I didn't have much time today (and none yesterday), but when I had the time, I made the most of it. I continued to clear up tickets, and today, I focused on some of the ones I wrote, intending to flesh out the story/lore a bit, through some short sequences.
As always, instead of "telling" the player certain things, I would rather "show" them, or at least throw the bits of lore into various pieces of dialogue, so the player doesn't feel like they're talking to a human codex. So, I had created these 4 areas a few months ago, which were mostly combat related. As I played through them during my last run through the game, I realized I had an opportunity to show the player some different things, expanding on the lore of the areas. At this point, the player would have already heard little things here and there, so to actually show them was the right thing to do.
In terms of the actual work, it just included a little 8 second intro cutscene to an area, and adding an NPC to take part in an existing staged conversation. I also had to do a little scripting, and the writing of some ambient lines. I still have a little more dialogue to write, but the core stuff has been implemented, and I'm happy with the quick turnaround.
This upcoming week is going to be interesting, as the French Open championships have begun. As always, the first week of a major is hectic, ans you're trying to play 64 matches for Round 1. By the second week, there will only be 16 players left (whittled down from 128), so things slow down a bit, and start to look like standard issue tennis tournaments. Anyway, I expect lots of monkey work from myself, as I'm sure I'll be just a tad distracted :)
So, I need to end The Witcher week off in style. Enjoy!
5/20/11 -Friday: BACK TO IT...
So, because of other responsibilities that I cannot mention at the moment, I've only really had a chance to do development on the train, which for what I needed this week, was just fine. Today, I focuses solely on dialogue related things again.
First though, I had to deal with this weird bug... So, whenever Jason edits a dialogue file, he sends me a B2B package, and I import it into the game. It's worked just fine, but I was noticing that for some, it seemed like his changes weren't showing up in game, even though I could see them in the editor itself. I thought perhaps I forgot to export them, but even after that, I still didn't see any changes. Now, in turns out, they all had the same issue: they were dialogues files that were used in cutscenes. For whatever reason, when I import the dialogue file, and then open the cutscene, the lines he changed are borked in the cutscene. So unfortunately, until I learn what the core issue is, I need to manually select the lines he changed in the dialogue, and add them to the cutscene again. I know that sounds like more work than it really is, as I just have to click a combo box, and select the right line. So, a little extra work, but I'm glad I figured out what was going on!
With that out of the way, I was able to get back to more dialogue tickets. Today, I decided to essentially focus on contextual dialogue. As I mentioned before, there is a subset of cast members that need different dialigue during different parts of a particular set of sequences. The hardest was the first, because I needed to find the right plot conditions to check for, to display the right ambiant dialogue. Once that first person was done, it was easy to duplicate for the 4-5 others that needed it.
I also fixed a bunch of other dialogue related tickets, but they're not important enough to mention. What is important is that I was able to close out at least 10 tickets on the train, which felt great. Only 2 more P1's, 3 more P2's, and bunch of P3's that really could be P4's. So all in all, a good day!
Tomorrow, depending on how much time I have, I'll do some extra story related tasks, which essentially amounts of making a particular set of areas come to life a little bit more, adding a lore related NPC here, adding a party member ambient speak line there, etc. And then, there's that cutscene I really want to finish. One can only hope.
Here's some more music from The Witcher for you to sample. Enjoy!
5/19/11 -Thursday: DAMN REAL WORLD JOB...
Sigh... It's weeks like this where I wish I was doing *this* for a living, and not what I currently am doing. I mean, I guess the stress would be the same, but at least it's stress for games :)
There's not much to report, sadly. I've fixed minor bugs here and there, but nothing major. I've integrated many of Jason's edits as well, and I'm glad to be able to report that it's going well. He's almost made it to the end of the ALPHA, in terms of total dialogue, so I really need to cut this next release as soon as possible.
When not going crazy at work, and not doing any implementation, the only other thing I've been able to do is continue to participate in various talks via email and our forums, about specific parts of the story, and how to present it to the end user. You know, I knew this was going to bite me in the ass, but this point of trying to keep things simple enough for new players, but deep enough for returning players has been one hell of a challenge. I know everything will work out in the end, so that makes it easier.
Tomorrow, I plan on working on some dialogue tickets. Some of these include adding in plot checking for various plot events to expanded dialogue, as well as contextual dialogue implementation. With the latter, there are a core cast of people that you're around during a certain sequence of events, and they need to respond to you accordingly, depending on what is going on. Not particularly exciting tasks, but it's gotta get done.
Oh, and I would love if I could finish off these key cutscene by the end of the weekend. Yeah, that's the goal... Let's see if I can stick with it...
Today's music is again something I never heard in the actual game, but just came across it when I was working on an ill-fated "The Witcher" mod. At least something came out of that project. Enjoy!
5/16/11 -Monday: BUG FIXING CONTINUES...
I didn't do anything too spectacular today. I basically sifted through all the tickets, trying to find the easiest ones to fix. These ranged from new, short convos, to bug fixes, etc.
