Today was a pretty steady day. I essentially did what I set out to do, as discussed in yesterday's post. I added some pre-cutscene dialogue, as well as some post-cutscene dialogue. At this point, everything is linked exactly the way I'd like it. Nothing like having everything connected, because now, if I wanted to, I could play the entire game from the beginning up until this point without any issues (I hope!).
The next thing on my to do list was to design this new enemy. The problem is, while I knew what type of enemy I wanted to create, and how they would be different from the others, I couldn't make it work within the confines of the story. In other words, I had to ask myself the question: Would this faction actually have something like this in their ranks? The answer was a resounding no, unfortunately.
I do have another existing unit to add to their ranks, however, I just need to add in some extra logic to make it work with the particulart scene. So that's what I'll work on tomorrow.
This week's music is going to be from Super Mario Galaxy, a game series I would have never thought would go hand in hand with great music. However, someone at Nintendo made the decision to go with a live orchestra to record the music, and the results were some of the best video game music I had ever heard... Period... Oh yeah, and the game was pretty good too. Good as in, ranked in the top 3 (last I checked) at gamerankings.com. What's #1? Zelda, baby!
10/30/11 -Sunday: VERY GOOD PROGRESS...
Even though I haven't posted in a few days, I've made pretty good progress, which I'm very happy about. My time was mostly spent gluing together various parts of the plot that I had been developing in isolation up until this point. And of course, I found some time to do some combat balancing :)
For my gluing tasks, the most significant work (relatively speaking) I did was design a bunch of small cutscenes. When I say small, I'm talking like 20 seconds, and 14 seconds. Besides the fact that they were short, I also knew what I wanted going in, and since I consider myself a veteran with them, I was able to kock them out pretty quickly, with all sorts of distractions (i.e. football). For one of the cutscenes, there are various special effects that need to be in it, and I could have approached it from a few different angles. One would be to literally add the VFX to the cutscene timeline, attach them to the actor, and specify when they should start/end. In my case though, these VFX also need to be present outside of the cutscene, so simply starting the VFX before the cutscene starts, then running the cutscene allows me to have it included, without explicitly adding it, which can get annoying as you keep adding more and more. The only issue was the lack of sound effects. Then again, I'm going to have to go back through all the cutscenes, and add sound effects. Not looking forward to that at all...
The only other work I did was a bunch of plot related scripting, making sure everything flows properly. At this point, all I need to do is add a few lines of dialogue before one cutscene, and a few lines after another cutscene, and I can pretty much call it a day. Then, I'll be back to more combat design. I've brought it up before, but I need to add at least one more custom enemy that has a particular way they need to be defeated. Gotta keep things interesting, you know? There's also a boss fight looming in the back of my head, one I've known about for a while. I already know who's in it, the music that will play, and even some of the leadup dialogue. In fact, it shouldn't even take that much work to get it working. But, I'll get there soon enough.
Probably since Final Fantasy 7/8, I've been complaining to friends that Square needs to get back to old school Final Fantasy. By old school, I'm talking about going back to a time where the most technology they had was steam power. I'm talking of snow capped mountains, lush forests, beautiful castles, and for the love of god, party members that actually have distinct abilities. These days, it seems every party member can use every ability (I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy XII).
So anyway, that's been my thing for more than a decade. It's not like I'm some fanatic, going to various forums and posting my thoughts and arguing with people over what a true Final Fanatsy is. I just figured that time had passed us by, and there was nothing that could be done about it. While I still think that, it was nice to see this articlefrom IGN where the author essentially agreed with all of my points. Ah, to go back to the golden era of RPG's...
I've missed a hell of a lot of days, but interestingly enough, on this Sunday, I'm ready to post my final song from the Lunar series. I'm not actually sure what it's from, I just know it's off an album titled Lunar: Lunatic Festa Volume 2. During the good old days when I used to listen to RPGFan radio every day, I was introduced to this song. Interestingly, as I write this, I realize I could spend a few precious seconds to google it, but well, it would take a few precious seconds, and I'm lazy like that. Enjoy!
10/26/11 -Wednesday: VERY GOOD DAY OF DEVELOPMENT!
Today ended up being a very good day of development! I was able to make in roads with some very much needed plot related scripting, some work with visual effects, and the entire combat sequence as a whole.
With regards to the plot scripting, it wasn't neccessarily difficult stuff, it was just that I needed to tie in all these little snippets of code from all these different places into one cohesive plot script. When I started doing this whole combat sequence, I sort of just hacked things together so that I could jump into the game and immediately start with it. Now that things are looking good with the combat, it was time to tie it into the game part of the game, so that the player can seamlessly transition to it from where it should start. I should point out that it's not all tied together yet, but it's very close. I just need to add a quick 10 second cutscene, and it'll be good to go I think. That's something I'll clearly have to do at home.
Next up was visual effects. I know I've bitched and moaned about it since the beginning of time, but I was lucky enough to really find the effects that I needed. It all started when I found VFX for that new custom ability. I had already played around many others leading up to that point, so I was already starting to feel more comfortable with it. Well, during this sequence, it's not just the fighting that is going on. There are other things going on in the background, things that needed to look spectactular. That would only be the case if I was able to get the right VFX. After maybe 20 minutes, I was good go. So, looks like things are turning around!
As for the sequence in it's entirety, I think the first phase is pretty much done. I'm trying to go for something semi-epic here, and duration is definitely something that is high on my list. So, I pulled out a stop watch (on my phone! not like I have one sitting around), and timed how long it took me to finish it. I got to 9 minutes, and died, with maybe another few minutes still to come, and that's exactly what I wanted.
