Before I get to this regularly scheduled update, I just wanted to say I forgot to mention I used Amstrad Hero'splot removal project for removing all OC specific plots and such. I knew of this project months ago, I just never went ahead and used it. While it does get rid of the majority of plot stuff I don't care about, I need to go further, and get rid of some of the control related ones, as well as spell combinations. Besides that, it worked great!
So, I continued to integrate new codex entries. As I did yesterday, I wrote a bunch on the train ride home. I've been pretty good at making the most of my time where I can't do actual game development. I feels to really knock a lot of these out, as it just fleshes out the game in general so much more. I still need to do plot related stuff to get them in game, but that's really minor stuff, as most of them are simply unlocked after talking to a specific person.
At this point, I just need to do at the very least, 3 more character entries. Then, I want to move on to some dialogue and stage work. I've had some prototyped convos I wrote months and months ago, and I finally feel like I can properly flesh them out. Again, this is something I can even start on the train ride home, and fully integrate when I get home. Off the top of my head, I need to flesh out 3 more convos, write one more brief onen, and add a few 1 liners.
Oh, and I know I haven't explicitly mentioned it, but I've essentially been spending my limited time every night on stuff I know I can knock out easily. If I even try to work out some of the crashing issues (which is clearly system related at this point), I end spending my night not getting anything done. For my sanity, I need to see daily progress, or I feel like I'm just wasting my time. So, I continue to do stuff that needs to get done anyway, during worknights, then on the weekend, I'll spend more time doing things like installing the game on different computers to see how it runs, swapping out video cards, etc.
Oh, and once my new laptop comes in, it's a wrap. 4 hours of un-interrupted development every day, not including anything I do at home. *Drools*
While I didn't expect much with regards to the music when I picked up Final Fantasy 13, mostly because Nobuo Uematsu had no part in it (that I know of), it turned out to be more than serviceable. This boss track in particular, mixed in with the spectacular graphics really made an impression on me.
11/29/10 -Monday: MORE MISC TASKS...
Today was more of the same, continuing where I left off yesterday. Before I passed out on the train ride home, I was able to write some more codex entries for some more cast members. When I got home, I just had to copy it out of the text files andn paste it into each corresponding codex entry in the toolset. One thing I like is that for the instances where more info is added to the codex as the player learnes more about someone, you just need to add the extra stuff in a separate codex entry, and the game will append it to the first one appropriately. I was worried that every codex entry was going to have to contain all the preceding entries, plus the new stuff.
I also decided to tackle the issue of certain abilities showing up for all party members. The first thing I fixed was a Last Resort that I created for a monster, that was showing up in everyone's talent/spell sheet. As expected, the change was small. I just had to change to guitype id in the corresponding 2DA to 12, which indicates it's hidden. I also may have been able to change it to something else, perhaps a monster related ID. But, all I cared about was the end result, so I just left it as is.
Next up, I wanted to tackle another Last Resort, this time, a specific one for a party member. I had been trying to come up with how I wanted to handle exposing this to the end user. In the end, I opted for the staggered approach. There's already enough custom stuff in the game, and I don't want the player to get overwhelmed. This is a lesson I learned well with my first 2 games, where people had NWN embedded in their brain so much that it was sometimes hard for them to take that hat off and enjoy what I was bringing to the table. Anyway, since this particular party member gets this ability at level 3, I just decided to make it hidden until then. So, at that point, this entire line of Last Resorts, specific to said party member will show up. And of course, when this happens, I'll have a codex entry ready, that will explain everything about Last Resorts to the player. So, the plan is that the player will be a few hours into the game, already exposed to a certain amount of custom content, and then when they get this, go "Oh wow, there's more? Nice.". I can only hope, anyway...
Now, this did bring up a little situation where I had to figure out how I was going to handle this if another party member was to get the same Last Resort, but perhaps not all the same ones in the current line I have setup. You see, the way I'm exposing it to the party member is through a prerequisite ability. By adding in the ID of the prereq in the guitype 2DA, it ensures that it won't be shown until the party member has gotten said ability. Well, what happens if annother party member gets that same ability? Then, that entire line will show up on their talent/spell sheet, even though they aren't intended to received the one other ones.
In the end, it's not a big deal. For one, I'm currently sticking with the design philosophy that all party members will have unique abilities. At that point, it's a moot point. If I do end up allowing some cross pollination, then I just may need to create duplicate abilities in my custom ability 2da, one for each party member, so that they end up having different ID's, meaning the custom lines will only show up for one of them. Also, I see there is a class ID I can use in the guitype 2DA, so I could technically create custom classes for each party member. In the end, they technically are so different from the vanilla DAO classes it may make sense anyway... But that's for another day.
Tomorrow, I'll write more codex entries on the train, and add them to the game when I get home. Then, I'll move on from there.
Well, I continue to find excellent tracks on these vocal Final Fantasy CD's, so I will continue to post them.
11/28/10 -Sunday: SLIGHT CHANGE OF PLANS...
What a day. Federer takes out Nadal to win the year end championship. The G-Men win a close one over the Jags. The Cowboys lose on Thanksgiving. The Redskins lose. The Eagles lose. Pretty much everything I wanted to happen... happened!
In terms of development, I created the day version of the level from yesterday whilst working through some minor lighting issues. For whatever reason, I decided to change plans up, and not work on that cutscene. Instead, I decided to go straight to codex work. As I mentioned earlier, I just assumed it would be more work than it ended up being. It's literally just a plot set to some codex category, enter the text, and you're good to go.
I ended up creating a few for a some key cast members, under the Cast category. Integrating them into the existing plot related code was easy, as there was already existing code that is fired off when you meet said cast members.
At this point, I started thinking of some of the other categories I would use. For instance, there is this Art Of War category, where all codex entries for spell combos go. I figured this would be the perfect place to put info about things like Unison Abilities.The only issue is that in game, the category literally says "Spell Combos". So, I may add them to the Notes category perhaps...
Full on descriptions about the aforementioned Unison Abilities, Bonds of Battle, Last Resorts, etc. will go under the existing game mechanics section. I'm thinking the first time you use one of the abilities, or gain a bonds of battle point, the codex entry will be added. Nothing too fancy.
One section that really interests me is the Culture & History section. After all of the story that Jason and I came up with over the past few months, it would be nice to see some of it make it in there. I'm still sticking to my main design decision though: The codex will not just become an info dump, a convenient place to allow the player to learn about the world. That will still happen in-game, and as naturally as possible. Still, once that info is gained, there's nothing wrong with adding it to the codex. Now, one interesting problem is dealing with information the character you will be playing already knows. Do I start the game out with those codex entries already opened? Doesn't make sense to have them learn certain things about their culture, things they should have already known years earlier, during the game. I'll have to think about it a bit.
Next up on the radar is also something I've been meaning to deal with for a while now: Making sure character specific custom abilities only show up on their screen, and only at the right time. Currently, all abilities show up for all characters at all times. Once I figure out the first issue (which should just involve 2DA's), I need to continue thinking about how to present them in general. For one, I still haven't figured out how I will present upgrade options for each custom ability. Is it something the player chooses themselves when leveling up? Do they get it for free when they level up, meaning that some spell does damage relative to the level of the player. I'm leaning towards the former, which of course involves more GUI work.
Still, I love this type of stuff. I've been in level design purgatory for a while, but when it comes down to it, custom system design is still my favorite thing to do. Either way, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
This next song comes from one of the 2 vocal Final Fantasy albums I've recently picked up. No idea where it comes from (game wise), but I love it!
