Monday, 30 September 2013

The Lord Takes Bud Home

The Lord blessed us with "Bud", a handsome male Netherland Dwarf rabbit, who came to live with us on 28 June 2008. Last Lord's Day, in the early hours of 29 September 2013, the Lord took him back to be with Himself. When Bud first came to live with us, he was called "Bunny Bo", but he quickly became "Bud" within only a short time ... and it suited him well. He was definitely "Bud". For regular readers of this blog, you may recall that it was only 9 months ago to the day, that the Lord took "Honey" to be with Him. It has been a year of great sadness for my wife and I, as we greatly love the blessings from God, and parting with them is heart-wrenching. Yet while we are exceedingly sorrowful, we still rejoice in the life that God gave us with Bud, and as I have said before, we do live with the hope of being reunited with him in the new earth, which is spoken of in Revelation 21.

Bud Sitting In The Glorious Sunshine Of Our Back Garden!
Only "Daisy" survives from our little family of three rabbits, and she was Bud's bonded mate. Bud and Daisy always followed each other around, exploring the garden or coming into the lounge for "mummy and daddy loving" with their heads tightly placed together so that they could both receive a stroking and tickles from my wife and I. My wife and I are both concerned at how the loss of Bud will affect Daisy, but she appears to be coping for the time being, but it has only been just over the day since Bud died. Daisy was present when Bud passed away, and my wife said that Daisy had one moment of licking Bud before he finally died. Regretfully, I had been too exhausted to stay with him any longer, but my wife did manage to stay with him until the end. I was so grateful that she was there for him, and I am sure he knew how much I loved him ... and still do!

Bud (right) With His Bonded Mate, Daisy (Left).
A couple of month's ago, Bud had started showing difficulties in eating due to teeth problems. (This is exactly the same problem that affected Honey.) However, after an operation at the vets, he came home again and quickly recovered and began to eat again. Both my wife and I had been greatly relieved at the time because Bud was around 6-7 years old and operations are risky at the best of times. Then, only about 2 weeks ago, he started having difficulties again, and when taken to the vets, we were told that he had further teeth problems and had to have another operation. As he had bounced back from the first operation, I was hoping this would be just one more simple step for him to come through. Sadly, he never bounced back from the second operation, and he stopped eating altogether after coming home. All the while he continued to drink a little, I had hope, but I had great anguish being told and having to feed him with a syringe. It soon became obvious that he simply did not want to eat, and the stress it caused to him and me was terrible to endure.

On Saturday, 28 September, Bud even started to refuse water. My wife and I took him to the emergency vets that afternoon, where he had more injections, but over the course of the evening he grew more and more weak, until he simply could not carry on any longer. My wife reports that he made a last trip to his hutch, where Daisy had her last contact with him, and he died in his hutch as my wife stroked him. The moment I heard my wife moving around downstairs (although totally exhausted, I still could not sleep), I got up and met her coming upstairs and she broke the news. That was only yesterday, but it seems like such a long time ago now ... and yet the pain is still very new.

Bud Enjoying a Run Around The Garden!
I share this with the world because I want to show the depth of God's love, and the beauty of His creation, and one way He expresses His love among many ways. If you know the joy of which I speak with respect to a loving pet, then you know what I speak. The loss of Bud leaves the house a little more emptier once again. And as my wife and I have not yet been blessed with children, the loss of our pets appears more poignant. More pictures of Bud found here.

Mummy and Daddy Will Miss You Bud, Until We Meet Again In The New Earth!
From Revelation 21: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."

These verses came to me today from the Gospel of John: "14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 14:4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 14:5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 14:7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. 14:8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 14:19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 14:20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Few Alterations

I have been looking over some other games of late, just because I like to keep my toes wet and up to date with aspects of gameplay that make the gaming experience more fun for the player. And whether its because I am getting older, or just like a little more leniency in my game, I have decided to make two minor alterations to my original concept surrounding death.

Dealing With Death

Here are some of the changes I intend to make:-

1) Death by attrition will no longer occur. However, penalties to attack/damage will take its place.
2) Falling in combat does not necessarily mean instant "death".

Especially as the player begins at first level in this campaign, I decided that a more forgiving system was called for, and so have adopted one that can be tailored to the player's preferences by the introduction of a few core gaming aspects that are governed by an in-game choice towards the start of the game. When the player is presented with the following GUI, they can take one other "gift" that alters the way the game plays for the player's PC. One combination allows the "death" system to play like the original campaign. i.e. As long as somebody survives a combat, then the fallen PCs will recover after the battle. Of course, there are still other combinations where death of a companion means death!

Vol's Gifts - Choose Another or Not?
Accessible Notice Board

Many years ago now, I created a Notice Board system, which allows the player to click on the board and interact with the scrolls found thereon. The system worked reasonably well, but having come back to it after all this time, I have noticed that clicking on the individual scrolls can be "risky" in that a player may miss one if they are not careful. This, to me, was an unnecessary obstacle, and so I have now adopted a system similar to the one used in Dragon Age (which I have only recently started to look at). An aside: I was quite encouraged to see how Dragon Age played, and it reminded me quite a bit of my own style. So, anybody who likes Dragon Age, will hopefully enjoy my own campaign. The code is currently work in progress, but here is a screenshot showing the kind of thing to expect.

