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Hall of Fame Interview - Challseus (Rose of Eternity)

We have an interview conducted by Steve Savicki with Challseus for his Hall of Fame module Rose of Eternity which was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame. Topics include his background, the module itself, the special features used, music, content from the community that was used and more.- Dec. 12th 2005

1. Could you please introduce yourself including your history of D&D;?

My real name is Leonard James Bedner, but I go by the handle of Challseus. I am 25 years old, and currently work in downtown Manhattan, New York as a Software Engineer for a Mobile Media company named Zingy. My lifelong ambition has been to break into the video game industry, so when I found out about Neverwinter Nights and the capabilities of the Aurora Toolset, I jumped in head first. As for my history with D&D;, well, I have none...Well, I *did* play one time when I was in 8th grade, but I did not get into it that much. All of that said, ever since joining the community since April of 2004, I have been picking up little bits here and there. Although I will probably never truly understand the experience of a PnP RPG, D&D; has my utmost respect, as without it, the general concept of the RPG would not be the same.

2. Could you please give us an overview of "Rose of Eternity?"

The heart of the story is about a being named the "Keeper Of The Roses". The following is taken from the official website...

"Since the beginning of time, the Rose Of Eternity has been in the mystical Garden Of Roses, tended to by the Keeper Of The Rose. It is said that the Keeper Of The Rose has the most beautiful singing voice, rivaled by none. However, she does not sing for joy, but rather out of pain, for she is a prisoner in these gardens, forbidden to ever leave. Humanity is to blame for her misfortune, for as long as there is war and strife, she will be doomed to stay in the Garden Of Roses, and sing...

As she grows older, as petals fall off of the Rose Of Eternity, she continues to sing, in the hopes that mankind will change, but they do not. As she begins to become an old woman, people pure of heart are born into the world. These people have the opportunity to change things, but alas, they make the wrong decisions, and the Keeper Of The Rose is left to her prison...And her singing...

As the age ends, she is born anew into the world again, hoping that mankind will change their ways. She has been going through this cycle for 4000 years. Will she ever be freed from her prison? In this life cycle, 6 unknowing people will have the opportunity to make her wish come true."

The game "Rose Of Eternity" is very different from the typical Neverwinter Nights Module. I come from the console world of games, and that influence can be seen throughout the game. First and foremost, I handle the presentation in a very different way, when compared to other modules on the vault. I am a very visual oriented person (remember, I didn't play PnP D&D;), so I use cut-scenes a lot to tell my story. I also employ custom music, as I believe that music is one of the most important apsects when creating a fantasy roleplaying video game.

Another thing that is different is the custom additions I made to the standard NWN combat system. As I had literally designed this game years before I knew of NWN, I already had a good idea of what I wanted combat to be like. Once I found out that I couldn't do most of what I wanted out of the box, I decided to just add on to an already wonderful system.

One such addition is the "Last Resort" system, where when a particular creature is low on hit points, they can unleash devastating attacks. Another is my "Unison Ability" system. With this system, two or more party members can combine their abilities into one power ability. One example of this is "Whirlwind Heal", where if one party member heals another who is performing a whirlwind attack, the heal will distribute to nearby allies.

Another innovative aspect is the "Dual Story" system. The player is supplied with two characters to play the game with, and depending on the character they choose, they will play the game through said character's perspective.

3. What were your inspirations and influences in writing this story?

Once influence is definitely real world history. You see, I am a huge history buff, and I have probably spent just as much time watching the History Channel as I have developing "The Coming". In particular, I am very much interested in World War II, and everything associated with it. From Hitler and Nazi Germany, to the attack on Pearl Harbor, to the horrible events the European Jews had to endure, the entire era as a whole is very surreal to me, and for whatever reason, I am very intrigued by it. So, when developing the story back in 1999, I decided very early on that I wanted the events that take place throughout the game to mirror real world events. In essence, I wanted the story to be very much plausible, so that if you removed the fantasy aspect from it, it could have been something that really happened.

