Pseudo-Poll: SoZ Party Members & SoZ Dialog


#1

I’ve returned to work on my campaign. Two things I’ve always struggled with (I have flip-flopped on these implementations so many times I have lost count), so I figured the smart thing to do was solicit opinions.

First: SoZ custom party members. When I started my campaign (years ago, my bad, sorry for the delay) I wanted it to be like the OC and Baldur’s Gate games. To that effect I’ve designed a dozen companions complete with dialog and side-quests. But over the years I’ve heard people ask for SoZ style custom companion/party members as well.

How important is that feature to folks? Is it something I should invest time in developing? Would it make a difference? Would it be the thing that gets some people to play it?

Second: SoZ style dialogs. Do people prefer this? I used a lot of cut-scenes in the prologue; I’m a cinematic guy. But without voice acting, the SoZ box might be better in a lot of circumstances, and then there’s the cool dialog features that come from a party-member having a certain class or race, etc. Worth the investment? Opinions?

Just gathering data on these two features at this point. It’s not like I don’t have more than enough work to keep me busy trying to finish this thing. But these two things I’d like to hammer down - pick a style and stick with it, because retro-fitting changes over and over has been time-consuming and a drag.


#2

SoZ custom party creation is actually easy to add. Easy enough Kaldor made an item that does it in existing modules.


#3

Important npcs get cutscene dialog. Minor npcs get the nwn1 style.

Main plot questgivers? Cutscene.
Random merchants? Nwn1 style.


#4
  1. I would say which system is better depends on the kind of story you are trying to tell. I love the SoZ system and I love the more developed companion system. Variety is the spice of life.

You have gone to the trouble of developing your companions already, so assuming you are happy with the result of that effort, seems a waste to toss them out. But which is the better system as a match to the mod?

  1. I do like the SoZ conversation system. It makes it feel more like your PC is one of a group of people rather than the only one that matters or has any kind of say. it also means your main PC doesn’t have to be the one stocked up on social skills and such.

#5
  1. Well it depends on the story. Lively 3D characters with a personality can’t be developed in the SoZ system. A SoZ party is designed by the player mainly to balance the party, but the designed companions are bland followers. Of course the player can identify himself as a set of four, but it’s not the same feeling as identifying as one. Nevertheless both options have pros and cons.
    Believe me, it’s possible to have full fleshed companions and let the player choose among classes/races while they retain their personal story and personality. Therefore without using the SoZ system the player can balance the skills. A simple script takes care of returning the highest skill of the current party whatever the tested skill.

  2. I always use cut-scenes even with a merchant, they are much nicer, except for simple conversations, usually with a placeable or a creature like Al Andalus’ donkey companion or Sarmates!’ horse companion or when the message window must be seen for instance during a mini game.
    Non SoZ conversations are not limited to the PC and one NPC. As you can set the locutor and interlocutor for each line of the conversation, companions and other NPCs can take part in the convo too.


#6

SoZ Style makes companions more useful as something other than cannon fodder. I really like SoZ mix-n-match approach, allowing the player to take NCPs for color or developing custom characters as needed to reach the desired level of challenge. Together they make a game with an otherwise thin plot quite re-playable. If you can achieve something like that, you’re golden in my book.

Best of Luck!


#7

You have gone to the trouble of developing your companions already, so assuming you are happy with the result of that effort, seems a waste to toss them out.

Oh I wouldn’t do that. I was thinking more along the lines of the way Pillars of Eternity handled it. They have a lot of story companions, but you’re still free to go to an Inn and hire adventurers that you build out yourself. I’m normally the type of person who uses the story companions in games, but after my first play through Pillars of Eternity 1, I started using my own custom Priest (because Durance’s stats sucked) and a custom Offensive Paladin (who synergizes nicely with Pellegina as a defensive paladin).

So it seems to make some sense to let the player add custom party members that way. I just need to work out the mechanic (hiring from an inn seems like a decent way to fire up that interface).