Some of the more annoying bugs were skill/ability related. For all party members, when you go to their skill sheet, it's completely empty. For the PC, it's fine... Now, the only thing I'm doing with the party members is setting their custom auto-level file before they're leveled up upon spawning. Then again, I also have a custom auto-level file for the PC as well, so it can't be that. Anyway, I did much around in all the initialization scripts a year ago, so it's going to take me a little bit to remember what I did, and why, and get the skills showing again.
The other head scratcher is when a particular party member joins, none of their abilities are set in their quick slots. Now, I could hack it to work, but again, I'm pretty sure when I was messing around with the initialization scripts, I broke something. Then again, it's only happening for one party member, while the other one is fine. Also, if I just start in my test area, or anywhere for that matter, and have them join the party, the abilities are there. But when I play through some of the game before they join, the issue occurs. As always, I'm sure it's something small.
I didn't have any time for development at home because of other responsibilities, but I did get a good brainstorm session while listening to music before nodding off to sleep. It's nothing the player will see in this game, but it's still something important to the Rose of Eternity world as a whole.
Tomorrow will be much like today, except that I hope I have better luck!
In honor of The Witcher 2 being released this week, I will feature music from the first game all week. I'll never forget the first time I started listening to this music. The game hadn't even come out yet, and you could preview it on their site. I absolutely fell in love with what they had, and never looked back. And the funny thing is, I never beat the game. I literally played for an hour or 2 before getting bored (hopefully the sequel will pull me in more).
Anyway, here's Tales of the Witcher. Enjoy!
5/15/11 -Sunday: DEVELOPMENT, *WITH* PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT :)
Unlike yesterday, I did more than brainstorming. I was implementing stuff like a madman on a mission! Sticking with the gameplan, I moved on to some more P1's and P2's. One particular ticket was one I wanted to clear up for a long time.
Many months ago, I had created a stage conversation, but sort of left it half done. I knew I wanted to have close to 100 NPC's in it, but because I was more focused on getting an ALPHA out, I decided to just implement it with only a few actors. I knew I would come back and add all the other actors at a later time, which just happened to be today! Lucky for me, the NPC's are uniformed soldiers, and therefore, non-unique. So, lots of copying and pasting was all I needed. Now, you'll only see these soldiers during a staged conversation, so I don't have to worry about the framerate dropping while you walk or anything like that. In fact, the only thing I have noticed is the slight delay of getting them on the screen. I decided to go the route of pre-spawning them in the actual area, and setting their active state to FALSE. Then, when needed for the scene, I activate them. Heh, I'm sure my laptop would have imploded had I tried to spawn all of them dynamically. Anyway, adding a little 1 second fade should clear up the issue.
Now, the conversation is bookended by 2 cutscenes, the first of which I had already implemented as well, which didn't need to show all 100 NPC's. The last, however, would definitely need to show more, and so I also left this for later. Oh yeah, and all of them had to be performing the same animation! Lucky for me, it's easy enough to add one npc to a cutscene and make them do what you want, and then C&P them. So, as I do with all cutscenes, I knew how long I wanted it to be (more or less), so I added all the actors, had them perform their animations, and only then did I add in the camera shots. I did get a lot of framerate stuttering when moving the camera while trying to show 100 moving actors. I ended up finding a happy medium, keeping the framerate decent, while still showing off a decent amount of the actors, which was needed to show the scale of the scene.
Now, I know I could have tried to shoot the scene on my more powerful desktop, convert it to a .bik file, and run the scene like that. That's how they did the Battle at Ostagar scene in Dragon Age. I'll stick with what I have at the moment, but if I notice testers are having issues, then I make come back to this.
Let's see, what else... Oh yeah, Archon delivered to me the initial sketches for 3 new icons that I need. Not having an artistic bone in my body, I'm constantly amazed at what he can knock out. He is also expanding his role, by taking up a small writing position. He's in school doing all sorts of things (which makes me happy I'm out of college), so his time is limited, so we'll start with minor characters, and move on from there. Always nice to have an extra hand in... well... anything :)
On the editing front, Jason continues to crank away at it, delivering b2b packages for me to integrate into the game. Also, it seems as if every time we have a conversation on the forums, the story just gets more and more depth, which is obviously a good thing. Every once in a while, we'll be chatting away about things that definitely won't be present in this game, or even a next game, but it all goes towards the goal of creating a large, cohesive world.
Tomorrow, I'll get back to minor tickets, since I'll be doing most of my work on the train, and therefore won't have access to a mouse. First on the list? Create an auto-level 2DA for that new party member I created a month or so ago. I also have some small pieces of dialogue to write. After that? Well, about 50 tickets or so. I would be happy with knocking out half of them before putting out the next ALPHA.
Game of Thrones... Game of Thrones... There's nothing I can say about this show that hasn't been said before, and if haven't heard anything, just google it :) Tonight's episode wasn't definitely the best for me, and I have to admit, this is the first show that I can remember (if ever!) where I constantly keep an eye on how much longer it will last, because I'm always thinking, "Damn, only 30 minutes left? I want more!" :)
Oh, and here's a huge middle finger to you freaking knee jerk reaction, simple minded idiots who say the show is all about sex. Is there sex in it? Yes? Is there sex in real life? Yes. But, it's clearly not as much as some would have you think.
