Monday, December 22, 2008

Two-thirds of the way there

In spite of what the lack of recent updates might seem to indicate, I’ve been steadily plugging away at Trinity these past few weeks (and enjoying it :) ), in between sessions of Storm of Zehir (and Mass Effect… and enjoying that too), and have managed to reach the 67% completion mark for the mod.

Mostly it’s been work on gameplay mechanics (means of blowing things up, for example), creature blueprints and combat encounters (making use of several community-made creatures and items in the process), scripting a complex convo and the like. All in all, not much I really can show or talk about in detail without getting into spoiler territory. But here are a couple of new screenshots nonetheless, to liven this blog post up if nothing else. By the way, the hood in these shots is courtesy of Arsan and was exactly what I needed for this NPC. The community does put out a lot of great stuff.

All told, about 84% of the assets of the mod are in varying stages of production right now. I hope to get SirChet a partial but playable version of the mod in the near future, for a first reality-check on story-flow, gameplay and duration (and to see how many serious bugs he can find! :) ).

Now, if you've been pining to walk in one of Ayrin's areas, you'll be happy to know this just came out. I'll certainly check this out ASAP.

Friday, December 5, 2008

SoZ – Less CAN be better

I started Storm of Zehir last week and have been having lots of fun. The level of detail put into the areas is particularly impressive, so is the ingenuity and creativity deployed to build in such an enormous number of skill checks. I also got much more of a kick than expected out of building my own 4-member party and am finding the party conversation system more fun and much less burdensome than I was afraid it might be.

As for the overland map, that’s been interesting too. It sure is a great way to tie together disparate quests and adventure locations and give a feel of open-endedness to the game.

But, boy, those hostile encounters do zap in like madness. That started to become annoying very quickly once into the game, more than anything else ever in NWN2. So I found the script that controls the probability of hostile spawns and applied a modifier to it to reduce the rate at which they are teleported onto the OM. That worked and I can breathe now and not feel like I’m playing Space Invaders or something like that.

If you feel that way about the OM, you too might be interested in downloading the tweak I uploaded to the Vault recently.

We also uploaded the GPS No-Ring UI mod some time ago and have apparently made a few people happy. What more could you ask for.

Friday, November 14, 2008

GPS gets into UI modding

Well, sort of. It’s not quite what Lance is doing, or what these guys are up to with their Call of Cthulhu PW.

But it’s a little UI tweak I’ve wanted ever since I was making the Trinity trailer, and with Daronas’ help, we got it done.

GPS’s no-ring UI mod removes those unsightly selection rings you get around your currently controlled character and your selected enemy, that are especially intrusive in strategy mode. It also removes that star that appears when you click the ground to move. Look at the before and after shots to see what I mean.

With this, you can get a perfectly clean screen when the GUI is hidden: great for filming gameplay footage with FRAPS, for taking screenshots or for total immersion while playing.

It can make for a better playing experience when the GUI is up too. One reason I seldom played in strategy mode outside of combat was because of that permanent ring around my character.

It was a simple tweak to do really (override 3 images with null ones), once we figured out what we needed to modify and how.

The no-ring UI mod will go up on the Vault some time soon.

I’m also working on a few tweaks and add-ons (including TonyK compatibility) for my favourite custom UI, Lite UI. Anyone else uses this UI? The add-on may also find its way to the Vault some time in the near future.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halloween Mod Podcast

I just recently synced my iPod, downloading all the latest Neverwinter Nights Podcast episodes. For some reason, episode 76 and 77 didn't make it on.

So as I was washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen tonight I pressed the click-wheel to listen to episode 78, after listening to our very own Sirchet on episode 75! It's always when I'm cleaning the kitchen at the end of the day that I listen to the Podcast. It actually makes that job fun.

Lo and behold, it's an episode about the Halloween 2008 Community Mod, featuring an interview with Jclef and Ree! What a surprise! I hadn't even caught on they'd done a show about it. Anyway a great listen. It was fascinating to hear about the project from Jclef's perspective.

So if you haven't already, make sure you download the show or stream it from the Podcast's own website.


The following shot was taken within our modest house in the Halloween super mod. It shows a silly character of mine, Crazy Friggin, a female gnome barbarian, wielding some really hard candy she got there as a treat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Instant Classic

As beta testing wraps up and the NWN2 Community Halloween mod is about to go up on the Vault, I believe I can safely say this thing is an instant classic.

The creativity, artistry, imagination, ingenuity, skill and talent that is on display in this mod is awe-inspiring.

The Community Halloween mod is by no means your typical NWN2 adventure, but it is nonetheless an absolute must-play for all those who love this game.

Thank you to JClef and the Bouncy Rock crew for initiating and pulling this project together, and thank you to the 20+ solo and team builders who rose to the challenge and made of this mod a fabulously fun gaming experience. Happy Halloween!

EDIT: It's heee-eere. Get it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

'Tis the season

Summer and its lingering warmth are behind us. The trees are bare, their leaves cover the ground. The wind and rain batter the few pale flowers that remain. It is cold. The sky is gray.


This means it's modding season in Canada! Let the games be built!