11/27/10 -Saturday: STEADY PROGRESS...
So, I essentially finished up the work on the new level. Right now, it's just the night version, but making a day version will be easy enough. Of course, during the final polishing phase of the game, I'll (or someone else!) will come back and dress the area up a bit, adding props here and there, and such.
I then started porting over the plot events happening in the placeholder stage, to here. For the most part, it worked just fine. I pretty much did everything in isolation, so I didn't do things like make sure transitions linked to this new area, instead of the old one. But, the combat scenario worked fine, as well as a staged conversation. Now, I just need to create the short little cutscene that precedes said convo. After that, I'll make a day version, then connect everything to these new levels.
Then, just to change things up, I'm going to mess around with codex entries. I started some research, and assumed it was going to involve 2DA's and such, but it turns out, I just need to create journal entries, mark them as "codex", and I guess they just show up. Easy enough... The only thing I would like to do is get rid of the other codex entries that have nothing to do with my game. From the little that I read, any new codex entries will just be appended to the existing set, and those will be left blank. That's a little annoying, so I'm hoping there is some way to get rid of them entirely. Maybe that will involve 2DA work. Speaking of 2DA's, I don't have my Microsoft Office disk, so I guess I'll download the one from open office. I use that at work with no issues, so whatever works is good for me.
With the codex text, I'll do my best to come up with some good stuff, knowing that someone will most likely come back and edit them. Then, I think I will go through many of Jason's issues/comments from his playthrough, and try to knock out as many of those as possible. It's really just busy work, seeing as there is a Federer/Nadal final on tomorrow, as well as the Giants. With regards to the tennis match, this is what we look for. One of the best rivalries in sports... perioid... As a hardened, yet realistic Federer fan, I know the odds will be stacked against him, but, you never know. Going to be a busy day tomorrow!
Never played this game. Just happened to come across it on You Tube. Then, I realized there were two vocal final fantasy soundtracks released in the mid 90's I never knew about... Except for the fact that I had heard many of the tracks from them, including one that is used in the opening scene of Cry The Beloved. I just never questioned where the tracks came from. Anyway, once I found out about the albums, I went on a binge. Good times.
11/26/10 -Friday: SOLID NIGHT OF PROTOTYPING...
So, I finished up some prototyping of my new level, and once I knew the exact size I needed it to be, I started in on the final version. In the background, you can see a huge structure, which from this angle, is the east end. The last couple shots of buildings over the past month have been of the same structure, just from the south side. I'm not really a stickler when it comes to keeping games ultra-super realistic, but when it comes to level design, I try a little more than usual.
The good thing about the level editor is that you can save groups of props that you have put together to form buildings, as a single unit, and import them into other levels. So, I've been able to import this building in all the various levels that it should be seen from, just so the player gets some sort of perspective. Even when constructing it, I tried my hardest to make it accurately portray the interior areas as much as possible. Nothing like entering a house that looks semi small on the outside, and then being in this huge interior level (I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy!).
Also, special shout out to mikemike37 for the work he did on the marble fountains you can see in the background. I had got them in this game a while ago, but that was right before all my crash issues started, so I didn't really get to try them out as much as I wanted to. Needless to say, they're looking quite good. Might as well thank TimelordDC for the trees as well :)
Tomorrow, I'll just need to finish up some minor things, then as I mentioned the other day, port everything over from the older level I've been using all these months, to this new one. That shouldn't take long, so I should be able to start work on this cutscene. Here's hoping!
In other related news, I found a special on a laptop, which can be found here. In case the link doesn't work, here are the pertinent specs:
Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit,
Silver Anodized Aluminum 15.6" HD (720p) WLED Display
Intel® Core™ i7-740QM (1.73GHz, 8 threads, turbo boost up to 2.93GHz, 6M cache)
NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 435M 2GB graphics
6GB Shared Dual Channel DDR3 Memory
640GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
92 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
Tray Load Blu-ray Disc BD-Combo (Reads BD and Writes to DVD/CD)
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 1000
Original price, $1439.99, discounted price, $1149.99. Yeah, I think it's a go :
So, when I think of epic music from the Golden Years or RPG's, this song comes to mind. Imagine, Cecil Harvey, the man who started the game as a dark knight was now a white paladin, trying to achieve forgiveness for all his sins. His best friend, Kain, was finally broken out of the spell that caused him to kidnap Cecil's love, Rosa. Rydia (8 years old at the time), who had fell overboard due to an attack on their ship by the mighty Leviathan, was now a full grown woman, since time moved faster in the land of summons. The party had traveled from the main world, to the underground, and now, the moon. Many party members had given their lives for the cause.
So much had transpired during the adventure, and it all came down to one more boss fight. But first, you had to make it through one more dungeon, while this epic music played. Classic.
11/25/10 -Thursday: I'M STILL ALIVE!
So, in order to keep my sanity, and not continue to complain day in and day out, I'll keep this short. The fresh re-install of windows 7 did not work. In fact, when I literally booted windows up for the first time, the screen froze. I had not even did anything with the game yet. So yeah, something not related to my game is at work. Now, I did attempt a bunch of things, but in the end, I need to make the most of all these days off, so I've decided to just work on some other things.
Luckily, everything about this game is really just a bunch of components, and I don't have any issues working on them in isolation. So, I started on the final (no seriously, this is it!) level for this partiuclar set of areas. This is another one of those that I created months ago, knowing I was going to have to come back to it later. Well, I'm glad I did, because I came up with a new look and feel for it, which I think makes it stand out more than what I originally had planned. By doing this, I've also been able to keep the size of the level down to a minimum, which I'm all for, in terms of scaling and such.
Because of family related things over the past few days, I didn't get a chance to do too much, but I set the foundation for my work tomorrow, and the next 2 days after that. Dammit, I need to finish this level, port over the existing content from the older version of the level, and make a cutscene. It's not really a lot, I just need to stay focused and get it done.
Next up, I really want to get back to some scripting work, or something not involving levels. So, I may implement some of the bug fixes Jason pointed out during his run of ALPHA version 1.0, then move on to some other suggestions, most likely codex related things. I wasn't really into the codex while playing DAO, but I understand some people were, so I need to start adding in my own things, just to help flesh out the world a bit more.
Regardless of what happens, the phrase for the rest of the month is: STAY POSITIVE.
When I was a kid, I loved Disney movies. I'll still not forget that run they had from like 1989 until the end of the 90's, where they released hit after hit after hit. One of the things that did it for me was the music, Alan Menken's in particular. As expected of a Disney movie back then, many of his pieces just had that old school charm, that sound that just made you think of fables, fairy tales, etc. Still wish Disney would get back to that. Oh well, times change, they do.
11/22/10 -Monday: DESTROY AND REBUILD...
Sometimes, you have to just destroy and rebuild. The plan was simple, really. Backup everything to one drive, reformat the drive that had my Windows 7 installation on it, re-install Windows 7 on it, install Windows XP on another drive because I'm a paranoid son of a bitch, then setup dual boot. Whew.
In practice, it's just a bunch of waiting around while things load, download, install, etc. Then there is all the work involved in getting my development tools setup. I got up to the point where I just need to re-export all my module's resources, then I can run a test to see if this particular crash happens (it's damn reliable, fortunately... or, unfortunately depending on how you look at it). But, I was getting tired, so I'll save that for tomorrow... Here's hopingn these issues are gone, so I can actually spend my free time doing something productive... And if it dosn't work, Windows XP (where I have had 0 issues before), here I come. If it doesn't work there, then I'm back to blaming myself. Guess I'm just a dog chasing his tail... Sigh...
