Wednesday, February 28, 2007
But having followed these folks for several months now, and checking out their demo, I'm starting to feel more optimistic. The demo is probably only going to be fun for folks who played the original game, but being one of those, I really enjoyed it. They did a great job recreating Candlekeep almost exactly as it was in BG1. The characters are all there, along with all the basic delivery quests you're asked to do in the prologue. With a few more features--especially including voice acting from the original game resources--this would probably be more fun to play than the original. :)
Of course, they have a loooong way to go to remake the entire original game. But it looks like they're off to a great start. My only advice for them would be to not rely on recreating every element of the original game--departures are fine, and a reimagining of the original game might result in a better end product in the nwn2 medium--and a game that takes less time to build. For example, while I'd love to have a huge wilderness to explore, I also wouldn't mind it if they cut a few of the less-important areas in favor of a tighter emphasis on the story. But it's their project, of course. :)
The team working on this doesn't have a true website, per se, but they have been posting announcements on their progress in this thread on the NWN2 Modules forum. There is a link in that thread to some additional screenshots.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The best feature about their podcasts are their full-length interviews. Here are the interviews I've heard on their show the last few weeks:
- Episode 13 -Michele aka Liso, a fan who organized an IRC chat with Obsidian.
- Episode 14 - Bruce Nielson of OnlineRoleplayer, and also Hall of Fame author for his The Light Reborn series for NWN1 (of which I began the first episode, but never finished).
- Episode 15 - Annie Carlson of Obsidian Entertainment, who seems to have designed a lot of the in-game items for the OC, and is now working as an assistant writer on some undisclosed work.
I expect that this most likely means that they're working on an expansion pack, which would not be a surprise but is nonetheless great to hear. It will be interesting to see if they allow for epic levels in this expansion pack, or if they'll follow the pattern from nwn1 and hold off on epic levels until a second expansion pack. Give how popular epic levels were in nwn1, my guess is that they'll be here sooner rather than later...
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Maximus posted a poll asking folks how many modules should be inducted into the NWVault Hall of Fame each month. My recommendation was that only one be inducted, at least for the time being, whereas we inducted 3 per month in NWN1.
Here's why I'm concerned that 3 might be too many. This is a list of the number of modules released, by month, for nwn2, with scores above 8 and at least 10 votes:
- November (eligible in March) - Vordan's Hero Creator, JEG's Training module.
- December (eligible in April) - Pirate Cards, Pool of Radiance Remastered (as alpha).
- January (eligible in May) - Tragedy in Tragidor, FRW Character Creator, Asylum: A Bet, A Corpse, Prophecy of Aracas
- February (eligible in April) - None so far (none score above 7 right now, even without the 10-vote cutoff).
It's not a huge deal for there to be months with fewer modules inducted per month than is possible. But here are a few potential benefits of reducing the number inducted to one per month:
- More of a chance to showcase an individual module as "April 2006's inductee," for example. It would make the interview that typically accompanies an induction a bit more of a fanfare event, for example. I think this is the most significant benefit.
- Making the Hall of Fame would become more of a genuinely terrific accomplishment, as a module will literally have to be the best available candidate in a particular month. The NWN1 Hall of Fame was a good accomplishment, but after several years, a HoF tag wasn't necessarily a mark of outstanding quality any more.
- No anticlimax when we don't get three modules that qualify for the Hall. Hopefully we'll always have at least one or two that do, but we may essentially be using up the entire pool of available modules each month with if we induct three per month--it's potentially "risky."
Please let me know if they get annoying, slow down the blog's load times (a major concern of mine), or otherwise become irritating. If it impairs your experience in reading this blog in any way, I want to know about it--I'm not in this to make any kind of profit. But if I can help pay for the occasional premium module, expansion pack, or whatever Obsidian releases in the coming months, it might be worth doing.