And that folks, is why I hate categories. You get the good, and you have to take the bad. I guess it's much easier to say this show is Lord of the Rings with less magic, and more sex, than to really spend some time to really talk about it...
Ah, The Witcher 2. Last time I started playing another game during development, I lost about 2 weeks. Not gonna happen this time, so I'll just continue to drool over these trailers they keep putting out:
The final piece for Final Fantasy 9 week (or was it 2 weeks?!) is the music that plays during the final cutscene in the game. Makes sense :) Enjoy!
And finally, here's a little montage of many of the cutscenes in the game, with some fabulous music. I know I mentioned earlier that Nobuo Uematsu said this was his favorite soundtrack to compose. I also forgot to mention that Horinobu Sakaguchi said his favorite game in the series was this as well... They have both since left, and Final Fantasy hasn't been the same since... That was 1999. Anyway, Enjoy!
5/14/11 -Saturday: DEVELOPMENT, WITHOUT PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT...
Unfortunatelty, with days like today, I can't always open up the toolset and do something. Damn friend from 1995 getting married today... How dare she?! Oh well, even if I don't have time to do actual physical development, I'm always there mentally.
First on my list of things to think about were some posts at the dev forums. One particular one has to do with custom content, and in particular, robes. One advantage of coming to the Neverwinter Nights community 2 years after it started was that the CEP project had just taken off, and what did they have? Robes and cloaks. Good times!
Fast forward to this current community... Outlook, not so good... While this really hasn't affected my development, there is a discussion about one particular cast member from the first 2 games, that had a pretty iconic look to him, which we currently can't replicate at the moment. Jason has reached out to some custom content folks for guidance, and at the moment, we're really just trying to put together a list of things we definitely need, for this game at least. So, I had that in the back of my mind today. By the by, anyone who has custom content experience, and has any ideas on how to get robes/cloaks/hoods/etc. into this game, shoot me an email about firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other main thing I did a lot of thinking about today was this particular character we've been talking about all week. So, the actual wedding itself took place in a catholic church, and regardless of your religious views, the structures of some of these cathedrals themselves are awe inspiring. Just sitting in there waiting for the proceedigns to begin, I was able to just relax, and brainstorm up a.... storm... I'm sure the discussion will continue to go on for another few posts, but I'm glad I got my part done :) In reality, this is what I was doing before a toolset was even released, so it's not like it's new to me or anything. And for days like today, it was perfect.
Tomorrow, I have some threads to answer in the forums, a few PM's to reply to, and then I'm going to try to knock out another P1 or 2.
Today's music is yet another piece I debated using in The Coming. It just has the sorrt of magical, mystical feeling to it. I may yet use it someday... Enjoy!
5/13/11 -Friday: NOW THIS IS HOW YOU GET FOCUSED!!!
Every once in a while, I gotta pump myself up, pat myself on my back, etc. Well, in a little less than 24 hours (not cumulative!), I have started and finished this really important sequence, mostly because of various talks I've been having with Jason on our forums. As I said in my 1st post of the month, it's just that time of the year. As Jay-Z used to say, "I'm focused, man!"
Picking up where I left off yesterday, on the train, I wrote the dialogue that goes with the scene. Now, I always had a general idea of what was needed, but after this brainstorming the past few days, well, the scene just wrote itself. This never happens, so I'll take it :) I also did some basic setup for having everything start when the player enters the area.
When I got home, I immediatelty got started on the stage, setting up all the actors, and their respective cameras. Then, of course I had to add them all to the area itself. After adding the actual stage to the area, I set it up in the dialogue file, and made sure all the actors were mapped correctly to who speaks in the scene, then I did some basic poses and head/body looks. I was then ready to give it a test drive. Somehow, everything, more or less look pretty good. I just had to do some minor cleanup, which took minimal time.
To finish things off, I created a quick 11 second long intro cutscene, to set the stage. Once that was done, I glued everything together, so when the player enters the area, the cutscene begins, and after the cutscene ends, the staged dialogue begins. And that was that. Hopefully, I can keep up this energy and focus, and knock out things like this all weekend, because I have a few P1's I would really like to finally put to bed before I cut this ALPHA.
Today's music from Final Fantasy 9 is the theme to one of the party members you meet on your journey, Freya. Enjoy!
5/12/11 -Thursday: CHANGE OF PLANS...
