Choose Your Language

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Episode 8: Thousands of Words & A Conversation Picture!

This week, I managed my first big step in a plot conversation that serves to bring the two story backgrounds closer together, and introduce a potential new companion. It never ceases to amaze me, however, just how many words add up when creating a five minute conversation that the player's PC will have. I don't think I had much change from four or five thousand words, which took place over two conversations. And that was just the first intro part of the conversation!

COMING TOGETHER

This week had me looking over old story notes to make sure I had my story "facts" right. I needed to do this because the conversation I worked on is going to be one of the core conversations where the player is made to refocus on the main story; and so the information had to be clear and concise. The worse thing I find when playing an  RPG, is if after having a conversation, I am left with little indication of what is expected of me. And while this can be helped along by a well placed journal entry, even these need to be carefully worded so the player can fully understand the current state of play. I recently returned to have another go at Two Worlds, but felt "lost" within the myriads of conversations I could have and the inability to fully focus on a journal event, because of unclear targets. This is something I hope to avoid without compromising on choice and depth for the player.

This week, I also had the added difficulty of writing from the two different backgrounds that The Scroll supports: those players who have played my campaign before and those who have not. So that was one reason why the wording effectively doubled for the two conversations I covered this week. However, the good news is that I have now reached a point where the two schools of players will have come that much closer together in their knowledge of the main story.

As I say, the conversations for these two characters are not completed yet, but I have reached a good point where one of them can end up becoming a companion of the party, irrespective of the players background. Now, I only have to add conversation nodes that offer additional information, which also work irrespective of the background the player had originally selected in module one.

JOURNAL UPDATES

This week also had me update one of the two outstanding main story journal entries (background one only) that the player is left with at the end of module one. For players of background two, however, this will be their first introduction to that main storyline, which they had not encountered to date. As I posted last week, this module will certainly change the focus of play for the player, and will be the most dramatic for players of background two (not played the campaign before), as it will be their first encounter with the events that background one players will already have been aware. That said, in the latest conversation, I have even made sure players familiar with the campaign will have a new pleasant experience of their own.

The Hero Learns More About Their Destiny

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Episode 7: New Companions & Quests, Same Old Story!


As the need to patch the first module lessens, I have been able to concentrate on building the second module. This week I have gone back to the main plot (continuing from the first module) and looked at some of the main story conversations I need to write to move the plot forward. As it happens, the NPC whose conversation I found myself writing for this week is known to my PnP players of old, and (if they have a good memory), they may recall some of their earlier adventures related to them. This same conversation also offers one of the new companions I hope to bring with the next module.

YET ANOTHER AREA

This week also saw me having to build another unexpected new area. The problem was due to an encounter that the PCs were going to have (in an area I was working on), which, in my opinion, spoiled the ambiance of the area it was going to take place in. So, rather than compromise the atmosphere of the area in question, the encounter was moved to its own new "prelude" area. Thankfully, I was able to rehash an existing area in such a way that it looks fresh and serves the purpose. The screenshot today comes from this new area.

The new area in place, I was finally able to start the conversation. Thankfully, existing code made the encounter conversation start quite easily, and all I have to do is simply flesh out the story. Nearby, I also started another conversation that employed my new dual conversation path system: This basically allows me to start a conversation for a MP audience when required, but fall back to a SP response when the MP aspect is over, with an ability to switch back to MP conversing if need be. I believe it works well, and means gaming atmosphere can be preserved during cutscene conversations, irrespective of SP/MP play.

ITEM SETS

From the very start, the campaign has included some items (including "sets") that I had downloaded with the intention of using at some point in time. I believe the original author was called Apep, but I have been unable to find any existing link to his original work. However, the code appeared to have been written for NWN1, and so I had to completely rewrite the scripts required for the item set system. That is now complete and tested as working, which means I can now make use of these item sets. I already have a quest in mind for at least one set. Other sets may or may not make it into the final release of the campaign, but my hope is that I will include all if possible.