4. How did you decide on what classes Challseus and Aramus were to be?

This is a very interesting question...So, when designing this game back in 1999, I wanted to stay away from the concept of an absolute class (warrior, cleric, paladin, etc.). The idea for Aramus was that he would start out using a Sword, and depending on any weapons he began to use later in his travels (i.e. Bow & Arrow), he would begin to get stronger with said weapon. As an example, at level 1, he would only be good using his 2 handed sword, but by level 20, if he was only using a Bow & Arrow, he would be a lot better at it than with a sword. So in DnD terms, I guess he would be more of a Ranger than a Fighter at that point. When translating the game to the core mechanics of DnD, it just made sense to make him a Fighter right off that bat.

The same thing goes for Challseus. In the original design process, he would begin the game knowing how to cast spells, but if you gave him a sword and *made* him use it until he reached level 20, he would be just as good a swordsman as anyone. But for the sake of keeping things simple in the DnD realm of things, I just made him wizard.

5. If you are Challseus, does this mean your co-writer Brian Rhodes is Aramus?

Haha, very funny:) Brian Rhodes is in fact *not* Aramus. I was going to divulge his moniker, but he has informed me that I shouldn't, because it would ruin the story for some, as they would know that the in-game character who he shares his name with was more important than they think...

6. Like Alan and Anya's "Color of Light" module from their island adventure series, the thing that stands out in your mod as well is the fact that the music download is the largest file in the package. What does music mean to you?

Uh-oh, you shouldn't have asked me this, as this answer could get quite long:) Music means EVERYTHING to me. Music is my second most loved passion, right behind video games. I probably listen to music about 90% of the day, and that is no lie. When I wake up in the morning, I have music playing. During my morning commute on the train, while working on my modules, I always have my music playing. While at work, whenever I am sitting at my desk programming, I am listening to music. On my commute home, again, while developing, I listen to music. Finally, when I go to sleep at night, I *have* to have music on. In fact, I am listening to a new track that will be going into the soundtrack for "Rose Of Eternity - Chapter 2 - Cry The Beloved", right now as I am typing this!

When it comes down to it, music is the biggest inspiration I have when it comes to developing a game as a whole. I can simply listen to a piece of music, and come up with an entire scenario in my head, including what happens, what is said, and even the camera angles, much like how some Hollywood directors work.

The majority of people don't realize, but the music that is in "Rose Of Eternity - Chapter 1 - The Coming" wasn't just picked within the past year when I was first introduced to the Aurora Toolset. I have been envisioning scenarios over the past 6 1/2 years while listening to the same music. So imagine that there is some scene that you know you will put into a video game one day, and then imagine the music piece you listened to when you created it...When I found out that I could use custom music in my module, it was a no-brainer to decide which pieces to choose. An example is the music that plays in "North Shinkara Forest" and in "Mathewin's Domain". When I was designing those areas 6 years ago, I was listening to the *exact* piece of music that currently plays today.

Generally speaking, I have looked, and will probably always look at music as one of the most important aspects of video games. Music can invoke such an emotion in people, and truly make a scene come to life. I will never forget the day I got the game "Final Fantasy 6" for my Super Nintendo Entertainment System, back in October of 1994. My best friend, Jason Folks, and I popped the game in, and watched the beginning scenes. We were immediately floored. 11 years later, the thing that sticks out the most to us is the music. I will never, ever forget it... Back then, I thought I was weird for taking this video game music so seriously. Well, this past summer, I attended a video game music concert by Nobuo Uematsu, the same person who created that *same* piece of music I heard back in 1994.... The concert hall was filled to capacity, and that is a testament to the fact that video game music really, really is *that* important.

