Choose Your Language

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Module 1 Reaches 90% Completion

The final two interior areas needed for module 1 of The Scroll have been handed over to me by Ryan of Eguintir's Ecologies. Thanks to him, and some conversations I have been working on, I would estimate that the module has now reached the 90% completion stage! And although it seems clear to me now that I will not manage to complete this first module this year, as I had hoped, I am reasonably certain next year looks positive for completion for this first module of three!

I won't deny that this has taken longer than I had first hoped it would. I knew it would take me longer than most, due to my ill-health, but I think my health and some life events have had a bigger impact than even I thought it would have. I think now of those parts that still need doing, and reckon (when I was in better health), that they would probably only take me a few weeks. Instead, they will take me a few more months yet - such is the impact of my health.

GAMEPLAY (The Witcher Review)

On a side note, I finally finished playing The Witcher (Enhanced Edition). I know most people probably finished this game years ago, but .... see above. The point being, however, I do like to take note of things in games I play that may also work in my own module. Here are my "good and bad" points I found with The Witcher (in no particular order):


1) Interesting story.
2) Amazing scenery / Excellent designed areas. (I liked the colours and textures used.)
3) Weather system. (Inspired my own weather system.)
4) User Interface system as a whole.
5) Interesting quests.


1) Travelling became tedious.
2) Unusual mechanics. (I prefer d20 / D&D.)
3) Single player.
4) Alchemy system too complex.
5) Lack of other skills.
6) Lack of interesting items.
7) Use of strong bad language and "nude" scenes.


Considering this game was built using the NWN Aurora game engine (with a couple of extras), I am simply astonished at the great areas and atmosphere the designers of this game have achieved. And while it may still suffer from missing a useful z-axis, I can say that I would be very happy if my own areas came out looking even half as decent as those found in The Witcher. The weather system I designed for my own module was inspired by this game. After seeing it in action here, I felt NWN was missing out on some atmosphere that a well built weather system could bring.

I found the user interface well implemented and especially enjoyed the map system part, which made use of "fog of war" (a favourite of mine in any RPG game). The journal kept good track of my quests, but I found I did not make use of some of the other information in that part of the interface as much as I thought I would. Having come from a "pen and pencil" background, I thought I would have found the extra information useful. However, (and perhaps this is the point), the extra information, while serving as background, it did not serve much in any other way. I think I would have preferred it if it had been presented as a brief introduction to an area, which I could then refer back to (if I really wanted to). The same can be said to some of the other sections here. The point being, I only ever made reference to them after the fact (and if I remembered to go and look), which felt like a missed opportunity to me.

The combat system was "OK" for me, but I missed the D&D system, with which I am comfortable. What really felt lacking to me was the use of spells, but I understand that is down to the design of the universe, and is something you either work with or don't. As I always felt driven to improve my "combat" skills, I felt my "spell" powers were always added as a secondary concern with "talents" I had left over and could not place on more "important" skills. This probably shows me lacking as a player with respect to this part of the game, but I would be interested to hear how other players managed the "spell" usage section of The Witcher. (I believe I only ever used the "wind" to clear some blocked passages and knock down an enemy, and the "fire" one to start a fire or try as an attack.)

I was looking forward to trying out the alchemy system, and while I did use it quite a bit (I guess you have to to play the game properly), I did so with minimal no planning. The problem was the huge number of ingredients and their potential yield, and what was actually required in each formula. It just became too complex to handle, and I found myself just creating the same few potions when I could, with the exception of looking out for a special ingredient every now and then.

I found the inventory system used interesting. It was divided into three sections (ignoring worn items): one section for plot items, one section for normal items and one section for alchemical items. This was quite a good idea, except I often found I "missed" items I had picked up because I did not realise where they had been placed. Occasionally, I would come across an item in one of these sections I did not realise I had picked up. This was especially annoying if the item was a "readable" object that offered more information. Of course, some of this could have been me being inattentive as much as anything to do with the interface. Furthermore, while some of the items I found were interesting, sadly mostly were "not". I say "not" because many of the items I picked up were "food", but just described in a different way, like "bread" or "berry". This was a little frustrating because most of these "foods" did the same thing (restore vitality), but each version took up a different slot in your inventory and could only stack to ten. Personally, I would have preferred just a single "food" item that took one slot and could stack to 100 or more. In this way, the game "appeared" to have more items than it actually had, and so felt lacking for me.