THE MAIN STORY

As The Scroll was written for people of various backgrounds, whether they had played in my campaign before or not, the main story may not have always been obvious from the start when first playing The Scroll. Because of this, I think some players may be left with the impression that the campaign may not even have a main story. That, however, is NOT the case: There is a main story! The first main cutscene when transitioning to the village for the first time is the obvious allusion to this. (My PnP players already knew and have encountered "Morcoss" from my first ever PnP scenario back in 1989. If you want their full background story, then check out my website: The World of Althéa. Click on the Adventure Background book at the top, and then scroll or use the side menu bar to read the content.)

Many years ago now, my original intention was to wait until I had completed the campaign in its entirety before releasing it, so that I could help focus the player on this story as the rest of the game played. However, as the years passed by, and my health deteriorated, it soon became clear that I needed to break the campaign down into a number of smaller parts/modules to be able to deliver anything at all. At that point in time, I had to change the focus of the story to the PC's immediate environment, and true to D&D tradition, I made their immediate problem the main thrust of the current story ... but that was for module one only.

This next module I am writing takes the PC (and by nature the player) outside of their "bubble" they have been acquainted with, and now thrusts them into the bigger world. (Even though the first module also took the player many hundreds of miles from the village in its own way.) When the player plays module two, they will now take a greater part in the main story that my original PnP players already knew about. This plot line would also be more noticeable to players if they ever tried the first choice of background, as that opens up some events that relate to PnP days and earlier events that a new player would be unfamiliar with.

If the thrust of the first module was to introduce the player to the world, lore and mechanics of Althéa, the thrust of the second module is to bring the player up to speed with what my PnP players already know ... The Main Story! Designing the campaign and making this happen in such a way that does not go over old ground for my PnP players, and yet brings every new player up to speed is the difficulty at the moment, and was even more so probably in the first module. The plan is, that by the end of certain events of this second module, every player should be in the same place with respect to what they know about world events and what they are going to do about them. Background one and two should, hopefully, come together, so that by the third (and final) module, all players will be starting from the same place of understanding.

In conclusion, the "story focus" of second module returns to the true main story for the campaign. I hope this will help players to reflect on events of module one, in much the same way as my players from PnP days already witness familiar peoples and events in the first module that new players obviously cannot. Basically, events in module two transform the events of module one into something more momentous. Compared to a simple "barrier" problem, one may even say, epic.

Encounter Along The Forest Path!

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Episode 6: Having A Bad Were Day?

One of the advantages of starting a new module is being able to incorporate new ideas and concepts that are missing from the first designed module. One such idea I wanted to look at including was the Curse of Lycanthropy. For while the were creature has always been a staple from the first edition D&D, it has grown into quite the gaming element by the time it reached the third edition, which NWN2 is based upon. Sadly, although the OC appeared to include the concept of Lycanthropy in its world (and included such things as belladonna to defend against shapeshifters), the actual mechanics for a PC contracting the curse never appeared to make it into the game. That's where my latest additions come into play.

THE CURSE OF LYCANTHROPY

It is safe to say that there are quite a few interpretations of how the curse may be implemented within the game, but I like to take my lead from 3e/3.5e rules, which is quite well laid out at the D20 Resource Site. And while not every aspect of the information there may translate well for NWN2, I believe much of it can and have added the following mechanics:-

1) Any lycanthropic creature has a chance to infect a victim through its bite. (A bitten victim has a chance to save against the curse bite, and a paladin with Divine Health feat is immune.)

2) Once bitten, the victim does not know they are infected (or believe anyone telling them) unless they make another save after recovering from a transition. At which point, they gain the Change Shape feat that allows them to attempt a shape change at any time. Note, this is a chaotic and evil act, and good-aligned PCs would best avoid voluntary changes into the "beast within" or suffer class restrictions.

3) The affected PC will also involuntarily change into a were-creature on the night of a full moon (three of them in a month) or if they drop below a certain number of hit points while in combat. A PC does NOT suffer alignment changes due to involuntary changes. If the involuntary change takes place due to damage in combat, then they also suffer from "rampage confusion" until the combat is over. Fellow party members would be wise to give them a wide berth.

4) While the were-form may offer some advantages in strength and or overall constitution in a battle, the inability to access ones equipment or cast spells while in the were-form, should be a good enough incentive to try to rid themselves of the curse. That and the ever present threat of potentially killing a party member during a rampaging confusion moment of course.

