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5/31/12 -Thursday: LEVEL ALMOST DONE...

So, I pretty much finished up the level design for 2 areas. Although to be fair, I do have one more room to complete, but more or less, I'm good to go. That has freed me up to start implementing some of the plot related things that happen in them.

I received some VO from John, which as usual, sounded good, and was integrated immediatelty. He is also voicing the the other NPC in the scene, so I can't wait to get my hands on that. Always nice to have a fully voiced conversation that includes multiple people. In other VO related news, Elise has agreed to take on another major female role. As I've mentioned before, this person isn't in too many scenes, but on particular one is a monster, so I'm really, really excited that she agreed to it. Slowly but surely, all the VO is being finished off. Crazy...

On the art design side of things, I need to reach out to Archon about some new icons. Off the top of my head, we need at least 4 new ones for some custom skills, as well as maybe another 4 or so for some custom abilities. He has already given me general sketches of the work, I just need it in the format that the game takes it in (DDS?). That's the great thing about collaborators. I don't need to worry about all the small details. I just get what I need, and put it in the right place so the game picks it up. I have way too much on my mind to worry about these smaller details. I like to leave it to the experts :)

Tomorrow, I'll be setting up some combat situations. Again, it will be sequences where the PC is fighting alone, so the strategy of the player has to change quite a bit. That's what I love about combat design... Trying to keep people on their toes.

Till tomorrow...

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Here's another piano rendition of a classic song from Final Fantasy Adventure. Enjoy!

 

5/27/12 -Sunday: FINAL PERFORMANCES...

Seems like every set of lines I send out these days, it's the final lines for the respective character. From Elise to Chris to John, they've done such a great job knocking out all the lines for the characters they voice, and it brings a smile to my face when I see that they're pretty much done. And I mean, these characters have a lot of lines, mind you.

In terms of actual development, I didn't do much today. I integrated some lines from Elise, added some new camera angles to an existing staged conversation, and messed around with the music that plays during the scene, so you can hear it just fine while still hearing the VO.

Tomorrow, after a memorial day BBQ (which happens to take place down by the river, which means I'll get some brainstorming time in), I'll be back to level design in the afteroon, trying to finish off this one level. Once I'm done with that, it'll be a lot of plot related scripting, or in other words, monkey work. Perfect timing, since the French Open will be in full swing :)

Till tomorrow...

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Today's piece is technically from Final Fantasy Adventure, more specifically, the remake. Enjoy!

 

5/26/12 -Saturday: KEEPING IT GOING!

So far, I've been able to keep up this momentum, which is always a good thing. Sometimes when I'm on vacation, I end up doing things like, *gasp* having fun. I know better than that. Gotta game to finish :)

Today was another one of those "little bit of this, little bit of that" days. I did some level design and lighting work early on. Even the best laid out plans falter every once in a while, so the aforementioned level/lighting work was due to some things that changed in the level itself. I'm nearly 95% sure that I know the exact way I'll finish off the level. Luckily, I had some other things to do while I thought about it...

...Such as finally sending off some lines to John. I had been sitting on the conversation for a while, and even when I thought I was ready to send it out, I wanted to see it play out in the game a few more times. This includes adding some more stage camera angles. After watching it a few times, I made some quick changes, and finally sent it off to him.

Next up was this other convo I wrote a while back that includes Elise and Chris. Now, this one hadn't been set up at all. I needed to add the plot scripts to make sure the damn thing fired, as well as adding a stage to it. Oh, and I could have sworn I had added the custom music for it, but when I realized it wasn't there, added it real quick. Speaking of music...

...I currently have 33 custom tracks in the game, which add up to 351 MB's. For comparison, The Coming & Cry The Beloved have 69 custom tracks total. Quickly scanning everything else that needs to be done, I could easily end with 40. Btw, even though it's 351 MB's, once converted to the format the game needs (by using the included FMOD application), it's about 234 MB's. If I ever want to get that number down, I can either mess with some settings in FMOD (I think!), or I can lower the bitrate of each song using audacity or something. I had to do the latter for my NWN modules, but wanted to hold off on doing that here until I was certain I had to. For instance, I'm not sure what the BSN file upload limit is, but if I'm just a tad over, I'll have to lower the quality of some music. Ideally, I'd like to be able to have the game at both the BSN, and Nexus, but just at the Nexus and a link to the Nexus from the BSN.

