Monday, 28 February 2011

The Real Life System

After reading this post on Kamal's Blog, I was reminded of the code I have added to my own campaign regarding NPC responses to PC's actions. The following sentence by Kamal, in particular, reminded me very much of my own campaign: "No more trying to pick the lock with the merchant standing right there, at least not without potential consequences." Kamal also mentions a few other systems, from pick-pocketing to mini-game lock-pickings, which all reminded me of additions I have included to my own campaign. Therefore, as I had not yet made a dedicated post about the Real Life System I have in my campaign, I felt it deserved one now.

An Underlying System

As regular readers will know, only last week I decided to put together a manual to help explain some of the background and systems I have used for this campaign. In the process, I have already touched upon and written something about the Real Life System and so will make my life easier by cutting and pasting some of the information straight from the manual:

The “Real Life System” is actually the overall name for a group of systems that work together to provide the player with new mechanics that govern how the environment reacts to the PC’s actions (over and above the normal NWN rules) and especially how NPCs will respond to them. In essence, it is the core idea behind the “artificial intelligent DM”. These are the many mechanic systems with which the player should familiarise themselves to have the best gaming experience with this campaign.

And ...

Another aspect of this campaign (different from most others you will have played) is that the artificial intelligence (AI) is designed to respond to a PC’s actions more intelligently, as if there was a DM present who controlled the actions of nearby NPCs. E.g. If you try to damage or interfere with property that does not belong to your PC (or they do not have permission to touch) then nearby NPCs will stop you from tampering with said object until either:

A) The party are able to prevent their actions being detected.
B) Permission is gained from the object owner to interact with the object.
C) The NPC preventing the action is “removed” from the vicinity.

Subject to how the player handles such situations also plays a big part on how their party alignment develops. (See Alignment Changes.) For more information on the different aspects of the Real Life System, please see the Game Systems section of the manual.

Important to note, the Real Life System is fundamental to the design of the campaign and comprises many systems all with the same goal: to help the game respond to player's actions in an intelligent way as possible. Key elements of the this governing system are the alignment and influence systems, which help determine the PCs interaction with other characters.

There are, of course, many other considerations to take into account when creating a system like this, but I have tried to include them whenever possible; including such things as determining if a PC has taken steps to conceal specific actions, and preventing impossibilities such as invisible PCs from speaking to NPCs without choosing to become visible first. The end result is that the module feels much more responsive and alive to the player's actions. My only concern is that some players may find the result too challenging.

FEEDBACK: If you have any comments regarding this aspect of the game (real life responses), then please give me feedback. Tell me of your own experiences and what you have liked or disliked in other games when it comes to this sort of thing. Is there something you would like included or excluded?

The Campaign Manual

As I mentioned above, I have been concentrating on putting the campaign manual together this week. It is not finished and will probably take me a few more weeks yet. The core design is in place, however, and I include a few of the finished pages (also reflecting some of the above post) as images below.

The Title Page

Some Game Parameters

A Unique World

Game Systems Section

Load Material

As writing the manual took most of my time this week, I only managed a little work on the module itself, by preparing the 2da files for the load hints and load screens. I was caught off guard at first, when I discovered it was the nwn2_tips.2da rather than the loadhints.2da that required editing for the load hints, but after I realised this, all was simple enough. Both the 2da files have now been edited, updated and tested as working, but I currently have only one load screen image and a handful of tips edited in the tlk file. It should be a simple enough task to add to these at a later time.

Will You Be Crafting?

We enter the last few days for the latest poll: Will You Be Crafting? If you have not yet voted and wish to do so, then please vote before the time runs out.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

An Assortment of Updates

There is no one topic for the project to report on for the last couple of weeks, as I have been dipping in and out of various parts of the campaign that need addressing as and when I am inspired. The main reason for this is because I have been trying to give some of my time and energy in supporting people with incorporating my Mapping System into their own modules. And while this did not require a great deal of effort on my part, it did mean using some of the time I had to respond as and when I could. However, I was more than happy to oblige where possible and it gave me a chance to talk (email) others about their own projects. Furthermore, the good news from this is that there are now two modules (that I know of) that are looking at being re-released with the new mapping system incorporated. I have already had the chance to look at one these modules, Risen Hero, and can say that the "fog of war" system that comes with mapping system I devised does indeed add an extra level of intrigue during play. The other module, currently under conversion is Trinity, by E.C. Patterson. Watch out for their re-releases on the Vault.

