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A New Modder’s Experience

SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 216

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.

JuliusBorisovEekanImplolienRaduzielTorgrimmerOlvynChuruGusindaGrammarsaladZaghoulelminsterStummvonBordwehrWithinAmnesia
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Comments

  • lolienlolien Member, Moderator, Translator (NDA) Posts: 3,063
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hope we can try out your mod in the near future!

    JuliusBorisovTorgrimmerGusinda
  • jasteyjastey Member Posts: 1,319
    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: 4,623
    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
  • AionZAionZ Member Posts: 3,026
    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: 1,863
    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: 4,623
    Kale. There are not enough fighters in BGEE.

    megamike15
  • AionZAionZ Member Posts: 3,026
    I actually voted for Emily.

    Torgrimmer
  • TorgrimmerTorgrimmer Member Posts: 328
    I also voted for Emily there something I like about good little people with bows.

  • TorgrimmerTorgrimmer Member Posts: 328
    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: 8,221
  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 4,623
    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: 216
    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: 3,026
    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: 216
    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: 4,623
    @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: 216
    @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: 1,653
    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: 216
    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.

    WarChiefZeke
  • kyudoshakyudosha Member Posts: 10
    edited February 26
    edit: got my info from other post, tomorrow seems next NPC :)

    cheers!

    thanks for your hard work !

    Post edited by kyudosha on
    Gusinda
  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 216
    Thanks, I figured posting a schedule would be of interest. :smile:

    It also keeps me on track.

  • WithinAmnesiaWithinAmnesia Member Posts: 920
    You say you are a creative writer? How does this story fare? I figure I could use some criticism to improve my writing; weed the garden etc. I never took any creative writing courses but I enjoy creating stories and or the process of starting to write out a story (that was rolling around in the back of my mind) and seeing where they end up as they are written out. Like a gardener as George R.R. Martin describes that style of writing; planting a seed a seeing where it grows into (although I tend to build settings like an architect archetype, hmmn). I wrote the story (and whole bunch more like this one https://www.deviantart.com/withinamnesia/art/Ring-of-Dispossession-606178863 *wall of text* basically x.x) out for a shield that I ended using later for Xan's uh, 'relevancy' module (idk how to put it xP). Hmmn, it is bundled with this minor module: https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/73749/extra-expanded-enhanced-encounters-module-download/p1 anyway here is the shield item description:

    "Buckler of Unexpected Might or also less commonly know as, but rather more controversially the Existentialist's Arm. This particular buckler is very old and began its life as a mere heraldric wall adornment for a particularly wealthy noble family hailing from the trading port city of West Gate. The once proud family crest is now indecipherable from having been angrily dashed and defiled and a new overlaid symbol of the 6th Level Mage Spell Tenser's Transformation has been imprinted upon its boss. As the story goes, of which many noble Westhavian historians disagree and refute with one another for most of the records are blurry, bloodied and rewritten at best; but most can agree upon these following basic details. Around 257 to 260 DR the trading port city of West Gate also knows as the 'Gateway to the west' -from the Inner Sea to the east- was successfully invaded and the ruling powers were seized and violently replaced by pirate forces from the Pirate Isles. The inflicting upheaval of the ruling families brought much turmoil upon the city's wealthiest families of trade for they were forced into extortion and unfair trade laws and heavy taxation upon their family operations. A great deal of sources argue and contradict one another over which noble family's house has this buckler associated with its tumultuous history but most all historians will say that the buckler transformed into its current form soon after the new unfair jurisdiction of the recent self-proclaimed 'Pirate King of West Gate'. Most sources agree upon that after a particularly heavy taxation of trade was placed upon the wealthiest of noble merchant families of West Gate it caused one highly regarded noble to speak out against the heavy taxation. The following high noon the influential nobleman was slain outright by a gang of the King's pirates within the city's market in broad daylight, in view and a stone's throw from most noble trade family's major buildings of operation. This was seen by the trade families as a draconian declaration of unquestioning agreement of the new taxation or a swift heinous death. From here the story begins to fall apart and spiral into a contradiction of major details and heated debate among the leading historians of West Gate. Although a few details remain coherent and concise. Soon after the wicked and untimely death of a particularly charismatic noble of one of West Gate's influential trade families a young noble Half-Elven Mage or Arcane Spellcaster was pressured to align with the corrupt ruling party of the Pirate King or with an outside Cormyrian force wishing to overthrow the ruling party from within. The sources argue fiercely over the next few brief segments of the story but most agree that the Half-Elven Spellcaster did not choose a side and violently departed on bad terms from their noble house of West Gate. As to ask why that was in the wrong places of West Gate could result in heated shouting matches, violent brawls and even fratricidal bloodshed in between of some of West Gate's more questionable of noble houses. Many believe that the once young noble Half-Elven Spellcaster is to be of the same blue blood as the last true king of West Gate and the sole survivor of the king's blood after the pirate upheaval. As a result of this violent debate there has been much clandestine bloodshed among some of the long existing noble families from time to time. Some of the noble families argue that they should rule the city of West Gate for they believe fiercely that their blood lineage hearkens back to the Half-Elven Spellcaster whom once owned this particular buckler. As to whether or not the the matter will resolve peacefully or will even subside is unknown but one thing is for certain, the magical enchantment placed upon this tiny shield is very very strong. Many agree that it would certainly make sense that only a very powerful or well trained Spellcaster could have placed the enchantment upon this particularly controversial bulwark. As to why and how such a strange and bizarre set of abilities and requirements were used for the unusual enchantment is an argued mystery. Also unknown is how it was used or how the uncommon magic was placed upon this item. There is a of great debate amongst historians and scholars alike over the usage and endeavours of said item; ranging from tales of great adventure to accountings of meek, cloistered cowardice and evasion. Either way of which one looks upon the history and the controversy of and or over this small yet surprisingly powerful buckler one can be sure that the shield is of surprising value and unexpected might, both physically and politically.