Anyway, I sent out Elise's lines for the conversation, and she usually gets back to me within the day, so I'll expect to be integrating those lines, facial animations, etc. I'll also have to send out lines to Chris as well. He has the biggest part in this scene, and a hell of a lot of lines. So I just want to give them one more pass before sending it out. Yes, I know, another pass!

Till tomorrow...

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The final piece from Final Fantasy Adventure I want to share is essentially the ending theme. What a coincidence :) Enjoy!

 

5/25/12 -Friday: HOPEFULLY, THE START OF SOMETHING GOOD!

We had a half day at work to start off the long weekend, and I worked from home, so as soon as 1pm hit, after a few hours of Modern Warfare 3 and some cardio at the gym, I was able to get a lot of work done, with episodes 1-4 of season 2 of Game of Thrones playing in the background. Yeah, what a start :)

First I did some stage work for this new conversation that I created a few days ago. One of the things that still irritates me to no end is the different camera control styles for the different sub-editors in the toolset. I would much rather use the one that the cutscene editor uses for the stage editor, but unless I'm missing something, I can't do that. Everything just ends up being a little awkward, especially when I'm trying to place cameras with pinpoint precision. But it's not like it's a deal-breaker, since I've been dealing with this for 2+ years.

Next, I added it to the conversation, then did some plot scripting with the conversation itself. It can end up 1 of 3 different ways, one of which is combat, so I just handled that one first. This is accompanied by some new music, so I had to integrate that as well. As I had already tested the combat in my test combat area, that was ready to go. I may need to make some changes to the layout of the level itself to make the combat flow a little better, but what I have right now is just fine.

Tomorrow, I'm going to work on the plot related stuff that leads up to this little scene, as well as handle at least one of the other ways the scene can end. I still have to do a little thinking about the 3rd and last.

Till tomorrow...

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I borrowed Soul Calibur 5 from a friend a while back, and was just able to play it Thursday. I'll admit, I was mostly interested in the music in it, and I was not let down! I've had a love affair with the Soul Calibur series since the first one on the Dreamcast. From the music, to the fighting engine, I was in love. To this day, this series is still better than Street Fighter to me. And this is coming from the kid who studied combo charts in old issues of Gamepro back in 1992. I just wish more people thought like me, so I had people to fight against online. Oh well...

I also just started playing Xenoblade Chronicles last night. For a person who lived through the golden era of the JRPG (early to mid 90's), this has been hailed as the JRPG of the current gaming generation... We shall see...

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Here's another great little emotional piece. And I have to reiterate, this was on the gameboy! Enjoy!

 

5/23/12 -Wednesday: A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING...

Today was a "little bit of everything" sort of day.

Going against my own beliefs, I ended up doing a little prop work today, adding things here and there to make the level come to life a bit more. I also added various ambient NPC's, though I haven't given them animations yet. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.

Next up was the design of a new level, albeit, just a small room. One concept I try to subscribe to is less is more... At least when there is only one developer doing the level design work that is... But yeah, I try to make my levels only contain what they need, and no more. Now, if I had Skyrim level designers with an engine that could handle much bigger things, I would let them have at it! But I don't, so, here we are.

Next I tested some combat. In this particular sequence, something happens that I just realized doesn't happen in any other part of the game: The PC is fighting with no party members. So as a combat designer, it will be interesting for me to create battles that will challenge the player, without overwhelming them. As a player though, I think it will be an interesting sequence, because they will have earned many new custom abilities over the course of the game, and now they will be tasked with making the most of them. Yeah, this is going to be fun to design :)

Finally, I ended things by starting a conversation that the player may or may not see, depending on actions they have made up to this point. I've been a stubborn son of a bitch when it comes to creating content the player may not see, mostly because it's not like this is a big budget game, and I'm doing this full time. Clearly, I do this during my free time, and I'd like to finish this game at some point in the next few years. That said, I have made some compromises. You will have chances to make decisions early on in the game, and you won't know the results of those decisions until near the end of the game. So with this conversation, you may not even have it with this particular NPC, and even when you have it, other actions will determine how it plays out.