#8

SoZ Style makes companions more useful as something other than cannon fodder. I really like SoZ mix-n-match approach, allowing the player to take NCPs for color or developing custom characters as needed to reach the desired level of challenge. Together they make a game with an otherwise thin plot quite re-playable. If you can achieve something like that, you’re golden in my book.

I think that’s exactly what I’d like to do. Good points GC.


#9

Non SoZ conversations are not limited to the PC and one NPC. As you can set the locutor and interlocutor for
each line of the conversation, companions and other NPCs can take part in the convo too.

So you can do the SoZ stuff in a cut-scene?


#10

Important npcs get cutscene dialog. Minor npcs get the nwn1 style.

Main plot questgivers? Cutscene.
Random merchants? Nwn1 style.

I like this as a guideline, because having some kind of guideline has always been my greatest struggle with this.

Good to see you still around Kamal. I’m probably going to need your advice/help on some tile stuff. I noticed a few tile sets had wonky skins when I loaded it up last night and was looking at areas.


#11

In a different way, you can :

  • make a companion or another NPC talk during a conversation, so companions/other NPCs speak without the PC (well the player) allowing them to talk -> giving more the feeling for the player to be a member of a group.
  • make companions roe/joke at you or at each other.
  • have the companions giving opinions accordingly to their alignment or personality (using conditions).
  • have a skill test taking into account the highest value of the current party, without having to remember who has the highest value.
  • have two or more NPCs, one/many NPCs and one/many companions speaking together before talking to the PC, or even not talking at all to the PC.

Use the locutor / interlocutor fields. The camera follows automatically the speaker, of course you can set it if relevant.


#12

I think any campaign should allow the party editor. Why not allow the player to decide if they want to create custom party members. It is no amount of extra development to allow it and you can still include your companions and their conversations. In my King’s Festival/Queen’s Harvest campaign I allowed both. I like several of the companions I created but I think it is important to allow players freedom over who they travel with.

You don’t need to go the route of SoZ and put party editor books in your inns and such if you don’t want to. If you use the menu and scripts I created for MoW the party editor will be accessible at any time as long as the campaign settings allow party creation. For more info, see this post: http://bbellina.blogspot.com/2012/01/converting-nwn2-modules-to-campaigns.html

Regards


#13

Why not allow the player to decide if they want to create custom party members. It is no amount of extra development to allow it and you can still include your companions and their conversations.

I think my only concern up to now has really been tuning the content for the party. The prologue needs to be designed a tab bit better, because a lot of the encounters I kind of setup to solo or after you find the first companion. I just need to re-think some of those early encounters a bit, and that shouldn’t be too difficult.

I’m totally down for adding the party editor. Pillars of Eternity sold me on the value of that. I really hated Durance… But a priest is essential in that game, at least on the harder difficulty levels.


#14

What he said!

The whole point of this gaming environment is to let the player make choices about how to proceed. The more you are able to do that, the more immersive and enjoyable the game becomes.


#15

If you’re worried about balance in the beginning, maybe steal a page from Pillars of Eternity and make the SoZ cohorts only available for an appropriate amount of coin in the first big city?

You’ll never be able to solve the issue entirely (as there’s nothing to stop the player from just loading up a bunch of level 18 pre-generated characters), but it might help to set the scene and create a sense of progress by having the player buy access to a mercenary guild once they’d normally have picked up a few companions.

As for conversations, I’m a big fan of the minimalist text box for all but major scene-setting, but that’s a personal preference. Cinematic cutscenes tend to slow things down, there’s less space for descriptive writing, and 8 times out of 10, you end up with stiff NWN2 models staring blankly out over their own dialogue lines. A little imagination goes a long way.


#16

Grog, all your points are excellent.

Excellent.

You’ve given me a lot to think about. I think I’m going to do all of that.

And you’re especially correct about the cut scenes - without voice work and lip-flappers that is true. I think in a couple instances, when I have the characters emoting, there’s a lot of value in the cut-scene, but otherwise, yeah, the smaller box would work better.

Good stuff.