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A New Modder’s Experience

SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 25

There really is no greater feeling then that eureka moment when all of your writing and scripting crunches together and you get a successfully compiled message in Weidu. Finally, I have emulated the masters and…gotten a tiny bit more successful content in a NPC Mod (Three of them, actually) that are all half-way done now.

The Infinity Engine really has captured my passion in a way no other experience with modding has in a long time. In the past, I’ve attempted several unfinished projects in the Aurora Engine, NWN’s Toolset, always only a few hours of work in a very beginning of a story, far from finished, before I stop. Everything is rather set up for you, and you can go as far as your NWNscript skill lets you go. Thus, creating in NWN is very user friendly. Unlike Baldur’s Gate though, you need to create fresh areas for your story, there is no already existing Baldur’s Gate campaign to plant them in, and my perfectionism has always been frustrated at my area designing results. The work then enters the abyss of hiatus, very rarely re-visited. I realized this one day and wanted to try a different creative project, and wanting to play Baldur’s Gate, I thought of making five custom NPCs (I love a party of my own six), and fleshing them out. Easy right?

The difficulty is immediately perceivable when I start. I.E is different in that there is no toolset. I’d have never have tried if Weidu didn’t exist, which really makes the whole thing possible. The entire process requires creations of files containing your scripts, your dialogue, your character file converted to a cre, with tpa’s telling the installer what to do. There’s no GUI interface to type in your dialogue in, it’s notepad work, and the modding process is generally not user friendly. But the challenge has really invoked my creative passion. I majored in creative writing, but my day job has nothing to do with writing. I minored in computer science, but I don’t ever write a line of code in any computer language. And I initially started studying musical composition, but I’m definitely not making orchestral pieces either. But modding offers an opportunity to put every skillset to use. I can write a story, of a character, script all sorts of things around it, and, if wanted, even write a small song that plays during certain events, by converting the mp3 file of a basic music creating program into ogg.

My first real challenge was just spawning a character in. I had used the second floor of the friendly Arm Inn. Nothing I would do, would get this character to spawn in. It was absolutely frustrating. The question “What is wrong with my code?!” was asked a lot. Starting off modding is full of these frustrations. The first error can be a turn off for a lot of would be beginners, and this is a very immediate taste of reality breaking the fantasy of an easy journey. You cannot just create a masterpiece like all of the previous masters have done. I strongly recommend working on a small piece of your mod at a time, then testing to see if that small piece functions. It is a lot easier to fix a little at a time then a lot and not be sure where to start.

Eventually I figured out, by studying other modding virtuosos (Specifically Lava’s Rakasha NPC, which you should check out if you haven’t), as this one was spawned in the third floor. I toyed around with their spawning location, and found I either was a goof with area code, or the second floor simply didn’t work in the way I was executing it, as changing their spawning location to anywhere but the second floor worked. I applied this to my NPC, and viola, it worked. One day I might crack this mystery, but for now, I was very pleased.

This pattern of failing and failing and failing before succeeding continued a lot. My NPC wasn’t saying anything. The NPC’s selection lines broke, and they stopped saying their lines after a click or two. I was controlling the NPC when they were not supposed to be controlled until they joined your party. The soundset wasn’t playing. There were a large number of my NPCs in one square. My item wasn’t spawning in with the correct string. My string was invalid. My PC’s tra file @ was duplicated, and they were saying the wrong line. My mod was failing to install because I had nearinfinity opening a file it was trying to install, and so many more. Each mistake was like a puzzle to solve, and sometimes the fix would take hours. The advantage of working on three NPCs at once is that I can repeat and master the process of getting it right.

There is definitely a disappointment in starting to mod so late, the question, “Will anyone even download it?” entering my head now and then, which is accompanied by the question “Will anyone like it?” But I remind myself that this project really began with me wanting to make a fleshed out party of five custom characters with my protagonist, with their own mini-stories and personalities. Plus there is an advantage to being last, you get to read and look at everything already done. I’ve downloaded and examined the files of just about every NPC Mod, from the really old Brawen Mod, which is a great guide to starting off, and the closest thing to a template NPC there is, to the present day Aura mod, which is another mod you should check out, as I love artificers. There’s so many ways to mark a mod as yours like that. You can look at all of these mods to figure out how to fix your own mistakes, or ask the mod creators themselves, though I am too shy and I get that silly feeling I’d be wasting these great virtuosos of modding’s time.

