I think I have finally found the form I had before leaving for Las Vegas last week. That is to say, I was focused, and just got on with it.
As planned, as soon as I got on the train, I immediately began work on the stage for the epilogue. Since the dialogue I have from Alexander is a first draft, I didn't go too crazy with the cameras, because I don't know how much of them will change. I got 4-5, and was pretty happy with that.
On the train ride home, I compiled all the animations I sifted through the other day, and picked some to use in an outro cutscene. As usual, this outro cutscene only lasted about 20 seconds or so, so I was very happy to have it done by the time the train arrived in Poughkeepsie. When I got home, I made a video of it, and sent it to Alexander, so he could at least have a feeling for how the scene would look.
Later in the night, I was going through some old monologues he had recorded for me, trying to get inspiration on the (potentially) final epilogue scene. I ended up finding one that I had listened to a few times when initially sent to me, but wasn't really sure what to do with it. I must have been really busy or something (surprise, surprise!), because upon listening to it last night, a flood of ideas started flowing all over my brain. I'll need to contact him to let him know what types of devious idea I have now :)
Who's the artist of the day? Yep, you guessed it, Gandalf again. Enjoy!
9/27/12 -Thursday: BACK TO IT...
Well, I guess I'll get the bad news out of the way first... Damn desktop is starting to crash. The problem looks to be bad memory, so that'll have to be dealt with... It's a shame, because I was really looking forward to doing a full playthrough of the game with the settings up all the way. Then there is the level design I wanted to do on it. Finally, I wanted to create a bunch of videos of the game on it for marketing purposes. In th end, things could be much worse, and since there is so much other work to be done, it's not a total buzzkill. Speaking of other work...
...I started and finished the level for the latest epilogue scene I'm working on. Ever since I got back from Las Vegas, it's taken me a few days to get that focus back, but after 3 days, I'm back to it. Much like I've done with the last scenes I've made, I made sure to design as much of the level as possible (with full props), so I have more to work with when creating the camera angles. The level is actually an addition to an existing level, and more of a room, and not a large room at that. That definitely helped me finish it in one sitting. Turning off the TV helped out as well :)
Tomorrow morning on the ride into work, I'll create the stage for the scene. Usually, I would start with the intro cutscene, but there are some minor questions still up in the air, so I'll just move on to something that is a definite.
And so begins work on another epilogue scene. As usual, I've had a pretty good idea of what I want, and I have had the music picked out for at least a month now. Alexander already wrote the dialogue. All that is left is to design the small interior level, and create the scene.
But before I even got to that, I decided to look at the stock animations in the game. Using Beerfish's spreadsheet (god I love that thing), I was able to search for all sort of animations that I may or may not use in this cutscene. Once I found something I like, I used the toolset's animation creator to preview them. I didn't find everything I was looking for, but it was time well spent (3 hours or so).
Tomorrow, I'll start the level design, and see where things go from there.
Here's another piece from Gandalf, a piece I would put on repeat while brainstorming at the river. Good times. Enjoy!
9/25/12 -Tuesday: YES, I'M STILL ALIVE!
Well, it's been an action packed few daysfor me, as I was in Las Vegas for the iHeartRadio Music Festival from last Thursday until yesterday. I won't go into all the details (that could cover 3 days worth of posts), but suffice to say, it was VIP treatment the whole way (thanks Clear Channel), which makes all those days of hard work worth it. It's win-win for the company, because everyone is back, and fully energized, ready to punce on the next project. Plus, it's clear that good, hard work pays off.
Anyway, while I was gone, I wasn't able to get much work done. I a minor amount of stuff on the plane ride there, mostly fixing various VO issues, as well as polishing up some stages/cameras. Even today, I just went through my task list, and found the easiest stuff possible, just so I could feel good about finishing something.
Tomorrow, since I have gotten word from Alexander on what VO he can do, I'll start the final 2 epilogue scenes. I really need to sink my teeth into something pretty big, so I can get my flow back. Or, maybe I just need to get an ear infection for another month :)
Here's another great, long piece from Gandalf. Enjoy!
9/17/12 -Monday: STUPID BUGS...
Today felt like a day that went no where. First, I was dealing with this bug where a conversation wasn't firing from a trigger. I was using the generic "talk" trigger, and whenever I ran over it, nothing happened. However, if I walked up and talked to the person, everything worked fine. Well, at least, I thought everything was fine...
