Okay, not going to lie. I have Skyrim. It is beautiful. My life is now devoted to it. I've been still doing game development, but most of my free time has been spent with this game. To be fair, I essentially swapped out watching TV (my DVR list is getting HUGE) for playing it. Then again, I used to at least be able to do monkey work while watching various shows. Right, so that's that.
All of that said, I've still done a suprisingly good amount of work while on the train, in between doing other things. For one, I essentially finished all the plot scripting for this entire combat sequence. All I need to do is create a 5 second cutscene, some stages for some conversations, and the final enemy types the player will fight against. At this point, I've done enough balancing to last me for a while, so I'll come back to that later.
On that note, I decided to focus on some pure scripting tasks. More specifcially, Bonds of Battle.Now, it's already half implemented. BOB points are awarded in the game properly, and have been for quite some time. The only thing I haven't implemented is the actual skills you earn once you've passed a certain tier (i.e. 100 BOB points).
Now, as a returning system from my NWN modules, I was able to port over the majority of the functionality quite easily. The only thing I'm going to change is how the skills are used. Before, everything ran off the module's heartbeat, and every 6 seconds, if the 2 party members were near each other and had the skill unlocked, it will be activated. This time, I'm going to make it run off the heartbeats of the party members themselves.
I'll also have to add the skills themselves to the existing ability UI page, but that's something I'll deal with after I have the skills working properly.
Today's music is from a boss fight, music I could imagine in some older JRPG's. Enjoy!
11/15/11 -Tuesday: METHODICALLY CHIPPING AWAY...
I've sort of been in the zone the past few days. When I would usually pass out on the train, or be busy doing something else, I've been methodically chipping away at stuff that needs to be done.
Also somewhat interesting is that I've been doing a lot more implementation, and a lot less testing. This just isn't really how I develop. I like to program something, test it out, program a little something else, test it out, rinse, repeat. For the past few days, I've spent like 90% of my time writing code that I'm not even sure works or not. Now, there is a practical reason for this......My damn laptop battery.
So, I used to be able to use it for an entire one way commute with no issues. Now, whenever I'm actually playing the game, the battery gets drained like crazy. If I stick to just the toolset and other things, it's much better. It's because of this constraint that I've had to adopt this new development style. I know this is normal for laptop batteries, but it's still annoying... As much as I don't want to, I think I'll have to get a new one.
Anyway, no excuses, development must continue!
In terms of what I did, it was just a lot of plot scripting, gluing various portions of some sequences together. I've also been making minor changes to existing custom abilities on demand, meaning whenever I see something I like during all the combat testing I've been doing, I'm tweaking it slightly. I love the constant iteration of ability design :)
Tomorrow, I'll begin by testing the changes I've made. Ideally, it will just work. Realistically speaking however...
This week's music is from another game series that had music that seemed to almost out of place, much like Super Mario Galaxy . I'm taking you guys back, back into time... Welcome to Donkey Kong Country!
This first bit of music is definitely a track that anyone who played the game would remember. When I first heard it, I was simply amazed. I remember that the game came with a free soundtrack, and I would pop that baby in everyday and listen to this track, brainstorming. Now, this was 1994, 5 years before Rose of Eternity was conceived, but even back then, I would think of situations to put into RPG's.
11/13/11 -Sunday: OKAY, THAT WASN'T SO BAD EITHER!
So, as planned, I implemented this little cutscene that precedes this boss fight I worked on yesterday. Even though it's literally 16 seconds long, in the back of my head, I figured something would happen to screw things up. Luckily, I was able to focus (especially since I had turned off the Giants football game that was causing me to go into cardiac arrest) and knock it out really quickly.
Now, I only created the cutscene itself, and a few new plot scripts to handle starting the music for it, showing the cutscene, then starting the fight. I still need to hook it into a conversation, and that conversation itself still needs to be written, as well as tied into the existing sequence. But that's the easy part.