5) Curing a PC from the Curse of Lycanthropy can come in a number of ways:-
  • Cleric of at least 12th level with Heal or Remove Disease within 3 days of contracting it.
  • Remove Curse during a full moon phase. (May take a number of attempts.)
  • Use Belladonna within 3 days of curse, but reduced chance as time passes and attempts made.
Note, if the person administering the belladonna is a healer, their skills are added to the chance of curing the victim of the curse. Furthermore, belladonna is poisonous and would require further treatment to remove its own debilitating effects, even if it successfully removes the curse.

MECHANICS INVOLVED

Even though I may have veered off area design this week, the incorporation of such mechanics takes its own time to include, as I have had to write the scripts to work with the existing framework. Thankfully, I was able to use my spell hook script to work in the cure for the different spells, and even made the OC belladonna now have the ability to "cast" two different options: The original OC protection against shapeshifters ability, and now a second option of attempting to cure a person of lycanthropy when targeted by the user.

The hardest part was finding a place to include the Shape Change feat for the player to control for their PC, as the feat would "disable" if placed in a normal hotbar slot, due to the PC changing form. i.e. The feat would become greyed out when the PC transformed into a were-creature. This was unacceptable, as the player needed to have the option to click it while in beast form to voluntarily come out of the form (if they made the saves). Thankfully, the slots to the far right end of the hotbar (where the camera angles and the Althéa Main Menu are located) remain available at all times, irrespective of form, and so I was able to switch an existing (non-critical) statistics button into the Shape Change feat button all the while they had the curse. And although the button located this way does not show the "cool down" option (of five minutes between shape change attempts), I was able to add an On Mouse Enter callback that does a similar thing of displaying the time remaining as a notice text.

The various aspects also included changes to the spells and feat 2da files, as well as the TLK file, which holds the new feat texts. One of the most important changes affected the displays of the moon phases with the calendar GUI, which needed some subtle changes. Unfortunately, these changes mean the code is not going to work "properly" with older versions of the code, most likely because it does affect the timing. However, all version 2.70 and up will now have the correct code in place and be compatible with future updates. (Unless something critical ever pops up again of course.)

'WERE' TO FROM HERE?

The code now in place, I have done some basic testing, and all appears to work as expected so far. I just need to finish some belladonna item coding and the "cool down" feedback and that is done. Then all I need to do is place the were-creatures ready to infect their victims with a bite! Going forward, I intend to write a scenario based on were-creatures, and then, perhaps, maybe look into that other classic: Vampires! However, in the meanwhile, I hope to get back to area building in the weeks ahead.

Were Creature Gaming Aspects In Detail

Friday, 31 May 2019

Episide 5:What's Over There?

Now that I have taken the decision to stop further testing of v2.65 of module 1, I have been able to become more involved with developing module 2. (By the way, for those interested, here is the link to module 1 of The Scroll. NB: I will continue to upload a newer campaign version if I find any glaring issues with v2.65.) My latest toolset activity has been focussing on a new area that (originally) was not going to be in the module, as I initially considered it would be of little to no interest. However, as I looked at the area map I was currently working on, I kept on wondering exactly what was going on over in that "interesting looking place" on the map. And so I eventually concluded that if I thought that, then other players may well have their curiosity piqued too ... and so went ahead and designed the linking area required. The screenshot today is the loadscreen for the new area.

AREA BUILDING

The last week has been all about area building ... and I had to remind myself of all those aspects needed to build (what I believe to be) a "believable" area design. I am the first to admit that my art design skills in this department are only adequate. However, I do like to think that I put enough thought into other general aspects of area design, such as lighting and sounds, to make an area a cut above the average. Basically, I like to include aspects that give a place a degree of atmosphere, which lighting and sounds (if used carefully) can transform an otherwise dull area, into something quite interesting.

1) LIGHTING: You will probably have a vague idea of the type of area I was building from this week's screenshot. However, I am deliberately skipping specifics to prevent spoilers, and even the screenshot may leave the reader with questions. However, the point being, I like to vary lighting according to the type of area the PCs find themselves in. And, the working line for me is, if there is no light at all, then it should be absolutely black! i.e. I try to avoid using any lighting that does not have a source. Therefore, each area I design must come with its own selection of light sources, or the PC must provide their own light via torch, lantern or magic.