Campaign Manual

I have also decided to put together a brief manual for the campaign to help prepare players for their gaming experience with Better The Demon. This is because there are enough differences in the normal NWN style of play to warrant some background information for the player. The "serious" gameplay approach that the game presents will be explained as well as other more common playing elements like death and crafting. All such elements have undergone changes and the player will be left somewhat bemused as to what is happening if I do not give them some sort of manual with which to refer. At the moment, however, the manual is nothing more than a few rough notes jotted down in my paper notebook.

Crafting With The Greater Essences

Talking of crafting, I did write a few more pages to the new crafting recipe book that details crafting using the greater essences. I know this book will serve little purpose in the initial module (as it requires the PC to be at least 8th level to use - which is still 4 levels lower than the OC anyway), but I did want the book to be available from module one, so that the player can start to plan their crafting of items ahead of time. I know most readers like to see screenshots, so here are a few of some of the opening pages to, hopefully, whet your appetite: (I am aware of the typo on the 4th page. There may be others that will be addressed in time.)

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Area Map - Fog of War!

How many times have you had your "desire for exploration" frustrated because of being given a whole map of an area even before you started exploring it? What ever happened to the good old "fog of war" (FOW) that represented the parts of an area we weren't familiar with yet? Well, I can at last declare that after giving it more thought, I have finally achieved this for NWN2! For the astute among you (E.g. E.C. Patterson's post on the previous Map Blog), I did indeed manage to rework the "grid" idea that I used with the Rune Puzzle into a "fog" for an area map.

The task was simple enough in the end, but something I had to keep going back to because it required the repetitive task of copying and pasting lines of data, which then needed slight alteration. My concentration only holds for short periods of time and so I had to break the task over a number of days. I am, however, most pleased with the end result. Furthermore, this new system works alongside my previous system for making the "Map Unavailable".

Area Mapping

There are some changes to the way the area map works, simply because the area map function now relates to what the PC knows about the area or has "mapped". Pressing "M" on the keyboard now brings up the map fully zoomed out and giving the maximum view. It is no longer possible to zoom in on an area map, because the map is meant to be a fixed reference that the PC has made for themselves. Note, however, the mini-map (accessed by pressing "N" on the keyboard), still has the + and - zoom buttons to focus in on the immediate area that this map provides. You will also see from the screenshots that the mini-map has been redesigned to give a slightly larger view than it did originally. (It is not subject to FOW.)

The PC starts mapping by opening the area map.

Furthermore, as the area map now represents what the PC is mapping, this map only updates when the player has the map open. If they move around an area with the map closed, then the map is not updated and the FOW is not removed. The map will also automatically close if the PC enters combat. There can be no map referencing while the PC is in combat. Mapping has been made personal to each player. Therefore, in a MP game, players will have maps with differing levels of FOW removed according to where they have explored and mapped. This information remains intact between area changes.

The Fog of War updates as the PC wanders across the area mapping.

An example of where the PC stopped mapping and moved before starting mapping again.

The Map System

The new system was designed to allow the builder to ensure a map is not immediately available to the player. However, there are circumstances when an area is either too small (only one or two rooms), or said to be known well enough by the PC to be provided with the full area details from the start. The system takes this into account, allowing the builder to enable or disable the initial FOW as required.

Current testing has shown the system to be robust and works well for both indoor and outdoor areas and even for custom size areas beyond the standard sizes. It makes only one assumption: that an exterior area has a 4 tile border, which I have not seen differently to date. However, if this is not the case, there is provision for the builder to add a couple of variables to the area in question to correct for this if need be. NB: I have NEVER seen this as a problem to date, and it may not even be possible to build an exterior area without the border in question.

Other News

I have decide that I will be releasing Module 1 prior to finishing modules 2 and 3. This is so I can start receiving feedback and make corrections I may need to make along the way. To this end, I have updated the left side pane to show the percentage completion rates for each module.

For the time being, I have placed the two other puzzles I had in mind on hold, so that I can concentrate on trying to finish the first module. I decided these puzzles and others I have in mind could be integrated at a later date if need be.

Crafting System Poll

Thanks to those who voted on the current poll. It is good to see that the alterations to the OC crafting system I have made are encouraging some to look at crafting in this module more positively. If you have not voted yet, then please do.