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Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn Reloaded


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#1
drechner

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NOTE: The original version of this message was posted in the Bioware NWN2 Forums on July 20th, 2014.
 
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The BGR Team (Shallina, myself), having completed Baldur's Gate: Reloaded, have decided to complete the series and remake Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn + Throne of Bhaal. While we originally made the announcement on Facebook in the Spring of 2014, it seems like many of you in this awesome community are not on Facebook which is where we do most of our communication. I greatly value your guys' input and comments, so it would be a shame to not include many of you whom I deeply respect and admire in our updates and conversations about the upcoming campaign.
 
We also picked up a new, truly talented team member in PJ156, who has been contributing beautiful and faithful recreations of many of our favorite areas from the original game.
 
Therefore, I'd like to use this thread to spread some news and have discussions about the upcoming campaign (some might be reposts from the Facebook page: https://www.facebook...ursGateReloaded )
 
I look forward to hearing from you guys and sharing our progress!
 
Finally, here's our announcement trailer:
 

Edited by drechner, 07 August 2016 - 09:14 PM.


#2
drechner

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NOTE: The original version of this message was posted on the Bioware NWN2 Forums on July 20, 2014.
 
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Now that we've announced Baldur's Gate II: Reloaded (or SOAR as we like to call it), I wanted to start an initiative to do a better job sharing information with you all throughout development, which will hopefully result in more regular updates and "mini-blog" posts. 
 
I wanted to share some of the ways we're looking to improve upon BGR in SOAR. A few months after BGR was completed, I created a "post-mortem", which is basically a reflection on what worked, what didn't work, and why. As much as we love BGR and are proud of the work we did, there are a lot of ways in which we could have done things differently, at a higher quality, and more efficiently. We learned a ton of things during the development of BGR, but, as a saying I just made up goes, it's hard to turn an oil rig around; it's sometimes better to just stay the course. With a new project, we get enact these changes from the start, which I'll detail more below.
 
1. Identifying a critical path. One of the most important aspects of pre-production (before you actually start developing a project) is to identify a "critical path" or what needs to get done first before other things can get done. In game development, this can be quite tricky because there are often a lot of cross-dependencies. In BGR, there was a lot of overhead in making any changes to our area scripts, creatures, or items because they were made in the wrong order; hundreds if not thousands of hours were wasted due to this. For SOAR then, we decided the first thing we would do is to compile a list of the custom content we will need and create placeholders. Following that, we could create all the item icons, then all the items. Afterwards, we could then make all the creatures (not NPCs)in the game and equip them with the newly created items. This is all done before any work on levels begin. The list goes on, of course, but you probably get the idea.
 
2. Using the campaign directory more. For SOAR, we've decided to move as many creatures, items, scripts, and dialogues to the campaign directory as possible and where it makes sense. In BGR, we ran into a lot of issues, especially early-on, due to each module having its own set of items. If we ever wanted to update an item, we had to update them all. Needless to say, this was tedious and error prone. Furthermore, because NWN2 stores items in stores and loot containers as separate instances of the item, updating an item in the module wouldn't do anything to the items already placed in a store or loot container. In BGR, we suffered a lot of items having an incorrect cost value, icon, appearance, or even stats. By moving everything to the campaign directory and following our critical path, issues such as the ones we experienced in BGR should be minimized greatly.
 
3. More testing throughout development. In BGR, we tested as we developed, but not always in the most organized way. Something almost every game developer does is to create test maps in which specific features can be tested quickly and easily. While we had a limited number of test maps in BGR, we intend to create more test maps to create stable, and ideally final, features as early as possible. For example, in SOAR, we created a test map for testing each item to ensure they behave properly, look correct, cost the right amount, etc. It's important that we get this right early so we can avoid having to make costly fixes later in development. 
 
4. Encounter balance. Some of the encounters in BGR were not balanced in a way with which we felt happy. While a lot of this came down to the rather open nature of BG and our focus being diverted to actually completing the game, we want to make the encounters in SOAR as balanced, challenging, and fun as possible. Somewhat related to the above, we plan on having test maps to more thoroughly test creatures and major encounters in the game to avoid some of the difficulty (or lack of difficulty) spikes seen in BGR.
 
5. Better custom art assets. While most of the custom art we borrowed from the outstanding NWN2 community is extremely high-quality, the custom art assets we created were not always of the same quality level. In particular, the custom BCK textures we created stuck out a bit and didn't match the style of quality of the surrounding assets. For SOAR, we've already created a lot of custom assets that we believe are vastly improved and we can't wait to show some of those off soon.
 