Mod building might be a bit like professional hockey. There's much more happening between October and May. There's less reason to spend much time outdoors (at least for those that hate the cold, like me), and less reason to feel guilty about it.

So I now expect building on Trinity to pick-up.

Still I'm pretty pleased with progress lately. The mod's now about 60% done. Conversations represent one of the big chunks that account for the remainder. Progress on that front is sss-loooowww. I really am rarely able to write fast. And have my fill of it after 90 minutes or so. Add to that the fact that I don't often have 90 minutes-worth of quiet time where my mind is rested and cooperative, and you get the picture.

Wife is taking the kids away for a full 36 hours this weekend. This means one Vin Diesel movie pumped out of the surround sound, and some good quality time with the TS. If I can get in 3-4 90 minutes writing sessions I'll be pleased.

Besides writing, I've been working lately on scripting and gameplay mechanics for a corpse cremation puzzl-ish sequence, some light/ambiance scripts, area design (one has been chalked up in the Completed column), and some custom item blueprints, including a very rare 300-year old bottle of Elverquisst, amongst other odds and ends.

(EDIT: I just realized that Trinity has been in development for exactly one year... Is that cause for celebration, or is it depressing? Not sure... :) My first backup is dated Oct 20 2007 - yes, I have one year worth of backups...)

And this would be the ideal time too for the community Halloween beta mod to go up. I really can't wait for this.

And now for some very interesting NWN2 building community news.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Male Tiefling Head

The new head will be included in our Halloween mod. I created it for my avatar. It's a mix of the old, new, and my own vision.

It's my first head modeled from scratch. As a matter of fact, I'm obviously not much of an organic modeler to begin with. It was also my first foray into texturing a "human" head.

I wanted to do a base mesh that I could use for other projects. Well, this one came out OK, but needs lots of improvements. In particular the nose and the mouth. So, I will be remodeling my base mesh. I don't have time before the release of the mod. Maybe somebody will like it as another Tiefling head option, even if it's not very good.

The head and facial horns are a beard option. I chose to do it this way so the head horns aren't tied to a single hair style. They cover the existing horns. Be advised that the head is normal mapped specifically for the head and facial horns to be used. They are tintable via the "hair accessory" option. I didn't want to infringe on one of the other tint options. The skin and eyebrows are tintable per the usual options.

It's NOT fully rigged. I only rigged the head, neck, eyelids, and eyes(OEI eyes). So, he'll look around and blink. I was happy to get that far. :) Rigging is another of my weak spots. But, I'm slowly leraning. There is no inside to the mouth. Lip flappers and such are out for now. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get better at it someday.

The screenshot was taken in LadyE's awesome Unicorn Run prefab. It reminded me, since I don't play the game much anymore, how good this game can look.

A couple Halloween shots

Our modest contribution to the Community Halloween mod is almost done. Just needs to have a final convo with our avatard plugged in and a final coat of polish. Here are a couple of not-too-spoiling shots (yes, the second one is an actual in-game screenshot. ;) ). Wish I could show the couple of custom items Daronas has made for the GPS goody bag, but we decided to keep that as a surprise...

The mod originally made use of the newish SetLightActive function to turn lights on and off. But since that function is broken for now, I had to come up with an alternate custom function to spawn/destroy the "same" lights at will, and in the same spot. Nothing complicated, except that BPs need to be created for each distinct light...

I personally am really looking forward to playing this shared Halloween campaign. And that's just what I plan to be doing when I come back home from trick-or-treating with the kids on the 31st.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Great balls of acid

by E.C.Patterson

No I’m not talking about any hallucinogenic excesses, but about the VFX for the Melf’s Acid Arrow spell. Cool VFX. Doesn’t look anything like an arrow though.

These are pix of a drow wizard unloading his wand of acid arrows on a couple of companions, poor Autamma and Thelvar (PC was long down and out). I thought they were pretty neat (even though the sky color and lighting does not look like any of my settings. Don’t know what’s up with that yet.)

They were taken while I was working this weekend on the largest battle encounter in Trinity (previously called Into the Forgotten Realms, and likely to know at least one other name change before it’s released – latest poll is sort of telling me as much…;) ). It’s a battle to take down a surface drow encampment, which could take place at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the mod, or not at all really, depending on how the player feels about it. There’s no way, I think, the party would be able to succeed on their own. So they’ll have two different options for allies. One of them will involve driders. Enough said. ;)

I started off with at least 60 enemies in the scene, but even with AI tweaks it was too much of a mess to play: there was just too much happening. So I’ve been taking down the number of belligerents to more manageable numbers, while making them a bit tougher. Also using some custom DCR scripts to control when certain groups jump into the fray. Fun stuff do to this battle setup, but hard to get right. Not quite there yet.

One final word about all that: Tony_K. After waffling on the question, I pretty much decided to include his AI into the mod. It really makes creatures behave more intelligently. I just have to get more comfortable with how to tweak it, but for the most part it’s just like the default AI (except there are no X2_L_BEH_* variables).