Tomorrow, I think I'll start writing the aforementioned conversation, and perhaps another one that will be just a little longer.
Skyrim... Oh, Skyrim, how you have brought joy to my life. Okay, so I got this game on Friday. I was actually late to the party, only having played/beat Oblivion back in 2009. Even still, the charms of the game took over my life. Well, until I got tired of shutting Obilvion gates over and over again... Sigh...
Regardless, when Skyrim was announced, I knew it was a day one purchase for me. As busy as I am, I knew I needed to make time for it, and in general, video games as a whole. Well so far, I have been truly amazed. If I had to break it down:
The fully realized open world has really drawn me in. Look, everyone knows that's what these games are all about, but with this new graphics engine, it just takes it to another level. Everywhere I go, and I mean everywhere, I'm constantly amazed. Simply walking around the world is fun in itself, and that is the key to this game for me. Normally, I would like a more structured game with a tighter main story. I'm not a guy that really wants to do a bunch of side quests for the sake of doing side quests. Except in this game, for some reason, it's the total opposite! I love getting a quest, taking 30 minutes to travel through some forest or snow capped mountains in order to get there. It's hard to explain, but it's just the process of playing the game that is so damn fun. I want to get a quest that will take me down by this beautiful river, or one that will take me into this abandoned fort. As long as I can walk around and be stunned by these visuals, I'm up for anything.
Keying off of my first bullet point, the thing that brings it together is the music itself. I know I go on and on about ambient music, but if there is one game that pulls it off perfectly, it's the Elder Scrolls series, and Skyrim has taken it to new heights. Many times, I've just rotated the camera around, taking in the stunning vistas, while listening to the music. I gotta find this soundtrack to buy, and quickly!
Dragons... That is all...
Anyway, yeah, that's my thoughts after putting in 11 hours. As I've been playing, I can't help but think: what if Dragon Age had graphics like this? Yeah yeah, I know graphics don't make the game, the gameplay and everything else does. I get this. But if you have the gameplay and the graphics. Woo baby!
Today's final piece from Super Mario Galaxy is appropriate, since it's the theme to the final boss fight with Bowser. As with yesterday's, it's totally epic and ridiculous. Remember folks, this is a mario game, not Final Fantasy! Enjoy!
11/12/11 -Saturday: WELL, THAT WASN'T SO BAD...
So, I started working on the boss fight, and wouldn't you know it, it wasn't that bad at all. I started out creating the appropriate gear for all the combatants, as well as creating the creature blueprints themselves. After that, I dropped them in the area, setup some test scripts to start the fight, and I was off.
Now, as usual, the only thing that took a lot of time was determining how I was going to implement it. More specifically, the boss fight includes returning characters, albeit a bit stronger. Stronger as in, higher level, possibly some new custom abilities, and the aforementioned new armor. Now, I could have used the same blueprint, and made everything reliant on scripts, making sure to add the appropriate gear, level, etc. when spawned. In the end, just because I really need to finish this game, I just created new blueprints. It sucks because now when I make a change to one, I'll have to do it to the other (i.e. face morph), but it was the quickest solution, and well, here we are.
The most surprising thing was how balanced the combat seemed from the start. Now, I've only tested it on normal, but still, it was difficult, yet doable. I definitely had to make use of all custom abilities given out thus far in the game, and I definitely had to do a lot of pausing and such, but I was just able to get by. We'll see how it looks on Hard.
Tomorrow, since I'm home and have access to a mouse, I'll start (and hopefully finish) a brief intro cutscene for the boss fight. I already have the music integrated into the game, and have a general idea of what I want, so if I can focus, I should be able to knock it out.
Today's piece of music is another... piece of magic. You won't be able to hear it from this piece, but at certain points during the actual game, depending on what is happening, a choir can be heard singing along. I mean, you will hear a choir, but in the game, it's totally dynamic when it comes in, and it's totally seamless. Really, Nintendo has been doing this in their games for years. The first example that pops in my head is when playing Mario 64 in the first water stage. When above water, the music is normal. As soon as you go underwater, it becomes more subdued, and they're really just removing a few instruments from the overall piece to get the effect. Bah, I can't really explain it, but if you've played it, you know what I mean.