TL'DR: I’m not sure what inspired me to share this long essay/story, after all, my work isn’t complete yet. In a way this is a big thank you letter to those who have inspired me, to the I.E. engine, and its creators. I really recommend anyone else interested in modding to take the plunge, and I can’t wait to have my own work available for others to play or witness a beginner’s experience into the fray. I haven’t felt such creative passion in a long time, and I don’t think I would have ever expected it to come from a childhood game.

JuliusBorisovEekanImplolienRaduzielTorgrimmerOlvynChuruGusindaGrammarsaladZaghoulelminster

Comments

  • lolienlolien Member, Moderator, Translator (NDA) Posts: 2,859
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hope we can try out your mod in the near future!

    JuliusBorisovTorgrimmerGusinda
  • jasteyjastey Member Posts: 822
    Thanks for sharing, indeed. I feel strongly reminded of when I started modding - the exact same feeling of challenge about using weidu, the thrill about the possibility of writing and coding in one go, the feeling of superbness when my own NPC appeared and spoke in the game like he belonged. The frustrating but then rewarding first bughunt (3 hours for a missing tilda).
    Have fun!
    And you are wasting nobody's time by posting your problems into the forums. Usually there are several people who can help, and the thread stays for others who might have the same problem.

    GusindalolienGrammarsaladJuliusBorisov
  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 3,526
    Know the feeling.

    Happening to me right now: using a REGEXP, I forgot to add BUT_ONLY at the end.

    Now my code, that I finally made work, is patching every single .itm file and next will do the same with every .spl file.

    I'll make some coffee, it will take a while.

    lolienGrammarsaladJuliusBorisov
  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 25
    Thanks for your input, everyone. I feel very welcome here!

    I've been putting in about as many hours into modding as I work a week (40!), it has been that exciting to really work into a long-term creative project.

    I've One of Three NPC mods for BG:EE (The first) will be released sometime next week. I just need to decide which one to put up first, they'll all be just about complete at the same time, but I'll pick one to polish and proofread a day or two before uploading in a new topic thread.

    They are:

    Emily: A "Half-Elf" Archer, Neutral Good. She's left the chaotic politics of noble life in Tethyr to chase a mother she never knew or met in life.

    Kale: A halfling Barbarian, Chaotic Neutral. He enjoys playing hero for the gold and glory to his legacy, but believes everything he does is meaningless as the people he saves will die anyway.

    Vienxay: A elf Shadowdancer/Mage, Neutral Evil. An exile from Evermeet, Vienxay seeks revenge against her mage teacher who set up her downfall from grace.


    They all have quest content, hundreds of lines, voiced, talks, player interactions, and a tiny amount of cross mod content (Banters with eachother, and you can ask them about some custom NPCs and they'll give their opinion on them).

    If there is a preference on which one to see first from interested players, let me know and that NPC will be the first one I polish up and finish.

    TorgrimmerJuliusBorisovWarChiefZekeGrammarsalad
  • AionZAionZ Member Posts: 2,716
    edited February 15
    I know everyone will be going for the halfling but I personally have an affection for good-aligned characters in general so I choose Emily.

    Post edited by AionZ on
    TorgrimmerJuliusBorisov
  • megamike15megamike15 Member Posts: 1,263
    edited February 15
    i vote kale as well.

    of the three emily sounds the most generic to me i may change my mind when i play.

  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 3,526
    Kale. There are not enough fighters in BGEE.

    megamike15
  • AionZAionZ Member Posts: 2,716
    I actually voted for Emily.

    Torgrimmer
  • TorgrimmerTorgrimmer Member Posts: 304
    I also voted for Emily there something I like about good little people with bows.

  • TorgrimmerTorgrimmer Member Posts: 304
    edited February 15
    And welcome to the modding community i think you'll do great, even through i'm not a modder myself i'm a writer, i enjoy reading the forums and helping ppl.

  • AedanAedan Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 8,105
  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 3,526
    Ok, time to share some more "bad modding experience".

    I had an idea for a kit. I've studied how to do it yesterday and spent around 2h building and polishing it today.

    Very well: I just discovered that this kit is useless.

    It's special feature would be the ability to backstab undead... but in IE, unlike in PnP, undead creatures can be backstabbed by default.

    Damn.

  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 25
    That is hilarious.

