you tube movie they put out showing some of their game. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure. As the author recommends, watch at the highest quality, in full screen mode.
Today's music comes from a the first town you visit after the game's villian, Kefka, actually achieves what most rpg villians only dream of before being stopped by the player: Destroying the known world. As can be expected, it's a very depressing song. Enjoy!
3/28/11 -Monday: 2 POSTS IN 2 DAYS!!! A MIRACLE!!!
Well, so far, so good. I'm sticking to my goals of actually updating every day again, lol. So, as expected, I did some minor work on a cutscene, and a staged conversation. Nothing too fancy, but essential nonetheless.
With regards to the staged conversation, there were a few extra variables I normally don't deal with. First, there was the issue of removing certain nodes I created before Jason started doing this thing with the editing. Essentially, some of the dialogue was still being written, as if there would be no VO. So, to convey a character staring off into space, or just not responding to questions, I would add a line that simply contained the following:
Now, in some places, it still makes sense, but in others, it does not, and in this case, it didn't for the dialogue I had previously written, so I got rid of it.
Next up was adding in some animations. Now, this is something I don't plan on spending too much time dealing with until I have VO, but I just wanted to mess around with various animations that were just simple "poses" (i.e. folding arms). There's this animation I'm sure everyone has seen, where the actor walks back and forth, and it went perfect with this conversation. So, I added it in, and luckily, there were no issues. Now, it could be cleaned up, but as I said, that will come during the polish phase of things.
After dealing with the staged conversation, I moved on to a short cutscene. Now, most cutscenes have involved humans, and this one contains a monster model, so I had to look up a bunch of new animations for simple things like walking. At the moment, the cutscene looks a little weird, but once I glue it together with the aforementioned conversation that precedes it, hopefully, everything will look more seamless.
So tomorrow, while I was planning on getting back to some level design, I think I will do some more gluing tasks, and try to play this entire sequence from start to finish. I'll be looking for things like pacing, difficulty in combat, and overall, just making sure the player is getting a fresh experience at every turn.
You know, the more and more I played Dragon Age 2, the more I realized that unique content (especially levels!) is really a big thing to me. I mean, I always sort of knew it in the back of my head, but witnessing first hand how it can cripple a game, it just strengthens my resolve on the matter.
Today's music is from the Art Town in Final Fantasy 6, after much of the world has been destroyed. As an aside, the more and more I post this music from this game, I'm realizing that it definitely has the best overall soundtrack of any RPG I've played. So many classics, it's crazy! Enjoy!
3/27/11 -Sunday: OKAY, MY TIME IS NOW...
Okay, I don't like to make promises, but I think I'm back to normal in terms of the frequency of updates. My excuse for the last few days is that I went to Washington D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival with my wife, and 2 other couples (friends from work). It was a fun distraction, but now it's back to work. Even better, I am off for the next week, so um... yeah, I guess I'm supposed to get a lot of stuff done!
Since I didn't have much time to develop since I just got back tonight, I decided to integrate some more of Jason's edits into the game. These last few have taught me a lot about how I was screwing up various things (grammatically speaking, that is). Now, I would say that about 66% of the dialogue is done, so at the very least, the next 33% will/should be devoid of these issues! But, it's still good to see so much getting done, because, as I've been mentioning for months now, VO time will be soon. So, the sooner the dialogue is edited, the sooner that can start.
Tomorrow, I will work on a few short cutscenes, stages, and other small plot related tasks that happen before and after this particular boss fight. I still need to go back and find out why one of the Last Resorts of the boss isn't working, but that can wait. Since I'm home for a week, I really want to focus on some level design, as soon as I finish the aforementioned tasks.
Here's to a good week of development, and actual updates!
The following piece from Final Fantasy 6 is the theme for Setzer's fallen love, Daryl. Enjoy!
3/21/11 -Monday: CONVERSATION STUFF...
Today, I mostly focused on conversation related things. As I mentioned yesterday, the editing process has started in earnest, so that is my main focus at the moment. Since I hadn't really dealt with importing single pieces of content via a B2B update, I made sure to backup everything for the game before doing anything. Once that was done, I did the import, and suprisingly, there were no issues.
