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Project Plan_Modding

Shall we get started? Why yes, yes we should. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Shall we get started? Why yes, yes we should. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Timeline:

Week 1 (11-3 to 11-9):

 Week 1 will be devoted to learning more through the tutorials and learning how to navigate the toolset since the learning curve for the toolset for a beginner seems pretty steep. I am going to try to start with a small modding project to see how much I can do in a small amount of time and then try to see what kind of project is doable for the next three weeks by comparing with notes on forums. My main goal is to create a quest, so I need to piece together what is required in terms of the toolset to make a quest: characters, scripting, music, object-behavior(?), and environment(s).

Week 2 (11-10 to 11-16):

 With a better idea of what I can initially do, Week 2 will start off with planning what my mod will look like by designing it on paper through small descriptions of what I want to do. If I find that my mod really does end up being a quest, I want to plan out the general quest, a character list, and the overarching story of what the quest is and why the player is undertaking this particular quest and whether or not it fits in with the official gameplay experience. As I make the mod, I will start seeing how the mod can work within Possible Worlds Theory as player creation being an extension of official gameplay, especially with such a strong collaborative community that modders have created as they share their mods and how they create those mods. The mods themselves become part of a player’s gameplay experience, changing certain moments in-game that give them a different perspective of the events they are working through, such as a romance option, a character skin (the physical look of a character), or a scene extension that is not official in Dragon Age Origins software.

Week 3 (11-17 to 11-23):

 Week 3 will probably be the time period where I start rethinking how I approach my mod and the scope of the project as I adjust to match my (lack of) skillset. Hopefully, I will be making significant progress in shaping my mod towards a viable project, rather than a shamble of modding attempts in one environment. This week will be about learning how to integrate my creation into the official software and make it accessible to others. This may require diffing further into forums and tutorials, and scouring through YouTube for more user-friendly tutorials/demonstrations. There may be hair-pulling and rocking in a dark corner with my dogs looking on in concern. This too shall pass. Maybe.

Week 4 (11-24 to 11-30):

 Week 4 should be the culmination of all of my attempts, with a cohesive body of work in terms of a mod. I should be working on finalizing a functioning mod and figuring out how to distribute/give access to my peers and professor. This will, hopefully, be the time when I look towards more difficult tutorials at how to extend the quest outwards for a longer project (such as a series of quests with an overarching narrative) and creating new characters who are fully voiced once the semester is over.

Materials:

  • PC copy of Dragon Age Origins 
  • Dragon Age Origins Toolset
  • Computer – my laptop
  • Paper and pencil/pen/colored pencils to map out what the mod should look like and what it will, ideally, do.
  • Narratology theory books – most likely Possible Worlds Theory with my main book being Heterocosmica by Lubomir Dolezel.

I already own a copy of Dragon Age Origins for the PC (I bought it through Amazon as a digital download), and the Dragon Age Origins toolset is available as a free download from the official Bioware Social Network site. Because Bioware is the one who distributes the toolset, I am not too sure if there are copyright issues, especially as the mods work within the software of the game. The only issue I may come across would be if I integrated someone else’s mod into my larger mod, but that is not my plan since I want to see what I can do with my own skills.

Project Outline:

My project is really two-fold in terms of what I need to do: 1) learn the software to be able to make a functional mod and 2) think through the kind of narrative theory I would like to work on in practical application when creating a mod.  I have been looking at tutorials made by other modders and theory application is absent from their work as they are trying to fill in gaps they found in the game and extra applications/looks they think would enhance their gameplay and the gameplay of others (such as outfits, weapons, and avatar skins to be more inclusive).

What I will need to do before truly diving into the project is to settle on a narrative theory that intrigues me enough to see how it would operate in a gamespace, most especially in a user-modified gamespace, and I seem to be leaning towards using Lubomir Dolezel’s Possible Worlds Theory in his book Heterocosmica. Since my major goal is to make a playable quest for my peers, I may head in the direction of possible worlds theory as a way to see users’ creations as extensions of the actual game. Players are creating possible worlds based on their experiences within the game, creating other experiences that the game developers may not have had time for or something they may not have imagined themselves.

Concerns:

My concerns for this project are centered around the learning curve with the toolset and learning how to make the components of a mod about a quest work together. The toolset looks deceptively simple in terms of the categories it presents to users, but it is harder to figure out what everything does and means because the system has been so simplified. The tutorials I have been crawling through are going to be my best bet for gaining the help I need and overcoming the problems that I have been facing/will be facing with the toolset.

 

End of the semester stress? No comment. Image hosted on Becuo.

End of the semester stress? No comment. Image hosted on Becuo.

Almost to the end of the semester. Image hosted on Becuo.

Almost to the end of the semester. Image hosted on Becuo.