So, this conversation had 2 branches. The first one would only appear once in the game, and at the end of that one, I put a link to the other branch, where it's something like, "Did you talk to so and so yet?". Then, if you talk to them again, it keeps repeating this line until you finish the quest. Nothing crazy or anything. Anyway, I kept trying all sorts of things, but it really came down to the fact that there were 2 plot variables in a condition that would determine if the conversation would fire, and they seemed out of sync. I would print their contents as I walked over the trigger, and one would be set to TRUE, when the only time it would be set to TRUE would be if I had already had started the first branch of the conversation. After both a train ride into work, and out of work, I finally figured it out.
I first noticed that when I was walking up and starting the conversation on my own, it was actually going to the 2nd branch. I'm not sure why I didn't notice this before, but once I saw this, a light bulb in my head went off. I took a look at the first line of the first branch, and noticed that it was empty. Turns out, this line had VO, where the character was "sighing". I didn't want to write "(Sighs)", so I left it empty. As soon as I put something in there, all was well... Stupid bugs...
Next up is this issue that has only popped up one other time, where certain lines of a conversation aren't being spoked, even though the VO had been locked down for well over a year. It happened like a month ago, and dammit, it happened again yesterday. I looked at the ID for the line, did a search on my computer for that VO file, and found nothing. At this point, I'm not even going to try to understand what happened. Since I already have to make some normilization changes to the audio, I'm just going to add that to the task. Luckily, all the source files for the VO are checked into SVN.
I decided to change things up today, and move on to the composer named Gandalf. Now, I honestly can't remember if I discovered him from Pandora or iHeartRadio, but I'm glad either way. While not all of his stuff is high quality (in fact, some of his albums don't even seem to be new age-ish), he still has a lot of hits. Enjoy!
9/16/12 -Sunday: FINALLY HAVE DESKTOP BACK UP AND RUNNING!
Well, after a long time, I finally have my desktop back up and running, this time, with a shiny new SSD. My Father and I haven't been able to figure why I was getting crashes on my last one, so besides installing Windows 7, I only installed Dragon Age. I figure that I'll just have this installed for a while, to see if I run into any more issues.
The plan for the desktop is simple:
Do all level design
Record all videos
Now, I don't want to be going back and forth with regards to checking files in/out, so I'll also be making use of Dropbox as well. For instance, instead of checking in levels to SVN, I'll just copy them to my dropbox shared folder, and pickup the files on the laptop. As for the database, which contains all the desinger resources, it will essentially just be in read-only mode on the desktop. Whenever I need to record videos, test, etc., I'll just export it from the laptop, dump it into an existing dropbox folder, then import it on the desktop. If any changes need to be made to it (scripts, cutscenes, convos, etc.), that will always be done on the laptop. The reasoning behind it is simple: I always have my laptop with me, so I alays want to have the most up to date stuff there, database wise. If worse comes to worse, I can get away with not being up to date with level files, because all the playable levels are finished. It's just polishing at this point.
So what did I actually do today, development wise? Well, I finally got around to implementing David Timmons' suggestions about the custom tints I had created for the game. Well, more of a compromise, anyway. I'm still keeping the colors I like, but I'm definitely taking his suggestion of toning down the saturation of them, especially the specular components of them. It's just a first pass, but I think it's looking good so far.
Next up for me is completing some minor tasks, then getting the game ready for another playtest. At this point, the game is playable from beginning to end, along with 3 epilogues. It's going to be a tedious process of making sure all the scripts/areas are right, so I don't get through half of it, only to find out that I can't go any further due to a transition script I forgotten to turn back on after testing.
But who am I kidding? It always happens, and no matter what I do, it'll always happen :)
Oh, and go Eli freaking Manning! As a NY Giants fan, I know that he can have his bad days, putting up 3-4 interceptions. It happens. But the way the team came back, scoring 25 poitns in the 4th quarter alone, is the reason why I love him. He can mess up really bad, but he can also be super clutch when he has to. It's a short week, as we play the Panthers in South Carolina on Thursday, but here's hoping that we can get it done again.
Here's another hit from here studio album, Odyssey. Enjoy!
9/12/12 -Wednesday: WELL, THAT WASN'T SO BAD...
Well, as expected, I nervous leading up to the presentation (but not so much as I originally thought). However, once I got going, the information just started flowing out of me as I whiteboarded. That part of the presentation was only supposed to last 15 minutes maybe, and after about 35 minutes of me doing my thing, someone had to politely tell me we only had 25 minutes left for the actual code review. Even then, I ended up going over my allotted time of an hour. The best part was when it was over, my old manager (who is back on a contractual basis) made a comment that was something like, "Wow, clearly Leonard likes the spotlight." Considering the way I felt leading up to it, to come out feeling like that felt great.