Look, it's nothing revolutionary, and it's not intended to be so, but I do think it will be great for the story as a whole. The hope is that the player will be like, "Shit, I knew I shouldn't have done x, or damn, how come I didn't do y?!". We'll see...

Tomorrow, I'll put the finishing touches on that conversation, create a stage for it, and script it to fire at the right time. I also have some custom music I need to get in as well.

Oh, and then there's this little thing called VO. I have 2 conversations I still need to send lines out for, and with this next conversation, that'll make 3. I need to get on the ball with that as soon as possible. I would usually handle that on the train, but since I've been doing all this other stuff lately, it's fallen to the wayside.

Arg, so much to do! *Breathes into paper bag*

Till tomorrow...

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Nothing like some good, old school boss battle music. Enjoy!

 

5/22/12 -Tuesday: WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THIS SOONER?!

Right, so, I guess I'm sort of slow. I must be, because I've had this wireless mouse for months, and I'm just making use of it on the train. Sigh... I've been getting so much done on the train in just these 2 days, it's crazy. Granted, I was already doing other things on the train up until this week, but it's been boring, monkey work. Boring to the point that I would sometimes pass out. But when I'm doing significant work, it keeps me energized, and I'm doing something I haven't done on a consistent basis since 2006: Working the entire time on the train, not giving in to the sleep gods that attempt to take over my body.

In terms of the level design I've been doing, it's going pretty well. I did enough of a particular room so that I could set up a staged conversation in there. Yes, I can even do those on the train now! Ahem... Anyway, I just did the basics really. One default camera for each person who speaks, nothing more. After seeing the dialogue play out in game, there are some changes I'll need to make before I send it off to John, but for the most part, it's good to go.

After that, I started work on this room, which is just a hallway. I was flying through the creation, when I had to take a step back and think about what I really wanted. I mean, I know what I want, but as I was thinking about gameplay at the same time, I realized it wouldn't be good enough. There's going to be some combat that takes place in these areas (surprise, surprise!), and one particular fight needs to be cut off from the rest of them. I can't have the player running around during this fight, possibly starting other fights in other parts of the level. So, this one particular room that I was just going to build in the hallway is going to have to be an entirely new level. Well, now that I'm writing this, there are some other ways I could go about it, I guess, but I think this solution is fine enough. Another benefit is that it keeps the overall size of the level down, which will increase the performance.

The best news I have is that starting Thursday, May 24th, until Monday, June 4th, I will essentially only have to go into the office 1 day. I'm not on vacation, but between a mix of some work from home days, memorial day, 1 personal day, it just works out that way. And as I always tell everyone: Any day where I don't have to commute to the office is a vacation in itself. If I'll dilligent, I will make use of this extra time as best as possibel.

Till tomorrow...

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5/21/12 -Monday: BACK INTO THE SWING OF THINGS...

I knew it would only take a little while before I was back into the swing of things with level design. Once I get going, it's my only focus, and I try to knock out as much as possible... Stuff that is needed anyway. I'm not going to go crazy with props yet. That'll be finished off during the polishing phase of the game.

The major addition to this entire process is my wireless mouse that I bought a while back. I've decided to start bringing it on the train so I can develop the levels wherever I am, not just at home. I actually find it better, and a little soothing to do it on the train. There are no distractions, and no temptations to surf various websites.

Because of the work I can do on the train, I got an extra 4 hours of work in yesterday, and trust me, I used it to the max. I was able to complete 2 sub rooms of the current interior level, some changes to the lighting (yes, I know that torch in the screenshot is not attached to the wall), as was as some VFX work. I was able to knock out so much that I can start doing some plot related scripting. There's a conversation that I wrote a while back that takes place as soon as the player enters this area, and I'd like to get a look at it in game before I send out the lines to John.