Look, I know all you've been reading on this damn blog is stuff about this sequence, but I'm such a perfectionist, I can't help it. At any rate, it's getting closer and closer to my original conception, so I guess it's worth it in the end.
Tomorrow, I'll continue gluing together the plot scripts, and will hopefully have that finished up. Then, a little level design is needed, and after that, I can get back to more combat (yes, there is more!).
For today's music, I have a track that perhaps only fan of JRPG's will like. It's the standard issue JRPG song with a woman singing. Still, whenever I hear this song, I think back to 2004. My friend (the one I was discussing earlier in the week) had given me this soundtrack, and I had just got my first iPod. I had just started my first job as a programmer, and I used to listen to it all the time during my commute to Manhattan. Ah, memories. Anyway, enjoy!
10/25/11 -Tuesday: ANOTHER PHASE COMPLETE...
I know it sounds like I've been talking about some combat design for what seems like ages, and some of you may be wondering, "What the hell is he doing, and why so much combat?". Well sorry, I have no answer for you, except for vague descriptions on what I've been doing. And without further ado...
...I more or less finished the latest phase of the combat scenario. I need to stop geeking out and trying to perfectly balance it for the moment, as I really have other things to work on. However, what I do have, I am currently happy with, and I think it provides a sufficient challenge to the player, without being overly difficult. At this point in the game, the player has 2 custom core abilities, a Last Resort, and one of the party members with them in this scene has the exact number. In other words, they have plenty of stuff to play around with, and more importantly, they would have been using them for a while. So, while it may seem tough at first, if the player makes use of all their abilities, they'll be fine. Remember, no ability is put into the game just for the sake of having a new ability.
Tomorrow, I'm going to switch gears a bit, and do some plot related scripting, setting up this sequence I've been working on. I may also handle some of the stuff that happens after it as well. Some dialogue needs to be written as well. I hope to knock out a significant part of that on the train, and deal with the stages, potential short cutscenes at home.
So, it's that time of the year where a shitload of games start to come out. Huge on my list are Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 (yes, it is possible to keep an open mind and like multiple shooters!), Skyrim, & Skyward Sword. I guess I could throw Super Mario 3D Land in there as well.
Now, one particular game not on that list is Uncharted 3. I have never played any of the games in that series, but I do want to start from the beginning at some point. I'm not a action/adventure game type of player, but there is something that seems special about those games, especially from the 2nd one on.
Anyway, I was on Giantbomb last night, and came across this artilcewhich essentially discusses the aftermath of a review of Uncharted 3. In short, the reviewer gave it an 8.0, which is welll below the average at the moment. And the fanboys go crazy!
Now, in theory, I don't have an issue with this review. It absolutely irritates the shit out of me when other people get mad that someone doesn't feel the same way about a game that they do. It's like, "Well, this game is clearly a 10, you don't know what you're talking about. Maybe you didn't play it right", and other nonesensical things. Forget about the fact that someone may literally just not like the game. *Gasp*. Shocking, I know. For instance, I know people love Gears of War. I understand Assassin's Creed 2 and up are great games. Grand Theft Auto? Classic. They're just not for me. Isn't this a crazy world we live in? :)
What I do have a problem with is people doing reviews, comparing the current game to a previous game. I understand the whys and whatnot, my issue is this: If someone comes along and decides they want to play Uncharted 3, looks at the gamespot review of 9.0, then looks at the review of Uncharted 2 and sees it got a 9.5, they may think the game has regressed, when in fact, the game just gave the player a lot more of the same. I mean, that particular reviewer said that it was more of the same, and since it didn't live up to some ridiculous expectations they set for themselves, it was a bit of a disappointment. Then, if they're looking at Gears of War 3, see it got a 9.5, they may be thinking, "Well, clearly, Gears is a better game".
But wait a minute, Uncharted 3 may he worth a 9.5, the reviewer docked .5 points because it didn't do anything different from Uncharted 2 (which doesn't mean it's still not a good game). Am I making sense, or am I just rambling like an idiot? Should I just stick to game design, and stop defending games I don't even play? :)
I don't know, I just feel games should be evaluated on their own merits, not others. Judge the game for what it is, and not for what it's not. I'd like to see absolute scores, not relative ones. I don't give a shit if Call of Duty hasn't drastically changed their formula in a few years. What was good then is still good now (for many people). I'd hate the see it get lower scores for doing the exact same thing as its former games. If it's the exact same game, give it the exact same score, and be done with it.
*Shrug* Maybe I'll get back to development. I'm quite tired, and I'm not even sure if I'm making sense. Just needed to get this off my chest :)
10/24/11 -Monday: CREATING THE CORRECT BALANCE PART 2...
Today, I continued where I left off yesterday, thinking about my friend's feedback. I sent him a txt telling him to call me later in the day when he had the chance, so we could further discuss things. After an hour or so of talking, we both agreed his main issue was the following: He felt like he needed a little more combat, not so much for the hack and slash part of it, but just to really get a feeling for the world, the setting, the characters, etc. He felt as if he was rushed into a particularly large battle, before he had gotten his feet wet, so to speak.
