Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Time To Talk (Again)

No pictures, only text this week ... and that reflects the theme for this week's post: Conversations! I have posted on conversations before, which touched upon styles, but as I have been writing more conversations for NPCs since my last post, I thought I would touch on the topic again.

Observing Boundaries: Protocol

There is no doubt about it, next to area design, writing conversations must be one of the hardest parts of creating a module for me. That's because I like a module to reflect a depth of realism about it with respect to character (NPC) boundaries. i.e. An NPC would not normally allow a PC to wonder around a building (or personal space) without paying them some sort of interest if the PC is not normally expected to be there. So, if the PC is spotted, and the NPC's immediate response is not to attack them on sight as an intruder, then isn't the next normal response to speak with them?

Of course, there are some circumstances where this would not be the case, such as a PC wondering into a public area like a tavern or a shop, but unless a PC has been acknowledged as a guest in some way, then, in my opinion, an NPC ought to confront the PC and ask them why they are there.

I have come across this issue when designing the NPCs and events/conversations possible at a Guildhall (designed by Matthew Rieder by the way). As a public building, my first thought was that such conversations would run their course quite naturally, but then I considered the organisational structure of the building and recognised that boundaries had to be set in place to conform to real expectations. e.g. A PC could not expect to simply wonder through the building to meet the head man simply because they wanted to. Protocol had to be met.

Protocol In Practice

So what started out to be a design choice of one NPC and a conversation, has turned into a number of NPCs and all their associated conversations too. The upside is an expanded adventure with a more realistic challenge. The downside is it takes more time.

The design parameter of maintaining good protocol is closely related to logical flow, and regular readers of this blog will know how much of a prime goal that is of mine regarding adventures that I write. As always, the trick is achieving this goal without damaging the flow and pace of the story as a whole. And to get the balance right between meeting sufficient levels of realism as opposed to putting the player through unnecessary steps.

When the time comes for Beta testers to check over this module, conversations will be the most important area that I would like feedback on, as I believe it can make or break a module.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Better The .... Items (Bane/Boon)

This week, I continue to write about some of those gaming aspects that you can expect to find in Better The Demon. This week covers those items certain PCs may like, while other may not: The Bane or Boon item! And because I cannot show you any pictures of such items (so as not to give "spoilers"), I will also touch upon something I am working on, so there will be at least one image in this week's blog. After all, we all like pictures!

The Bane/Boon Item

When it comes to cursed items, I decided I wanted to take a different slant to normal. For while I accept that there may be certain items that are simply cursed for everybody, I also wanted to consider items that may be a curse (bane) to some creatures, while being a boon to another. Hence, the introduction of the bane/boon item.

The governing factor on whether an item is a boon or a bane for a PC is based according to an item's alignment compared to the alignment of the PC who acquires it: If a "good" aligned PC picks up an "evil" object, they may well find the item a bane to them, and act as a cursed item; whereas an "evil" aligned PC can pick up the same item and find it a boon to them in some way. Therefore, a player may wish to think twice before picking up a Holy Dagger of Slaying if they are playing a PC with an evil alignment.

But, what value does a bane item have in an environment where a player can just reload a game and ignore the bane item and never pick it up in the first place? The answer (and I am sure many of my regular readers will know where this is leading to) is that even reloading will NOT remove the cursed bane item from a PC. Here is what the item description has to say about a bane item: "Cursed items have been known to travel time to become bound with a person they were destined to be with. (i.e. Reloading won't help you.)" In other words, if you have picked up the item and it is a bane to you, the cursed item will remain with you (even between reloads) until the curse is properly removed. Here is what the item description says about removing a cursed item: "Cursed items bond with its carrier and require a "Remove Curse" cast directly onto the item or the application of some "Oil of Unbinding" to enable it to be removed." You have been warned! UPDATE: To clarify this point, a bane item does not return to a PC on a reload if it has been properly removed within the game.

The Sequence Puzzle

This is where I give an excuse to post an image. I have been working on another puzzle, which involves memorising a simple sequence. It's a straight forward enough puzzle that does not require any real explanation, but I have used it and the player's interaction with it in such a way that gives it a different twist. I won't go into more details, but you can discover it when you play it. (Although eagle-eyed readers will spot a clue.) Here is an image of an instance of the puzzle in play:

POLL RESULTS: Predestination v Freewill

The final results to this poll are now in, and I include them here for the record. I have to confess that I am surprised that the "freewill" option took the final lead. However, one thing I realised about my own definition during the time this poll was up, is that it is easy to confuse the concept of having a "will" (in general) with the term "freewill", as if the two meant the same thing, which, of course, they do not. i.e. We all have a "will", but, personally, I do not believe that will is "free" in the context of life. Therefore, by deduction, I believe in predestination. Furthermore, I would be interested to hear how people "qualify" freewill with respect to the laws of physics and such things as "cause and effect". Anyway, that's just me, and I leave this discussion for now ... unless somebody wishes to continue it further.

Scripting Away

Lastly, just a quick note to say that I am continuing to tidy scripts and conversations. I have managed to tighten some of the code by moving functions into more include files. Along the way, I found some things I cannot do as I hoped (broken OC functions), but, overall, I am making progress, even if it is slow due to health issues. If you can keep your patience waiting for this module, then I hope it will be worth the wait.