Friday, 26 February 2010

Bring Back The Party Spirit! (The Trouble With Sharing.)

Without doubt, the most fun games I have ever played have to be when I have shared the experience with a fellow gamer in a co-operative style multi-player game: where players play out the same story and work together towards the same end, as opposed to a "capture the flag" style MP game where the players are usually pitted against each other and do not normally take place in the original story. While I am sure many players share individual gaming experiences with their fellow gamers, it is not the same as actually playing the same game and discovering the story at the same time. I also believe this is what made/makes PnP D&D the success it once was/is. I am vague on the tense I use here, as I am not sure the D&D game has the same appeal to modern day players as it once had when its attraction and success was based very much on the imaginations of the players compared to the senses-driven CRPG environment that players are so used to today. Before computer graphics, players had to rely solely on DM descriptions of their environment, with a few drawings and paintings to help inspire everybody's imaginations at best. Nowadays, an argument could be raised that says, "What is the point of a description when you can see and hear all the action onscreen!"

I believe, however, we are in danger of throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater if we are not careful when designing an adventure in such an environment that NWN provides the computer aided D&D world. Why? Simply because while we are drawn in with the fantastic ability to have our creations come to life through computer technology, at the same time we are losing the importance of creating something that can be shared by others. I am not talking about the experience of the game itself, but the experience of playing the game and sharing the experience with another player at the same time. The baby in this sense is the shared experience, and ultimately means providing a game that can be played as a multi-player (MP) experience as much as single-player (SP). I want to quickly add that by multi-player, I do not mean creating a persistent world (PW), but, instead, a module where two or more players can enter and then enjoy the same story and experience together. I make the distinction between a PW and a MP one, because the former tends to only offer an environment with varying paths for advancement according to a preferred style of play, whereas the latter tends to be a more focused story with a distinctive final objective or ending. By their very definitions, a persistent world is persistent, whereas a module is a complete/closed environment. However, a module can be created to allow more than one player to play at the same time if the builder designs the module with MP in mind. The problem with designing a module to be MP is that it can change what at first appears to be a reasonably simple idea into an exceedingly complicated one. My aim in this post is to help remove some of the bigger obstacles that may have prevented a MP design from fellow builders in the past. By sharing two of the more important problems I had to overcome, I hope to present the solutions to them in such a way that will both encourage and inspire builders to take steps towards designing a MP module that might rekindle some of the party spirit in the style of a good old-fashioned D&D adventure where friends would gather around the table and play together. I hope to bring back the baby, hopefully not kicking and screaming, to be enjoyed as much as it once was by a group rather than just an individual.

To support my own belief in encouraging releases of co-operative MP modules, "Better The Demon" will be released supporting MP play as well as SP. In the past, I have often mentioned the added difficulties of catering for a MP environment, and again, only this week, I found myself having to revise two fundamental aspects of the module to ensure both rigidity and logical flow remain intact: transitions and conversations. It is these two aspects of module design I wish to cover now, which if handled correctly from the start of the design, will go a long way to ensuring a stable MP module. While, I have experimented with many different approaches to these problems over the last couple of years, I believe I have finally settled on a solution. Although I have divided this topic into two, you will see that I refer to both subjects within their own topic. This is because the two are closely related.

Transitions (Setting The Boundaries)

When playing PnP (pen and paper) D&D, it is very easy for one player to ask the DM to do something in one area, while another player may be doing something else in another. When translating this concept to a CRPG environment, it is very easy to be misled into trying to come up with a kind of "autonomous" design for each player, by allowing the players to venture into their own "areas" independent of each other. I will tell you of some of my own (failed) ideas before sharing the final solution I settled with and the reasons why.

DESIGN 1: At the very start, I was sorely tempted to set the module property to allow more than one party at a time. This had the advantages of appearing to solve both of the problems I am talking about in one go. By having separate parties, the different players could create their own individual "party" and all transitions and conversations would be handled for each party individually.

DESIGN 1 PROBLEM: The design reflected more of a persistent world (PW) approach, in that each party was too independent and each would quickly end up following their own individual path through the module. Different variables would be set for each player, causing a breakdown of consistency of a single story. As the module was designed to be a co-operative MP experience following a single storyline, then this multi-party approach failed.