I'll do my best to avoid cluttering up the blog too much, and will try to only include ads for things that you folks might be interested in (or, at least, not annoyed by). For example, I'm trying to block ads for things like "Thermoelectric Modules," which I doubt are of much interest to you folks. :)
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I have to say that I'm surprised at how few of these modules I actually managed to play! I usually think of myself as being a fairly prolific module player. But between operating my other blog (massive time investment during baseball season), helping to organize the reform of NWVault's voting system (HUGE time suck scattered across several months), taking a leadership role in the Overlooked Module Project (from which I've now stepped down), and, of course, switching exclusively over to NWN2's OC/modules from November onward, I didn't play many modules (oh yeah, I guess I also had a baby, which affected my play time). In fact, it looks like most of the ones I did play were those that I reviewed for the Vault!
Here are the ones I did play:
- AL3: Tyrants of the Moonsea - Great, well-developed characters and nice visuals, along with a good story--though unfortunately (due to its cancellation as a premium module) a fairly truncated ending that prevented it from being what it could have been. My review.
- Darkness Over Daggerford - Stunningly beautiful, with genuinely revolutionary gameplay that enabled exploration to an extent unmatched by any module or D&D game since BG1. The story was good, though unfortunately there were some execution problems that hampered the plot in places. My review.
- The Island - A short, visually stunning, and entertaining little module for epic-level characters. I played a version prior to the major reworking of the ending, which should have addressed most of the issues I encountered with it.
- Wyvern Crown of Cormyr - A good story with very well-balanced, challenging combat to go along with great visuals and many new systems, especially the horses and jousting. My review.
I also wanted to comment on some of the other contestants, as I'd still like to play them (or at least finish them):
- Almraiven - I actually put about 8 hours into this module and found that it bordered on brilliant. Very open-ended gameplay in an interesting, albeit confusing, city filled with fascinating NPC's. Includes a custom city tileset by the module's author as well as a bunch of novel mage-specific features. I stopped playing to get one of my reviews done (see above) and somehow never continued it. I still have my saved game though.
- Art of Death: Back in Black - By some accounts this is my pal Hugie's finest module, and even, if I recall, might include an easter egg area with me as an NPC. :) Has been on my playlist since it came out, and yet somehow never got played. Bah.
- Rose of Eternity, Chapter 2: Cry of the Beloved - While the initial release of chapter 1 in this series by Challseus had some problems in terms of its dialog, it nevertheless was a groundbreaking module due to its unique design--it's basically a console rpg (giant swords and all), realized in NWN1. The second has been the highest rated module on the vault since it's release, and is almost certainly better due to the team of people that Challseus has working for him now.
- Saleron's Gambit, Chapter 5 - One of my favorite module series thanks to its interesting design and extreme low-magic, low-gold, low-xp design, I somehow never got around to playing the fifth part in the series.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
You and a few fellow adventurers explore a sealed crypt on the outskirts of town. Unbeknownst to you, the crypt is also the home of a major demon named Carinth.I'm always a fan of interplanar-travel modules, so it has promise. It will be interesting to see what a modding group from an action game like Half-life can bring to nwn2 in terms of story and roleplaying, but if nothing else it seems likely that the action should be fun.
Rather than destroy you, Carinth throws you through a strange portal you find yourself on a strange, foreign world. In this new world, while trying to find a way back home, you and your groups become the most unlikely of heroes.
It's always great to see new groups getting involved in NWN2 modding!
Saturday, February 17, 2007
My Vote: 8 - Excellent, Recommended to Anyone
I had a wonderful time playing the first chapter of this module series. It's an exciting low-level adventure that has wonderful atmosphere. The town feels cramped and overcrowded, the people have real personalities and are desperately just trying to scrape by in this new outpost, and the strained, self-serving interactions between the adventurers and the town officials do a great job of conveying the unique circumstances of the setting. Furthermore, while the story is still only just getting started and is straightforward, it is told very well and includes a cool twist or two. This first chapter has just enough to it to make for a satisfying experience, while leaving a lot to look forward to in subsequent installments.
