Freedom & Choice

Some of my previous posts hinted at the start of a new project of mine, and since then, I’ve been working out new ideas and hammering out the kinks as I go along.  What I finally came up with is a bit different than my previous posts have stated, but remains true to its core.  The result is a more flexible story and lends itself to provide the reader (or player if it ever gets to that point – more on this later) with a reason to sympathize with the main character and his companions and, ultimately, feel anger at the antagonists of the story.

The resulting story will be separated into two parts, each containing their own plots and broken into 3 Acts.  The second part of the story was more of a spur of the moment, and as of right now, has very little worked out about it.  The idea was generated while listening to inspirational music and developing ideas for a companion.  It resulted in a full-blast conflict revolving around a religious conflict between two groups, which I’ll reserve for the second part or sequel.

The story will revolve around two major concepts:  freedom and choice.  More specifically, what if the only way to gain your own freedom was to sacrifice the freedom of another.  Would you still do it even if they did not volunteer to give their own freedom up? To give you an idea of the problem at hand, two concept generations are posted below, each pertaining to choice and freedom.

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The Geis

The word geis also spelled geas in some dialects refers to the obligation or prohibition imposed on a person.  The word is from Irish folklore, in which a geis could be a prohibition or taboo, a positive injunction or obligation, something unlawful or forbidden, a curse, or a spell or incantation. To violate one led to misfortune and death.

For this story, however, the concept of geis will take on a slightly different role.  A geis can only be created on a subject willing to receive it usually for something in return.  Once activated, the person under the influence of the geis will follow the commands of the terms that were agreed upon regardless of whether they wish to do it or not.   As an example, say that you accept a geis to have your life spared from the deadly disease eating away at your body under the terms that you’ll kill every crooked cop in the city.  For every cop that the geis determines to be crooked, you’ll be forced to accomplish the task. You are, of course, aware and conscious of your actions, but are powerless to stop them.

The Greater Beings

The greater beings are a mystery to everyone.  They existed during the creation of man, many speculate, and were created as servants to keep the interests of humanity in line. They are immobile sentient beings possessing a tremendous power varying from being to being.  All greater beings however, possess the ability to create a geis.  Many humans worship the greater beings as gods, and in a sense, they are.  They have powers to protect or destroy kingdoms, and such things have happened in the past and are bound to occur again.

The greater beings are not without their own flaws.  Their immobile state has left a few craving for true freedom, to experience a free life like that of the humans.  Why must they serve the humans when they are capable of so much?  Few greater beings have escaped their immobile chains through a specially created geis.  This geis allows the soul of the greater being to swap places with the human, while retaining some of their powers.

Human hosts are not used to having supernatural powers, and as such, suffer adverse effects.  The more they use their powers, a taint spreads across their body, eventually consuming them in a stone prison – returning them to their immobile state.

This is not to say however, that all greater beings are evil or are capable of such things.  Many greater beings wish to live as they are in servitude of the humans or serve as their protectors.  Very few have ever ventured down the path of obtaining freedom.

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Knowing this back information now, you can probably figure out where the problem settles in.  These greater beings or primordials have never felt freedom before, but long for it.  They are no longer content in watching humans enjoy their freedom without care or repercussions.  They have no idea why they have been created or why the humans were created as the favorable race, but they were gifted with strange and powerful abilities.  Can you blame them for seeking freedom?  Can you blame the humans for fearing the primordial beings freedom and what might occur when one free being has all that power at his disposal?

The next couple of blog posts will probably detail the introduction of the story and more concept generations.  Tell me what you think and see you guys next week (or two since I’m graduating next week – finally!).

The Power of Geis

In conjunction with AmstradHero’s BG2 Antagonist post, I’ve decided to introduce the origins of this new currently unnamed project of mine. The correlation between my post and his is the reference to the geas.The word geis also spelled geas in some dialects refers to the obligation or prohibition imposed on a person.  The word is from Irish folklore, in which a geis could be a prohibition or taboo, a positive injunction or obligation, something unlawful or forbidden, a curse, or a spell or incantation. To violate one led to misfortune and death. The origins of my project started with Code Geass.  At that point, I was fascinated with the geas concept and decided to use it myself.  Code Geass wasn’t my first encounter with the geas, however, but it was definitely one of the better representations of the concept where other concepts revolved around it.