Now from my perspective, I was actually scared I was putting too much combat! I know that things get combat heavy later, but he didn't know that, so from his perspective, he thought the game was going to be light on combat. It's an interesting situation... He agreed he would have continued to keep playing, so the question has to be asked, "Is not knowing how things are going to play out a bad thing?". He began to go on about RPG conventions again, and I stood firm, telling him I was not going to be a slave to "conventions" and other things from the past. He told me there were things sacred to him, like needing fire/acid to kill trolls (he's a DnD guy, sigh...), and I pretty much changed the sibject, because I wasn't going to go down that path. This is not DnD. Hell, I had to deal with that using the NWN engine, but DAO isn't even DnD based,, so I don't even want to have it brought up. It's one of the many reasons I chose this engine over the NWN2 one.
Anyway, as the conversation started to get off topic, we went back to the issue at hand: How could we add some stuff, so that he felt a little more comfortable once he got to this one particular section, without it being simple filler? Well, as I discussed yesterday, I already had an idea in place on how to add some more gameplay segments that certainly weren't filler, I told him about it, and he really liked the idea.
Ah, compromise... What a concept :) As an aside, while I don't discuss it that much because it would give away too much about the story, Jason and I have had these back and forths since pretty much 2006. I've always stood firm where I believe I needed to, while also totally giving in where he was right, and I was wrong. It was just interesting to go through this process with someone not involved in the development of the game.
Right, so yeah, I did do some development as well. I finally made some much needed changes to a particular level. 95% of the level was just fine, but this one little section was just too wide open for my tastes. Something can always look good in the editor, but you never reallyget the full sense of scale until you actually test it. Anyway, I had been living with the way it looked for the past few weeks, so I could focus on other things, but decided to finally just go ahead and make the change today.
After making the changes to the level, I did some combat testing in it, just to make sure the AI wasn't doing anything stupid, and luckily, it worked out just fine. Anyway, it feels good to put it behind me. Now I can go back to implementing more combat for this sequence. All I need to do is test out another set of enemies, and then I need to start thinking about a new custom enemy.
I found an article at IGN that I thought was going to be better than it ended up being, having to do with RPG's, where they have come from, and where they are going. I had hoped it would have been a little more meaty, but it's a good decent read nonetheless.
While I never played Lunar fully, by the name, and the sound of it, this seems like some boss battle music. Enjoy!
10/23/11 -Sunday: CREATING THE CORRECT BALANCE...
So, it's been a pretty eventful past few days. I've been off work since Friday, and I'll have off tomorrow. In the days thus far, I've had one hell of a time. On Friday, my wife and I went to the wedding of an old friend, Michelle Simek . When I mean old, I'm talking, we knew each other since the old high scool days back in 1995. In fact, the thing that linked us, and the majority of the people we talked to at the wedding was that we all worked at McDonalds in our hometown. It was like a right of passage or something. You turn 15, you go to work at McDonalds. Hell, I worked there for 4 years (1995-1999), and still have recurring dreams (nightmares?) about it a few times a year. I even met my wife there, lol. So yeah, it was great to get everyone back together to reminisce about the good old days. The final piece of the puzzle was the owner of that branch, and many others in our area, being at the wedding too. I hadn't talk to him since 1999, and you could tell he had a sort of pride in the fact that he was the first employer for many of us, and was able to see how we had moved on to other things.
While this was going on, 2 of my best friends from Maryland were on their way up. As soon as we left the wedding at 11pm, I had my wife drop me off at this bar to meet them. Bear in mind, I had been drinking at the wedding since 6pm, and was already feeling pretty good, and the night was just getting started it seemed. It was good to see them again, and of course, reminisce about all the good times from high school (one of them also worked at McDonalds!).
The next day, they stopped over around noon to see my apartment for the first time, and we just hung out, talking about video games, politics, etc. I also used it as an opportunity to show off Rose of Eternity, in order to see what they thought. It was good to see someone play it in person, so I could get their reactions to the events that played out (more on that later). Around 6pm, they left, but everyone was planning on meeting back at my place at 10pm to hit up some new clubs in the area. We went to this new place down the block from my apartment for a while, and after one of my wife's friends showed up, we went to another place that had revamped it's style from a standard issue bar to a full fledged club. We met up with other friends, saw lots of other people we hadn't seen in years, and had one hell of a time. It was a night for the ages. I paid for it for most of today, and wasn't able to do anything requiring brain power until around 5pm...
So, with everything going on, development definitely took a backseat. I was able to recover late in the day, and get back to it, luckily. The first thing I did was finally take the database file Jason has been having issues with, and restore it on my desktop. I actually was hoping that it wouldn't work, because then I knew the fault would lie with me, and how I created the database file. Unfortunately, it did work, now we're back at square one. I emailed him my results, and I guess we'll move on to the next step. Something has to give at some point!
The next thing I did, since I was feeling so inclined, was to mess around with some new special effects for the new custom ability I created last week. I've already discussed how annoyed I am with the system as a whole, where there isnt' just one include file that contains all the constants, and even worse, there is no easy way to visual see each effect without just testing them out. Seems I got lucky though, and was able to quickly find a visual effect that really went with the ability. So I guess it's not all bad.
Now, the topic I've alluded to in this update's title is what I'd like to briefly talk about. As I said earlier, my friend played through some early parts of the game, and had some feedback towards the end of the playthrough. Now, I need to preface this by saying
He only played 20-25 minutes of actual content, even though it took much longer because he was stopping to talk to me about certain things, had me explain how I was doing certain things, etc.
He is a huge fan of Dragon Age Origins, but played it on the 360. He's totally clueless when it comes to the PC, and had one hell of a hard time playing the game. It was actually quite weird to see someone struggle with PC controls. I wonder if this is how PC centric players feel when they grab a 360 controller.