I played an elven bard/fighter (advanced to level 4 by module's end), and while my character was relatively underpowered through most of the module, it proved to be a great choice for the module due to the large parties that I often got to lead. I absolutely loved the mob-like combat that is in this module. It made for fairly chaotic battles, with people running this way and that, and enemies breaking through the front lines at inopportune times--just what you'd expect when you send an untrained group of adventurers into a horde of fairly powerful foes. It got pretty harrowing at times, especially when some of the weaker allies started to get cut down. Overall, I thought combat was very well balanced for my character and offered a great challenge without becoming frustrating or overly repetitive.
All my suggestions for improvement are small little things that I'll state in a separate post. Overall, this is a wonderful contribution to the nwn2 module scene. I'm really looking forward to playing the second chapter! -B
Friday, February 16, 2007
I will say it is a little strange to see him going by "Straus Maximus." I realize that his Bioware handle is (currently...it's changed a lot) Maximillian Strauss. But given Maximus's (meaning Maximus of the Vault) longtime standing in the community, it seems weird to go the route that Strauss has. But whatever.
I also noticed that slowdive_fan has started a blog that frequently covers his nwn2-related activities. For example, in addition to his ongoing progress reports related to his work as a NWN2 builder, he also has talked about other folks' modules, including this recent post which involved developing his own personal rating system. I spent a lot of time writing and thinking about rating systems last year and managed to involve myself with developing the new rating systems for both the public vault voting and the new nwn2 review guild scoring guidelines. It's amazing how many possible systems there are to evaluate modules...though in the end, I think most of them will come to the same end point. :)
It was interesting to see Prophecy of Aracas scoring so highly in his system--I'll have to play that module next. For now, though, it's time I go finish up Pool of Radiance. It offers a heck of a lot more gameplay than the 1 hour that was advertised. :)
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I also added some windows to the upper floor (there was more wall space, and I liked the idea of it being a nice day outside), along with window beam visual effects. It did make the overall lighting in the bar a bit whiter, so it's less of a smoky bar atmosphere...but I think it still works, perhaps better than it did originally. Finally, of course, there is now a staircase that leads down to the basement...and a 'barrelled off" area leading to what will be the top floor of the inn, once I add persistent storage to the module.
I also started work on the basement. I'm going with the mine tileset for now, because I want it to be fairly obvious that it's underground...and something of an auxiliary area. Right now, the stairs open into the training area, through which you can cross to a small library and a small non-denominational chapel. I had an idea about how I might script the combat area today, however, so that it would only require one combat dummy instead of the 5-6 I had planned. The idea would be to initially spawn a low AC dummy, but allow users to select an alternative AC in a conversation and then destroy the old dummy and spawn in a new one via scripting & blueprints. I'll fiddle with it. Anyway, this might mean that the combat area may shrink a bit in favor of the chapel, library, or some other lounging space for players (I want to have sitable chairs at some point as well, at least in a few places around the module).
For tonight, however, I'm going to do some "research" for the character creator and start playing Pool of Radiance, which recently became affiliated with FRW. Wayne released his version 1.1 update today, and I'm itching to play it. I think I'll use a chaotic good elven bard/fighter (need a few extra feats to get two-handed weapon fighting going at low level), as it sounds like that character would fit in well...and I haven't played with bards much aside from that silly Grobnar fellow in the OC.
Monday, February 12, 2007
I ran into all kinds of problems. The worst of these had to do with interior walkmeshes. I added a few tiles to lead over to a down staircase, added a few tables and chairs, (thanks to prefabs from the vault for some nice placesettings), and then baked and ran the module...only to discover that I couldn't access any of the new or modified tiles.
It turns out, from reading the forums last night, that interior walkmeshes are very sensitive to having placeables on them. Basically, if there are more than a couple, the tile is essentially just removed from the walkmesh. The solution is convert all placeables to environmental objects and add walkmesh cutter triggers as necessary to keep characters from running through them. Unfortunately, it took me about an hour of getting made at the toolset before I went to look for this help, and by then I was ready for bed.