BG2 SPOILER

In Baldur’s Gate II, the geas spell was seen several times, such as the Spectactor Orb and more memorably, Yoshimo.  Irenicus had placed the geas on Yoshimo to help bring you, the Bhaalspawn to him.   In the end, he couldn’t face his geas and apologized before he attacked.  I don’t think the concept of geas was well-played out there since he was a companion.  I would’ve been far happier if they decided to kill the whiney Imoen and let Yoshimo live, but alas, it was not so.  They let us keep yet another Mage/Thief.  The 3rd (or 1st depending on how you look at it) Mage/Thief in the game, and they killed the only pure thief.

END BG2 SPOILER

But on to the main point of this post.  Back when the concept behind Shattered Dreams was being developed, I was sketching out an idea for the next project, and present it to the others once the talk of the next project had begun.  The idea was to already have a well-developed skeleton base to shorten some of the design time.  It never got that far, so I took the concept behind the idea and shaped it into something else.

The first version of the story was to start in Cormyr, where sealed beneath the castle, a powerful and ancient primordial lay in wait.  Its power was not in the form of brute force or even magic that could incinerate you in an instant.  It had the power to read your mind, and offer you the power to achieve your goal on the condition that you would help set it free.  The seal on the door was weakening and to prevent it from escaping, a war hero was called upon to reseal the door.  But the primordial being was able to interact with people outside of the weakened seal, offering them their greatest desires.   The door was sealed but not before it was able to offer power to the others.  In a power frenzy, the other guards attacked, and in the end, only the War Hero remained.  The door remained unsealed, and the war hero later faced charges for crimes against the crown, and he was locked up in prison – his family executed.  This news was unbeknown to the people, so as far as they knew, the war hero was still alive and a hero to their country.  The primordial lingered in his mind, offering him revenge, power, and upon hearing the news of his family’s execution, he accepted the geas of the primordial and the story begins when he breaks out of prison with the country’s most dangerous criminals.

The problem with this version was the setting.  It was very restricting as Elysius had told me, so we looked at other options for the setting.  There were a few, such as Tethyr, but we decided on Chessenta, the Greek inspired country ruled by a ruthless red dragon, Tchazzar.  The country had known peace during Tchazzar’s disappearance, but when the dragon returned, war had begun again.  The story was adapted as a battle occurring near the haunted woods of Methwood.  And the war hero now become a soldier who abandoned his position, knowing that the battle was lost.   He stumbled through the Methwood and came across the ruins.  In a similiar fashion, he found the sealed primordial and accepted the geas to bring peace to Chessenta again.

The settings were different, but the concept was the same, although the Chessenta version had more focus on war than the Cormyr one, which for a video game, makes it a lot more difficult to accomplish, but would be rewarding if done right.  In a way, one could say that the story might have a problem with the villain seemingly pushing the main character aside in importance and depth.  But the way the story would have progressed would’ve made it such that the character would be one of the few that could take down the villain, aided by how the war hero became what he is after the geas.

The third version which is what this project is about is in a setting of my own, rather than dealing with the rather restrictive lore of Dungeons and Dragons.  The concept is similiar, but the creature placing the geas no longer cares about freedom as it is already free to do what it wants.  It simply wants to destroy the world as its nature.  Whenever I begin to set everything in stone, I’ll release more information.

For now, I think 900 words is enough for one post.

Return

Its been awhile since my last blog entry. School got rather busy, and once it was over, I was busy doing other things. All of which have been non-NWN2 related. As of recent, I’ve been playing through the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Beta, which regretably ends today. On the brighter side of things, its official release is July 27th, so I do not have that long to wait before I can play again. It’s been pretty fun to play, but I have to say that the balance is a bit messed up. The Terrans are by far the most overpowered race there is, closely followed by the Protoss. The Zerg have been hit with the nerf stick, and usually amounts to nothing more than a nuisance.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

On another note, I’ve decided to abandon the idea of ever making a module of my own. Between time constraints and keeping it real, I’ll never ever finish one that I’ll ever be happy with by myself. Call me a bit selfish, but I’m very picky when it comes to area design and plot development, and if it isn’t just right, I’ll have to keep working on it until I like it.

