Saturday, 26 September 2009

Goodies For All!

I did some more work with the overland map this week with respect to the “goodies” that can be discovered and random encounters. It was interesting to see the code used in the OC, but I also found it rather complicated and decided to simplify and make it more “party” oriented than the OC system. For instance, in the OC, “goodie” finds are based on the leader’s ability only, whereas my system uses the best skill score in the group to make the checks. Therefore, a well-balanced party with mixed skills has more chance of discovering “goodies” than having to rely on one good leader.

As I have barely started looking at the random encounter code, I don’t have a lot to say about it. However, I do intend to use it and would like to have feedback from readers if they would prefer to switch the encounters on and off? Or even have an option to increase or decrease the chance of encounters, as if the party were out looking for monsters, or deliberately trying to avoid them! (Please leave feedback if you have any preference.)

Crafting Items

Another aspect of which I am very aware when playing SoZ is that making sure the player will have “potential” access to all crafting materials is vital. After all, having recipes that cannot be followed due to a lack of materials will become a quick turn off if not managed correctly. To this end, I am ensuring all recipes do have the potential to be crafted if the player ensures they have the capabilities to acquire and work with the materials. It will be a two-way responsibility: I will ensure provision if they take the trouble to learn to craft. And as regular readers of this blog will know, every recipe has now had its gold requirements reduced (in most cases) to ensure there are no extreme prices for said items, but at the same time, maintaining a balanced economy.

Moving Forward

I have also managed to do more work on one of the side adventures. I was reminded just how difficult it can be to do something that may be slightly different from the norm. For instance, a “simple” transition I was working on was complicated by the fact that I wanted to offer more ways to use it, subject to the party’s skills and abilities. Instead of being able to use the normal simple transition lines in the properties, I ended up writing four separate scripts!

Party Focused

I want to stress how this campaign will be written with the party as the focus rather than a leader with a group of followers. An example of such was given above where every member of the party will be checked when discovering “goodies” on the overland map. I also wrote my own system for “party conversations” before SoZ came out, which allows responses from all party members and not just the main PC speaker. After all, party members should not stand mute if they have something valuable to offer. This system is slightly different from the SoZ system though, in that the options present themselves immediately without having to click on the party member in the conversation menu. Note: I will probably make use of both systems as required.

The Rewards Poll

This is still up and running at the Vault and currently has the following scores …

Saturday, 19 September 2009

History In The Making

This week, I have been trying to tidy up some of the files that can be downloaded for players to read some background story to the campaign. These are basically synopses of gameplay that my own group of players did between the years of 2002 - 2008. Unfortunately, all the adventures except the last one (Soul Shaker) were not written for general release and required DM controlling a unique turn-based combat system I wrote with NWN. (Soul Shaker can be downloaded from the Vault.)

NOTE: Knowledge of the campaign is not required, but if you want to get a better understanding of what has already transpired and like a simple read, then feel free to download a chapter and take a look. Some chapters are better written than others. (Remember, these were originally only written to remind my players what had happened each week between play and so I was not always giving the writing my 100% attention.)

I am also continuing to work on the new website to help provide other background (covering earlier parts that these synopses do not cover) and other game mechanics information.

Better The Demon

The next chapter begins after Soul Shaker and as you will know by now is called, "Better The Demon". It is designed in NWN2, whereas all earlier adventures used NWN1.

Progress with this latest module is slower than I would have liked for a number of reasons, primarily due to my health. However, I am still progressing, and I started work on another area this week and added another unique item that can be used in my modules: Rope. While this item may not be quite as flexible as in a PnP game, it will, none the less, be something to add a new dimension to the game.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Multiplayer Maps

Last week I showed you my new mapping system and how everything worked just great in my single player testing. Then I tested it for a multi-player environment and had to spend the last week reworking the scripts to work for that. In my writing, I came across three problems, which I hope I have ironed out:

1) The SetScriptHidden function did not appear to work. (After rewriting the script from scratch, this problem sorted itself.)

2) The EffectSetScale appeared to not work under certain circumstances, and so I abandoned its usage and left the PCs at their default (reduced) sizes for overland maps anyway. UPDATE: I discovered that this required a delay before applying in circumstances I did not expect.

3) The PC still made random spot and listen checks even though I had removed all the heartbeat codes that called it. In the end, I tracked down a global variable setting that implied it would ignore the map checks if set: SetGlobalInt(VAR_ENC_IGNORE, 1) ; I placed this in the terrain on enter and so far I have not had any more checks displayed in the chat bar. (I will let you know if I later find this did not work.)

