Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year? A New Decade.

Here we are, with only a few minutes left in the first decade of the 21st century. I have guests over so I shall not stay long, but wherever you are, whatever you're doing and whoever you're with, enjoy it.

What sort of New Years Resolution's have we drummed up this year? I've got just one so far, eat healthier! I never get involved in making these sort of pledges, but if 2010 has proven one to me, it's that sticking to a plan is actually not too tough, once you get into the swing of it. Indeed there does need to be that underlying motivation, it doesn't pull itself out of the air, but the most valuable thing I will take with me into the next decade, is to at least try. What harm is it to try? If you fail, you're situation may not be any better, but it won't be any worse either.

I will write a blog, on this very site, in exactly 10 years time. My decade resolution if you like, is to be happy. Happy with my career, happy with my relationships, happy with life. What started out in early 2010 as an attempt to get my life back on track, will hopefully have come full circle and at this time, 10 years from now, that I can say: I've done it. What I achieve in the coming decade is up to me. What you achieve in the coming decade is up to you. The world is our oyster. Plan ahead, stick to you're plan and we shall reap the rewards together.

Craggy Island will be released on the 16th January, 2011.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas!

First of all, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays! Have been trying desperately to get more festive this year. Not that it's going too well; the tree's only went up 2 days ago and most of the decorations are still in their boxes.. I have been out buying lots of presents though, even on my tiny budget. I've managed to buy lots of small little things which helps in covering that up somewhat. I visited my brother this evening, man is it cold out. I de-iced the door locks, drove 10 minutes and the locks were frozen again. The visit was cut short however when we realized that none of us had a house key with us; somehow everyone had managed leave theirs behind, so we were officially locked out. The keys were sitting on a table in the hall, so we constructed a device consisting of a broom, tape and multiple clothes hangers, in attend to feed it through the letterbox and fish the keys off the table.

That had fail written all over it and low and behold, it failed, miserably. This was about 15minutes ago. How did I get inside? A broken handle on a bedroom window at the rear of the house saved the day. The window doesnt actually lock shut, so it can just be pushed open. Had to get the neighbours ladder and climb up and across a roof to get to the window, then climb in. Normally not such a big deal, but the roof tiles were extremely slippy with the ice and were dislodging slightly under my weight. Sort of sprained my hand in the procedure, but it could have gone much worse. Anyway, inside and warm again, hurray!

Craggy progress! Ok, so releasing before christmas at this stage seems unlikely. Theres a few reasons for that. The final stages of gameplay are still being finished and it will need a bit of testing/balancing before a release. Voice over work is not far off completion, only 3-4 parts left to do, hopefully they shouldn't take too long! Target release date was around about now, I do apologize to anyone that might be looking forward to this, such is the nature of modding I guess, real life gets in the way all the time. I will say that I've been working around the clock on this though, my very little bit of free time does indeed feel like a very small part of my week.

Anyway, just a quick update and with that, a revised release date of the first week or two of January, it would take something pretty drastic to delay it any further than that. I just don't want to release until its 100%.

If I don't blog before christmas, have a good one, be good and above all, be festive!

Peace,

Paul

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snowed under..

Figuratively and literally. Poor Ireland has seen some of it's worst snowfall over the past week; it's put the country at a complete stand-still. Luckily I live 5 minute's from work, so I've swapped the comforts of my car for wellies and a brolly. Seems the worst of it has past now, everything is turning to dirty slush. It was also budget day today, with everyones eye's glued firmly to the TV as news of next year's cutback's were announced.

It hasn't entirely effected me personally, I'll be down about a tenner a week; but the worst of it comes from a hike in college registration fees from next year onwards. €500 extra per year; could be worse I suppose. This budget will really hurt lower paid workers and those on social welfare. It's a sorry state of affair's over here, I can see a huge amount of emigration occurring over the next 5 years and rightfully so. The government has made a total shambles of the economy and we're the one's who have to pay for their incompetence.

Enough ranting then and onto Craggy Island progress!

Where are we.. Well Dahlia got her voice work back to me, she did a stunning job. She also drew on her film expertise and gave me some direction for how I should be shooting scene's. I've now revisited the majority of stages and reworked the camera's and dialogue emotions to at least some degree. It is by no means an easy task, its so time consuming and the pressure is beginning to mount as my target release date draws ever-closer.

Voice work is going a little slower than planned. While there is a large chunk of it done; I'm having trouble filling the last few male spots. Hopefully we'll see some movement on this over the weekend; I'd like to be hitting the 75% mark at least, by Sunday.

Timelord is working away on the final encounter and setting up VFX spawns for it. The scripting is done for that part but we ran into issue's with it last night, hopefully it won't take much work to sort it out. He is also working on getting the character templates to work, I have pulled my hair out with this for the majority of last week, might have to look at alternate routes if the issue persists. A part from these addition's, there is a small list of bug fixes and code tweaks that are needed to round off the project. Nothing major, nothing more than an hour or two's work I predict.

Oh! I did the final render for the Island itself, along with finalizing the atmosphere, sky and sea. I'm very pleased with the final result, it came out better than expected. Looking forward to showing you that.

I'm pretty exhausted. I gotta tell you, for my next project, I sure as hell will be looking to join or build a small team, there is just so much work involved in even a small module, it's incredible. I don't regret 2 manning it, in fact I wouldn't change that. It's been a steep learning curve and wake up call as to just how much effort goes into building content. I don't mean to frighten anyone away from it, nor do I mean to come off the wrong way here, but no wonder the majority of mod's never see the light of day; it really is that much of a commitment. I'm proud of myself for sticking it out, whereas I have given up on far easier things in the past.

Some people have asked me if I will release CI without full VO or otherwise, but the answer to that question is no. I know that it might be a mistake to not release as soon as a playable version is ready, but I feel strongly about holding it back until its at a quality level I'm totally happy with; which includes full VO and polish throughout. I want it to make as strong an impression as possible upon release. Craggy Island won't be perfect, thats a given. The script is not too sharp, the structure could be much better and it could be longer, more innovative.. the list goes on. But somewhere in the whole thing, as long as you come away with some sort of experience, good or bad (hopefully the former!) my goal will be fulfilled. You're feedback will pave the way for my future projects. While I think we've certainly struck one or two components on the head in CI, I'm very curious to here the opinion's of the players. You certainly begin to lose perspective when you work with something so closely for so long.

