Neverwinter: Foundry Contest Progress Report #1

Auction House

Five days without Internet was tougher than I imagined. But it’s back up now, just in time for the new Neverwinter foundry contest.

To kick off our Season of Dragons campaign, we’ve decided to hold a Foundry contest focused on the Cult of the Dragon! To participate, authors must create a Foundry quest with an average duration of at least 15 minutes that includes the Cult of the Dragon in a meaningful way. The winners will receive some amazing prizes in addition to having their Foundry quests featured for all to admire!

I haven’t had really good luck with contests lately — recently having lost the Shroud of the Avatar game porting contest to what, I feel, was an entry that didn’t conform to the rules of the contest. And likewise, I’m not sure what people are really looking for in a Foundry. Though my The Tempest/EverQuest mashup, “Tempest in a Freepot”, did get featured and did do fairly well, I don’t think it, or any of my foundries to this point, have really delivered what people are looking for. To win this contest, I’ll have to damp down on what I consider are some of my strengths.

First, it needs a title and a description that lets people know what they can expect. Second, it needs to clock in as close to 15 minutes as possible, without falling below that. Third, it can’t reference EverQuest :) You’d think that would be obvious, but I really like recreating EQ in Neverwinter. Always was a personal dream to work for SOE on EQ.

Once people are in, they will probably complete it. The harder challenge, then, is to get them to leave a positive review. And I really have no idea how to go about that. I’m going to try and be a little more linear than usual, lead up to a nice boss fight. Fifteen minutes is not long at all, really — like a good short story, it needs to be pretty economical with characters, maps, and battles. I don’t like, and I don’t think many people like, strings of meaningless encounters. But as a player of many foundries, I also get impatient if there are too few encounters — remembering the no encounter quest Kasul and I did a few weeks back, which I found tedious. I admired the author for trying something so against the trend in an MMO, but in the end, it was, “you’re a dragon, she’s a human, you guys had a kid together, great.”

I’ll go into the plot (so far) of “Fire Sale” in another update.

Neverwinter: Foundries are from Mars

Shocked by the Spear of Mars!

Neverwinter Foundry Night! Wind and weather conspired to give me and Kasul enough uninterrupted power to meet in Neverwinter and do some foundries. Due to the lateness of the hour, we only got around to two of them.

First up: “Merlin the Story Teller 3”. I knew this was going to be trouble when I read the intro:

In the realm of Midguard lies the Sky Kingdom of Zeal, and is home to The Temple of Athena. Merlin was summon by the High Priestess Schala when the Spear Of Mars had shock the Land, but was cursed and repelled by The God Mars as he Invaded The Kingdom Of Zeal.

Kasul is a big fan of mashups, and this confused blend of Arthurian, Norse and Greek mythology as told by a grammar-challenged stoner had the potential for breaking the mold. Though the level design was somewhat innovative, the plot was threadbare, the use of mythology was inconsistent, and at the end, Merlin gets high with a bong shaped like an enormous telescope. I gave it one star. Kasul gave it three. I felt it honestly deserved two stars, but I took a star away for the stupid drug references.

Also, if you’re gonna have me battle the frickin’ GOD of WAR, try to keep him alive more than a second?

Next up was “A Kidnapping in Blacklake” by Winin, (AKA Todd Edwards). This classic foundry quest is being featured for the second time and would blend smoothly into the story of the Nasher rebels if it were part of the official quest chain.

You enter the world of the Nasher in search of a kidnapped girl, but there’s more going on beneath the surface, including a threat to both the Nasher rebels and the larger city of Neverwinter itself. A series of mazes await, with hidden accolades that let the author set aside the quest for a moment to lead the player on, for instance, a Super Mario-influenced jumping puzzle.

Though the adventure has great dialog, hidden objectives and different conversation paths (ultimately not changing the path, but appreciated nonetheless), the foundry’s age shows — the tension between the Neverwinter guards and the Nasher rebels is typically months in players’ pasts, and few authors today seek to extend the official plot as seamlessly as does this adventure.

I was surprised to come to the end of the adventure and to find from the review I’d left previously that I’d actually already played it. I had no memory of it whatsoever. I called it fun when I played it the first time, according to the review, and I had fun the second time.

Those two adventures had taken me past my bedtime, so I regretfully had to head to bed. Hoping next week we get to do the two we didn’t get to last night.

Neverwinter: See you on the next map!

