Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Coincidences, Good and Bad

It has been a bad week for me. Seven days ago, I found out that I could not turn on my computer and external modem. To make matters worse, I also found out that my phone line was dead. It seems an odd coincidence that three separate machines would choose the same day to malfunction.

When I brought my computer to the repair shop, I was told that both my motherboard and video card weren't working and had to be replaced. I can't explain what brought about this massive glitch in my devices. My guess is that my Intel Core 2 Quad processor and my GT8800 video card generated so much heat that they fried each other. Maybe the heat was so strong that it radiated to my modem and melted its innards. In its death throes, my modem then short-circuited my phone line.

Sounds like a plausible explanation.

Or maybe the gods do not want me to finish my module. Faithless is so blasphemous to the deities of Faerun that the gods have reached across the multiverse to zap my motherboard, video card, modem, and phone line all at once. This is the module that Kelemvor does not want you to play, dear reader. Well, I'm not letting any dirty tricks from the deities get in the way of finishing my module. Who's afraid of Kelemvor? He's only the god of death.

Heh-heh. So much for trying to generate controversy and excitement out of an otherwise mind-numbing week.

Without my modding computer and with no Internet access, I decided to do some research by reading the Sellswords Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. I had been meaning to read these books for some time, but it took a major technology catastrophe for me to commit to doing something non-technological. The last two novels in the trilogy were set in Damara and Vaasa, and they describe the Vaasan Gate in detail. I realized that my own rendition of the Vaasan Gate is off the mark, so I decided to redo this area.

Although my phone line was repaired and my modem replaced last Friday, my computer is still in the repair shop. I was told last week that the supplier was awaiting delivery of the replacement motherboard and video card. Earlier today, I was informed that the replacement parts had arrived yesterday, but the supplier was expected to deliver them to the repair shop within the week or possibly by next week. This kind of service is a farce. I'm beginning to think that there is a conspiracy between the computer repair people and the supplier to delay the repair of my machine as long as they can to chisel away at the remaining days of my warranty. Grrr.

Nevertheless, I wasn't going to let this problem stop me from modding. I have an older computer whose specs barely meets the requirements for playing NWN2. Since my newer machine is out of commission, I had no choice but to use the older machine, which is terribly sloooow. Whereas modding with my newer computer is like flying through the air, using the older one is like swimming in tar. As if that wasn't enough of a problem, my old computer has a tendency to shut itself down when it's feeling too stressed out. I'm just glad that it doesn't pull that trick on me more than twice a day.

My modus operandi for creating outdoor areas is to start with an area prefab. For the Vaasan Gate, which is set in relatively flat land, I used SGK73's Just Add Encounters - Plains. Whereas this area is grassy, the land surrounding the Vaasan Gate when the snow has melted is muddy. I used the Texture Replacement feature of the toolset to change most of the grass textures to mud or dirt.

Then came the hard part. I had to construct the Vaasan Gate itself. This massive structure is sixty feet high, thirty feet thick, and half a mile across. There is only one way through these walls, and that is through the gate at the western end. I wasn't about to create a wall half a mile long, of course. Neverthless, building a portion of the western end was still going to take some effort.

I figured that my best option for creating the wall was to use Nytir's BCK II hakpak. I soon found out that using it to build anything sufficiently large is tedious to the extreme. All parts must be perfectly aligned with each other to prevent gaps and uneven surfaces in the walls, floors, and roofs. Considering that I had to lay out foundations, walls, floors, roofs, buttresses, and doorways for a huge building, one can imagine the headache I went through. I don't want to get into the details of how I created this monster. All I'll say is that it involved creative use of Tanita's TerraCoppa plugin as well as hacking into the area file with a C++ program that I wrote.

I found the default textures of the BCK II placeables bland and unrealistic, so I retextured them by adapting Toupon's texture pack for use with BCK II. This texture pack is actually meant for use with Nytir's first Building Construction Kit, so I had to edit the textures to make them usable with BCK II.

By reading Mr. Salvatore's books, I learned something about the Vaasan Gate that I didn't know before. During the warmer months, an entire community of mercenaries pitches tents at the southern side of the Vaasan Gate. When the gate opens at the start of each day, the mercenaries head north to Vaasa to hunt monsters for coin. I was greatly amused when I found out that the mercenaries named their tent city the "Fugue Plane." Like the real Fugue Plane where the god of death makes his abode, the Fugue Plane at the Vaasan Gate is a junction of sorts. Whereas Kelemvor's plane connects the realms of the gods and the infernal regions, the Fugue Plane in Toril connects the safe and secure Damara with the monster-infested Vaasa.

Without my having planned it, it looks like players of Faithless will start at the "Fugue Plane" facing the great wall of Vaasa and will end up in the real Fugue Plane facing the Wall of the Faithless. Now that's the kind of coincidence I'm happy to experience.


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...


This sounds like an electrical storm damage that has come down the phone line.

If your damaged phone line is the same one that is attached to the modem and computer, then chances are you had a storm in the area(not always visible where you actually are) and the exchnage was hit and it travelled along your phone line and damaged your computer.

Did any of your neighbours have any similar problems. If it is thecase (and you can prove it) you may be able to claim the damage on your home insurance.

A storm near us blew out our house alarm, a video recorder and a couple of computer components once. At the time, I did not bother claiming for the house alarm (as the excess was not worth it), but I did claim for the video - and got paid. Unfortunately, I did not notice the damage to the PC until later (it was one I did not use that often) and so missed out on a claim.

It's worth considering.


Frank Perez said...

Hi Lance,

I didn't know an electrical storm could damage a computer and modem through the phone line. It does sound like a plausible explanation. (It certainly makes more sense than the tongue-in-cheek explanations that I came up with.)

Anyhow, I don't have to pay to have my damaged devices repaired or replaced. My computer is still under warranty, and my ISP replaced the modem that they provided me free of charge. Nevertheless, the info you gave me is good to know. Thanks.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Frank,

Yes, storm damage was a common occurence of problems when I was in the field repairing computers. You would often have a handful of jobs all in the same area where a storm had recently hit. :)

Good to hear you have it all replaced free anyway. :)