11/11/11 -Friday: I'M ALIVE... AGAIN!
So, if you're reading this, that means I survived yet another plane ride. Woo hoo! There seemed to be much more turbulance on the way down this time, but meh, what can you do? I'm getting more and more used to it, which is a good thing. In fact, I was able to get some work done on the flight itself!
The work itself is stuff I had been looking at a week ago, and talked about in my last post. In short, I had to figure out a way to spawn a particular type of enemy that has a particular core script. "A" solution was always available, it was attempting to find the most elegant solution which is what took the most time. In the end, I decided against creating a new blueprint for this new enemy with the new core script, and decided to spawn the existing one, and right afterwards, calling SetEventScript, and passing in the appropriate script. Now, I haven't actually tested this out, as I had to stop once we began our descent, but I think it's pretty rock solid.
After getting situated at home, I decided to do some monkey work while methodically clearing out my DVR. It was something really small, but something I've been wanting to do for years (yes, years, dating back to Cry The Beloved!). Whenever I have created custom abilities, ones that apply effects such as stun, I have never utilized the core system's spell resistance functionality.
A good example is Mighty Howl. In short, when used, it will stun a set number of enemies within a specific radius (both determined by the level of the user? sad I can't remember) for 5 seconds. Now, when I apply the stun effect, that's it. I don't do any spell resistance checks, or anything like that. I think at the time, my thinking was this: this particular enemy (Shinkara Worg) should be semi difficult, even once the player gets up in level. They should still be feared, ever so slightly.
Well, these enemies have made the transition to this game, and I am faced with the same question. This time though, I have finally decided to put in the spell resistance check, because even though I want the worg to be feared, the player should get some benefit from rising through the ranks.
So in the end, I just used the existing functionality the game supplies. I may tweak it to make sure the player has to pass one hell of a check, but that's something for later.
Next up is a little change of pace. I was supposed to implement more combat sequences, but I think I want to move to the boss battle itself, and get that done and dusted. This is going to include creating some new armor, giving it custom tints, possibly a new Last Resort, adding new music in, and of course, testing it. As usual, I need these changes of pace so I don't drive myself crazy.
I know I've played this song for you all before, but really, to me, this is the song that defines Super Mario Galaxy, and the one that had me totally sold on fully orchestrated game soundtracks. I'm hoping Skyward Sword will have music on par with this. Enjoy!
11/5/11 -Saturday: IF YOU'RE READING THIS, IT MEANS I'M STILL ALIVE!!!
Yeah, let's get this out of the way. I HATE flying. I've only had to do 2 round trip flights over the past 5 years, so it's clearly not something I'm used to. I'll never forget when I was nominated for best NWN mod at the Developer's Choice Awards at the 2006 Game Developer's Conference in San Jose. It was bittersweet, because on one hand, I was extremely proud. On the other, I knew I had to fly out there. Man, such stressful times...
At any rate, I am currently writing this while on a Jet Blue flight from New York to Orlando. Since there is no internet on this flight, if you're actually reading this, it means I'm still alive! At the moment, I'm feeling pretty decent, actually. I was a little nervous this morning, and at the airport. Me being the paranoid person I am, I had no isse going through security. In my head, I was like, "Screw this, random checks on everyone! This is my life we're talking about!". Most people want to just get on with it, and I'm there making sure the TSA is screening everyone. I don't want no problems on my flight!
Okay, all of my ridiculous thoughts aside, like I said, I'm feeling pretty good. I feel like I'm sort of getting the hang of it. Okay, I did have some wine. Hah, you should have seen the look on the flight attendant's face when I was asking for a small bottle of their white wine during a 6:15 am flight. Hey, whatever helps, right?