Anyway, I need my 8 hour's sleep, so I'll leave it at that.

Goodnight.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Close to Completion

Hello! Been a while since I blogged, figured it was time for an update! How are things going then. Well, very well actually! I can say now that aside from a few fixes, touch ups and the final encounter being finished, all that's left is voice-overs. Timelord got the first chunk of the final encounter sent over to me the other day and I've been busy working out how to give the followers a level up template (not going so well, I'll be honest..!) but I've managed to fully equip them, along with the main character, so there is some solid progress there. Just need to get the 2DA's sorted and proper encounter testing will begin, but from the small bit of testing I did (knocked the creature ranks down a few notches) it all appear's to work great!

What else have I been up to.. Well, there is just so many little tasks that seemingly appear from nowhere and have taken a fair chunk of time. Setting up plot helpers and adding script to remove plot markers from NPC heads is a bit tedious but it's all done, thank god. The sound is all virtually complete, I've brought in some external pieces in an attempt to add mood and tension during some of the latter parts of the game.

Voice-overs are incredibly time consuming, as if that wasn't already obvious, but I'm at least half way there now. A cousin of mine who runs a theatre is getting a bunch of her acting buddies to supply the VO for the final characters. Thank's Laura! Should be quality.

All in all, the finish line is firmly in sight. I plan to have this released by mid-December, but don't hold me to that!

It's been a hell of a ride and yes, I'm exhausted, yes, I'm sick of the sight of the toolset, yes, I need a break, but no, I wouldn't change it for the world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fun fun fun!

Hey all! So the last week has been rather eventful and I did actually manage to get a fair whack of work done, even with all the baby drama and work problems. I did a fairly big tidy up on the level layout, it's now polished to a level I'm happy with. All cutscene's are just finished, just have to add audio to them. What else have I gotten up to.. Ho hum, yes! Voice-overs! I thought this would be a nightmare, but as it turns out my family and friends are quite the little performers! This evening I managed to get 5 of the 20 characters fully voiced, the difference VO makes to the end product is literally black and white. It's so nice to hear another voice other than robobrad (whilst I do love you, hearing you in my sleep tell's me enough's enough..) I have a few more friends penciled in for sessions on wednesday to cover off some of the main characters. It's going really well, with Timelord working his magic on the final combat sequence, there is only some music and a chunk of polish to be done.

At this stage a closed beta might NOT be needed, I've played through it so many times I think I have caught most of the issue's, but I'll see what state were in once the actual gameplay is finished and in place. Looking forward to having a week or two off after CI is released, from there, it will be nice to just play around with the toolset, see if any community members need help with anything etc. I hope to be chipping in with Blood and Lyrium at some point, Timelord's exceptional looking module, as he aims for a february release. It's all go-go-go, no rest for the wicked as they say.

With that, I'll get some shut-eye, I really need to start blogging earlier in the day when I'm actually awake, I might have something interesting to say then.

Peace!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Eventful week!

What a long, long week it's been. Tuesday night, I was woken at 4am by my brother's pregnant fiancee. She was due a few days previous but it was time. I quickly got dressed and got over to her within 15 minutes. My brother doesn't drive (work's 1 minute from home..) and there wasn't anyone else available, so I was on taxi duty. Got her into the hospital and home again within an hour. 6 hour's later, my little nephew was born. Beautiful healthy boy, weighing 8 pound 2 ounces. So I'm an uncle and it's been a terrific week.

CI progress has taken a wee hit unfortunately, but I hope to make up for that this week. All stage's and animations are virtually done, bar a few small tweaks. Boy did that take long.. For a change today, I started looking at music and sound effects. I ended up fully rigging the entire Island up with audio emitters, very addictive! Some really nice ambience going on now, it should really help with the immersion. So I've got a fair chunk of the sound done, really happy about that as I didn't know what to expect going into it. Rigged up a few interiors too, its really coming together! I've also done some touch ups in the level layout but there is more to be done there before the absolute final lightmap render.

I'm going back onto the final section of the module tomorrow, until it's complete. Once that's complete, it's literally just polish, last bit of music, finish off 2 cutscenes and voice overs. Nearly there! Exhausted, going to collapse into bed. Have to run a midnight launch for Call of Duty: Black Ops tomorrow night, oh the joy!

Goodnight!

Paul

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shush, not another word!

Alright so that's a wrap on the dialogue front. I've spent the last few evenings going through every single line of dialogue and making sure it's at a standard I'm happy with. It's all completely written, spell checked, linked and finished; there is 20 NPC's throughout Craggy Island that you can speak to.

I'm quite happy with the overall flow and general quality of the writing. There is an underlying cross reference that hopefully you'll pick up on as you progress through the story.

So that marks the first 100% completion on the task list. I still need to touch up on some animations and stage work but the bulk of it is absolutely finished. I've also completed the writing needed for the module's codex' and most of the journal text is also finalized.

As I mentioned in my last post, the last section of the module will take a bit of time; getting the combat balanced and interesting will be a nice challenge. I have most of the enemy model's complete and laid out throughout the area's and while I have the final boss encounter finished on paper, it still has to be put together in-game.

So where does that leave us? 1-2 short cutscenes have to be done (should get them done in an evening or two), music need's to be added and a layer of polish needs to be put on the visual aspect of the Island. Timelord is working on some small tweaks at the moment which will fix up some issues in order to make the module completely playable until the final 10% or so.

Looking at a cast of 20 characters, I'm thinking full voiceover might be a bit.. optimistic lol, but sure we'll see how it goes. Still well on track for a pre-christmas finish, with a release date announcement just on the horizon I hope! Closed-beta announcement will come first, which will last approx 1 week or so, if all goes to plan. Keep your eyes peeled.