There were the same issues like those I find in a lot of games with respect to logical flow (could take stuff from anybody's home without consequence), and shops being full of "useless stuff" that makes visiting a store a little tedious and more of an exercise than a pleasure. There was even the occasional bug I encountered (a big monster near the end kept having the fight restart after a cutscene replayed), which required me to have to load an earlier saved position to get around. However, all these "problems" aside, the experience was a relatively fun one for me (Final Score), which I believe could have been better if the game was improved in the areas I have already mentioned, but also been coded to allow a co-op multi-player game as well. (My personal belief is that every RPG should allow players to play the game co-operatively.)

Story/Quests: 85%
Graphics/Area Design: 90% (Ignores limited z-axis.)
Sound/Voice Acting: 95%
User Interface: 85% (Presentation and ease of use.)
Stability: 90%
Gameplay Aspects (Personal Experience): 50%

Final Score/Fun: 70%

I am now starting to look at Fallout 3 (Game of the Year version), and from what I have seen so far, it ticks more boxes for me than The Witcher did. I am really enjoying Fallout 3 to date!


Casa said...

It's always interesting to see the opinions of other NWN2 builders on my favorite influences - The Witcher was a huge one for me, especially the world design and all the lovely details in it - just take all those ambient animals, or the weather and how NPCs react to it. What I also liked a lot was quests and creatures that go back to european folklore that isn't as commonly known as the typical tolkienesque stuff. A quest in, I believe, chapter 2 stuck to my mind, the one with the ghost girl dancing in the midday sun. Just lovely.
As for bad language and nudity, I'm per se not opposed to it at all when it's done in a mature way, I love realism and dealing with mature and sexual themes in an adult game, however the Witcher's biggest fault was probily the stupid collectable cards that brought it back to the level of giggling teenagers browsing daddy's Playboy collection. Many critics reduced the game to that aspect though, which didn't do it justice.

Also interested in your opinion of Fallout 3 (another main influence), and especially if you find the time to compare it to New Vegas which I prefer a lot due to Obsidian's writing.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Casa,

Good to hear your take on The Witcher too. Like you, I enjoy reading other people's opinions on games, especially when they are NWN2 mod builders!

You will be pleased to hear I also bought FO: New Vegas, as it was going cheap on Steam. So, I will eventually have some feedback on that one too. :) The Fallout 3, which I am playing at the moment is very good though, so I will be extremely happy if New Vegas is better.

Kamal said...

I'd love to see some rpgs set outside the "standard mythos". Especially would like to see arabic, african, and native american settings/mythologies. There's a wide variety of interesting mythology that's not the "standard".

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Kamal,

When I first designed my campaign (back in the pen and paper days), I had decided that different continents would have different "cultures" not unlike you suggest. However, the translation of this idea to an RPG format has not been possible due to too much work.

That said, the RPG called "Two Worlds II" had a mixture of cultures if I recall correctly. So, if one had the resources, it certainly is possible.

In my own world, I also designed it to work with my own "mythos" and some of the "traditional" non-human deities, so it's a bit of a mix. And maybe, in time, the feel for different cultures could start to show if I ever get to do it.


Eguintir Eligard said...

why must everthing be a rip off of existing cultures. Try inventing something new, based on nothing, I'd like to see that.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi E.E.

I'm not sure there is anything outside "existing cultures" when you look at it closely. For example, the "Klingons" in Star Trek remind me of "Vikings" in our world culture. Most other "invented" cultures are normally similar to something we know already.

And to a degree, to make a game "playable" I believe there has to be a degree of "recognition" of "types". For example, even if you did not know what a "Xchlarintof" was, but I said it was the "Battle Race", you know it is similar to a "fighter" type of character, or maybe even a Klingon in disguise. ;)

The point being, I do not believe there is "anything new under the sun", although we may be able to play around with the "bits" (the "cultures" we know of already) to give a semblance of something "new".