DESIGN 2: My second approach (using a single party module setting) was to allow players to visit their own "area" with the PCs they controlled, as long as it did not involve long distance travel, which would separate the players significantly. E.g. Allow one player to go inside a tavern within a village, while another spoke to the man at the local market in the same village.

DESIGN 2 PROBLEM: I thought I had this working for a long period of time. Initially, I had encountered a number of NWN engine issues that caused game crashes when one player was trying to change areas while another player possessed a shared companion. However, even after I solved this problem, I came up against a problem with another design idea I had in place: In "Better The Demon", players control their own PCs. In other words, although players are within the same single party, each player is responsible for their own PCs within the party. E.g. The PCs will only rest when the player who controls them rests; the PCs follow the player that controls them and not the party leader (unless the player is the leader); and the PCs will only respond to the commands and shouts of the player that controls them. Unfortunately, however, whenever the party leader leaves an area, all companions, whether associated with another player or not, will leave the area with the leader. As I mention above, I resolved the crash this would cause if another player possessed a companion at the time by ensuring the said player was forced back to their main PC prior to the companion being zoned. However, it later became obvious that this could have dire consequences if the second player's main PC was dead, or if a player was in the middle of a conversation while using the possessed companion that was trying to be zoned via the party leader exiting.

DESIGN 3 (FINAL): Eventually, I reconsidered the original game design of allowing this autonomy for players to travel between different areas to each other and concluded that the idea was not actually required. For instance, even when playing PnP D&D, each player had to wait their turn before the DM could address their situation, irrespective of where they were in the game world. And in every situation, all players would have to sit through the discourse of the DM with another player until it was their own turn to speak of what actions they wanted their PCs carry out. In other words, all players were present at all events, regardless of where the PCs were and what events actually took place. Most of the time, every player was privy to their fellow players actions for their PCs and any events that came from the play was shared as an experience for the party as a whole.

To translate this idea into NWN (of being present in spirit even if not actually), we have to ensure that each player is actually present at each other's activities, which means ensuring every player's actions for their PCs take place in the same area as every other players. If this was not done, then even if we did manage to allow players to visit areas independently of each other, the players would have to stop play every now and then to keep each other updated of the events that they had done independently of each other. In this sense, the working together as a party experience would have been lost to individual information gathering. And although I do recognise there are times when being able to speak to different vendors in different areas could be useful, the potential loss to "surprise events" possibly encountered along the way is too great a risk to allow such autonomy to take place. In brief, the likelihood for players actually needing to be in two different places at once was too insignificant (or even potentially game spoiling) to allow. (See also Different Locations, Same Area below.)

To ensure the party do stick together, I have employed the Gather Your Party GUI for all area transitions. This GUI only shows in a multi-player game where more than one player could be involved in another activity within the same area as another player. Basically, if there is any risk of a player breaking an event of another player, this simple GUI ensures that all players are basically ready to leave together before the transition is accessible. For example, nobody likes to be zoned in the middle of a conversation.

Different Locations, Same Area

I should point out that an area can be designed with more than one location within it. E.g. A tavern may have an upstairs location and a downstairs location, which are designed within the same area. In such a situation, one player can easily control their own PCs to travel to one location independently of another player. This use of different locations within the same area allows the builder to offer some interesting situations to players who may then have to think tactically about which PCs to use and when.

Conversations (Sharing The Knowledge)

Knowing when to allow players to have conversations independently from each other is another difficult design area to get right when considering multi-player gaming. Many of the arguments about area transitions above can be used about conversations and, in particular, noting the point about ensuring every player in a MP game shares the same gaming experience. This is especially important with respect to the main story or other pertinent game background that is divulged through conversations. In my experience, there are two types of conversation: plot and casual. The main problems come when you have plot conversations that may also contain casual elements.