Probably the main reason I picked up this game. Well, also because even though it hasn't caught me up since Final Fantasy 9, I still like to have faith. Enjoy!
11/21/10 -Sunday: LET THERE BE LIGHT!
The above screenshot is very important. For the past 4-5 months, when this cutscene ran, the person on the right would be totally black. I always knew it had to do with the ridiculous lighting I had in the area, but it was always lower on my radar than other things. Well, as I continued to fix the lighting throughout the game's existing levels, I finally made my way to this level, and was so damn happy when I ran the cutscene, confirming I had fixed things. Unfortunately, this was the highlight of the past 3 days...
Things seemed to be going in the right direction, though. On Friday night, after making more changes to the lighting of this particular level, I ended up playing Black Ops with 5 friends for like damn near 5 hours. Yeah, I know, I must be one of those sheeple that just keep giving Activision money for the same game year after year. I've had every Call of Duty game since 2007's Modern Warfare, and I just like to give away my money... *Rolls Eyes*
On the contrary, critics can go jump off of a bridge for all I care. I'll never understand it, but just because people don't like something, if it's popular, everyone buying it must be dumber than them. You know, those elitsts that only like things that are not popular. As soon as it starts to sell over 5 million copies, the developer sold out, going main stream, trying to get those console sales, and all those other silly buzz words.
Well, I've put in much time with every iteration of the game's multiplayer, and know the true differencnes between each game, especially the little subtle things. Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward) was a great game, but me and another friend had more fun with World of War (Treyarch), mostly because of the level design. Our play style was very strategic, as we loved to lock down certain sections of the map, and these maps helped that play style. With Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward),, they went ridiculous with the different kill streaks, and the overall quality of the game was just better in my opinion. Still, the map design went back to something that didn't reward our play style. In the back of my head, I was thinking, if we could get a game that had the same customization, quality, etc. of MW2, with Treyarch's map design, it would be the perfect game. So far, Black Ops is living up to what I thought it would be.
The real key is who I play with, however. For the past 4 games, whenever they first come out, we always have a squad of at least 6 people total, giving us our own team, which is great, because it means we don't have to rely on anyone we don't know. Add in the great communication, everyone being on the same page, and the strategic way we play, and the end result is that it's just the only way I can play.
It remains to be seen how things go with this game. I'm still learning the levels, and haven't even unlocked all the weapons yet. Still, the little I have played of it is quickly making me think it's the best multiplayer the franchise has had ever. Wait, what? How did I spent a bunch of paragraphs on Call of Duty. Right... Back to our regularly scheduled (not as of late, though) blog update.
So, as I mentioned earlier, things went downhill over the weekend. Yep, more crashes. I'm confident it's not anything I'm doing, because now it's happening a lot more with just windows 7 running. So, I have to reload my software... sigh... That is all... Maybe I'll have a better update Monday night.
I'm a huge fan of Enya, though I admit I haven't liked anything she has put out in years. For me, her last album I liked was Memory of Trees. When I found this rendition of one of my favorite songs from that album, I fell in love immediately.
11/18/10 -Thursday: NIGHT OF LIGHTING REWORKING...
Much like yesterday, I was extremely focused today. As expected, the bulk of my time was spent re-working the lighting on existing day versions of particular levels. Even though these were mostly levels I created back in February of this year, meaning I was still learning, I was surprised at how inefficient I was with my allocation of light, especially the heaviest of them all, static ones! There is really no other way to put it, except to say I was trimming the fat when it came to these earlier levels. Anyway, there was a set of goals for each level I re-worked:
Get rid of the aforementioned, superfluous static lights
Lower the intensity on all lights
Lower the range on all lights
Change the color of a certain type of lamp present in various levels
With each level, I systematically went through this list, getting better/faster each subsequent time. There were of course special cases for specific levels, such as a dungeon type area I created, where things were too bright, when they should have been darker. I made it through 4 levels, with about 2-3 more to go. I did do some minor parachute testing, and things worked out fine thus far.
Tomorrow, I'll try to finish the other levels, then do a full run through of the game. Once I am satisfied, I'll cut another version of the ALPHA. I'll send it out to the team if they care to play it, but I'm not expecting it, as it's mostly level improvement stuff, and doesn't address the whole host of issues found.
Okay, so I know I said I don't really go crazy over The Legend of Zelda music, but I came across this orchrestrated version of one of the songs I did enjoy. It's from A Link to the Past, and it was the music playing in Hyrule Castle at the beginning of the game. That was one hell of a way to start off a game, and while the rest of the music didn't live up to this masterpiece, it didn't take anything away from the game.
11/16/10 -Tuesday: I WAS POSSESSED TONIGHT!
I essentially picked up where I left out yesterday, converting 2 more levels to night versions. To my surprise, I was really focused. I got home, had some dinner, watched my DVR'd episodes of Family Guy & American Dad, turned on my comp, started up iTunes, started playing the night time music that plays in the areas I was to create, and got to it.
Luckily, the first level I took a stab at was much like the one from yesterday, in that there weren't any existing plot related things happening in it. So, I was able to just focus on removing the lighting where applicable, modifying the ambient lighting, then testing it out in game. I guess the biggest thing was handling the transitions. The other night, I began to do work to make sure when transitioning, a plot check was made to determine if you should go to the night or day version. Then I realized the solution was easier than that. There's literally a single point of entry (i.e. going to sleep) that gets you to the first night level. Because of this, there is no need for the plot check. The night versions just have their own transitions to corresponding night levels, and there only has to be one point in order to get backc to the day levels (i.e. again, going back to sleep).
The 2nd level I handed was easy to implement, but it had it's differences, because of some plot things happening in it, that I have to cut/paste from the day version. I didn't do it yet, but it shouldn't be too difficult.
Speaking of cutting/pasting, having these different version of the same level actually helps lighten the load on the corresponding level, especially if there are only things that need to be present in each. So, in the aforementioned plot related thing I need to copy over, it literally means less resources to worry about potentially crashing the game. And of course, I've really cleaned up the lighting, so I'm excited to see the performance once I've fully implemented the changes.
Tomorrow, I'll put the finishing touches on this stuff, then run through this section of the game to make sure I didn't miss anything. Then, I'll start in on the day versions of the levels, fixing up the lighting and such. Because I'm a paranoid son of a bitch, I'll do it one level at a time, then do some testing, to make sure I don't break anything. See what happens to a developer when they go through the crash nonesense I did!
The music for today comes from a game that sort of signaled the end of an era for me. When Final Fantasy 10 was announced, I jumped on board immediately. Hot off the heals of Final Fantasy 9, which I loved very much, I assumed there was no where to go but up from there. Sadly, for me, it did not, and thus began a trend of me buying new Final Fantasy's, but never beating them. Oh well, companies can't continue to please everyone forever. As Jay-Z said, "On to the next one".
That said, this music, that played as the intro theme just sucked me in. Enjoy!
11/15/10 -Monday: FINALLY GETTING DAY/NIGHT VERSION OF LEVELS...
So, before I even started using this toolset, I knew there was no day/night system. Back then, I claimed that while annoying, it is what it is. I still stand by that statement, close to a year later. In the end, I spent the majority of my night coming up with a system for doing it, messing around with lighting (to great effect!), and testing it out in game. All in all, a good night!
