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.


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

I thought the skies looked quite good actually. ;)

I know what you mean about not always having the energy to work with the toolset ... and I don't have any kids. ;)

Great stuff, and I'm glad to hear you don't intend to give up any time soon. :)


Jclef said...

That drow encampment battle sounds like A LOT of fun - I dig the fact (and I'm know others will) that it's optional as well.

Keep it going, brohammer - I'm SO looking forward to Trinity (and GPS' Halloween submission)! ;)

E.C.Patterson said...

Thanks guys!

As I said before, no game has succeeded in pulling me away yet, even as a player. The last I tried is Mass Effect. Played a few missions, and then stopped caring for it much. Part of me just doesn't want to learn a whole new combat/power/inventory system. Another part doesn't care much for that aseptic world.

Drow battle is coming along nicely. I've paced it better, and it's looking like I might be able to re-inject some opponents while keeping things under control and not too tough.

I'm pretty darn happy you feel this way J! You know I'm probably going to be all over Misery Stone when it comes out. :)

Anonymous said...

Yes that Acid VFX would suit Vitrolic Sphere or Lesser Acid Orb it is no arrow for sure.
Drow battles are cool , how does the drow Spell Resist work out, Is the SP broken, in A Hunt Thrgh the Dark mod fighting Drow and Svirf was a nightmare for spellcasters

E.C.Patterson said...

Hi anonymous! Glad you like the idea of fighting a bunch of organized drow! As for SR, haven't checked into it yet. Thanks for the heads up. I did notice the drow wizards burn very well under a fireball... ;)
You'll have up to 4 companions with you at all times, so even if your PC is a wizard, there'll be some there to take them down with good old-fashioned steel. :)

Frank Perez said...

The color of the sky goes very well with the acid arrow VFX. If spells with green VFXs will be the enemies' primary mode of attack, you may want to retain the sky color as is.

But, wow, fifty enemies all at once? It can actually work if almost all of them are fairly low level and if they have a very rudimentary combat AI. Once you add more complex AI routines and spell effects into the equation, things will get tough for the players' frame rate.

Good luck with your project. Trinity is one of the most highly anticipated modules of this year. It will be done by this year, won't it? LOL.

E.C.Patterson said...

Thanks Frank! Ya, the overall green coloring is one reason why I thought the shots looked kind of cool. But the shot shows the current transition sky between the very blue Daytime and orangy Sunset. Not sure why it's green, but needless to say it doesn't really fit the other cycles and will have to change.

I agree 50+ enemies at the same time is a mess, even if just from a gameplay perspective.

These enemies will not jump into the fray all at the same time though. Many groups will be holding positions and will attack only when the party gets near enough.

For the most part, I'm leaving the decision making to Tony_K's AI. My custom AIs right now shortcircuit the thorough decision making of Tony_K, for example, to abort DCR outright until the party gets close or to cast specific spells in specific circumstances. I'm also using some OEI AIs like the Protector AI.

All of this actually lightens the processor load if anything (though I doubt it's really noticeable. But yes, I do believe that 50 enemies calling a full DCR at the same time can cause some stuttering). There won't be all that many spell casters either attacking at the same time so VFX load hopefully shouldn't be a problem.

Are you sure Trinity is so anticipated? Cool if it is! I have read though on the forums that some are awaiting Faithless almost as much as Purgatorio or MoW...

2008... LOL. Who knows?... ;)