The plan for today was to knock out a bunch of P3's and P4's, as I have been doing all week. That quickly changed, however... So, in the dev forums, as usual, there have been a bunch of back and forths over various story elements. In one case, one particular character, whom is very important, was brought up. As I brainstormed various things about this person, I got so inspired that I decided to implement the one scene this person shows up in. Now, this was already a P1 task, so it's not like it came out of nowhere. Just the same, when I get inspired to do something, I better damn well do it before I lose said inspiration :)
Now, this task is different than most in that it just involves a short intro cutscene, followed by some dialogue, and none of it involves the player/party. I know some people like their RPG's where you only see what the player sees, but for me, that just doesn't work. With such a large cast of people, in order to development them further, I need scenes like this, where you see things they do when the player/party isn't around. Plus, as a little spoiler, the main person in this scene is who I wanted to have as the other character you could play in this game, had there been time. Essentially, following the Dual Storiessystem I had in The Coming. Well, I don't want to totally count it out, but for the first release, I'll just focus on the one character.
Anyway, I started development by creating a couple blueprints for some of the newly introduced characters in the scene. As I always do, I found suitable face morphs, assuming that myself or someone else will make new ones at some point. Next, I started givng them different types of armor, to see what style I liked best. Once I found the style I wanted, I created some custom tints to give them that custom look I've always envisoned.
Next, I started creating the interior level the scene takes place in. Now, I'm not even going to lie. I almost thought about re-using an existing interior level. The thought was, "Hmm, I could write it into the story that they came back to this place for the scene", and it actually could have worked. Just to be clear, it wasn't like I was going to pull a Dragon Age 2 or anything :) In the end, I decided to create a new one, mostly because I wanted different lighting effects.
Interestingly enough, I hadn't made an interior level in so long, I damn near forgot :) 10 minutes later, I was back in business. While I wasn't going to re-use an actual level, I was able to re-use many of the assets from that level, so after a bunch of copying and pasting, I had something to work with. I would say the majority of the time was spent on getting the lighting just right. Even still, I have a little more work to do. Another thing I had to keep in mind was that since the area won't be interactive, I didn't have to be that strict with how things looked, since the camera would only be pointing in so many ways.
Once I felt comfortable with the level, I got the custom music that will play in the area imported as well. For players of Cry The Beloved, this music should be instantly familiar. As always, I try to maintain a consistency with regards to music/themes for characters/organizations across all the games in this series.
And with that, I called it a night. Tomorrow, I'll have to add everyone to the actual level that will be in the scene, do a little area on enter scripting, write the dialogue, create the stage, and finally, the cutscene. It may seem like a lot, but tomorrow being Friday, I should be able to knock it out.
Today's music from Final Fantasy 9 was almost put into Cry The Beloved, as the music for an alternative ending that never materialized. Oh well... Enjoy!
5/9/11 -Monday: STEADY WORK...
I can't say anything spectactular happened today. On the train ride into work, as well as on the way home, I tried to knock out as many P4's and P3's. Once I got home, I started to work on some P2's, as a little more thought went into fixing those ones.
One such task was creating another custom potion. Since I had just made some last week, I flew through the procsss pretty quicky, in terms of getting the framework setup (not actually applying any effects yet). I was even so inspired that I created a description immediately, and added it to the .2da. However, when testing in game, I didn't see it. It was only about 10 minutes or so before I realized that we're actually able to create the description in the actual item blueprint, instead of creating a custom talk table string, and referencing the id it creates. Wow, something was actually straightforward!
The only other thing that came up that's worth mentioning is that Jason and I are going to have to come up with a system of effectively locking down certain pieces of dialogue that's going through the editing process. For instance, after my last playthrough, I saw instances where I wanted to give the PC another option, but then I realized that he's currently doing his first pass over all that old stuff. It's not a super big deal, and there are a few solutions, but we need to figure it out, so we don't have conflicts down the line.
Tomorrow will be more of the same. I'm currently down to 58 tickets out of 117, so I'm making good progress. While I could technically put out an ALPHA now, I'd rather wait for more of Jason's edits, some icons from Archon, and for me to at least close out those 3 P1's and 6 P2's. We'll see.
Now, I admit I never beat the first Witcher, and I know a lot of gaming purists will say graphics don't matter, and all that, but damn, if the gameplay matches these graphics... Man, I don't... This is just really something else...
Today's music is the theme song to a fan favorite from Final Fantasy 9, Beatrix. Enjoy!
And just because I'm feeling nice, here's another version of the song:
Finally, there is this stirring fan made, sung version:
5/8/11 -Sunday: BUSY, BUSY DAY...
Today was a busy, busy day on many fronts.
An epic encounter between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the Matua Madrid finals on clay was taking place at 12:30, so I figured I wanted to do some "monkey work" while watching. In terms of the tennis match, Djokovic won, which is huge, because it continues his streak of not losing an entire match all season long, but more importantly, he beat Nadal (the king of clay!) on clay for the first time in 10 meetings. Good stuff.
Anyway, while watching the match, I ended up doing stuff with the GUI. As I mentioned yesterday, I have added so many new custom abilities, but never got them displaying correctly. So for instance, for Last Resorts for each party member have to be displayed on each of their respective ability screens, but since they're all unique, extra work has to be done so that they don't show up on anyone else's screen. In the end, this just involved working with both my custom ability .2da, as well as my custom gui .2da.