It's been a long journey, but the end feels near.

Goodnight!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Whats the holdup!

I really am not the best blogger this planet has seen, but I'll place the blame on the fact that my life, simply is not that interesting at this point in time! My day consists of work (hardly worth talking about) and a few hours in the evening either fleshing out some part of Craggy Island, going to the cinema, or playing xbox.

Progress on Craggy Island hasn't been slow, in fact, anything but. Timelord is busy figuring out some nagging issue's and once he's complete, that pretty much wraps up the majority of the gameplay and quests. As I don't want to ruin anything, I'll just say that I'm working on the last piece of the puzzle, which involves the bulk of the combat encounters, which will bring you to the (hopefully!) climatic end to the module. This part will probably take a few weeks as the encounter scripting will take some work I imagine. While that's happening, I'll be finishing up the cut scenes, which as it turns out, happens to be way more than originally intended!

Once that is complete, I'll look at packaging up the module and getting a couple of testers on board to try and break it, to make sure its in perfect working order for release. While that's happening, I'll incorporate the music, polish the Island (problems with dark vegetation), tweak the atmosphere ever so slightly, finish ambient animations and conversations and then get cracking on voice overs.

I still cant put a release date on this, other than 'before christmas'. I felt like I was close enough to do so a few weeks ago, but as this is my first time actually building any sort of addon, putting a guesstimation on a finished build seems silly, considering how more and more work seems to be cropping up, the further we progress!

Sit tight though, were working hard and fast on this. I do hope you will enjoy the end product as we've now hit the 7 month milestone and it would be scary to see how many hours were put into this. Seems like a long time for a small module, but I've never touched any toolset before until April of this year, so the learning process has undoubtedly added to that.

Keep a'watch, Craggy Island will be released and it will be released soon. If I was to guesstimate though (take this with a pinch of salt) I would say that I will have a pretty solid release date for you within the next 2 weeks. Fingers crossed.

Ciao for now!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sleepy..

God damn exhausted! Its full steam ahead with Craggy Island and on top of a hectic RL schedule, the energy levels are runnin' low! Things are going great, picking up much momentum now and apart from a shit load of much needed polish, CI is now fairly playable.

Really getting a good understanding of the innards and workings of the DA toolset, yet still, things take an immense amount of time. Currently were working on getting the first combat section up and running and so far so good.

Module Completion:

Dialogue - 93%
Quests/Gameplay - 85%
Stages/Animation - 75%
Cutscenes - 65%
Ambient stuff - 55%
Music - 0%
Voiceover - 0%

Seems like a lot of work left, granted, there is, but some of those figures should rise fairly fast. As I mentioned before, I might roll out without VO, with the intention of adding it later. It's all time dependant. A closed beta is also still on the cards. Details to be announced as Dialogue/Quests/Gameplay reach 100% completion. I've added a widget so you can see our progress. I'll update it daily.

Exhausted and have barely a clue what I'm writing, bed is calling.

Sleep tight and see you soon!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Manic Months Ahead!

God I hate audits. Love pizza. Hate burnt pizza. You get the picture, awful day!

Hope were all well then and I hope you like the new site layout, not that its changed a whole lot, but change is good sometimes right?

So this friday see's the start of a bumper few months ahead for gaming. It kicks off with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West from Ninja Theory. Rather beautiful looking game, check out the demo! The combat might be a tad basic but I hear the narrative, story and characters make up for it to deliver one of this years best experiences. Castlevania releases friday also, looks good but I'll be picking up the former.

Following on from that, we hit October 15th. Medal of Honour gets a reboot and is looking to tackle Call of Duty. Looks nice but nothing we haven't seen before. It will sell well, but this wont make a dent in Black Ops. Still, might be worth a rent, the original Medal of Honour games were great. Medal hunting was such a hook.

22nd October. Probably my most anticipated game for the year, Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 3 was a contender for game of the decade for me and many others and I'm sure the folks at Obsidian won't let us down. The engine is outdated but it still looks sublime. No doubt I'll lose many many hours in this. Have the collectors edition on preorder, looks well worth the extra few quid.

A week after that, Fable III is out and looking to hurt our pockets further. I think the brother is getting this for me for christmas but no worries, Fallout will keep me company. Loved the last one, this should be brilliant too. Something magical about Lionheads games that others fail to capture. Have you SEEN the voice cast lineup? Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, John Cleese, Michael Fassbender, Stephen Fry, Bernard Hill, Nicholas Hoult... it goes on. Incredible! Hopefully this will pave the way for studios to look at bringing proper actors on board, after all, this IS a storytelling medium. The future is bright.

Gran Turismo, 5th November. Its not for me but this will sell insanely well. Car nut paradise. A few days later its Call of Duty: Black Ops. This will no doubt claim more marriages, lifes, jobs, school work.. Lastly we have Assassins Creed: Brotherhood on November 19th. Really looking forward to that one, loved the last. That rounds it out. There has been a few delays, such as Little Big Planet 2, but at the end of it all, the next few months, its good to be a gamer!

Project! Craggy Island! Woohoo! Plodding away I am, banging in conversations, stages, animations, you name it. Still a million things to do, but it sure is getting there. I've been toying with the idea of bringing in 2-3 beta testers. I was going to actually do the bulk of testing myself but due to time restraints, it's probably the smartest option.

If anyone would like to get involved in some testing, please let me know. Drop a message here or else email me: pconway83@yahoo.co.uk. Testing wont begin for a few weeks but it would be nice to have it all lined up. Also, any voice actors looking for work, you can drop me a message too - I will make a formal post about this later when I've green lighted the dialogue but I'll stick the feelers out there now.

Peace, drop by again soon!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Update!

Hey guys,

Been a hectic few weeks. To update you on the CI front then, Timelord is working on the latest B2B to move the next section along, which when completed, will mark about the 50% mark for the campaign. In the meantime I have been busy polishing cutscenes (really happy about 2 of them!)and general things like dialogue flow and animations.