The other problem I ran into was lighting. I'd read about this before, so it wasn't a surprise, but it turns out that shadows do not get stopped by walls. They'll show up on the walls, but then are cast through them. This is a problem because my chandelier light--the main light in the level--has a huge radius, and thus when I created a back hallway that cuts behind the bar, all the objects just behind the bar will cast shadows into that space, which looks really weird.
To compensate, I tried to reduce the radius of the chandelier and make up for the overall loss of lighting by adding a directional light source to the level. I fiddled with this a lot last night and ultimately completely messed up lighting in the bar to the point that I couldn't stand it.
So, tonight I'm going to start back at version 1.0.2. I'm going to first convert everything that can be converted to an environmental object, after which point I'll re-expand the bar. I think I'll solve the shadows problem by just setting some of the objects to not cast shadows. Might hurt immersion slightly if people are really paying attention, but it should let me get down to working on the basement--and that's going to be the fun part anyway.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Here's what I did:
- Made a copy of a robe of acid resistance.
- Edited the robe, lowered its resistance to 5/-, and changed all tags (resref, tag, blueprintid, etc) to it_lesserrobeacid.
- Added it to a store. It looked fine in the toolset.
- Entered module and checked the store, only to find that the item was listed as a normal robe of acid resistance, not my lesser acid resistance variant.
- Returned to the toolset. Still looked fine.
Anyway, FRWCC version 1.0.2 is now online at the Vault. I was hoping to get to work on some of the more exciting new features I have planned for that project tonight, but it's high time I get myself to bed. -B
Saturday, February 10, 2007
I also started working on the FRWCC again (feels like it's been a while), and I should have a minor update (version 1.0.2) ready to go to the vault tomorrow night or so.
I'm then going to start working on v.1.1.0, which will include some substantial improvements:
- Add at least one, and possibly two new NPC's reflecting new additions to the FRW module library.
- Add an equipment checker to crystal. Sum up all gear value and gold and see if it's more than 25% over recommended gold levels. If so, report this to the player. Should help players keep themselves balanced. Obviously this will work best if players sell off their loot before beginning this process.
- Add a basement.
- Add a combat area in basement with dummies that vary in ac: 15, 20, 25, 30, 35. Maybe, if I get really ambitious, I might try to script it to have one dummy with user-settable (via conversation) AC. No idea how to do that right now though.
- Add an altar (& non-denominational mini-chapel) in basement that allows alignment shifts.
- Maybe include a fighter/priest (Tempus?) NPC down there to add some interaction, though I'm not sure if that's needed or will be worthwhile.
- Add library in basement w/ custom "color" or "setting" books from FRW modules (Maerduin sent me a bunch...don't think there were any in Tragidor, but I'm sure other authors might make some in the future and I'd like to feature them).
Regarding the first point, Markus "Wayne" Schlegel has affiliated his module, Pool of Radiance Remastered, with the Weave. Furthermore, it appears that Ian Liew is considering adding his Temple of Torm series as well. Actually, thinking about it, one of the NPC's from the Temple of Torm would be a great pick to hang out down near the altar, and could double as an information provider for that module... :)
Once the 1.0.2 update is done, I'm going to get an advertisement banner together for the vault's front page that incorporates the FRW logo...cause it's so nice, I want to get in on that action. :) Won't hurt to route some more traffic to the Character Creator either.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
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My Vote: 7 - Very Good, Deserves a Look*
* Vote assumes that the game-breaking bug I encountered will be fixed shortly--it should be a fairly easy fix. EDIT: In fact, this bug has apparently now been resolved!