Also surprising was the amount of edits that were done. Let me tell you, with Cry The Beloved, editing a conversation I wrote was akin to the conept of "destroy and rebuild". Luckily, each set of edits came with reasons on why things were changed, and thus, I learned a lot. This time around, at least for what has been edited, I seem to be getting off pretty easy. Maybe 20% of the node had changes, maybe a little more. It's win-win really, because it's less work for Jason (I think!), and it means I'm getting better (again, I think!).
In terms of what I did, implementation wise, I worked on 2 pieces of dialogue. One is a very short one, once is a very long one, where a new party member is (finally!) introduced. Now, while I did play through all of Dragon Age: Origins when it first came out, once I was done, I moved right to this game, and haven't played it since. Now, when playing Dragon Age 2, one of the things I was constantly reminded of was the animations of the NPC's while talking. So far, I have not added any, mostly because I'm waiting on the VO. As I understand it, once I have VO in, you can have the game generate a bunch of random animations that the NPC will use. I will of course go in and finetune specific lines, but you get the point. So, this is another reason I cannot wait to get the VO in, just to mess around with this for the first time. Man, just thinking about, I could spend months alone on just this. Sigh...
Tomorrow, I will be doing some more work on conversation that introduces the new party member, then perhaps some gluing tasks to piece everything I've been doing together into something that remotely resembles an RPG :)
Today's piece from Final Fantasy 6 is one of my favorites of all time. I remember letting it play over and over again while sitting at the menu screen, calling my Mom into the room to explain to her how far video game music had come. She stilll doesn't get it :) Enjoy!
3/20/11 -Sunday: BACK TO NORMAL...
With Dragon Age 2 behind me, I'm ready to get back to getting this game out the door. It was an... interesting distraction, but the time for fun (was it really fun???) and games is over. Now, things are back to normal.
The biggest piece of news, story wise, is that we will be handling a certain aspect of it differently. So, as you may or may not know, this game takes place 20 years after the events of my NWN games. Even though I was able to create The Coming & Cry The Beloved, I was not able to do The Last Petal (which still haunts me to this day). Because of this gap in the timeline, a lot, and I mean a LOT of things have been missed.
Now, when I started really designing how things would play out in this game, I tried my best to separate the events of The Last Petal. The goal was to keep the storyline going, while avoiding to talk too much about the events of The Last Petal, so that the player wasn't spoiled by things that they never saw take place, but may one day. The main example are the storylines of important characters, like Aramus, Clopon, Castias, etc.
In the end, however, it just became too damn hard to try to juggle all these things. I realized that The Last Petal didn't happen, and may not happen, so those events will need to be discussed. If this game was just a different set of characters in the world 20 years later, it would be one thing, but since everyone and everything is so tightly coupled, I just couldn't do it anymore.
So what does that mean for the development of the game? Not too much, fortunately. A few conversations will have to be re-worked, but luckily, since we're in the early stages of the editing process, all is well. Speaking of the editing...
...Jason has taken the reigns, and has started the long and arduous task of editing all the dialogue in the game. As one can expect, just having an editor is fine, but having an editor who knows just as much about the story/lore (sometimes more, it seems!) is even better. He already knows the full scope of the series as a whole, and that knowledge gives him more freedom when making decisions on how to make the conversations better.
Our method is different this time around. When developing Cry The Beloved, he would make changes inline for every piece of dialogue, and I would give it a once over, and then get it in the game. For what it's worth, that system worked fine, and I learned a lot of things myself, as he would give full reasonings as to why he changed something.
This time around, since there is a default line tab, and an editor line tab, he can make his changes to the stuff that shows up in game, then go into his reasonsings in the editor tab, as well as display the old stuff I initially wrote. At this point, since I've worked with him on and off for the past 6 years, I have total trust/faith in him, so I really only check the editor tab to see why he changed something, for my own personal growth.
In terms of how he gets me his changes, yes, we are using the archaic system of bundling the changes in b2b packages. Sunjammer, being the ever so thoughtful person he is, pointed me to how we can share a database, allowing him to just check in his changes on his end, and we may get there, but for now, for other various reasons, we'll stick with this method.
Finally, now that we're starting the get this stuff edited, we can start finally recording so VO. Now that was be... interesting...
Today's Final Fantasy 6 music will be all about the battle music. Up until that point, all FF music had a similar feeling to it. This changes ever so slightly in this game (especially the boss theme). Enjoy!
3/19/11 -Saturday: FINISHED WITH DRAGON AGE 2...