As I want to get this out asap, the next few weeks will be mega crunch mode. Minus voiceovers, the project should be ready by mid-November at the latest. Not sure how long it will take to get the voice work done, but I'll consider releasing it then patching it in later. (I do want the strongest impression made straight off the bat though, so might wait it out, will see) An end goal is in sight now! I plan to have all cutscenes up til now (only 1 left to do after these)tidied up and finished by monday, along with a fair chunk more dialogue complete.

I'll update you over the weekend, until then, have a nice evening!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I've gone silver!

Well.. my blog has at least. 25th post, hurrah! How are we all on this lovely morning? Breakfast is homemade banoffee flapjacks, oh so good. Was tempted to hit the local Italian for a the morning special but I'll leave it til tomorrow. Oats are a good way to start the day anyway and I have plenty of work to do! Anyway in the free time I've had, I mucked about with the following.

Halo: Reach. Finished it, hated it. What a load of over-hyped rubbish. It's the same Halo game as the first essentially, they did nothing to change or evolve the formula so it just feels lazy and outdated. Story was tosh too and your squad members were just clich├ęd emotionless puppets. This will only be enjoyed by core Halo fans I imagine.

Playstation Move! Lovely little device and feels very well built. I only got the demo disk provided with the starter pack and only 1 or 2 are worth somewhat of a mention. Tumble and Sports Champion show off the potential of the device, but its certainly lacking that killer app. I have to say though, I was very impressed with the precision of the motion controls. The future looks bright for Move, with Killzone 3 and Socom both supporting it, along with a neat looking game called 'Sorcery', Playstation Move no doubt will be a nice little addition and alternative to a standard controller.

Back on track then! I've completed a few stages now entirely and added animation to the dialog. I have mentioned that it's really time consuming, but its fun. The blending can be a bit confusing, as at first, the animations appear quite jagged and jumpy as they begin and end, or roll into a new one, so getting the blending right is a bit tricky. Today I'll finish the stages for the remaining characters I've written dialog for and then I'll finish and polish the first 2 cut-scenes. After this and once Timelord gets his work back, I'll move onto the next stage of dialog and plot creation. Busy busy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Piccies!

As you can see, I've added a few updated screenshots. Haven't shown anything in a while, so what the heck. Busy beavering away with stage's and dialogs. Thinks are going very well and hopefully sometime this week I can release a teaser trailer. I'm so close to being able to predict a release date, but I'm not sure how long voice-over recording will take, so I better not! I will say though, that save VO, we should be good for a late October release.

This is of course a preliminary milestone and is subject to change (depending on how much polish I'll put it through) and of course the sourcing of full VO.

I've been working on CI for almost 6 months now and to see the finish line is truley awesome.

On another note, good luck to Timelord with his community submission, I must say his level looks pretty sweet for 10 days work! Great job!

Hope you enjoy the shots, feedback welcome as always!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Slacker!

Slacking on the blog front I see.. Tut tut Paul. The reason in fact, is simply that I've been so busy! Outside of work, I've spent practically every moment on Craggy Island. Recently TimelordDC came on-board and with his expertise, the project will really come to life. Just busy working away on plots and dialog for now, packing out the content basically. I know I've said it before, but I will try and get an trailer put together over the next couple weeks.

When will Craggy Island be finished?! Well, for the first time ever, I can roughly see the finish line, but I'm not ready to announce anything just yet. I'll have a better guess in a week or so.

I've got 2 weeks holiday booked over the next month, I'm poor so I'll be staying at home, cramming away at CI.

Look forward to sharing more progress with you, stay tuned!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oooh the Audacity!

The title might give it away, yes, I've been playing with Audacity. I did some test voice-overs and added them to an NPC, worked just fine. I might not win an Oscar anytime soon, but the main thing is it's very seemless and straightforward to add VO. I have added a few more conversations and set up some plot flags too. Getting deeper into the conversation/plot editors and really enjoying it. There seems to be a great depth to them and its easy to get sidetracked trying out some cool functions.

Anyway, nothing more to add tonight. Got a replacement iPhone as my other one packed in. Apple's service is second to none - they took my faulty phone last thursday, had it shipped to the UK, tested and a new one shipped back to me first thing this morning. Amazing!

Oooh I have a week off to book soon. I wont be going away, so I'll use the opportunity to pack in lots of work on CI.

Off to bed, nigthies!

Edit: Head Morph shot added!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Progress!

The wee break between fixing up a new pc and re-installing everything has given me a fresh head. I spent the evening working on a cutscene and I'm delighted to say its finished. It's nothing major, but I think it will add a nice touch to the experience. I'll most likely do a few more before release.

Where AM I asks you. Well, I have made a huge area, with a blank terrain. I've drawn lines using the texture tool and I am using this as a virtual plot map if you like. I have literally dropped in NPC models onto the terrain and am using the drawn lines between them as visual plot connectors. I'm "signing off" on each character using 3 check boxes. 1 for his/her dialogue, 1 for the stage and 1 for a cutscene if they are involved in one. Along the lines, I plan to add the objects/plot items that will be used or needed in that particular quest, add a script to them (will need help here.. winkwink Timelord ;)) and its then very simple to load up in Dragon Age and test it all out, as its all in one place. Once I can sign off on all these things, I can add them into the actual game.

I think this method is clear, concise and easy to test and implement. This should give me some much needed steam as I get this thing closer to a playable version.

Thanks for your patience guys, I will in fact drum up some sort of a promotional video or renders as soon as I can.

Cheers and goodnight!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

And so it continue's..

The IBM interview went really well, but ultimately I don't think I meet the requirements. Shame, looks like a fantastic opportunity.. Still might get a call yet, but I won't hold my breath.

As if that hadn't delayed things further, I just ordered a new PC as this one is constantly crashing, freezing, stalling, wont boot up, all sorts of problems. Not that I can afford it with my tight saving plan, but what can you do.

Times like these I wish I had a second person working on this with me as if something takes me out, the whole thing comes to a halt.

Sorry for the delays and everything else, will do my best to get things rolling again asap.