I thought Temple of Torm was a delightful little module, and is one of the better early nwn2 modules to be released. It's story is fairly small in scope, and in some ways feels like a side-quest in a larger module, as your character simply stops by this temple, meets some NPC's, has an adventure, and then eventually goes on his or her way. But it's a good little story, and is told well. Its pacing is good, with little downtime between the time you start the module and when you complete the adventure. I particularly enjoyed walking around and meeting all the young clerics and paladins as I explored the temple. Even though they didn't have any real significance, I thought the effort spent on their conversations made the location come alive in a way that it never would otherwise.
I used a level 12 paladin that I leveled up using my trainer module. He had a full set of +2 gear, including a ring and cloak, and this seemed well-balanced for this module. The Helm of Loyalty that the NPC's so-encouraged me to buy was well past my budget, though Protection from Alignment takes care of mind spells, so this wasn't an issue. Combat was challenging, and occasionally required tactics to win (especially the final battle), but ultimately was fun and very do-able. I didn't have any deaths, though it was a close thing once or twice even though I played it smart (I think).
There are a few polish problems in the version I played (v.1.0), and I'm relaying them to the author. Most did not interfere in a significant way with my experience, except for a game-breaking bug I already reported to the author. It has to do with controlling a companion while they kill a major enemy at the end of the module, causing a local variable to be assigned to a companion rather than my own character and preventing me from completing the module. I think the fix for this should be fairly simple. Instead of assigning the variable signifying this individuals' death as a local variable on the player character, you could assign it as a global variable instead. That way there'd be no need to sort out how to identify the actual player character. In the meantime, affected players will just have to re-load from a save before they kill that NPC and re-do the battle.
All in all, though, it's a very good module and is worth checking out in these early days of NWN2. The author has shown himself to be a very capable builder and I'm looking forward to future modules! :) -B
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
What's really exciting to me is how well it looks like they're capturing the feel of Sigil, at least as I know it from playing Planescape: Torment. For example, if you can look past the half-naked tiefling (looks like an Annah tribute) in the foreground of the shot to the left, this scene captures the feel of the inside of the Dustmen's Mortuary wonderfully (not sure if that indeed is what this is, but it would fit).
The screenshots also showcase a host of custom content, including creature reskins...
...and custom UI modifications.
All in all, it continues to look very promising. I'm also excited to see some of the gameplay features, including an intriguing faction system (choose a faction within Sigil during the first chapter of their series). And, of course, there appears to be a canine companion in the game named Hide. Seems like a nice tribute to good 'ole Dogmeat from the first Fallout game. I miss that dog.
Monday, February 5, 2007
Fortunately, I stumbled upon this little tweak by clubok last night: Less Obstrusive Spell Buffs. By simply placing his modified spell buff files in one's override directory (and, quite frankly, this is the first time I've been enthusiastic about putting something in my override directory in NWN1 or NWN2), the buff balls are converted from ridiculous to subtle. Here's a before and after:
Note that not only is the default sphere very busy, bit it also distorts the light that passes through the sphere. If you imagine that pinwheel spinning and shimmering, you can understand how miserable it is to have this cast one one's character when trying to explore. The override files convert the annoying sphere to something that is subtle and yet still enough to let me know that the spell is active. This will signify a major improvement in my enjoyment of the game. Thank you clubok!
Saturday, February 3, 2007
In my ongoing effort to hype up NWN1 builders working on NWN2 projects, Hugie has posted some screenshots of the first area that he's made with the new toolset. It's good to see him working on his new project. Sounds like he's encountering a bit of a learning curve with the new engine, but I'm sure he'll defeat that soon enough.
Friday, February 2, 2007
So, I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, so I'll say it again... I am really, really beginning to like the new toolset. For me, the learning curve was not that bad, and all the features are great (minus NWN1 style cut-scenes).
There are still various issues, like some scripts that don't work and such, but nothing that will keep me away from it. My next purchase is going to be a 22" Widescreen Monitor, mainly so that I can have more windows open in the toolset at one time. I may get more memory for my machine, so it runs a bit faster, but for what it's worth, I am happy.