He played the game on easy.
Anyway, he essentially told me that while the story itself was really well done (he really liked the presentation), he was wondering if there was going to be more combat. My heart sunk in my stomach a bit. More combat? Really? Of the 20-25 minutes of actual gameplay he saw, I would estimate that at least 40% of it was combat focused. If I had to break it down, it is something like this:
Intro cutscene, followed by some brief exposition, then full control is given to player.
A few different combat sequences, sandwiched in between dialogue.
Some more exposition, folllowed by a pretty huge fight, followed by an aftermath scene.
The player leaves the opening area, and is brought to another level, with an opening scene, followed by some dialogue (that he didn't finish, as he started to bring up his concerns).
Now, I need to continue to stress, this is only 20-25 minutes of gameplay. It may seem like something that takes longer, but it's really not. So we began our discussion (which I admit turned into a heated argument) about where the game was going, and if it was going to have more combat. I was sort of perplexed because, he had only played for so long, and there was already what I thought to be, a decent amount of combat.
I guess from my perspective, how can you begin to question the amount of combat, when you haven't been playing for that long. From his perspective, he thought that the combat was too easy, and the big battle went by really fast. I pointed out that the game was on easy, and thus, it made sense. If he had had it on hard or nightmare, it would have been a different story. That big battle plays out so much differently, mostly from a strategic point of view. He then suggested to me that people playing it would start on easy until they felt comfortable playing it. I then realized where the disconnect was...
...He is not familiar with the modding community, or modding in general. I told him (which is something I am going out on a limb and assuming) that anyone playing this game will have already played through the OC, and won't play on easy, until they learn how to properly use Pommel Strike, Shield Bash, and Shield Defense. In my eyes, they will feel totally at home. He then suggested that maybe someone would DL and play this without ever having played the OC, from which I replied "I highly doubt it, and if so, well damn, I can't take into account every situation".
Next up on the table for argument was when he asked me, "Well, are there dungeons in this game?". Sigh... It's almost as if, because it wasn't following a certain pattern (i.e. town, dungeon, boss fight, town, dungeon, boss fight), he was getting confused. I went into a pretty preachy speech lasting 20 minutes or so on how I don't want to follow conventions for the sake of following conventions. I'm not building the framework of how an RPG is supposed to be structured, followed by adding in the story. I''ve created this story and world, and now I'm creating the gameplay/combat around it. Yes, I do brainstorm particular set pieces and integrate them into the story, but it's always story based. I essentially told him I didn't want to have combat just for the sake of having combat. He let me know he likes to grind, bringing up experiences from Final Fantasy 3. Fair enough. I told him this is not that type of RPG, in that respect.
Now, I'm not totally hard headed. I did start to think about this opening sequence as a whole. I did start to think about how to add more story related combat sequences, that fit into the existing structure. In fact, I have myself thought about doing it for a while (had ideas in my head and whatnot), but his complaints have just moved it up my priority list a bit. I think his complaints have brought up something that I have been guilty of doing in the past: having many non-interactive scenes, where I get hit with the cliche, "If I wanted to watch a movie, I would have watched a movie" In my defense, it's not cutscene heavy like The Coming. The player is involved in the conversations, and can change the outcome depending on the options they choose. Maybe there was too much? I don't know... I'm trying to tell a rich story here, so I feel like I haven't gone overboard. It's something I'll have to think about. Oh, and this isn't the first time I've had negative feedback on this opening sequence. Even Jason had some questions about it as a whole, and I admit, I haven't followed up with him on his thoughts (he was playing an extrmely early version of it), so I'll have to do it as well.
For me, the morale of this story is, you have to listen to people. Yes, I know it seems as if I was dismissing my friend's concerns at first, but as you see, I do take everything into consideration. I plan on talking to him tomorrow when he gets off of work to get more perspective on where he is coming from. But this is not new to me. Dealing with feedback is why Cry The Beloved addressed every issue people had with The Coming (within reason). Hell, I still read those comments from time to time, to make sure I'm still doing this right. At the same time, you need to have confidence in your vision. Every time someone doesn't agree with something you're doing doesn't mean you need to change it. Hell, I will never forget when 5-6 people on the old NWN forums questioned me for putting in a pre-gen PC. I really felt strongly about what I was doing, and disregarded their concerns, which turned out to be pretty damn big for me. For me, belief is what this is all about. If you don't believe in what you're doing, what the hell are you doing it for? It's the fine line of believing in what you're doing, while not being so blind that you can't see when you've made a mistake.
Also, it looks like we're going to have to expand the ALPHA testing to get more opinions on this... If you'd like to be a part of it, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, I keep missing days throughout the week, so I'm just going to continue to put up Lunar music until I'm done with it. Enjoy!
10/19/11 -Wednesday: MORE COMBAT TESTING...
With the the new ability done, I was able to get back to some more testing. I started out with the same set of enemies I had been fighting against before I created the ability, so I could re-balance things. As expected, with this new ability, the player was just a tad stronger, so in turn, I had to make the enemies stronger. Luckily, this didn't take long.
I then moved on to slowly increasing the difficulty of some other enemies, seeing how well things played out. I have another 2 enemies to slide into the combat, and then it will be time to include some very new ones. All of that said, I think I will calm down on some much testing, and just get more of the infrastructure in place for the sequence as a whole. This means I have to go back to some more level design. When I initially created the little sub section where the combat takes place, I just threw some stuff together. Now, I need to make it a little tighter, and get rid of all the superfluous space.