Right, so clearly, I haven't been posting as of late, as I've been spending time with Dragon Age 2. In the end, it became more of a "I have to do this because of how much I liked DAO", and thus, I have very mixed feelings. I won't go into a lot of details, and in fact, if you want a review that pretty much says everything I would want to say, check out Amstrad Hero's Review.
Dragon Age 2, for me, was a game that started off pretty slow, got interesting around the end of act 2, and then degenerated into this mess of a game where I just wanted it to be over. I think the thing that killed it for me was:
No focused story
Going a little deeper, the story was really well done at the climax of each act, and I just wish there were more scenes like that. Instead, we got a ton of forgettable quests sandwiched in between. It almost felt like an MMO to me, to be honest. It became more about running around and collecting as many quests as possible, and then finishing them off. Hell if I can remember the plotlines of them. I mean, it was usually something along the lines of templars killing mages, blood mages killing templars, qunari being all pissed off, etc. I mean, don't get me wrong, not every quest was like that, but for me, that's what I come away with.
Again, it goes back to this quality vs quantity thing I'm always harping over. If they dramartically cut down the number of quests, and made them longer, to me, they would have been more memorable. As it stands, I was just on autopilot, following yellow arrows telling me where to go. Oh, and forget about stopping play in the middle of a quest. The next time I would start, I had no idea what was going on. I like the fact that quests you had previously done would be brought up in conversations, the problem is, I never remembered who the hell was being referenced. "Oh, I helped <insert blood mage's name>? That's great, who was that again? Blood mage #4, or blood mage #34?".
The final dagger in my heart was the combat. So much potential, just wasted! At this point, I'm not sure what was worse: The Deep Roads in DAO, or trying to complete a quest in a nighttime version of an area, knowing I would have to fight some random pirates, or slavers, or blood mages, or templars, or whatever. In the end, there were just too many unimportant bits of combat, again, sandwiched in between the good stuff. Just to get through the game, I put it on casual for the last few hours. For me, that's damn near unheard of!
So, I don't know. The good stuff was really good. There just wasn't enough of it for me. But hey, what can you do?
Finally, just take a look at the screenshot, specifically the armor, and think about what is wrong with it. At that point in the game, I wasn't even surprised anymore.
Now that my 2 week vacation away from modding is over, I'm back in the game, ready to finish this mod. The last time I went this long without modding was when I got married last summer, but I think it was good to get away from it for a while. Because, this is where I make the big push to get things done. I'll have lots more to talk about in the coming days.
3/12/11 -Saturday: DRAGON AGE 2 IS... INTERESTING...
Okay, so I'm about 17 hours into the game so far. Here are my obligatory thoughts:
Totally, toally underwhelmed. There has been exactly one piece of music that has caught my ear, and it played during a pretty nice cutscene, but besides that, I'm even more disappointed than I expected. I mean, I'm not a fan of ambient music, but at least in Oblivion, most of it was good. This is just... I don't know... Now, turns out there is a thread at the BSN talking about how the composer, Inon Zur, actually admits that the score was a rushed job, but I stand by my statements.
Oh, and what makes the above even more crazy is that I had absolutely no expectations for the quality of the music in the first place...
QUESTS, QUESTS, AND MORE QUESTS
I will outright admit, I am doing every quest that gets logged in my journal. It's some sort of problem I have, where I feel like I just need to do everything.
Now for the most part, they aren't bad, but damn, I really wish they stuck with the quality over quantity design style. I can see the potential in many of these quests, the potential for Bioware to have done greater things, but alas, it just isn't to be (so far!).
For instance, to me, the voice acting is still top notch. The cutscenes and staged conversations are magnificent. The graphics are great. If only they took all those ingredients, and used them in a more core plot line, instead of 50+ side quests. Speaking of a core plot line, I have yet to really find one. I know Hawke is supposed to be the champion of Kirkwall, but at this point, it seems like he is just getting there by helping every freaking person in town with their problems.
I don't know, maybe I'll find this core plot soon...
PASSAGE OF TIME
Okay, now this, I've been impressed with. Right now, I think I'm 4 years into the supposed 10 year passage of time, and from what I've experienced, I like where they are going with this. As the years go on, I've been making more of a name for myself (still through too many quests), there have been subtle changes to Kirkwall, and hell, even my party members have their own stuff going on. I like the concept, and applaud Bioware for thinking out of the box.