The light source objects are dictated by the area type. If it's a natural environment, like a cave, then I tend to go for glowing flora or (if inhabited) wall torches, or even a combination. i.e I try to avoid man-made (or spell-like) light sources unless they can be justified. The main point, however, is that every area should (in my opinion) be able to be lit or placed into darkness according to light sources within the area. Being caught in complete darkness should be a possibility in some situations, and the player should be conscious of this by observation of the area lighting.

2) SOUND: Another aspect of design and probably just as important as the area lighting, are the area sounds. After setting the lighting, I tend to move on to adding the sounds, including the music and ambient sounds. However, I believe it is the positional sounds that go a long way to helping the player feel immersed within their environment. These can include simple sounds of water (pouring, dripping, splashing, etc), and critters running out of sight. I even try to include sounds that may alter with time or player interaction such as camp fire crackles or claps of thunder and rainfall. This latest area came with its own selection of sounds, which I hope should all add to its mystery and allure.

3) INTRACTABLE OBJECTS: Having setup the area lighting and sounds, I always like to add an interesting selection of objects for the player to interact with. This is what gives the current scenario (or area) the "meat on the bones" as it were. Note, these objects will vary from area to area, but are normally well understood by the player, and include such things as junk piles, bookcases, and chests, etc. However, I also like to use this time of area design to try to develop something "new" if possible, even if it's just a minor interaction. This "new" object would then be added to the collection of objects I can continue to flesh out future areas for the player to interact with. Over time, the collection of objects with which the player can interact should grow bigger or have new variations of such.

4) ENCOUNTERS & EVENTS: In the course of building module 1, I have gone through many renditions of various trigger and encounter events due to the many different requirements I have needed in module 1. Thankfully, now, I have a healthy selection of them to help populate a dungeon in a way that makes combat encounters efficient and (I believe) balanced. Therefore, it did not take me long to quickly add the monster events to the area, and all I am left to do now is add some comment events as I consider what should become available to the PCs. As some of this is tied to the bigger plot, these tend to get added later.

5) BACKGROUND & PURPOSE: Once I have all the basic area design in place (as above), I like to ensure that the player also leaves an area with a feeling of accomplishment, and some kind of memory of an area. It can be a simple as having the player complete a quest stage or acquire an item of importance, or even simply have a tough fight. The bottom line, however, is I want the player to feel they have been satisfied with what they have achieved in an area. My general goal for this, is if I test the area and do not come away feeling I either learned something, gained something new, or simply experienced a different aspect of gameplay, then it has not served a good purpose. Generally, I like to be able to tick as many of these aspects with every area, but overall design determines if this is warranted or not. I certainly try to minimise those areas that feel more of a "grind" than a source of adventure.

AN OLD ISSUE

Just for the record, I experienced an old issue of a placeable object not responding to a player's left click. To remind myself and those readers interested, if a placeable has zero hit points, then any onused script is ignored! I wrestled with a new prefab object for at least half an hour before I spotted this old issue again. Thankfully, however, even though this caused me some lost time, the benefits of building with all the existing scripts available to me helps go a long way to shorten the area build time.

MOVING FORWARD

So, the area that stole my attention is now "finished" apart from some final event triggers (if I decided they are required) and some plot elements that are still in development. I am happy with the way it turned out, as I have employed all those aspects I learned from my first module, including ensuring the PCs have room to move, and any combat zones are reasonably spaced.

In the coming days, I hope to go back to the original area I was working on and to look at other areas that can be transitioned to from it. In all, there are around another four areas that I need to build from scratch that transition from the area I am currently referencing. Once they are all done, I can move onto another area of the module. At this stage, everything feels quite a long way off. However, if I can continue to build areas at the rate I am at the moment, then I am more optimistic that module 2 will see completion one day.

Learning More About The Enemy!

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Episode 4: Encountering New Monsters!