Then, there are the other things that are supposed to happen during this scene, just in the background. This includes moving NPC's around, giving them ambient animations, and for the love of god, visual effects. Speaking of VFX, I have to say, I'm just not as comfortable with them as I was in NWN, for the following reasons:
The constants for use when calling EffectVisualEffect aren't all in the same include file. This really just boggles the mind, but it's like, I never know if I'm looking at the full list of them, because I may have forgotten to include one file. The smart thing to do would be to find all of them, include them in one file, then I just have to include that one file. I'm not smart...
There was an excellent VFX viewer in NWN, and hell, in NWN2, there was literally a VFX viewer embedded in the toolset. Yes, I know Dragon Age has one, but it's just not the same...
The end result is a lot of trial and error, trying out various effects to see what they look like. Oh well, it is what is...
Anyway, there is just a lot of things that are happening, and it's going to be one hell of a feeling when I get it working :)
Today's track from Lunar 2 is in my top 5 list of best boss battle themes (again, I have never played this game more than 45 minutes). It's so good, I used it in The Coming & Cry The Beloved. The best part is near the 1:08 mark. Just perfection! Enjoy!
10/18/11 -Tuesday: CUSTOM ABILITY IS DONE!
So, I was finally able to get my act together, settled on a design, and finish implementing this new custom ability. There's no better feeling than creating a custom ability, then seeing it in action. And since I'm also in the process of testing out this new combat sequence, I couldn't have asked for a better test battle ground. I'm happy to say that it's working exactly the way I wanted it to work, and I think it's going to be a nice addition to the other set of custom abilities in the game thus far.
Now, even though it's done, I'm sure it will be tweaked many times over before the game is finished. Maybe I'll change the animation, or add more VFX, or hell, maybe I'll change the potency of the effect itself. But, the core stuff is done, and that feels damn good.
Speaking of testing out combat, that is coming along quite good as well. All of my tests were run against the Hard difficulty, and while it ended up getting really tough towards the end (which is the point), it was still doable. But as with this new custom ability, that could (and most likely will) change. I may add an enemy here, remove one here, etc. All part of the process.
On a more personal level, I've really enjoyed these past few days. I got a major monkey off my back, with regards to something I'm not allowed to really talk about at the moment, and I feel like I can breathe, and enjoy life again. Plus, I have some fun things on tap. First and foremost, I'm off work this friday and next monday again. I think I said this before, but I have a bunch (read: almost too many) vacation days saved up that I have to use before the year is up, so I'll be doing this friday/monday combination a lot more times. Anyway, I have a few close friends from high school coming up to visit from Maryland on Thursday, a wedding on Friday, going out to the club with said friends that Saturday, and hell, even on sunday, I can enjoy football, because the Giants have a bi-week :)
I think the key is, I've felt as if I haven't had enough time for myself, and when that happens, I begin to shut down, and motivation in everything goes way down. At the moment, I'm feeling motivated as all hell, which I hope to ride until the wheels fall off!
Tomorrow, I plan on getting back to this combat section of the game, testing out even more different enemies, and laying the groundwork for a new enemy type. Oh, and I still need to figure out this database issue with Jason. That's all on me, as I still need to test it out on my desktop. Yeah, I think I'll do that first when I get home tomorrow.
Work on the custom ability continues, and yet, I haven't even tested in thing in game, lol. The ability is a sustained one, with more custom things I'm doing to supplement it. All that means is that there is a hell of a lot of setup for it. Then there's the fact that the actual design of it changes everytime I blink my eye :) Okay, not that serious, but it has changed a bit. I finally decided to just go with one solution, see how I like it, then try another, rinse, repeat.
The other thing I've been trying to do on the side is trying to get this damn database update to work on Jason's machine. We've done all sorts of things, and no matter that that is, he can never see the changes on his side. Now, the interesting thing is he can see it when looking at the DB in SQL Server (or whatever the standard client is). Just not in the toolset. So, there are 2 more things on the table:
1) I give the DB to someone else, and have them restore it on their machine to see if it works. Luckily, I have my desktop I can test it on (something I probably should have done weeks ago!), so that's my next step.
2) He can attempt to re-install the toolset. When all fails, you know...
With all the things that have happened to slow down progress with this game, and how they were eventually fixed, I'm pretty much not too worried about this. It's more of a fly buzzing around my face than anything else.
So, as I discussed yesterday, I went down to wallstreet to see this Occupy Wall Street movement with my own eyes. I have to admit, after all was said and done, there were quite a few inspiring moments. For me, it's the first time I've been in an environment like it, so it was a lot to take in. Walking around the camp itself was quite surreal. Hundreds and hundreds of sleeping bags laid out in specific section, many of them filled with people still sleeping. A media section where the media could conduct interviews, people could tweet their experiences, upload videos, etc. A medical center. A freaking catered food line. I'm talking, better food than what I was to have for lunch that day. The whole thing itself was very organized, relatviely speaking. Everyone does their share, every gets food, water, coffee, etc.
My issues with it as outlined yesterday remain, with a few others... Everyone has been saying that they need to single on certain talking points to get their point across. This was readily understandble as I stopped to talk to various groups. It was always something different. In the end, it seemed like it was just the place to come to if you were pissed off. I guess that's fine in itself, I just wish they would laser in on some key points, and stick to it. Are they getting a lot of support? Yes. Are they getting more media coverage? Hell yeah. I accidentally screwed up a Univison reporter's story, as I literally walked in front of the camera he was working with. He graciously said it was okay, and just started again. Perhaps he's used to it. But at this point, without a clear message, it will just be a bunch of people complaining, and nothing more.