And as I predicted yesterday, I was on a high, and knocked out a shitload of content on the train ride home, as well as when I got home. On the way home, I finished the last 2 of 3 cutscenes needed for this 3rd epilogue I've been working on. It's always an interesting game, trying to use my small as remote mouse on the train, with the train shaking and whatnot. Plus, I don't have a mouse pad (or even room for it), so I just sort of use the lower right part of the laptop. After the normal fight to get things stabilized, I was able to finish the scenes. I immediately began to glue all of the cutscenes/convos together, and when that was done, I created a video of it all for Ollie. He's in both parts of the epilogue, which is why I waited to send him his stuff until I had everything done.
When I got home, I was doing some little odds and ends, sending out emails, and in general, enjoying myself. Then, I got an email around 11:00pm from John. He had already finished his epilogue lines I had sent him the previous day. Now, his work has always been good, but there was something different about this performance. I had already told him it was the last scene for this character in the game, but... damn... He really took things up a notch, and knocked it out of the park!
Whenever I get new VO, I also preview all the lines first, just to see what I'm working with, make sure I have everything, etc. As I was listening, I was thinking, "Holy shit, this is really fucking good!". I was about to go to sleep, but I had to stay up and integrate it right then and there! I wanted to record a video of it for him, but my laptop was running slow, so I just told myself I would do it the following morning.
Anyway, shout out to John Erath for simply killing it for me. What a way for this character to go out!
Tomorrow, I'll need to hit up Alexander about some things before I start working on the next 2 epilogues. In between all of that, I may just do some other minor tasks/bug fixes. Also, I ended up ordering some new components for my desktop, so it will be a little longer before I get it back.
Gonna keep it rolling with more Hayley Westenra. Enjoy!
9/11/12 -Tuesday: FACING MY FEARS...
I have 2 main fears in life: public speaking and flying on airplanes. In fact, these are really the only 2 things I ever have to worry about in life, and when I think logically about it, that's not bad. Things could be much worse. I guess some people would label these as #firstworldproblems.
With regards to planes and public speaking, I remember posting about it on 3/21/2006, when I had to fly out to San Jose for the Independent Games Festival. Besides having to fly out there (first flight in like 7 years), but there was a 1 in 5 chance that I would win my category, come up to the podium, and say a few words. So, it was all of my fears wrapped up in a nice little bow. I sort of muddled my way through it, but since I didn't keep it up, things didn't get better. You know what I mean... The more you do something, the more you get used to it?
Fast forward 6 years, and I am in a similiar situation. Tomorrow, I have to give a presentation to some programmers, project managers, and others, on one of the systems I built that transcodes all the media for iHeartRadio. I will do a little white boarding, giving a visual representation of the entire flow of the system, at a very high level. Then, we'll go through the actual code itself. I "should" be fine, but of course, I am a little nervous. Maybe it's normal, who knows. *Shrug*. Now, I know I am getting better with this, because I could have pushed it off a few months, since I'm actually making changes to the system. But, that doesn't help me, it's like that "fight o flight" bullshit they talk about. So at least I'm fighting :)
Then, next week, I'll be flying to Las Vegas for the iHeartRadio Festival. This, I'm much better with, since I've flown a few times in the last 2 years, the last one being last November. Interestingly enough, I fear the public speaking more than the flying, even though the worst thing that could happen to me while talking to others is a little embarassment, while the worst of the latter is, well.... a fiery death... Yeah...
With regards to game development, I created one of 3 cutscenes that will be used in the epilogue I've been working on for the past few days. It was a pretty minor one, and when I say minor, I'm talking 6 seconds long. The other 2 will be of similiar lengths, so I should be able to finish them tomorrow.
Once that is done, I'll make a recording of the first half of the scene, and send that out to Ollie and John. Though with John, I don't like to send him multiple characters all at once (he already has lines for the 2nd part of the scene that involves a separate character he is voicing), so I may hold off on sending it to him until I get the other lines. Looking back, he's doing like 5 different roles, and I'm not an ogre, so I'll let him finish each individual scene first.
