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Topic: Golden Dragon Interview: Citadel team  (Read 6167 times)
« on: August 13, 2008, 10:56:45 PM »
BenWH Offline
Inactive Member
Gold-tinted Silver Dragon
Posts: 945

Today's NWN Golden Dragon interview is with the team of Citadel, which picked up 2 Golden Dragon awards: Best Adventure module and Most Replayable module. We find out about what inspired Citadel, and how the team came together, plus a little on the unusual music, which also picked up a nomination...

What made you start building modules?

Jim Grimsley: I've been playing computer-based RPGs since Baldur's Gate first appeared, and became a passionate player of BG2 and Neverwinter Nights. I played nearly all the mods that were produced in the first three or four years of the Vault. Since I was primarily a Mac user, I did not have early access to the toolset and had to buy a PC in order to start building. I actually first bought the PC so I could play the expansions as they came out, rather than waiting for them to come to the Mac. Once I had a PC, I started using the toolset to  modify other people's mods (mostly so I could wear Maddy's clothes since she had started making stuff right away, and then so I could make my own clothes and equipment).

What always impressed me about RPGs for the computer was the richness of the text. Some of the stories that you play through have intense moments of storytelling in them. I was intrigued by that and wanted to try my hand at telling stories in this form. I am a novelist and storyteller by trade, having published a number of books (that you can look up online if you're curious, since I'm here to talk about modding).

Madeleine St. Romain: I started by making outfits for my PCs back before Shadows of Undrentide was released. So I needed a place to keep the outfits, which became a room, a house, a castle, castle grounds, shops, encounters. That's a bit of an oversimplification. But I did start with wanting gear that suited my PCs.

Can you tell us a little more about the inspiration for your module?

Jim Grimsley:I started by building a disco and then tried to think of a fantasy world in which a disco would make sense. From the beginning i wanted to make a mod with gay material. I started work alone and a few months down the road started asking Maddy for help. From there Citadel quickly evolved into something we were both working on.

I had the idea for a city that was hidden and that had access to a large sweep of the planes, a world that bordered on Faerun but that was not defined by Faerun. This was to be a city to which people moved when they felt out of place elsewhere, a city of outcasts. I wanted to deal with the fact that gay people don't appear to be welcome in the rest of Faerun. In the real world people create their own safe places. I figured the same thing would happen in a fantasy world.

From there the story evolved. I had never built a mod before and had to learn everything as I went along. Building the story was always my responsibility, since that's my primary interest anyway, though Maddy and I developed a lot of the ideas together. The fact that Citadel is under siege and the fact that the city is at war with the angels were parts of the story that evolved. We wanted a non-traditional set of opponents.

Madeleine St. Romain:We did a lot of talking as we worked on it. Citadel took more than 4 years. That's a lot of time for ideas to grow and change. Jim and I were both working on our own little modules. Mine was Vincenza, which is still my building and test module, but was also made for the three of us as a sort of clubhouse where we could create and equip characters before going to multiplay other things. Jim made the Hallower and Ferion initially in Vincenza and had them send the PC to his bar module, which was the beginning of the city of Citadel. Citadel grew from that, though the things that were set in Vincenza moved to new locations. The original bar is still in the module as Dungeon Mistress.

How did it work out with all of you working on the module?

Madeleine St. Romain:Fun. Nice to bounce ideas off each other. We've been making up stuff and doing music and whatnot together for a really long time. Everyone had a particular role. Jim is the editor, show runner, and head writer.  Jeff is the composer and a staff writer. I'm production design coordinator or something like that and a staff writer. Jim and I both built areas and did item and creature design. It really tickles me that folks can't tell who built what and I'm very pleased about that.

Jim Grimsley:The work evolved same as the story did. Maddy, Jeff, and I have collaborated before so we knew each other well. I started the mod, Maddy came into it a few months later, and Jeff took over the music and some of the harder aspects of scripting. Then we met Craig and he added more scripting knowledge.

The primary mod building fell to Maddy and me. We both like to do everything but we also both know our strengths. I relied on Maddy to oversee the visuals and the items. I took on the bulk of the writing, the shaping of the story, the scripting of the story, and the balancing of the combat. We shared fight design pretty equally. The combat in the game is a mix of battles Maddy designed, battles I designed, and battles on which we collaborated.