Last week had me getting to grips with the overland map again. In the process, I had to start looking at the related 2da files that covered the monster encounter information, and "goodies" that the PCs may find while exploring the map. While I did not get around to the latter, I did manage to get some more updates done on the monster side of things, especially as that is one of the first major differences that the player can expect in module two.

THE 2DA FILES

First and foremost, I managed to finish putting together the terrain 2da encounter tables for my overland map. It involved ensuring the monsters that could be encountered had valid blueprints, and the correct scripts attached. I have edited the way the encounters work because of the way my campaign works, but the end result is the same as a player may have experienced before: While exploring the overland map, a miniature version of a monster may spawn nearby and potentially be the source of an encounter. The monster ones aside, I now need to sort out the "goodies" 2da that allows PCs to find stuff as they explore. This is over and above other "map elements" they may find along the way; some of which may be new areas!

THE MONSTERS

So once the blueprints were setup, I made sure there were various variant types available (e.g. archers, shaman, clerics, etc) where needed. However, I also spent some time going over some older blueprints removing original campaign string references both to the first name and description. This is because even though the description may appear blank, if a valid string ref remains, then that ref will be used with some of the code I use, which I do not want. I believe this may have been an oversight of the tool set design (i.e. a bug), but removing the original str ref resolves the issue. I also spent some time checking over module one for any missed there too, ready for its re-release.

THE BESTIARY

Once all the new blueprints were in place for the map monsters, I decided to update the Althéa Bestiary with entries to cover some of the new monsters that the PCs will encounter. Some readers may recall that I have included a bestiary (accessible from the journal as an extra tab there), that gives an image and some extra information about a creature upon its encounter, which the player may find helpful when dealing with the monster in question. So far, I have added an extra 22 entries to an already existing set. I include a full list of the images I have used for individual entries below. I deliberately removed any naming info, to keep spoilers to a minimum. Furthermore, there is a possibility that one or two of the creatures represented by the images below may still not make it into module two. The ones that I have added to the overland map encounters will, of course, definitely be included.

Note, in the image below, "animals" of the various types are covered by their own single generic image. Therefore, creatures that would fall under such titles as "domestic", "dire" or "vermin" are not shown. Therefore, the icons you see below would represent monsters outside that description. E.g. The spiders below are not of the "vermin" variety, which would include any large or huge variety the PCs may have already met.

The Bestiary Increases In Size!

FURTHER IMPROVEMENTS

As well as general building, I have been testing the campaign further, which makes for improvements of the first module too. For example, I have improved the way spell feedback works, which in turn has helped remove some strain on the heartbeat script. Most players may not notice any difference, but I definitely do, as the PCs move more smoothly in the game now.

And on the note of mentioning the first module, testing continues, all be it, somewhat less now that I am focussing on the second module. However, because I am still finding the odd minor issue (e.g. It was possible for a cleric to enter the world with a invalid god if they imported the PC from a campaign that had their own gods.), I am allowing myself just a little more time for checks.

That time has been helpful, however, as I also discovered one or two other minor issues that I have now squashed, which will all help towards a trouble free game for the player. To end on a big plus, all those points I addressed since the last post have not caused any issues since their updating. ie. The inventory/store/transitions and conversations all appear to be working fine so far.

If there is anything you want to ask, have a suggestion, or simply want to chat about something so far, then please leave a comment.


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Episode 3: Mapping The Way Ahead

Some of you may have noticed that v2.65 has not yet been released, as I had originally hoped to do last week .... latest early this week. However, because of the approach I have taken to module two, I decided to take a bold step and do some fairly "major" design changes, to make moving forward easier. This meant making some important code changes to the existing campaign files, including the following: (a) Inventory/Store Access, (b) Transitions and (c) Conversations. I know, it's nothing small is it! So before I explain what steps I did for module two last week, I want to say a little more why I made these other changes.

CAMPAIGN UPDATES

1) INVENTORY/STORE CONTROL: To be frank, this code was a bit messy, having already undergone some changes in the last beta testing to make sure it worked in a multi-player environment. Basically, it had become quite bloated with a good deal of irrelevant code, and contained an annoying "glitch", which I  wanted to be rid of: One had to click twice to compare an item in a store with existing equipment. So, the bottom line was I stripped the functions and rewrote the routine to now produce a reasonably slick system. In truth, it could (perhaps) be made slicker still, but I am quite content with the latest rendition for now ... and that glitch is gone!