I have only played one more exaggerated scene, but I was totally caught off guard, and didn't even know I was playing one, until the Chantry Seeker, Cassandra, called bullshit on Varric. Definitely one of the standout moments in the game for me so far, though.
So far, this is turning out to essentially be a game that had great promise, but because of some key design mistakes, isn't living up to its potential. But, I shall see, as I play on...
This next piece of the theme song for Rachel, the love of a party member named Locke Cole. What made this story interesting is that before the start of the game, Locke had fallen in love with her, even though her Father was against it. Amongst other things, Locke was a thief, though he would have everyone else think "treasure hunter" :)
Anyway, while out together one day, exploring some caves, Rachel slipped, and was about to fall into a pit, but Locke grabbed her arm. Unfortunately, he lost his grip, and she fell to her death.
He would spend every waking moment searching for a way to revive her, and you have the opportunity to help him do just that later in the game. I'm sure I'm missing some facts, as I'm just typing out what I remember from 15 years ago, but I'm sure I have most of it right :)
This last piece is from the child party member, Gau, who had a very tough life. When he was born, his Mother died in child birth, and his Father went insane. Because of this insanity, he though Gau to be a demon, and threw him out into the wild. Tragic...
3/10/11 -Thursday: DRAGON AGE 2 HAS TAKEN A HOLD OF ME!!!
Right, so as should be expected, I've been playing some Dragon Age 2 over the past few days. I'm about 8 hours in, and I thought that was enough to share my thoughts:
So, since info started coming out about this game, the internet has been abuzz with complaints of the game being dumbed down, or streamlined. As far as I can tell, these things include:
What is perceived as more of an action styled combat system
Lack of inventory changes to party members
I'm sure there are more, but this is what immediately pops into my mind. So, many PC players on the internet are claiming these things have been done to draw more console players to the series. There are claims of the death of real RPG's, Bioware has sold their soul to the devil, etc. Oh, and console players are dumb, have a short attention span, and only play shooters (even though shooters only make up like 9-10% of all console sales to begin with).
Well, as a console player who played the shit out of every Call of Duty since Modern Warfare, I guess that includes me, right? I mean, let's be clear: Every single one of those bullet points are non-issues for me. I don't mind a forced PC (anyone play a little game called The Coming or Cry The Beloved), and I love the fact that the PC is voiced.
With regards to the graphics, I can only speak for myself, but having an nvidia card that can take advantage of the DX11 things they added to the game, I can say with certainty that this game looks much better than DA1. I know many people may be having problems, and if so, that sucks for them, but for me, the change in art design is great.
As for the lack of inventory for party members (besides rings, belts, amulets, etc.), again, I couldn't care less. Again, to each their own, but for me, this is not a deal breaker at all.
The fact that the game is shorter doesn't mean anything to me, in fact, I think it may be a good thing. I thought DAO carried on a little too much as it is, so as long as the quality is there, I'm good with it.
Finally, there's the combat, arguably the thing that drew me to the Baldur's Gate series, and as an extension, Dragon Age. I love, love, LOVE the changes to the combat. Absolutely nothing has changed in my play style during the transition, as I am constantly pausing the game, planning things out strategically, etc. I hear stories of people saying the combat is much easier for them, and they are not putting much thought into it, and all I can do is shrug... I guess it's one of the issues of trying to balance a game where you could have all sorts of combinations of party members, but with my current party (Warrior Hawke, Bethany, Aveline, and Varric), combat is just tough enough that I have to pay attention, but not so tough that I'm getting frustrated.
So, most of the main issues people have with the game are non-issues for me. However, I do have my own issues with the game, mainly, the story. One thing I remember in DAO was the fact that I played for damn near 8-9 hours straight that first day. I played a human noble, and was hooked to the story from the start. The attack on my castle, the way things slowly played out at Ostagar, that epic fight against the Ogre in that tower... Just classic stuff.
All I'm doing in DA2 thus far is a bunch of forgettable quests in order to gain money to go into the *shudder* Deep Roads. It sort of reminds me of the beginning of Baldur's Gate 2 in a way, whre you had to raise some 40K gold to rescue Imoen. I mean, don't get me wrong... I'm having fun, just not as much fun as I would have liked. I just wish there was a stronger main narrative early on. I assume it will start eventually... Right... RIGHT?! We'll see...