Felling the Forgemaster

Today’s weekly Foundry run was a mixed bag… some good, some bad, and some we’d done before. We’ve been running these things so long that we’re getting into these foundries and after a couple minutes, feeling almost positive that we’ve played these before. And we have!

It’s actually a kinda sad commentary on just how similar some foundries are. But, we had a couple bright spots… and one really low one.

“The Road South” by echelon31 — Both Kasul and I knew nearly instantly that we’d played this before. An enjoyable prologue in some woods gave way to a fairly linear and plotless dungeon crawl. We gave it three stars. Again.

“The Dreadmines” by reinker — Supposed to be a slightly obfuscated version of the WoW dungeon, we were mostly underwhelmed until we got to the ship. Kasul was wild about the parrots; I loved the nostalgia of one of my first dungeon runs in WoW. The part of the dungeon before the ship was quite generic.

“Arty Boa and the Holy Grail” by mllebean — After playing a truly terrible Star Wars/Monty Python mashup a few weeks back, I was a little gunshy about trying another parody foundry. Just repeating jokes from movies or naming a character some variation of a pop culture figure isn’t really intrinsically funny. Worse was when we entered and realized we had played this very foundry at some point in the past. It was Kasul’s call, and he voted to bail.

“Felling the Forgemaster” by roge3ish — Pictured above. A dwarven smith was given power enough by a reluctant goddess to forge nine swords of power, one of which is promised to any adventurer able enough to get the Forgemaster to return his stolen abilities. The majority of the mission revolves around gathering clues from a dungeon on how to break the mystical seal around the only device which can defeat the Forgemaster. The clues are that kind of word puzzle where Abel is taller than Fred and talks louder than Becky and so on, but written more poetically. Hints — and finally the entire solution — is presented if you get stuck. It was the high point of the night…. but not the last foundry.

Our fourth foundry was “The Messenger Route” by dragoness10. It was a rare non-combat foundry which told the story of a forbidden love between a dragon and a human through the medium of the player passing cryptic messages between the NPCs for reasons which become clear. What might be fun for one person was dull for two, and while Kasul ran the quest, I started trying to think of how to write “Go to Next Map” in as many languages as I could think of.

See, last week we played a foundry which just had “Go to Next Map” on every map transition, including the very first. Really lazy. But after that, I imagined a foundry where the player would take over for perennial foundry giver Guard Frinko and send NPC adventures to get items from all over the world, and every place would be called “Next Map” in some language or other. Neither Kasul nor I were overly impressed, though I appreciated the difficulty and challenge of taking on the writing of a non-combat mission in the first place.

Tonight we got triple astral diamonds from our foundry runs, as both Rhix and Lord Neverember were giving out foundry quests. 12,000 easy astral diamonds.

I’ll see you all on další mapa.

Star Trek Online Foundry: The Space Between

So Saturday, I had this wild idea that it would be fun to make an STO mission in the game’s User-Generated Content system, the Foundry. See, I wanted to get a preview of the new Vulcan science ship that’s hitting the store next month. Making a mission that included it would be one way to do that. Playing other people’s missions based around the same general idea would be an even better way :)

I’m not a level designer. I started a really long mission in City of Hero’s Architect system once, but never finished it. It wasn’t the tools, it was the inspiration. I love Star Trek, though. If I were ever going to do it, it would be here.

I read everything I could find on the Foundry and got a lot of good tips, but what I could find online was maybe a tenth of what is needed to learn how to put stuff together. Your basic flowchart is to sketch out your mission by creating the maps you need first (Maps tab), then create NPC and non-player ships in the Costumes tab. Interact with NPC and Reach Waypoint actions connect maps.

Once you have your maps made and connected, then you add the visual sugar, the plot, the enemies and situations, playing each map through a hundred times, throwing it away and starting over…

Anyway, Sunday I threw away everything I did Saturday and started over with a new episode. You can play it — it’s called “The Space Between” and it’s on the Tribble server. There’s a story I was trying to tell, but I didn’t tell it as well as I could have. I’ll probably keep fiddling with it; there’s a map that shouldn’t have any combat on it. It gets in the way of the story, and the mobs keep killing the NPCs that are trying to tell it. That whole map needs to be a puzzle.

When I figure out how to make branching dialog chains, things will get really fun.

A couple of people have pointed me to their own stories. I’ve been so busy working on mine that I haven’t had a chance to play anyone else’s. I hope to play them all this week :)

Got a mission on the Foundry of your own, or a favorite of someone else’s? Post it here! There’s a zillion player missions on the Foundry already, everyone needs help finding the good ones.