So, I’ve decided to take on a slightly different project, something that doesn’t require me to be sitting in front of my desktop to do. That is, I’ll be writing my own story. The concept has been floating around in my head for nearly 8 months now, and I’ve now started preparing a design document for it so to speak. Its more of an outline for me to refer to and keep me in line. Any change I make to it, I’ll have to go through the plot line and determine whether the change will make any sense.

At the moment, its planned as a trilogy, but each story is definitely stand alone. The trilogy is just conceptual and the plots developed for the latter two stories are intentionally vague and shall stay that way until I get around to writing them later. I’ve had this problem before with stories of my own, and this nasty Tesla Coil fires up in my brain and comes up with all sorts of wild and interesting ideas.

The reason I thought of the plots for them at all is to help keep the stories between all of them in line and gradually building up for that great finale. It’ll definitely take some time to write, but in the end it’ll be worth it I think. It’s always been my dream to get a grandiose idea out of my head and onto something someone else can run through it, whether it be a book or a game, it matters not to me. Games are simply cooler is all.

Will I ever finish it? I hope so. I have written many short stories before and even 300 page stories, which I will never ever show anyone. Suffice to say, they’re that bad, not to mention I don’t have them anymore. The imagination of a 13 year old is horrible and pretty far out. I won’t go into any detail on what I have planned yet. That is a story for another time.

Mass Effect 2

It’s been a little while  since my last post.  Life has been a little busy.  I was under the weather for awhile and schoolwork has been pretty hectic as of late, so I haven’t been able to do much.  The short break I did get was dedicated to the title of this post.  That’s right, folks:  Mass Effect 2.

I’ll be honest, I was skeptical at first, but after playing this for a few hours, I changed my mind.   I’ll keep this to a non-spoiler review. 

Bioware made some rather odd decisions going from ME1 to ME2.  Everything that people criticized about in ME1 were no longer present in ME2.  This isn’t because they fixed it, rather they completely removed it.  No more elevators, we have loadscreens instead.  No more Mako (which isn’t a very big deal).  No more inventory system.  And there’s a few others as well.

Most of the changes I didn’t mind too much.  I recall the annoying inventory system from ME1, but I don’t think removing it was really the way to go here.  None of the weapons have any specifications, so when you equip them, you’re pretty much going in blind with an unknown weapon.  At the very least, let us compare the weapons.

I played the campaign as an Engineer, which was an interesting playstyle, but I felt like compared to the Soldier and the Biotic, they were were the weakest.  The Engineer’s main strength is taking advantage of an exploit in BioWare’s own AI.  Oh look, a drone that gives a little jolt.  Let’s attack it!  Poor excuse to attack when everyone else is unloading their ammo into your backside. The only real asset for the Engineer was the Incinerate ability, which burns through Armor very quickly and has a tendency of killing the weaker units in 1-2 hits.  The other abilities weren’t all that useful for the most part.  AI Hacking wasn’t worth the effort; Cyro Blast has a few uses, but very limited (does pretty much 0 damage and freezes the target after 6 seconds).  The Biotic in my party, although not as potent as in ME1, I felt did most of the work.  Then there was Zaeed, the DLC Companion that I used for brute force power.  So, my opinion of the engineer wound up being this.  For a class designed to excel at destroying mechs and bots, it did a pretty lousy job at it.  The other classes are far better at it I thought.

The graphics of ME2 seemed pretty hit and miss.  Overall, the area design was pretty solid although I thought their tropical areas were an eyesore on all accounts.   Then there was the Citadel and Illium areas, which BioWare could’ve left out completely and not affected the game one bit.  They weren’t fun to run through and the amount of content in them was little.  What content was in them could’ve been moved to Omega, which was a far better place to visit visually and atmospherically.  Some of the best designed areas in the game I would probably say were the 1st Collector Ship, Omega, Normandy, Freedom’s Pass and some side mission with a ship hanging off the side of the cliffside (although it ranks the #1 buggiest area in the game).

