The BEAMBLOG

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 27 Livestream Recap


“New character models in NWN:EE are going to look really good, players will love them!” ~ Alan Miranda
During last week’s livestream Beamdog CEO Trent Oster and Studio Director Phillip Daigle talked about studio news and plans on Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition. Alan Miranda, CEO of Ossian Studios, joined the stream to share stories about the original Neverwinter Nights, creating Darkness Over Daggerford, and enhancing DoD as a Premium Module for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition.

Missed the stream ? It's on YouTube and Twitch! Here's a quick summary of the highlights:

  • July, 27 was the birthday of Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons. Your legacy will stay forever, Gary!
  • Beamdog is going to PAX West! During a special announcement panel on September, 1 we’ll be talking about some D&D stuff, but the main focus will be on a new game - something we haven’t announced yet. We’ll also be answering your questions, so come by if you’re at PAX West, or tune on Twitch!
  • We’ll also be at Edmonton Expo in September, so if you’re in Edmonton, come say hi!
  • Sign up for the Beamdog newsletter! If 500 people sign up for our newsletter this week, Phil will write the next newsletter himself!
  • We’re still hiring! If you’re a programmer, a technical artist, or a web developer - apply!

“Neverwinter Nights was all about the democratization of game design” ~ Trent
  • We’re actively working on bringing Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition to GOG. We want to upgrade the old CD Key system to make it work with GOG Galaxy and manually downloaded NWN:EE versions.
  • We continue to work on the tablet version of NWN:EE. “NWSync”- an upcoming feature for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition which will provide an auto hak and tlk's downloader once you connect to a server in the game - will help not only PC players, but also tablet players.
  • Dynamic UI scaling for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is currently in code review. We’re looking into additional fun things like a font size slider, or allowing players to drag windows.
  • We’ve had a lot of discussions about making our own persistent world. We haven't ruled it out but we don't have any plans to make something like that soon.
  • We’re trying to find a good partner to help us build the Collector’s Edition of Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition. Once we do that, we’ll discuss with them ideas the community is sharing on our forums. Let us know about what you want to see in the Collector’s Edition here!
“It was a nice thing for Darkness Over Daggerford to finally become a Premium module after all these years” ~ Alan Miranda
  • Alan Miranda worked on the original Neverwinter Nights as both an audio producer and localization producer. Before starting on Neverwinter Nights, he was a producer on Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. After leaving BioWare Alan formed his own company, Ossian Studios.
  • At GDC 2005 Alan approached BioWare joint CEO Greg Zeschuk to discuss the possibility of Ossian Studios developing a premium module for Neverwinter Nights. BioWare approved that proposal, but later in 2006, Atari, Neverwinter Nights’, publisher cancelled the premium module program. Alan and his team decided to finish Darkness Over Daggerford anyway, and it was released free of charge on Neverwinter Nights Vault.
  • In 2018 Ossian Studios was finally able to complete Darkness Over Daggerford as the Premium Module they originally envisioned. This enhanced version has more than 500 gameplay improvements over the original Darkness Over Daggerford. You can find the full of changes in the Enhanced Edition of Darkness Over Daggerford here.
  • According to Alan, the real strength of Darkness Over Daggerford is the world exploration, a feature inspired by Baldur’s Gate.
  • Among other prominent features are dynamic level scaling and random encounters which happen during the world map travelling.
  • Right now Ossian Studios is working on new character models for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition. According to Alan, they’re preserving the style of original Neverwinter Nights outfits and looks.
  • We’ll be bringing more people from the community to talk to during our livestreams. Stay tuned!

Excited for what’s next? Come and join the next livestream this Friday!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Tom Rhodes: An Inside into the Artist's World


Beamdog Artist Tom Rhodes explains how his sketchpad reflects the seasons.
In 2016 we tried an experiment to bring the magic we saw in our community to a broader audience called the Familiar, a digital publication with industry interviews, fiction, contests, and Beamdog exclusives.


It’s a pity to let those articles vanish to time, so we’ve decided to share the materials from the Familiar on the Beamblog so more people can discover them. Today we publish an interview with Tom Rhodes.

