Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bugs and Learning

The Dragon Age toolset is a nasty beast, but that is somewhat expected given the complexity and power of the engine, and the fact that the game is still very fresh in the hands of gamers.

I've hit upon various issues (and some solutions) lately, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to share them and some advice.

The first was overcoming my pain with cutscenes and animation, namely, that I couldn't figure out how to get two animations to blend. I could overlay the two animations in different tracks on a character, sure, but it was a matter of tweaking timing and animation weight to make the animation look as smooth as possible.

This is not necessary. Simply select your two animations (using ctrl-click) and then right mouse button on one a select "Create Transition". (Or simply hit 'X') I would have thought this to be an essential part of cutscene creation, but this information wasn't included in the 'cutscene tutorial' on the Dragon Age wiki. It is now.

The next was a curious issue I found when going back and playing my second play through of the Dragon Age campaign... in that my mage hit level 10 and didn't receive any attribute points. Even more curious was that Leliana received two points for each one point I allocated to a statistic... I discovered that this seems to be related to a problem with single player add-ins using "module_core" as their "script" as shown in module properties. Even though I read that this was the correct thing to do. I guess not. So I updated the "Creating a Module" page on the Dragon Age wiki.

Finally, I confirmed that doors in interior areas do block all visibility of the player until they are opened. Or, if you make a door inactive, they are guaranteed to block visibility.

Why is this useful? Say you want an internal area, but don't want to undertake the (substantial) effort of level creation. Then simply use one of the existing level layouts and cordon it off with doors. Admittedly, you could probably use the downloadable level layout source and trim that down and rebuild the lighting... But this is another alternative. Potentially it saves a little on module size for downloading, at the expensive of perhaps a slightly increased loading time in game for players.

My final point for this point is to ask people to make sure whenever they discover something new, or figure out something with the toolset - please - find the appropriate location within the Dragon Age Wiki (or create a new page if you have to) and update it. Having a one-stop-shop for builders to find the information they need will no doubt encourage new builders as well as help veterans. There's nothing more frustrating than having to beat your head against a brick wall only to find that someone already had the solution hours, days, or weeks earlier, but simply hadn't made that information well known.

Until we get a fantastic "Builder's Guide to the Dragon Age Toolset" document produced by a dedicated group or individual, BioWare's wiki site seems to be the most easily accessible and visible location for information on the toolset. I hope people make it as useful a resource as possible.

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