I started by copying the files of an existing interior level to a new folder called "night". Then, I renamed the files accordingly, as well as the references to it within the actual new night level itself. Everything that came next was pretty much specific to my own game. So, in this particular set of levels, the player will be there during the day, as well as during the night time. The easiest way for me to simulate this was to try to think about how things would be, logicially, at those different times of the day.
So, during the day level, there are already a bunch of lamps lit that keep the entire area, well, lit up. During the night time, it only made sense that most of these lanterns would be turned off, and the ones that were left on would be the ones by major exits, and even then, they would be turned down a bit. Next, I had to mess with the ambient lighting to get a "dark" feeling to it, which didn't take too long. The final piece, which I've already had for a while was the night music. Once I put all of that together, it just worked. Now, I have more things to add, like an NPC or 2, as well as some general level work (i.e. adding more props), but the main work is done.
Next, I just had to do some plot related scripting to make sure that the party was transitioned to these night version of the levels, depending on some plot flags. I just did a mock up, using some existing ones, but I may make a dedicated day/night plot just for handling things like this.
Now, how do I keep things looking consistently between the levels, especially if I add something to the "day" version? Simple, I just do another copy and paste. Again, this is specific to my module, but the only difference between these levels will be the changing of the ambient lighting, the removal of static lights, and the "shutting off" of some lamps. For each new night level, I keep a text file in that directory with the exact rgb values for the difference in lighting, so there is no chance I'll forget it. So, whenever I make a change, after doing the copy and paste, making the level "night" ready will take at most, a few minutes. Oh, and again, just specific to my module, but these extra levels aren't even that big. Like, 10 MB at most. That's a really great thing, as I am always trying to keep down the size of module, wherever I can.
As for the major lighting changes I made today, it was essentially following what I read on the DA Builder's Wiki. Before, I had a ton of static lights all over the place, mostly in corners, so that there was always some light on the PC, so they wouldn't have those black lines on their face. While it worked, it was quite annoying to set up. Then, I read that the popular convention was to simply have 3-4 huge static lights around the entire level, that only affected the player. I went with the 3 light approach, formed them in a triangular shape, and was very happy with the results.
Now, this leads into how I plan on further scaling my existing levels in the game. All of these interior levels have the same thing, with regards to a MILLION static lights all over the place, lights that affect both the player as well as the level. These are clearly the most expensive out of all the different types of lights, so if I implement the above solution, maybe I'll get better performance out of the levels. Only time will tell...
In the end, I'm happy with what I am learning, with regards to level design. I always knew it was going to be the one thing that gave me the most problems, but I think I've come through pretty good so far. I'm sure there is a lot more for me to learn, but that's one of the funnest parts of game development, so it's win-win for me.
I've been listening to this music by Kenji Ito for days now, so I figured I would put up another one. Again, something I listened to in all of its MIDI format glory back in the early 90's, something I always knew had that special, something, even back then. I think some group, like the Royal Stockholm Orchestra needs to give this song even more of a facelift.
11/14/10 -Sunday: I GUESS EVERYTHING IS OKAY? *SHRUG*
This was a weird weekend, that's for sure. For whatever reason, I just wasn't really motivated. Add in the fact that I was having these weird level issues, and it was the perfect storm of me not wanting to do anything.
So, with regards to the level issues, I wanted to take an existing level, and create a day version of it. So, I just copied all the appropriate files, made the changes to the files to make sure they all references a new level name, and after exporting multiple times, things just weren't working right. Sometimes the terrain wouldn't show up, other times, only half the level would even render. The issue is that it takes so long to render lightmaps and post the file, that if I want to try out one thing, it will take like 10 minutes. Yeah, I wasn't in that type of mood, so I moved on.
What I ended up doing was doing both the cutscene and the dialogue in the dusk version of the level, knowing that moving it to the other version of the level, whenever I figure out what is wrong with it, would be pretty seamless. Once I finished both, I realized that I had actually done what I wanted to do over the weekend: Create the last scene of this sequence. So, even though I was extremely pissed off with the aforementioned issues, not to mention both the Giants and Federer losing (sigh...), I still somehow seemed to persevere, and get it done. So, I guess everything is okay? *Shrug*
Things must be okay, because I even had time to address the crash I was getting the other day. I knew I was going to remove the offending level from this area list anyway, so I just went ahead and did it, made the neccessary scripting changes, and the crash went away. Then, I decided to run through the game again, just to see if anything else was wrong. Let me tell you, it's no fun testing this game, fearing you're going to get a crash whenever each level loads. I did get 2 crashes, unfortunately. One was extremely reproducible, but funny thing is, when I loaded up a previous save, and went through everything again, I didn't get the crash. At the very least, I have like 20 saves to mess around with, to see what the issue was. The other crash happened in the core problem area, which has a lot of activity going on. When I reloaded, it didn't happen again, which was good. I already have plans to scale this area even more, so I didn't worry about it. But, I was able to get to the end of the ALPHA, which was my goal, so that was a win for me.
Tomorrow, I will start work on 3 new levels, though they're not really new. I just need to make some night version of 3 interior levels (including the problem one). This is where I will be able to experiment with some new lighting approaches I want to implement, just things I've read on the forums. If all goes well, I'll make the changes to the day versions of the levels.
This music originally came from the red-headed step child of The Legend of Zelda series, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. I personally liked the game, and have many fond memories of it, but when I heard this remix of the temple music in Super Smash Bros Brawl, I fell in love all over again. They need music like this in the The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword!
11/12/10 -Friday: DEJA VU...
Right, so the crashes are coming consistently in a level they never happened in before, and quite frankly, I'm even more surprised than before. I literally haven't changed anything in the game, except for the new level I've been working on for the past few weeks. Luckily, I have a svn tag for ALPHA 1.0 checked in, so I could roll back easily enough and see what has changed. But, I've been down that road, and I just don't want to waste my weekend doing that.
So, tomorrow, I will focus on this a new cutscene, the dialogue that comes after it, and finally, the ending cutscene after the conversation. This is very key to me, because this marks the end of this entire sequence of events I've been developing for the majority of the year. Sort of a spiritual victory, that I will not have crashes ruin. Plus, once I identify what I messed up this time, adding in this extra stuff will be easy, as it just consists of a level, 3 cutscenes, and a few dialogues.
Now, I've off to play a little Call of Duty: Black Ops :)
Today's music is from Princess Mononoke. I honestly cannot put into words how this song affects me sometimes, so just enjoy!
11/11/10 -Thursday: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER...
Today, I finished up gluing things together, and tested things a little bit just to see how well it flowed together. But before, because I'm stupid, I decided to update this one particular level with my new autumn trees. I may or may not have added too many (I'm going to go with the former) trees, but when I began to test it, I was all of a sudden getting crashes I've never had before. I literally had flashbacks to that crap I dealt with last month. Not even trying to get into that mess, I reverted back to what was checked in, restarted my computer, and things seemed fine from there. It's a damn shame, really... Sometimes I think this entire game is hanging on by a thread, about to snap at any time. I just have to learn that I can't just add things anymore, expecting them to always work. It's a slow process, but I've got to add stuff, then test immediately, which in fairness to me, I did test right away. But what if I didn't do it for a week? Sigh...