Ah, the internet. Enter if you dare... So, the DA2 general forums are about to implode at this point. There will always be people complaining about this or that when a game is released, but I've never seen it this bad. People are allowed to have their own opinions, but some are acting as if Bioware swept their hands from left to right and killed the first born son of everyone on the forums. It's pretty bad.
Now, the worst thing I can think of that has happened is a situation where EA banned someone from the forum, which in turn banned their social network account, which in turn won't let them do their one time online check when attempting to play the game. So, they are in fact banned from a game they purchased for a few days. Do I agree with it? On the one hand, the person deserved to be banned because he went to far. Hell, sometimes I think they are too lenient on people. On the other hand, not being able to post on the forums is one thing. Not being able to play your game is another. I don't know. I'm sure there will be some internet petition (gotta love those!), and a threat of lawsuit (gotta love those internet lawyers), but as with most things, it will pass, and no one will care anymore.
The main question is, how does Bioware come out of this? I mean, yes, there are a lot of mad people on the internet. The real question is, what is the % of them? A small group of people can make a lot of noise and seem larger than they are, so maybe in the end, Bioware is not really paying attention to them. I guess the main indicator will be sales of the game. Unfortunately, NPD doesn't release those actual numbers publicly anymore, so we will only be able to see where it falls on the top ten chart. If the game ends up selling well, then I guess people better get used to the future of RPG's. If not, Bioware has a lot of work to do...
Okay, I missed a few days, so I'm thinking that this music will bleed over into next week. At any rate, there is so much of it, only makes sense. Enjoy!
Sabin & Edgar's Theme
3/7/11 -Monday: A LITTLE BIT OF THIS... A LITTLE BIT OF THAT...
Today was one of those rare days where everything I said I wanted to do in yesterday's update came to fruition. On the train, I started, and mostly finished the dialogue for this particular cutscene. At the time I still wasn't sure if the dialogue would be displayed in the actual cutscene mode, or in a non-interactive piece of dialogue, but I didn't have to worry about it at the moment.
On the train ride home, I put more effort into seeing what was up with this wonky Last Resort. I'm not entirely sure why it's happening, but it looks as if when the creature begins to use the ability, the event for the ability is firing multiple times. Now, as a dirty little hack, I can make sure the ability is only fired once, and disregard the other events. By nature, this creature should only use this ability once anyway. However, the better way would be to clearly stop the multiple events from being sent in the first place.
I think I just need to break things down to the most common denominator. I'll simply override an existing ability they use by default, and see how the events are fired. Then, I'll slowly change things over to using my ability, and see where the issue crops. Heh, considering all the crash related things that plagued development a few months ago, DEBUGGING this is a relief. As always, it'll get sorted out one way or another.
When I got home, I did some more fine tuning of the cutscene, and then decided that the dialogue will occur in a normal non-interactive dialogue, which meant I needed to create a stage. It was getting late, so I just focused on creating as many different camera angles as I thought I needed.
Tomorrow, I'll integrate the stage with the cutscene, and allocate the various camera angles as needed. On the train ride home, I make no promises of doing any work. Even though I pre-orderer Dragon Age 2 at the mall up where I live, there is a Gamestop right next to the gym I go to every day down in the city, so I may just swing by there and pick it up. If that's the case, you know what I'll be doing on the ride home :)
Okay, so this week, I'm just gonna knock it out of the park. Yes, I'm talking about Final Fantasy VI. This is already in my top 2 RPG's of all time, and the music is right up there as well. Also, I would be doing a disservice to the game if I only did 1 track per day, so I may change things up and do multiple ones, just to fit everything in. Enjoy!
Well, it wouldn't be a Final Fantasy (from the 90's) without the crystal theme. Out of all of them, this is my favorite rendition:
Next up is the intro theme. I've told this story so many times, it should be published, but one of my best friends (he was the best man at my wedding) and I witnessed this opening sequence at the same time back in late '94 when this game came out, and we were awestruck. Whenever we reconnect, just the mere mention of it brings back a flood of memories.
Finally, we have the theme song to the character that would be the leader of the group if you had to pick one, Terra (Tina) Branford.
3/6/11 -Sunday: CUTSCENE WORK...