After all of that will be 3 epilogues finished, with at the very least, 2 more to go. One of them to me is the most dramatic, emotional, out of all the epilogues, so I'm being very careful with how I approach it. The last one will be different in that it will all one cutscene, instead of intro/outro cutscenes, with a staged conversation in the middle. I only have one other scene like that, so I figured I would go out with a bang.
If I was to hazard a guess, I would think this is how things will pan out:
After my presentation tomorrow, I'll be in a super good mood, which will translate into me doing a shitload of work
Since tennis is more or less done for a while, and there is only 1 football game a week, I should be able to knock out the last 2 scenes over the weekend
Once I'm only a few days away from the flight, depending on how I feel mentally, I may or may not slow down development
I think today's music from Hayley Westenra fits perfectly. The song is Prayer, and I sure as hell need as much prayer as possible for tomorrow! Enjoy!
9/10/12 -Monday: 2ND HALF OF THE SCENE DONE...
I was able to finish the 2nd part of the epilogue scene today. I already had the dialogue written, the prop work was done yesterday, but I still needed to add one more thing before creating the stage and cameras: Adding some extras.
The only problem with that was the fact that these extras were children, and for whatever reason, just like NWN (and most likely NWN2), you can' change their clothing, only their faces. It's not that big of a deal, but when I'm always trying to strive to make things look different, I'm stuck with these generic looking children. Now, I'm sure there is a way to change this, but not through the normal ways I know of. And since it's so low on my radar of things I give a shit about (but high enough to be mentioned on this blog, interestingly enough!), I have moved on :)
Once they were added, I could finish the stage along with 5-6 camera angles. Once I finished that, I created a video for John, as the other main cast member he plays is in this final scene. I was happy to prepend the BRC splash screen to the video, so hopefully, it will be a nice surprise for him.
Tomorrow, I'll need to link these 2 parts of the overarching scene together, along with some minor intro/outro cutscenes, and a lot of plot scripting.
Here's another live performance from Hayley Westenra. Enjoy!
9/9/12 -Sunday: FREAKING SPORTS...
And it begins... Freaking sports can literally kill a Sunday for me. Let me explain. Tennis is more or less going on all year long. The women end their season in Istanbul this season towards the end of October, while the men ends their's in London around mid-late November. Both of their seasons start early January. So, it's damn near a year long season. Now, around the time that the first major of the season, the Austrailian Open, is being played, football season is ending, and the Super Bowl is only a few weeks away. Right around the time that the last major of the season, the US Open, is being played, the football season is beginning. Notice the overlap? Oh, and football games are played on Sunday's, as are tennis finals.
Today, my wife's family came over to watch the Bills vs Jets game (they're Bills fans, unfortunately). Then, there was the women's US Open final. Then there was Peyton Manning back playing again for the first time in over a year. Damn sports...
Anyway, in between all of these distractions, I was able to get a decent amount of work done. First up was finally creating a splash screen for our company, BRC Productions. Oli had designed a new logo along with some animations a while back, but it only lasted a few seconds. I knew I wanted to put it to the backdrop of a little 15 second theme, so I had her extend the animation. Then, using Camtasia studio, I overlayed the track, and voila, it was done. Now I can add it to add videos and other promotional related materials. For me, it just makes things a little more official.
Oli also sent me a storyboard for something she's been secretly working on for the past 6 months or so. I obviously can't go into that much detail, but I can say that she took the initiative to do it, and once I saw a little rough draft, I was in love. Very much looking forward to seeing the end product, as well as sharing it with the world.
In terms of actual game development, I knocked out half of the current epilogue scene I'm working on. While it's true that I didn't have to do any new level design, since it takes place in an existing level, there an extra level of scripting I have to do to make sure it's in the right state for the scene to take place. You know, things like making sure to deactivate other creatures that are in other sequences earlier in the game, activating the proper creatures, setting the music, etc. It's not difficult work, just more than the other levels I created, where their only purpose was to be the backdrop for the scene, and nothing more.
Tomorrow, I'll begin work, and hopefully finish the 2nd half. I already flew around the level with the camera a bit before shutting down for the night, and I have a good idea of the shots I need to get.
P.S. I may have squeezed in 4-5 episodes of Entourage as well :)
I have another track from the beautiful and wonderfully talented Hayley Westenra. Enjoy!
9/8/12 -Saturday: UNEXPECTED LEVEL DESIGN...
Today was supposed to be an easy development day. Create a stage, add some camera angles, some already written dialogue, and it's a wrap. Then, as I loaded up the area to look around and get ideas on what shots I wanted to use, I heard a little voice in my head go "Oh yeah...".