Anyway, once I was back to the original level, I tested the transition from that level, to this new level and the scenes that occur here, to the next level and it's scenes. I was really happy with the end result, and it definitely made things a lot clearer to the player, and just a little more complete. I am very well aware that with a game that is structured like mine, transitioning from one scene to the next needs to happen, while missing something in the middle. However, where I can, I'm really trying to close those gaps, and make the player feel like they are experiencing everything that happens, step by step, without going overboard (i.e. do we really need to see the PC go to the bathroom?).
For instance, while I understand why they did it, but in DAO at the end of every origin, you essentially where immediately transitioned to Ostagar. I had hoped for a little traveling with Duncan before reaching there. Again, I totally understand why they did it, but for me, wherever possible, I'm going to try to show all those little things.
Well, now it's time for me to put on some music, and try to brain storm how I want this next little sequence to play out. Wish me luck!
So, I'l like to bring you back to the 80's, if I could. This is where it all started off for Nobuo Uematsu, for Final Fantasy I. Even then, you knew you were getting something special, but I never thought he would still be going strong (i.e. Lost Odyssey soundtrack).
P.S. If anyone out there questions how long this music of the day thing will go on, trust me, I've got music for decades! Seriously, music is my 2nd passion behind video games, and my library has ballooned to sizes I dare not say. In other words, this music continue to keep coming!
11/10/10 -Wednesday: SLIGHT OF CHANGE OF PLANS...
So the initial plan was to start another very short cutscene that takes place in this area, but a few hours into the game, I decided it was better to stick with the current progression of the plot, and do the dialogue the runs after the cutscene I created yesterday. Actually makes more sense, so I blame it on the fact that I must have been too tired on the train to know what I was saying :)
Actually, before that though, I had to add one more cast member to the cutscene. Once that was done, since everyone was already added to the area, I started work on the stage that will accompany the dialogue, trying out various camera angles and such. I also had to try out different places to put the actors. Once that was done, I wrote the dialogue, which wasn't too long, but it did give the PC an opportunity to speak their mind.
Then, there was some gluing that needed to take place. Earlier, the scene that takes place befoe this scene would transition the player to the scene that takes place after this scene. So, I just had to do some plot scripting to make sure the transitions were switched around, as well as some other minor things. For Jason, I imagine the earlier transition was a bit jarring when testing, but this should make things flow easier.
You know, it's funny. I spent a week working on a level where the player will be in there, for at most, 10 minutes the first time, perhaps 5 minutes the next time? Sure, they will be able to run around at some point, but it's not that type of level, and it's very constrained, for reasons that will make sense when people play the game. But, that's game design, as I see it. I'm not adverse to spending a lot of time on something, if it will make a huge impact, short as it is. You the saying: Go hard, or go home!
Tomorrow, I'll do some minor polishing (read: 30 minutes max! No, seriously!). Then, I think I'll switch gears and work on that other cutsene I was going to do today. But you know, maybe that will change when I sit down and get to it :)
P.S. Black Ops is out, so it may not may not affect my production over the next week. I'm leaning towards the former :)
This is from one of my old time classics, Secret of Mana. I have great memories of playing this game during the fall of 1993, memories I'll never forget.
11/9/10 -Tuesday: WELL, THAT WAS FAST!
Wow, what do you know, I actually did what I was supposed to tonight. Now, I just have to do that 150 more times! I went into the night knowing roughly what this new cutscene should look like. I had spent so much time preparing the level for it, that I had already scouted out the various shots I needed. All that was left was actually doing the damn thing.
So as always, I worked with a test camera, and setup all the movements/animations/etc. of all the actors of the scene. While it was monkey work, it did take a bit, because of the quantity of what I had to do. Once that was done, I started the camera work, and surprisingly, everything just sort of fell together. I mean, I was literally doing one take for a particular shot, and I was immediately amazed with the results, and decided to keep it. Usually, I'll have to make all sorts of changes, once I realize that what I wanted to portray isn't going to work, but I guess I just got lucky tonight. Anyway, the end result is, I knocked out all the shots I needed, added the appropriate subtitles, and of course, the music works with the short scene perfectly.
Tomorrow, I'll need to add one more cast member to the scene (not sure how I forgot about them), but that should go fast because they more or less following the same animations as another existing actor. Then, I'll just tweek things a little with one transition between cameras, and call it a night.
Since I'm on a roll, the next thing I'll do is start creating the cutscene for the scene that takes place in this area, a few hours later on in the game. This particular one is in fact even less complex than the one I did tonight, which can only mean one thing: I won't finish it tomorrow, as something will pop up :) That's just my luck, folks!
If I do get lucky, then I may be able to start in on the dialogue that plays out right after the cutscene I finished tonight. But, I'l not going to push my luck. We'll see!
This next piece of music is frrom Final Fantasy XI. I do have great memories with this game, maybe not as much as Everquest, but the memories remain, nonetheless. One unforgettable thing was the music. This particular piece, which played while walking around Rolanberry Fields is a perfect example. I'll never forget the first time I ever came through this area. I had just got on my first Chocobo, and was making my way to Jueno, which was essentially the main hub city of the world at the time. If I remember correctly, this was where you would go around level 20. So, in order to get there, I had to travel through like 4-5 crazy high level zones, with monsters that could practically kill me in one hit. Lucky for me, I had my Chocobo, which made them leave me alone... Until I hit the wrong button and hopped off the chocobo (or something to that effect). When I first heard the music, I thought, "Oh, this is a nice area. Nothing bad could happen here". Then I saw the tough enemies, and literally got my Solid Snake on through 3 different zones, dipping in and out of trouble. It was scary, yet exhilerating, and made my arrival at Jueno all the more special.
11/8/10 -Monday: MORE MINOR LEVEL SETUP TASKS...
So, I did some more level work today, mostly consisting of messing around with various atmosphere settings. I haven't gotten anything I really like yet, then again, I didn't put too much effort in. One thing I did put a lot of effort into was the music that plays in this area. It's a little embarrasing, as I usually have the music picked out years in advance! I was actually at it for 3 days, trying to come up with the best selection. I finally settled on something, which reflects the change in atmosphere for the level, and got it in the level.
Once I had the music in place, I started adding other things to get the level ready for this really short cutscene, like ambient sound effects and of course, all the creatures that will be involved. I already know the shots I want to get, so I should be able to knock it out relatively quickly. I'm going to leave the atmosphere settings along for the time being, but may end up back mesing with it while watcing some of the Paris Master Series Tennis Tournament later in the week.
Bioware continues to amaze me, with regards to the development of Dragon Age 2. At this point, any time I see a complaint thread, I always go into it, thinking that whatever the person is angry with is something I will like. Lately, it's been:
MAKING COMPANIONS MORE UNIQUE AND SPECIAL
So, I guess folks are all up in arms over the fact that companions will have their unique looks, conistently throughout the game, which means that the player cannot just drop a piece of chainmail on Isabella and see the equipment change reflected. I'm probably simplifying it a little, but I guess lead designer Mike Laidlaw states that this goes hand in hand with giving companions that special little unique feel to them. You can of course upgrade their equipment, but the points remains.
Another thing, which I'm not entirely sure if people are upset about, is the fact that companions are getting companion specific talents/spells, in addition to the standard ones for their classes/specializations.
Well, hot damn! Is Mike reading this blog? Has he been playing The Coming and/or Cry The Beloved. I've been on this, design wise, for years! First and foremost, I've been a proponent of making party members as unique as can be for as long as I can remember. Aramus, Clopon, Challseus, Auden, & Rainaall had abilities that were specific to them, and I spent a huge amount of time designing them. Did they share certain ones? Of course. But, besides personality, I always used to say to myself when designing a party member: What is so special about this person that would make someone want to travel with them?
