Sunday, July 26, 2015

More Neverwinter Nights 2 modding

One should not take my lack of updates here as a sign that I'm not gaming.  The truth is, I play other types of games as well as RPGs, and I'm not sure that they'd fit well on this blog.  After finishing the module that occupied much of my time over the past couple of years, I expanded back out into a wider variety of game types, and played many other games to completion, though I did also find the time last year to add a Halloween expansion to my campaign.  At any rate, the itch to play and mod Neverwinter Nights 2 has returned.

I've played many modules recently too, of course, and I've even written reviews of them, but I'm not comfortable with posting those reviews.  As a reader may note from my previous reviews (including of NWN2 modules), I can be a harsh critic, and I have rather high standards.  Those standards have only risen higher since those last reviews, since I've not only played a good number of exemplary modules, but I've also seen for myself exactly what can be done in the toolset.  I want my criticism to be constructive, but it's hard to disguise the frustration I sometimes feel at certain common mistakes that cause problems in modules, especially when they're reported to the author and are never fixed.  So as yet I've remained silent.

I've started on another expansion to my campaign, but it's very preliminary work so far.  I've made some new custom content.  One is a recreation of the green devil head, the iconic trap in the classic Gary Gygax module Tomb of Horrors.  This has no real use outside of that module, and I'd hate to see such an iconic trap being used for generic decoration, so the only point to creating this was to test out a sculpting method in Gmax, which was cutting shapes out of a plane and moving vertices around.  It worked very nicely, so I can see myself making more interesting objects now.

Another is a new shiny tintable floor, which was inspired by a description of the evil cleric's room in the classic pen & paper module The Keep on the Borderlands.  Most NWN2 assets suffer from poor texturing.  Low resolution diffuse maps, overwrought normal maps, and very little specularity.  My content is intended to make up for that.

Another is a set of tile floors based on the dungeon floor tiles in the official Wizards of the Coast map tile packs.  These are also shiny and tintable in several ways (you can tint them in ways that make them appear less shiny, and can optionally tint them in a checkerboard pattern).  The scale is not the same as the original official map tiles, however.  The original dungeon tiles were a single tile to represent 10 feet, aligning it with one of the standard measurements (the other is 5 feet).  However, since NWN2 tiles are 9 m to a side, I decided to have 12 tile squares per 9 m, which makes each square approximately 2.5 feet.  This means that a set of 4 tiles creates a 5 ft x 5 ft square, or 8 of them makes 10 ft x 10 ft.  This makes it easy to map out interiors based on the old D&D maps.

Although I have some ideas in mind for my expansion already, I've decided to go through some old Dungeon magazines for inspiration and details, especially for special encounters, traps, treasures, etc.  Each room is a set-piece in many of these older adventures, each containing something new to see or do.  This sort of design goal fits in well with one of my other design goals, that of spectacle and discovery.  Then again, there are also some adventures that contain plain empty rooms.  I'm not particularly concerned with this kind of realism.  I want the rooms to have things in them that are interesting for players to do in a game, whether or not it's more realistic to have empty, looted rooms in a place that's supposedly occupied, or to have traps and puzzles in each room, or just to have rooms piled high with junk or objects too large for an adventurer to move.  Likewise, in a world where everburning torches are a common enough item, there's no real need to play the "realism" card in terms of lighting.

Anyway, here's to more fun times ahead.