Cheers!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

WTB New Job

Ok, that will be the last MMO acronym I use, I promise. So I have an interview on wednesday with IBM, I'm actually quite physced about it, I will do anything at this stage to leave the job I'm currently in. It's actually on the verge of slave labour now. Hell, I love working hard, but thats completely different to being asked to do what isn't humanly possible. Worse is I'm held accountable when everything isn't done. Wish me luck on wednesday though, hopefully my life will take a new turn for the better.

With the developments in the last week or so, on top of work demanding too much, CI hasn't got that much love this week I'm afraid. I did report on cutscene progression along with having some operational quests in-game, so thats still where I am.

I would hazard a guess that CI will need some form of a programmer soon, I doubt I'll be able to handle even the most basic of stuff outside of the form of simple 'talk to x person' or 'kill x amount of monsters' quests.

The second I sort out this job fiasco, this thing will be full steam ahead as I hope for a release within 2 months.

Thanks for reading, catch ya's later!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

WTS Hangover

Really shouldn't have gone out last night, I always regret it! A co-worker and close friend is leaving on friday and emigrating to the UK so it was a sad farewell. Back on track with Craggy Island then, have a fair amount of characters in the game world, with dialog tree's and some operational quests. Just did my first cutscene today, bloody complex, but its a really robust tool and I'll probably get addicted to making some really fancy stuff with it. I have a near 1 minute cutscene just about finished, I think it's looking quite nice!

So far I have 600 lines of dialog written (not all in the editor yet, but on paper) and its starting to come together.

I'll think about sticking up a short video of some ingame stuff soon.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Casting!

All characters and head morphs are complete! There is a cast of 30+ characters and each one looks as unique as I could have made them. I have added some of them into the level and am now in the slow procedure of adding in their dialog tree's. Since I have no idea how to script, I might look for some help soon, or perhaps I'll dab into it a bit with the help of Sunjammer's excellent demo's. Its great to see the level becoming populated after all these months, things are really starting to shape up now! Again, sorry for the lack of updates, RL still has a strangle hold on me for the time being.

In other news, go see Inception! Easily one of the best movies in recent memory. Extremely ambitious stuff from Nolan, you can see why this took him nearly 10 years to write. Also, Starcraft 2 is released tuesday. Not sure where I can fit this into my busy schedule, but damn is it looking good. I'm mainly after it for the campaign believe it or not, I'm not really into the competitive multiplayer thing..

Anyway, hope you had a nice weekend and check back soon for more updates!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bloggin hell!

What a turgid week I'm having! In the process of looking for a new job with some interviews lined up next week.. My number 1 priority at this time is to get out of my current situation. Spending most of my free time clicking "apply to job" across various job sites. However! I have still managed to design like 6 characters this morning from CI, just to take a wee break from all the dialogue writing.

In gaming news, the new Xbox "slim" launched in Europe yesterday. Apparently its making a killing for Microsoft and they're reporting major stock shortages across all regions. Whats funny is, when I took a pair of these out of their larger brown transit box, the new box is just as weighty as the old revision.. In fact the box appears bigger? Strange! I'll stick with my 3 year old 20gb Xbox for now thanks.

The Develop conference also took place this week and for me the most interesting topic of discussion was digital distribution vs. boxed retail product and which model was more attractive for Indy developers in particular. Very interesting stuff, have a listen here http://www.eurogamer.net/blog.php?type=podcasts.

Sorry for the lack of updates the past few days, such is the nature of my life at the moment!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sticky Brain?

Sorry for the lack of blogs over the last few days, been up to my eyes in work amongst other things. Anyway, where am I asks you. Craggy Island is coming along as planned. Writing a script and connecting up the conversations/quests/story arcs etc has proven very challenging and thats just on paper! I've not done this kind of thing before so its a learning process alright, but so far I'm rather happy with the results. Really enjoying it though, feels great to have the auld brain ticking again.

A short blog today then, just going to get back to the drawing board and keep the juices flowing.
Hope you all had a nice weekend, I'll be back tomorrow with more updates!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The poor trees..

Nothing much to report today, things are going well. The walls of my room are literally covered in conversation trees, family trees, plot and story trees.. All scribbled on A4 pages, which were derived from trees.. The level itself is practically done, just a few minor tweaks here and there but that can be updated down the road. I have some of the characters build, including face morphs. Most interiors are linked up now and from a quick playtest, everything seems fine.

In between this, I gave Aion a quick stab. Very fancy looking but very grindy and sloooow. Dont think I'll have the patience to continue!

Also, awesome news from Bioware today, with the inevitable announcement of Dragon Age 2. From the sounds of it, it might be taking a more "Fable" approach, giving you a preset main character that you play as, who's actions moulds the world and story. They harp on about improved graphics and a better combat system amongst other things. Looking forward to hearing more.

Shattered, so I'll catch 40 winks, goodnight!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Back on track.

A rough day it has been, with official news of a paycut making its way through to my desk, I sure am in need of some cheering up. Its not all doom and gloom however, if you have been following my project page, you'll notice that I have finally managed to solve the errors that were severely halting progress on CI. I've exported the entire island into the game now, compiled a list of small graphical glitches, most of which are now ironed out and overall I'm quite happy with the results. I'm equally happy with the ~28FPS I'm getting with the game maxed out, considering I spared no expense with tesselation, lighting, vegetation, vfx etc..

Over the last month or so, I have developed some idea's outside of the scope of Craggy Island. I may look at doing more work with the toolset down the line, depending on how this one turns out.

In other news, look out for a lovely little title on its way to PSN/XBLA on the 13/14th of July respectively - Deathspank, from the creator of the Monkey Island games. If your into Diablo style RPG's or Day of the Tentacle type adventure games, Deathspank promises a perfect marriage of the two. With the quiet summer months now upon us, it should be the perfect little filler until something meatier comes along, say in the form of Starcraft 2 on July 27th, or Mafia 2 on the same day in August. Check out the website for Deathspank: http://www.deathspank.com/

Take care for now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Busy weekend!