Since it was a level I created well over a year ago, I hadn't given it the proper treatment I've given these new areas. Above all things, that mostly involved the adding of props. It wasn't that big of an issue, but I like to have as much done as possible in areas before adding conversations to them. You never know, you may get that perfect camera angle when you have more content in the level. *Shrug*
Now, it was actually a little fun adding props, because they really did bring the most out of the level. And I always have to give the shout out to DATool, my props viewing utility I make use of. On the other end of the spectrum is how long it takes to freaking run the lightmapper. Now, my laptop has been running slower and slower as time goes on (can you say, re-install?!), but I'm talking like over an hour to run. Totally unacceptable, to be honest. Okay, yeah, it's a large level, but it never took that long months ago. So, I need to do that re-install on the laptop, and finally get my desktop back.
It wasn't all bad. I got to catch up on like an entire season of Entourage while I was doing the level work. Ha, always have to find the positives in the negatives :)
Till tomorrow, I'll do what I thought I would do today: Finish off yet another epilogue scene.
I cannot even put into words how I feel about this next artist. Her voice is just... I can't even describe it. As usual, I found out about her through Pandora when she was covering a song from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, May It Be, I believe. Enjoy!
9/7/12 -Friday: ANOTHER FUN FILLED DAY OF DEVELOPMENT...
I was a giddy as a school girl when I got on the train this morning. Why? Because I had 12 lines of VO from him for one of the epilogue scenes I created while on vacation. It had actually been quite a while since I had integrated VO into the game, but it all came back within seconds.
As usual, it was top notch. All I had to do was the standard post-processing on all the audio, such as reducing noise, and raising the gain (volume). Then, I meticulously went through each file and raised/lowered the gain where possible, and where it made sense. Once that was done, I added it to the game, and watched the scene about 4-5 times. The only thing I need to do is add a little bit of silence to the end of some of the lines, as I may have cut off too much when modifying each individual file. I would have done it on the train, but I didn't know how to until I got home and googled it. Anyway, besides that, all the work is done. Now I just need the rest of the lines from the other actress in the scene, and it will be complete.
Next up was some writing. As mentioned yesterday, Ollie confirmed he could do the lines for the main character in the scene, so I was ready to actually create the damn thing. As usual, I put on my headphones, put on the music that plays during the scene, and started writing away.
Out of all the epilogues written thus far, this one definitely is the longest. The first 2 contains chaarcters that you see briefly in the game, but are still important enought to warrant a scene for them. This current one, however, contains characters that you see throughout the entire game, including the one character that has more lines than anyone else. So, as I was writing it, it just naturally took on a life of it's own, and when all was said and done, I had a pretty huge conversation file. Next up is building the scene itself. It takes place in an existing level, so that work is done. It's just going to come down to a stage, some camera angles, and an appropriate intro/outro cutscene. If I am lucky, I can knock this out tomorrow. Once I'm happy with how it looks, I'll send out the lines to Ollie and John.
Speaking of VO...
I came across a few articles on Kotakutoday. The first one had to do with Getting Rid of English Voice Acting In JRPG's.Besides the usual bashing of VO in these types of games (I have definitely heard my fair share of bad VO), it also started to discuss how sometimes, it's just better to have a dialogue box, or what have you. Like the good old days of NWN, when I didn't have to worry about VO :)
This article also pointed me to the more interesting article about Games Without VO Have The Best Music.In it, it described things that I myself have complained about on this blog many times: how to make VO and music work together. Gone are the days of just having booming orchestral soundtracks accompany every single scene in the game, something I was able to do with The Coming & Cry The Beloved. Now, depending on the scene and the music track, it may have to be cut if there is a conversation going on.
I mean hell, I literally had an improvement task in our bug tracker, which essentially had to do with figuring out what to do with some music during some key scenes in this seqence. The music track is a very loud and aggressive piece that plays during some combat. After certain fights, there are some conversations that take place. I would have loved it if that same music could play, but it's just too loud. And since I never found a way to integrate custom music into the game as anything other than sound effects, the volume isn't lowered automatically when a conversation starts. And as I found out a long time ago, you can't even script a sound object to lower it's volume. Weak...
What I ended up doing was switching to a more low key song, something that could play in the background during the conversation, not be a hindrance, and at the same time, still be enjoyable. This particular solution came easy, but there are lots of examples like this all over the game, some that I have fixed, some that still need fixing.
Anyway, just another example of how things really change when you add a simple thing like VO.