    STATISTICS:

    Equipped Abilities:
    - Armor Class: +3 (-2 vs. missiles, -3 vs. piercing)
    - Armor Class: +1 vs. missile attacks
    - Grants Proficient (one slot) in Sword and Shield fighting style

    Charge Abilities:
    - Cast Tenser's Transformation at level 10 three times per day:
    Tenser's Transformation changes the caster into a heroic fighter for 1 round per level of the caster. Thus doubling the target's hit points, and giving them a +4 bonus to their armor class. All of the damage that the caster sustains takes away from the bonus hit points first. All of the wizard's attacks have the same chance to hit as a fighter of the same level, additionally the target is allowed to attack twice per round with a +2 damage bonus per attack.

    Weight: 1 lb."

  • elminsterelminster Member, Developer Posts: 15,952
    I think @WithinAmnesia you might want to think about how much space is going to be taken up by that text. For a player to just get through all that (to see what the item does) is going to be a lot of scrolling.

    SkitiaRaduzielWithinAmnesia
  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 216
    edited May 25
    Yep, I would cut out 67% of that text.

    "Buckler of Unexpected Might or also less commonly know as, but rather more controversially the Existentialist's Arm. Doesn't need to start the text.

    So more like: The Bucklet of Unexpected Might is very old, [indecphierable or other adjective], and [worn]. It began its life as a mere heraldic wall adornment for a particularly wealthy noble family hailing from the trading port city of West Gate. The once proud family crest is now indecipherable from having been angrily dashed and defiled and a new overlaid symbol of the 6th Level Mage Spell Tenser's Transformation has been imprinted upon its boss.

    As the story goes, of which many noble Westhavian historians disagree and refute with one another for most of the records are blurry, bloodied and rewritten at best; but most can agree upon these following basic details. <- This is too much, let's get on with the tale.

    Around 257 to 260 DR the trading port city of West Gate also knows as the 'Gateway to the west' -from the Inner Sea to the east- was successfully invaded and the ruling powers were seized and violently replaced by pirate forces from the Pirate Isles. The inflicting upheaval of the ruling families brought much turmoil upon the city's wealthiest families of trade for they were forced into extortion and unfair trade laws and heavy taxation upon their family operations

    A great deal of sources argue and contradict one another over which noble family's house has this buckler associated with its tumultuous history but most all historians will say that the buckler transformed [fell] into its current form state soon after the new unfair jurisdiction of the recent self-proclaimed 'Pirate King of West Gate'. Most sources agree upon that after a particularly heavy taxation of trade was placed upon the wealthiest of noble merchant families of West Gate it This caused one highly regarded noble (Give your noble family a name, such as) [Lord Snob] to speak out against the heavy taxation. The following high noon he the influential nobleman was slain outright by a gang of the King's pirates within the city's market in broad daylight, in view and a stone's throw from most noble trade family's major buildings of operation. This was seen by the trade families as a draconian declaration of unquestioning agreement of the new taxation or a swift heinous death. From here the story begins to fall apart and spiral into a contradiction of major details and heated debate among the leading historians of West Gate. Although a few details remain coherent and concise.