Once that is done, I'll start knocking out some other sub rooms, then move on to the next area in the story.

Till tomorrow...

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Here's another great track from Final Fantasy Adventure. Enjoy!

 

5/19/12 -Saturday: AH, LEVEL DESIGN, HOW I'VE MISSED YOU!

Wow, I never thought I would utter these words used in the title of today's update, but hey, it's been so long that I'm just happy to be doing something different. I'm sure my feelings on this will change within a few days :)

So, last week (I believe), I started this process out by using DATool to nail down the specific structure set I was going to use. One thing I have always believed in, going way back to my first game, is that each level/area has to be as unique as possible, so the player always feels like they're going somewhere fresh and new. You can see this by looking at this montage of screenshots from The Coming.

I tried as much as possible to make each area a new experience. For instance, for South Shinkara Forest, I went for a more traditional forest look, with lots of rain, and a few magical parts to it (i.e. the magic mushrooom). For North Shinkara Forest, I removed the rain, clouded the sky with a green tint, added a lot of fog everywhere, and added more cliffs/rocks to it. And I'm not even talking about the progression and enemies between the 2. Point blank, I could have just made each one look the same, but I remembered how I felt when playing the games of old, where I was always looking forward to what I would see next.

With this game, things haven't changed. I could have literally copied and pasted one of the interiors I've already used in this game, but I decided to go with a new structure set. Yes, there's a bit of a learning curve with putting all the pieces together in a logical fashion, but the payoff is that the player won't be thinking, "Oh nice, like I've never been here before".

Anyway, I'm pretty satisfied with the amount of stuff I've done thus far. I've already created some wall/ceiling/floor sets that I can copy and paste around, and I've got the lighting theme I want. Now it's just putting it all together. For this first of maybe 3 levels, I think I'm looking at another 3-4 days of work. Or, maybe I'll get super focused on Sunday and simply knock it out!

Till tomorrow...

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Every time I listen to some music from Final Fantasy Adventure, I'm simply amazed at what Kenji Ito was able to produce with such limited resources. Enjoy!

 

5/18/12 -Friday: CUSTOM ITEM SETS FINALLY IMPLEMENTED...

On the train ride into work this morning, I put the finishing touches on this particular conversation that spawned the crazy brainstorming sessions I had last weekend. It contains 3 cast members and the main hero. One cast member definitely has the majority of the lines (sorry Chris!), and I'm hoping that another actress *cough* Elise Harris *cough* can take on the 2 other roles (she already does one of them). The next thing for me to do is to set up the stage of the conversation, the plot related scripting around it, and make sure it looks the way I think it should look. Once I'm happy with that, I'll send out the lines to be recorded.

On the train ride home, I started to finally start looking into creating custom item sets. I've read the tutorial on the wiki a bunch of times, so I knew how to do it. I just wasn't sure what type of attribute bonus I wanted to give the player. Well, I finally took about 30 minutes to think about it, and eventually came up with a plan. Of course, while on the train, I didn't have access to the wiki, and since I didn't remember it line for line, I had to wait until I got home to implement it.

After the editing of 2 2DA's, modifying the ITEM_SETS variable on the included items, and some other minor things, I was good to go. It sucks that all you get is that little green icon on the bottom right hand corner of the character screen, instead of actually saying what the bonus is, but hey, what can you do...

Till tomorrow...

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For today's music, I'd like to bring you back to the early 90's, where my original Gameboy was the thing of legends, and this little game called Final Fantasy Adventure ruled my life. Enjoy!

 

5/13/12 -Sunday: MORE BRAINSTORM SESSIONS...

