One of the fondest memories I have of watching football with my dad was a meaningless regular season game. It was a minute before the half, and the quarterback had just tossed a 40-yard touchdown with pinpoint accuracy, just over the defender’s fingertips. I leaped into the air, looking for a willing partner to high five, and turned to dad as the replay was showing on the screen. His face was stuck in a grimace. I said, “Did you see that throw?” And he said, “Yeah, but the receiver on the other side was wide open.” It was dad in a nutshell.
It’s easy to be critical of athletes. I’m guilty of as much. Yet armchair quarterbacks like me don’t know what it’s like to try and make a split second decision while 300-pound behemoths are flying at you spitting glass with full intent to do bodily harm.
So I thought I’d take a post to help explain some of the characteristics in the mod, and how more often than not, they are influenced heavily by limitations, and how you can help improve it.
First, the voice acting. I think it has been phenomenal, and will only get better as the available pool of actors grows. There may be slightly different recording qualities, but I think the videos show they blend in well when conversing with vanilla actors. These people have volunteered their time and effort, borrowing mics from neighbors, getting feedback from friends, working tirelessly in the dead of night in hopes that their recording will have one less click, a bit less noise, so your experience is more immersive. Knowing how much they’ve sacrificed to make this mod happen makes me feel warm and tingly, and it pisses me off when some drive-by commenter says something along the lines of:
Yeah, but it doesn’t sound exactly like a studio.
To that I say, then mods are not for you. However, if you feel a particular voice could be improved, don’t be vague and overstate the problem. Find the specific NPC’s name and tell me directly. If I get enough feedback, perhaps I can see if the actor can re-record. I may have already asked him to do so. If the actor is unwilling, I might consider making an optional version. Version 2.22 will feature a revamped version of Eldar, which James worked diligently to provide while juggling responsibilities with school and being a Resident Adviser to what is likely a rowdy dorm, when he could’ve easily told me to go fuck myself. And if you’re the type of cynical, unfeeling bastard that still feels the need to pick nits, then I can’t help you.
Second, the development of characters. When I started this mod, I wanted to make nothing but quests. I wanted to take all these ingredients and make a full course meal. All of this had to be scrapped the moment I opened up the CK. I had to pare everything down to what I could do, and that was essentially make stories. I separated them into 3 acts, introduction, conversation/role-play interaction, and finishing with a personal anecdote. This was the best compromise for proper progression. For most of the mod’s existence, I couldn’t spread anything out over time, I couldn’t do much of anything. Life gave me lemons, so I made lemonade.
Yeah, but I hate lemonade.
Fair enough. Now that my skills have developed, I can make quests. I can have the player involved in the narrative. The question is whether I should go back and make alterations. Yet those conversations all have a distinct flow, from A to B to C, and interrupting them would mangle the dialogue. For instance, Zora’s story with her sister is something I considered moving to the inn or some other location, to use space as a substitute for time. Yet all the other dialogue that was built upon that limitation, the assumption that story was already told, would seem out of place. That isn’t to say these things can’t be addressed, but they will have to be done with care.
For other characters like Wander-Lust, I think they’re much better as they are – living, breathing storybooks – and if a book is interesting enough, I’ve found many players don’t mind reading it cover to cover. Moreover, some NPCs may not have even been conceived if not for these limitations. As for the others, I think the best course of action is to do as I did with Zora and Anum-La. To turn the monologues from a period to a comma, to have the player turn the page and write the final chapter. So when I say the goal is 100 quests, it’s no boast. Every NPC that has a loose end, or doesn’t work as well as a standalone character, will have a quest, as long as the quality and substance is there.
Lastly, I don’t want this post to imply that criticism, suggestions, and the like is not wanted. Last I heard, free speech was legal and generally a well-liked concept. I just want to clarify some of the choices in the mod, and how my programming limitations and the financial/time constraints of all the volunteers has influenced the current product. I also want to stress that as far as products are concerned, what is there now is by no means a final one.
So send me your feedback, your suggestions, and criticism, and we can debate it. All I want to do is help you understand why it seems I didn’t see the receiver, even if he was wide open.