6. General polish. While I think we ended up releasing a game that was pretty well-polished in the end, there are a lot of features we just didn't have time to tweak and perfect the way we wanted. In particular, resting felt a little underwhelming and not as cool as it could have been. For SOAR, we fixed this and we've rewritten or rest system which we'll hopefully demonstrate soon.
 
7. Improved Creature spawning. Many of the creatures in BGR happened to spawn in sight of the player and often in odd locations, such as behind the player. While some of this was related to the rather open design of the levels, there are some tweaks that could be made to the encounter spawning system that would have fixed many of these issues. Furthermore, creatures tended to spawn in weird groups (e.g. a zombie spawning with a wolf and a kobold--what?!?). For SOAR, we think we've implemented a fix to both of these issues.
 
8. Better level layout and gameplay. One of the problems we had in creating fun encounters in BGR was that the level design was not designed to support certain kinds of encounters. This was mostly due to the areas being designed and often polished with final art before any scripting was completed. Because of the large amount of wasted time it took to redesign a finished area, we often could only make minor changes to spawn placement or minor level details. In SOAR, however, we are developing levels in a multi-stage process which will allow for more rapid gameplay iteration. The first step is what's called "level blockout" in which no attention is given to the art of the level, only the "feel" of the playable area. During this stage, we ensure the walkmesh is exactly what we want (so the player can navigate everywhere we want them to go, etc.) and the scale is correct. During this stage, we'll also put in doors and other area transitions. The next stage is to script the area for gameplay. During this stage, we can still shift around the area to ensure our layout supports the best encounters possible. The final stage is polishing everything, including texturing, using final art, audio, etc.
 
9. Smaller module size. In BGR, we grouped a large number of areas into a single module, which was great for short load times between the areas within that module, but made for some very long load times when loading into the module the first time or restarting after a death or a saved game. This was most easily noticeable with Baldur's Gate city, in which the load times could easily take over 30 seconds to a minute, which is far too long. Therefore, we will be making every exterior area and its associated interior areas into their own modules. This will help normalize the load times and even provide some workflow improvements since Shallina and I can stay out of each other's way easier.
 
10. Delayed Beta Testing. While our talented beta testers provided excellent feedback and bug reports for BGR, we weren't able to utilize the beta as well as we could have as we were still polishing and making the game. Instead, we will be pushing the beta until we believe the game is done, so we can focus on only fixing bugs to ensure for the most stable release possible. We were proud of our work in BGR, but we would have liked to have the stability we have in Patch 3 available at release.
 
There's definitely a few other items that I could have mentioned here, but perhaps I'll save those for another time. We're incredibly excited to be on our journey of recreating one of the best RPGs of all-time in NWN2. Thanks for reading and let me know if you'd like to see more posts like this!


#3
Sabranic

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Sabranic's Note:  I am helping the BGR Team by migrating their posts over the past several years from the Bioware forums.  Everything you see here was created and authored by members of the BGR Team.  Any feedback, comments and compliments should be directed to the BGR development team.  Without further bloviation... let the show begin!

_________________________________________________

 

 

drechner

 

Here's a few sneak peeks at our custom NPC heads we're creating for SOAR. Please note that all the models are missing their hair and any texturing, etc. All base models created with MakeHuman.

 

Jaheira

zdK2YjB.jpg

 

Minsc

7oeAO7a.png

 

Jan

Jkn6NrG.png

BGR Team | Join us on Facebook! | Baldur's Gate: Reloaded | Baldur's Gate II: Reloaded (WIP)


Edited by Sabranic, 07 August 2016 - 10:55 PM.


#4
Sabranic

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drechner

 

Eguintir Eligard, on 22 Jul 2014 - 7:31 PM, said:snapback.png

Why not exclusively and remove all issues?


EDIT: nevermind the last part. Good luck

 

There are still a lot of things such as placeables, non-combat NPCs that don't appear in other areas, etc. that still make sense to keep in the module directory. If SOAR wasn't so big, I'd probably stick with only the campaign directory.

 

 

rjshae, on 22 Jul 2014 - 8:54 PM, said:snapback.png

MakeHuman looks like a pretty useful tool. There's a lot of distinctiveness to the facial features of your models, and they have a pretty good likeness to their portraits. Does it also help with texturing?

 
It does provide a fully "textured" human body, but it doesn't have much detail (I don't think it's supposed to) and I'm not quite sure it can be used for much.

Edited by Sabranic, 07 August 2016 - 10:55 PM.


#5
Sabranic

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Shallina

 

Since Drew lurk rarelly around here, and is more on Facebook, I'll take the task to spill what 's going on into SOAR in those forum.

 

First after somme work into SOAR we can compare the amount of work needed between SOAR and BGR.