Between yesterday and today, I put a lot of time into my brainstorm sessions down at Quiet Cove. Although, this one family (like 14 people) didn't quite understand the concept of "Quiet" Cove when they decided to set up shop next to me today. Luckily, I had already done my work, and was ready to leave anyway... However, I did feel like giving them the same face that the guy in the screenshot has. Perhaps even the same hand gestures :)

Anyway, it was quite the weekend for me. The theme of the weekend was trying to fully develop the lore/history of a certain country in the game. It is heavily referenced in The Coming & Cry The Beloved, but not enough where I had to actually put that much depth into it. With this game however, you're actually in this country for the first half of the game. Now, the backstory of the country has already been expanded naturally over the past 2 years, but there was this one particular conversation I'm trying to finish for Elise, and a lot of things that took places thousands of years earlier are discussed.

Jason and I had some general ideas jotted down in some thread at our forums, but I decided to take another stab at it, and get damned specific. And as usual, it was fun as all hell. I honestly wish I could just script custom systems and expand the lore of the game 24/7. Anyway, the spark to the entire thing was when I heard a word spoken on TV. Many of the names of the various people, places, and things in the game world come from real world words I've heard, where I put a little spin on it. Like the country of Elloquince, coming from the word, "Elloquent". Anyway, when I heard this word on TV (during a reality show of all things!), it got the gears in my mind working, and I immediately came up with the name of a city/town. Then, I decided to make it the name of the capital city of the the aforementioned country I've been doing work on. Then I decided to make that name based off of a real person. Then I tied that person back into some other people in the game, and.. yeah... Everything just started to flow. Good fun.

Once I got back from my brainstorm session, I got back to work on some tangible things: level design. Using DATool, I think I have settled in on the structure set I'll be using. Since this area is sort of in ruins, I don't have to worry about making things pretty and whatnot. It'll certainly be fun to play around with the lighting, however. And I just want to again say how happy I am that it's an interior level. I can't believe it, because that was the majority of the type of levels I was making for the first year of development, and I feel that for the past year, it's been the opposite. Nice to be back to my roots.

Till tomorrow...

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Today's final piece from the Final Fantasy: Love Will Grow album is a fitting track: Love Will Grow :) Enjoy!

 

5/12/12 -Saturday: CONVERSATIONS, VO INTEGRATION, ETC...PART 2...

Today started off as yesterday ended, in terms of the work that I was doing.

As planned, I sent off that conversation to John in the early afternoon, and right before I was about to go to sleep for the night, he sent me the lines. Me being me, I had to integrate them that very minute, so sleep had to wait another 30 minutes or so. And as usual, it was good stuff.

I'm actually quite surprised at how fast this scene has been coming together. I mean, you can see the little changes by looking at yesterday's screenshot, versus today's. I added some extras to the scene, though their placement isn't final. They'll also need some ambient animations so they don't just look like robots. Also, since I now have the VO, I was able to do the facial VFX and gestures. Finally, I needed to add a little lighting to the situation, which just amounted to some standing torches behind the guy with his back to you in the screenshot.

The only thing that is left is to create some new stage camera angles. I usually just whip up some standard camera angles when I initially create the stage, but once all the VO is in, that's when I go in and tweak things.

Once that's done, I need to fix a little bug in the on conversation end script that I have (a particular party member isn't doing what they're supposed to). Then, I'll move on to level design. There are other small scripting things I can do, but that can wait for the train rides next week.

Till tomorrow...

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Here's another great piece from the vocal album. Enjoy!

 

5/11/12 -Friday: CONVERSATIONS, VO INTEGRATION, ETC...

Today was a pretty standard issue day.

On the train ride into work, I put the finishing touches on this conversation that Elise needed to record VO for. John and Chris had already recorded their bits a while ago, but as I watched the scene over and over again, I kept thinking that Elise's character needed more lines. This was weeks, if not months ago. So today, I finally just took bit the bullet, and added the new lines. Once that was done, I shipped off everything to her.

I got a response with all of her VO (some multiple takes) in a few hours. This was perfect, because on the train ride home, I was able to integrate all of it and put together a video for her. And now, since I feel pretty comfortable with it, I'm adding all hand gestures and such as I'm adding the VO, instead of coming back to it later. Not sure why I didn't do that to begin with, but yeah, what can you do.