So, the cutscene work went pretty well today, overall. I admit, they were pretty short, but a cutscene is a cutscene, and progress is progress. Technically, it should have been just one cutscene, but due to technical limitations, I had to split them up into two. Essentially, the first half of the scene shouldn't have any music playing, and second half should. Now, since I am still using sound objects for my custom music (which at this point, I just don't think is going to change), I'm only activating via scripts. So, the first scene plays, fades out, then right before I call the next one, I start up the music. It ends up being seamless enough so it's totally transparent to the player, which is good. Just a little extra work on my end, like setting up the actors twice, things like that.
Speaking of the music, it sure does bring back some memories. One thing I always harp on in game design (especially for a series) is music consistency. So, the music that plays during this scene is the same music that plays for a character in the scene in Cry The Beloved. Simply hearing that music brought me back to that old scene, which is what I hope it does for returning players. From a technical standpoint, I needed to get a higher quality version of the song than what I used in that last game. Back then, I was so paranoid over losing potential downloads that I did anything and everything to cut down on the size of the overall package, including lower the quality of a lot of the custom music. Now, working at a company where I oversee the transcoding process of audio files, I understand a lot more about it, but man, back then, I took things a little too far. For instance, I have a Rose of Eternity playlist in iTunes for all 69 custom tracks. The track I wanted to bring over to this game just sounded horribly, really. Upon looking at the metadata for it, I realized I cut the bitrate down to 56K! To be fair, no one every complained about the actual quality of the music, but now, I just can't do that anymore, so I found the original 128K version, which sounds so much better.
Now, the great thing about FMOD, the software use to integrate sound/music into your mod, is that when doing a build, you can set the quality you want right in there, instead of individually changing the quality of each song, and then doing a build. So, towards the end of development, I will be messing around with different bitrates, sample rates, file sizes, etc. to hit that sweet spot.
Tomorrow on the train, I will work on some dialogue that will be in the cutscenes I created today. Shouldn't be too bad, 20 lines at most. And since the PC doesn't take part in it, I don't have to worry about branches or anything. On the way home, if I feeling brave, I will figure out why this damn Last Resort is not working for the boss fight. At home, I'll do a little polish on the cutscenes, and then, go from there.
To finish off Final Fantasy IV week, I present to you, the music of the Giant's Dungeon. This was also used in the last few areas before the final fight with Zemus/Zeromus. To me, this was the perfect final dungeon music. I had my final party set, including Cecil, Kain, Rosa, Rydia, & Edge. Everyone was powerful as all hell, and I felt like I could take on the world. But first, I needed to traverse this final dungeon, where every fight was against enemies that could have literally been boss fights. Ah, the memories. Enjoy!
3/5/11 -Saturday: ALMOST THERE...
So, work continues on the boss fight. Although at the moment, I'm having some difficulties with a Last Resort I created for it. Even though on the outside of things (i.e. things the player sees), there are spells and talents, underneath that, there are other layers. For instance, when a canine creature uses it's Howl talent, it's really a monster talent. From an implementation, it's slightly different in how you define it in the 2DA, as it needs to be defined as a monster talent, and not just a normal talent. Anyway, the Last Resort was classified wrong, and that is why it wasn't firing the other day. Now of course I am running into other issues, with it actually firing multiple times, and I have absolutely no idea as to why it's happening. I was getting a little pissed off trying to figure it out, so I shelved it, and decided to just deal with it on the train sometime next week. This gives me time to work on things I otherwise couldn't work on, like cutscenes.
Speaking of cutscenes, that is exactly what I will be working on tomorrow. It's been a while, but luckily, it's a pretty simple one. There's not much setup to be done, since I already have the core level design done. I just need to create 2 NPC's, and that's that. Now one of these NPC's in the cutscene is someone who was in the first 2 games, so it'll be a little nice surprise for returning players.
Finally, I'm beginning to put more thought into custom VFX's. I'm not entirely sure why, but I just find the core VFX's sort of lacking, and plus, there is no real way (that I know of) to view them at my leisure. So, at some point, I think I will be expanding my array of skills even further by attempting to make use of the VFX editor. How hard could it be :)
So, I know I missed a day of updates, but I won't penalize you guys for that, so you get a 2 for 1 deal today with some more Final Fantasy IV music. Enjoy!
First up is another version of the classic, The Theme of Love. I already posted this before, but it was yet another remake. And I know I've said it before, but this is so classic, they play this in malls in Japan, and even teach it in musical classes. I knew I wasn't crazy when I fell in love with this when I was 11 :)
This next song is from Troian Castle.