As with every weekend, I tend to have very little time in front of the computer. Its damn tiring working in 30 degree heat, we have no air con, so it really saps it out of you. The little bit of free time I have had, has been spent tinkering my the level, trying to get around this cursed error I've been getting. Its proving quite a challenge, I suppose the biggest pain is that in order to see if a simple change has fixed the issue, I have to wait at least 1 hour to render lightmapping each time.. To be honest I haven't got much structure to the process at the moment, I'm sort of making a random tweak here and there and hoping it will fix it. I have all day monday to have a proper crack at solving this, so I'll go about creating a detailed list of things I have to try, things I have tried, combinations of both and so on. Hopefully with a bit of help from the Bioware community, I should be able to get this project back on track soon enough.

Keep checking back!

Edit: Aha! Perhaps I may have identified the problem! I got a failed Local Posts after doing all the correct steps beforehand, then I created a new Area Property and re-did all the steps, Posted all, and it worked perfectly! Hmms. Seems there was something fubared with my original setup. Will look into this a bit more before getting too excited.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lightmaps, posting, errors, oh my!

Well I've spent the entire day trying to solve some pretty sizable problems. Firstly, the Lightmap renderer would not render the terrain chunks in the singleplayer module. After some help from the forums, I managed to render it in a different module, without the errors, but with black lumpy shadows everywhere. Thats to be expected however, since you need to render your lightmaps in the singleplayer module, but at least I can sort of identify where the problem is.

I've run into a bigger problem it seems though. Ever after a "successful" render, generating the pathfinding and adding a start point etc, doing a "Post All to Local" gives me some errors that I cant seem to work out. The last 5 hours have been consumed with forum scanning on top of a hope that someone will reply to my cry for help with a solution or answer.

So far its been pretty smooth up until now and I really don't mind being slapped with problems, as long as their is solutions to them. One user that had a very similar problem to me, had to restart his entire level again, but I've put about 200 hours work into this project so far, so I'll certainly not be giving up on it. I'll be knocking on Biowares door for a solution if I have to. Early days still though, hopefully won't have to do that just yet!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Phase 1 complete!

After some hours of touch ups and intense clicking, lighting has been setup and a render is in progress - hopefully it will turn out how I want it. I put the final touches on the Island today and I'm quite pleased with how its turned out. Lighting issues withstanding aside, I'll be moving onto the interior locations tomorrow. Yipee, something different! Its taken me 3 months from tomorrow, to get to this stage and I'm really excited to see it all coming to life.

How was your weekend? Following the World Cup? I'm not a huge football fan, but I do love a bit of drama. England are out, who'd of guessed. I think a part of the problem is they never looked like a unit. Stick a bunch of individuals from rival Premier League clubs into team and this is the result. Oh well, better luck next time lads.

Preordered Starcraft 2 Collectors Edition today, might downgrade to the normal boxed copy if its too expensive, plus I'm not that invested in the SC universe, but the guy in Gamestop did a good job in hyping it up, kudos to him.

If anyone missed Muse at Glastonbury on BBC2 last night, you should checkout their cover of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name", featuring 'The Edge', awesome stuff if your a fan of either band.

Enjoy and goodnight.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yadayada..

I've been a bit greedy with my time today and given myself the entire evening to relax and play some games. My day was going swimmingly until I received the news in work that I and 1000 other disgruntled employees, would be taking a 10% pay cut effect July 2nd. There goes roughly 3,000 of my college fund down the toilet.. Fantastic. However, I've taken solace in the fact that there are people much worse off than me and with the state the economy is in, I can only complain so much.

Moving along.. My evening has been filled with a heavy dose of Raven Softwares 'Singularity' followed by a quick fix of Transformers: War for Cybertron. The former, whilst making its way onto store shelves without so much as a review to be seen, or any previews at that, in fact, has nothing to be ashamed of. I'm only a few hours in, but much like Bioshocks opening scene with the downed plane in the ocean, Singularity really eases you into its rich and detailed world; this is where Ravens attention to detail shows. Far from just a standard shooter then, you get a device that allows you to warp certain objects back in forth in time, for example, an old staircase thats collapsed, you can use the device to restore it to its original self, allowing you to progress past a previously blocked path. It's a very clever mechanic and so far there has been some clever puzzles to solve with it. Looking forward to playing more!

Onto Transformers briefly then, highly polished, rock solid controls, a blast to play, but just a bit repetitive so far. Its obvious the game was designed for coop as your 2 AI partners assist you throughout. Looking forward to trying it out online.

Anyway, a busy weekend ahead and I have some training seminars to attend next week. Hopefully I'll get the remainder of the polish done on Craggy Island so I can move onto the interior levels. Goodnight.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ok, I lied.

Well not technically, but with the official announcement of 'Craggy Island' via the Bioware forums, I attached 2 new screenshots for your (hopeful) viewing pleasure. I'm now practically complete on this phase of the project, with the actual Island itself almost practically complete, practically. Minus a few bells and whistles.

Let me know what you think of the stuff so far, my perspective is damaged, having stared at it all for far too long.

On a completely different note, with the summer gaming drought in full swing, it might not be such the drought I had originally anticipated.. This week we have the likes of Raven's 'Singularity' which is looking quite interesting.. Perhaps a bit Bioshock-y, but that can't be a bad thing. The lack of press is a worrying sign though. Normally I would feel ashamed to say this, but theres also a Transformers game that actually looks quite good, War for Cybertron, a Gears of War type clone. The Coop aspect is what caught my attention, check out some gameplay vids on YouTube, looks very polished and dare I say, FUN! Hopefully these will provide some entertainment until Starcraft sucks up my free time (which at the moment is well, non-existant!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Last! Screenshot plus E3 is over!

Screenshot added, feedback welcome! This will be the last screenshot I give you guys as I want you to explore these locations in-game yourselves. I might put a short promo video together when I'm further along with the project. Of course, I'll keep you all updated as I progress. Subscribe to the project and or hit the popularity button on the project page if you haven't already! Your support is most welcome. I will officially announce the project via the Bioware forums in the coming weeks.