Plot Conversations

In my experience, I would say that it is essential that conversations divulging story background are set with the Multiplayer Cutscene property as TRUE so that every player gets to see the conversation taking place, even if they do not actually take part by clicking an option. A Multiplayer Cutscene conversation starts for every player in the same area, wherever they are and whatever they are doing, and can be displayed either as a NWN2 cutscene style conversation or the older NWN 1 conversation GUI. (This is the main reason why it is important for all players to be in the same area when playing, so they do not miss out on an important conversation.) All players are then able to see and discuss the choices available, even though only one player controls the input. (NB: The Party Chat property set as TRUE overrides the Multiplayer Cutscene setting. It prevents PCs beyond a certain range taking part in the conversation as determined by a setting in the Campaign Editor at build time. Those that are included in the conversation, however, can all have an input. UPDATE: The Party Chat will not be escapable with Multiplayer Cutscene enabled.) It is important to recognise that starting a Multiplayer Cutscene will abruptly end all other conversations going on elsewhere. E.g. If somebody is speaking to a vendor about something, the player will suddenly be dropped out of that conversation and brought into the cutscene one. As long as the abruptly ended conversation did not contain any unfinished "once only" nodes (especially with important variable settings on them), then it should not be an issue, apart from forcing the player to have to "replay" the original conversation after the cutscene one has ended.

Other examples of when to use Multiplayer Cutscene set as TRUE include:

1) Companion atmosphere speeches, where a member of the party addresses other members (i.e. all the players) about something they have observed. (Use sparingly, especially in areas that use different locations, as players may be separated and so logical flow could appear off.)

2) NPC triggered atmosphere speeches to give extra information to all players, while preventing the players from bypassing the speaker. (Force the players back.) Note the same issue as mentioned above.

3) When we want a Party Chat conversation to not be escapable at any time during its conversation.

Casual Conversations

By contrast, casual conversations are those that do not offer much to advance the story and better serve the individual needs of the player/PC speaking to the character with the conversation. Such conversations include those with vendors that give access to a store or allow a player's PC to do something that does not have to involve the whole party of players. Judging when to allow this is not easy, but there is a good way to handle it if in doubt. In every instance of any type of casual conversation, however, the Multiplayer Cutscene is always set to FALSE. UPDATE: Unless set as TRUE with Party Chat to prevent the player from escaping the conversation.

If a conversation is obviously casual, with absolutely nothing to be gained from a party perspective, then feel free to leave all properties as FALSE and only setting TRUE the one that determine if you want the conversation to be in a NWN1 (old conversation GUI) or FALSE if a NWN2 (cutscene) style.

If, however, there may be something useful to be gained by the party as a whole, but does not warrant a full-blown use of a party Multiplayer Cutscene setting, then make use of the Party Chat option by setting it to TRUE. Then, when a player starts a conversation with the NPC with the Party Chat enabled, all nearby players will be involved with the conversation, but also allows players further afield (maybe doing their own thing) to not become involved and/or forced out of a conversation they are already having. NB: If a player is within range of a Party Chat conversation, they will still be forced out of any conversation they are in to take part in the Party Chat one.

The order of priority for setting multi-player conversations is as follows:

1) Plot: Multiplayer Cutscene = TRUE. Party Chat = FALSE. (TRUE overrides Multiplayer Cutscene, but allows a Party Chat to not be escaped from.)

2) Casual (Important): Multiplayer Cutscene = FALSE. Party Chat = TRUE. (All nearby PCs involved.)

3) Casual (Unimportant): Multiplayer Cutscene = FALSE. Party Chat = FALSE. (One speaker only.)

The golden rule is: if in doubt about the casual conversation, set it with Party Chat as TRUE.

Useful Multi-Player Conversation Tips

1) Avoid using PLOT Multiplayer Cutscene = TRUE with NPCs who also have stores. Instead, consider implementing an alternative means to access the NPC's store while they are present. The latter made accessible after having given the first conversation.

2) Only use the "once only" option on a node of casual conversations if you are sure you can afford to lose the information and accompanying variables it may alter. This is because a plot conversation that employs the Multiplayer Cutscene property will cut short any other conversations running at the time if started. If you have any critical "actions" or "quests" in the paths that follow the "once only" node and you cannot get to them again, then you MUST make sure this conversation CANNOT be interrupted, either by upping its priority to a Multiplayer Cutscene or setting check variables, or even ensuring important variables are set if the conversation is "aborted" due to another conversation of higher priority being started. Doing this, however, could confuse the player who had their conversation aborted.

3) If you want to make even the Party Chat option include every PC in the area (like the Multiplayer Cutscene mode), then increase the value in the Campaign Editor to cover even the furthest distance apart. (I have not tested this myself yet, but it should work.)