9/6/12 -Thursday: A LITTLE BIT OF THIS, A LITTLE BIT OF THAT...
While I had originally wanted to do a playthrough of the game, I ended up just doing a bunch of minor things. Bug fixes, improvements, etc. The most time consuming thing I did was finish connecting the end of the game to the epilogue scenes. Earlier, I had just connected all the epilogues together, now, I just had to connect all of that to the end of the game. The last sequence of playable content is a little in the air, as I am waiting to hear back on something from Alexander, so I just connected what was done. Regardless of how things pan out in the end, I'll be able to connect that solution to the epilogues easily enough since I already did the meat of the work.
The only other thing I did was email related things. I was happy to hear back from Archon, who will be able to finish up the last of the custom icons in the game. I also received work from Ollie Broadway that he would be able to reprise his role for a final scene in the game. Finally, John Erath has sent me his lines for one of the epilogues I created over the weekend. I look forward to integrating them into the scene tomorrow on the train.
Tomorrow, I will begin creating the aforementioned scene that Ollie is involved in. I already brainstormed the scene a bit over the past few days, and was really waiting to hear back from him before moving ahead forward. The only other people in the scene are voiced by John, so I'm good to go.
When I was creating that scene yesterday, I knew that I was taking a gamble on including a character that wasn't even voiced in their other scene in the game thus far. It's that "gift and the curse" situation, where when you have VO, it's freaking great, but it constrains you on how much you have that particular character in the game. Luckily, the gamble worked out, as Lucy Glitter has agreed to do the 20 or so lines for this character. She had previously voiced another character in the game, and more importantly, in the same scene as this other character (meaning she has a good idea of the context of the scene). And old faithful, John Erath, has already said he'll have his lines for me within the week. So, looks like this blitzkrieg of development is working, even on the VO side!
Speaking of VO (hey, it's been a while!), a lot of my work in the beginning of the day was devoted to just that. This mostly consisted of recording videos for the actors, as well as either sending lines out, or asking what the status of previously sent lines were.
The last thing I did was sort of think of the broader picture, of how I'm going to fill out every role in the game. I have been superbly blessed to have filled all the major roles in the game. Interestingly enough, besides Jason Melancon doing all the upfront work of actually finding the actors he thought would be good for the game, as well as people contacting me after reading my pleas for help on this very blog, most of the people ended up being referred to me by the actors already on the project. I mean, crazy things like John Erath telling me his brother can do VO (which was freaking excellent), or Elise Harris getting her landlord to come out and totally knock out all the lines to a major character within a few weeks. Some things just work out, and this has been one of them.
All of that said, there are still more roles to be filled, so I've been thinking about The Voice Acting Club.I think Amstrad Herofirst alerted me to the site in one of his blog posts, and I actually spent a lot of time on the site a year ago. Then, things just started rolling, and I didn't need the site. However, now that I'm down to the smaller roles (4 lines or less), this may be the best way to go. Unlike the orther VO which I've obviously been integrating all year in parallel to normal development, I believe I'll leave the smaller stuff until the very end. One benefit of doing that is that I'll clearly have all the lines for them, instead of giving it to them in batches spread over weeks and months. Plus, more of the game will be done, so I should have some nice and shiny videos for them so they can get better acquainted with the world and the characters. Well, that's the plan anyway...
Moving on from VO, I started the work to connect all of these epilogues scenes I've been working on for the past few days. I mean, the concept is simple. The playable part of the game ends, then you transition to the first epilogue scene, then to the next, finally get to the last one, roll some game credits (not DAO, my own), then bring the player back to the main menu. At the moment, since I only have 2 done, and no credits, I just handle the transitions between the 2, then go right to the main menu. Speaking of bringing the player back to the main menu, I wasn't even sure how to do that, but a single google search later, I was in business. One thing I'm not sure how to handle is "saving" that character for a sequel. Or, maybe you don't need to do that. Maybe for a sequel, you allow the player to bring in a character, and just make sure they bring in the right one. Meh, I'll deal with that later :)
The final thing I did was make some changes to a custom spell I created months ago. None of the major functionality changed, it was just minor things, like how much threat (i.e. aggro) it creates when used, and some other attributes I can't talk about without spoiling it.
Tomorrow, I'll work on some minor things, like fixing some clipping issues with one of the epilogue levels I created. Then, if all goes according to plan, I should be ready to do another playthrough. Tomorrow will be my last day of vacation, and I'd rather do the playthrough then, instead of over various train rides once I'm back at work.