Right, so in terms of development... nothing... I'm still trying to figure out how to solve one of the issues I talked about yesterday, and I'm always brainstorming in general, but as far as concrete tasks, I haven't done anything. I was just too stressed out about the flight to really worry about anything Rose of Eternity related.
Well, that's about it. Since I am feeling a little better, I am about to try to do some development for the lats hour or so of the flight... Who knows, maybe I'll get some inspiration from something.
Another classic from Super Mario Galaxy. While most of the other tracks have that epic feeling to them, this is more in line with classic mario music. And still, it just works... I had a lot of fun playing through this haunted area. Anyway, Enjoy!
11/4/11 -Friday: MUCH NEEDED BUG FIXES, AND ENHANCEMENTS!
So, I've had this little bug for a few days now, where the combat sequence wouldn't move to the next scene after a particular fight. I can't go too much into detail without spoiling things, but I can say it was because of a particular custom creature, and more specifically, their core script. All the enemies in this scene have a specialized core script that tells the system they're involved, and this particular enemy did not have said script, so it was screwing things up. Now, I haven't fixed it yet, because the solution isn't straightforward, but I do know the issue, and that's the most important thing.
The other thing I worked on was one of those weird light bulb ideas. What that means is, I'm sitting somewhere, most likely listening to music, and idea just hits me. In this particular situation, I was brainstorming about something that could potentially happen many games down the line, and for whatever reason, this idea just popped in my brain.
The first thing I did was get right to work on how to implement it. I probably sat in front of my laptop for 20 minutes, before deciding on the most elegant way to code it. As with the bug fix I talked about above, I usually spend more time on figuring out how to code it the right way, than the actual coding. Anyway, once I knew what I wanted, it only took a few minutes to write a 4 liner in an existing core script, and my work was done. The best part of this type of addition is that it was easy to implement, but it compliments the existing story really well. See, sometimes it isn't all doom and gloom :)
Tomorrow, I plan on getting as much done as possible, because, well, I'll be in Orlando next week. I will of course be bringing my laptop with me, so you may see a blog post or 2, but I doubt I'll be doing any development. Maybe I'll do what I did during my honeymoon, where I have themed blog posts for the week.
I'll never forget the first time I heard this theme. I was literally thinking like, "Are you kidding me? Is this a Super Mario game, Legend of Zelda?!" Enjoy!
11/1/11 -Tuesday: WHY DO I DO THIS?
STATE OF THE UNION
Well, folks, here we are, another month upon us. I feel like I've been blogging for so long (off and on) that they're just all blended into the same month. November? July? January? All the same to me...
So, overall, it's been a pretty productive month for me. Gone were the days of spending all my time integrating VO. This month was all about developing as much new content as possible. Especially since I missed out on a month or so, it was really needed. Now, it's not like that previous month was a waste, because the VO had to be added at some point. Still, it was nice to get back to other things.
So what did I do? Well, I implemented and tested a ton of various combat sequences. I added a new custom core ability for a party member. I got over my VFX hump, and began to really start making better use of them. I created an entirely new system to supplement all the combat sequences I've created. I wrote a lot of dialogue. Created some cutscenes. All in all, I think I did a lot, and given the importance of the scene I worked on all month, it was well worth it. Even still, while all of this was going on, the thoughts a developer never wants to have creep in their head were, well, creeping in my head: Why do I do this?
If the year was 2004, the answer was simple: Begin to hone my design skills with The Coming , in hopes of getting a job in the game industry one day. In the year 2006, the answer was: Get as high of a rating as possible with Cry The Beloved , get more recognition, and inch even closer to my overall dream/goal. In some ways, I did achieve my goals, albeit, not in the exact way I had imagined. I have worked on commercial games, so technically, I guess that constitues the video game industry. At the same time, it was just contract work. Side stuff that was never going to pay the bills. But, experience is experience, and it was time well spent.
