This past weekend, I came to terms with WoW. Yes, I know - another post on WoW. Well, not really. I like the game. Like it so much I've already got the first two expansions and a game card to keep me playing till March. I also realized one important thing - there is no need to finish the game. In fact, it can't be finished! So, why devote all my time to playing it? Weekend nights are going to be WoW time but other than that, I'm going to focus on getting this module (and the second part) completed. I mean, this is just an assurance that I am not abandoning this module - the lack of regular posts recently might have given that impression and I just wanted to get the expectations straight.
So, what's been going on with BaL, you ask? Encounter design. More specifically, creature design. Even more specific, boss creature design.
Now, I am not a fan of this auto-scale system at all. Frankly, I think it's wasted effort. Now, some might argue that the non-linear design of the campaign made this a requirement but in my opinion, it wasn't needed even there. My recollections of the OC might not be 100% accurate but by the time you finish Lothering, you are already at level 7 or so. Looking at the area-data file, except for the final quest chains and battles, almost all areas are scaled between levels 7 and 10. Where's the need then?
I wouldn't be going on so much about this if I hadn't been disassembling the autoscale scripts over the weekend. There's just so much code in there for so little gain!
Just to determine the scaled level (let's not even go into the subsequent work done to actually initialize the creature),
- check against the min/max level for the area
- check against the player level
- check against the LevelScale in autoscale sheet
- check against the max level for that appearance
- check against the min_level in the creature table
- check whether appearance level limits are disabled in the module and area
Going through all those 2DAs and setting up the variables isn't something I wanted to do. It's just too much work!
If I want to remove auto-scaling, it pretty much meant gutting out the entire logic in there and writing my own creature core script. This is what I have started doing this weekend. My vision for BaL involves some complex boss battles, based on the difficulty level in-game and I don't want auto-scaling to botch it up. So, I need to add my own version of auto-scaling - the difference being only the difficulty level selected in-game counts. This way, regular players who don't want very involved boss battles can play on Normal while Hard will pose a definite challenge. Nightmare isn't in the plan yet since doing this IS a lot of work.
The result of all this will hopefully be a definitive combat experience that the hard-core players like because, let's face it, combat design in the OC was never a strong point for Dragon Age.