Sunday, January 25, 2009

Building a city

I think I'm making some progress. I should, because I've spent the last two nights awake and my sleeping pattern is a total mess again. The screenshots in my last post looked really ugly and plain, but now I think I have the basic idea of the layout of each quarter in my head and work slowly from one end to the next. The last three days went without much walkmesh problems, the docks finaly work and I decided the walls don't have to be walkable if they don't want to be, quite the opposite actually - walking the walls would only reveil the little optical tricks I'm trying to build in.
Anyway, my current project is the dockside quarter and the poor side of he city. I've spent two days puzzling some buildings together and I think I'm getting somewhere. The tinting of most buildings seems to be quite limited, I'm getting a different look than I originally intended, but I can't say I'm disappointed so far. Actually, I'd rather show off some screenies that might give an idea of what I'm aiming at.
On a sidenote, this area will be huge, it's 16x16 so far (which is the upper limit of what is recommended), and I'm throwing placeables in like crazy. The reason for this is that NWN2 doesn't support that many individual areas. In NWN1 I'd break the city into 4 smaller parts (as I actually did), but in NWN2 I'll have to get as much into one area as possible. From Dammendrech I know that huge city areas with thousands of placeables can be playable, however, the loading time will probably be horrible. But for a non-hostile area, I think it's okay to enforce a little coffee break. I can just hope computer systems will catch up with what I'm doing in the future. So far it runs quite smooth on my system, but I'm only 10% done yet, and my computer is not lowest end. However, the idea of players running through it on lowest graphics settings is scary... We'll see, it's too late to stop now.

The docks again, this time with water.

A different view on the two cranes. A few placeables are already scattered around, but too plain still. ;)

An alley, cramped as they shall all be.

View towards the small dockside market I'm currently working on. I'm still unsure about the bridge, and I have to change that horrible default day/night cycle.

From a different angle. I hope the small canals will give the city an unique feel.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Beginning

I know I'm slow, very slow. And for a long time I thought building in NWN2's toolset would be just too much for me. And it is slow, much slower than in NWN1. In the old toolset a basic area layout took me a day or so, and the Runghold area as it is now took maybe a week. That means already basic lighting, some working doors, market stands and some NPCs I got excited about (see Anna).
NWN2 is much slower. I started with some interiors, as was suggested to me, and while it's certainly more clumsy than NWN1's toolset, working with tiles isn't totally new and I got used to it soon enough to lose interest and started with exteriors. The first one was a lake in the hills, the basic idea was a cave entrance under the water level a player could "dive into". Quite simple, but for a newbie like me harder than I imagined. The problem is really, with total freedom in forming the landscape the builder actually has to plan ahead, and that's something totally contrary to NWN1 where I used to start somewhere and experimented by clicking and trying wildly until I found something I liked and from where I can work further. NWN2 doesn't leave as much room for experimentation, because mistakes can easily lead to a total startover.
Anyway, during the last few months I was working through some of the basic tutorials available at the vault, and even though I'm one of those persons who hate tutorials, I recommend this to everyone. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the NWN2 toolset is essential for a newbie, another great ressource with further steps into intermediate building is NWNmaster's NWN2 Toolset Guide.
Always a source for inspiration is of course the server I used to play on all the time. Not only does it show wonderful building, it also led me to thinking what I would do different or better if I had the skill.

Fine, after this little introduction now the great (?) news, I started building again with Middleforest in mind. Of course I started with Runghold, and I can only say it's very slow and painful. After a week or so it still looks plain and like Lego in the toolset, and I admit after Five days of building there's actually not much to see, it's far from being impressive or even nice to look at. The reason, besides what I said earlier, is walkmeshes. Walkmesh, the curse of any enthusiastic builder? I can't say, I just know I can't for my life figure out the strange logic of this beast. It's simple in a plain exterior area, you have that nice grid with all the nice triangles in yellow and you can add and erase parts... so far so good. A simple bridge over a small river, all fine. But Balconies, stairs, docks, "selfmade" bridges... it's hell. Two days I was only trying to allow a PC to walk on some walls or on the docks I built, I tried walkmesh helpers, tried to figure out how walkmesh helpers work (a tutorial from Obsidian was no help in my case at all), and came to the conclusion it's just a matter of trial and error, and a lot of luck. If I give up building again, it'll be because of Walkmeshes, that's for sure.
Anyway, last but not least a few clumsy WIP screenies, just to have some screens on my blog again.

My first clumsy exterior...

Basic layout of Rungold in the toolset, not many buildings to see yet

A selfmade bridge - maybe too ambitious, I doubt I'll get the walkmesh thingie done :)

The basic docks