In other news, E3 was a bit.. meh. Perhaps my expectations were too high? Not as bad as last years at least. As for what stood out; Nintendo 3DS, sounds like some serious kit. Shame I have a squint in 1 eye.. Metal Gear: Rising, on the fence with this one, as little is known other than you can seemingly slice everything up. Sorcery with PS:Move, this is the kind of thing the Wii is lacking. If Move can give us games like this while packing some serious depth, Sony might just be on to a winner, at least with me. They seem to be catering to their core market along with trying to attract casual consumers.

Other things of note.. Halo is looking pretty good now, Portal 2 coming to PS3, Goldeneye on Wii.. Nothing more of interest really.

Lets talk about Microsoft's 'Kinect' for a moment. Off the back of the Wii's success in breaking into almost every living room, MS have decided that they want a slice of the pie and their answer lies in a controller-less camera that sits above your TV. The software on show at E3 was extremely underwhelming. It all looked very Wii-ish and considering the Wii console itself was built and marketed as a family machine to have in a living room, the Xbox wasn't and herein lies the problem. You can't aim a casual device at a market in which the majority of Xbox owners are adolescent males with a Call of Duty addiction. Would love to see their mother or sister try pry their Xbox away on christmas day, to prance around the living room playing white water rafting over some noob tubbing in Black Ops.

Microsoft should be focusing on getting Kinects into households via its core market, by baiting them with some killer titles, then opening the floodgates on the no doubt endless supply of casual junk that will potentially saturate the market and hurt our eyes while shopping in your local game shop.

Other functions its 'useful' for, like selecting a movie, moving through dashboard etc, I cant see how waving your hands about in the air will be more desirable than simply moving a few fingers on a joypad.

PS: Move has me quite interested, but for now, I think MS might of hit a doozey. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Updated Shots!

I've uploaded 2 work-in-progress shots. I'm trying to setup the tone and mood currently, but the toolset doesn't handle night time and lighting too well.. Still, getting there with a few work-arounds.

Paul

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back from Italy

Well that was a mad few days! Just back from Milan and I'm shattered. 3 days of intense walking and traveling, but it was all worth it - if you have not seen Muse live, aren't too fond of them, or never really heard of them, do yourself a favour and go to one of their concerts if you get a chance. Mindblowing stuff, a complete assault on the senses, it was some spectacle. Words cannot describe!

Anyway, I'm straight back into DA: Toolset, with a splitting migraine and some much needed time away from the project, a lot can be said for a break away from your work, I was beginning to doubt the quality in some parts having stared at it too much, I now have some much needed perspective on it and I'm back to being happy with it again!

Will update soon.

Ciao!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Craggy Update

Island exterior nearly complete! Just adding the last few props and details before vegetating the whole thing. I'll then light the baby up and reveal it to you in all it's (fingers crossed) glory! Provided I don't run into too many problems plus the fact that I'm off to Milan for a few days next week to see Muse in the San Siro, it should be visually complete within a fortnight.

Paul

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Alan Wake - Review

"It's done when its done".. Few studios are in a position to command such a power. It's clear that after ploughing through Alan Wake in a few short sessions, the Finnish studio's first title since Max Payne 2, is nothing less than a labour of love. Stark attention to detail is clear from start to finish; this is a world that Remedy wants you to emotionally buy into and after knocking on the juke box in the local diner and listen to two has been rockers grovel back and forth at each other, while tapping the table to the beat of the tune you just put on, you will have all but placed yourself in Alan's shoes.

A local TV known as 'Bright Springs', the local radio station.. Stick around characters for longer than the story dialogue requires and you will be treated to a tonne of extra dialog; all of these things enhance the experience and pull you further into the land of Bright Falls. Down to tiny details such as accurate star patterns in the night sky.. Remedy's obvious care and attention resonates throughout the entire 12ish hour experience. (Look out for the face of Max Payne on the live action talk show in Alan's apartment - quite funny!)

So how does the game play?

Combat is solid. The torch is a fun tool to use and havok physics provide satisfying oomph when blasting the nasties with a double barrel shotgun. The game however is hampered by repetitive level and mission design. At night, there is too much of "get from point A to B" or "make your way through the power station/farm/mine" sections. Also, there are some jumping sections which are terribly awkward to control with glitchy animations killing you more often than bad timing. They feel like a tacked-on after-thought, in an attempt to create some variety. Daytime provides a welcome change of pace, with the games narrative scenes taking place at wonderfully designed locations. Its during these sections that generate the games most memorable moments. The day and night system is similar to Silent Hills alternation between real world and nightmare sections.

The story is a little all over the place come the end and seems to ask more questions than it answers, but it's also in the plot that helps draw you into Alan's world and it's confident enough in itself to create a sense of mystery and intrigue that clearly extends past the scope of the first game.

Anyone expecting a somewhat open world experience be warned - It's linear. Extremely linear. Originally, Wake was designed as so, but later was retracted, redesigned (hence the delays) and is now confined to a very linear path throughout. Not at one point can you branch off and mosey about the town of Bright Falls, or freely travel from one location to the next. It damages the level of immersion you would expect from a game that relies so heavily on it. Seeing as though most of the inaccessible content is already in place, a sequel or DLC might open up the town and surrounding area to us a bit more. If you can get your hands on the Collectors Edition, its more than worth the 5 extra euro. The hard-bound book is fantastic and provides some insight and background stories on some of the characters, which ties really well into the game.

So, was it worth the wait? Alan Wake does feel slightly dated when compared to the likes of Uncharted 2, but when judged on it's own merit, it deserves much praise. It has it's faults, but they don't detract enough from the overall experience. The foundation is there for a rather brilliant sequel and I for one will be looking forward to a return trip to Bright Falls.
8/10

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So it begins.. again?

Hello.

I've been toying with the idea of creating a blog for some time now. I suppose its the personal expression that excites me, or even the potential inspiration that one or I could get from it.