Today's music, again from 2002, is one of those feel good pieces. Walking down a country rode. An afternoon snack in a rural village. Any of this stuff could be in any RPG, and fit perfectly. Enjoy!
9/3/12 -Monday: KEEPING IT ROLLING...
Today was more of the same, really. I sort of had a relapse with my ear, so just to be safe, I didn't go to the gym, giving me more time than usual for development. Then, Mardy Fish pulled out of his match against Roger Federer, giving me yet another few hours. Of course, I almost blew all of that time watching of all freaking things, Speed. I hadn't seen it in so long, started thinking, "Damn, Sandra Bullock looks young as hell!" and "Jesus, Keanu Reeves was even boring back then?!", and before I knew it, I was sucked in. I regained my senses thankfully.
So like Saturday, I had to essentially start an entirely new scene from scratch. New level, new custom music, new custom tints, new NPC's, new cutscenes, new... Well, you get the point. Hell, even with the last epilogue scene I did, I already had the dialogue from Alexander. This time, I had to write all of that too. So, I put on my headphones so I could listen to the music that plays in the scene, kept my head down, and just systematically knocked it all out.
Now, with this particular scene, I was able to handle a lot of things, within a... maybe 2-3 minute sequence (I'll know better once the VO is done)? For one, I was able to fit in 2 major cast members. I didn't shoe horn it in or anything, it just sort of naturally made sense, so I went with it. At the same time, I was able to fulfill some fan service. While there are only 2 speaking parts, 4 out of 5 of the people in this scene have direct ties to The Coming & Cry The Beloved. Again, I didn't force it in, something I am totally against. It just sort of worked out. Finally, I was able to set the stage for things to come, as well as drop some little subtle hints on things that have happened in the past. Best of all, for people who never played the earlier games, everything makes sense, and for those that did, they'll be like, "Oh shit, that's what happened to person X!". At least, I hope that's how it works :)
Once I was more or less done with the scene, I recorded it. Then, I sent it along with the appropriate lines to John Erath. For his part, there are only 12 lines to do, which is like a microcosm compared to what he has already done. The other role (which is female) has a similiar number of lines, but as I mentioned yesterday, I have yet to fill her role yet. So, any actresses wanting to be a part of this project can send me an email about email@example.com.
Tomorrow, I will fix up some minor level design issues (expand the water plane, fix some prop clipping, etc.), then start reaching out to some other actors/actresses I've worked with. Before I start some of these other epilogue scenes, I need to make sure that I have their support. Here's hoping! *Crosses Fingers*
This week, I thought I would start sharing some of the new music I've discovered over the past few years. Because of things like iHeartRadio & Pandora, I've been introduced to so many new artist and groups, and it's been a real eye opener.
9/2/12 -Sunday: SOME GOOD OLE BRAINSTORMING DOWN AT THE RIVER...
Time and time again, for the past 3 years, whenever I need to clear my head and get some really good brainstorming done, going to Quiet Cove on the Hudson River has done the trick. Rarely do I leave there without coming up with something, no matter how insignificant it is. Today was no exception.
Even though I still had some cutscene work to do on the epilogue scene I created yesterday, I was already thinking ahead to the next epilogue I have to write. As usual, I had a geneal idea of what I wanted, and as I sat at the river with my music playing, things started forming. What was originally intended to be a scene for 1 character turned into a scene for 2. It was originally supposed to be for 1, because I knew with 100% certainty that I had an actor to do the VO for them, which would be John Erath. For this other character, I haven't even gotten anyone to do their other lines in the game. However, since it's only like 5 lines, and with this additional scene (I haven't written it yet), perhaps an additional 15 lines, I'm just going to roll the dice and go for it. I think I've talked about this before, but that's one problem with not having all the lines for actors at once. If they work with you months and months ago, then you need more lines, maybe it's not possible? People have school, work, move, etc. Life happens. But anyway, it's like 20 lines. I'm sure I can find someone. So yeah, open call again for all male/female actors of all experiences. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once I got back home from the river, I finished up both the intro/outro cutscenes for the aforementioned scene from yesterday. It got a little more complicated than I thought, but I was able to focus and knock it out. Now, all the scene needs is the VO, and it's a wrap.
Tomorrow, I'll start on the next scene, and honestly, if I can keep focused, I really should be able to knock out all of my parts in one day. Then, as usual, I'll just need the VO.