This article was originally published in Issue 2 of the Familiar.

Tom Rhodes has developed an interesting new form of calendar. He loves to draw whenever he can and tends to switch between his two favorite subjects: fantasy and science fiction. The diary element comes into play by how he breaks those up.



“Usually in the winter I’ll be really into fantasy, and then in the summer I’ll get into sci-fi. So I can always tell what season it was when I look at my sketch books by what I was drawing—whether it was orcs or aliens,” he tells The Familiar.


That love of fantasy has always been a big part of his life—and his work—since he first read The Hobbit as a child. That led to an obsession with The Lord of the Rings artwork created by John Howe and Alan Lee, as he pored over their book cover and calendars.



“I would walk a few kilometers to the book store where they were selling the 1998/1999 Tolkien calendar, look at the pictures on the back, and then walk home,” he reminisces. “D&D is cool too, but I didn’t play it until I was in high school. It was Tolkien and those two artists that always kept me around fantasy, along with movies and videogames.”


Before moving to Beamdog, Rhodes worked as a concept artist at BioWare and taught illustration at the Edmonton Digital Arts College (EDAC).



Was the cover commissioned specially for this issue or is it already part of Siege of Dragonspear?


It was something I was working on in-house at Beamdog. It was a larger project overall and we thought it’d be perfect for the cover of The Familiar.


Are the two battling figures specific characters from Siege of Dragonspear?


They’re not any particular individuals but they are representatives of the factions from within the game. The guy with the boar spear is one of the crusaders and the guy with the two blades is a member of the Flaming Fists. They may not be named characters but the Flaming Fist character is based on the actual in-game sprite. I reverse engineered it from the tiny little guy, based on his armor.


What's your working process like?


I work digitally. Sometimes I sketch on paper first and then scan it, but this work was all digital. It always starts with a written description of what’s needed and any other aspects, like bits of lore or technical requirements like dimensions or color scheme. I then create thumbnail sketches to try and find out what the posing and composition is going to be like. From there I start putting in the color.



How long did the completed work take?


This image took about four days. Usually by the end of the first day you get a really solid idea of what it’s going to be like. On the second day it looks finished, but the rest of the time is spent making sure that it’s polished. The last 20% takes 80% of the time. Most of that time is spent on the rendering and making sure things are presentable. It’s taking the time to put extra careful brush strokes to make sure that surfaces aren’t too messy and that they also look like the material they’re supposed to be.


Is digital your favorite format or would you like to have the time to paint?


It’s a toss up between digital art and a ballpoint pen and a sketchpad. I recently got back into doing acrylic painting at home but I haven’t had too much time to work on that in the last few months. It’s relaxing, though.


Has digital been the norm since you started your career?


I had my first job in about 2005. But I started to get into digital art around 1997/1998. I was still quite young but I feel like a lot of things people think of as concept art, things like ArtStation and DeviantArt, I grew up alongside those. When I first started off, most concept art was still done with marker and paint, at least the stuff I was looking at.



What did you teach at EDAC?


I was teaching illustration and digital illustration and sequential art—so comics, graphic novels, Photoshop, painting. I was running students through the fundamentals of art as best as I could. Things like anatomy, perspective, composition, color theory—all the good stuff.


Based on the art we’ve seen online you love to draw. Is it something you do as an everyday thing even outside of work?


I like to draw on the bus, I like to draw on my lunchbreak. Even sometimes when I’m at Beamdog I’ll be working on a piece but then I’ll just have to draw something for myself. Just take a quick minute and doodle. It’s something I’ve always done. I guess it’s a good psychological break. Some people will go have a coffee, I’ll open up a new document and draw an orc head or something.


You helped create the comic Deep Soul. How did that differ to your work on video games?


That was with a writer named A.J. Lieberman, who works out of New York. He’s worked for DC and a bunch of comic companies on quite a few graphic novels over the years. One of his books, Term Life, is coming out as a movie this year. He was really good to work with, although that project took a year. I’ve not done a graphic novel before and that project made me think I might not do one again. [Laughs] But I’m working on another on the side here and there. It’s a fairy tale I’m writing and illustrating, which tries to figure out what would happen if a robot crash landed in a fairy tale kingdom.


