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Topic: pondering on the "flow" of NWN1 (gameplay and modules)  (Read 11849 times)
« on: August 11, 2011, 08:01:59 AM »
TimG Offline
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Because of limited time I am fairly selective in what modules I'll download and play.  I tend to read everything I can find on the Vault and the boards (well, not anymore...) about a module before I get into it.  The voting system and the community are invaluable in helping to decide where to focus.  Recently I tried two different modules that I would say are not top tier quality.  Both are good in their own way but not world beaters by any means.  The things that stood out as "faults" (to me, not necessarily to others) were a lack of flair, weakness in style and continuity from portion of the mod to the next.  You could see where the builder ran out of time and patience moving from one inspired setting to a drab area.  Most of the really good mods that I have played through are fairly consistent.  I think that storyline and background give a module its gravitas and even a pure hack and slash build needs a certain amount of flair to keep it from being "more of the same".  The addition of certain detail oriented touches seems to be what makes a good module into a great one.  Following certain conventions that NWN has essentially established since the O/C may be a recipe for repetition but at the same time it gives the player a familiar starting point to dive deeper into the game.
I see concerns across the spectrum about "originality" and I understand the desire for something "new" but the entire universe that NWN inhabits is well covered ground so I think that the mark of success may be more along the lines of: "a tale oft told but told well".
So many of the "plotlines" that I would be tempted to dismiss as a "rerun" are timeless classics that deserve another telling.  In order to make the new telling a success the trick is in the details.  I believe if asked I'd say the little things matter most.

I pitch this out to get a feel for how the veteran members of the AME approach these things
TG
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Reply #1
« on: August 11, 2011, 12:45:49 PM »
QSW Offline
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QSW by Dragarta Posts: 674



I don't think I'm a particularly picky player, although as NWN has progressed, the bar for basic expectations has, I think, risen.

I agree with you that even a basic H&S module really needs some kind of storyline. Long gone are the days where I'll happily jump into a module and hack my way through hoards of creatures, shop for hours and turn this way and that to see how I look in pink *grins* I do play GvE3 on occasion with my fellow reviewers (but it is a heavily modded version and extremely challenging) in MP.

I don't mind re-told stories, after all, we each have our own vision of how say, strider looks in our mind, or how he sounds. Tasslehoff Burfoot may seem as different to me as he does to you, so again, how familiar characters are portrayed from one module to another can vary greatly.

I do not like to be railroaded through a story. I will accept that the player sometimes needs to be driven in a linier plot, but please make the driving aspect interesting RP wise.

Journal entries are a must for me, a good module has an excellent journal!  Interesting custom gear is good also, and descriptions on every NPC, item and stick of furniture makes me a very happy player. I'll spend hours reading descriptions and count that as part of the whole gaming experience. Yep, the little things matter a lot to me. Custom lighting/atmosphere in areas that make logistical sense helps as well. I really -hate-large areas, unless their purpose is for the player & enemy to be able to use the terrain for battle. A polished mod is always great to see.

I enjoy neat scripting, I'm normally delighted by the surprises that come from a scripted moment. I don't however hold it against an author if he/she can't/or have chosen not to add this to their modules...as long as their storytelling/adventure flows well, makes sense and is fun for me.

These days I'm afraid I much prefer the shorter modules, 4 hours is really as long as I want to spend playing a module. That can make it harder for an author to provide a ripping adventure...but it is by no means impossible Wink

In the end, I have to ask myself, did I enjoy the module? If I didn't, was it because it was not my play style? If that is the case, I then ask myself, well, put that aside, was the module well made, and did it deliver on what it offered? if yes, then I of course would value it on those terms. So, a H&S mod (not my thing really these days) may well sit highly on my list because it provides fantastic H&S quality. As long as it is also well polished, I'd have no problem recommending it to others for what it is.

Told you I wasn't picky Tongue
« Last Edit: August 11, 2011, 12:47:23 PM by QSW » Logged

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Reply #2
« on: August 12, 2011, 03:39:47 AM »
Quillmaster Offline
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Well said the both of you.  I can't rally add to that, you got it pretty much covered.
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Reply #3
« on: August 12, 2011, 06:57:48 AM »
TimG Offline
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Very good point on Journal entries.  They need to be clear and concise.  I sort of view them as a "narration" tool..  A guide to make things clear to the player that aren't able to be made clear because of the limitations of the game.  Sometimes scripting something is so complicated that it blocks the building of the module.  Handling it in the journal lets things progress without a back-breaking amount of effort.
I am a huge fan of the narration as provided in Udasu's "Accursed Tower".  To me it echoes the pen and paper experience very well.  It's not something I've seen elsewhere but that may just be because I don't get to play that many modules.