Final Questions

BUILDERS: I believe I have covered the two most important issues when it comes to module builders considering designing a module to cater for MP play. However, if there are other reasons why you prefer not to design a module with MP in mind, then please let me know. Maybe I am missing something I should know about. :)

PLAYERS: Am I a dying breed? Does not a co-operative gaming style appeal to you more than a SP game only? Let me know what have been your most exciting gaming experiences and why? Do you prefer to play a D&D game in a party of real players or are you content with a party of your own?

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Skin Problem!

I made an unfortunate discovery this week. If a skin is applied to a PC on entering the module (to allow the builder to make custom alterations), and the PC equips/unequips a shield, then the armour penalty points go haywire! I spent some time trying to work out what was going on, but eventually gave up and made a post in the Bioware forums, which has been receiving attention from some of the best minds to try to resolve the issue. To date, the problem has not been resolved, which could be a bit of a blow for builders who like to make use of this facility. UPDATE: With some help, I believe I have resolved the issue by using an adapted "creature bite" instead of the original "creature skin" method. (See the linked post for the discussion.)

Fortunately, I was able to rewrite the system I was using the PC Skin for. Obsidian had released some new functions in the last patch that allowed me to work my idea in from a new scripting angle. I won't go into any more details than that, as I am keeping the game play secret for the time being. Suffice to say, it involves a whole new GUI and gives versatility to the player.

The Order Of Crafting Ingredients

In the last two weeks I have been working on another side quest. Like all side quests, while not essential, it does help provide the PC with more resources to better handle the main quest. In the process of writing this quest, I made the discovery that some recipes (rewritten in the crafting 2da file) were failing to work. After some experimenting, it appeared that the order in which the ingredients were listed in the 2da file were having an impact on whether the recipe was recognised or not! This surprised me, as I always thought the order they were listed did not matter, but I found that for at least two tested recipes, I had to reverse the order of the items as they had been entered in the table. E.g. Instead of cft_ess_earth1,NW_IT_GEM011 I had to enter NW_IT_GEM011,cft_ess_earth1.

Has anybody else noticed this? Or am I missing something?

Early Intro Text

As well as general writing, I even started to give some thought to the opening movie, which like Soul Shaker, will most likely just be a simple voice over text. The text will probably be something along the lines of:
"Enter a world with a growing new Empire."
"Into a time where the magical formulae have been rewritten."
"And the warrior's blade is not the weapon it once was."

"Search both the depth of your soul and the lands of Althéa."
"For the path that leads you to your destiny."
"And forges a new way for the rest of the world to follow."

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Infinite & Destiny

This is a very long and deep topic that I hope will raise some interest. I have been working on the module, but as this topic turned out so long, I will leave normal module updates for next week.

I considered the title, "What Inspires You?" for the blog this week, but hoped the one I finally chose may also inspire some discussion, as it is something that I thought builders of modules may have a shared interest in, even if it is only subconsciously. Outside links to different points raised are provided at the end of this post.

It was after I watched a Horizon programme, entitled "To Infinity and Beyond" that I was reminded of my own interest in the subject. For myself, coming from both a background of science and being a Christian, I look at this topic from different viewpoints - and if I haven't bored you already (and you forgive my reference to God now and then), I hope to share some of my own thoughts on the topic and would be interested to hear some of yours. However, if something else inspires you to write your mod, then do let me know that as well, as I am always interested in what drives fellow modders to write what they do.

The Complete Works Of Monkeyspeare

Some of you may already be familiar with the idea that given enough time and enough monkeys who would continuously tap away at a typewriter, that eventually, purely by chance, one of them would manage to type out the complete works of Shakespeare. So, if the universe is infinite, as many believe, then this idea, as crazy as it sounds, becomes a certainty. This idea can be extrapolated further to the point that eventually a monkey would manage to type out every word that has ever been written if Time is truly infinite.

The above assumes an eventual culmination of order of events that give forth a meaning. I then reasoned, using the same argument, that given enough time (infinity), it is not unreasonable to consider that something has to eventually come together in such an order that "random" actions are no longer random, but actually ordered in such a way to form consciousness. Indeed, on the face of it, it would appear I may be arguing the "evolution" theory, but I am not for reasons that will follow.