No surprise here, Trinity building time has been at a high premium these past couple of months. There’s been the 3-week family vacation during which, even though I had my laptop, I wasn’t able to do much. Then there were the last days of summer, just calling me outdoors, do the last bit of gardening, go to the park with the kids etc. And also there’s the Halloween mod project that tricked me into handing it over almost a week-worth of building time. ;)

It’s not just a question of time of course, but of energy too. When 10 p.m. comes around, and the kids have been put to bed, we’ve had our dinner, and the kitchen has been cleaned-up, I don’t always feel like sitting down to write or do some other mod stuff. Sometimes I’d really rather just play (or do something else), which I do. In the past 2 months, I managed to finish MotB (many great, great aspects, but a story that’s a bit too supernatural really for my tastes), Pool of Radiance Remastered and dgraf’s beta of Price of Honor. And I’m now, finally, well into Raith’s Sand of Solvheil I.

All fun stuff. One thing that’s for sure: I’m nowhere near trading in NWN2 for another game.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A word about NHiN2

We’ve been seeing quite a few people recently asking about the status of the sequel to Night Howls in Nestlehaven, or simply expressing their eagerness for its release. It’s wonderful to realize there are so many enthusiastic fans of Jackyo123’s Hall of Fame mod.

It is to be fair to these fans that we are officially announcing that NHiN2’s development is now unfortunately on indefinite hold. This likely comes as no surprise to many, since there has been no news here or elsewhere about the mod for many months now.

We know this might be disappointing to many players. It is disappointing to us as well. After having spent much time and energy on area design, scripting, cutscenes, writing and testing for the mod, few may have been more eager to see the mod come out than us at Gaming Parents.

But of course, none was more devoted to this project than Jackyo himself. His boundless enthusiasm and imagination was impressive and a joy to witness. Before going on hold, NHiN2 was clocking in at somewhere around 14 hours of gameplay and was fast approaching the first stages of beta testing.

Sadly, Jackyo has other obligations these days that prevent him from pursuing the project further. We the remaining active members of GPS hold on to the hope that he will eventually return to the NWN2 scene and that we will all someday be able to complete the mod together as intended. In the meantime, we wish Jackyo and his family the best.

Our other mod projects (A Time to Die and Trinity) are still very much in the pipeline. So stay tuned for more news on those. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Due To Popular Demand "Daronas's Dwarven Statue"

Here's a better picture of the Statue we could see in the background of the Dwarven Belt picture. Daron's put this statue together for us to use over at The Dawn of Time, a persistent World I've been involved in lately.

I think with the proper support and encouragement, Daronas may release this to our gaming community.

Oh, and here's a link to Dawn of Time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Belt W.I.P.

OK, this is a belt I've been working on. I just thought I'd post a pic to gain some interest and ask for some input. The main thing I'm struggling with is the skin modifier. It's my first armor piece. I wouldn't mind doing more if there is interest.

Is the quality up to snuff?
Is some clipping acceptable?
How important is perfect deformation of the mesh? Right now the movement is a little rigid. My skill in this area is next to nothing. I can make it a little better I think. But I'm having a hard time.

I'm calling it a clan belt for now. I plan on doing a couple of more with different looks. I don't know what the different dwarf clan symbols are, this one features crossed axes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Artistic Self-Improvement

This is General Noob. He was the leader of a resistance against human/alien hybrid experiments. The reptilian aliens are a lesser race compared to future humans. The intelligence the aliens would gain when crossed with humans could not be foreseen. Still, it was not enough. The humans were far too superior. Not long after this portrait was created, General Noob disappeared. He was never seen again. The humans insidious experiments continue.

This dude was just a small project to learn ZBrush and Photoshop a little better. I had absolutely no plan. I just loaded up a box in ZBrush, subdivided and and started shaping. General Noob is what came about. I had never created any kind of bust in 3d before. Organic modeling and texturing is not my forte. Most of what I've been doing involve assets already done for NWN2.

I never thought I would ever do any character modeling/sculpting. It is very intimidating. It's amazing how one could become attached to a character. Even one that's not very good. But, now I know why people do it. It's kind of addictive. I hope to push the next character a little more. A little more radical and better rendering. It's a learning process. ;)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Giant Bat on the Vault soon!

I did this giant bat for a fellow GPS member. There have been a couple of requests for a giant bat on the forums. So, it will be released ahead of time.

The bat is just a scaled up version of the OEI bat. The height as been lowered to an appropriate level for combat. Oh yeah, I added the glowing yellow eyes as well. :)

Look for it soon, if interested.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

ItFR – Teaser World Premiere!

by E.C.Patterson

Here now is the teaser trailer for Into the Forgotten Realms I mentioned I was working on (the teaser actually reveals a bit of a title tweak…).

You can get instant satisfaction with the YouTube version, but I recommend you get the 16MB download which has much better images and sound.

The release of this teaser marks the halfway point in the production of ItFR. I'd like to take this occasion to thank you all for your ongoing support, which has without a doubt helped us get to this point.

Monday, July 14, 2008

ItFR: Moving pictures

By E.C.Patterson

To celebrate our anniversary this year, my wife and I got to spend 36 kid-free hours the other weekend at a hotel overlooking Sacacomie lake. This nearly unspoiled lake (spoiled pretty much only by the hotel) is about 2 hours north-east of Montreal.