Next up is the VO for the new content I've been working on. The dialogue had been written for a while, but I really needed to see it in action first. I think I've seen enough, so I'll be sending John and Alexander their lines.

Tomorrow, I hope to finish off some of this last bit of plot related scripting, before moving to some level design. Lucky for me, it's interior level design, which I'm vastly better at than exterior design. I will be using a structure set I've never used before, but I don't expect any difficulties. I still make use of DATool, so at least I'll be able to view all the different pieces before laying them out.

Till tomorrow...

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Today's piece is from another Final Fantasy vocal album, called Love Will Grow. This particular song was one of my favorite off the album, though I was never really able to figure out why it sounded so damn familiar. It wasn't until maybe a year later that I realized it was based off of the theme song for Relm, a party member from Final Fantasy VI.

Anyway, enjoy!

 

5/9/12 -Wednesday: FINALLY, SOME NEW PLAYABLE CONTENT!

See how epic and glorious this screenshot looks? That's how I feel. Dammit, I was finally able to start implementing some new playable content. Whoever said the last 5% of game development takes 95% of the time wasn't far off, I'll tell you that!

Anyway, once I was done putting the finishing touches on the Last Resort from yesterday, it uncovered some other bugs in my custom death system. Jason had written a bug from, damn, maybe a year or more ago saying that some dead party members were never revived after combat. I was never able to reproduce it, but obviously kept the ticket open. Well, I inadvertenly found what I think the problem was.

I was calling my method, ReviveDeadPartyMembers(), in my wrapper of, I guess the most important script in the game (?), module_core.nss. In particular, it was during the event, EVENT_TYPE_DELAYED_GM_CHANGE. This is just where you can check if the game mode has changed from combat, to explore, etc. In short, this gets called at the end of combat. So, I thought it was the best place to put my method.

Unfortunately, I didn't take into effect the situation where a party member could die outside of combat. In that situation, the event never gets fired, and they stay dead. Well, I already have a heartbeat event on party members, so I just slipped in a check to see if they are dead, and the game is in explore mode, and if so, revive them. This fixed the issue I was running into, and hopefully, fixes Jason bug as well. At the very least, I can close it out. Nothing like marking a ticket fixed. Ah!

Finally, after that little fix, I was able to start implementing the new content. Turns out, a few weeks ago, I already wrote 3 different conversations that would take place in the last sequence of the game. So the first thing I wanted to do was set up the trigger for that conversation. That also included creating a stage with 4 different NPC's, a bunch of different camera angles, etc.

Now, this was the conversation I referenced back then where John actually does the voice for both of the characters that do most of the talking in the scene, so this should be fun. I could have shipped him the lines already, but I just wanted to make sure it looked good in game first. So far, it does, so I may just go ahead and send it to him.

The only other thing I had to do was integrate a custom piece of music that goes with the scene. In a total reverse of logic, I had actually brainstormed the scene without hearing the music. It took me quite a while to find the music that would end up going with the scene.

Tomorrow, I'll hook up the conversation event to run after this particular battle. There will be a preceding 5 second cutscene, but I'll do that later. Once it's hooked up, then I just have to do some work on some of the scripting that occurs after the conversation, such as NPC's walking away.

Till tomorrow...

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Now, when I hear this song, I really want to play Final Fantasy 3. Enjoy!

 

5/8/12 -Tuesday: NEW LAST RESORT IMPLEMENTED...

So, a few days (weeks?) ago, I started implementing a new Last Resort. I coded the core of it on one train ride, but for some reason, when I was adding the ability, it wasn't working. Then I had a flood of VO to deal with, and put it on the backburner. I had some time today, so I figured I would close the door on it.

Turns out, I was passing in the wrong ability id to the AddAbility() method. Once I fixed it, the ability showed up as expected. Next, I had to finish implementing the last bit of it, which was pretty straightforward. The final thing I had to do was set up some fights in my test arena, so I could try to scale the ability as best possible.

