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Trying out the NWN2 toolset for the first time? Here are the results of my explorations on building an exterior area, combined with the wisdom of several others…

EXTERIOR AREASEdit

With pictures: http://www.dladventures.net/vB/showthread.php?t=3791

  1. After you have sketched out or designed your area in your mind, you’ll probably want to start out by adjusting the terrain. The first thing you’ll need to know how to do, is how to move the map around in the main window, because it isn’t very intuitive – use CTRL + Left click to drag the area view around, and the mouse wheel/third button held down will allow you to change the camera angle.
  2. Go to the drawing tools for the map, and select the one marked ‘terrain’. The general consensus on building a map quickly, is to make heavy use of the flatten tool. Still, you first select the raise or lower options, and adjust the height of one corner of your map.
  3. Select ‘flatten’ and then ‘eyedropper’. This is why you raised a corner of your map – the eyedropper tool allows you to select the exact height you are going to use as a default. Zoom in to your piece of raised terrain, and click on the exact height you want to be able to draw at. Now when you paint, you will get a sort of flat-topped hill/plateau. Use this to lay out all of the raised terrain on your map. You can do several heights if you wish. You may also want to use flatten for sunken terrain, such as the path of a road. If you’re planning to build steep terrain, don’t lay down vertical faces – it stretches the textures and looks bad. You either need to step it or find other ways to break it up (see later on rocks).
  4. You’re going to probably do a lot of fine tuning on the terrain over the next few hours, but start by making manual adjustments to create your terrain features using the raise/lower tools. Build your hills, drumlins, lake beds, or whatever else you need with these. Don’t worry about errors for now. If you want gentler features, increase the radius of the ‘outer’ setting of your brush, and decrease the ‘pressure’ setting.
  5. Once you’re happy with the rough layout of your terrain, use the ‘noise’ tool to add general bumpiness to dull/flat areas (only).
  6. Use the ‘smooth’ tool to reduce the harshness of your terrain. If you have jagged edges or a lot of cliffs from the ‘flatten’ tool you used earlier, smoothing is a good way to remove such harsh features that you don’t desire. You should also use the smooth tool to check the tile edges – noise will sometimes cause these not to match heights properly, and you can smooth these oddities out.
  7. You’ll be using these tools a lot as you build to make finer adjustments, but I’m not going to be mentioning them much, since I’ll assume you now have the hang of them.
  8. Now place any water. To do this, use the eyedropper tool as before to select the water level you want, and then lay down the pancakes of water to fill your hollows/seas as desired. You will need to fiddle with smoothness, ripple and refraction settings as well as colour to get your desired result (setting all 3 levels of water in the panel to similar properties gives you a more wavelike pattern, others give a windy look, etc). A word of warning, surface settings for water apply to the whole tile. If you want two bodies of water to have a different surface or colour setting, make sure they are on different tiles. Remember you can show or hide water using the top menu bar whenever you like. In addition, you can save your water settings – I recommend you do. It’s very easy to inadvertently adjust your water without meaning too, so once you have the settings perfect, save them.
  9. I find that it is easiest for me to lay the larger areas of textures next. Go to an unwanted area of your map (or another area) to test textures. There is no undo function for textures, and replacing textures is done on a whole-map basis. It’s a good idea to work out the 6 or 7 textures you are going to be using for the whole map, before you start any texturing work. There are a max of 6 textures per tile, so try and select 4 or 5 you are likely to use everywhere, and leave 1-2 for individuality in specific areas of the map. Test out all your selections in an off-map area, using the swapper to replace textures you don’t like. Only once you have made all of your selections should you then texture the map.
  10. I find it helps to lay down accent (like cliff edges) or dark textures first, and then lay the lighter textures on top. Another way of looking at it, is to build up in the same was as life: stone then earth then grass for example. Don’t worry too much about painting ‘outside the lines’, by the time you are finished it will rarely matter, and you can touch up later. On the other hand, don’t use giant paintbrushes – you can’t delete textures, only replace them on a map level, so big mistakes are painful (as there is no undo). For large areas of single textures, start with a high pressure, then drop it by increments at the edges to ‘fade’ the texture out. In addition, you can’t paint two textures at once, so break up larger areas with spotting other textures, or with colors, as well as adding placeables later.
  11. Go back to the terrain tools and select colour. At this point I do much the same exercise as I did with textures, I start with darker areas and accents to dips and crags, gradually lightening them at the edges if necessary, then I apply light textures to exposed areas.
  12. Whether you paint grass, trees or objects down is up to your preference but I prefer first to go and select feature objects from the blueprints menu, and lay those down. I start with rocks, where I build a set of blueprints in the corner of the map, and then tint (properties) the whole selection as desired to match the textures they will blend with. I then take copies of these and apply them as I wish. The larger rocks are particularly important for using to break up those ugly cliffs you made earlier (check out the OC for many examples of this in action).
  13. Placing placeables can be tricky. You’ll want to know a few key combos to help you: arrow keys will move placeables about, while using CTRL + cursor will rotate them. Page Up/Down will adjust the height of your placeable – if you’re going to do this you need to switch on ‘height lock’when you’re done so that the placeable has no chance of adjusting it’s own height if you change the terrain. Height lock (‘Z’) is very useful for blending placeables into terrain – if you don’t set it they will always default to being on the mesh.
  14. Once I’ve laid out all my rocks, I then add any major features of the map. I tend to do this before I add trees because I find they get in the way, but you can hide them ia the menu at the top.
  15. Next I select 5-6 tree types, again using a corner to test out. There is a limit on trees of 6 different trees; each seed or tree counts as one. (The random seed is set on the properties of a tree, and changes it’s dimensions and shape). From these 6 examples, I copy and paste individual or groups of trees around the map as desired, then I break up groups by shifting some trees around, and adjusting the dimensions of others. To do this open the properties of the trees and you will see that by default they are set to 1,1,1 – if you want a taller tree for example, try 1,1,1.2 (the other dimensions control x and y and can be changed also). Note you cannot rotate trees.
  16. Last of all I go to the grass settings. Once again I go through the list, trying out each type in a corner of the map until I am happy with the selection of grasses I am going to use. I start by selecting a single or pair of grasses (you can paint multiple grasses at once) and handling larger areas. I use different combinations to match different terrains, or to blend one grass type into another at the edges.
  17. You don’t need grass on the whole map (and don’t worry too much if grass often looks bad in the toolset – zoom in for a more realistic idea of what it looks like in game). Use thickish patches, adjusting to the terrain (I fill hollows for example) and place it around objects, particularly rocks and trees, for a better look.
  18. Congratulations, you’re probably about half way through! Likely you will need to do many of those steps again now, as you blend textures around placeables, tweak terrain, etc…

