Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rotted Report 01: It ain't done yet

So far I've resisted talking about my module project for Dragon Age for two very good reasons:
  1. I wasn't sure I would finish it.
  2. Talking about it takes away from the time I could be working on it.
Basically, I don't want this to be one of those projects that has a website, blog, and cinematic trailer before it has five minutes of actual gameplay. The awkward fact is that most large projects (and that includes all original, standalone adventures) will never be completed. Perhaps by now the modding community expects people to hype games that will likely never see the light of day, but I don't really want to add to that sense of cynicism if I can help it.

Still, when you've made enough progress that failing to complete the project would be a tragedy of wasted effort, then it's time to talk about it. Go all in. Make a public record of it and embrace whatever expectations come. It makes it more likely that you will actually follow through.

I've reached that point with my current project, The Rotted Rose.

That image at the top of this post is a screenshot from the module, which is set in the Dragon Age Universe. From the module's project page on the Bioware Social Site:
You didn't ask to be an apostate. Or did you? The Black Nepenthe makes it hard to be certain of anything. But you need it. Without the Black Nepenthe, the templars would find you for sure.

But Black Nepenthe ain't cheap, or fail-safe. You need a permanent solution, one that can't be found by wasting your nights at a seedy tavern called the Rotted Rose.

In other words, you need to find your phylactery.
Okay, if you haven't played Dragon Age, that probably made no sense to you. Basically, a phylactery is an object that can be used to track down apostates (mages who aren't licensed by the state). The templars are the holy warriors, the paladins of Dragon Age who hunt down the apostates. The Rotted Rose puts the PC in the role of an apostate on the run in the city of Denerim.

So how much of the game is done?

Well, a good chunk. I've written all the dialogue for the main/critical path. Now I'm pushing to get the scripting and cutscenes done. Things are progressing nicely now that I actually have a game (of sorts) to play and clear-cut tasks in front of me.

But oh mercy, there is still a lot to do. When I was poking around for screenshots to put on the project page, I felt like a real estate agent trying to sell a fixer upper. "Don't mind that floating torch stand or those weird shadows on the ground - those'll be fixed by the time you move in!" Area design in Dragon Age is extremely time-consuming, and I obviously haven't spent nearly enough time on it. I've also got codex entries, encounter balancing, sidequests...

In fact, there's so much left that I hesitate to even contemplate it. Even in the projects I've completed, there's always a moment toward the end where I marvel at how much time I spent on it and tell myself that I might not have started if I had known at the beginning how much work it would be.

That's when I have to remind myself that this is what I do for fun.