What do you think I was telling myself while taking in this view from the restaurant terrace or while canoeing on the lake?

“Damn, another weekend wasted. I could be home in my basement right now working on the mod.”

Just joking! Of course I wasn’t thinking that.

But looking at the islands dotting the lake, the gentle hills crowning it, covered by evergreens, I really was contemplating for a moment just how best I could render this landscape in the NWN2 toolset. This is not by any means the first time I have had thoughts along those lines, and I’m convinced most builders have had them too.

I used to view the world in a similar way at the time, many years ago, when I fancied myself a photographer. Everywhere I looked I wasn’t simply seeing the reality before me, but was constantly evaluating the possibility for a photograph, determining angle, analysing the light.

It got really annoying after a while to constantly see the world as a potential picture. And that was part (albeit a minor one) of my decision to let go of that intensive pursuit, and forget about being a photographer.

I hope to be able to guard myself against this happening with modding. So far so good I think.

Into the Forgotten Realms continues to progress. The mod is pretty much at the halfway point now.

As I mentioned before, I’m producing a teaser trailer to mark this event. So some of my modding time lately has gone into filming and editing game footage for it.

Here’s a bit of assembled combat footage put together for the trailer. It’s still a bit crude, and I’m not at all sure it will be part as is of the teaser, but I thought I’d show it to you nonetheless.

ItFR will have heavy combat potential, while being low in hack and slash, if that makes sense. All combat will be logically tied into the plot. The plans are for somewhere around 15 encounters that could result in combat within the 4-5 hours of the mod. The combat minded will be able to handle all these encounters by force, while those inclined to deal with them differently can cut combat by half probably.

Download version (2 mb)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

ITFR : Not much building lately. I’ve been having fun.

by E.C.Patterson

I don’t mean to say of course that building for NWN2 isn’t fun. As an act of creation, I enjoy it tremendously and don’t see myself quitting any time soon. At this point, I believe I’ll go on as long as there is sufficient interest in NWN2 mods and the community is vibrant.

No, but sometimes, there are things I’d rather do with my 60 minutes-a-day free computer time than building. And well, since my heart and soul is firmly with NWN2, that often means just playing the game. (I thought sometime ago that Bioshock might steal me away for a bit, but it hasn’t. After a couple of nights playing, it was put back on the shelf.)

So last week I had a couple of good runs on MotB taking me all the way to the City of Judgment. As with any good thing, I wasn’t eager to end the game right away, so I’ve put MotB on hold for now, and decided to finally play the last chapter of Pool of Radiance Remastered. While RP’ing does feel quite limited in PORR, the mod has fun gameplay and well-crafted areas. Because of its general look and feel and its length, I consider it the most professional-grade NWN2 community mod out there right now (for better and for worse ;) )

Nonetheless, Into the Forgotten Realms has progressed somewhat in the past days. Xandurpein (author of Shadow of the Underdark and Tanithiel’s maker) and I have been having some great discussions on plot for the Cormanthor section of the mod. You’ll have to deal with the drow presence in the area, and while wiping them out will be an option (expect tough, monumental fights if you decide to go this way), it will not be the only course of action. Xandurpein, a drow expert of sorts, will be writing much of the drow convos for that part of the story. I’m glad of that because if there’s anything bogging down ItFR somewhat right now, it’s all the writing that has to be done.

Besides that, there’s been a bit of area building happening, including this catacomb, which makes me feel somewhat productive.

So, Joyeuse belated Saint-Jean-Baptiste to Quebecers reading this (if any!) and Happy Canada Day too. This is the heart of summer here with two national holidays within 7 days of each other. This, and the nice weather, isn't helping building on ItFR much either... :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Improved Baphitaur/Minotaur Head.

I haven't posted anything in awhile. It's about time. I just wanted to show a shot of the head I've been working on.

Honestly, I was never completely satisfied with the original Baphitaur/Minotaur head I originally did for LadyE. I knew I could do better. I added a couple of new programs to my arsenal, and have a few more months of experience. So, I decided to take another crack at the head.

List of improvements:

1) The head and horns are one mesh, and separately tintable. Less faces than a typical half-orc head. The eyes are not tintable.

2) The mohawk/mane is a hair option, tintable via hair tints. Original OEI, and modified to fit.

3)The beard is a facial hair option, tintable via hair tints. Original OEI, modified.

4) The nose/earring jewelry, and the horn tips are separate helmet options, and are tintable. I made a new custom armor category for this and all future custom armor I make.

Well, I hope some will find this a suitable improvement. I hope to have it packaged up very soon once it goes through the final bit of testing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ItFR : 45%, and video screenshot

By E.C.Patterson

Has it been two weeks already since last post? Time sure flies by quickly. If it wasn’t for my fancy spreadsheet I could think that not much has been accomplished since then on Into the Forgotten Realms. But it proves me wrong: ItFR is now 45% complete. I’m excited about that since it means I was able to meet the target I recently set of 10% progress per month. The mod is nearing the top of the hill, and hopefully it’ll be a smooth and speedy run down to the finish line.