INTERIOR AREASEdit

With pictures: http://www.dladventures.net/vB/showthread.php?t=5016

Building an interior area:

  1. To start building a new interior area, select File à New à Area, and choose interior.
  2. Select the ‘Tiles’ tab (bottom right) to bring up a list of tilesets that you can build your area from. In some cases you can mix and match, though this is not always possible. Let’s use the ‘caves’ tileset.
  3. In the top right there is a little pin. If you click this it will keep this panel ‘pinned’ out. If you also have the properties window showing on the right hand of the screen, you can use the same pin to ‘store it’ on the right side to make more space (as shown). You can do the same to all of the panels on the left, giving yourself more building area.
  4. Go to the View à Options menu, and either turn off your autosave, or set it to a longer duration. Autosave occasionally causes issues, so you will want to manually back up your module from time to time using the ‘save as’option. If you do not, you will regret it later. Really.
  5. Making exterior areas works quite differently from exteriors (or indeed from NWN1 unless you have a plug-in). You need to select tiles and fit them together like a jigsaw. You will see in front of you a grid, and you place down tiles on this. To get the hang of it, select any tile from the menu and place it down on the grid. If you find clicking on a tile doesn’t seem to work when you try to place it, look at the menu bar at the top and select ‘Tiles’.
  6. Each tile in the menu has a little graphic icon that shows you where the walls are (blue lines) and the door openings are (red bars). You will find a large selection of tiles in the toolset, but it will soon become clear you are missing some variations. You can rotate a tile by selecting it, then using Ctrl + a left or right cursor key to rotate it BEFORE you place it. (you can do it after you place it, but it’s very labourious – select the tile, right click it, then use left and right arrows).
  7. Some of the tiles also have variations (the right hand column next to the icon). This means that you can get the same layout with a different look. To do this, select the tile as before, place your mouse over the position on the grid so you can see the tile, and before you place it, use the up or down cursor keys to cycle through the variations to see which you want before placing it.
  8. You’ll soon find you need to move around the map. To do this, hold down the Ctrl key and using the left mouse button, drag the grid in the direction you want to go. You can rotate the grid by holding down your mouse wheel/middle button and moving the mouse.
  9. Now build up your area by fitting the pieces together. If you want to join your tiles to tiles from another tileset, you can do this easily by picking another tileset and painting that down. Not all tilesets match well though – it is better to place two tiles containing doors backing onto each other to get a meaningful changeover. Make sure they match height – some tilesets (like the Shadow Fortress) have a different base height.
  10. There are larger tile groupings called meta-tiles, that add some variation. For the caves for example there are some premade diagonal sections. To access these, click on the Meta-tile tab at the top of the right-hand panel. Here you will find a list of meta-tiles set out as the tiles were. They don’t have very meaningful names, nor icons, so the best way to look at them is to select one and run your mouse over the grid to see what it looks like. You can manipulate the meta-tiles in the same way as you did with the tiles.
  11. If you wish to de-select a tile, press the escape key.
  12. If you wish to delete a tile, select a tile on the map (use escape if you have a tile ‘stuck’ to your mouse pointer). Then press the delete key.
  13. Before you start dressing your area, you might now want to take a break to set up some of its properties. To do this, reveal the area tab on the left of your screen by mousing over it, and right click on your area in the list, then select properties (new window).