As with most, if not all the abilities in this game, it gets better as the player levels up. It's not revolutionary, but I like the design where an ability that is gained at level 1 is still pertinent in the game at level 40. That's why I don't like to create that much overlap when creating abilities. For instance, I won't have a character have 2 Last Resorts where one is simply more powerful than the other. They would be totally different abilities that should be used in different situations. Like I said, not exactly an original idea, but it's one I stand by.

I didn't do too much testing, because the real test will be when I do my next playthrough. There's really only 2 variables I have to tweak, so at least it's not so complicated. Tomorrow, I'll put the finishing touches on it by creating a description, as well as adding some nice visual effects.

Till tomorrow...

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As big of an old school Final Fantasy fan as I am, I've never played part 3. Maybe I'll pick up the DS version one day, but for now, I'll just have to know it through its music. Enjoy!

 

5/7/12 -Monday: IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR!

I've sometimes wondered what the purpose of this blog was. Well, not the purpose, per se, but if it was worth it. I have a decent understanding of how many visits I get a day, though I do question the stats engine that my hosting service provides. For instance, it tracks how many people makes this site a favorite in their web browser. So, out of 100 visits, maybe 80 people favorite it. Sometimes, the number is totally... well, not possible. I've seen that out of 100 visits, 200 people favorited it... Yeah...

Anyway, I still get that thought in the back of my head, where I think, "Is it worth it to write this blog? Couldn't you be doing some development instead?" Well, every once in a while, something happens that makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing.

The first and obvious example is when I get emails from readers, telling me to keep it going, they're looking forward to the game, etc. I love those emails... It always gives me a little boost of energy. The 2nd perhaps less obvious example is when people contact me offering to help me in some way with the game. That's how I met Archon, our 2d/3d artist. If I'm not mistaken, he just started reading the blog one day, followed it for a bit, saw me post something along the lines of "I NEED AN ARTIST!", and shot me an email.

That's also how I met John. As is expected of every post I make here, I was rambling on and on about VO, he happened to be very skilled in that area, so he sent me an email. Close to a year later, it's turned into the John's Family show :) Seriously, he voices the most important cast member in the game that's not the PC, as well as 3 other roles. His brother took on the role of another important character, and even his kids have gotten into the mix.

So yeah, shout out to his entire family for all the great work they've done. And to think, had I not had this blog, I probably would have never met him. That in itself makes it worth it,

Now with Jason, I definitely didn't meet him through this blog :) He got at me right on the comments page of The Coming itself, letting me know that my writing/grammer were, well... Well you all know what it is! Fast forward like 7 years, and you're looking at the person that knows the most of this world (besides me, of course). It's been a wild ride, and many new layers have been added to this world because of him.

One in particular was being brainstormed back in late 2010 on our forums. Most of the important bits were finished, but we left it with some open questions. Then, a few weeks ago, I had "light bulb" moment at the movies, something I knew I had to talk to him about. It was sort of bringing that open thread from 2010 full circle. Even though I had the light bulb moment, it was just a spark, really. I still needed to brainstorm it more. This past Sunday was the perfect time to do it. It was a really nice day, and the first where I wasn't really busy in a while. So I went down to my brainstorming area, otherwise known as Quiet Cove.

To this day, I'm still not sure why going down to the Hudson River at Quiet Cove works for me, but I'm not complaining. Within 30 minutes of sitting in the sun, looking across the river at the mountains, I was able to flesh out the idea enough to present it to Jason. Then, just to make sure everything checked out, I re-read that thread, which just happened to be 3 pages long. And this was a long 3 pages, with huge posts. Nice little trip down memory lane, actually.

All that is left for me to do is make an official post on our forums about the idea, point Jason to it, and see happens from there. The majority of the idea touches things that won't be in this game, but it's always great to continue to flesh out the world in general, so I think it's worth it.

Till tomorrow...

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Here's the next track from the vocal album. Enjoy!

 

5/6/12 -Sunday: UP, DOWN, AND UP AGAIN...