Even if it's a small thing, I'm really glad to have things fully integrated into the existing system, along with our own custom icons. Doing it this way, the player doesn't have to learn new things, they can just get on with the story. In my last few games, things were definitely a little more cumbersome, as I didn't take advantage of the existing "Feat" system to add my own abilities in. Oh well, you live and you learn.
The other thing I did was watching the tennis match was a biggie for me, mostly because I'm so damn lazy... So, whenever I create a new custom ability, I worry about getting the ability itself right, then I usually move on to something else. One key part I always leave for later is actually generating strings for both the name of the ability, as well as the description. Well, since I knew I was putting things together for an ALPHA that included more than me and Jason, I realized I would need to get this in, especially for some of the more complicated abilities. Again, nothing hard about it, just a bunch of smaller steps, which essentially just includes creating new talk table strings using the string editor, capturing those new ids, and adding said ids to the right column for the ability in the .2da. Now, these abilities were truly integrated!
Actually, while I was working on the descriptions for some of the abilities, I realized that som of the abilities were a little static, going against my original design. I truly think that abilities should always be pertinent throughout an entire game. Not like in Final Fantasy, where you won't use Fire anymore, since you have no learned Firaga (unless you're short on mp). As much as I like that series, there was definitely a lot of fluff when it came to their spells, and I'm definitely not for that. One way I handle that with some abilities is to have a base modifier, and then along with some other variables, I take the level of the user into account as well. As an example, look at Stramadonian Fire.I'm definitely not re-inventing the wheel here, but you get my point. I want an ability you used at level 1 to be just as useful at level 30. So, I made some minor changes here and there with some abilities to make it so.
After all of that work, I moved on to some more bugs, but since I had worked so hard earlier in the day, I really just wanted to knock out a lot of smaller ones. I also still had a list of bugs in a .txt file that I needed to enter into our official bug tracking system. At the moment, out of 61 bugs:
3 are critical, meaning they have to be fixed before the release of the ALPHA
6 are high, meaning they should be fixed before the release of the ALPHA
23 are medium, meaning they can go either way
33 are low, which are essentially very minor cosmetic things that may or may not ever get fixed
I figure on the train ride tomorrow, I'll work on some mediums, as the highs and criticals for the most part require the use of a mouse, because the work is for a cutscene, or level editing.
But wait, there's more! I finally decided to stop pussyfooting around it, and setup Windows Live Mail on my laptop, so I can manage all my email (2 personal, 1 work) from one spot. I've set up incoming mail properly, but there seems to be an issue with outgoing stuff that I'll have to figure out at one point. Even still, it's nice to be able to break my emails into categories, instead of just reading things from one single inbox.
Finally, yet another old member from the old Rose of Eternity crew is back! Kelvin Lu, the author of the Dematolian Oracles contacted me on facebook regarding something else, and of course discussion eventually shifted to Rose of Eternity. For those that don't know, the Dematolian Oracles are a set of scriptures from the early times when people still believed in the Keeper of the Rose.His dialogue was used in the opening cutscene to Cry The Beloved, as well as various books scattered throughout the game. Jason and I have beefed up the content of that entire mythology, so it will be interesting to see what he comes up with. So with him, that brings the number of the old crew up to 4, plus new member, Archon. Not bad!
Today's music is the theme to the lovely Garnet, or if you will, Dagger. Enjoy!
5/7/11 -Saturday: NOW THE REAL FUN BEGINS!
While I referred to my upcoming work as "Monkey Work", there's still that level of satisfaction of wiping bugs out of the system, seeing that number in the 100's get whittled down to 20, etc. It's the same thing at my real day job, so of course that feeling translates to this work as well. Besides the bugs though, I will be implementing enhancements, and adding new features as well, which is always fun.
One thing that is really important to me, something I hope I can finish by Sunday, is making sure all custom abililties show on on the ability GUI's properly, and for only those that can use them. I did some work like this a while back, so it shouldn't be too hard. Hopefully, I'll have some new icons from Archon to make it complete.
Then, there's the issue on how to handle upgrades to certain systems. For instance, in Cry The Beloved, I created a Distinctive Developmentsystem. Every level you gained, you earned more and more DD points. You could allocate these points accordingly to boost, say, how many BOB pointsyou earned per kill, or how long you had to wait in between using Last Resorts.As a little history, this system came about because even though I knew what abilities the player would have, who was in their party, etc., I still wanted to give some sort of flexibility in how they progressed their character. Anyway, the main drawback to this system was that you had to do all the upgrading via a dialogue tree. That's really old school, and I definitely don't want to go back to that unless I have to. Luckily, there is an existing skills GUI that I can leverage for this. Much like how there are 4 levels for coercion, or for poison making, I can create 4 levels for BOB points earned, or 4 levels of cooldowns for Last Resorts. So, the concept will be the sign, but now, they'll just be done through skill points. Now, I haven't even started creating this yet, so I'm not sure if I'll have to allocate more skill points per level, or things like that, but the idea is there, and I'm ready to roll with it.