    Soon after [The Lord's death] the wicked and untimely death of a particularly charismatic noble of one of West Gate's influential trade families a young noble Half-Elven Mage or Arcane Spellcaster named [Something] was pressured to align with the corrupt ruling party of the Pirate King or with an outside Cormyrian force wishing to overthrow the ruling party from within. [To protect herself, she placed Mage Spell Tenser's Transformation has been imprinted upon its boss. Her fate is uncertain, but the power of this spell can still be called upon by the new wielder of the shield.] The sources argue fiercely over the next few brief segments of the story but most agree that the Half-Elven Spellcaster did not choose a side and violently departed on bad terms from their noble house of West Gate. As to ask why that was in the wrong places of West Gate could result in heated shouting matches, violent brawls and even fratricidal bloodshed in between of some of West Gate's more questionable of noble houses. Many believe that the once young noble Half-Elven Spellcaster is to be of the same blue blood as the last true king of West Gate and the sole survivor of the king's blood after the pirate upheaval. As a result of this violent debate there has been much clandestine bloodshed among some of the long existing noble families from time to time. Some of the noble families argue that they should rule the city of West Gate for they believe fiercely that their blood lineage hearkens back to the Half-Elven Spellcaster whom once owned this particular buckler. As to whether or not the the matter will resolve peacefully or will even subside is unknown but one thing is for certain, the magical enchantment placed upon this tiny shield is very very strong. Many agree that it would certainly make sense that only a very powerful or well trained Spellcaster could have placed the enchantment upon this particularly controversial bulwark. As to why and how such a strange and bizarre set of abilities and requirements were used for the unusual enchantment is an argued mystery. Also unknown is how it was used or how the uncommon magic was placed upon this item. There is a of great debate amongst historians and scholars alike over the usage and endeavours of said item; ranging from tales of great adventure to accountings of meek, cloistered cowardice and evasion. Either way of which one looks upon the history and the controversy of and or over this small yet surprisingly powerful buckler one can be sure that the shield is of surprising value and unexpected might, both physically and politically.


    The tale also doesn't really show how the shield got into the half-elf's hand. We go on this tangent instead that gets a bit far away from the armor. So it could use revision and focus upon the shield's path. Note my edit suggests vaguely that something happened to the half-elf and thus left her hands to give a conclusion. I'd look at one of the other weapons for an example for a more short and concise story. You just want to give a little bit of fluff.


    There's definitely room to cut more, and I would consider removing any other unnecessary text, but that should at least get you started.

    RaduzielBrokenkatanaWithinAmnesia
  • elminsterelminster Member, Developer Posts: 15,952
    edited May 25
    As a point of comparison. This is what I would describe as being a more standard item description size. It's from my Eve of War mod. I could have maybe added a few extra sentences from this and still be within the usual range. However, most magic items in the games don't have extensive background descriptions.


    Ring of the Forest: Veren's Guide
    Originally created for Veren, a druid of the Misty Forest, this ring has passed amongst a multitude of druids over the last several hundred years. Historical records show that the last known possessor of the ring was Yermon the Wise - a druid of notable amongst the groves of the Northern Sword Coast. How it came to be in the possession of Hendern is unclear.

    STATISTICS:

    Equipped abilities:
    - Can memorize one extra divine spell at levels 4 and 5

    Weight: 0

    SkitiaRaduzielWithinAmnesialolien
  • SkitiaSkitia Member Posts: 216
    Yeah, ideally you want to keep to one paragraph, and certainly not more than two. I.E., most items are the length of Elminster's example, while the celestial fury is a rare two paragraph item. You can use those two to set your min and max for yourself to work with.

    WithinAmnesia
  • AionZAionZ Member Posts: 3,026
    I'll add my own thoughts into the discussion. If you must have a epic-length description for whatever reason (maybe for an epic-level artifact that deserves a rich backstory - remember Cera Sumat?), split it into small paragraphs to make it more palatable to read. Walls of text are a massive turnoff and make it easy to miss the details.

    RaduzielWithinAmnesia
  • kjeronkjeron Member Posts: 2,039
    You could put the lengthy description behind a dialog button, renaming it to "Lore" or "History" or similar. Could even make an audio-book out of it if you wanted, have the items lore read to you. Though only those that can use the item would be able to read it.

    RaduzielelminsterWithinAmnesia
  • WithinAmnesiaWithinAmnesia Member Posts: 920
    A Farewell to Arms ending was rewritten 39-47 times before being satisfactory for Ernest Hemingway. The Old man and the sea had 16 years to percolate. The first draft of anything is shit.

    Trade offs. To write a longer story than what is usually found with item descriptions at the cost of their usual brevity. Or to break away from the conventional status quo and write in a new writing style that is more enjoyable to read. Death to page crawling.

    Less fat, more meat. Intellectual isolation is self imprisonment within an echo chamber; disconnected from sanity. I do not wish to be the only author to a work that I wish for others to enjoy. Many great talents sought constructive criticism in their great works; iterate, iterate, iterate!

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