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Hordes of the Underdark Revisited

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rjshae
Hordes of the Underdark Revisited

Continuing discussion from the archived thread...

This project to port the Hordes of the Underdark cRPG continues. At present I'm still working on the 2nd level of Undermountain. This weekend I did more fleshing out of the east area, building some more rubbish placeables to scatter around and laying down visual effects, lights, and sounds to create the proper environment. When I build these areas, I try to make them feel like small parts of a much larger dungeon, so there are blocked off corridors due to open pits or metal gratings, platforms with doors on the other side of a gap, and so forth. I was tempted to add another area to the mix, but for right now I decided to stay focused on the existing content. This version of undermountain is generally dank and gloomy with islands of light being provided by torches, braziers, fires, and magic. It's much darker than the original HotU dungeon, which seemed excessively bright. Hopefully that won't be to much of an issue for the players. There's always magic glowing rings available at the start of the game.

While implementing the cleric Linu's recruitment location, I discovered that there is a whole separate track of party member conversations that I need to add. A number of the script elements for this game are buried in the standard stock scripts, so it's been a matter of burrowing through the code and finding out where it leads. In this case, it turns out the companion conversations used prior to being recruited are separate from the party member conversations; a switch that is handled in one of the stock henchmen include files. These separate conversations are probably going to take another week or so to finish, but they are needed since they handle the cases where you alienate companions.

There are quite a few differences between how companions are managed in NWN and NWN2. These have led me, for example, to some content cuts from the conversations, since you won't need to ask your party members to do things like cast spells or change their primary class. (I'm actually setting the condition to gc_false for those branches, just in case.) I need to spend some time figuring out what I need to convert from the old henchmen scripts to the standard NWN2 companion scripts, which could take extensive work as I'm finding out. Plus, now that most of the party members can be recruited, I need to set up the party management interface in place of the NWN method. I'm planning to make it a NWN2 OC style party management. Most of the conversations will be OC style, rather than SoZ, and use the NWN conversation interface.

There's at least one element of this area that I haven't figured out yet -- an invisible entity in one of the rooms. I'll need to dig through the various triggers to see how that is activated.

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Dwayne

I am so glad you are still working on this. I was not sure what was happening since the Bioware boards were deleted.

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rjshae

Thank you, Dwayne. Has it been that long? I guess it's come far since then... with much further to go. I'd estimate the project is about 25% done. But hopefully it'll pick up speed once the first chapter is complete.

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Dwayne

It would be great if someone was able to do SOU for NWN2 and someone else do one of the NWN1 SOU to HOTU bridge modules for NWN2. That would be a amazing addition to your module. I would love to play the whole campaign in NWN2.

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rjshae

Yes, it's definitely do-able, and (I think) the builder gets the bonus of having conversation sound files available for the companions. All it takes is somebody willing to put in a lot of time and effort. I picked HotU, rather than the first two, mainly because it was the most well received of the three and I thought it might prove interesting to convert a high level module (which it is). There are also several other premium modules for NWN that might make interesting conversions.

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rjshae

Most of the party conversations are complete now, with the exception of Tomi's, which I'll be getting to in the near future. But the 2nd level Undermountain build has being side-tracked a bit by the genie in a bottle. He can be potentially around for all three chapters, requiring conversations, scripts, icons, and three separate store builds. Plus there are a bunch of unique NWN item types in his store that are not in NWN2, so I'll either have to port those or include substitutes. Still, this might be a good place to add in some custom blueprints from elsewhere -- he does travel the planes looking for items to sell. I figure this part will take a week or two total to complete.

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GCoyote

HotU was the best choice IMHO if for no other reason than the relative lack of high-level content for NWN2.

<b>"Please VOTE on the content you play."</b>

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kamal
Look at the Crimmor item pack, I made blueprints for hundreds of items from sourcebooks. Most arent going to be relevant for HotU level range, but you could probably bump their powers up to the right range, and the descriptions are already in there from the sourcebooks. Bedine adds 50-60 more custom items with custom descriptions (not just "this item does not bear the marks of any specific maker".
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rjshae

I'm just about done with the genie stores now, after which I'll give it a test drive. Most of the work was in the chapter 2 & 3 stores, which required creating a slew of magic item blueprints. Searching for these required hunting for the type using the NWN explorer based on the tag, then finding a match in the HotU item stock. (For a few I had to use the GameBanshee web site.) In some cases I decided to ramp up the DC on some of the On Hit effects a little (anywhere from DC 16 to DC 22, depending on the cost) because they were still at DC 14 to save (which at high level is pretty easy to pass). They're well up there in price -- typically 100-300Kgp for Chapter III. It's been fun, but I'll be glad to move on.