2) TRANSITIONS: In the process of preparing module two, which involves transitioning on and off a world map (more on that below), I found that I also have "messy" areas of duplicated code that I wanted to streamline again. After all, transitions are a key feature of a module, and I'd rather ensure a clean set of scripts for the job going forward. Basically, many duplicated routines and checks have now been moved to dedicated functions, streamlining the code .. and, in theory, making any bug-hunting easier.

3) CONVERSATIONS: Pretty much for the same reasons as the rewriting transitions above, I wanted to make the code surrounding handling conversations tidier and more streamlined for future use. Also, I finally got around to simply placing some humanoids with the various "conversation" settings on them to try to learn how the different settings affected players in a SP and MP game. Before, it was a little hazy - even hit and miss for me. Now, I am fairly confident I know when and where to use the various options. Most interesting, I learned we can send a cutscene type conversation to a single player in a MP game, without it affecting any other players. I had always assumed all cutscenes were for all players. After learning that  ... and a few other conversation tricks, I decided to rewrite the core companion/created PC conversations, and ensure all in-game conversations could no longer be "interrupted". I also rewrote them incorporating a system that enabled all "new" interaction to switch to cutscene for all players, but remained for a single player when not required.

So, that is a lot of core changes .. and as you can imagine, is why I thought it prudent to put the campaign under another short testing period to ensure these core changes remain working for any imminent release. While these changes affect nearly every aspect of the module, I hope I know enough of the key core areas to be able to do some testing that won't take overly long ... That said, I'd rather make sure before release so players have the best experience!

MODULE UPDATES

I can also add that due to the changes I made to the campaign files, I found I needed to change some of the module elements too, be it simply adding or removing a "tick" from an object, or renaming a tag of an object. Suffice to say, the module has undergone some important changes as well in preparation to adding modules.

MODULE TWO

Apart from those important updates to the existing campaign code and module one, last week was about ensuring module one linked into one of the two potential entry areas of module two. One area of entry is a lobby (if bypassing module one completely), while the other is the Overland World Map if playing straight from module one into module two. It was when I was testing the transition to the Overland World Map that I discovered some of the "inconsistencies" of the tag requirements depending upon whether a player is using their own map (for quick travel) or moving straight to the Overland Map for slower movement. (Yes, there is even more than one way that this travel can start too.) Basically, the different number of options at the start for the player are what I am putting together at this stage and hence, the need to clean up those transition scripts. After much investigation, for instance, I discovered one of my tags being search for had an extra "OMWP" in front of it, meaning the transition kept failing. This opened up the can of worms that led me to tidy up the transition code!

Anyway, here is a screenshot of the overland map in operation .... Some explanation is below.

World Map To Explore!
You may be asking what is going on in the screenshot above? What is being shown? Well, a key feature of my world map system is the "Travel Information" feedback GUI. Basically, as the party move around (controlled by the lead player in a MP game), the Travel Information GUI updates as you move with all pertinent travel info, from terrain being traversed, speed of travel, and (importantly) time, as this affects your vigour levels. i.e. Travelling this way has to be managed. Note, there are other ways to circumvent these factors, such as using a map (quick travel) or a nexus (alternative quick travel), but that is up to the player whether they choose to employ them, or even have the means to do so. The "advantage" of travelling the Overland Map, however, will be the chance to encounter monsters for combat and find many locations that may not be found by the direct paths. (Note: Some direct paths may not be available from the start anyway.)

So, if you are able to zoom in on the image above, you will also be able to see some feedback in the chat window giving an indication on how the party is fairing in their current travel with respect to their vigour and how tired and hungry they may be.

Hopefully, (am I always saying this?), I will be able to announce a release of module one v2.65 in the coming days. All I want to do now is make sure I can at least play through the first few areas, conversations, store transactions, etc to be sure all is still fine and I have not done any unknown damage. Of course, I hope if after release you do find anything, you would let me know. :)





Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Episode 2: Getting It Right!

