Friday, January 31, 2014

News: Temporary Break

Just a quick post to report that I probably won't be updating in the next 5 or 6 weeks because I'm away on holiday. I will, however, be back modding away when I return and am looking forward to getting a release out the door!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Testing and Internals

In addition to my ongoing testing, I've been working on some level design lately that is a little more challenging than previously - primarily because I'm working on an interior rather than an exterior.  I don't think it's a significant spoiler to say that the vast majority of The Shattered War will occur outdoors.  This is an adventure focused on the events of an area within the wilderness, and the natural landscapes, forests, hills, valleys, and the settlements built on these are where the bulk of the action will occur.

However, there are some times where the player will have to go indoors. For these areas, I've largely been taking existing areas from the campaign and making some modifications so that they're not immediately recognisable - but I'm hopeful that this will be to far better effect than was done in Dragon Age 2.  I'm definitely avoid repetition within my own adventure, but there are a couple of layouts that will likely seem very familiar to those who know the campaign intimately.

That said, I have been working on getting the structure down of some completely new areas largely created from scratch.  Here I've been using an existing levels as a base, but only as a starting point from which to add my own rooms - effectively stripping the original level down to very little before adding my own new rooms in.  This gets around some of the initial level creation issues, and also gives me a base of model names for room components and structure models to use for my own work.  I became quite familiar with model names for exteriors, so having to do interiors meant learning a whole new set of model names, which increases the amount of time taken by quite a bit.  Also critical in indoor levels is ensuring that everything is lined up. Exteriors are a bit easier to "eyeball it", when it comes to placement, but interiors really require that everything fits together nicely in order to work properly.

Working shot of part of an interior

This shot is one of the "easy" options - stone corridors are far easier to match up than caverns and cave interiors.  What's worse is that the models in Dragon Age really don't match up very nicely and often require you to match specific pieces with each other, making it harder to get a more unique look and design without copying the original Dragon Age levels. I want to ensure that the "special" locations in The Shattered War are exactly that - special - and not make the player think "wait, I've been here before." Hence the need for the effort required to create these unique interiors for the adventure. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bugs squashing continues...

Yes, it's been more than a couple of weeks since my last update, so my apologies for the silence. Again, I'm aiming to have regular updates, but I'm trying to make sure that I don't just put content like "found 5 bugs, fixed spelling mistakes" or the like.

As for details of the progress I've been making, there are a few fairly significant things that I've managed.

I've finished processing all the voice cuts for one of the party companions. I've previously described that this can be a fairly time consuming process, and this represents a considerable chunk of time, as that's over 300 lines of dialogue for this character. To give you an impression of how much dialogue that actually is, here's a list of the number of lines of personal dialogue for characters in Mass Effect 2.

Now, the numbers there don't actually represent ALL the possible lines of dialogue for ME2 characters, but given that The Shattered War is a one-man development effort, you can see that there's a LOT of content for players to experience.

Taraz is a dwarf with plenty to say.

Secondly, I've worked on creating several sets of items that the player can find - customised sets with their own backstory and codex entries, and the items offer significant bonuses to the player should they explore enough and solve the puzzles required to find them.  There is a major set each for the warrior, rogue and mage, so no matter your character or party composition, they will be useful.

This has also meant that I've finished up a couple of the puzzles I mentioned in a previous post that will allow the player to get their hands on some of these items, and done a bunch of bugtesting to make they work without a hitch. That took a little finesse, as they were initially unsolvable due to some errors I'd made.

Aside from those two major things, I've been doing quite a bit of playtesting on the major plot quests of the game, which are all looking fairly solid at this point. This also included a number of cosmetic changes just to add more flavour to the experience - added ambient NPCs and behaviours that are shown in response to the player's actions so that they can see some of the effects that their choices are having. For example, if a player rescues a group of people, these people will then return to the town they are from, going about their business and other people in that town may comment on their rescue. 

Small things like this aren't critical to the plot, but they do reinforce the work I've put into place to make sure that the game will react to the decisions that players make. Seeing effects and consequences is one of the major goals of my design for The Shattered War, so I'm confident that touches like this will make it a memorable experience.