With regards to equipment, I also did what they're planning on doing, but took it one more step and applied it to the PC. Instead of having this ever changing set of equipment, I put a focus on making the equipment Aramus started out with as special as possible. For instance, he starts out the game with his Sword of Galladoran, and half way through the 2nd game, it goes through a remarkable change to add even more powers to it. Also, you were able to upgrade various aspects of it throughout the game as well.
With regards to party member main equipment (i.e. robes/armor), that was also something I put a lot of time into. For instance, Clopon has her blue Stramadonian Robe until near the end of the 2nd game, where if she becomes a high summonor, she gets a new, light blue robe, with various statistical updates. In my eyes, it made it even more special getting it that way, instead of having gone through 4 "tiers" of arbitrary stat increasing robes.
Likewise with Challseus, he only gets new equipment if Aramus is able to answer Jarl Thuvik'sriddles when he travels to Stramadon.It turns out, this is Challseus' old equipment before his epic spell duel with Jarl years back, when he had most of his power drained. So, again, in my eyes, it made it that more special to finally get back his original, powerful robes.
Finally, for me, from a straight visual standpoint, I wanted to keep a certain look to the party members. Clopon's blue robes are very iconic, as is Aramus' green cloak. Plus, it seems too "gamey" to me to be changing gear so much. I know this is a game, but I do try to inject some reality to it, and really, if it doesn't make sensne story wise, I don' t think the party should be going through so many costume, err, I mean, inventory changes. If it does make sense with the story, go for it, but if it doesn't, don't do it. I would never put something into a game just because it's an RPG tradition.
I'll never forget when fellow modder and Ossian developer Alex 'Hugie' Hugon released a mod that took place in the wilderness, or something like that. People were complaining about a lack of a merchant, and he rightfully so said, "Look, you're in the wilderness! There are no merchants out there." It's as if people get used to something in an RPG for so long that if it's not present, they can't handle it. I guess I need to have a stereotypical inn with a "named" npc standing in the corner, ready to join my party? Shall I fight rats in the beginning as well? I know I most likely follow some RPG cliches without knowing it, but I try to avoid as many as possible!
At any rate, the more I hear about DA2, the more I am realizing that I will like it. Keep it coming, Bioware!
Now, I know I always say some particular music is very special to me, but dammit, I really mean it this time! This music is the theme for Schala, a character you briefly meet in Chrono Trigger. You can follow the links to learn more about her, but let me say, for not being able to have her in your party, and for not really getting a lot of screen time, she left a huge impression on me as a kid. Of course, the music helped.
11/7/10 -Sunday: LONG DAY...
What a long day... Federer defeats Djokovic to win his 65th carrer title in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland? Check. Final Boss defeats Status Quo to win the final Halo 3 championship? Check. The Giants blow out the Seahawks? Check. The Dallas Cowboys continue to look pathetic? Big time check! I actually get some work, despite all of these distractions? Check. Do the things off my wife's check list for the weekend? Errr, I um... :)
So, as you can see by the screenshots, I was able to get re-colored trees in the game. Now, I did report I was able to do it last night, but that was a little pre-mature. I had them showing up in the toolset, but when I actually tested the game, they weren't there. After an email with TimelordDC, I found it was because of the way I was naming some of the files. Once I made the change, I was good to go.
Now, this is clearly just the beginning of the re-coloring of my forest. As I mentioned yesterday, there is a lot of work to be done if I want to get a nice healthy variety of trees. For instance, I'm just woring with the small oak tree model, and I've only added 3 colors. I could potentially add more colors, and then, I need to do it for all the different types of oak trees. Then, there's all sorts of other types of trees as well as bushes. So yeah, this could get really big. What would be nice is if some nice person out there could release a package of fall colors for all vegeation :) Failing that, I'll just have to add more and more as I can, only really adding what I need. Then, I guess if someone hasn't yet, I could at least release what I've done as a pack, possibly combining it with whatever TimelordDC does for his mod as well.
All in all though, I'm happy with what I currently have. The crazy thing is that when I initially designed this part of the game world so many years ago, I always had the fall theme in my head. I remember it clear as day. It was 1999, and I was currently in college, taking the same classes I had taken the previous year because I hadn't got my act together, regarding life in general. For whatever reason, it was the first year I began to really appreciate the fall foliage we get where I live, despite the fact of having lived in the area all my life (19 at the time). Towards the beginning of fall, I had been in a car accident that the police told me I would have died from, had I not been driving a Volvo (i.e. The Tank!), so I had a friend driving me to work every day, right after classes ended. We would always drive down this stretch of town where you're just surrounded by the forest on each side, and I was just in awe of all the colors. That really influenced me, and here I am, 11 years later, able to see it come to life.
Tomorrow, I hope to start my plot related scripting in this new level, as well as a little cutscene work. I do have a bunch of bugs from the alpha to fix, but I think I'll save them for later in the week. I'd rather keep working on new stuff, because it's just motivating in general to see actual new content created. Also, with these new tree models, I can also go back and replace existing trees in another exterior level.
Today's music is from an RPG called Skies of Arcadia, a game for the legendary SEGA Dreamcast. I never did beat the game, because the house I was living in at the time was robbed (this was during the aforementioned period in my life where I didn't have my act togeher; you reap what you sow). The little bit I did play of it though definitely left an impression on me, music wise. This is the battle music that plays during airship battles. Enjoy!
11/6/10 -Saturday: ADDING SOME MUCH NEEDED COLOR TO THE WORLD!
Anyone who has played The Coming & Cry The Beloved know that I made significant use of custom content, most of it from theCommunity Expansion Pack.The thought that was always on my mind was that I always wanted to be able to differentiate my game from other mods, while staying true to my original vision as well.
So far, there definitely hasn't been the same level of support for Dragon Age, but, the show must go on. That said, any time I find out a way to further customize my game, I jump all over it. So when I found out about TimelordDC's recoloring tutorial yesterday, I knew what I was going to be doing today :)
Unfortunately for me, I attempted to do this while watching the Halo championships, as well as the Federer/Roddick tennis match, and while I thought it was busy/monkey work, turns out I needed to be paying attention a little more than I expected. In the end, I missed minor things at various steps, screwing up the process. Once I was able to re-focus, and do it the right way, I was in business.
Next up was adding this new tree to the level I've been building for the past week. In the toolset, it just looked beautiful. At the moment, I'm re-posting the level to see what it looks like in game, but I already know what to expect. Now that I've finished one, seeing as I've got an extra hour of development due to daylight savings time, I'll try to add more. The thing that sucks is that I technically need to come up with a bunch of different colors for different types of trees, and that could take a long time. Maybe if I focus on doing like 2-3 a night, I'll get to where I want to be.
Besides adding some much needed color to the forest I'm working on, there is something much more important about this.... The Great Rose Trees. I always knew I was going to have to show them in game again, and now with this new found knowledge, it will be a cinch making those great red trees. I'm already itching to do some work with the Keeper of the Rose, and the Garden of Roses, but I'll stay the course, and finish up my current work.
Tomorrow will be more of the same. The Federer/Djokovic final, the Halo final, and the Giants game... Sigh... Must be strong...
Here's some of the music I was talking about, music I listened to back in like 1991, on my Gameboy, no less! It was originally from Final Fantasy Adventure, but they remade the game at the beginning of the century, and dubbed it, Sword of Mana. Whatever you want to call it, the fact that the music is still so memorable, so haunting, and so good speaks volumes about the composer.