Anyway, a week later and the maps now work for multi-player. One thing I will be happy about, is when I have finished writing all these systems for MP and can leave them alone once and for all.

Scroll Spells Damage & Duration

In the meanwhile, my friend and I have been going through more spells to alter the scripts regarding their usage when cast from scrolls that vary the power. Along the way, we increased the ability increase spells (e.g. Bear's Endurance etal.) to 30 minutes per level and increase by 1d4 + 1 instead of a fixed value of 4. Invisibility has also been increased to 10 minutes per level.

The Poll Continues

Chaos Wielder of the Shagret site kindly posted my last poll on the Vault to see what kind of response it would receive there. The Vault obviously gets far more hits than my own blog and it's interesting to see the comparative scores. I include a shot of the results so far.

If you want to go and register your vote there too, here is the link to the Vault.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Maps - The Best of Both Worlds

I had no intention of doing what I did this week, but recognising my own ineptitude at designing areas led me to it: I have finally managed to incorporate a version of SoZ's overland map system that is compatible with my own design! I went down this route because my efforts at city design to date have been awful, and I much prefer the way it is handled in SoZ overland map system where the city is simply a placeable with conversation options. Being able to have a player click on a city and take them to certain spots within the city is both easier for me to work with and quicker for the player to navigate to the areas they want to go to.

However, there was an important hurdle I had to overcome before this mapping system could be used. For my campaign, the following design point was implemented well before SoZ hit the scenes: A Vigour System that is designed to track a PC's fatigue levels based on food, sleep and distance travelled. As this system is linked to movement and travel, I had to design a real-time wrapper to work alongside my current system when the player chooses to explore a region using the overland map rather than simply travel to an area via the use of a world map.

Multi-Map System

With the addition of this mapping system, it now means the player has the choice of travel based upon either: items they have acquired, objects they have activated or how healthy they are to travel. As a game, it means the player can choose the method they prefer to use, or maybe even use a combination of all as they become available. The default/basic map system available will now be the SoZ overland system (subject to how fit the PC is to travel according to their Vigour level). Alternatively, if the PC finds a map and gains locations on the map, then they will be able to choose to use this form of map travel instead (as long as they have enough provisions for the journey). I have even made use of the original NWN2 map system for yet another method of travel, but I won't go into details of that one now - I want to keep some surprises. ;)

Flexible Use & Travel Info

After getting the core system in place, which involved coding for various terrain types (which affect speed of travel), I realised that the system is also flexible enough to allow other modes of transport to increase the speed at which the party could potentially travel. For instance, it is possible to have a special variable check for "flying" or "mounted", which would alter the speed variable and thereby increase the distance covered in a given time. I don't have any immediate plans to do this, but it was good to know that it may be possible.

From the player's perspective, the speed at which their PC crosses the map remains unchanged, which means slower movement for the PC is NOT actually reflected in the player's avatar onscreen. This is useful because it means a player can reach any location on the map in the same time while moving the character across the screen, although the amount of time it takes for the PC in game time is altered according to the terrain type and speed for said terrain. (However, a PC is still slowed if they are encumbered.)

All this information is fed back to the player in real time inside a small GUI designed to show the various aspects of their travel: terrain type, movement speed on the terrain, total distance travelled and total time travelled. For those use to PnP (Pen and Paper D&D), the altered system has a similar feel when used, in that the player says where they want to go (by controlling the PC across the map) and the code behind the scene gives the player feedback as they travel. And the most important point of all (which makes this different o the OC), is that it also calculates the PCs vigour levels and checks for food as they go. (Vigour levels for each PC will be updated in the "Chat" window to keep the GUI clear for other information.) This GUI can be closed if preferred and reopens when using the rest button.

The observant among you may notice I have removed the three menu systems at the bottom of the OC map system that are normally along the bottom in the centre. As far as I could see, there was no need for these in my own use. I have a separate date system GUI (bottom right of screen shot), resting can be controlled by pressing "r", and I could not see any other reason for the player menu. If anybody believes these menus contain anything that may be important, please let me know.

Create Food & Water

For those with the spell ability, there will be a means to acquire a special Arcaene Scroll known as Create Food & Water, which can be used instead of rations while travelling. In this case, as long as the party has someone with the ability to use the scroll, then vigour levels are kept fine without having to acquire further rations.