Even with all of this going on, my #1 priority has been working with Jason on specific story related events in the game. He had proposed a scene to me, and yesterday, I told him I would head down to the river, listen to the music that would presumably play in that scene, and brainstorm. Well, when we got to the river, the storm of the century hit. Then, when we got home, the skies parted, and the sunlight from heavon poured through. Doh! At any rate, after giving it some thought when I got home, we were able to come to a compromise, though I know we'll be coming back to it at some point. All part of the iterative process...
Finally, I have been starting to look for some good video editing software. For the record, I used Camtasia Studiofor my last 2 games, to make both trailers and ending sequences. Now, I was lucky in that every time I was using it, it was on a different computer/laptop, so I was able to use it for free for 30 days, before being locked out. While it's possible to do that this time, as I have both a new desktop and laptop (2 laptops if you count this macbook that just came in the mail... more on that on another day), I would like to just go ahead and purchase the damn thing, or at least figure out a way to get a serial key or something. I know people at my office have used it for some things, so that may be a way, though I wouldn't bet on it too much.
Point is, I'm ready to start putting together some video for this game. Time to get ready for the marketing blitzkrieg. I know how some modders feel about this, but if I hadn't done this when I initially released The Coming, I probably wouldn't be here now. Dammit, if you create something you feel special about, tell the world!
I'll be brief here... Lots of work to do... I'm alwways going on and on about how much I love Final Fantasy 6, and that it could be my favorite RPG of all time. Seems someone at Gameinformer has similiar feelings, as discussed in this feature titled: We We Love Final Fantasy VI.
Today's music from Final Fantasy 9 is from the Awakened Forest. Great forest music, if I do say so myself. In fact, I used it in The Coming! Enjoy!
5/6/11 -Friday: PLAYTHROUGH COMPLETE!
Well, after a long week of attempting to play through the game, only to find some insidious bug halting my process, only to try again (and again, and again!), I've finally done it! *Wipes sweat off brow*
Along the way, I've compiled quite the list of things to fix. Luckily, since I already did one of these runs months ago, it's extremely small things. Mostly P3's and P4's, maybe a few P2's, but even those will be easy to fix. Anyway, these are the perfect things to fix on the train. Just sit down for an hour and forty five minute session, and knock out bugs.
The only real annoying bugs were some core abilities for certain party members weren't added properly, so a lot of the later fights got hella hard. Even then, since the work on overall balance is an on-going project, I wasn't too worried. I was more happy with the fact that I was able to actually get to the end. That said, I did take part in some fights, where I was more of the player than the designer, and felt damn good when I was able to barely squeek out a victory.
So as I mentioned above, now comes the part where I try to knock out as many bugs as possible. While I would say 90% of the issues in our tracking system are bugs, 10% are actual tasks, such as cutscene creation, dialogue editing, etc. I think I'll leave that 10% for the end. I need a change of pace in terms of what I've developing, and just closing out 100 small bugs is just that. Not too much stress, just hard nosed monkey work.
Right, so I just had to share this. I've been following the dev diaries for The Witcher 2, and this latest one just really takes the cake. I'm not sure what it is... Maybe it's the delivery... Whoever narrates these things really draws you into what they are saying, and the flashy graphics definitely help. Oh, and the music is superb. I hope they brought back Adam Skorupa.
So, here is a video, titled Living World Gameplay Trailer. Enjoy!
Today's music is the world map theme. As I'm going through my Final Fantasy 9 playlist, I'm realizing that 1 week just isn't enough, so this will definitely get 2 weeks, in case anyone's wondering. Anyway, Enjoy!
5/5/11 -Thursday: BALANCING CONTINUES...
So, the theme of the past few days is this: Will I be able to get through the entire game without running into some issue where I forgot to reset some plot variable during testing? The answer thus far has been a resounding NO! It's actually be quite annoying, because I'm speed running through everything, but *that* still takes about 50 minutes each time! In other words, this has been my life on the train this week.
In between in run, I do fix up some minor issues, and the one big thing I messed with was the materials and material progression for the equipment of the party, as well as enemies. I know I talked about this before, but everything was picked from a cosmetic standpoint, knowing I would come back and actually pick the material stuff later. While I did do that for some, I didn't do it for all, so this was as good a time as any.
Besides doing that, I've been having some back and forths with Jason as he continues to edit the dialogue. Some people may not realize, but a good editor doesn't just literally edit what's there. If they really know the story/world/characters just as good as anyone else, then they can also inject their own ideas, and that's what's happening right now. As I always says, I'm all for adding more and more details wherever possible, so I don't mind these discussions at all. In fact, I quite love them, and in a few cases, it has given me ideas on how to expand certain scenes in the game.
The current topic at hand is how to re-introduce certain characters from the first 2 games. I think we've done pretty good so far with the majority of them, but this particular is very important, and must be handled with care. We need to make it compelling enough for returning players, but not confusing for new players. This really has been an ongoing issue since the start of development, but alas, it's what comes with the territory.
Finally, I got a bit of good news today. One of my fellow co-conspirators from Cry The Beloved, Haggar, has tracked me down at the BSN, and offered up his services again. It's really nice to find that 5 years later, someone is still willing to give their time to this project. Glad to have you back, Haggar!
