Sunday, December 11, 2005

The thunder of far-off battle...

I put the finishing touches on the hak-pak for my Neverwinter Nights module today. (For the uninitiated, a hak-pak is a resource file of custom models, code, and other stuff for the game.) Everything in it is other people's work, culled from the Vault. It took quite a bit of time to splice various tilesets together. The hakpak weighs in at about 120 meg, 50 meg compressed.
The module is entitled "The Shield Lands" and is set in the World of Greyhawk. Rather than follow a linear series of quests, the module tries to automate several of the processes that make up an old school dungeon crawl, with enough variance to stay stimulating and interesting. Monster populations can be thinned by the party, and will also fight amongst themselves and migrate (and attack settlements). I wrote several other game mechanics: a large scale time and travel system, hunting, universal spell components, clerical tithing and sacrifice, NPC craftsmen, a fair and realistic death and respawning system, and day-to-day weather.
Jason, Matt Dorous and I spent the February through April of this year play-testing these systems on a weekly or bi-weekly basis... Towards the end of that time I started to think about incorporating more simulation elements into my code, like town -specific supply and demand, troop allocation routines, and NPC scouts. I was also planning on going public with the module and post it on a site called Neverwinter Connections. In early May, putting together my thesis show, I was wishing I had made more art in the previous months, what had I been doing... building "The Shield Lands". I took that opportunity to quit working on the module.
This incarnation of "The Shield Lands" will be different. I'm jettisoning my simulation ideas. They'd be cool, but they'd also require hundreds of hours of development and testing. Rather I'm reworking the module to be simply a hang-out for us Astromen, a monster farm. As for gaming cutting into my other pursuits, "I can quit any time I want..."

13 comments:

Don Jason said...

Nice screen shots. Also good to see that you have culled the project down to something remotely manageable. Now if we can just convince people that it would be fun if they came and played . . .

Mr. Alex said...

Did you see this Pete? I've been giving it a look...

Pete said...

That looks pretty hardcore. Though if I were investing in it for a business I'd be wary, because after you'd sunk years of work into building a game on these people's platform, they'd have you by the throat, and would be able to price their support and hardware very high.
These development suites are never a one-time payment, own in perpetuity kind-of-deal, rather their scaled, incremental costs would be a huge drain on any kind of money you'd make off of a game. It's kind of like a vanity press in that way.
Other than that business problem, that suite looks pretty darned cool. Let's cross our fingers that they go bust and release their suite as freeware.

Ryan Scheidt said...

I don't know Pete, there are plenty of arguments to support video game and simulation as art. the tools are different but it's still a highly individualized vision your giving us in the Shield Lands. I'm being totally serious. The tilesets, gameplay mechanics, physics, etc. may be the set you bought or upgraded from the Manufacturer, but all the supplies artists buy come from GOLDEN, Winston & Newton, Holland Paint, etc. come from other manufacturers too. An sculptur's get everything from Home Depot. It' s all just tilesets. It's what we DO with them that is our Art.
Especially with a 120 meg hakpak (which adds additional customized features to the environment, right?) not to mention the histories that were written for the Lands and the inhabitants involved, and so much scripting to have it work just the way you want, right?

I could totally see it as your MFA work. Sure, why not? the medium is different. it being NWN, maybe means that the brand name is still showing on the canvas, but who cares? nobody who goes to look at art in a gallery would care.

Ryan Scheidt said...

it's maybe closer to a playable story or a participant requisite book, but whatever we can call it, I'm anxiously awaiting my recently ordered copy of NWN so we can play.

GAME ON!

Bob = 666 said...

Half-Life 2 is art.

Chad-Roc said...

Leisure Suit Larry is art.

Mr. Alex said...

Pete: Check this one out! Ohhh! Just announced and looks like just what we've all been waiting for!

Pete said...

Ah well, video games can certainly be art, but I subscribe to an auteur theory much like that found in film criticism. The jist of it is that the run-of-the-mill movie isn't terribly artful and is ham-strung by convention, but a few film-makers are able to push the medium forward by making really novel work. In games, my two favorites are Will Wright (Sim-City) and Peter Molyneux (Populous, Black & White, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper). I am not and never will be like them. I am simply making a graphical MUD for my friends. So NWN as capital-A Art... not happening.
Alex: I'll take a look at this other suite and tell you what I think.

Mr. Alex said...

Pete, it's mostly fumes right now, but it sounds like a good deal. They're license is basicly that if you don't charge money, they don't charge you.

Ryan Scheidt said...

Isn't the Multiverse the name of the virtual street in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson? an apt title, let's hope it does take off. it would be fun to have a virtual ASTROMEN! Guild. built from the ground up Shadowrun style, from hackers to halflings! street samurai to run-amok gnome gangs, and what else!?!

Mr. Alex said...

I think that was the "Metaverse", but I think that's what the guys who are putting it together are shooting for: 1 Client you can use to browse and enter any number of 3d worlds. There are other folks trying this too, but at least these guys know they'll need a few kick ass games to hook folks in if their business plan is going to take off. Eventually Google will buy them anyway. That will be about a year before Google Government(TM) is released, and we are all issued our Universal Google ID Cards...

Pete said...

We'd better get our page-ranking up, then. It'll be an important factor in the next wave of technocracy.