3/3/11 -Thursday: THIS IS WHERE THE FUN IS TO BE HAD!
I've said it a couple hundred times, and I'm sure I'll say it another couple hundred times in the future, but I love, love, LOVE anything related to combat design. When it comes to bosses though, that's where I really need to get creative. So far, eveything is going according to plan.
At the moment, the thing I am working on is making sure certain, how should i say, "events" occur at the right time during the fight. Actually, it's not so much happening at the right time, rather, happening every x seconds, minutes, etc. Luckily, I had already built a small psuedo-heartbeat system a few weeks ago. It was kind of specific to what I had built it for, so I just had to break out some parts, parameterize it, and essentially make it as general as possible so it could work in any situation.
Anyway, the fight itself is going exactly how it should be. Remember, I've long held the notion that bosses shouldn't just be palette swapped enemies with a boss tag, making them just have more HP's, deal out more damage, etc. Yes, they need to be challenging, but not cheap challenging. I'd like for people to have that "Ah, that's what I need to do!" moment during boss fights, when they figure out the method in which to defeat their enemy. The only problem I'm having is how to make sure this is obvious to the player. I've been accused (rightfully so) of beating people over the head with certain things in my previous games, so I'm really trying to go for the more subtle approach to damn near everything. I guess in the end, I'll only know when I put out the next ALPHA, and get real feedback on it. Until then, I'll just go with what I have.
Today's music is another character theme from Final Fantasy IV: Rydia. Again, I'm sure I already posted this before, but this is just so classic, I don't care :) Enjoy!
3/2/11 -Wednesday: PRINCIPAL LEVEL DESIGN DONE... ON TO MORE COMBAT RELATED THINGS...
With regards to the principle level design work, I'm calling that done and dusted. As always, I'll have to go back, add some more vegetation, models, etc., but the main structure is what I really cared about. Besides combat, there is a cutscene or 2, as well as some staged conversations, so I needed to have that done before moving on to those other things.
With that, I turned my attention back to the on going boss battle design. While doing that work, I discovered something very nice. So, over the past few days, I've mentioned that I've been doing work to make sure I can equip my own custom gear on this one particular creature. It's different for this one, because they have their gear auto-spawned/auto-equipped after they are spawned, which it derives from a 2DA. Well, while sifting through that spawn code, I realized that if there was already gear equipped in those particular slots, it would override what was on in the 2DA. So, all I have to do is create my custom items in the toolset, add them to the inventory of the creature, equip them, and that's it. No 2DA work, no custom scripting, no nothing. Very nice.
There is still some work left to be done though. I still have to create the aforementioned equipment, I need to yank out some of the default abilities from their AI 2DA, and I need to figure out why in the hell the Last Resort I gave them isn't firing correctly. Following that, I need to create a sub boss creature. For the sub boss, I actually had an idea of what model to use, and even tried it in game using the stock creatures from DAO. Then, a light bulb just went off in my head, and I decided to go a slightly different way. This won't make sense to people until they play the game, but this way I'm going fits in better with the overarching sub-story of the set of areas all of these events take place in.
Anyway, if I just put my head down, and don't get distracted (ha!), I should be able to knock out the above in one day. I would really like to put this entire sequence to bed before next Tuesday, because, well, Dragon Age II will be coming out, and there is no way I can not play that game :)
Today's music from Final Fantasy IV is the theme song for the Prince of Damcyan, Edward. Certain aspects of this character inspired the personality of Auden Sensbane, and I even used this same music as Auden's theme song. Enjoy!
3/1/11 -Tuesday: GETTING CLOSER...
On the level design front, things are coming along great, and there really isn't that much left to do. First, I had to double the size of the original level I tried to create, and once I did that, I had more than enough room to have what I wanted in the area. I then carried over all the props from the prototyped level, added a bunch of vegetation, water, etc. Now, I was going to stick with the same lighting scheme as the previous level, but I may change it up a little. I think I'll stick with the same colors, just make it a little bit darker. Overall though, as expected, it's coming along quite fast.
On the boss battle front, I've had great success with all of my assumptions from yesterday. First, I cheated, and decided to manipulate the equipment of the boss via custom scripting, rather than going the 2DA route, it for nothing else, because it's quick to test. And as I anticipated, when I removed the weapon from the creature, it still remained on said creature in the game, which means it comes part and parcel with the model, and is just there for show. And just to prove my test, when fighting, the enemy's attacks barely damaged me, and the default elemental damage was gone as well. At this point, I can now create my own custom gear for this enemy, keeping things in line with how I want the battle to play out.