Down the road a bit I can go back and add some more new items. There are other stores that need a little enhancement as well. The ones in Waterdeep seem dreadfully dull, for example. Also, I haven't touched crafting yet -- it's not exactly my favorite game feature, but I know some people like it. I can always implement that as an add-on enhancement when the core game content is complete. There's a workbench for smithing in Argali's smithy, and Sobrey's magic shoppe has a magic and alchemy bench. Perhaps I'll scatter a few higher level recipe books in Undermountain... and I could have some in the genie's store and other shops.

Ed. Genie stores are working fine, after some cleanup and script fixes. Moving onward...

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GCoyote

Well, once the PC gets to hell, there is already a smith who can give you whatever bene's on your gear you want. Doesn't he also appear in the Drow city? So crafting may not be a big deal in this case.

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cozmothemagician

Risolvir (I think thats his name) is in both the Drow town once u get out of the Undermountain DG and ALSO in hell. y typical playthrus involve going to the vampire monk citidal , leveling up a bunch with the infinite respawns , and then killing the Draco lich for all its oodles of gold/treasure.  THEN going to the smith and bumping my weapon up.(:

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GCoyote

Yeah, that's the guy. It's been years but IIRC I had him buff up a longbow, a warhammer, and the talking sword for my PC. Sometimes it's best to leave crafting to the pros. :-)

 

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rjshae

A drow art gallery?

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Quixal

You, rjshae, are my hero. Just sayin'. I will be following this. Yell if you need playtesting or anything else a regular player with little memory of the toolset can provide.

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rjshae

Thanks. I appreciate that players are looking forward to this -- it helps keep me motivated. smiley

I've just finished up the 2nd level east area and now I've started working on the south -- the two are connected by the Djinn. The last of the companions, Tomi, is fully set up with blueprint and his conversation. I'm sure glad to get those wrapped up, 'cause transfering conversations is very tedious. Most of the blueprints are finished with this area, so it's time to start building it out. There's one special Drow chest that I need to decide what to do with. I might reskin one of the existing models with Drow-ish textures. Otherwise it looks mostly mundane so I shouldn't need any new models. But we'll see...

There's not much else to report at this point. It was a miserably hot summer so I haven't spent much time at the toolset, or 3D modeling for that matter. I'm hoping to pick things up again now that it will start getting cooler.

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rjshae

Deep within the Undermountain dungeon are the temporary quarters of the Drow sub-commander. He managed to bring along a few homely touches, including a portrait of his Matron at right. The chest on the table has a reskin in the form of a visual effect.

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rjshae

Work on the level 2 south area continues. I've been building some additional decorations -- mostly spikey bits for the walls and some floor stains -- to add to the environmental clutter. The level is close to 50% completed now; just the last two areas to go plus the central area cutscene.

Looking ahead, I think for the third level of Undermountain I'll use the RWS Deep Chasms tileset, since it seems the closest fit to the original NWN area. I'm planning to spend some time going through the tileset to make sure they're all in good shape, and add some new variants as needed. That'll keep me busy for a few months.

Once the third level is complete, I can wrap up Chapter I and check that everything is working. Whew! The end of the beginning is in sight.

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rjshae

I wrapped up the 2nd level South area with all the triggers, encounters, and decoration in place, so now I'm moving on to the North. That's the last of the four areas on the second level. One key element is a bridge across a pit. I've created the tiles for this, and now it needs a pair of door frames intended to impede progress. I've been fiddling around in my head with some concepts for the doors -- basically I'm thinking of a pair of rock columns with a tall iron grating in the middle. After that I'll start on the area proper.