We have a long history of collaboration on all kinds of projects and we've learned that we should both agree on a decision if it's the right one, so for the most part we work together that way. Either of us can veto anything and neither of us ever argues with that. But we also don't try to collaborate on every detail. If I design a costume for a character and Maddy changes it later, I don't argue about that. The visual design of the mod is her job. If I do something she likes and keeps, then I'm tickled. The same with the writing. If I rewrite Maddy at times, she deals with it. Lots and lots of times I don't rewrite what she does, and I expect she likes that a lot better. But collaboration on a mod the size of Citadel requires a lot of letting go. Neither of us can control the whole thing.

The music was a lot of fun. We were all working in the room together, though Jeff played and recorded nearly all of it. We'd be working on the mod and the music at the same time. That collaboration also worked well.

If you could, would you have done anything differently?

Jim Grimsley:I don't have a lot of regrets. There are a  lot of things we'd do differently in terms of getting organized, but this was our first mod as a team and my first mod altogether. I guess the best way to say it is that we'll do a lot of planning deliberately the next time that we did belatedly this time. I don't regret our ignorance, though, since I think it led us to solve a lot of problems in a slightly different way than other mod makers. We had to make up our own way of doing things and that led to a product that feels like ours.

Madeleine St. Romain:I would have made sure that everything and everyone had a description when they were first made and all the basic soundscaping for an area got done right away.

I can see the our beginnings as builders as I look at the areas. I'm a lot better at area design than I was back when we started and I'd love to do some of mine again. But new set dressing is helpful.

What's the 'best bit' of your module for you?

Jim Grimsley:For me personally it's the long dungeon crawl finale. I really like combat and the fights that end the game are especially sweet to me. I also like the Spratling dungeon a lot, in terms of a non-combat moment.

Madeleine St. Romain:That's a very difficult question. I love just walking around, looking at things and talking to the NPCs. I like the Spratlings and Shoal's Museum and the little touches here and there, interesting signs and little surprises.
Also, the combat. I play ranged weapon users myself and really wanted to make a module where the archers were seriously dangerous.

What was the inspiration for the music?

Jim Grimsley:Jeff would have to answer that. We were all agreed that we wanted to avoid a medieval sound. We tried to imagine kinds of music that could come into the city from anywhere.

Jeff Tyson:It just sort of happened once we had decided to have original music and got going with GarageBand. Many of the pieces were knocked out of an afternoon, then edited later. The process turned out to be very enjoyable.

What did you think when you first heard about the Golden Dragon Awards?

Madeleine St. Romain:Last year, I  thought, "Oh, what a good idea. Yet another way to get ideas about what module to play next when I can play modules again."  Being nominated was a surprise. Winning two awards with our first module was a really big surprise. I'm very happy and grateful about it.

Jim Grimsley:That I wanted to win one, of course.

Have you ever tried the other finalists in your categories?

Jim Grimsley:We're still building Citadel, in fact, so I have not had the time to play very much in the last two years. We have to complete a separate evil path through the mod before the whole story is compete. I've played Tortured Hearts 2 a good deal, since I'm a co-author for that mod. I'm hoping to play a lot over the coming year, but first there's this mod to finish. Until you've built one of these, you have no idea of the scale of the effort it takes. Citadel is far too big to be the work of two people, not counting the effort that went into the music. Keeping up with the players and the online component of the game is incredibly important but really time consuming. We've been on the Vault for eight months and have about 4800 posts on our page. Again, most of that work is done by Maddy and me, while at the same time we're trying to maintain the mod and finish the evil path.

Madeleine St. Romain:Not yet. We're still working on Citadel and that's taking up my NWN time. I can play on Harvest Moon to get some game play in, since playing on a PW is so different; but when I try to play other folks' stuff, I feel guilty for not playtesting instead.

What are you up to currently?