Today's music is the first piece of music I integrated into The Coming, for the town of Aribine, before finally settling on something else. Hell, I even had an opening cutscene all ready for it. Anyway, in my eyes, this is the epitome of village music. Enjoy!
5/3/11 -Tuesday: PLAYTHROUGH OBSERVATIONS...
So far, I think the pacing is spot on in the 1st half of the game (which is as far as I got). There's some combat, but not so much that things feel hack and slashy. I have a lot of exposition to get through in this half of the game and a lot of people you have to meet. That said, I think I am currently pulling it off, without having to resort to putting in that information guy. You all know what I mean. The person who is put there, who is essentially a glorified encyclopedia. As an example, think of the guy you meet before entering Ostagar in the beginning of Dragon Age: Origins. Look, dammit, it's 2011. This is a visual media. I'm definitely of a mind to show, rather than tell. That's not to say there won't be people telling you about things, but I try to keep it to a minimum, especially if I can show it to you.
Another thing I'm happy is working out is the music I picked out thus far. Of course, I've been brainstorming this game to this very music for years, but it's still a treat to hear it in game. It's a shame I haven't figured out how to integrate it as real music, and not just sound effects. Having the music stop/start between area transitions seems so old school :(
In general, I think the story that I'm trying to tell is interesting, and to the point. Let's not beat around the bush here. The beginning is linear *dodges rotten fruit*. Still, the linearity serves a purpose, and allows me to tell the story I want to tell.
Without a doubt, the worst thing about the play through was the difficulty. Now, I know it's been months since I played the earlier parts of the game, but damn, I'm getting my ass handed to me! And I'm the one who designed the damn thing! For reference, I was playing 'Hard', but even still, I found myself having to reload a bit, as well as just dropping down the difficulty, so I could get through some of the harder parts. Luckily, it only happens in one sequence of the game that involves 2 different types of enemies, so I'll only have to look at them when I do my re-balancing. Even still, this is the reason why you playtest the hell out of your game. Work these kinks out early.
I'll have to be careful when I do this re-balancing, because it's right on the cusp of being perfect. At this point in the game, one party member is level 1, and the other is level 2. During this sequence, they may or may not go up in level. Going up in level is a huge deal in this part of the game, especially for once party member, because they get their first Last Resort. This will help out like crazy during these fights. And that folks, is what it's all about. Making things hard for the player, rewarding them for their hard work, and allowing them to feel powerful for a bit.
So in short, I need to keep the difficutly, just not so freaking hard that I have to resort to potion spamming. Luckly for me, this is the stuff I love to do.
Game... Ending... Bugs... Not bugs in the traditional sense, just remnants of my parachute testing months ago, where I fudged a plot value here, activated a character there, etc. Nothing is more annoying than getting to a spot in the game, and you notice the music is different, there are different people walking around, and you realize you explicitly set some plot flag in the on enter event for the area when you were testing something back around x-mas time. What's even worse is when you could have sworn that after the 4th time of checking and re-checking everything, you've caught everything, only to have it happen again.
Here's another great track from Final Fantasy 9. I forgot to mention, Nobue Uematsu said this was his favorite soundtrack he's ever composed. There's something like 100 songs for this game.... Freaking crazy... It's like there is some new theme for like every locale, nothing is re-used. Take that, you lazy ambient music composers *looks at Inon Zur* :)
5/2/11 -Monday: AND IT BEGINS...
Well folks, the process of getting the next ALPHA out has begun. Also, my apologies to those who may have seen my refer to it as a BETA, I really meant ALPHA! Anyway, the game plan was pretty clear, so I just jumped right into it.
First, I wanted to play through just the last sequence I've been creating over the past few months, just to make sure I didn't miss any transitions, or anything like that. Besides a small hiccup where some enemies didn't attack because I didn't set them hostile, everything else was good. There is still work to be done, most notably with some cutscenes, and just how the game flows from level to level, but besides that, it was pretty rock solid.
With that under my belt, the true test began. Play the entire game from start to finish, collecting bugs/features to fix/implement on the way. Well, first of all, I hadn't played the beginning of the game in months, so it was nice to play through it. It was like seeing an old friend :) More importantly, I was very happy with how the game flow was. I can say unequivocally that the way I handled the flow of the game is better than what I have in these later sequences. This is obviously because I spent much more time on it, but it gives me even more reason to put in the same amount of work everywhere else, so the quality stands up.
One thing that I'm definitely keeping an eye on is the amount of combat, as well as the allocation of special abilities, and how often you gain a new one. Rememeber, some of the custom abilities are tied to levels, others are tied to events in the game. As I've always said, I want the player to feel weak, and then when they get that first ability, feel as though they really achieved something, rinse, repeat. Actually, all of my latest development and testing have been with many of these abilities already unlocked, so it felt weird being back at square one, only having the basics.