As a separate activity, I started my refinement pass through the RWS Deep Chasms tileset that I'll use for the 3rd level. It's a large set so that's probably going to take a few months. I'll be fixing a few UV map and walkmesh issues, as well as fixing a few parts to address potential (in-game) texture swap issues. There will also be some additional variants for the purposes of variety, since I'll probably also be using this set later on in the second chapter. Maybe I'll work on a texture swap as well for the deep underdark regions.

----

For each area I'm doing a sweep through all of the NWN placeables, looking for any that are non-static and include inventory. This step is pretty tedious, but I haven't found a way to avoid opening up each and every object. The non-static placeables I put into blueprints, transferring over and modifying scripts, and/or building/adding custom content as needed. Next, I set up templates for trigger regions and encounters, the former of which usually also involves transferring scripts. The last step is to copy any emplaced creatures, where I build blueprints, scripts, and create any custom items they require.

Now I can start filling out the area. I begin with the doors -- making sure they have the same tags, scripts, and properties as the doors in NWN. Next is the lighting, where I am trying to put light sources in the same locations, although sometimes it makes sense to relocate a few. This version of Undermountain is generally gloomy, so lighting is important both for atmosphere and often for navigation. (Light sources are recommended for visitors.)

Usually at this point I go to work on the decorations, adding visual effects, sounds, placeables, and water as needed. It seems like I spend a lot of time adding clutter; little placeables and effects that are there just for visual effect to make a scene look a little busy. Finally, I add in the creatures, blueprints, and encounters. I do a final pass, adding in more random debris where needed, filling in blank locations, and tweaking elements like the lighting radii and sound levels.

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rjshae

There, that should keep out the riff raff...

I suppose a skilled rogue could try to wriggle over, but only with some difficulty.

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Quixal

You know, I have always kinda thought of the pick locks skill as encompassing most means of circumventing those pesky barriers. So sliding around the side and opening the door for the rest of the group counts in my book.

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kamal

Might need a tumble check instead of pick locks for that one.

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rjshae

In preparation for the third level, I'm making some new variants for the RWS Deep Chasms tileset. The ones shown below provide high-low transitions using a small cliff down the middle of the tile. Two of these variants shown are stairway transitions between the two heights. The one at the left is the remains of an old tower, while on the right the steps circle around a circular pit.

I hope these will meet with your approval. Are there any other such variants you would like to see?

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kamal
How about a "natural" high-low transition, like the pit with just path, no stairs in it, or just a walkable angled section?
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rjshae

My concern there was that I didn't want a tile slope to be too steep or it may make the movement animations look unnatural. That's why I added the steps; it's similar to one of the tileset's hallway tiles with stairs. But I'll see what I can do.

Ed.: I've added a ramp with an HHLH tile, which allowed me to use the diagonal length of the tile for the slope:

I'm thinking I need to add a few dirt piles along the bottom edges of those cliffs.

 

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kamal

If I want dirt piles I can add them as placeables. If I set the textures to rock textures there's no need for dirt piles.

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rjshae

There are already dirt piles along the wall sides. They help to break up the sharp edge transitions.

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Sarnathrod

Will there be the option for a full party in this? One thing I hated about SoU-HotU was that I could only grab two party members. Why should I have to leave Valen sitting at the gatehouse so I can have deekin?

Speaking of Deekin... Will you be giving him a better build?

Speaking of builds... What of Aribeth? For the redeemed route, can she be Paladin/Divine Champion? The paladin/blackguard made no sense, since in pnp the levels convert to each other.

 

What will the level cap be? 30 or will you mod it to go higher? Honestly most people capped at level 30 in HotU anyhow, despite the cap being set at 40.

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rjshae

@Sarnathrod: Yes, by default it will use a standard NWN2 party; I think a max. of 5 will allow everybody to be recruited. However, with a larger party the game will probably end up needing a rebalance. I might have to bump up some enemy levels, and/or give them some extra gear.

Right now I'm mostly going with a reproduction of the original game. Thus the party members are stated and classed out the same. But I have removed the conversation options where you determine what classes the followers can take. Instead, the player will choose as in the other NWN2 campaigns.

I'm still on Chapter 1, so I haven't dealt with about Aribeth's classes or a level cap just yet. But good point -- a class change may make sense. Also, what about Nathyrra? Should she stay LE just so she can take Assassin levels? I think I might try fiddling with the Assassin requirements to do a special case exception just for her -- such as giving her a unique feat for the purpose.