  14. You will be presented with a pretty lengthy list, most of which is self explanatory. Let’s leave Day/Night stages for now – that’s where you do your lighting settings for each time of day and is best covered in the exterior tutorial when I expand it. Since we’re indoors, we’ll likely only be using one lighting setting, the default one. You will likely want to come back and do this last, when you have completed your area, because at the moment, you want to be able to see properly. You can change the time of day you are viewing in the main window from the Day/Night menu on the top toolbar.
  15. For my caves area, I am going to set everything in the Environment section to false – it is a never changing environment, where the sun or moon do not pierce.
  16. Underneath ‘General’ you will see a lot of important properties. Here, set underground, natural and interior to TRUE, as we are building some natural caves. I also gave the area a name – this is the name that will appear in game for the player. Notice that on the left in the area panel, the area has not renamed itself. If you want to change the name you see in the toolset, you must right click on the area in that panel, and select rename.
  17. Also underneath General is the Tag – every area MUST have a unique tag. It doesn’t matter what system you use, as long as it’s one that you won’t get confused on.
  18. I won’t get into detail on the rest of the properties as most of them are self-explanatory, but here you also set whether you can rest, what ambient sound you want playing in the area, and what scripted events will fire (we’re not covering scripting here).
  19. Now you are most likely to start pacing doors, objects, sounds and lighting in your areas. This can be done from the blueprints panel. This is the tab at the bottom right next to ‘Tiles’ you selected earlier.
  20. Let’s place a few doors first. Select Doors from the options at the top of the blueprints panel, and then pick a door and place it in a doorframe. Most doors have two facings, and you can change them around by moving your mouse over the door frame, and only clicking it when you have the door the way round that you want it. Be careful, it is quite possible to place multiple doors in the same doorframe (which is nuts, but there you go!).
  21. To open the door properties, you can right click on it (again, escape deselects any object on your mouse pointer). Here you are faced with multiple options that you can edit. Let’s concentrate on a few of the important ones.
    • Tinting: Most doors can’t be tinted, but secret doors can and should be tinted to match the tints you used for the tiles. (Secret doors aren’t very secret though, as the Z key will reveal them)
    • Static: whether your door is static (part of the scenery),
    • Locked: Set whether the door is locked. If so, set whether it uses a key, what is the key’s name and have the key removed. Most doors should really have keys somewhere, which you need to create, unless they are plot essential methods of blocking progress, in which case, make sure you set them to:
    • Plot: TRUE if you do not want this door accidentally/deliberately destroyed.
    • Faction: Hostile. Really. Don’t change it unless you want weird bugs where creatures go hostile on you.
    • Linked to/Linked object type: If this door is a transition, place the TAG of the target door in the ‘Linked to’ field, and select ‘linked to door’. Don’t forget the target door needs to be set up to transition back to this door.
    • Difficulty Class: Self explanatory – set here how hard it is to do each action listed.
    • Tag: Give the door a unique TAG if it will be doing anything more than just opening and closing (transitions, scripts attached etc),
    • Localised name: Give the door a name if desired.
    • Classification: Tells you where to find it int eh blueprints menus. You can change this for your own blueprints to put them somewhere else. Use the | delimiter to set submenus: “01_INTERIOR_DOORS | Mydoors” would place it in a new menu subtree called Mydoors within the standard interior doors section of the palette.
  22. All the rest of the properties are self explanatory (except scripts, which we won’t cover here).
  23. For more on objects and lighting, see the appropriate tutorials.

Ben Wynniatt-Husey (B G P Hughes)

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