To celebrate this forthcoming 50th (percentile) anniversary, I’m planning to release a short teaser tailer. I’m gradually thinking up the storyboard and filming in-game footage. I like making videos, so this should be fun. Another fun part of mod making, which for me is not only about building a mod and uploading it to the Vault.

I’ve edited some early footage just for practice into the following 15 seconds clip, which I’ll call a video screenshot. It shows a part of the Cormanthor forest area and some ruins, which players will have to go through to reach Soloria, one of the abandoned schools of wizardry around Myth Drannor. Some of the shots in there will probably end up in the teaser.

Thanks for reading. I hope to be back sooner next time.

Friday, May 30, 2008

ItFR: Blabla Bla Blabla

by E.C.Patterson

As I hinted at before, dialogues – and, in general, writing – is the aspect of mod building I find the least fun. I think part of it is because it’s much too much like work for me (I write most of the day already to make a living… albeit in a different language).

These days though, I’ve been pushing myself to get on with the writing for Into the Forgotten Realms. It’s not going to be an especially long mod (about 4-5 hours), so I’m not writing an epic novel. But still, there’ll probably be somewhere around 40 to 50 conversation files of varying length in the mod. I’m figuring at this point they should total about 35 000 words or so (as the PowerBar plugin counts them). That’s about 100 typed pages, which is really not nothing when you think about it.

This type of stat really brings home what a colossal endeavor even a little mod like this is. I’m all the more amazed at those like Wyrin (who's now got 2 parts down of his 5-part DA campaign) and Dirtywick (whose word count for SoT2 boggles my mind) are able to pull off such huge projects.

ItFR is at about 12,000 words right now, so there is some way to go still on that front. Thankfully, SirChet’s there to help with editing, ensuring the writing sounds like genuine English.

That said, writing, in spite of being somewhat of a chore, is oddly as well the most satisfying part of mod making – when it’s over and done with. I enjoy better re-reading what has been written (when it’s not so bad) than viewing a detailed area over again, say, or going over a complex script.

Here then is a bit of a sample of writing so far for ItFR.

Screenshots really don’t do convos justice. So, taking a cue from LadyE’s fun trailer for ATtD1, I put together a little video.

It shows the speech delivered at the beginning of the mod by the current Lord of Shadowdale, Azalar Falconhand, as you and other selected adventurers appear before him in the great hall of his keep, the Twisted Tower of Ashaba. It basically sets up the premise for the mod.

View streaming video
(Duration: about 4 1/2 minutes. If the text is not clear enough, try the download version)

Download video
(Size: 18MB. It’s the smallest I was able to make it while keeping the text mostly legible. Let me know if it’s still too hard to read though. )

BTW, if anyone notices things that don’t make sense in respect to established FR lore, please, by all means, point it out. That would be a huge help.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Small Vacation for GPS Members

Last Monday night 5/19/08 I was able to pry a couple of the hardworking GPS producers away from their passions and lure them into an adventure over at The Dawn of Time, (a persistent world for NWN2) .

I was very happy to see our own LadyElvenstar pick up her mace and stand side by side with EC's ranger and my dwarf fighter. Together they met royalty, bargained for information with thieves, fought their way through dark and dangerous dungeons, and even found a talking Ogre, (who wasn't very friendly) but in the end...all survived, just slightly less for the ware.

I think a short reprieve from the hard work these folks put into their creations was and will always be needed. It's all too often that we forget this is supposed to be fun, a hobby if you will, and we all end up getting too caught up in deadlines. I certainly recommend an excursion like this to any and all of the members of the NWN2 community.

I hope to see all the members of GPS taking a break and coming over, I will make sure a good time is to be had.

Friday, May 16, 2008

ItFR : just hit 35!

By E.C.Patterson

A bit less than one month ago I introduced you to my flashy progress report card for Into the Forgotten Realms. I reported then that ItFR was about 25 % complete. I’m happy to say it’s closer to 35 % complete now, even after adding a few elements along the way. I’m happy with the progress made, even though I wish it could proceed faster. But the only way that could happen is by cutting a few corners, and that’s something I’m loath to do at this time.

Most of the progress made was in conversations (with the help of SirChet, who has begun editing some of them), custom content (thanks to the great contributions from Daronas) and scripts. Areas have also progressed well, but since they are still in the works, they haven’t yet been chalked up.

The goal now is to complete 10-15% of the mod every month. With the past month’s experience, that seems like a reasonable workload, unless, of course, priority GPS projects like A Time to Die 1 or NHIN2 require more of my attention… :)

To close this off, here are a few simple toolset shots from ItFR that I like: one is of the school of wizardry’s library; another, of one of the treasures to be found, from a perspective impossible in game (that’s in the room with the beholder – which I’m now planning to turn into a Death Tyrant); and the last one, of a “simple” hideaway…

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Night Howls in Nestlehaven Review Posted

As some may know, our little family of modders started as Team NHiN, (Night Howls in Nestlehaven). Well, being that the lead for that project has been struck by real life issues, and won't be contributing as much as he used to for a while. I thought it would be proper to let everyone know how NHiN faired with the Neverwinter Reviewers Guild.

NHiN was well received and scored rather high in my opinion. Why not take a look for yourself the link is .