One of the benefits of working on a second module is the opportunity to do it again minus the parts that one did not like so much in the first. Now, let me say from the start that I am 100% happy with the first module and that I would recommend everybody who enjoys a classic PnP (pen and paper) style D&D adventure to download and play it. However, having played it a number of times myself, I can see where I could have improved it, and it is in these areas I hope to do better in the second module.

AREA DESIGNS

1) BROADER PATHS: To be frank, my own area designs are left wanting, in many ways ... and I know that even my newest ones for the next module will be no works of art. However, one aspect of the area design I will look at "improving" is simply to make (if possible) the walk-paths easier to navigate, especially when handling a larger party. For while I have found some of the areas in the first module are good to look at, they can also be let down by too "narrow" paths when trying to manoeuvre a party through them. For instance, it is easily possible to have over a dozen characters in a single party; and while I have made a means of escaping such tight spots available to the player, even this can need some extra persuasion at times.

2) SMALLER AREAS: I have noticed that when loading areas, a MP game can take some time if the area is of the larger size. For instance, when I first designed the Holy Mountains and Ancient Crypt areas (both 32x32 or thereabouts if I recall correctly), I had not tested their load times in a MP environment. Since my own MP testing, I have decided that I will break larger areas into smaller areas to enable faster load times for all play styles. I have not determined my exact limit yet, but I am considering around 24x24 maximum - all subject to testing.

CONVERSATIONS

1) CUTSCENES: Personally, I have come to the conclusion that the cutscene conversations certainly do well to immerse the player in the game, and therefore want to maximise my usage of them in the next module. I actually started making design changes to this end with the latest version of module 1, but going forward, I hope to keep as many cutscene types as possible. Obviously, those that serve an individual player will continue to be such, but I hope to do more cutscene for the players as a party as a whole.

2) COMPANION INTERJECTIONS: These came late in the design process for module one, and did not go without teething problems with the script involved .... which was quite complicated. However, now that the script that handles these is finalised, I hope to be able to use it more fruitfully in the later modules. The script that handles these interjections is design to intelligently supply a response from the most appropriate companion, be they provided by the plot, or created by the player. That was part of the complexity.

SCRIPTING

1) EFFICIENCY: As part of the transition from finishing module 1 and starting module 2, I have been trying to rewrite and make my campaign scripts more efficient. Part of the problem I have, however, is that some of the earliest scripts I have go back over ten years! Thankfully, my knowledge of coding has improved in that time, but with the new knowledge comes recognition of where some weaknesses are in my older scripts. Many of these scripts have been "updated" and "improved" as the years have gone by, but I may have to "lock down" some older code and rewrite some parts to be more effective moving forward. The point is, I will be building the second module with greater understanding of the way things work ... and more importantly, do not work!

2) MINIMISE NEW SCRIPTS: The thing I enjoy most (when it comes to building with the toolset) is writing scripts. And while I am no expert (even now), I do enjoy seeing the results of a script come together in a game. That said, my aim is to NOT to introduce too many more scripts, simply because they can be time-consuming and one of the quickest means of introducing extra work (at best) or bugs (at worst). My aim now is to make use of the scripts and functions I have already tried and tested simply to produce more material. If I find myself needing to write another script, then I will keep it to a minimum if possible.

ITEMS

1) RECIPE INGREDIENTS: Having made a start in the provision of items required for crafting and enchanting, I want to be able to focus more on this area of items and make further provision of such to the player. Once again, having the core crafting code already in place, I hope it will now be a relatively easier process of determining how to distribute some of those items that are less random; such as creature items.

2) MANAGEMENT: Module one already includes a comprehensive item handling system, which has taken some time to stabilise, especially with respect to keeping stackable items and/or plot items in the right count. Therefore, I intend not to go beyond what is already working here. Any future items will, therefore, hopefully be designed to work around the current system already in place.

I hope that by the time I write the Episode 3 report, I will have uploaded the latest revision of Module One and all bug searching will have come to an end, allowing me to focus completely on the new build. We shall see ... Hopefully more on the module two specific latest next time!

The Opening Loadscreen For Module Two