I also agree that there needs to be "more than one way to get to Rome" in a linear module.  Just because it is linear doesn't mean there shouldn't be choices.  Maybe a hard path and an easier path, or even multiple difficult paths but some type of variation.

One convention that I am weary of is the locked door and the resultant key search.  It makes a certain tedium to go looking through every random container for a key.  If there's a dungeon then there ought to be a dungeon keeper with a key ring.  Kill 'im and have done with it.  There are so many things that can be done in a clever dungeon that don't involve searching for a key.  I don't mind at all killing the "big boss" to get the key, he ought to have it if he's the "boss" but the searches through chests has been done to death.
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Reply #4
« on: August 12, 2011, 10:12:40 AM »
QSW Offline
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One convention that I am weary of is the locked door and the resultant key search.  It makes a certain tedium to go looking through every random container for a key.  If there's a dungeon then there ought to be a dungeon keeper with a key ring.  Kill 'im and have done with it.  There are so many things that can be done in a clever dungeon that don't involve searching for a key.  I don't mind at all killing the "big boss" to get the key, he ought to have it if he's the "boss" but the searches through chests has been done to death.

I agree, searching endless rooms and/or containers is a real pain in the butt. I also dislike being told there is a specific key to a certain locked door, especially if I'm a high level rogue with maxed out Open Lock skills! What is the point of being a rogue and honing those skills if in the end, some container or indeed boss has them? pfft!

I do however like it when the lock opener gets XP for their skills, as well as other skills such as hide, sneak, spot/search etc. I firmly believe it brings value to making your PC the best he/she can be at their trade. I also think every module should acknowledge such skills, because unless you have no locked containers OR doors, then apart from brute force (noisy at the best of times) a thief is perfect for the job!

Oh yes, I have also found that many modules seem to neglect the Monk class quite a lot. Now I'm not really into playing a monk, (much prefer my war hammer!) but I have found that authors seem to forget about monks and offer very little (and often no) support for that class.

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Reply #5
« on: August 12, 2011, 12:03:31 PM »
Andarian Offline
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I only have time for a brief comment now (I'll write more later), but...

On keys and locked doors: I'm going to defend them as important tools for builders to structure plot, story, and play, especially in linear and strongly story-focused mods. A logical sequencing of events can be critical in strongly plotted work. In situations where the events in area Y don't really make plot sense until after the events in area X, a locked door between the two and a key found at the appropriate plot point in X can be a useful way to structure the necessary flow of play.
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Reply #6
« on: August 15, 2011, 11:26:08 AM »
TimG Offline
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one other thing that I think is worth pointing out is control of creature/enemy re-spawn rate.  I am currently struggling through a module where the combat is overwhelming no matter what.  I try to "stick with it" to give even a module I am not enjoying a fair chance but "continuous defeat and death" is a bug not a feature.  The Vault description suggests starting at level 15 and yet my 32nd level Paladin is lucky to make it from one screen to the next alive.  I think that the builders need to keep in mind that the players are playing to be the "hero" of the story, not just another casualty.  I don't fully understand scaling within the AI but I have played enough modules to know the difference between reasonable and absurd difficulty.

On the subject of locked doors I do agree that there are plot reasons to keep doors shut but I see a lot of doors locked just for the hell of it.

Players look for a challenge when they play as opposed to a longer play experience gained from relentless difficultly.  One refrain I see a lot is how limited "play time" is for the current crop of NWN players.  I suspect a shorter but more fun romp through the fantasy settings will be more kindly received than the desperately long slog.

Keep in mind I am just thinking out loud to gauge the responses, not really thinking too deeply.
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Reply #7
« on: August 15, 2011, 12:14:50 PM »
QSW Offline
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I completely agree with you Andarian about locked doors that have a purpose. I guess like TimG, I'm really referring to the pointlessly locked doors and chests, that tend to serve no other purpose than to slow a curious player down.

From your description TimG, it sounds as if perhaps your enemy are placed in the area, as opposed to spawned encounters which can be scaled o the players level. I personally dislike the overuse of placed foe, they can lag an area out (on a lower end machine) and really be a pain in the er, tail to boot!