Nothing Is Perfect Forever

The above sub-title may appear straightforward when first read. However, it is actually ambiguous and its ambiguity is quite challenging. For instance, we could read it that we imply any "something" is always open to imperfection. However, it could also be read to mean that "nothing" is actually something that is perfect forever. It is saying that something is both perfect and imperfect at the same time, subject to its reader's interpretation. Why is this so important? I believe it is for two reasons: Firstly, if we believe God is perfect in everything He does (which the bible teaches), then the latter supports this point. Secondly, if nothing is actually "something", then I believe the idea of there being "nothing" is actually an illusion and a man-made interpretation of something that we cannot fathom or understand. In other words, there is no such thing as "nothing". While it is natural and correct for man to assume a duality in many things, in the subject of existence (and especially when considering infinity) there is no such thing as "nothing" as an opposite to "something". In other words, infinity exists beyond our own understanding of time and space.

Within The Mind

Even trying to grasp the concept of the infinite is mind-blowing. I consider that to try to think of infinity in some ways has to be a matter of continuous thought. Infinity is so alien to our thinking in terms of its size, that to think of it at all requires us to have an endless imagination - and in this sense, God has made us like this. In this sense, we have been made in His image (Genesis 1 v 5), in that we too have the ability to think in an unlimited time and space within our own minds. In everybody's ability to think and imagine, in this sense we also have the ability to perceive the infinite.

This is where we may find a modder can, perhaps, begin to have a common interest in the infinite, as every good modder must use and stretch their imagination into new thoughts and ideas to come up with a new adventure. In a much lesser way than God, they use their infinite mind to help create and develop an idea into a story, which hopefully becomes a module, in which other players can play and see the modders world come to life. It is an old cliché, but is quite true to say that DMs or mod builders are the "gods of their worlds".

This thought opens up another interesting pathway in our discussion of the infinite: Does the module we build, or the story we tell, ever genuinely have anything new or inspired? There is a belief that there are only so many fundamental origins for a story and that each "new" story is just another permutation of one of the fundamental stories with slight alterations. (If someone is able to find a source for this belief, please let me know and I will update this blog.) Even in the light of this "belief", I do not want to undermine the vision someone has of a creation within their mind's eye. For instance, it is often said that a sculptor will "see" the final statue they will eventually create in the rock they look at, even before they have sculpted it. The question I am trying to ask here is at what point does something become real? Is even a thought real?

The question of reality or what is considered reality is a difficult thing to grasp when considering the infinite. After all, what we consider reality in the fullness of infinity would be considered almost a "nothing" if we had not already come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as "nothing". However, if we consider our reality in the light of God, then we could say (with almost certainty in an infinite reality) that we are Within The Mind of God!

I want to take a step back for a moment and reiterate this point. The reason I believe we cannot understand, comprehend or imagine anything beyond the infinite is because we are incapable of understanding fully what God's intentions for us are. In the same way, one person cannot fathom the limits of vision of another person; it is impossible for any person to out-imagine another. In this sense, we are infinite! And if we believe something could be considered "real" by words alone, then we can also create a reality out of nothing actually physical by speaking a story. Consider any favourite story. For example, if I was to ask you who is it that swings through trees on vines, has a companion called Jane and lives in a jungle, I suspect most of you are able to call to mind Tarzan. Yet, Tarzan is a fictional character who we say "does not exist". My argument is that in the sense of the infinite, he does exist. We know he exists because we are able to think about him. He is a fictional creation.

Substance In The Design

If we can agree that something can be "real" in a person's mind's eye, but at this stage are in disagreement about the substance of reality, then let us also consider the following: If anything that is possible can happen in an infinite universe, then anything that we can imagine as possible should eventually become a reality. It may take an unimaginable period of time (or maybe a continuous thought on the infinite) before it happened, but what does that matter in an infinite universe? We know there is no such thing as "nothing" from both argument and just by looking around us. Therefore, the building blocks for everything that is potentially possible already exists, and is available from all the particles of energy there are in an infinite universe. And if one argues that that is impossible, then ask yourself how did we come into existence ourselves? The particles had to eventually come together in such a way to form us, whether by accident or design. My typing this and you reading it, and having the ability to say, "I think, therefore I am" is all the proof you need to acknowledge your own existence. The only alternative is to argue that we don't actually exist and that we are the result of one infinite course (of many infinite paths) that just happens to be able to maintain a span of coherent thought over many thousands of years to be able to acknowledge a history and an understanding of Time in the first place. However, whichever belief you have, the result is we do at least acknowledge that we are cognitive beings in one sense or another.

What About Destiny Then?

