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Incline Hearkenwold - an IceBlink and DC engine Campaign

Discussion in 'Codex Workshop' started by Dorateen, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    I have decided to share updates here about the hobby project I've been working on this year. As a backer of the IceBlink RPG toolset, I was interested in the freedom of creativity that would be given to module builders, and the turn-based combat system that was being developed. The campaign I am working on has a decidedly SSI Gold Box game influence, due to the nature of combat and largely because of the art assets such as sprites and tiles I am borrowing from the Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures archives.

    So why not just use the FRUA construction kit or Dungeon Craft? Well, I wanted to show support for slowdive as I was familiar with his work in NWN2. And also, the IceBlink engine offers a powerful conversation editor that I am more experienced in using. This includes the "Party Chat" style dialogues such as what was featured in Storm of Zehir. In the campaign I'm creating, options become available to different party members based on conditionals such as attributes, class, alignment, and race. But more than just flavor text, it allows individual characters to learn about NPCs and interact with the environment through various choices available to them.

    While not being tied to any world "setting", this project aims to deliver a classic Dungeons & Dragons party-based experience. Players will create up to 6 characters with traditional fantasy races available and classes including Archer, Paladin, and Thief. (That's right, thief, not Rogue!)

    The adventure hook, as I like to phrase it, has the party fleeing from an attack on a feudal manor and seeking refuge in Castle Hearkenwold. From there, they can be enlisted into the service of the Kingdom for the defense of the realm, or they can go off and explore the surrounding regions on their own. One of the principle design objectives is to make the campaign an open world, sandbox style where the player can try to do and go wherever they want, with all the understood dangers of possibly getting in over one's head.

    In that sense, I also draw influence from the old Might & Magic series. Although the engine is not first person perspective, instead, if you examining the exploration/travel map screenshot, I'm making these areas like a top down view of a tile-based terrain. Kind of like the area view you would see with the Wizard Eye spell.

    The best way to explain how IceBlink presents gameplay is that exploration is done on a 2D map with the party represented by one character's icon. This party member can be swapped at any time, much like the Storm of Zehir Overland Map. Then, once combat is initiated, grid-based battle begins in turns, again more reminiscent of the Gold Box engine.

    The flow of the module I am making is text and narrative driven to create more of a Pen and Paper type feel, rather than cinematic storytelling. And combat. Lots of crunchy, turn-based combat.

    As I am in the middle of a work-in-progress stage of building, I'm open to suggestions and comments, so long as it doesn't conflict with the overall design goals. The IceBlink engine itself is still growing in versatility with each future update.

    Here are some screenshots.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. slowdive Bree Arts Developer

    slowdive
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    I am enjoying the additional content that you added in the latest update. I will be posting a "Let's Play" of my complete play through in the up coming days. For kicks, I tried soloing and was promptly brought down by a sleep spell, ouch! There are certain battles better left for later :P.

    For those who want to test it out, you can find the engine (free) here :
    http://neverwintervault.org/project/iceblink/other/iceblink-engine-and-toolset

    and Hearkenwold here:
    http://neverwintervault.org/project/iceblink/module/hearkenwold-beta
     
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  3. slowdive Bree Arts Developer

    slowdive
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    I finished my Let's Play of Hearkenwold's current beta version. You can watch the playlist here:

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7S38xCPhy0q0QAANlnpDhmjLkSMp9MCg

    I played through with a smaller party of three:
    Male Dwarf Cleric
    Female Elf Archer
    Female Elf Wizard

    Story was great with lots of different plot twists, side quests, NPCs to converse with, hidden areas, conditional dialog options for race, class, abilities, etc. There was just enough combat and each encounter was interesting and unique, not filler stuff. Encounters were a little easy this time around, but Dorateen is now going back and adjusting Enemy AttackBonus values to something other than "0" (was the old default and slightly hidden property). So the next update will make encounters much more difficult.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
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  4. J1M Arcane

    J1M
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    Why is all the tile artwork so blurry? There aren't that many pixels involved.
     
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  5. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    Before the tilemap maker utility was introduced, I had used some background textures from paint shop pro in designing the earliest maps. There was some resizing involved, and those are the parts I think look most blurry. Specifically, the encounter maps are zoomed in from the larger area, so that effcect on the artwork is most noticeable. I'll go back and revisit them down the road.
     
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  6. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    This month, I've been working on two new dungeons, which I will be introducing into the demo. Both are multi-level and will allow the party of characters an opportunity to hunt for treasure, possibly face overpowering enemies, and maybe even tie into a side-quest or two.

    In addition, as I believe was noted somewhere above, there was a property value on blueprints that had been overlooked in the various iterations of the toolset beta I was building in. This attack value has now been assigned to creatures making it easier for them to hit the player characters, and not rendering invincible a party member with an armour class of 19. These tougher opponents will be featured in the next playable version I post. I'm also thinking about adjusting the trajectory of armour bonus so that it won't be so easy for low level characters to achieve said 19 AC.