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Reply #8
« on: August 15, 2011, 01:38:21 PM »
PJ156 Offline
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I tend to only use placed enemies though I am talking NWN2 here. I dislike random critters since I like to think about why each combat situation occurs and balance it to suit where I know the player is in terms of level (as much as that is possible).

I agree with what I think TimG is saying. Grinding in a module, be it through over large depopulated areas that require exploration or endless repeated encounters I find very annoying and lazy modding. Like TimG I fouvour a shorter, more focused, mod experience.

That said I am guilty of using big areas that don't respawn and in these cases traveling from a to b can be dull (I am going to fix that soon).

PJ
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Reply #9
« on: August 15, 2011, 04:35:08 PM »
Henesua Offline
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I have to agree here with the others because I prefer a short and fast paced game to a long winded epic. I also prefer story to combat and puzzles.

I've actually been trying to get to the sequel of Murder in Mireford. But I have not quite finished Murder in Mireford. I'm close, but I got bored because the other thing that I don't like is the linear adventure. I don't know if that adventure had any choices but I had a hard time finding them if they were there. Every conversation node had one response. While this worked for getting the story across, it makes me feel like I am just marching along a predetermined path. I wandered around and found everything I could, but it wasn't enough for me. I really wanted more. (Perhaps this is why I played primarily multiplayer and PWs...)

I think my proclivities as a player help explain my painfully slow progress in my own module. I probably have too many options, too many details. So I am wondering if other folks here dislike tons of options. Most conversation nodes have more than one so far. I'm also working on a number of different endings. but probably most dangerously I don't tell the player what to do next. I leave it up to them to explore, interact etc... which requires me to account for every contingency I can think of - many of which might never happen at all during play.

The question: does a lack of spelled out choices lead you to stop playing?
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Reply #10
« on: August 15, 2011, 10:38:04 PM »
PJ156 Offline
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Lack of choices can make things boring or perhaps too chanelled but too much choice if not handled correctly can also be a pain.

It is personal preference but I like to see three or five responses. Thus you can have a good, neutral and "evil" response or five shades of that if needed. Three options allows role play at a miminum.

What I am not fond of is several wordy responses on the pc node with none of them really defining the character. That said this is very hard to do over the 40,000 to 60,000 words that make up a mod.

If I am going to have a conversation that is driven through to make the story flow then i leave it all the the npc's. It becomes a reading exercise but it does not force the PC to use one liners which ill define the players image of his PC. That requires that you have a permanent npc present but then I do so that is not a worry. These are also good times to define your npc as well and there is nothing I love more in a mod as one or more active and well defined npc's.

I have never stopped playing a mod due to the quality of the dialogue. I have stopped playing if it relies too much on the exploration of bland areas or is simply the tedious repeating of the same fight. In fairness I can think of only one that did this, and I cant rememebr the name of that ....

PJ
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Reply #11
« on: August 16, 2011, 01:01:34 AM »
Olivier Leroux Offline
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I'm usually quite tolerant towards different styles of gameplay. I like to be given choices but if the story-telling is good and my PC doesn't behave like an idiot all the time against my will, I'm also fine with linear gameplay. It's pretty challenging to find the right balance, I think. The sandbox approach can get just as tedious as a linear one, if the game loses focus as a result and players don't know what to do and why they should bother at all. One way to handle this might be to spell out a clear more or less linear path but allow for lots of exploration and side quests, like Baldur's Gate 2 and a few other CRPGs did. The downside is that there's likely to be a gap between the proclaimed urgency of the main quest and all the time-consuming exploration and side quests, especially if the latter are of rather mundane nature.

As for conversations, I've seen a few modules that offered choices apparantly just for their own sake, without any thought if they make any sense or are likely to be chosen. So you can have a module with many conversation options and still feel as if you're railroaded. The usual "good", "neutral", "evil" choices are often too blunt to be interesting ("I will do anything for you", "We'll see", "I kill you") and sometimes you even get to choose between more or less trite things like "Yes", "Yes, sir" and "Yes, sir. Of course." What I'd find more interesting is either significant differences in the choices that are at the same time all valid options (that lead e.g. to different quests, different rewards, different story outcome instead of just "get rewarded or get punished or "continue the story or ruin the story") or significant nuances in the answers that help you to play out different (but believable) characters even when the meaning is more or less the same.