Now this is one game I did play for a bit, which actually distracted the shit out of me when I was trying to develop Cry The Beloved back in 2005. I think it was 2005, because I originally bought the game so I could get the Final Fantasy 12 demo which would come out the following year. At any rate, I don't think I had played a Dragon Quest game since the first one on the NES (which I loved!). Great game, great music. And because of the cell shaded graphics, I may be able to go back to it one day, since it holds up better than other games.
9/1/12 -Saturday: LONGEST DAY OF DEVELOPMENT EVER!
STATE OF THE UNION
There's no other way to put this. It's time to wrap this baby up. Barring the epilogue scenes (more on those later), the majority of the playable content is done. Sure, I need a short cutscene here, a stage conversation there, some VO here, etc. And of course there are lots of bugs/enhancements to work on. But this is the point in development that I want to be at. I know I've had these "I can see the light shining at the end of the tunnel" posts before, but this one is extremely valid.
Something woke up in me when I was sick. There was something about not being able to develop that depressed the shit out of me. I kept saying to myself, "Once I'm healthy again, I won't take it for granted". I feel as if I've done much work since I've been healthy, than I have done during one of those slow months, like June 2011. Granted, there were other things going on behind the scenes, like prepping the game for VO, searching for actors, etc. But, that was still a slow ass month.
Part of it is that I'm just getting older, and just can't devote my entire life to this as I could before. Back then, my real job wasn't as demanding, and I wasn't married. These 2 things alone are enough for one man to deal with.
At any rate, I'm putting all of that aside, and just going full steam ahead. I'd like that around christmas time, I can actually enjoy it, playing other games, and not feeling guilty at all.
Today was certainly the longest day of development ever. I mean, I started around 10am, took breaks for the gym, a little US Open, and food, and ended around 11:45pm. My goal was to knock out 90%+ of the first of many epilogue scenes in the game. But let me back up and give my phliosophy on these types of endings.
For the games of the Golden Years, this was pretty straightforward. You beat a game, then you get some resolution with all of the major characters in the game. This led to 22 minute long endings for Final Fantasy IV and 30 minute+ endings for Final Fantasy VI. Great stuff.
At some point, this changed, though I'm not sure when... Nowadays, it seems as if you beat a game, then you get credits rolling for like 30 minutes, and just credits. Fallout 3 comes to mind. I wasn't even sure I was at the end of the game, and then BOOM, credits rolling forever. I had high hopes for the ending to Dragon Age Origins, and while they tried, those little "screenshots", if you will, talking about how a particular sequence of the game was resolved (i.e. Ashes of Andraste), I was hoping for long cutscenes actually showing me what all the party members and important NPC's were up to. I guess with so many decisions that could be made in the game, it would have been hell to sort them all out into individual cutscenes... I don't know... Regardless of why they haven't been done, I've noticed it, and it's something I've missed.
At any rate, for Cry The Beloved, I created about 7 different epilogue scenes for various characters, attempting to tie up loose ends, as well as let players know what to expect with things moving forward. This was something that I was always going to carry forward into my next game, and so, here we are.
Now, the funny thing is, when I was creating these epilogue scenes for Cry The Beloved, it was when my laptop had recently gone on the fritz. I was as pissed off as someone could be, as I was forced to do them as this old ass desktop I had at the time. Even still, I figured out a way to simply knock them out, and within a week, they were all done. It didn't hurt that I was on vacation. Fast forward 6 years (gods I'm getting old), and I'm in the same position (sans a broken laptop!). I'm on vacation, and dammit, I'm going to knock out as many of these scenes as humanly possible!
Today's work was pretty simple, it just consisted of a ton of things to do. Create a new level, use DATool to add as many props as possible, get the lighting just right, create a shitload of unique NPC's, find the perfect sound effects, add in some custom music, create the conversation, and finally, add a stage with the appropriate camera angles.
The thing that took the longest was the level design itself, as well as dressing up the area with props/NPC's. Even though the player won't be able to walk around in the area, I needed things to look as good as possible, so the area feels alive. Plus, once I create the intro/outro cutscenes, the more stuff I have in there will help me create the best scene possible. Better to add in as much extra stuff as possible, knowing that you may not use it. It's easier to cut it out later once the cutscenes are done.
Speaking of cutscenes, that's what I'll start on tomorrow morning. It's my rest day from the gym, so barring the time I'll spend watching the Andy Roddick match, seeing as he's about to retire, it should be another full day of development. Time to keep things rolling!