Conversely, even if they don't get a message, but continue to build support, they could, oh, I don't know, do something really radical... Get people to vote! You want your people in government, vote them in. The Tea party has been good about this, so others can as well.
But, what do I know? I'm 31 years old, and can't really relate with any of them. Hell, as I headed back to my office, I was thinking, "Man, and to think the stuff I bitch about. These people are sleeping on the ground without jobs, and I'm mad I have too much work (which I have taken on myself)." Makes you think... Anyway, as I always have, I will continue to be open minded, trying to get both points of view, no matter how crazy it is. Hell, I have friends who think I'm suicidal because I want to talk to a person who hates black people for simply being black, and try to get to understand him more. It's far to easy to call him a racist hick and keep it moving. Me, I want to know "why"? Yeah, maybe I'm weird...
Finally, here is an article at Cracked.comwhich really re-inforces many of my thoughts on this protest.
Yeah, I'm tired of introducing each song, so here's more from Lunar 2 :) Enjoy!
10/13/11 -Thursday: WHY DO I TRY TO KID MYSELF?
Two days ago , I said I could knockout this custom ability in a day. Then of course, as I started to implement it, the realization of all that has to happen started to dawn on me, since I haven't done it in a few months. There's 2DA editing, certain framework scripts that need to be set up, ability descriptions, new custom text strings, etc. Nothing hard, mind you, just a bunch of monkey work.
Then of course was the actual ability code itself. As I began to write it, I of course started coming up with other ideas on how it could work, and once I got into that mindset, things started to slow down, mostly because I wasn't 100% sure how I wanted the end product to be. In the end, I'm used to this type of thing, so I shouldn't have tried to kid myself, and think I could finish it in one day.
Luckily, the way it works is similiar to how another custom ability works, so I pilfered as much code from the other, and used that as the basis for this new one. At the moment, I'm just focusing on the mechanics of things, and make sure they work right. Then I'll focus on tuning it, which is going to involve the combat tests I've been doing the past week or so. Once that is done, I'll add in the visual effects and such. If I had to give an estimate on when it would be done, I would say.... Yeah, I'm not going down that road again :)
So, many people may or may not have heard of the Occupy Wall Street protests in lower manhattan. If not, google it, but essentially, it's a group of protestors making the point that investors on wall street are one of the reasons of our economic collapse in 2008, which has resulted in high un-employment, under-employment, etc.
Now, I agree with them in principle, being that there were investors on wall street who messed up. I think most people realize this. My concern is how the protest is being conducted... One such example is how they perceive the police officers that are there. Many of them are demonizing them as if we're living in some sort of facist country. In reality, they're just doing their jobs...
For example, when the first set of people were arrested some weeks back, oh lord, it became "Screw the pigs", and "The nazis are coming!". Really? The people who were arrested were breaking the law, plain and simple. Don't attack the messenger, attack the person who made the law. Or better yet, don't break that law. Now, on the other side of the coin, of course there are some cops out there that take things too far. Yes, I am talking about the cop who pepper sprayed that woman. But to categorize the entire NYPD based off the actions of a few? Plain ignorance in my eyes.
Then there is the issue of them attacking all the people on wallstreet. First and foremost, there are thousands and thousands of workers on wallstreet, and yes, many of them are doing well, but you know what? Many of them work damn hard for that. It's a well known fact that most people who work there do it for a few years in their 20's, until they are burnt out. Hell, my boss used to work on wallstreet befroe coming to Clear Channel. My point is, they are attacking wallstreet, when they need to be attacking certain individuals of wallstreet, such as the executives of JP Morgan Chase for example. But, it's much easier to label an enire group of people. *Shrug*
This all goes back to my fundamental feeling about labels/categories/etc. People get unfairly lumped into categories. Many people always ask me if I'm a Democrat, or a Republican. I tell them, "I'm a human being who agrees with X policy, Y policy, but not Z policy". No way I'm going to be categorized as a crazy liberal, or a conservative loon. I'm a tea partier, a moderate, or an indepedent. The minute I become one of them, some ignorant ass can try to tear me down because of some negative attribute of of the party I may not believe in. Nope, been down that road before, not doing it again.
At any rate, since I work like 20 minutes away from wallstrreet (which i guess makes me guilty by asociation), I'll be heading there with some co-workers on Friday. The city was planning on cleaning the place they have set up shop at, effectively kicking them out, but have backed down from that plan. It will be interesting to talk to some of the people there to see how they view things. I've only followed via Twitter and whatever the news tells me, but I'd like to see it with my own eyes. And hell, maybe I'll come away feeling different. Keeping an open mind? Crazy, I know :)
10/11/11 -Tuesday: 80% OF MY LIFE SPENT DEBUGGING SOMETHING...
I swear, I must spend about 80% of my life debugging something. I write yesterday's post, thinking the new system I created was good to go, I get on the train today, something else isn't working... Sigh... So I was back to what I do best: debugging. I eventually figured out the issue, but it seems it's all I do. What did I do at work yesterday? Debug some Spring Batch Framework issue, where a new database connection I was trying to setup wasn't connecting properly. And I mean, I did this all day.