11/5/10 -Friday: NOW THAT'S SERVICE!
So yesterday, I talked about figuring out a way to change the colors of the tree models, so I could get a particular theme I was going for. When I got to work, I had a PM from TimelordDC, saying he literally just posted a tutorial on how to do just that. Now that's service!
Tonight was another good day of development. Everyone knows level design takes more time than it did in NWN, so it's expected I'm still putting in work.. Tonight really just consisted of modifying the terrain in different parts, adding various structures, more vegetation, and in general, just doing some basic polishing. I'm not going too crazy, but I need some basic stuff for the scenes I need to run in here. The overall form on the level as a whole is starting to come together, and it's a glorious thing for me. Nothing better than seeing something start from a flat piece of land, and turn into what you dreamed about.
Tomorrow, I will be going through TimelordDC's tutorial to try to add a different color tree. Once I have it down, then I'll try to knock out another 4-5. As usual, this is perfect busy work while I watch the Halo 3 championships during the day, as well as the Federer match at some point.
I've got even more music from Super Mario Galaxy. I'm still in awe with the decision to go with a full orchestra for the soundtrack. You hear this music, and it just screams EPIC!!! Playing the level with this music was equally epic. Ah, I must pick up Super Mario Galaxy 2 soon.
11/4/10 -Thursday: STEADY DAY OF LEVEL DESIGN...
I had a pretty good day today when it came to level design. Much like how a sculptor starts with a large piece of stone, in which they whittle away what's not needed to unveil a masterpiece, I've been doing the same thing when it comes to the terrain. Even though I knew the width of the area I needed, I knew I didn't really need there to be terrain over this entire region. Even still, when raising the terrain in order to make my cliffs, I raised up everything. Once that was done, I began to slowly whittle away at it, only keeping what's needed in order to show off my masterpiece. Okay, so maybe it's not a masterpiece, but just saying :)
I also started messing with different textures, so I could paint said cliffs and make them look like cliffs, and not just cliffs of grass. The annoying thing is that you first need to smooth out the terrain before painting the textures. But again, since I'm starting with such a large piece of terrain, it's not that big of a deal.
True to my word, I started to pick different tree models, and diversify what I had, because honestly, how many forests are just made up of the same looking trees? I wsh there was a way to modify the color of the trees from within the toolset, as there is a definite theme I'm looking for. Since nothing stands out to me as being obvious, I'll do a little research and see if it's possible at all. And, by research, I mean I'll post a thread at the custom content forums :)
Besides all of that, I just did a lot of polishing, fixing little things here and there. considering I missed a day, I'm happy with where the area is at. I could technically start on my plot related scriptingn, and even the cutscene if I wanted to, but I figured I might as well keep going with this. Because, this is what I call monkey work. It's not easy, so much as it doesn't really require absolute concentration for me. That will be great, because there will be various sporting events on over the next 3 days that will require my concentration. There's the tennis tournament in Basel, Switzerland, there's the MLG Halo 3 finals, and of course, my beloved NY Giants will be playing, and presumably destroying the Seattle Seahawks. I swear, no matter what time of the year it is, there's always some sport on!
Like yesterday's music of the day, this track is equally very important to me, as it was what I used for the opening scene to Cry The Beloved. This was already an old classic when I played Final Fantasy 6 back in 1994, but when I heard this, I was blown away. I had to use it somewhere.
At some point, I need to upload a video of said scene, so folks can appreciate how it was used. Until then, enjoy!
11/3/10 -Wednesday: SHE'S BACK!!!
Well folks, things keep getting better and better. Oli Ferrando, the lead artist from Cry The Beloved is back! Her work (displayed above) should speak for itself. I mean hell, this very site you are reading was designed by her. You couldn't even imagine the debacle of a site I had before this one. I should upload it under a different directory structure, just so people can see how far we've come.
It has been 4 years since development on Cry finished, and after the stress of the previous 15 months of development, I sort of faded into obscurity, trying to adapt to a life style that didn't consist of constant module development. This meant I literally lost contact with most of the team members, something I regret to this day.
Like Jason Melancon, she was one of the core team members, that stuck through the entire process from beginning to end. She was there to keep me motivated on the bad days. When I was going to San Jose for the Developer Choice Awards, where The Coming was nominated, she made me a special piece of art to keep my spirits up, as I was extremely nervous at the prospect of accepting an award and having to give a speech. It went deeper than just providing art for the project.
So, I was already happy Jason decided to come back to give it a go again, and likewise, I feel the same with Oli. Being the true soldier she is, she is already ready to start on something, and I know exactly what it should be. Some new art, depicting the main character of this game, in the same fashion as she did all the others would be perfect. We still have to hash out the details, but I am looking forward to whatever it is she puts out.
Everything is going according to plan <insert maniacal laughter>.
I got some more feedback from Jason today. Quite lengthy, actually, which is a good thing! As usual, it was a nice healthy combination of bugs, comments about things not clear, comments about things he really liked, feature requests, and more. I answered every question in-line, so it did take me a bit to actually get through it all, but it was well worth it.
The biggest thing I am happy about is the first iteration of performance fixes, which really just consisted of pulling all those areas out of the area list, as well as various other things (i.e. destroying creatures that have served their purpose in an area, lowering the perception distance on non-important NPC's, etc.), seem to have woked. He did get one crash, but he was able to make a lot of headway into the ALPHA, so that's a win in my book.
As I mentioned, the next interation will see my go through every level, and change how I did the lighting. I've done a lot of reading on the DA Wiki, and on the forums, and there seems to be a clear consensus on how to handle the application of static lights that affect the player, so as to not have sections in the area where their face is dark/black. I think once I implement those changes, I can get more of a positive increase in performance.
There were many other things brought up, which I can't really comment on here, but it was enough that I did not get a chance to do any actual development last night. Rather, it was spend writing my somewhat large reply, and then a bunch of brainstorming. Meh, it's okay, I have tomorrow to knock out a bunch of stuff.
This particular piece of music is very important to me. This is the music played during the opening cutscene of The Coming, where the player was introduced to the Keeper of the Rose for the first time. At the time, it was by far, the most complicated cutscene I had ever done. What it did though was set a standard, where every subsequent game now has to start with an intro talking about her, and her struggles, revealing a little more with each one.
P.S. Interesting that they're showing off a bunch of flowers, *cough* Roses *cough*, if you will...
11/2/10 -Tuesday: PRINCIPLE LEVEL DESIGN WORK BEGINS...
After doing some last minute measurements of the structures I needed in this level, I created the final level, with the final dimensions. I hope I didn't miss anything!
The first thing I did was import the structures from the prototyped level, and placed them accordingly. Then, I had to do some raising of the terrain, which of course I am a master of (not really!), having tested it out extensively these past 2 days.
Next, I started to work on a path through the forest leading up to this huge building. As you can see by the screenshot, it's very, very early. I really just wanted to get the general feel of how it should look, so I just added the same type of tree all over, painted down a dirt texture, and add some little bumps to the topography here and there, to make it look more realistic. The trick is making it look like there is a vast forest in the background, when of course there is just nothing, but the physical end of the level. The player won't really be able to run down the path that far anyway, so it shouldn't be too hard. Once the actual land itself is how I want it, I'll delete many of the trees I put down, and add different ones, for a little variety. I won't go too far with polishing at this point, but adding different trees is easy enough, so I'll take care of it now.