I believe JackyO123 to be one of the most talented modders I've been fortunate enough to work with since I've been involved in the NWN2 community.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

ItFR : Secret, secret, I’ve got a secret

By E.C.Patterson

I’ve been able to get some good, quality time with the toolset during the past few days, especially on Saturday. Grandma took the girls with her for most of the day, which gave my wife and I some free time alone… which we each spent on our respective hobbies ;)

I spent much of my time that day working on some of the secrets that will be part of Into the Forgotten Realms: secret door, secret compartment in nearby object and secret compartment in the floor.

The latter two are working great, but I’ve had one important issue with my concept for the secret door. See this thread for the details. It seems like I’ll have to implement the tried and true “VFX spawn” method or the alternative “Placeable door spawn” method. Too bad. I really had high hopes for this secret door concept of mine.

I’ve also been able to flesh out, in my mind at least, the backstories of three of the four companions, as well as the one of your “nemesis” (known as Gaion), including their respective “secrets”. I still haven’t come up with an interesting backstory and motivation for Thelvar, the fearless Turmian cleric of Tymora (otherwise known as Mr. 3T ;) ), but that will come when I turn my mind to it.

And lastly, I moved the design of this area forward quite a bit. This is an interior area made with Kivinen’s roofless version of the cave tileset, retextured with the texture RWS used for the chasm tiles in the Deep Halls tileset. I’m not sure if the glow spider will make it into the final version, but I really like how its glow map looks. :)

Oh, and I also made some useable latrines ;) (with the help of Heeds' ActionSit). No these are not essential to the mod, but they should trigger a funny bit of companion interaction, if you don't sufficiently value your privacy... ;)

I now plan to be off the toolset for the next couple of nights (if I can resist the urge...) to beta test Dennis Graf's Price of Honor. I'm looking forward to that.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Jakob and Whilma!

Today marks the first anniversary of Daark Twins, the mod I released for the OEI Grimm Fairy Tales mod contest. April 30, 2007, was the deadline for the contest, in which also participated builders like Wyrin, Maerduin and JClef, of course, who won the highly coveted first place prize ;).

We were given 26 days to make a 1-2 hour mod. It was a very intense and exciting experience. It was also I think a very formative event for the community at a time when it needed somewhat of a nudge.

Congratulations again to all contest participants. And thank you to everyone who downloaded and played Daark Twins during the past year.

Friday, April 25, 2008

ItFR: Bring out the WIP

What with the children party at my place last weekend for my daughters who just turned 2 and 4, the Montreal Canadiens’ 7th game wipeout of Boston on Tuesday, and the first gardening weekend of the growing season coming up, building time for Into the Forgotten Realms is at a pretty premium these days.

Thank the forces above for Daronas, who’s been sending me some nifty custom placeables, and getting me excited and motivated to scrape together some TS time in the last couple of days.

Here then is a work-in-progress shot of somewhere inside the School of Wizardry, showcasing some of his stuff.

I wish you all a great weekend!

[Edit: Here are a few more in-game shots of the same spot, before I call it a night.]

[Edit 2 - April 26 : Alright, I'm done with this room for now. Looks like the Beholder had some lunch recently...]

Friday, April 18, 2008

ItFR: Progress report card #1

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, as much to report on progress made in building Into the Forgotten Realms as to give me a sense of progression (or a kick in the butt, if I get no such sense… ;) )

So looking at the report card below, I’d say today that 65% of ItFR is currently underway, and that about 25% of the mod is pretty much complete. (The label “Needs polish” can be understood as my insecure way of saying “Completed”…)

The table gives the percentage of all assets for the mod that are completed or in various other stages of production, by the relative priority of each asset. Assets include areas, scripts, convos, creature and item blueprints, custom models, stores etc., basically all the components that make a mod. And they range in priority from companion blueprints and main quest areas (priority #1 – essential) to custom music (#4) to scoring system (#5 – nice to have, but good chance I won’t get there).

This report card is actually an Excel pivot table (I love pivot tables!*). It’s based on a worksheet I use to keep track of what’s to be done. I’m one who likes lists and categorizing things, as it helps me stay focussed and in control.

Most assets have been included in this list, but some have probably slipped by. Others have been combined (sets of scripts, custom items), since it’d be too burdensome to track them individually. Assets also vary greatly in scale, from the quick script and barkstring cycle, to the detailed area and companion convo. Assets are also being added regularly as the mod evolves.

Still, I find this system gives me a good sense of the work involved and a fair idea of where the mod is at.

* I love my wife too. And before anyone asks, yes, I love her more than pivot tables.

(Edit 28-04-08: As requested by Delak, here is the template of my tracking sheet)

Friday, April 11, 2008

ItFR: Theme Music!

After listening to the full Community Music Pack on my Ipod and rating the 235 songs it contains during the past several months, I have finally compiled a short list of 19 of the songs which I'll use to build the soundtrack for Into the Forgotten Realms.

The following song I have picked as Into the Forgotten Realms' official theme. It's called Arena and it was composed by Justin Durban/Edgen.



I don't know yet where or even if it will be featured in game, but this piece is the one that best reflects the vision I have of the mod, made of equal parts heroism, tension, and tragedy.