Such Music to Inspire Our Plans


Learn Tech and Reflect about Modding_Part 2_Reflection

This is the second portion of my Learn Tech and Reflect assignment, with the first part as my annotations on tutorial/support sites for modding.

And away we go!

As only academics can with reflections. Image hosted on Tumblr.

As only academics can with reflections. Image hosted on Tumblr.

So this weekend was my first time really opening up the Dragon Age Origins toolset and mucking (it’s really the only way to describe it) about with the software. I had some trouble installing the toolset since Windows 8 is not completely compatible with Microsoft SQL 2005. The official wiki for the toolset was quite useful for this issue since it is a common one for users, and there were plenty of instructions for different errors that might have occurred when trying to download the SQL. But what did I learn after sifting through tutorials, video demonstrations, forums, and wikis on modding once I got the installation settled?

Actually, quite a bit. I found out that mods can range anywhere from new costumes to head morphs to magical items to new spells to rebuilding an area that has been devastated in-game to creating an isolated scene to creating fully functioning quests.  I also learned just how collaborative a community can be fostered on different sites that are devoted to modding, with plenty of creators willingly sharing knowledge they have gained and modders of all levels sharing their work to receive constructive feedback as well as giving others access to mods. As a new modder, I didn’t feel uncomfortable exploring the forums, clicking on threads geared towards those who have little to no experience with the software and its limitations. I was bracing for some presence of trolling from users who felt that modding was their territory and not for those who were considered “noobs,” but this wasn’t the case in any of the forums’ threads that I explored, which was rather refreshing.  I have also learned about different technical jargon that will come in handy when I am starting to make my first forays into modding, such as scripting, morphs, reskinning, override files, different types of files (UTI, for example, which is Uniform Type Identifier), and console command. The Nexus Mod forums were a great resource for this because users are actually dealing with these issues in their own work, rather than dealing with the terms on a theoretical level. As someone who is taking first steps in the world of modding, seeing these problems being hashed out is both overwhelming because there are so many issues that can arise and encouraging because each of these problems seem possible to overcome in time.

Reading tutorials by themselves does not generally do anything for me as I am more of a hands-on learner, so I spent much of my time switching back and forth between the toolset and whichever tutorial I had been reading. The official wiki for the toolset was the most useful to start with because so much of it is directed towards those who are new and would be the ones in greatest need of a tutorial, though the linked tutorials increased in difficulty further along in each page so that experienced modders would still be able to come and find the information relevant to their projects. The Getting Started section, which was different from the Tutorials section, was where I spent most of my time as it explained how to install the software and then also how to check to make sure that everything is in working order in terms of connecting to the Bioware Dragon Age database and making sure that the Palette section of the toolset actually had assets stored. This will also be the place where I will go as I start to learn how to create what is known as a modulewhich is “A module is a playable set of resources, which can be”: 1) “A campaign that players can embark on,” 2) ” An extension to a campaign,” or 3) “An extension to all campaigns” (Dragon Age Origins toolset). For my own project, I think that a new campaign will be my goal if I can learn to navigate and manipulate the toolset, and this wiki will provide me the technical terms for what I want to create and what tools I need to create it.

Where do I go from here?

As I continue forward with my project, I am definitely going to have to sift through more tutorials, looking for ones in particular that are geared for beginners but are also designed for campaign creation rather than just smaller mods like head morphs or armor creation. I also need to look into more video tutorials (though ones that go more in-depth than the video demonstration I have listed below) are going to be helpful since I am a visual learner, but it will be interesting trying to find tutorials that are specific to this toolset as there are supposedly two others modding software. The official wiki is going to be one of my best resources because it covers many topics (such as “variables,” though they recognize that the information they provide will not always be needed: “the vast majority of the variables in this table are only referred to by core scripts; most modders will likely not need to worry about these”) that have charts and images to help users figure out what they need to do and what elements they are looking for, and has troubleshooting articles. As I do further work, I may need to look into installing a Lightmapper software, which is used with modifying levels, and then looking for tutorials specific to using that supplemental software. Gaining a working knowledge of how a toolset works will let me start to apply narrative theory as I work towards creating a small campaign/quest.

Resources I Annotated

BigDownload. “Dragon Age Origins Toolset Demonstration Part 1.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Sept. 2008. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

“Dragon Age.” Nexus Mods. Nexus Mods, 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.

Dragon Age Origins Toolset Wiki. Bioware Social Network, 08 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. 

“Forum: Dragon Age Origins Toolset.” Bioware Forums. Bioware, 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

What do we say to the God of Death? Image hosted on the site GifSec.

What do we say to the God of Death? Image hosted on the site GifSec.

This should be enough. Image hosted on the site Rebloggy.

This should be enough. Image hosted on the site Rebloggy.

As Halloween Revels Closer