Tomorrow, after I finish up the stuff I talked about in the previous paragraph, I'll focus on creating and raising the terrain on the other side of the bridge. This will be slightly more difficult, because of the structures over there. They sit at different elevations at different parts, so I can't just raise everything to some static height, and be done with it. I'll start with said height, then raiser/lower where appropriate. Then I'll add some vegetation over there as well (i.e. trees).
So far, performance wise, things are running pretty smoothly. I just need to make sure to keep this level out of an area list!
With regards to ALPHA feedback, I got a little more today. Most of it was improvement related issues, a bug or two, and some general feelings as a while about the opening sequence. See, this is exactly what I wanted, early on. Better to get this feedback now, rather than ater I've already implemented a lot of the game. I'm going to hold off on fixing the improvement/bug related issues for a while, because I want to put my all into this level design. Plus, I just went through 10 days of bug fixing/testing, so it's not exactly #1 on my list of things I want to do after a long hard day at work :)
This song will always hold a special place in my heart. During the summer of 2008, while riding the train to work every day, I was read the Song of Ice & Fire series, and I had just picked up this CD. I'm not sure how it happened, but whenever I was reading anything about the Lannisters (Jamie, Cersei, Tyrion, etc.), this song was playing. Now, whenever I hear it, I associate it when them:)
I had been a Yanni fan since 1995, but had simply not picked up any of his music in years. So that year,I went on a binge, and got the entire catalogue of his music I didn't have. At the time, this was the last original work he had did (Ethnicity), and I was just so amazed at how it seemed to be his best work. Usually artists start out strong, then start to fizzle. 20 years into his career, and he was making his best music.
11/1/10 -Monday: WHAT A MONTH!
So, even though I planned on starting the principal work on this new level, I spent the night proto typing a little more. Some of the things I did included:
See how good I could get water to look from a distance, at a high elevation. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as just putting down the water, and letting the engine handle creating a horizon effect, or somethng like that. As has been the standard, I posed a thread about it on the level forums, and as expected, TimeLordDC had some solutions (one of which I had already comtemplated).
I messed around with creating some waterfalls. I didn't really need them in the level, I was just curious.
I tried out a bunch of different models to use for painting down textures, like grass, dirt, cobble stone, etc.
The biggest thing was finishing the huge structure you see in the background of the screenshot. The majority of it had been done for a while, but I knew I needed to add more to the west side of it. Not for anything else, I needed to know how big it would be, so I could come up with my final dimensions for the final level.
What's interesting about this building is that everything I've been working on for the past few months takes place inside (that's why you've essentially been seeing a lot of innterior screenshots). Being the perfectionist that I am, I really needed to make sure that the outside accurately reflected the inside.
This is the exact reason why it took so long to finish this building, and in turn, the level. The inside has gone through some changes, things have been added, removed, etc. Once the interior was locked down (which has just recently happened), it's given me the opportunity to finish off the exterior.
Because of the above bullet points, I am finally ready to go ahead and start the level. Obviously, the strcutures I've created in this prototype will transfer over, as I just need to export them. The actual terrain work I did will go much faster because of various tips I've picked up, as well as the fact that I didn't really do that much, and because of the nature of the area, doesn't require that much.
In other related news, I've received the first batch of feedback from Jason with regards to alpha version 1.0. It was weird, really. I've been making games since 2004, have released 2 of my own, 1 commercial one, and I was still as giddy as a school girl, yet as nervous as a teenager going on their first date when opening up said feedback thread. As confident as I am in my design skills, there's always going to be times when that little bit of self doubt comes into my mind. The little thing that asks the question, "Am I doing the right thing, taking this game in this direction? Will people like it? Should I just stick to the basics, and not try to be different?". I think, or rather should I say, I hope it's normal :) Anyway, the feedback didn't destroy my confidence, so I'm still here for another month at least!
STATE OF THE UNION
Right, so let's get the big one out of the way. I lost about 1/3 of the month due to various crashing related issues. It's well documented in many posts from last month, but the end result was that I learned a lot about the DA engine's limits, which is a good thing. Shit happens, and I just have to keep things moving.
I also spent another 1/3 of my time doing playtests, fixing bugs, implementing improvements, rinse repeat. It's not wasted time, though it does look that way when I look at the net gain of actual development for the month. But, it had to be done, so again, I just have to keep things moving. I would be lying if said I was happy with where I am. I definitely wanted to have more implemented... I guess it just means getting a little less sleep each night for a while. I'll survive.
So what's coming up this month? Cutscenes... I need to finish this level I'm currently working on, add some plot related scripts, and ccreate a short cutscene in it. I then need to finish another cutscene I started 2 months ago, but was never happy with. Then, there is this sort of final, big cutscene that happens at the end of the entire sequencne of events, before moving on to the next section of the game. In between all of that, there's really just a lot of polishing tasks that need to be done.
The big thing I would really like to get done though is VO. I talked about it last month, but I think we're finally there. Jason is of course playing the alpha, getting a feel for things, and no doubt restraining himself from telling me we need to re-write all the dialogue :) Seriously though, I hope we can get some key pieces edited, and start the casting process. I'll talk about how that will work later, but I do have some ideas on how to get it done.
Over the past few months, my work ethic has continued to increase, and I hope that trend continues, because I will need it, that's for sure.
STATE OF THE BIOWARE SOCIAL NETWORK
On the plus side, we've been seeing some profile projects being released, most notably, Baldur's Gate 2 Redux, and Dragon Age : Dark Times ACT I . I'm very proud of the teams for not only having a vision, but realizing said vision as well. I hope this really energizes the mod player population, and gets them ready for the next batch of projects, because...
...I'm not really sure why, but it just doesn't seem like many people seem interested in playable modules at all. Or shall I say, not in the same numbers as with NWN1 and NWN2. Now of course, it's clearly harder to develop games using this toolset versus the other ones, which means there is not much out there to play. But what is out there just doesn't seem to be doing well, in comparison.
I think I've mentioned it before, but it seems to be a certain mentality people have, and I'm not sure where it has come from. When I joined the NWN community, mod meant a playable module. That's what people came to NWVault for, more or less. Now, mod seems to mean some sort of modification to the core game. It seems like people seem to be more interested in.
Now, the majority of people seem to go to DA Nexus for their content, and maybe it's the mentality over there that has carried over from the Fallout and Elder Scrolls days. Even at the BSN, things aren't looking better. Of the playable modules that have content, I just don't see many comments on them. That's one thing I sorely miss about NWVault. Go look at the page for The Coming & Cry The Beloved. Tons of regular comments, and then the voting comments. With the current setup at BSN, I just see a "+" mark. Okay, what the hell does that really mean? I mean hell, I'm on the 2nd page with like 85, and I haven't even released anything yet! Everyone is different, but for me, feedback is the greatest tool to let me know if I'm good at what I do, and right now, I just don't know...
Do people just not like to leave comments regularly anymore? Are the currently released playable modules not good enough to deserve a comment? And don't get me started on the projects up there that won't see the light of day. God, I wish those could be cleaned up. Or, why is there a weapon/armor mod in the playable mods section? Maybe people just plain don't like the BSN project section? Sigh... Okay, enough ranting for today.
Regardless of the state of the BSN, I will continue doing what I do, hoping for a change that may never come...
While The Legend of Zelda series is one of my favorite of all time, I've never been too crazy about the music. Not too crazy, as in, having the music on my iPhone. This track however just put me under a spell. Can't really articulate why, but I love it, nonetheless. Enjoy!
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