Okay, I'm a software engineer, so this is my job. But, I have to remember why I went to college for this profession: To eventually develop video games. One day, the hope is that I'm the tyranical creative director, barking orders at animators, programmers, designers, etc., essentially asking the same question every Monday morning: "Hey man, how was your weekend? Oh, really? Sorry you had to work over the weekend... So, is it done yet?" :)
Anyway, with the bug fixed in the system, I resumed combat testing, adding another set of (existing) enemies, making sure the party can deal with them, while not being overly easy. You know, balance :) While I had a real good idea of the enemies I wanted, I've been thinking about creating another 1 or 2 custom ones, to spice things up a bit, keep the player on their toes. With the addition of the new custom ability I talked about yesterday, I need the player to feel on top of the world, only to drag them down a bit later on. A new enemy type can achieve that.
But that's some days away. My main focus is to create the aforementioned custom ability. I don't want to jinx this, but it shouldn't take more than a day to do this. Let's see!
I always find it interesting when gamers complain about game prices, and more specifically, DLC. Why can't X be free, why do I have to pay for Y maps when it should be free. I'm no expert, but I know the price of games hasn't gone up dramatically, while the cost of development has. Anyway, someone was bitching on BSN about something... Bioware selling out to EA? Bioware trying to expand their business to make more money? Something along those lines, you know the argument: "How dare this company that exists to make money try to... make money?". Anyway, Stanley Woo posted this link, which was pretty interesting. It's essentially a page that shows historical data with regards to game prices and such.
And for those complaining about game prices... I paid $80 for Final Fantasy 6 in 1994. 80$! I'm not sure what that would cost with inflation, but you get my point. Considering all the work that goes into game development, I think the company is well within their means to make as much $ as they need to off the product. At the end, no one is forcing you pay for their product anyway...
Here's more music from Lunar (yes, I am getting lazy when it comes to describing all the music I post) . Enjoy!
10/10/11 -Monday: ON WEEK LATER...
One week later... I'm finally feeling comfortable with the battle system I built. It was actually working fine a week ago, but I kept adding tweaks to it, and everytime I added one thing, I introduced like 2 bugs! So, I would say 50% of my time was spent tracking down bugs, DEBUGGING, etc. Nothing to glorious. However, I am happy to say that the system is in a stable condition now, and it's all about combat balance/pacing at this point.
Speaking of balance, I'm planning on adding another custom ability to one of the party members. I've had ideas for it for a while, but I decided to make the ability itself a little more story specific, which should flesh out a little more of the world without me having to create another digital kiosk, err, NPC. Mechanically speaking, I think it's a good place to add the ability, because as I've always said, each combat situation/sequence should be slightly different, and the abilities of the party are just one of those variables. Plus, this particular combat could get hairy, so having another ability can't hurt :)
So while all of the above was happening last night, I was also chatting with Jason about syncing up our game databases so he had the latest changes that I've made to the dialogue (which is 99% VO related). For whatever reason, we've been having one hell of a time of getting it to work. I initially gave him a copy of the database way back when he first started the editing process. After he he would work through various conversations, he would send them to me via a B2B package, and I would import them. Well, with all the changes that I've made on my side, it only made sense to send him everything. Just for the hell of it, I sent him both a copy of the database, as well as a B2B package... None of them work... They get imported, and nothing for Rose of Eternity comes up. After a few back and forths, we think the issue is that he is using a different game version than me... The end result is that he is going to re-install the toolset/game, get patched up to where I was, and see if that makes a difference. *Crosses Fingers*
Next up for me is to continue the combat balance, as well as some light level design. The level changes are to support the sometimes wonky enemy AI. I also need to implement the aforementioned custom ability. sigh, it never ends...
I'm not sure when it happened, but I have been one hell of a fan of many shows on Gametrailers, including Pach Attack and The Bonus Round. The latter put out a new episode today (or maybe it was yesterday) which will be a month long special where the interview 4 developers from Naughty Dog, as they talk about their experiences with the Playstation 3 hit series, Uncharted. I'm always up for listening to developers talk about, welll, development, but this episode was interesting because they talked about doing things that I do as well, which makes me feel less crazy.
More specifically, they talked about coming up with these grand set pieces before the story has come together. They're like, "Hmm, it would be cool to have Nathan on a cruise ship that flips upside down", and work it into the game. Or, when the host asked them about design documents, they all laughed like, "What the hell are those?!".
Anyway, it makes me feel slighty better that they essentially do what I do: have a bunch of ideas they think will make a cool game, start implementing it, and eventually, it comes together into one cohesive package. This worked with my first 2 games, and I can honestly tell you, the way this game is turning out is definitely different from what I imagined 3-4 years ago. Hell, this series as a whole is damn near 60% different than what I envisioned back in 1999. So yeah, dynamic development FTW!
Well, since it's been a week since I last posted, we'll just stick with the music from last week, Lunur 2, and act as if nothing happened :) Enjoy!
10/3/11 -Monday: LAST DAY OF VACATION :(
Man, I don't know what it is, but the last day of any vacation I'm on is so hard. It's like, you can't even enjoy the day, because you know you gotta go back to the grind the next day. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
I was up pretty early this morning to go to my mom's house so some guy could come in to replace her dishwasher. I hadn't been there in a while (yes, I am a bad child, as I only live like 15 min from her), so as soon as I stepped into my old house, a bunch of memories started to flow through me. I had some good times in that house. In terms of video games, I spent my Nintendo 64, Playstation, and early Dreamcast days here. The Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid, Grandia, Soulcalibur, etc. Good times.
