Sunday, January 29, 2012

Making Over the Neverwinter Nights 2 Official Campaign

As a hobbyist most of my computer programming efforts over the years have been focused on singular tasks designed to solve specific problems. Every once in a while I have attempted large efforts, but most of those failed to come to fruition for various reasons, although I do not consider the hours spent on them wasted. The only constant through the years is that I do not charge for my work. I have no problem with those who charge shareware fees, it is just that I started doing this when the only term for software was "software" and I see no reason for attaching other terms to my efforts. Most of the tools I have used have also been freely distributed and I do not spend a significant amount on books or equipment so I have no need to recoup costs.

Apple's At Ease launcher for Mac OS 7
No Worries, my 1994 IIGS launcher inspired by "At Ease"
Most of my projects have been attempts to improve on a product that I felt to be lacking in some way. My downloads page is full of such projects. My Assorted Finder icons and the No Worries Hypercard GS stack are early cases in point; IIGS products inspired by products that Apple developed only for the Macintosh as they abandoned the IIGS in the late 80's. (Images provided courtesy of the outstanding freeware IIGS emulator Sweet16 by F.E. Systems and Eric Shepherd.)

Apple's "Copland" icons didn't materialize as planned

GSCopland icons I created for the IIGS inspired by magazine pictures of the Mac System 7 "Copland" desktop, which was then scrapped by Apple in 1996. I distributed mine via GEnie on July 12, 1995. Mine are yellow because I felt it looked better and more cheerful than periwinkle blue. Apple later incorporated the slanted Copland look in Mac OS 8 and 9 and it was then adopted in a reversed form by Microsoft for Windows XP. See Know Your Icons for more on the history of computer icons.
HyperBattleship! for OS9 was my correction for the Apple HyperBattleship! stack that broke with Mac OS 9 and Apple never bothered to correct since they were abandoning Apple Events and Hypercard. BalloonMaker GS and MacBallonMaker added Help Balloons in Hypercard stacks, a feature Apple added to the Mac OS but left out of Hypercard and GS/OS. HC Extra Menu Installer provided a customizable Extras menu in Hypercard, just as had been provided in the GS/OS Finder. KeyNavigator added the ability to navigate using the keyboard in Hypercard GS stacks. GSOS Splashscreen Editor allowed custom colors to be applied to the GS/OS Splashscreen. FixPodCal is an Applescript and Perl script that can be used to correct the inability of the iPod calendar to display event locations. Enhanced Clipboard to Note enhanced the functionality of Apple's Clipboard to Note Applescript. And EncryptSelectionTEA can be used in conjunction with a free utility called FileMarkMaker to securely store and retrieve encrypted text on an iOS device (like a passwords list).

When I started modding for games like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale II I also tended to develop things that I thought were missing in the games and would add enjoyment for players. BG1, for example, lacked the ammunition containers that some other Infinity Engine games had, so I developed a set of containers using resources from those games and made them available in BG1 Tutu via WeiDU - a free installer modding utility for Infinity Engine games. My containers were later adopted (without my knowledge) into a collection of fixes for BG and so were likely widely distributed. I developed similar containers and many other items for IWD2 as well. All of these are available on my downloads page.

When I began modding for NWN2 I first envisioned creating a large campaign to rival the Official Campaign. That campaign is the Gem of Power campaign, which I am still developing several years later. In the meantime though I developed the Harvest of Chaos: King's Festival + Queen's Harvest campaign based on the D&D campaign of the same name by Carl Sargent. The King's Festival chapter of my campaign was first released in May 2009 and I incorporated several of the features of the NWN2 Storm of Zehir (SoZ) expansion. Most importantly the death system, the party creation system, and the crafting system. It took a signifiant amount of effort to determine how those systems worked and to address weaknesses and bugs so that I could incorporate them into King's Festival. Shortly afterward there was a post on the now-defunct Bioware boards in which someone suggested that it would be great if the NWN2 OC could use the same death system and party creation system as SoZ. I replied without thinking too hard about it that I thought it would be possible since I had already developed the necessary scripts for King's Festival. From that moment on I was committed to making my statement a reality. And I was determined to make it happen quickly.  The result was that in October 2009 I released the NWN2 OC Makeover SoZ Edition. The Vault web page discusses the many features of the Makeover so it will suffice to simply say here that playing the OC with the Makeover installed is a completely different experience than playing without. As a result the OC Makeover to my surprise became one of the more popular mods for NWN2.  With the game's subsequent release on Steam and other online sites hopefully the number of Makeover users will increase further.

This graphic by PJ156 uploaded to the NWN2 Bioware Social boards shows the download counts in October for NWN2 mods in the Vault (note: not all mods are represented).
The most frequent request I received after release of the OC Makeover was for a similar makeover for the Mask of the Betrayer expansion. It took a year to complete that work and the MotB Makeover SoZ Edition was released in January 2011. A larger effort than the OC Makeover the MotB Makeover contains new areas and alters certain plot points that players complained about in addition to adding the features of the OC Makeover.

Since releasing the Makeovers I have continued to enhance the crafting system I incorporated into them that is based on the SoZ Crafting system. My version - SoZ Crafting Plus - addresses many of the bugs in the SoZ system and enhances in further by allowing recipes to be easily created without having to modify or merge 2DA files.

Links to all of my NWN2 mods are on this blog page.

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