I'm thinking I'll probably use it, at the very least, in the trailer for ItFR which I intend to do down the line. It could also go into the mod as the closing credits theme. We'll see.


While we're talking music, here's another track that's at the top of my chart. It's from the upcoming Misery Stone mod. The song is by bardic superstar Lexi AKA SpeakingBeast AKA Jason Roy. It's called Calimport Kiss. Man I love this song. Brilliant stuff.

Monday, April 7, 2008

ItFR, and something to behold

I closed off work on the two areas this weekend that will represent the Twisted Tower of Ashaba in Shadowdale (thanks Hugie and Dirtywick for the info about it). I’ll be polishing the ambient life of the keep in the near future, namely the keep staff and servants who will be busying themselves about it.

The Twisted Tower of Ashaba will be the starting area in Into the Forgotten Realms.

Here are a few of the minor NPCs the player will encounter in the Tower:

Father Hargreaves, the aging former adventurer who now takes care of the spiritual needs of the keep’s inhabitants, and ministers to the less fortunate in the town of Shadowdale. He will give his blessing and gratitude to you if you bring him back some artefact from Cormanthor that could help him in his work.

Azalar Falconhand, the recently named successor of Mourngrym Amcathra as Lord of Shadowdale, who holds deep in his heart his responsibility to maintain the peace in Shadowdale and the Dalelands. The people, he earnestly feels, have suffered enough. But the burden of his office are already showing in the lines of his youthful face. He will give you your main mission.

Basil and Hardy, the clerks in the keep’s stores, from whom you will be able to get some supplies before setting off for Cormanthor. The former clerks were killed in the recent Zhentarim/Drow invasion of Shadowdale, and the keep’s seneschal was unfortunately not able to find more competent replacements. (More on Basil and Hardy in another post probably.)

And lastly, the young maids Hortense and Astrid, watched over by the keep’s matron, Garny. Hortense and Astrid have never left Shadowdale and wish they could come with you on your grand adventure.

Now, most of you are aware I’m sure of the new Beholder that just came out. I just want to tip my hat off to Jonny Ree and the Bouncy Rock gang as well as Dirtywick, not only for bringing to us something wonderful and much needed, but also for creating something that really got the NWN2 community excited (me included!). It was a great 7 days watching this happen! Congratulations on the remarkable achievement guys.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Unicorn Blueprint

Unicorn Run Screenshot Slideshow:

I just wanted to thank Daronas for designing the unicorn and E.C. for creating the unicorn blueprint in time for me to enter the Unicorn Run prefab in the NWN2 area design contest. I think Daronas did a great job at such short notice!

Here's a pic of the unicorn in use and I'll get Daronas to post his own pics when he has time. I will be using this area for the end of Act II of ATtD, which ends in a cliffhanger! :)

~ LadyE

Saturday, March 29, 2008

ItFR: The Return

Well, my (foolish) wish of getting a 8800GT video card back from Asus to replace the 8600GT I'd sent in for repairs didn't come true after all, but the next best thing did: a brand new 8600GT came in via Fedex yesterday, all in less than three weeks including shipping forth and back. Thank you Asus. I'm very happy.

Which means I can get back to playing NWN2 and doing visual work for Into the Forgotten Realms. I'm especially eager to test out Daronas' custom content.

Incidentally, did you all see the Unicorn he uploaded lately? Great stuff and I understand it's only going to get better as he polishes it. We'll upload a creature blueprint too to go along with it shortly.

Now here's a little screenshot to celebrate my return to the graphical world of NWN2.

"You dare disturb the one who rules Myth Drannor?" Hey, no dungeon would be complete without a good ol' fashion magic mouth! :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

ItFR: What is magical?

As I reported in my last post, I'm working mostly on dialogues these days. I'm having a fairly good time with that, especially when I get deep into character and I know where I'm going. I enjoy making my NPCs speak, so much so I'm starting to think some of the dialogues may end up being too long. I'll see during play testing what they feel like.

I've also squeezed in time yesterday to script another of the companion's special custom items (scripting is my way to relax... ;) ).

In Into the Forgotten Realms, each of the four companions will have a special item as part of their starting equipment: Rindal the Rogue will have a climbing rope; Thelvar the Cleric, an Amulet of Speak with Dead, and Elmaer the Wizard, a Wand of Detect Magic (I haven't figured out yet what Autamma the mace-wielding Fighter will get).

So last night I was scripting Elmaer's Wand of Detect Magic, and in the script I had to define what objects and items in the game are magical. Since there is no "IsMagical" switch on objects, I had to create some rules. The following is what I came up with:

An object will be flagged in game (with a VFX) as magical if:

(Creature) It has a spell effect applied to it, OR
(Item) It is cursed, OR
(Item) It is NOT identified (which implies the item is magical), OR
(Item) It has special item properties assigned to it, AND
(Item) It is NOT an item equipped in a creature slot (meaning that it would be a creature item)

In addition, objects with a "IsMagical" local int on them would also be included. This I added to catch objects that cannot be covered by any rules (e.g. some placed effects that would be used as magical "objects").