Thanks.

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Sarnathrod

Are you using Kaedrin's pack in this? If so, avenger is identical to Assassin. Though, even if not, nobody will complain about the assasin class being modified to allow any non-lawful alignment instead of requiring evil. The evil requirement in the books was in relation to specific assasin guilds requiring the slaying of an innocent to join them. Alternatively you could just have her join with the maximum 10 levels of assassin to begin with, since the PC should be at level 20 by act two/final battle of act1, anyhow.

As for keeping 100% to the original. A lot was done to the original campaign solely due to restrictions of time and the engine and the bastards at Atari. Try digging up some of the info from the devs, or even shoot them an email yourself. They had a bigger vision for all the campaigns than was achieved, and I'm sure they'd offer some advice. You have some freedom here. That said, HotU was the closest to completion of all of them by far. Hell, did you know the OC was supposed to have multiple endings, options where Aribeth never went turncoat, options where neverwinter actually fell to Luskan, and a chance for Nasher himself to die in battle depending on the player's actions throughout the game? Atari decided to scrap ALL of that when they took over... and that's why everything was so straightforward... and why the romance options went only halfway.

So, if you can fix some things and fill in missing content, I'd be happy about it.

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rjshae

Well right now I'm just including assimilating those mods and parts I need for the build out, such as tilesets, placeables, and creatures. There's no Kaedrin pack inclusion as of yet, and I was leaning toward not including that in the base release. The hak packs are already getting fairly chunky just with all the custom models, sounds, effects, and tilesets. Probably I'll wait until final test time to check for compatibility. Thanks for the suggestion though.

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rjshae

Work continues on the deep chasms tileset custom mod for HotU. Thus far I'm finding certain parts such as the bridges have a number of overlapping faces, each textured the same. I'd expect these are adding extra work to the game engine so I'm trimming the excess. A few parts have a bunch of extra faces that are never seen in game, so these I'm culling so as to lower the net polycount. There are also some inconsistencies in the part naming and texture assignments, which may cause me texture swapping issues later on. I"m going through and trying to clean those up and get a consistent arrangement -- I'd like to be able to swap out the textures wholesale with my own set. A few of the tiles have heavy walkmeshes that push the limits on allowed faces. Those I'm trying to judicious trim and merge to try and make baking easier. Finally, a few tiles have boulder-like lumps on the walk areas, which aren't cut out of the walk mesh. These I'm removing on the principle that the builder can always add in rocks.

What I'm debating right now is whether to merge the gradiant texture for the cliff faces into the wall texture. Right now the wall texture is just the standard cave wall with the wood parts replaced by another copy of the cave wall. That allows large areas to be unwrapped across the texture, but it eliminates the wood. If I put the gradient into the lower right quadrant of the wall texture, I can swap out the entire tileset texture. That would allow me to maintain a consistent look by retexturing the gradient in the new wall map, but it would require a lot of remapping of the tile parts. Hmm, what to do...

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kamal

Take a look at how I did the Deep Chasm tiles in my pack, I already limited them to three swappable textures.

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rjshae

Yes, you got rid of the gradient texture. I'm not looking to do that.

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Sarnathrod

Ya know... if you happen to ever feel like adding in SoU, Kamal already has to Ao encampment at 80% of what you'd need it to be, and act 2 is tiny. Just saying.

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kamal
The reason I got rid of the gradient even though gradient looks better is that it was an extra texture beyond three and so couldnt be swapped. It had to get switched to one of the three swappable textures texture so you could swap and do stone chasms and such.
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rjshae

I got that. But it should be possible to include the gradient texture in the wall, as I did with the Classic Dungeon tileset. It just means I'll need to do some extra UV mapping.

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kamal
When I view these forums on mobile, it seems to just randomly pick font sizes for display. It looks like I'm yelling at you lol.
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rjshae

Ya know... if you happen to ever feel like adding in SoU, Kamal already has to Ao encampment at 80% of what you'd need it to be, and act 2 is tiny. Just saying.

Anything like that will be many years away, just because of the sheer amount of time it will take to finish up the HotU port. You might enjoy trying to port SoU yourself.