You also run a weekly lottery on your Twitter feed to draw people’s D&D characters. How did that come about?


That’s actually really good fun. It came out of nowhere and gives me something to do, so now I have a hobby and I don’t just sit there reading Reddit all night. It’s also helping me get better and to build a portfolio—not that I need it, but it is nice to have a body of work. People also get to know me and my name gets out there a little bit. But my favorite part is giving people free art and I’m always pleased by how excited they get.

Friday, July 20, 2018

July 20 Livestream Recap


“Making haks and tlk's easier to download will probably be the biggest change in NWN since Hordes of the Underdark” ~ Trent
During today’s livestream Beamdog CEO Trent Oster and Studio Director Phillip Daigle shared the latest studio news and updates on Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition and Infinity Engine games. Bernhard St√∂ckner (niv), Technical Director on the NWN:EE core team at Beamdog, joined the stream to review the latest changes on the Roadmap Trello board for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition.

Missed the stream ? It's on YouTube and Twitch! Here's a quick summary of the highlights:


“NWN:EE plays smoothly on Android, and we want to make the buttons bigger” ~ Phil
  • The smoke test (a broad spectrum of quick tests by our QA team) for the 2.5 patch for Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is finished, the 2.5 patch for Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear will go through the same testing next week. Both patches will be released at the same time.
  • After Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear are patched, we’ll do one final update for Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, bringing more bug and localization fixes, and adding a new test feature.
  • The next development build for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition will be huge! Among other features, it will bring "NWSync” - an auto hak and tlk's downloader, and 64-bit compatibility.
  • The “NWSync” feature will let you go to the server list in Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition, choose a server, and it will download automatically required files needed to connect to the server.
  • We have rewritten a lot of code for the 64-bit compatibility, so we expect there will be bugs. We’ll start with a development branch to introduce this compatibility, and will work on improving it based on community feedback.

“Weather is one of the most important things in the game. Take advantage of new graphics and new shaders - what do you want to do with weather? Snow? Hurricanes?” ~ niv
  • There were a few important changes on the Roadmap Trello board for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition this week, go check them out!
  • RFC builtin database replacement, more scalable NWN:EE UI, GOG Galaxy support are now in development.
  • Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition on GOG is getting closer. We have to work out how CD Keys will be handled.
  • There are 3 features we want to get community feedback on: full party control in NWN:EE, improving weather effects, and new emote animations. If you have suggestions about these features, share them on our forums.
  • What Phil means by the full party control is that we want to control henchmen better. We don’t want a free camera, it will be more like KotOR than like Neverwinter Nights II. Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is a single person game, it’s about you being the character on the character sheet. We want to make henchmen more responsible, which will let you continue being the character you play.
  • We’ll be bringing more people from the community to talk to during our livestreams. Stay tuned!

Excited for what’s next? Come and join the next livestream next Friday!

Friday, July 13, 2018

July 13 Livestream Recap


“New shaders, tons of bug fixes, fixes for Intel crashes – go try the new stable build of NWN:EE!” ~ Phil
Today Beamdog CEO Trent Oster and Studio Director Phillip Daigle shared the latest Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition and Infinity Engine Enhanced Edition news. Soren, a community developer who's been working on NWN:EE shaders, joined the stream to talk about building shaders and Ravenloft - Prisoners of the Mist, a NWN:EE persistent world.

Missed the stream ? It's on YouTube and Twitch! Here's a quick summary of the highlights:

  • Meet Beamdog at Pax West (Seattle, WA - August 31 - September 3, 2018)! We’re going to have a fairly big room for a special announcement panel. Come by and ask your questions!
  • If you’re local to Edmonton, we’ll see you at Edmonton Expo in September!
  • The next few months are going to be pretty exciting! Sign up for our newsletter to get exclusives on our future projects, patch news, sales, giveaways, and more!
  • Make sure you’re following our Steam Developer page!
  • Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition is currently on sale on Google Play and the App Store. Spend your vacation in Sigil, the city of doors!
  • We’re hiring! If you’re a Web Developer, Programer, or Technical Artist looking for a new adventure, get in touch!