***Hopes Obsidian will fix SetCutsceneMode so that the entire GUI is actually hidden!***
Needless to say, it's good to see individuals like Challseus and Adam Miller enjoying the new toolset. Hopefully we'll start seeing more news from the former individual in the coming months about what he's going to do with it. :)
Speaking of Miller, Dark Waters is being tested by his "internal" QA folks. It's tough to know how close it is, but I don't think it's unreasonable to think that we (the public) might see it sometime in March.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
My Vote: 8 - Excellent, Recommended to Anyone.
I personally have played well over 100 modules for NWN1, several of which fell into the "bizarre psychological abstraction" genre. But this one probably takes the cake for absurdity. Wonderfully creative ideas throughout. On the surface it's completely random, and yet there is a coherent story here, with pieces that actually do fit together as an intriguing metaphor for the player character's shattered mind. There's good humor here as well, but it's set against the backdrop of something terrible that has happened, which gave the module a very uneasy feeling even as a grinned my way through it. The puzzles are interesting and novel, and fit the setting well. I was particularly keen on everything you did with the chess set, from the weird combat sequences to the actual small puzzle.
Visually, this module is spectacular, and is a testament to what one can do with this new toolset. There aren't many instances in which it'll be appropriate to push the lighting and tinting to the extremes that it is pushed here, but it works in this case. I was particularly struck by the use of dramatic lighting in the "real world" sequences, and how that was used to convey a sense of absolute horror when needed. Adding to that were the rapid camera changes during cutscenes, as well as the rapid flashes to a black screen and back, which made for some really stirring sequences. I also wanted to commend you on your custom music selections, as they really took the atmosphere to the next level.
Two minor suggestions. First, while you acknowledge it in your early DM meeting, you might consider recruiting some help from a native English speaker in the community to give your dialogue a pass, as the grammar is sometimes a bit off. In some cases, that actually works really well for the bizarre cast you've created. But other conversations, particularly the real life sequences, it would be nice to have that as well-polished as the rest of your module (edit: the author has just released a new version that does apparently have a number of edits to the dialogue by a native english speaker). Second, there were some times, at least as rendered on my video card (Radeon x1900xt) that the shadow intensity seemed too high. I'm finding that setting shadow intensity somewhere between 0.5 and 0.7 works best. Granted, at times, the completely black shadows make for interesting effects in your bizarre areas, but in others--especially the opening, real life area--I think some adjustment might be appropriate.
Thanks for this module! I honestly had no idea what to expect when I started it, and I found it to be far better than I'd dared hope it might be. I hadn't expected to give votes of 8 or higher to a module this short, but this earned it. Looking forward to the next one!
But at the same time, Strauss was one of the biggest promoters of NWN2 during its development, and aggressively pursued and distributed any nwn2-related news that he could find to help us gamers satisfy our endless need for information. As such, I've regularly read his site's articles via bloglines (I'm one of two, apparently, who do this) as a means to keeping up with current nwn2 news for over a year.
Strauss stated in his farewell post that he is considering starting a multiplayer/persistent world-oriented website now that nwn2news is closing. I think this is a fine idea. While NWConnections fills that role to some extent, I think there's a lot of room for additional fan sites in that niche. It also reflects the changing needs of the community. At this point in the life cycle of the game, news is less of an important commodity than it was prior to release. NWVault's daily developer postings are sufficient.
What we need now are sites that support community content. NWVault will always remain the most important on this front because its huge storage capacity, bandwidth, and excellent comment & voting software are such invaluable, and undoubtedly expensive, resources (having a person like Maximus running the thing doesn't hurt matters either). But other sites can support the community in important ways, be it via connecting players to one another (NWConnections), providing a repository of knowledge about the toolset (NWN Lexicon), or even, like my little site, providing commentary and discussion of community modules. A site designed to be a central place for support, commentary, and discussion of persistent worlds sounds like a great resource for that segment of the community. I wish him luck.