    I've been wanting to toy with kits in the future, but decided against it for my first NPCs to keep them closer to the game's style (Bar Vienxay being an illegal shadowdancer/mage multiclass), though I may set up a option for Emily that uses the Arcane Archer Kit mod for those who have it/want her to use it.


    Also on the votes, unless it changes, I guess I'll do Kale first, Emily second, and Vienxay last. I'll get some previews set up for whoever has the most votes on Sunday night, on Sunday night on their own thread.

  • AionZAionZ Member Posts: 2,716
    edited February 16
    My Arcane Archer mod? Just bear in mind it is a fighter and fighter/mage kit, not a ranger kit.

  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 25
    Yes, actually. There isn't any reference of Rangerness in the character (Just the Archeryness), so it should be an easy switch story-wise and be a pure preference choice. I haven't actually tried the mod out yet though to decide on this for sure.

  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 3,526
    @Skitia As much as I have a true admiration for @AionZ 's work, I strongly advise against relying your mod on an outside mod.

    I had this experience with Deities of Faerun (at the beginning it used Faiths and Powers Spheres System) and things can be annoying. Lack of autonomy and have to plan things considering other person code is complicated - doesn't matter if this person is a good modder like AionZ.

    If you want to apply a personal kit for your character, do like AionZ him(her?)self did with his (hers?) NPCs: build the kit yourself.

    I can help you with that as I'm pretty much a modder that only makes kits.

    Cheers.

  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 25
    @Raduziel I thought a lot about that, and the initial release of Emily will only include support for her default class for this reason, but I do want to eventually provide a choice selection where you can pick arcane archer if you have it installed because:

    1: My idea of Arcane Archer would be no different. I'd rather focus my creative time with more unique material.

    2: It's a different challenge and practice to include something outside of your own material.

    3: I don't think it will be too hard to support, and very easy to remove such support if it becomes too difficult. (I could be very wrong).

    4: The content isn't required to play it.


    That said, after this project of three the next and last two NPCs I get to eventually will have personally crafted kits, so I may ask for help when I get to that point. I have learned one thing though, I am definitely going to work on an NPC one at a time after I play through and mod these NPCs for SoD. I've written nearly ten thousand lines of work between the three, and probably could have just had one completed already.

    I am also split about how I feel about translation files. My Mod supports them completely so someone can translate from English, but they add a substantial amount of work time. You also end up with out of order @'s if you decide to delete and not replace a line, or add in a new one to an old block. So my coding doesn't look as pretty as I want it to. (This is from Vienxay's while in party dialogue file for her player initiated dialogue, @ numbers are all over the place.)


    yunpj4o3cbmo.png

    Thus, if mods aren't often translated, I may make my two in the future NPCs without tra's and see how much faster it is.

  • WarChiefZekeWarChiefZeke Member Posts: 1,346
    Skitia wrote: »
    Thanks for your input, everyone. I feel very welcome here!

    I've been putting in about as many hours into modding as I work a week (40!), it has been that exciting to really work into a long-term creative project.

    I've One of Three NPC mods for BG:EE (The first) will be released sometime next week. I just need to decide which one to put up first, they'll all be just about complete at the same time, but I'll pick one to polish and proofread a day or two before uploading in a new topic thread.

    They are:

    Emily: A "Half-Elf" Archer, Neutral Good. She's left the chaotic politics of noble life in Tethyr to chase a mother she never knew or met in life.

    Kale: A halfling Barbarian, Chaotic Neutral. He enjoys playing hero for the gold and glory to his legacy, but believes everything he does is meaningless as the people he saves will die anyway.

    Vienxay: A elf Shadowdancer/Mage, Neutral Evil. An exile from Evermeet, Vienxay seeks revenge against her mage teacher who set up her downfall from grace.


    They all have quest content, hundreds of lines, voiced, talks, player interactions, and a tiny amount of cross mod content (Banters with eachother, and you can ask them about some custom NPCs and they'll give their opinion on them).

    If there is a preference on which one to see first from interested players, let me know and that NPC will be the first one I polish up and finish.

    Hype. Will be eagerly awaiting. If you want to do any crossmod content let me know!

  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 25
    Thanks @Zeke, I remember looking at your mod too.

    I will write a mention of Ishi when the Player Character asks any of the three "What are your thoughts on my companions?" for release, and work with you on banter to add post-release, after I've sorted through inevitable bugs.

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