Another thing I really enjoyed was seeing Jason's edited dialogue. I mean, that's what he does, so of course it's better than what I had, and it just made things flow even better. There is more to edit of course, which will then allow us to *gasp* start getting VO in the game (ha!). Speaking of editing, we've had a few back and forths about certain scenes, fleshing them out even further and such, which I will never be against. Anytime there is a chance to add more depth to pretty much anything, I'm all for it! In fact, an idea he had when editing someone's dialogue sort of sparked an idea in my head on how to expand it. This of course means changing some existing dialogue, but since nothing is locked down yet, I'm all for it.
Well, that's all the good. The bad? Well, of course, I ran into a game breaking bug, due to my own stupidity. I must have altered some scripts months and months ago, and forgot to revert them, so all sorts of bad things happened. Oh well, it comes with the territory. All I can do is fix it, then start the process again. Luckily, it was pretty early in the game.
Besides all of this testing, I need to compile all the new potions/abilities, write descriptions for them, and send them Archon's way. It's already great seeing his various custom icons (giving the game even more of a unique look), and I can't wait to get more.
This week's music will be from the last Final Fantasy game I ever completed: Final Fantasy 9 (2000). While I started the series at 4, 6 ultimately became my favorite one. When 7 was released, I admit at the time, I was impressed, perhaps more so because of all the cool tech things they were able to do (cutscenes, 3d battles, etc.). Looking back, it was just "okay". I didn't like the style of 8, and therefore left that on the shelf. Then came 9, which took things back to the old school days of Final Fantasy. Lush forest, snow capped mountains, large open fields, castles... Oh, I fell in love.
This should really be a reminder for anyone who sees me continue to go on and on about Final Fantasy. I feel like the series is more known for 7 and 10, where most of the stereotypes come from. Even people who never played the series can list off all the annoying cliches that started from these games. At any rate, when I same I am a JRPG fan, I'm talking early-mid 90's, with an exception for this game. Since then, I've moved on. The last JRPG I beat was Lost Odyssey, while in that same span of time, I've beaten Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age, Dragon Age 2 (sigh), Oblivion, Fallout 3, Fable 2, etc.
In other words, I get it... Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. Anyone who knows me knows I can't stand categories, because then you always get lumped in with the good, and the bad. Anyway, that's what Rose of Eternity is all about. Lumping together the good of JRPG's, wihh the good of WRPG's.
Anyway, enjoy today's music!
5/1/11 -Sunday: *THIS* IS WHAT INSPIRES ME!
STATE OF THE UNION
As you can see by the pictures, I decided to do something a little different to start off another month of development. I decided to show people what inspires me. For whatever reason, during the winter, I just lacked motivation to do as much as I could, development wise. Now that spring is here, it's like I have this boost of energy. Simply walking around in nice weather inspires. For the past few weeks, ideas have been flooding my brain faster than I can remember them.
So, I actually took these pictures last spring, but they are as pertinent now, as they were then. For those that don't know, I was born and raised in Hyde Park, New York. Now, Hyde Park just happens to be the hometown of one of our most famous President's, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Besides knowing way too much about him (damn elementary school propaganda), I also grew up literally 5 minutes away from Valkill, his wife Elanor Roosevelt's estate. Most people probably don't know that while married, they lived separate lives, he had a mistress, and it was this mistress at his side when he died, not Elanor.
Anyway, the estate is open to the public, so every once in a while, I would just get my headphones, throw on some music on my iPhone, and just walk around, soaking up the atmosphere. So many ideas for Rose of Eternity in general were created during this process.
I've always talked about how music inspires, but what I haven't talked about is how much my surroundings do the same thing for me. I can look at said surroundings and imagine the open fields of Aurora, or the clearing near Challseus' cabin, or even the Shinkara Fields. Now that it's that time of the year again, all I want to do is go to various places in the area, headphones in tow, and just relax and brainstorm. The damned rain and windy conditions have made it annoying, but believe you me, once that passes, I'll be there in an instant.
Besides her estate, there is another place called Quiet Cove, which is simply stunning. It sits on the edge fo the Hudson River, and I can honestly say that at least 30% of the current game I'm working on was brainstormed here in 2008, before I even got my hands on the BETA toolset. Those were some good times :)
Now, besides the obvious benefits of the brainstorming, it also just gets me going in general, giving me the focus to complete this damn game. I've been on a tear lately, and I really attribute it to the change in weather. However you want to look at it, spring/summer/fall time is defintely the best time for development, whereas in the winter, all I can think about is how much I hate the cold :)
This upcoming month, I intend to keep things going. The next steps are putting together a BETA, which will includes many iterations of bug fixing, followed by the final sequence of the game. This will include at the very least 2 more levels, a bunch of cutscenes, dialogue, combat... well, a little bit of everything. Gotta go out with a bang, and I am more than looking forward to developing it.
Finally, just take a look at the last picture. I grew up on Roosevelt Road, and the cross street is Roe Road. Now, internally, we have always referred to Rose of Eternity as Roe. Just saying. If I wasn't born to make this game series, then what am I doing here? :) And yes, it took me 10 years to make that connection, lol.