    Here's a screenshot from one of the new cave locations. Normally, not a wise destination for a 1st level party.

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. slowdive Bree Arts Developer

    slowdive
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    Looks and sounds great there Dorateen. Look forward to testing out the new areas and more difficult encounters. I may try with a party of three again (maybe all dwarves, haha).
     
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  8. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    It only took me a few months longer than expected, but I have an updated version of the Hearkenwold Demo available.

    Earlier this year, I was contacted by Islet who offered to compose some original music for the module. I am delighted to share the new version that uses tracks for the castle, forests, and cave areas with all due credit to Islet Sounds.

    In addition, there are 2 new locations that were previously inaccessible. I have adjusted armor class values and creature attack values, in order to make combat more challenging. Of course, much will depend on party composition and playstyle.

    The module file can be downloaded at the vault page here, for use with the v100 version of the Ice Blink engine.

    http://neverwintervault.org/project/iceblink/module/hearkenwold-demo-v-100

    And here are some new screenshots for a sample of some of the new content.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. slowdive Bree Arts Developer

    slowdive
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    Downloaded and I'm working my way through the original content (started from the beginning). I did come across one of the new areas, but quickly ran away with my tail between my legs. I'll come back later. The music is a great addition and really gives the whole campaign a memorable feel to it. Music in cRPGs has a lasting impact for me. Hearing music from old games brings back all the fun experiences of playing them back in the day (like hearing The Bard's Tale intro tune). I'll get a little more playing in tonight.
     
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  10. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    I have been working on a city part of the adventure. In the current version of the demo, players can reach the outskirts of the circular wall of Khyn, but not go any further. I am stitching together the outdoor map areas that will lead around to the entrance gates.

    The city itself is constructed from multiple maps, with some buildings leading to further sub-maps or possibly other areas to explore. It will be populated with dozens of NPCs to interact with, plots to uncover, and there should be the opportunity to fight as well.

    I’ve also added a couple of combat scenarios along the way.

    Here is a screenshot of an early street encounter.

    [​IMG]

    None of this is in the current playable module that can be downloaded. I am planning to fill the city and environs with a lot of content before the next release. However if anyone wants to grab the Ice Blink engine and try out what I have so far, the link is here:

    IceBlink Engine

    The active module link was posted above.
     
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  11. Excidium P. banal

    Self-Ejected
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    Your UI looks familiar
     
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  12. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    The conversation UI is based off of the Storm of Zehir party chat system. Those speech bubbles on the character portraits means there are other dialogue options available to them based on various conditionals such as race, stats, class, etc.
     
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  13. slowdive Bree Arts Developer

    slowdive
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    Looking awesome Dorateen. Look forward to taking my party further in Hearkenwold and exploring the city of Khyn.
     
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  14. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    Here is an idea I have been playing around with. In one of the areas there is a cavern that the party can stumble across. It is dark, very dark. In fact, there is such a distinct lack of light, that it will be rather helpful to acquire a torch. If there is a torch in the party’s inventory, the option is given to light the firebrand and enter the caves.

    [​IMG]

    On the other hand, the player can enter the cave without this item, confounded to explore the map and its twisting passages under inky blackness...

    [​IMG]

    I also wanted to comment a little about design influence for this project, because a question was raised in another thread. The well of experience that I draw from, what I have played and what I know, is Dungeons & Dragons. So for many of the creatures who populate the land, this is the System Reference Document I am going with in filling out the statistical blueprints.

    It makes sense to me, since as an engine, IceBlink is modeled loosely after the 3rd edition using the Open Gaming License. Although there is a lot of room for customization through scripting, if a builder is so inclined.

    I do have an appreciation for Pathfinder, and own a collection of core and reference materials. These books, I have used more as a narrative inspiration, for NPCs and adventure/quest ideas. The intention is to use both systems as a springboard while developing an increasing amount of content for the overall campaign.
     
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  15. Islet Educated

    Islet
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    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015
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  16. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    I'm really grateful for all the music. It has added a lot to the atmosphere. I've been adding content to the city of Khyn, and enjoyed listenting to your latest track as I went through the area.
     
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  17. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    Excited about the potential for awesome in the eventual TSI-games reveal, I have been pondering how I can squeeze a little more Gold Box influence into this project. On a superficial level, there is already the art including character and monster icons. A more direct correlation is in the way combat unfolds and plays out. However, adventuring and exploration is done on a top-down/Ultima-ish map with the party represented by one character, instead of the first-person perspective window. I’d like to create more of that tabletop feel, which SSI captured, if I can.