STATE OF THE UNION

It's been a pretty hectic few months. I thought I had my groove back, and indeed, the work I produced during that small window made me believe it as well. Then real world work started creeping into my home life. The dagger in my heart, I call it. And just when I thought it would be over, allowing me to jump back into things, more came. I am ever the optimist, and since I just had a weekend free of projects from work, I'm going to again assume that the worst is over.

Now, part of the problem lies in my lap, unfortunately. I have this weird thing where I like to see things finished as soon as possible. It's great for my company, not so for me. I've recently learned how to push back on things, and let folks know, "I don't want to work 100 hours this week", which I think is fair. I know it has to happen ever so often, and I'm usually up for it. It's software engineering. It's what I do. Just not right now.

And so, I would like to send out a prayer to the Keeper of the Rose. Please allow me to finish this game before I get slammed with more work.That is all...

NORMAL UPDATE

Have I been busy with work? Yes. Have I still been able to get work done. Yes! Don't let the fact that the missed journal updates mean I'm not doing anything. On the contrary, it just means that I'm too busy with development to even write a blog entry. Could I be doing more development? Of course! But, I'll take what I can get.

I would have to say that the main thing I worked on these past few days was... wait for it... VO! A surprise, I know. So as I mentioned in a journal update from last week (or maybe the week before that, it's all one blur to me now), I've been working with a new actress by the name of Elise Harris. As much as I would like to claim the discovery of this talent, that award goes to Jason Melancon. At one point during the late summer/early fall of 2011, he did his thing and scoured the internet for people to fill the various roles we have in the game. He came across her YouTube page, and was immediately impressed. He said as much to me, and pushed to allow her to do some readings for three different roles. I fell in love with one particular one, but for ridiculous reasons still unknown to me, I wasn't able to follow up with her. It might have been that little incident called Skyrim, where it essentially shut down development of this game for the entire month of November :)

Fast forward to a month or so ago, and I'm writing her, feeling like a piece of crap, asking if she was still interested in working with us. She graciously accepted, and here we are. She has totally owned this particular cast member, one of the most important cast members in the game. This one scene she has done was brainstormed down at the river about 3 years ago, so to see it in game, it brings a tear to my eye.

But it didn't just stop with the VO... As I have said many times, fulfulling Jason Melancon's dreams from a time where we didn't think it was possible with the software we had, I am making videos for all actors/actresses that want to put them in their portforlios. She was keen to get some of the videos, and I believe she deserved my attention on that for a day or so.

Now normally, I've just been adding in VO, adding in facial expressions, maybe some new camera angles, and moving on. In the back of my head, I knew I needed to add some animations or something. I knew there was an existing utility for doing this with the conversation editor, something about creating gestures for a line and all the children. In fact, I'm pretty sure Amstrad Hero wrote something about this perhaps a year ago or more ago?

Well, I decided to give it a go, and hot damn, was it a huge improvement! The conversation just really came to life. Of course, I can apply a more granular touch to particular lines, but the base that I now have is damned good. I really don't know the inner works of the system. Like for instance, does it take existing facial expressions into consideration? I'll have to find that out at some point. But, like I said, what I get for simply clicking one button is aleady great. The more and more I use this engine, the more I fall in love with it. It's a shame that more people aren't using it, and that Bioware isn't supporting it the way they supported Neverwinter Nights. But, what can you do, except continue to push forward?

The end result is that I have pretty much, the first true conversation that has everything covered. Sure, I'll fix up a camera angle here and there, but for the most part, it's ready to go. So, I sent here 2 version. The low quality one I always send the actors so they can get a feel for the scene they're in. The 2nd one I sent was a monster HD version that was well over 300 Gigs. This would be the one she could put up on her YouTube channel, if she chose to.

Tomorrow, I'll be talking about my adventures with John and his family, as well as a long overdue brainstorming session with an old friend.

Till tomorrow...

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Today's music comes from Final Fanatsy. Yes, I know, it seems the music from this franchise will never die. These particular albums that I'm pulling from are vocal versions of classic songs from the first 6 or so games. This first piece is a classic that I'm sure everyone will recognize.

Enjoy!

 

 

 
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