What are those secrets and things Trent can’t talk about yet?
  • Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition Patch 1.76 was released this week. It focuses on stabilisation, fixes the majority of Intel-GPU related crashes, and addresses issues found since the previous update shipped. Check out the full patch notes here.
  • We’re investigating the remaining Intel issues and are in touch with Intel programmers.
  • We’re exploring plans for a Collector’s Edition of Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition further down the road. We want to make it truly fantastic! Share your ideas in the NWN:EE forum.
  • We’d like to add Neverwinter Nights: Darkness over Daggerford portraits and soundsets to the base game, but have to get permission from Ossian Studios first.
  • We’re looking into new soundsets for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition. More news soon!
  • We have a lot of work to do on dynamic UI for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition. To bring NWN:EE to Android, we have to support all kinds of dimensions. Eventually, you’ll be able to scale UI into different resolutions.
  • Phil says a custom module contest for NWN:EE is coming soon. If you’re building a team to create a module, let’s have a chat!

“You can’t have other games like Neverwinter Nights” ~ Soren on persistent worlds
  • We’re working on the 2.5 patch for Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and Siege of Dragonspear. Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition will also get one additional update at the end of the 2.5 patch cycle.
  • The 2.5 update for BG:EE, SoD, BGII:EE and IWD:EE will come to the Mac App store after all the patches are completed.
  • The Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition 3.1.4 build, which includes the Czech localization (currently available from Steam), will roll out to all platforms after our work on the 2.5 patches is done.
  • Soren has worked on shaders for us - SSAO, Sharpen, and DoF, and according to him shaders are something that players can notice in the game quickly. Go check the new shaders in NWN:EE!
  • According to Soren, NWN:EE provides lots of opportunities for modders and custom content creators. Now with the new shaders it’s possible to create amazing things.
  • Soren runs Ravenloft - Prisoners of the Mist, a Neverwinter Nights roleplay persistent world set in Ravenloft, a gothic horror Dungeons & Dragons setting. It features more than a thousand unique areas, with a huge selection of sites to visit, people to meet, creatures to fight, treasure and dark secrets to uncover. If this caught your interest, download all the needed files from Steam Workshop and join the server!
  • We’ll be bringing more guests to talk to during our livestreams. Stay tuned!

Excited for what’s next? Come and join the next livestream next Friday!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition Update 1.76




The next stable patch for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is live! If you have been following the Development branch announcements, you know what’s coming!

This patch focuses on stabilisation and addresses issues found since the previous update shipped. In particular, the patch includes fixes for the majority of Intel-GPU related crashes.

The full list of changes since v1.75 (Build 8176) is:

Client Changes

Features

  • We added a new experimental full screen shader effect: Sharpen. It’s disabled by default, so you have to go into Options, Advanced Effects to try it out.
  • MacOS now defaults to “Desktop” style fullscreen mode (Borderless Fullscreen). This allows you to switch spaces. To make use of it on existing setups, set FullScreenDesktopMode=1 in nwn.ini.
  • The name generator tables for all races (including custom) are now configurable in racialtypes.2da.
  • We turned Depth Of Field off by default (only for new installs). This will be re-enabled once it works better in conversations.
  • The SSAO FBO has been updated to use 25% fewer GPU cycles.