To answer this question, we also have to consider the argument of whether we have freewill or if everything is pre-destined? This is such a big topic, but I will try to comment on it in the light of the infinite and all that I have currently discussed. I would also like to use the analogy of a player playing in the module of a fellow builder. (I hope nobody takes offence at my analogy when referring to God in such a way.) Let me start by asking the question, "How much freewill does a player have inside a module?" I have discussed this before (as I am sure many of you have), but I hope that all will see that the answer is actually very little. The player is bound by the universe as created by the mod builder. If the builder had created only one area, then the player would be bound to that single area, with no choice about going to another place. In the same way, but with certainly more potential paths, God has created a universe in which we may move about (according to our abilities), but will eventually meet with the same end: death! In this sense, freewill is only an illusion subject to Time and a belief that we are in control of our own destiny. By saying this, I am not condoning we do nothing but sit back and wait for destiny to take its toll on us (although if that is one's destiny, it would happen anyway), but instead, asking one to recognise that we are subject to the laws (code) and limitations that the designer of the world has placed upon us.

One may argue that we have freewill to make choices during this time. To admit this, however, we also have to admit that we are more than a simple result of chance creation within the infinite. There comes a point in the argument when we have to decide whether everything we do is the result of a chance happening of existence as it runs its course with us in it, or we are existing within the design of some greater being, like God. If we believe it is all a matter of chance, then the same argument actually leaves no room for any real existence or manifest inspiration within ourselves. Chance creation would not leave any room for genuine creation of any thought. Everybody's thoughts would be existing on a "good luck run" of particles and energy just happening to flow in the right way for this existence of the universe to take place as we now live. The opposite argument, however, that we are the result of design, defends our own thought processes as being something more than a chance run. This argument says that our own thoughts are important as new design and that we are truly being creative just as we were first created.

Let me take this final point to ask a question using my "infinite" imagination to try to grasp some of the truly infinite, which we know is impossible, but is obviously destined to be: Where does all this lead to? Well, we can either believe we are following the path of chance, in which case, as I have already discussed, ones destiny is already set as your life is already following its path for this infinite road. Or, we can believe there is a God with a design in mind. Interestingly enough, however, this argument also points to a pre-destined road, with one exception: God is in control of your destiny rather than nobody.

If we believe an artist can perceive something before it is created, and we also believe God is an artist, then we can easily believe that God could have perceived us (made us real) in His mind (the Infinite) even before we were made substance (using the particles of energy that have always been - assuming there is no such thing as nothing). Life and existence is then God's creation bound by the laws He wants. In the process of its building to perfection, some parts will be forged into His design while other parts will be perfectly removed and discarded. In much the same way a story writer or a modder will rewrite some sections of their book or module to make it as "perfect" as they can, God does the same with His creation but to absolute perfection and without any possibility of error.

With infinity as His backdrop and eternity as His time schedule, every moment of life could be taking Him unimaginable amounts of time to work. Just because we perceive time as a constantly flowing thing, it does not mean that God has not rested many times during His continued design for us. Imagine the passing of time like watching a video that God is making. If we were the actors in the video only conscious of the story being told, then we would never be able to understand the idea of more time passing outside of us while God paused in His work (paused the video) and did more work before un-pausing the action for more of the life story to continue. To us, the actors inside the video, life would be continuously flowing, but to God, He may have taken an infinite amount of time to perfect one scene. (How many hours does creating a cutscene take to make compared to when it's played in the game?)

One Of Many

Throughout this blog I have been discussing only one infinite universe and one destiny. There are mathematical theories now, however, that suggest our infinite universe is just one of many. It suggests that there are an infinite number of infinite universes. When we consider this, then maybe we are reaching the limit of our imagination, because to suggest we are able to think about more than one infinite universe at a time almost becomes an absurdity if we consider our imagination to be like a single infinite process itself. What it does suggest, however, is that no matter how much we try to think about the infinite, we can never truly grasp what the infinite beyond us is, perhaps much in the same way we are unable to say when we have reached the limit of our own imagination.

Permanent Consciousness

My conclusion to all this, no matter what you believe, is that we are all subject to a permanent consciousness. Or, to put it another way, in an infinite universe, it is impossible to ever be in a state of permanent unconsciousness, as eventually, either by chance or by design (God), we will return to being conscious just as we are now. After all, it has happened once already! You are alive now! In an infinite universe, it can happen an infinite number of times, even to the point where you have retained memories. The extreme amount of time that passes between such manifestations of your consciousness will mean nothing more than a video on a brief pause when considering infinity. One minute you will be alive, the next minute dead, and in the blink of an eye, conscious again. You cannot ever be aware of being non-existent! You can only ever be conscious.