Another thing I've got to admit though is that personally I usually don't like to replay modules, which sometimes spoils my enjoyment of modules that are designed in a way that you can't explore and experience everything during the first playthrough. I hate the feeling that I'm missing out on something but it's often not enough to make the second playthrough attractive for me, as I play mainly for story and don't like to go through the major part of it again without learning anything new.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2011, 01:05:07 AM by Olivier Leroux » Logged
 
Reply #12
« on: August 16, 2011, 05:43:54 AM »
TimG Offline
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an early module that I thought was the epitome of "flow" is Cormyrean Nights.
http://nwvault.ign.com/View.php?view=Modules.Detail&id=3173
This was one of the first things I ever got off the vault and it set a pretty good standard.
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Reply #13
« on: August 16, 2011, 08:51:41 PM »
Henesua Offline
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I appreciate this discussion, especially since I am working on a module right now, and it is the first computer roleplaying game I have made.

In the module that I am working on, I'm trying to interweave many small choices that eventually lead to three strands each which leads to its own ending. The endings each suggest a different trajectory the character's life would take in early adulthood. The only failure state for the player is if they are unable to follow a strand instead hitting a dead end from which they need to start over. I'm trying not to make many of these if any. But Its too early to know for sure. Of course with the ability to save and restart, that shouldn't be an issue.

Thats the abstract.

Here's the lede:
In essence the story is about Goblinboy, a human, born to wealthy parents eager to establish their family as an important one in Arnheim. Arnheim is a rustic barony of the Orsennan empire. It is undergoing change from its old traditions to the new religion of the Orsennan Empire. Obviously a family with social ambitions in a changing world would have high hopes for their son. Unfortunately the son of this family is a Goblin-touched, a human who has suffered a disfiguring curse during infancy. If others of the upper crust discovered this, the family's social standing could be ruined. Goblin-boy is thus locked in the basement to hide the horns growing from his head, and his monstrous, goblinoid face. Goblin-boy languishes in the basement for years with little contact except his mother who visits every day. His father is distant, little more than a picture hanging on his wall. Almost everything he knows about the world is gathered from books, and yet he's on the cusp of early adulthood.

Then one evening, a goblin arrives in Goblin-boy's room, calling him by name.


And the story goes from there. Before the end of this short tale, the player will have guided goblin-boy towards a new path in his life. You can deal with your family, run away from it. Figure out what the goblin has to offer you etc.... Its a bit of a fairy tale - with the main character on the cusp of adulthood but suppressed - and then magical events enabling a flowering into new life. Thats the idea.

I just can't believe how much work it is to do something like this. All I have so far is the initial setup in two scenes, and then one of the first branches of possible adventure. And then I've also been slowed down by some technical problems with my custom base classes (aristocrat, commoner etc...) that were intended to precede the normal base classes (fighter, wizard, etc..) that Goblin-boy would grow in to. Essentially my plan there doesn't work, so i've had to scrap it and rethink the mechanics of character development and which of the standard base classes would be available to a teenage shut in living in his parent's basement. (I've settled on rogue and sorcerer). I'm presently trying to figure out how the story changes if goblin-boy can possess a familiar which could slip out the window and explore the city, and how I enable this in the first scene. Or even if I want to have to create the whole city just for some pointless exploring that doesn't advance the plot.... anyway.

But anyway all that to let you know how hard it is, and the depth to which I try to enable all of the options that should be available to the character.

I really hope I have this finished this year. I suspect I need to scale back some of the options I'm trying to provide and just make the story.... more linear. At least not deviate from the three main choices.

Enough rambling.....
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Reply #14
« on: August 17, 2011, 12:28:57 AM »
Quillmaster Offline
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Enough rambling.....

Sounds really interesting Henesua.  I presume you'll be supplying a premade character?  While such an option does deter some of the player base, it does have the advantage of making the building process easier since you don't have to cover so many options.  It's an approach I decided to risk with my own work, particularly as I was basing it on my novel work so the story was pre defined and hence linear, but that gave me the added headache of trying to allow the player to still have choices within conversations so it felt like they had some input into character behaviour.  I think I managed to pull it off in a way that still had alternate responses feel in character.

TimG hit the nail on the head when he said it's the little things that count. Stories can be further enhanced by the items that you find.  While books offer an obvious way of doing this,  other items can add flair, even if mundane, and you can always have a script update a journal entry on the acquisition of such an item.
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