    One of the things I always liked was when the games would insert a party member’s name into the narrative description. Simple examples of this would be “Merlin detects a secret door!” or “Hogar notices a hole in the wall!” It’s a great way to involve characters that the player generated into the experience of the adventure. In the IceBlink engine, this is easily accomplished by inserting tokens that call for the currently selected party member’s name in the narrative description.

    Again, the party is represented here by one of the characters on the exploration map. But they can be switched out at any time, much like the Storm of Zehir overland map or even Dark Sun. I have included a few events where it may be advantageous to do so. This is the character that will be called when triggering the narration. Here is an illustration below:

    [​IMG]

    In another place, I added an extra layer by checking if the currently selected character is a Thief. If not, then a different text shows up using that character’s name. Because these dialogues are chat style, a thief in the party will still have an option to say something.

    The other work I’ve been doing is on the city and cave locations, and some outdoor areas. I received a new music track from Islet to add to the capital city’s maps. For anyone curious, this is the one called Khyn, which can be found by clicking on the soundcloud links in the posts above. I’m also starting to connect the threads of some side-quest content that were introduced in previous updates.

    Right now, I am planning to post a new version to play by the end of next month.
     
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  18. slowdive Bree Arts Developer

    slowdive
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    Awesome Dorateen! Looking forward to checking out some of the new content and tricks you are working into the campaign. Hopefully, I can get a few feature changes in such as proper two-handed weapon restrictions, item stacking, ammo, etc. Wish I had more time in a day :-( Fortunately, sinopip has been making some great additions to the code since I posted everything to GitHub :)
     
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  19. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    That's great! I know the systems are coming along. It's already fun to play around in, but IceBlink will grow even more advanced and approach a level worthy of an SSI successor.
     
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  20. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    I have decided to bring the Hearkenwold campaign to Dungeon Craft. Now, I'm not going to clutter things up with another thread, I'll just add updates here. The idea is that I am going to continue to design the adventure in IceBlink, but at the same time, I will also be recreating it in Dungeon Craft as I go along. Both engines have their strengths and appeal to me. While I approached IceBlink as a mashup of Storm of Zehir and the Gold Box games, with a sprinkle of Might & Magic, the Dungeon Craft Editor is more of a pure AD&D Gold Box experience.

    Here are a few examples of what I have accomplished so far:

    Hearkenwold forest in first person view!

    [​IMG]

    A familiar narration screen (for those who have already played the demo)

    [​IMG]

    The distinctive interior of the castle constructed with wood and stone

    [​IMG]

    Reporting for duty!

    [​IMG]

    Check this out. Branching dialogues in a Gold Box type game

    [​IMG]

    In the above, those responses are not keyed to any specific character attributes. But it will still give the player the opportunity to make role-playing choices in conversations with NPCs. What I am doing is chaining together Text Statements (NPC exposition dump) followed by a Question List. The responses can then branch out to other Text Statements, or various events as appropriate. This can get complicated as later stages of quests and conversation states are introduced, but I'm getting the hang of it.

    Can't wait to start working on encounter design!
     
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  21. slowdive Bree Arts Developer

    slowdive
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    This looks fantastic Dorateen! Looking forward to testing it out once you have a demo ready for testing.
     
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  22. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    Content-wise, I would like to get the Dungeon Craft version up to the state of at least some of the earlier IceBlink demos. Figure the first two castle quests, and then I'll see how much side content I can get in. I'll try to have a demo out in a few weeks.
     
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  23. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    If anyone is interested to try what I have so far converted Hearkenwold into the Dungeon Craft engine, the file can be downloaded here:

    Hearkenwold DC version

    This demo is made with the 1.00 release of Dungeon Craft, so there are a few outstanding issues, which are being addressed.

    Some points where this deviates from the IceBlink version:

    • Added a couple of new rest events, since magic relies on memorization
    • Training Halls required to level up, and are designated by class
    • Secret doors, which you will need to have an elf or a gnome in the party to detect
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  24. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    I have a new version of the Hearkenwold Demo released for the IceBlink engine.

    This update contains the city of Khyn, which the party will get to venture to and explore some additional content. I've tweaked a few things here and there in previous areas. The city also features a music track composed by Islet of Islet Sounds. Thank you very much!

    The compressed module file can be downloaded here:

    Hearkenwold Demo v101

    This campaign requires the IceBlink v.100 engine to run, which can be found here:

    IceBlink

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  25. Dorateen Arcane

    Dorateen
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    And I just updated the Dungeon Craft version of Hearkenwold to the DC 1.02 release. This fixes some engine bugs, like clerics getting too many bonus spells. The link to download the compressed file is here:

    Hearkenwold Demo DC v1.02

    I also took the opportunity to add in 11 new PC icons for players to select for their characters.

    [​IMG]

    Now the next task is going to be for me to update the Dungeon Craft module to match the new content that I just added to IceBlink. But that will probably be a few weeks, into December.
     
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