 

BGR has a lot more area than SOAR, it can 't be compared, but SOAR has a lot more events, quests, and scripting required. the amount of time of work in BGR was split at 50% : 50% for making the area and the asset, and 50% for scripting. SOAR it 's going to be 30% area making 70% scripting, perhaps even 80% of the time scripting.

 

Then we learned a lot while doing BGR, I will speak of the one thing we learned that can really help others mods maker.

 

-Campaign ressources needs to be "stable" before you do anything else. So when you put them in game, you don' t have to go back and change them everywhere you used them in yoru whole campaign/mod. In the campaign ressource we have items, they are a major pain. They need to be "stable" before you start anything where they are needed.

 

Things which are placed in area are "instanced" the moment you place them, things which are "spawned" with scripts are "reference", which mean if you update that object the update will be done everywhere it 's "spawned" at the same time.

 

The conclusion to avoid headhache when debugging, or updating your work place as few thing as possible and spawn the maximum of them.

NPC, Creature, Stores for exemples are good exemple of thing you need to spawn and not place.

 

Now let' s speak in detail of what we are doing into SOAR.

 

-First thing we managed to make operational a "teamwork" accross the internet, it will really ease our concern with versionning.

- Second thing, Drew made all the items, they aren' t completly final, but they are in a state where we can place them and use them without the need to comme back at them later, they are nearly final and good enought to be used. I mean absolutly all the items, SOA and TOB, it was a monster work.

 

-For myself I am responsible for 2 things for now and until I finish them : Everything in TOB (area+ scripting), and Crafting.

 

for the crafting, I have done a crafting system strongly based on NWN2 OC crafting system, except that all component and crafted items wll be SOAR specific. Also only crafted items will be able to enchanted or changed. "looted items" from the original game cannot be altered with crafting. It will be easy to spot, crafted items/materials have NWN2 icons, while "original stuff from TOB/SOA" will all have TOB/SOA icons. We have altered the drops tables from NWN2, so only ours items drops (original stuff + crafting component)

 

 

For TOB, I have done something fully operational and almost fully polished until the end of Saradush. My estimation for doing the whole TOB in NWN2 is between 1 and 2 year of work. I am al ready at 4 or 5 months of work on it.

 

I think I won' t post any screens, or spoilers, I'll just give report of advancement of my work.



#6
Sabranic

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Shallina

 

And a second post to speak about the most important new so no one can miss it :

 

We have 2 new scripters on the team who are like Drew and me, poeple who work in the software industry in real life. So SOAR has more scripting than BGR, but we have more scripting power.

 

They will work with Drew on the SOA part of the game at the moment.



#7
Sabranic

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Shallina

 

Of course, everything from SOA/TOB will be in. But since in 3 ed crafting is an important part we will add crafting possibility based on 3ed rules. It will be independant from the rest of the game. which mean you can 't enchant "normal items", only crafted one by the player.



#8
Sabranic

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drechner

 

Sorry, I've been away for so long; I was on vacation (and not ignoring you for Facebook like Shallina said! wink.png). 

As far as the amount of time the project will take, we're not releasing any time estimates other than we want to have a long beta in which the game is already feature and content complete so we can make it as stable and balanced as possible. Also, with the amount of experience we have with the toolset and our much improved planning (not to mention an online repository), we're looking at a significantly less amount of time than BGR's development. 

 

While the scripting is much more difficult, the lesser amount of areas will help quite a bit too. While I think Shallina is underestimating the amount of time area-building took in BGR and will take in SOAR (especially since the quality of areas in SOAR will be higher), it's true that BG2 was a very script-heavy game. Of course, that's extremely exciting considering the power of NWN2's scripting smile.png

I've already created the blockouts for a few modules, though I'm currently working on the Docks district in Athkatla. Instead of just a blockout though, I'm going to go through all the stages of area-building to 1) get an idea for how much time taking an area from blockout to final polish takes and 2) ensure we have the right art and other support we need to make an awesome-looking game. I should have some pictures of the whole process soon smile.png



#9
Sabranic

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drechner

 

WIP Screenshot time! 

 

Haer'Dalis
caxmD0o.png

 

Harpers Hold

CIC1sDn.png

 

Thieves Guild

9ZCJ4x7.png

 

There's still a lot of work to do on these, but I'm going to move onto finishing the blockout for the Docks. I'll post some more screenshots soon, though hopefully you'll see the final-ish quality then.

 

qD3wlYE.jpg

 

It may be difficult to see in the picture of the model, but the bottom lip does turn up quite sharply to meet the upper lip. Hopefully with texturing, too, it'll look even more like the original.



#10
Sabranic

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drechner

I'm so glad that Jan will turnip in the game. I'll show myself out now...






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