Notice Board New Look - Work In Progress!
Main Menu Makeover

Finally, I decided to change the colour scheme of the Main Menu this week, from black to a scroll background with complementing colours. Hopefully, readers will like the makeover. A screenshot is below.

Main Menu New Look!

That's all to report this week, apart from saying that I have come up with a plot line that I am finally satisfied with for the last main dungeon I need to write up. That was a big obstacle, but now I have a focus for what to do, hopefully, it will flow more readily now.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Game Feedback: HP Bars & Equipment Comparison

I wanted to address a couple of issues that I have with NWN2's interface that have bothered me over the years, both to do with in-game information feedback. The first is the current health state (HPs) of creatures, and the second, being able to easily compare your current equipment with that available in a store. In the past, I thought that both of these "ideas" were "impossible" to accomplish due to the way the engine worked. However, somewhere, in the back of my mind, my subconscious had been slowly working on the problem, and ideas on how I might potentially solve the issue came to me a few weeks ago. Here are the results ...

Enemy Hit Point Bars

Some time ago, I needed a "timer" to represent the passing of time on a puzzle, and I found that the GUI "progress bar" was ideal for the job. For a long while I wrestled with how I might be able to use this as means to present the HP Bar often associated in many RPG games that NWN2 lacked. This GUI has been successfully used to represent one creatures HPs (like a Boss Creature), but I wanted to have a system that would "hover" over all hostile creatures in a combat, and I could see no way of making it work. Note, NWN2 does provide some feedback in a small GUI for a targeted enemy at the top of the screen, but I always found this hard to see (due to being colour blind), and I did not like having to keep switching targets to get an update. The answer, as it occurred to me, was to apply a VFX (visual effect) to the creatures, that would hover above their heads, in much the same way spell effects show on creatures.

PC attacked by a pair of wolves with feat enabled.

A closer shot of the Hit Point bars over the creatures heads.

The trick to overcome was, of course, having the bar update as the creatures HPs went up or down. The answer was to simply have many versions of the same VFX showing different percentages of HPs remaining and removing/applying the correct VFX as required. Make the VFX permanent until I wanted it removed, and this problem was solved. The last thing I wanted to address was how I would introduce it into the game, as I recognised that not everybody may welcome this addition. The answer was to have the player learn this as a "feat" called "Observe Condition" (if they wanted it), which they could then add to a hotbar and toggle its effect on or off as desired.

Observe Condition Feat - Optional. Can be dragged to hotbar for ease of access. (Not shown)
Additional Note: I am also considering adding a "Boss Bar Visible" option on the Althéa Main Menu, which would complement these dynamic bars. This option could be toggled alongside the system above, allowing multiple options for the player.

Equipment Comparisons

When playing a NWN2 game, I talk to a store vendor and ask them to show me what they have for sale. In the standard game, I would then have to right click and choose "Examine" on each item for sale to open a new menu where I can read about the item in question ... and if I want to read about the item I am comparing it to, I would have to do the same thing for that too from my PC's inventory. Basically, comparing items is not "easy" using the standard NWN2 interface, and for those who like to have it more simple, then this might be the answer. Now, when a player opens their PC's inventory, an "examine" window is already incorporated into it, which shows the description of any item they click on within their inventory.

Additional Note: Items "examined" in containers will also open up the "inventory" screen and display item text in this same window. However, I suspect most players will simply click the "Loot All" option while playing and then "examine" the items in the inventory anyway.

PC has started interaction with a store.
1) Information on options available and activity update here.
2) On first open, reminder instructions on inventory use.
3) Store item description. (Will have instructions on first open in the final.)
4) Note, empty categories are made unavailable. This updates dynamically.
5) The best PC for bartering is automatically selected when store first opens.

When interacting with a store, players will notice a new complementary store interface as well. Like the new inventory, the store interface also comes with a built in "examine" window that displays information about an item the player may be interested in purchasing for their PC.

Note that the inventory item window and the store item window work independently of each other, meaning the player can click on items between those carried by their PC and those in the store, and each item will display in its appropriate window.

Additional Note: If a player clicks on an item in the store, which their PC currently has an equivalent equipped, then the PC's item inventory screen will update to show the equivalent being used to enable a direct comparison of items.

The PC is comparing their currently equipped armour with a selection from the store.
1) Notice the text informing you are comparing items.
2) The PC's currently equipped armour.
3) The armour that the PC is considering purchasing from the store.

The PC does not yet have a helm equipped to allow a direct comparison. Buy one?
1) Information on item update.
2) The PC does not wear any helmet to compare.
3) Details on the helmet being looked at in the store.

Other Considerations

There were a couple of other ideas I was considering, and feedback on these and any other issue this blog may raise would be most welcome. Here is a list of ideas that I am considering looking into:-

1) Having the inventory screen display another window if comparing an item in the inventory slots to one the PC may already have equipped. Pro: Another direct comparison option. Con: Another window on the screen.

2) New Addition: Have a transparent "Quest" header GUI that has a list of active quests (perhaps the quest title only), which the player can toggle into/out of the side of the main screen as a basic reminder of the options they have available to them. Pro: Nice reminder. Con: Not really required?

I have enjoyed the break from writing the conversations, but now this section is nearly done, I will have to return to them. However, there was one other GUI I am working on to do with the introduction of the game. That will have to wait for another post though!

Please give any feedback that you think may be of use to improve these game feedbacks, or if you have any ideas of other interface changes (or new) that may be of help to your gaming experience.