Now here I am, at the end of 2011. The way I felt 2 years ago was dramatcially different. Dragon Age had just be released, and there were promises of a modding community that would rival the great Neverwinter Nights. Full support by Bioware. Wikis. Highlighted modules. Toolset patches. I mean hell, they even had a toolset beta, where they flew people from all around the world to their offices in Edmonton to test it out. Things were looking up.
Clearly, things have not worked out as I (naively) anticipated. But really, if you throw all of that stuff to the side, it's nothing that is going to stop me from making a game. The problem is, it stopped others from making games, and so, there are a lack of games, and a lack of players playing them (this is all relative to the NWN days, and hell, evem NWN2 to some extent). I remember the fear of releasing a module for NWN, hoping it would get recognized amongst all the other 1000's of mods that were out. Turns out,I wish I had that same worry now :) The real question is, is there anyone out there still playing modules today? And that leads me to the question I posed in the title for today's update: Why do I do this?
Well, the core answer is the same: get into the video game industry full time. However, things have changed a bit. While I would take a job at a company, I would rather do my own thing at this point. I feel strong enough about the Rose of Eternity brand, that I would like to create my own future. So yeah, maybe I won't compile upwards of 40K DL's like I did with my NWN mods. That's fine. At this point, 5K would be nice :) Really, I just want to get something out there, and get player feedback on it. In the end, it will help me grow as a developer. At the same time, I may end up meeting more collaborators who share a similiar dream as mine. When I was developing The Coming, no one gave a shit (why would they, I was just some up and coming developer who thought he had a good game). However, after it was released, I had the type of support I could only dream about. It was the type of support I didn't know existed (i.e. free!), and to this day, I'm very greatful for those who took time out of their day to help me. The fact that some of them are still around 6 years later (i.e. Jason) is a testament to that support.
Well, I would like to get another team together like that, in order to do even bigger and better things than what I'm working on. But in my experience, you need to prove yourself. Just creating a thread asking for people to join a project doesn't seem efficient to me. People want to know you're not just all talk, and that you won't be slipping into the shadows weeks from creating said thread. So what better way than to release a game? That in itself shows people you have what it takes to see something through to the end. Sure, I've already done 2 prior games, but I feel that doesn't count anymore. That was 5 years ago, and I can only milk it for so long :)
Oh, and a text message conversation between myself and one of my best friends is another reason I do this:
Me: U getting battlefield 3 at any point (I know you're not getting mw3)
Friend: Sorry about late reponse, no on bf. Am getting uc3 (Uncharted 3)
Me: No worries. Don't even have time to play bf3 that much at the moment anyway
Friend: Busy with your game? Mad you didn't let me put my voice skills up in there
Me: Man, I totally forgot. When I'm adding more voices, u can still do it. U can record on your computer at home and send me the exported sound file. And yeah, busy with my game.
Friend: I give you a lot of credit for following your dream. Real proud of you len
Today, I integrated an existing custom enemy into the combat scenario. This one had to be handled a little differently, mostly because of where they will be spawning. So, I just had to extend my new system a bit to account for them. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, as these enemies add a nice little wrinkle to an already complicated situation.
I'm still on the fence about the new custom enemy, so I'm going to shelve the idea for the moment. What I going to do is implement the next combat sequence with temporary enemies, just so I can glue all the plot related scenes together. Once it's flowing just right, I can always go in and change who you're fighting, and how much of them there are. Hell, even when this is done, I'm sure I'll be back here fine tuning it later.
At the moment, there is a small bug in the system, which is making it impossible to test the sequence in its entirety, so that is what I'll focus on fixing tomorrow. Once that is done, I'll add in those temporary enemies as described above, then handle all the little plot things. That's just some scripting, a little dialogue, and oh, maybe like a 6 second cutscene. On a side note, yay for short cutscenes. Trust me, I love me some long and detailed cutscenes, but sometimes, short ones are the best :)
When all of that is done, I'll be implementing the final major boss battle in the game. Ah, I can totally envision it now. And I can totally envision it changing from my original vision once I actually implement it :)