Now, if we are to assume the possibility of this in an infinite universe, it becomes a certainty. Only the existence of God will have any meaning to the result of a rebirth if it is part of His design. There is even the argument that God MUST exist in an infinite universe, which is, of course, my own belief. I don't think living eternally is ever in question if considered mathematically. The question is if there is any meaning to it all.

Some may argue that even universes eventually die or return to such a low energy state that they eventually cease to exist. Well, let us consider this in the first place, where traditional science has us believe in a "Big Bang Theory", and I stress that it is only a theory. Even in this theory, they suggest everything that exists today came from "nothing". As I started this debate, I do not believe it came from nothing, but came from God's Mind. The moment God thought about it, creation began. And no matter what you believe, it comes down to the same argument, if it can happen once, then it can happen again!

For those that have not yet seen The Matrix trilogy of films, then I recommend you do. They help you to imagine some of the things I am trying to say, and while I obviously do not subscribe to the fact that we are in a simulated reality created by sentient beings, I do sympathise with the overall concept of a reality designed by a greater sentient being for His own purpose. If we believe in the Bible, then we know the world (and universe) was created by God out of love. The greater part of the mystery of creation (once we die) we must wait and see, although I believe we are given an insight of what to expect through the Bible.

Outside Links:

Horizon: Infinity & Beyond
Tarzan
The Matrix
Simulated Reality

Friday, 5 February 2010

Secret Doors

Before I start, I'd like to welcome you to the new look for the blog. Thanks to Eguintir, I was able to change the background image to the one I always had planned, but never knew how to do. Hopefully you prefer the new look to the solid green it was before. It is supposed to look like parchment, but I altered it slightly to make it easier on the eyes when reading. Let me know what you think. Better, worse, indifferent?

Having a good working secret door is a "must have" for any good adventure in my opinion, and with Nim's work on Secret Doors, my module now has a good working system. I had to alter the code for them to work the way I wanted, but his "blocker door" and "secret placeables" made the doors near enough invisible until detected. Hovering a mouse over an area or looking for a door transition certainly does not help the player locate them. There is still a very slight difference in colour, but that will not be easily noticed if a player is unaware of it and/or moving past at a pace. However, if they are keeping an eye open for such, then the slight difference will be a clue to "search" harder and if done so, the door will be revealed.

I have also taken the coding slightly further in that the secret section can now be easily closed again, or if left unattended, will automatically close itself. Take a look at the screen shots below. The lighting I have used helps emphasise the secret door more than it will usually.

A secret Door Is Nearby

PC Searches - Black Puff Visual At Find Location & PC Comments

Secret Door Now Becomes Useable

PC Clicks On Secret Door & Enters

A View Of A Secret Door From Behind (If Not Hidden This Side)

The last screen shot is actually a view from behind a secret door covered by a bookcase. I coded it in such a way that if the PC is able to find a way to approach a secret door from a different side, then it would be "obvious" to them and allow for immediate interaction without having to "search" and find it first.

While the more observant reader may recognise the area as "new" to anything shown before, I reluctantly have to admit that this is an area I started a long while ago and have still not had time to finish. However, the fact that I have started to work on it again is a good sign. I needed a change from working on previous areas, which, unfortunately, also still need completing.

Monsters

I have also spent some time looking at new monsters for my module. In my search I came across quite a few new models, some of which have had their AI scripted and others that will require a bit more work. My thanks go to Shaugh and his blog Risen Hero for the links that got me started on a search. (Check out his site for a ton of creature links.) I have also incorporated his "Giant Throwing" scripts and will take a closer look at those at some point. I am not going into too much detail about which creatures I have included, as I do not want to give too much away at this stage, but I have tried to download and include as much custom content for the campaign as a whole, so there should be a good mixture over time.

Misery Stone

I managed to finish Misery Stone this week. It is a fabulous mod and well worth a play. There are one or two points that keep it from a perfect 10 in my opinion. However, it came in at 8.75 by my scoring, which must be the highest I have scored for a NWN2 mod. I left my vote and review a the Vault.