Friday, 25 June 2010

Staying On Track & On Target

Since last week, it has become even more apparent that weekly updates are the overall preference for readers according to the poll results to date: hence, I bring you another update. This week I offer some general advise and some tips when designing a module and using the toolset.

Before I do that, however, I would like to report that I am continuing to write conversations and ensuring NPCs react in an appropriate manner depending on a PC's reaction to them. In Better The Demon, this process is over and above the normal different conversation responses available and also involves how an NPC might react to suddenly being attacked and the consequences with faction members. Thankfully, I have quite a few well-established systems in place now that help make this type of behavioural AI coding easier to do. That said, I still have to tweak the odd script here and there for any given situation. Anyway, now for the general advise and tips I mentioned earlier ...

Avoiding The Tangled Web

There is, without doubt, a risk of becoming too deeply involved with a campaign project and it seem to become never-ending. I refer you to Kamal's latest blog entry that raises the same question, "When is it Done?" I think every builder asks this question eventually, but I believe if one has set out clear design goals and sticks to main objectives, then a project does remain manageable. Self-discipline and sensible pacing are crucial attributes to possess if you want to prevent the project from turning into a tangled web with no clear end in sight.

Of course, avoiding the tangled web is the plan of every builder, me included. However, subject to personal circumstances, some people will aim to finish their project by a date deadline, while others will only say their project is complete when they are satisfied that their design goals have been met - and many builders will fall somewhere in between. Personally, I recognise I am unable to work on this project as much as I would like due to ill-health and, therefore, I have not set myself a deadline to work to. The upside to this is that I should be able to achieve a well-designed module, meeting all my personal needs by the time it's finished. The downside, of course, is that there may not be many people left around playing NWN2 to download and appreciate it by the time the module is done. My hope is that there will at least be a handful of patient people still around who will.

Avoiding The Black World Map

If you have ever tried to view a TGA or DDS world map image with the map editor, and you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, then the chances are you will only have seen an empty black image. I noticed this myself after I switched to using a Windows 7 computer instead of Windows XP. This is a problem, because you need to be able to see the map in the editor to place map icons on it in the correct place. Here is the workaround to be able to see the map in the editor:

1) Load the NWN Toolset. (Do NOT load the module yet.)

2) Load your world map in the editor. (You will still not see the map image yet.)

3) Reload the map image you are using into the map editor. (The image should now show.)

4) Load the module and continue working on it.

5) You will need to repeat this process each time you load a new map into the editor.
Working With Prefabs

Prefabs are a group of placeable objects grouped into one larger one. The idea is to make new, larger objects that can be moved around as a single placeable object. The problem is, if you have ever tried to make a prefab, you will probably have noticed just how awkward they are to work with. Here are a few useful prefab tips that I hope will prove useful to other builders. If you do not intend your prefabs to be interacted with, then you can ignore the first few tips referring to scripts:

1) Of all the objects you intend to group, ensure only one object (the easiest to interact with) is made useable with the useable flag ticked, and has the name and description set for the entire group. (Sometimes, it may be easier to add an "invisible" object placeable somewhere in the group of objects and make that the useable object for the group.)

2) Ensure you add any event scripts required to the same single object of the group (from 1 above) as it acts as the main object that will be interacted with for the entire group of objects.

3) Select each and every object either in turn or by drag selection (if enabled) and, once selected, right click on any of the currently selected objects and choose "Group" from the menu.

4) In the naming menu that appears, choose a name that describes the prefab and select OK when done. (Whatever you choose will also be the default name for the prefab file name when we come to saving it as a prefab.)

5) To make this group into a prefab that we can reuse whenever we need to, you now need to right click on the group of placeable objects (now a group) and select "Export Group". You will now be given the option to save the prefab (with the same default name when naming the group) as a .PFB file in the Toolset Prefab subdirectory. You could do this, but I would recommend changing the save directory to a sub-directory of your own project files. This is because when you reload your module at a later date, the prefab is not reloaded from the Toolset subdirectory. It is, however, reloaded from your module's files subdirectories. And since the idea is to reuse your prefab during building, you will need to ensure this PFB file is available to you from your module files.
That's all for this week. I hope the couple of tips I mention are useful to some of you, and I do hope to bring more playing/player information in the next post. But, if you have any personal interests regarding any aspect of Better The Demon that you would like to know about, then please leave a comment and I will see what I can do about it in a future post.

2 comments:

Eguintir Eligard said...

Is there a reason you can't chapterize the game?

I would think if the general public at least play the first half or third of my game, it wasn't all wasted. If you built your game as I did, which is a bunch of unfinished messes then I can see why this might not be possible.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Eguintir,

As it happens, the game will most likely be chapterised by the time I release it anyway ... but all chapters will be in one go!

The problem is with the way I am writing it. I do not tend to write in a linear fashion, but jump around as I feel inspired on a given section. It is true, however, that the first chapter is more complete than the rest and perhaps I could have released that prior to later chapters. I, however, do not feel copmfortable doing it that way, as I want to ensure all chapters will work together in a way I am happy with. And if I release one part as a chapter, then I am commited to work within certain boundaries. I do not work well that way. :(

Hopefully, however, the writing will begin to flow more readily now that I have core systems in place. Time will tell. :)

Lance.