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rjshae

Thus far the texture conversion of the Chasms tileset is working out just fine. For the walls I set the lower right quadrant to use the gradient texture, and now I'm steadily remapping the tile parts. It's a slow process, but I think it's worthwhile since I'll probably use the same set for other Underdark locations. What I'll probably do is use several different rock textures, each with the gradient in the lower right. I'll need to modify the wall texture edges of each quadrant so they work seamlessly together.

Meanwhile I've been continuing to work on the north area. Every so often I run into something that makes me think the game designers had something in mind, then decided to scratch it. For example, there is a goblin archer that fires marker arrows that green tags the character for several rounds. What was he doing that for? It doesn't seem to have any effect on the game play, and I haven't run into a script yet that checks for it. Hmm.

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rjshae

The north area is finished, which pretty much finishes up the second floor. That just leaves the opening cut scene to be done for the central area. I'm still working on the modified deep chasms set. Meanwhile, here's the finished bridge crossing.

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PJ156

Looks very good indeed RJS.

What fire VFX are you using?

PJ

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rjshae

Thanks. It's a modified version of the Furnace Fire FX -- resized, retinted, parameters tweaked, and parts repositioned.

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rjshae

With a whole bunch of help, I was able to animate the secret door so that it descends into the ground when you click on it. In the shot below, the door placeable is in the process of retracting into the floor.

The secret door is now fully functional. I used the standard DC to detect the 'door' placeable, which means the character above (with no Search skill ranks) either needs to get very lucky or be in detect mode to find it. You can't locate it using a mouse-over, although a sharp-eyed person may notice a faint line in the wall. Once discovered, the placeable turns usable, the discovering character voices a message saying they found something, and you can click on it. When you do so, the door activates, descends into the ground with a rumbling noise, then is removed from the game.

For me at least it feels pretty cool to get this implemented.

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Quixal

That is pretty slick. Well done. I bet that trick will make its rounds to many future dungeons now.

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rjshae

I'm not sure how portable the technique will be since I ended up making a number of custom tile variants and a custom door model with animation. It's do-able, just time-consuming. Possibly it would make sense to do this for the standard tile sets, but you'd need at least one variant for each door opening tile.

Perhaps it would make the most sense to do it with the Standard Castle tileset? That way you get the maximum flexibility. Just build a secret door slot for the middle third of the tile wall, then insert that into each door wall variant (plus multiple variants where there are more door combinations).

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Trinital

You could probably get more re-usable hidden doors with bookcases ect..

Also instead of removing it - you could just remove the collision on the placeable. Then it can be reused and reclosed.

 

Just food for thought. Great work RJShae.

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Greenman6220
This is something I'm looking forward to playing. I love what I'm seeing, reading so far. Keep up the great work you're doing. I really like the idea of having all five npc's in the party. It would be interesting to see Deekin and Sharwen in conversation.

Greenman6220

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Semper

When you do so, the door activates, descends into the ground with a rumbling noise, then is removed from the game.

congratulations on accomplishing this; looks really neat. icing on the cake would be a "dust raining to the ground" vfx on the sides or the top of the secret door.

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rjshae

congratulations on accomplishing this; looks really neat. icing on the cake would be a "dust raining to the ground" vfx on the sides or the top of the secret door.

Thanks. I do have most of the Undermountain doors generating a dust cloud vfx at their base when they're first opened, but yeah some falling dust would be a nice touch. I could borrow one of the mesh face emitter vfx's, like the pixie dust or stoneskin, and see how well it works out.

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rjshae

Unfortunately, I discovered that all is not quite as well as I thought:

The front side of the placeable block looks normal, but the back side is oddly lighter. It's the exact same texture files, and the placeables texture settings are set the same as the tile wall. Arrgh! I'm not sure what could be causing it. None of the light spheres intersect the placeable, and it is set to not cast shadows. (The PC, though, is a light source.) Any suggestions?

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4760

Are the specular and glossiness values of the wall (tile) and the door (placeable) the same? Are their settings regarding transparency and casting shadows the same?

I never had to fix a similar issue, so these are just a few thoughts. Did you also check if the "Force Interface Projected Texture (for tile)" flag has any influence?

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