I also created a new Last Resort for them, but admittingly, it's carried over from Cry The Beloved. Still, the implementation is different than with the NWN system, so it wasn't a straight port. I did add the ability to their AI 2DA, and they didn't use it, so I need to look into that. I also need to get rid of some of the superfluous abilities they have that give them their DAO identity. That just involves deleting those rows from their AI 2DA, thankfully.
After I do all of the above, I'll need to create some other custom creatures that will take place in the boss battle as well. They will play a huge role in how the battle is won, and players who have been paying attention to the use of the new custom abilities up to this point should quickly pick up on how to use these lesser enemies to their advantage.
STATE OF THE UNION
Well, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, there's a lot of work left to be done, but I'm definitely way past the halfway mark, which is encouraging. At the very least, I only have another 4 levels to create, at most, 5. 2 of the levels will no doubt eat up a lot of my development time, 2 will be quickies, and the other potential one could be a quickie as well.
What I'm really looking forward to though is the addition of another party member. I literally created this character back in November of 2009 during the toolset BETA, and even already created his core ability. Hell, I even did a bunch of test combat back then. I'm sure I'll have to fiddle with the stats of said ability, but for the most part, they're ready to go. From a story standpoint, it's going to be great to just get another personality into the mix, which will clearly change the dynamic of things thus far. While I had a vague understanding of their personality back then, when Jason came back to help last fall, we really fleshed things out. I think people will really like this character, even if another particular party member does not.
From a gameplay standpoint, the addition of another party member greatly changes how you will be fighting enemies. As I clearly know who will be in your party, I'm able to tailor each combat experience to the t. Sure, you'll have your obligatory period of time where you get used to their new custom core ability, but once that time is up, the difficulty will be ratched up even further than what I've been designing for the past 2 months. I'm really, really looking forward to creating this sequences.
Besides that, there's a bunch of cutscenes that need to be done, the standard plot related scripting, journal entires, codexes, etc. Jason is in the prcess of editing the dialogue in the game, and once that's done, we'll finally be able to make inroads into that elephant in the room I call VO *shudder*.
ON A MORE PERSONAL NOTE
So, I may have mentioned in passing what I do during the day to pay the bills. Well, I'm a software engineer with a technology startup, named Thumbplay. While the bread and butter (i.e. things paying the bills) was the ringtone business (people still buy those?!), in the past year, we made the transition to another type of service: Cloud based music streaming.
In short, we provide a service across various platforms (web, desktop, android, iPhone, and blackberry) that allows you to stream over 10 million songs to the platform of your choice. We have deals with all the major labels (Universal, Sony, EMI, and Warner Music Group), as well as many independent ones. The service itself costs $9.99 a month, which speaking objectively as I can, is a good deal. Sure, I work there, so I must be brainwashed, and all that good stuff, but I really mean it. Had I ever left the company, I knew I would start up a subscription.
I currently use it on my iPhone, and the best feature is being able to cache entire albums and playlists on your phone, so you don't need to be connected in order to listen to them. So while on a WIFI network, I usually just browse for all sorts of albums, and just cache them immediately. The amount of albums I've cached would have paid for an entire year of the service, had I bought them outright, so to me, it's perfect. In the end, for me, it's just convenient to be able to just remember some song I used to like back in the 90's, do a search for it, and listen to it immediately.
Well anyway, today it was annoucned that we were purchased by the mega corporation, Clear Channel. Here's a link to the details of the deal, but essentially, they were interested in our tech, and want to integrate it into their existing iHeartRadio service.
At any rate, we've sort of knew something was going on, but nothing was certain, so it's been a little stressful over the past few weeks. I tried to maintain my sanity by doing as much work on the game as possible, but I have to admit, it affected it a little. Well, it's over, and there were no layoffs, so we're all now under the Clear Channel umbrella.
So, with all of this behind me, I should be able to get back to putting all my focus into Rose of Eternity.
Today's music is the overworld theme that played throughout Final Fantasy IV. I'll never forget the days when I was an eleven year old, just sitting and listening to this music over and over again in game. It definitely added to the total game time, lol.
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