Fixes

  • We addressed one of the major crashes people were seeing on Intel GPUs. Matters should now be much improved for some players, however we are continuing to work on Intel-related issues.
  • The high contrast shader has been tweaked so that the fog colour is not impacted anymore.
  • Issues with playing Premium Modules in multiplayer have been addressed.
  • We fixed a resource management issue when entering areas; resulting in crashes on area load screens.
  • Loading save games now works with encrypted premium module saves.
  • We fixed where object visual transforms would not apply immediately when spawning or loading objects into an area.
  • Text bubbles now move alongside any applied visual transforms.
  • Some people were seeing “Could not translate address” when attempting to connect to servers, especially when attempting to connect via icon shortcuts. This has been fixed.
  • Area Transitions clickable state is now sent to clients indiscriminately, which previously resulted in them turning into the wrong colour, hiding them from DMs, and making transitioning harder.
  • We’re making it so that door boxes now again don’t have a highlight when mousing over them. (This was a very sneaky regression introduced by making the script call SetTransitionTarget work).
  • We fixed a crash when area of effect VFXes would attempt to animate in an area that was just unloaded on the client.
  • We fixed a game crash that happened in updating a creature without a valid animation base.
  • The chat window sizes now load properly for all users.
  • We allow server admins to disable relay functionality if they so desire. (nwnplayer.ini: “Network Relays Enabled”)
  • We fixed a game crash while updating the appearance of a creature without a valid body appearance.
  • The game client doesn’t hang or crash anymore when receiving a very large data packet; such as character files, area data, or DM palettes.
  • We fixed the game hanging or lagging when no audio device is available.
  • We fixed a crash when a dedicated server would save a game, where a logged-out player was in Defensive Stance mode.
  • We fixed a crash when exiting from a module with HAKs loaded.
  • The UI scale for Dialogues with scroll bars has been fixed.
  • We excluded localhost (127.0.0.1) from ever being relayed in order to fix a confusing error message for users.

Content Creation Changes

Fixes

  • Script Compiler: We now allow escaping backslashes (“\\”).
Writer

Friday, July 6, 2018

July 6 Livestream Recap


“I remember shipping Baldur’s Gate almost 20 years ago” ~ Trent
During today’s livestream Beamdog CEO Trent Oster and Studio Director Phillip Daigle shared the latest studio news and updates on Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition and Infinity Engine Enhanced Edition games. Phil and Trent also chatted with Eric Jordan, CEO of Codename Entertainment, about Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms and their newest champion, Deekin!

Missed the stream ? It's on YouTube and Twitch! Here's a quick summary of the highlights:

  • Beamdog is going to Pax West (Seattle, WA - August 31 - September 3, 2018) to do a special announcement panel. According to Trent, it’ll involve something “strategic”. Interested to know more? Sign up for our newsletter!
  • We’re still hiring! We’ve been hiring for some time, and have a lot new faces in the office. Check out our career page, and apply!
  • Beamdog will celebrate a 9th birthday on July 9. Stay tuned for a special Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Collector’s Edition sale!
  • Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition on GOG is happening, just slowly!
  • Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition got the big 2.5 patch last week. Check out the patch notes here. 2.5 patches for Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and Siege of Dragonspear are next!
  • We’re aware players of BGII:EE and other EEs have been running into a download resource issue on Google Play. It seems this issue is occurring in non-Beamdog titles as well. We’re currently investigating the cause of the problem.
  • Before the 2.5 cycle ends, Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition will get one final update. It’ll fix the multiplayer problems experienced in the current IWD:EE build, and will also bring an exciting new test feature.

In the chat with Eric Jordan Trent shared the story about creating Deekin for Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide.
  • Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition Development Build 8179 is now available on Steam and from the Beamdog Client. This build is a release candidate for 1.76, and introduces a fix for the majority of Intel-GPU related crashes. We've also prepared a binary for players on the current stable patch as a separate download. If you are seeing crashes on Intel hardware, follow these instructions and install the fix available here.
  • According to Trent, we’ve been able to catch about 80%+ of Intel-GPU related problems, and we will not rest until all of them are resolved.
  • We haven’t officially announced Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition for iOS devices. We have to make NWN:EE 64-bit compliant first. After that hurdle, NWN:EE on iOS becomes a possibility.
  • We have heard requests from the community to update the Original Campaign of Neverwinter Nights. Both Phil and Trent would like to do a Director’s Cut version of the Original Campaign. We have some plans, but not ready to share them just yet, as we need to improve the engine first.
  • We’ve made a lot of changes to the code for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition, and will continue to improve it. Additional content will come, but it’ll take time.
Deekin has recently come to Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms.
  • Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms is an official free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons-based clicker game by Codename Entertainment. It now has a new Champion - Deekin, the kobold NPC you all know from Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide and Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark.
  • Want to know more about Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms? Check out the Steam, iOS and Android pages.
  • We’ll be bringing more guests to talk to during our livestreams. Stay tuned!

Excited for what’s next? Come and join the next livestream next Friday!