Following the development of my NWN mod "Nightmares in Rivertown", I've decided to do a sort of Developer Diary to document my progress. Hopefully it will be worth following along.
The first thing I do when creating a mod is always to sit down and plan it out. First, I write down the plot on a piece of paper, then detail how many and what kinds of areas I will need to make. The characters, dialogue, custom items and actual quest lines all come afterwards, but for me at least, I need to have the areas down first.
The areas are the setting for the story. Sometimes they can be dark and gloomy, sometimes they are bright and peaceful. Bioware's aurora toolset gives great tools to mold the setting of your adventure, from the shape of the landscape to the color of the sky, to the background music. (I believe the tracks are composed by Jeremy Soule, my favorite videogame composer. This is the only game I've ever played where I never had to turn off the music and put iTunes on in the background. There are really some superb tracks.)
The story for my adventure revolves around the small town of Rivertown, so logically that is the first area I started with. I wanted it to have the feel of a small rural community, with a few houses, shops and an Inn of course. The community would be sustained by farmers who live around the town center. Then I plopped a major road cutting through the town to show that it is not alone in this world, and other adventures lie outside its boundries.
Since Rivertown is the first area the player visits, (I plan on having the PC spawn there, just outside the Inn) it is important to set the mood right away. I did this by making it night time and having a dark green fog obscure the landscape. This makes all but the closest features seem like dark shapes, and along with some dark, foreshadowing music sets a mysterious and creepy atmosphere.
The outlying farmland was next. This was to be a large open space with fields, and less mysterious since... its a farm. I put several farms with a river dividing them in a large area. To show a sense of division from the townsfolk, I walled off one of the farms- the one with the granaries and storehouses. This may come into play later in the adventure.
After the farms were done I created the Wrymling Hills area, where there is a quarry that miners from town work in for stone, metal and minerals. This quarry will also be the scene of most of the mod's action, since it is one of the mod's two dungeons.
The Wyrmling Hills... not a very friendly place
A misty area of the quarry- I plan on using this for a creepy encounter like with spiders or something.
Only about half of the area of the quarry is actual mine. The other half is a Kobold enclave that the miners had stubled upon and tried (unsuccessfully) to block off with a door. To move the plot forward, the player will have to rescue a certain hostage from the Kobolds' clutches, which means fighing their way through the mines and the enclave.
I've also had time to create a few commoners for the town. Take a look:
"You're probably all wondering why I've called you here today..."
There are still a few areas to be done, mostly interiors. Main characters, farmers and miners need to be created, encounters and traps for the quarry need to be set up, and all the conversations and quests need to be done. Wow, that seems like a lot of work.
This might take a while... but I think it will be worth it.