As far as Companions though, you basically travel around the universe in search of “criminals” more or less with a few characters as an exception to this rule.  Most of them were interesting, but there two that I felt that could’ve been left out completely.  The final companion is just untimely, and why BioWare brought Garrus back is beyond me.  He never said much in ME1, and he says even less in ME2.  After you get him in your party, he’s mute until he has a quest, after you do his quest and right before the final mission.  Waste of resources I thought.  The Krogan said more than Garrus did, which is pretty sad if you ask me.  Krogans aren’t known for being chatter boxes.

Romances weren’t all that great in large part.  None of them carried over from ME1, not that I blame them or anything, but the amount of people they have to keep track of for ME3 is going to be monstrous.  I really do hope at the very least Tali’s Romance gets to carry over properly into ME3.  Call me selfish 😀 The romance scene was just a big tease to say the least.

Finally onto the bigger part of this review.  BioWare in large plot is known for their plots (NWN1 excluded) and interesting stories.  ME2 felt like some cheap intermission story.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked the game and all, but when all is said and done, I reflect on what all had happened during the story line.  I learned very little.  85% of the main plot is collecting companions.  It seemed like they were saving everything in their arsenal for a big bang in ME3.

One of the most frustrating parts of the game is probably fighting the LOKI Mechs on some side quest mission.  BioWare thought it cute to blow realism right out the window and set these little bastards on infinite spawn in a very confined crate maze.  These mechs were showing up in places where you had already scouted and determned nothing was there.  These little monsters certainly pack a punch with their Heavy Pistols as well.  They annihiate my character in 2-3 hits and with infinite respawns, BioWare made a cheap attempt at raising the difficulty.  Aside from LOKI mechs and Geth Hunters, every other creature in the game was a pushover – especially the Collectors.  I really expected more from them, but they were really easy and the final battle was cool, but extremely easy.  So that’s that I guess.

Overall, I would rate the game as (out of 10):

Story: 4

Fun Factor: 9

Gameplay: 9

Atmosphere: 9

Graphics: 7

Total:  7.6/10

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January & NWN2

Well January seems to be quite a month for NWN2.  With the release of Trinity, Misery Stone and the SoZ Holiday Project, what more could you ask for?   While not quite as great as a module, I do have my own contributions on the way, that is the release of everything I’ve worked on so far.

Misery Stone & Trinity

First off, I would like to congratulate Jclef on his long-awaited release of Misery Stone!  Congrats, bro!  You have poured blood and soul into this module, which we can see all over the module (I mean look at all that blood everywhere, especially in the Asylum!).   And if you haven’t played either Misery Stone or Trinity yet, well, I highly recommend doing so.  Both of these modules are at the top of their class.  And furthermore, they play out like a true classic, something that you really do not see anymore.

Content Release

Over the next few days, I’ll be releasing a series of new content on the Vault dating way back since I started developing for NWN2.  This content will include my works on the Anphillia II PW, Thayvian Nights, Misery Stone and to a much smaller degree Shattered Dreams and the SoZ Sidequest.  Since the last two haven’t been released yet or havent had confirmations of cancelation, I will not release the content until I hear from Dirtywick and Elysius otherwise.

There’s quite of bit of stuff sitting on my computer, gathering dust and I figured I might as well make use of them.  So, I’ll be going through the areas, cleaning them up and sprucing them up a bit if it’s worth it and then releasing them on the Vault.  Tonight, you’ll see 3 new entries (click to open New Window):

Ravenloft Asylum – The old version of Misery Stone’s Asylum.  It was large and complex, but scrapped later to simplify the module and make new room for some of the new content Jonny had made.  There are still some NPCs left in here.  I’ve removed the Hostile Encounters, so you should be able to roam freely.  Make sure you read the note about the portal controls in the tower before checking it out.  It’ll make your life easier I think.