Over the next few years, I will endeavor to update Sticky Brain with my progress, each step of the way, as I try to go from working in a retail store, to breaking myself into the Games Industry.

A little about myself then? My name is Paul Conway, 27 years of age. I was born and bred in Dublin, where I have lived most of my life, apart from a years stint in England. Games have been the absolute focal point of my life, with practically all of my childhood memories involving things like tearing open the box to my C64 from Santa, whopping my brothers ass in Mario on the Amiga and buying my very own SNES with Zelda: Link to the Past. I have owned every games console released and well basically, my life = games. My memories are filled with these golden nuggets of joy and even to this day, I still feel that excitement while unwrapping a game I've been waiting for for so long.

That magical process of waking up early on the morning of a big game release, getting a bus to town, stuffing a Mc'Donalds Sausage and Egg Mc'Muffin into your face, while you wait for the game shop to open, buying you're game and taking it from the staff member in a small paper bag, getting back on the bus, gently pulling off the plastic, opening the case, sniffing the manual (you all do it!) and reading it on the journey home.. Its unparalleled. 

From about 3rd Year in secondary school, I knew I wanted to work in the industry. There was only 1 course available in the entire country at the time involving Games Design and it was only a 1 year Certificate. Still, no other course would have satisfied me at that point, so regardless of earning a very good Leaving Cert, I took the Cert course and luckily a 2 year Diploma was set to launch the following year, in the exact same college. Nice timing! So I got a diploma and was accepted into the 3rd year of a Games Degree in the UK.

A future in the games industry was looking very bright. After 1 year of the diploma course, I spent 3 summer months living in Galway working with a startup studio, gaining invaluable experience. I also designed many 3d sets for a TV gameshow aired on RTE, known as 'Fame and Fortune' (which is no longer running). Unfortunately due to money issues and a big family dilemna back home, I didn't get to finish my degree in the UK. That was in 2006. What's I been doing since then you wonder?

Well, it took me some time to find a job, pay off the loan I took to study in England and help out at home. Stupidly and carelessly, I lost faith in myself and my dream. It became increasingly difficult to keep up with the games industry, at least technically, as I had very limited access to resources and considering that game development barely existed in Dublin or even Ireland, things started to fall apart for me. I became a manager of a small entertainment retail store and fell into a trap. That cursed trap.. Life was easy, relatively stress free and I had a car, money and friends. Over the past 2-3 years, I have not been myself however. I felt like I had something greater to contribute. It has been a constant thought for me, where will I go with my life? I'm approaching 30, with no prospects. Plenty of different carrier paths entered my thoughts, but not one of those gave me that feeling.. that spark. Perhaps it was the fear of rejection, or the thought of going back down a beaten path only to fail again. Going back to college was never really an option for me due to the costs and in hindsight, primarily due to the fear of wasting more years of my life on something that would bring nothing. Fear, fear, fear... How did you ever get inside me? Anyways, stay with me!

2 months ago, I woke up. In quite a literal sense. Much credit has to go to a very close friend of mine, Daniel, who put things into perspective for me. I took a week's annual leave with the sole intention of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I went for a drive and ended up in a bookstore, looking for some inspiration. Initially I was looking for a book on college courses, but I ended up coming out with so much more. I bought a book called "How to Get from Where You Are, to Where You Want to Be", by Jack Canfield. As I read the first few pages, it felt like someone had picked up a big wet fish and slapped it across my face. My future as clear as day to me. I would fulfill my original dream of working in the Games Industry.

Recently I realized that through my few years of management experience, I have developed a real passion for leadership. When I look back over my college years, I was always a team leader, always providing help and direction to those in my team and it all came naturally to me. I also had a short stint in World of Warcraft, in which I created and ran a guild and lead their raids, taking them to top position on the server, in a very short space of time. As much of a taboo subject as this is, the sheer amount of logistics, people management and leadership needed for that, will one day be of great benefit. It taught me so much. So over the last while, I've been hard at work at breaking myself out of my comfort zone, you really notice how attached you can get to things, when you take them away.

Were I dream to end up, is as a producer for a games studio. Sure, I will need countless years of industry experience to get there, but as far as I'm concerned, as soon as I step foot inside a studio for the first time, in any capacity, I will be living my dream.

So, how will I get there? I am applying to do a 1 year honour's degree course in Media Management Production, starting Sept 2011. Why not this year? I'll get to that. Following this degree, I plan to do the new Masters course offered by D.I.T, in Digital Games. It has been designed with help from Microsoft and was recently launched by Peter Molyneux. Applying to start in September 10', wasn't an option, simply because the cost of attending the 2 courses over the 2.5 years will amount to roughly 30k (all expenses), so between now and Sept 11', I have implemented a savings scheme to allow me to save about 22k, with a part-time job throughout college to bring me up to the 30k mark. Currently saving about 340 a week out of my 480 pay packet, with 100 of that going to home support. Living on 40 euro a week can be tricky, but it will all be worth it in the long run. Having excess to free DVD's and games through work really helps though!

Obviously 2 new qualifications wont land me a job in the games industry, I'm under no illusion's there. The channel of expertise in which I think I will pursue over the coming years, is level design. I have started work on a portfolio and hopefully, along with the qualifications, I'll have a shot of getting my foot in the door somewhere.

I have been hard at work on my first portfolio piece, an addon for the RPG, Dragon Age: Origins. It is entitled 'Craggy Island' and things are going very well! This blog, along with my project page on Bioware's Social Network, will be my primary sites of progress updates. I'm going to end this blog now as I want to keep it as an introduction, albeit long one, with the hopes that it has grabbed some peoples attention enough, to warrant a return visit! I will post another blog later to detail 'Craggy Island' in full, or you can check for some less-bloated updates @ http://social.bioware.com/project/2446/

Another thing I will be doing, is writing up some small reviews of current and upcoming game releases, again, something I've wanted to do for a while now (if I find the time!)

I have a long journey ahead and I would love for you to join me, as I attempt to pick myself up from the land of the mundane, to pursuing my ultimate dream.

Thanks for reading,

Paul