Jim Grimsley:See above. We're working on the evil path, which will add about 20 new maps to the game, and a separate path for evil players. After that, we're trying to decide what to do. I have an idea for another mod in the Citadel universe, an adventure into the Deeps, the land of Crow the Great. We'll see whether it develops. I've been hoping to learn the NWN2 toolset when I have time, but I also really want to play some mods.

Madeleine St. Romain:Working on the Citadel evil path, and writing companion conversation.

Aside from NWN, doing music, front porch dinner theater, and painting.

Thanks folks, and good luck with whichever project you decide on!
« Last Edit: August 17, 2008, 09:31:29 PM by BenWH » Logged

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Reply #1
« on: August 14, 2008, 07:19:36 AM »
kookoo Offline
Public Forum Moderator
Brass Dragon
My Brass Dragon has Brass Balls Posts: 146


Great interview and congrats on the awards.  Truly well deserved.  The Citadel team consist of great people in my opinion and I enjoy the conversations I've had with them.  I'd also like to note admiration to the AME team for not letting the gay content become an issue into giving the awards.  In many areas of life it is not always like that.  One of my favorite things about the NWN community is that you get games and support for those games that are not "politically correct" so to speak.  The modules of NWN are more real than any other video games out there and deal with subjects that others are afraid to touch. 

Well done.   Smiley

"Saving the world is hard, saving yourself is even harder.

Reply #2
« on: August 14, 2008, 07:59:55 AM »
Tybae Offline
AME Whippinig Boy
Platinum Dragon
Devourer of Worlds, Lover of Kittens Posts: 2010

To add to what Kookoo said, I really liked the options you have in the beginning of the game.  You can start at different levels, include/exclude sexual content, etc.  It was also very balanced for all character types.  That is extremely hard to do. 

Congratulations Citadel Team!

P.S. I'm also impressed by Jim's ability to avoid the shameless plug for his own work.  Wink 

I live by the motto:  "Safety 3rd"
Reply #3
« on: August 14, 2008, 08:38:38 AM »
Andarian Offline
AME Chairman and Site Admin
Platinum Dragon
Posts: 2381


A very interesting interview, particularly the following:

Jim Grimsley: "What always impressed me about RPGs for the computer was the richness of the text. Some of the stories that you play through have intense moments of storytelling in them. I was intrigued by that and wanted to try my hand at telling stories in this form."

I can relate to Jim's perspective here, because it's the same reason that I decided to get into RPG modding myself. And I suspect that we may not be the only ones. Smiley

Citadel was an excellent example of story-based RPG modding, and especially unusual in how it was able to accomplish this with a relatively non-linear design. That may help to explain why it was able to win awards for both Best Adventure and Most Replayable Module. Congratulations!
« Last Edit: August 14, 2008, 08:47:01 AM by Andarian » Logged

Reply #4
« on: August 15, 2008, 09:58:15 AM »
Starlight Offline
AME member
Bronze Dragon
Posts: 373

To add to what Kookoo said, I really liked the options you have in the beginning of the game.  You can start at different levels, include/exclude sexual content, etc.  It was also very balanced for all character types.  That is extremely hard to do. 

Yes. I'm agree with Tybae. Citadel does offer a freedom for the player to choose what they want for flirting/orientation, etc. It is an idea which is rarely seen on other modules. This is also one of the reason I love it most.

Citadel was an excellent example of story-based RPG modding, and especially unusual in how it was able to accomplish this with a relatively non-linear design. That may help to explain why it was able to win awards for both Best Adventure and Most Replayable Module.

I agree too. Jim has written an intriguing story and the huge contents inside the module do add in a lot of possibility for replaying. Congratulations!

If everything goes wrong, go for the eyes!
Reply #5
« on: August 16, 2008, 09:05:32 AM »
grimjim Offline
Golden Dragon Winner
Dragon Egg
Posts: 4

I think relatively nonlinear is the right description. I took a linear story and split it into three lines, and I crossed those paths at certain points so you had to move up all three in tandem. This was not so much a plan as the way the story evolved and the way my understanding of scripting evolved. I established a lot of characters as gatekeepers for the plot and had to figure out how to move back and forth between them. Since I write linear books and stories, writing the mod was a good stretch, since I had to think about more than one direction for moving the story ahead.
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