Anduraga’s DayNightSettings – A compilation of my DayNightSettings that I have created and are worth distributing.  There’s probably about 30 settings, 6 of them a complete set.  The remaining being a single Stage (mostly Default).

Anduraga’s Light and VFX Pack – A compilation of my light and vfx palette.  There are roughly 130 VFXs in the pack.  A complete list can be found on the Vault’s description (the screenshots only show a very select few).  I’ll also be taking requests if its within my ability to do so.  See the Vault Descript for more info.

And later on this week, I’ll be releasing my Dwarven Ruins RWS, Corrupted Prison RWS, House Interior Set, Dungeon Set, Bounty Camp and some other areas sprinkled in.  All of which will be leading up to the release of the Taruin Sidequest.

SoZ:  Taruin Sidequest

Some of you might be wondering what’s up with this and why it was not included with the original release.  Not to mention there hasnt been any word of it on my blog.  Unfortunately, when the holidays came, I ran out of time to work on it, and until recently, I haven’t been able to work on it.  I’ll be working on it over the weekend and I hope to have it finished by next weekend hopefully assuming all goes well.  It’ll be patched in the Holiday Project and distributed separately.   Mind you, the separate version will have a bit of a clumsy implementation due to the player having to travel to two different locations via the OLM. 

Post Remarks

Since I’ll be releasing all of my content soon and wrapping up my projects, some of you might be wondering what is going on with me (or not) and my future for NWN2.  Truth is, I’ll probably be leaving the development world for NWN2 unless Shattered Dreams resumes, BouncyRock needs my help or someone can convince me to help me with their project.  Mind you, it’ll have to be of professional quality (minus the VO) to spark my interest likely. 

I actually do have an idea for a module of my own, but I don’t think NWN2 or DA is the right candidate for it.  My plan of execution for it is to write it down completely and transfer it to a toolset of some sort.  That way the massive majority of the dialogue would be finished, and all that remains is the area design and coding.  I might comment on this some other day.  This post is long enough.

Scope Creep

I’ve been hard at work the past few days, trying to get this module done by the holidays. With so little time and still much to do, I doubt I’ll be able to make the deadline.  Initially the final battle was supposed to be pretty bland, but its actually blown up into something alot bigger, because well, I would like to offer a semi-professional product in what I do (which unfortunately winds up long forgotten due to project cancellations). 

You can expect some nifty new VFXs and a really epic battle at the end, which is completely optional actually.  There’s at most 6  and at least 3 meaningful fights (one of which is shown in the screenshots of the previous blog posts) you can engage yourself in over 8-12 areas as it stands, three of which are in the same area.  So as you can tell, its mostly scenery and a fun plot to be had from my little contribution, but don’t be fooled by the small number of fights.  Most of them will provide your characters quite the challenge.

The variation in area numbers depends on whether I have the time to add extra areas for no other purpose than loot.  Provided that Chaos agrees with the extension, I’ll consider adding a small very easy to implement quest for the tavern that I wanted to make.  And no, its not kill the rats in my cellar kind of quest, although it is tempting 🙂  Its actually a good ole tavern brawl with some unsightly and visually offending fellows. 

So, Chaos, if you’re reading this you can remove the gem from my contribution unless you wish to extend the deadline to Dec 31, which I’ll be able to make.  Its mostly just dialogue and variable keeping left.  If you’re wondering when I might be done, exluding all the extra stuff, I’ll wager Dec 26.

SoZ Community Expansion

Work on the SoZ project continues, and I’ve created probably my last exterior for this little mini-project.  Today was dialogue and scripting day.  I suspect I’ll get the scripting perfected for this one area by tomorrow.

Here’s a little more info on the quest I’m creating:

The Village of Taruin nears death and the Samarachan Soldiers are doing little to help them in their time of need.  The Taruin Farmlands have been taken over by an aggressive tribe of Batiri.  The Village does not have enough supplies to last more than a few more months.  In order to ensure that trade with Taruin can continue, you must aid them and rid the farmlands of the Batiri blight.