Thursday, February 28, 2008

ItFR : Shadowdale Keep

Into the Forgotten Realms will begin as you and your fellow adventurers are received in audience by Lord Mourngrym himself in the great hall of Shadowdale Keep. Lord Mourngrym, the long-time, elected leader of Shadowdale, will set before you the task that you will take on for the peace and security of all Dalelands.

Here’s a question to FR buffs: do you find anything wrong or odd about the fact that there would be such a keep in Shadowdale? I have not found any reference to the Lord of Shadowdale’s residence and thought a relatively modest keep would make a plausible one.

These interiors are quite dark by design, since that is how I picture the inside of a mostly windowless keep (plus, I like moody lighting). The lighting was calibrated for my LCD screen. While these shots look fine on my end, they may appear excessively dark on some other screens. It’s probably nothing a bit of gamma sliding won’t fix in game if some players need it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Poll results : Most NWN2 players don’t own hot rods!

At least that it the safest interpretation I can make of the answers to the question we’ve been asking these past few weeks: What resolution do you play NWN2 at?

According to the poll results, about 3 out of 4 NWN2 players do not play the game at max resolution. About half play at the average res of 1280*960/1024.

Since I think it’s safe to presume that players would play at max resolution if they had the machine to do so, I conclude that most people who play NWN2 don’t do so on killer machines. On the upside, I think we can say that somewhere around 75% of players play on pretty decent ones.

If this tells us anything as builders, IMO, it is that we have to be mindful of the performance of our mods (expressed in fps), and most particularly of their areas, if we want them to be playable by the majority of the playing community. Making huge areas with loads of VFXs, shadow casting lights, grass and tons of tree varieties and seeds, even if one’s own machine can handle it, may make one’s mod inaccessible to most players, or at least make it a less than enjoyable playing experience.

This probably goes without saying, but it doesn’t hurt me at least to have it confirmed in this way.

On the other hand, the toolset allows so much creative freedom, that a builder might still chose to make the mod and areas he/she envisions, even if it means cutting oneself off of much of the player base.

If you make another interpretation of these results, please don’t hesitate to write it up here.

Also, if you know of other aspects of (offline, not PW) mods that can have a perceivable effect on performance, please do share them. For instance, is the surface mesh complexity of exterior areas much of a factor: everything being equal, do areas with less mesh variation (flatter, smoother terrain) perform noticeably better that those with lots of it (peaks and valleys, noise and bumpiness)?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New GPS Mod: Ed Greenwood’s Into the Forgotten Realms

A new threat has come to Faerun’s heartland, one that recalls the tragic events of a not so distant past…

Back in 1356 DR, Lashan Aumersair, Lord of Scardale, launched a series of lightning attacks against his neighbours, guided by a foul dream of rulership over all Dalelands.

Fortunately, the tyrant was stopped just in time.

But one man has now surfaced, who apparently seeks to succeed where Lashan failed.

You, along with a few other adventurers, have been selected to hunt down the man behind this new threat and put a stop to his frightening plans.

This chase will take you under the dark canopy of Cormanthor forest, to the outskirts of the legendary elven city of Myth Drannor, to plunge far underground, in what remains of the fabled School of Wizardry.

An adventure that will take you deep… Into the Forgotten Realms.

Welcome to Ed Greenwood’s Into the Forgotten Realms, a new NWN2 mod that I am producing with the help of the rest of the Gaming Parents Studios team.

The mod is based on the classic AD&D adventure of the same name written by Ed Greenwood and published in Dragon Magazine #95 in March 1985 (back when I used to DM PnP a bit…). The original adventure is being complemented with additional content and the storyline has been updated to fit into present-day Forgotten Realms.

Some of the mod’s key features:

  • Around 4 hours of gameplay
  • Starting level in the 6-8 range, with about 2 levels gained in game
  • 4 companions to make up a well-rounded adventuring party
  • Play with your favourite character: no class, race or alignment restrictions
  • Extensive use of community-made custom content, from armor to VFX, as well as tilesets and weapons (including work by GPS)
  • Single-player, with plans for multiplayer compatibility
  • Complete, standalone adventure

I hope to be able to release in late spring-early summer 2008.

This is currently project #3 for Gaming Parents Studios. Our priority remains getting NHIN2 ready for release and then completing A Time to Die – Act 1. Of course, since we are not all working exclusively on any one project, ItFR will continue to evolve alongside these two projects.

Like other GPS mods, this one will also be a team effort:

  • Daronas has already started making some great custom content for the mod,
  • Xandurpein will be writing a good part of the companion convos,
  • SirChet will edit all text and be the lead beta tester,
  • LadyElvenstar and Jackyo, once A Time to Die, Act 1 and NHIN2 – the projects they respectively lead – are out the door, will also lend their talent to the production,
  • And everyone is providing great ideas and advice to make the mod as authentic and fun an experience as possible.

If there’s anything else you’d like to know at this stage, please do leave a comment here, by all means. I’ll do my best to respond, without giving too, too much away of course! ; )

Thanks for your interest! I’ll try to report back once in a while on progress made and to post more screenshots.