Objects (creatures, containers) with "magical" items in their inventories or in any of their equipment slots would have the VFX applied directly to them.

I recognize these rules are probably not 100% failsafe, but they seem like they could do the trick.

I wonder though if anything else should register as magical. For example, are there creatures that would emit a magical aura detectable with a Detect Magic spell (Constructs?).

If you have any ideas to make these rules better (other rules, adjustment to current rules etc.) , think of something that could potentially make this concept fail, have suggestions on a better way to go about this altogether, or any other thoughts of any kind, I'd much appreciate if you could let me know. Thanks! :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ITFR : Forced into dialogue…

Well, it seems my video card fried a couple of weeks ago. There were no actual smoke and flames, just a display that refused to light up and some morse-type error codes emanating from that big beige box under my desk on each boot-up.

So off the card went, making the trip from Montreal to somewhere in Indiana, to spend a couple of weeks in Asus’ world-class spa, for a little R’or’R (Repair or Replacement). I must admit I was pretty pleased to learn of Asus' 3-year, no-questions asked return policy when I called them up about my problems. Hopefully, they won’t wait for that warranty to expire before they return the card to me…

I am actually secretly hoping they won’t be able to do anything about the card and will be left with no other choice than to send me back a brand new 8800 GT for my troubles…

That’s a wish I hold ever since my wife nixed my intentions to buy one of those video cards when my 8600GT left me in the ditch. Somehow she didn’t find it reasonable for me to plop down $350 for a new card, when my old one would come back to me in a month’s time, refreshed and ready to roll once more. Hmmm, she’s right though, as much as I hate to admit it…

Matters would not be so bad if I had a replacement card lying around, ready to slip into my machine. No such luck though. All my old cards are AGP and this motherboard only accepts PCI-E.

So I have had no choice but to go back to my 2-year old rig, which has absolutely no hardware compatibilities with my current, amputated machine. This includes the SATA hard drives on which now sleep ALL my Into the Forgotten Realms files… So I can’t even access my mod files and transfer them to my new-old rig. This is especially irksome with Daronas sending in great custom content for ITFR of late, since I have no way to check it out in-game…

However, impossible to contemplate putting work on Into the Forgotten Realms on hold for 4-5 weeks of course… It’s already bad enough I have to play NWN1, because NWN2 now runs at 5 fps and under… ;)

I’m one to think there are never problems, only opportunities (well, most of the time at least…). So, I thought, what better time to work on dialogues for ITFR: there’s really nothing else I can do right now…

So that’s what I’ve been up to these past couple of weeks, when I’m left with enough energy at the end of the day to start writing.

More than anything, writing for the mod takes a lot out of me. It can be one of the most satisfying part of mod-making when I come up with something good, but getting started on a writing session really can feel like having my teeth pulled sometimes.

Part of it certainly has to do with the fact that I make a good part of my living by writing. Not high fantasy fiction mind you but strategic corporate communications.

So coming home to write some more or trying to write on the weekend (while the little ones watch Cars or Nemo next to me for the 27th time) takes a real effort of will because it can feel so much like work…

Part of it also may be that I’m not wired for a very imaginative and creative writing-style and have had no real precursory aptitude, skill or training for it. So it can require me to make an effort to short-circuit the neurons and jump-start the machine…

All that said, I’m still sometimes pretty pleased with some of my lines, but I’ve long come to the conclusion I will never write like Guy Gavriel Kay, or Zach Holbrook :) . Whether it be in my first language (French), or my second.

Bottom line: no Into the Forgotten Realms screenshots for a little while. Maybe I’ll substitute with a few dialogue lines I’ve written. I could put them in a larger typeface and in color. That could liven things up. :)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fellow Builders: Are you using the TS Sound Set Selection Menu Fix?

If not, why not give it a try? It may make giving a voice to your NPCs much easier.

If you do use it, I’d love to know if you find it useful and if you have any suggestions for improvements. If you don’t find it useful, I’d be interested in knowing why so I can look into making adjustments.

And if you use it and like it fine, I’d love it too if you could leave some feedback and vote on the Vault download page (if you haven't already) and help take the file out of the "sub-10 votes" lower plane it’s still lingering in. Thanks! :)

TS Sound Set Selection Menu Fix

I see that 1.12 will make some changes to soundset.2da so I’ll check that out when the patch comes out to see if any changes need to be made to the fix at this stage.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Frontpage for Gary Gygax

The countless tributes from past and present D&D players and the many obituaries from specialized and mainstream media that have appeared since Gary Gygax's death testify to the impact he has had on people’s lives and to the influence he exercised directly and indirectly on many facets of the wider entertainment industry (PNP and video gaming, literature, television and cinema etc.)

Gary Gygax’s status as one of our age’s great influential figures across the social spectrum was confirmed in my eyes today when an obituary for him appeared on the first page of our most relevant national newspaper here in Quebec, Le Devoir. As today’s cover page suggests on its own, this is a broadsheet that ranks alongside The Globe and Mail, Le Monde and the NY Times for its seriousness and journalistic integrity.

The headline about his death translates as: "End of the game for Gary Gygax. The creator of Dungeons and Dragons passes away at 69."

The full article can be read here.