So, my grand scheme was to get as much work done as possible while there. What could have made things easier was the fact that while she had a wireless connection setup, she didn't know her password. So, I had no excuses but to just get to work. Yeah... About that... Well, let's say that her family room area is damned comfortable, and she has a nice new big screen TV, so of course I had to watch ESPN for like 2 hours, even though they're just repeating the same thing over and over again. Then again, when the Cowboys/Eagles have 2nd half collapses like they did on Sunday, I can watch that all day! Mix in the fact that I had to get up really early just to get there, and it was a recipe for me essentially passing out for a few hours. Oh well, there goes that plan!
I was able to sneak in some VO integration however, which was good. They were just audition lines, but I decided to throw them in the game anyway, just to see how they vibed with everything else. I was really amazed, and the person that I am, I was ready to give the part to the actress immediately. But, I'll leave that to Jason since he's been the main contact for her. I also sent him 2 videos of it, so he could see what it looked like in game, and so she could see it as well.
Okay, no more screwing around. Tomorrow, I have to implement this damn custom battle. No more excuses!
Today's music comes from yet another game I don't have much experience with, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue. I somehow got my hands on one of the Lunar games (I think there are 2) for my playstation back in like 2000, and while I initially enjoyed the combat system, didn't finish it. Years later, when developing The Coming, my friend let me borrow the soundtrack to it, and I liked a lot of songs on it. Now, this game personifies a true JRPG, goofy script, some goofy music, etc. But, if you wade through all of the goofy stuff, you can find some really great tracks.
10/2/11 -Sunday: SLOW DAY...
Really didn't get that much actual development done, as there was football, and other distractions. Meh, I think it served me well to get some time to myself.
When I did have time, I spent one hell of a long time integrating some VO from John's brother (keep forgetting to ask if I can mention him by name, so the *brother* tag will remain). It was close to 30 lines, and the end result was terrific. It also helped finish off yet another conversation with full VO, the other half of it being done by John a few weeks ago. Feels good to keep chipping away at the whole VO thing.
Also received some test lines from somone who Jason is working with at the moment. She already did a set of lines for us, and she's quite good, so it was great to hear she was willing to do more. I didn't yet, but I will take the few lines she gave us, and integrate them anyway, just to see how it sounds with everything else.
So yeah, besides that, nothing else to report really. I did listen to a lot of music yesterday, as I am slowly going through all the albums of all the artists I've discovered, so I was brainstorming as usual. I didn't come up with anything huge, just little small scenes here and there. Still, good fun.
Tomorrow, I have to go to my mother's house (since she'll be at work), so a new dishwasher can be delivered. I'll be bringing my laptop with me, so it should give me some time to get more done on this combat sequence.
Here's the final piece of music from Eternal Sonata. Enjoy!
10/1/11 -Saturday: I GOT THAT FEELING...
STATE OF THE UNION
So, another month has passed by... Last month, I was in a bit of a funk, because of a lot of real work stuff that needed to be done. Towards the end of the month, that freed me up, and I have that feeling back! That feeling of resurgence!
At this point, everything VO related is coming along just fine, as is the editing, now that Jason and I have worked out some minor kinks in the way we handled things. I've also finally gotten back to actual development, putting in a ton of work on the largest scale combat scenario I've ever attempted.
Another thing that is good for the outlook of the game is the sheer amount of vacation days I have coming up. I'm already riding a 4 day vacation until Tuesday at the moment, 2 weeks from now, I'll be doing the same thing again, shortly after that, I'll be in Orlando for another week (our first vacation as a married couple, and our first time to Disney World!), then I anticipate taking the entire week of thanksgiving off, plus a week or 2 around Christmas.
Now, for the days that I take off, but where I don't go anywhere, that clearly gives me more time for development. Most of all though, just having so much time off in general is good for my pysche/soul/health/etc. Without a doubt, I live a pretty stressful life, so anything that can alleviate that is a plus for everything in general.
Finally, I know I mentioned this before, but I'm having a little bit of a inspirational renaissance, the likes of which I haven't had since last year when Jason and I went on a tear, fleshing out all sorts of parts of the whole Rose of Eternity world. And it's all because of this new set of music I've been discovering. I have like literally 10+ new artists, with tons of albums of music I've been trying to listen to. As I listen to certain pieces, I'm getting inspired, and coming up with new scenes. Like 2 days ago, I put on a new piece, asked my wife what came to her when she heard it. I immediately took what she said, and spun it into a new scene for the game, which I'm looking forward to creating.
Ah, good times!
Today was all about that combat sequence I've been working on, the one I'll be working on for a while. The first thing I did was make some changes to the level it takes place in. As I talked about yesterday, I was making sure the level itself was working with the AI of the combatants, not against. Another thing that I always struggle with is scale. For instance, I'll be trying to create a little path surrounded by high walls, and I don't want it that wide. It looks just fine in the editor, even when I place a create in the middle of it for reference, but when I get in game, it's just too big, and I need to go back and change it up.
Once I was done with the level design (which in itself takes longer than I would like, due to rendering lightmaps and exporting the level), I got back to the combat itself. I didn't make any big changes to the system itself, it was more about implementing it, getting different combinations of enemies together, seeing how the player and the party matched up against them.
I must have did combat testing for at least 2 hours, but I think I'm finally happy enough with it to fully implement the types/numbers of enemies needed. And that is exactly whatI'll work on tomorrow.