So, I believe it is impossible to "build something new from nothing". Only God can do that! Let me also say that I have never seen anything "new" in any computer game. I have been introduced to "cultures" I had not seen before, but that "new" was due to my not being familiar with what already existed, if you see what I mean.

Having said all that, I may have missed the point you were trying to make by "inventing something new". In my own module, The Scroll, I hope I have been "innovative" with what we have available to us with NWN2 and that some of my own ideas of the way I have arranged things will be interesting or fresh to players. But, it all depends on your own experiences I suppose, as someone who has been playing a long time may be able to say "seen that, done that" and become quickly bored, whereas somebody new to the game may be "blown away" at the amazing new culture ... as it were.

Did this cover what you mean or can you give more examples of what you meant?


Eguintir Eligard said...

I invented a new culture strictly for one rather expansive area in a module. They are nothing like anything on earth and aren't based on anything from our history. Any human can create, that doesn't make us god.

Some quick highlights of the mini society I created:

None of their bridges have guard rails, even way up high. They completely ignore safety as they believe you die when it is your time, not before and not after. So safeguards become irelevant.

All of their architecture is egg shaped or oval in nature.

They have lost most emotions as their heads are extra thick and have smaller brains. Yet they are highly intelligent so to be so with a smaller brain, they had to give up portions of the lizard brain and emotive centers.

That is completely original. If its been done before I havent seen it.

All I ever hear in D&D is rip offs of culture x and calling it this. For example, the realms at large are essentially the UK but without being called that. The so called dessert area is completely based on persian culture they just call it Calimsham.

If you're going to play a fantasy why fantasize about reality. All the time that is. Some familiarity is nice to help give it legitimacy at times.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi E.E.

Let me explain what I mean about our differences of definition.

For instance, I understand what you mean by "create" in the sense that you are using it, but I don't agree that an amalgamation of ideas or concepts makes a new "creation". Call me picky if you like, but I just don't see it as a "new" creation.

As exciting as your culture sounds, I see, however:-

1) No handrails, time to die: I recognise as a strong faith in "predestination".

2) All egg shaped designs: Traditional designs have also been based around different shapes like arches in a church window. Or, to the extreme, the egg shape is nothing new, because it is an "egg". A new shape would be something completely "new" and unseen before. "Xcrhy" shaped?

3) With or without emotions is still talking about something that already exists: emotions.

You see? What you are describing is exactly the same as the other "rip-offs", but to a different degree. :)

That is why I am saying there is "nothing new under the sun" - which is very true because everything that is ever offered as "new" comes from something that already was created.

Some people are just better at mixing up the parts to make something appear different to what it is made up from in the first place.

That is why it is hard to make anything appear "new" because as we grow older we have seen it all before in one format or another.

That all said, I do like people to still try and make the amalgamtions look fresh and new, even if they are still using familiar objects in the first place.

I hope that helped explain it some more.


Eguintir Eligard said...

thats being completely ridiculous.

When people pipe in and say "I'd like an oriental mod" thats a complete and utter rip off of asian culture with a different name.

Quillmaster said...

Hi Lance. Fallout 3 is awesome, second only to Skyrim ;) Enjoy!

E.E - I can't remember who said it, but there is a famouse quote that goes "There is no such thing as an original idea." I think this is true to a great exetent. I take great pride in declaring my Relbonian Chronicles as belonging to an original mythologcal concept and setting created by myself. There are many books within the mod that go far in enhancing the mythology, but at the end of the day, no matter how hard I try, someone somewhere will end up saying the fact I have multiple Gods just smacks of Greek mythology.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Geoff,

After the death of Honey, I have been a little slow in getting back to things like that, but I have just started to look at it again.

I tried searching for your quote online, but the only one it came back to (that I could find) was the one that I made in my post, which comes from the bible (Ecclesiastes) and was written by Solomon (who is believed to be the wisest man whoever lived).