7. Now that you know "Color of Light's", music download is the largest as well, will you play it?

I would definitely play it, had I the time. Unfortunately, I tend to try to stay very focused on what I am doing, so I haven't had any time for any type of video games for the past year and a half. Hopefully, after I release "Cry The Beloved", I can finally dive into the large wealth of modules on the vault and actually have fun playing *someone else's* game again:)

8. Will you consider changing musical scores in future sequels if something new rings into your ears?

Without a doubt. As long as the series continues, the musical score will in fact continue to change. At the time of writing this, there are currently 13 new tracks for "Cry The Beloved", plus the original 25 tracks from "The Coming". As I am about half way through development with "Cry The Beloved", I am on pace for having 25 new tracks, which would make for a whopping 50 tracks total between the 2 modules!

9. Outside of Aramus and Challseus, what are your other favorite class builds (race/class)?

Hmmm, this is a tough question, and I will tell you why. When Neverwinter Nights initally came out, once I found out that you couldn't have more than one party member, and that you couldn't even directly control said party member, I decided to pass on it. Fast forward 2 years, and I still haven't played throuigh the OC, or SoU and HoTU. I know it must come off strange to everyone, but I really don't play NWN at all:(

The above ramblings said, if I had to pick one, I would say Ranger. With the few modules that I *have* played, I always used a Human Ranger, and had a lot of fun with it.

10. What are your favorite mods on the vault?

Hmmm, more tough questions:) Bear in mind that I have probably only played through about 6-10 modules ever since picking up NWN. That said, I really did enjoy the Lord Of The Blight series by John 'Gestalt' Bye. Others include Legacy: Dark Moon Rising by Doyleyboy and Dragon's Edge by Charly Carlos. Interestingly enough, Charly Carlos beat me to the punch, as he has more or less insinuated that he was hired by Bioware... Lucky bastard:) Seriously though, congratulations!

I also would like to play AL2: Crimson Tides of Tethyr by Alazander & Tale of a Mage, Chapter 1 - The Uvudry Threat by Hugie. I actually attempted to try them both out before I began development on "Cry The Beloved", but the perfectionist in me made me put them aside and get back to work:(

11. Will part 2 include the ability to replay more than 1 character to get different views of the story?

I would *very* much love to have this included in the game. However, with NWN2 looming in the distance, I am not sure that I will be able to work it in. I am very high on quality over quantity, so in order to keep the quality of "Cry The Beloved" the same as "The Coming", that feature *might* get cut. Notice I said *might*. You never know what could happen...

12. The amazing thing about the environments graphically are the smooth rolling hills and the roses. Any advice to future mod makers that want to use those patterns (texture and flowers?)

I have no basis for what I am about to say, but here goes: I can only assume that people who have been playing community made modules since NWN was first released are tired of seeing the same generic areas over and over again. So, try to spice things up a bit. All of the flower models I used came from CEP 1.01, and there are a lot more that I did not use. Spending 2 hours adding placeables such as the flower models to an area can really make a big difference to the end-user. Sometimes, it really is the little things that matter...

13. How much custom content from the Vault did you use and how much was your own?

I can honestly say that no custom content was my own. That aspect of game design just isn't my thing, and even if it was, I am horrible at it:) "Rose Of Eternity" literally would not be anything without all of the hard work of the following people:
  • All Contributors For CEP 1.01
  • Gothic Garden Tileset - Chandigar
  • Coastline v-55 - Arkangyl
  • DOA City Rural Gloomy Reskin 2.0 - Ashtefere
  • Full Forest Hills - Kert_Wettian
  • Grasslands - Arduain
  • Hills and Homes 1.61c Winter/Rural/Desert - Michael DarkAngel
  • NR_Grasslands - mobyksu
  • Additional Animations - Va�i

14. Were the roses originally a hak that you converted into a tile set?

As stated earlier, the roses came from the CEP 1.01. I used them in conjunction with Chandigar's Gothic Garden tileset to create the "Garden Of Roses", which you see in the opening sequence of "The Coming".

15. What do you think of the Neverwinter community?

The community is great! I have never really been a part of another community before, but I hope any future ones I join are like this. The fact that people slave away for hundreds of hours just to make something for someone else's enjoyment is amazing. My only regret is that I joined the community as the population was decreasing. Hopefully, it will get rejuvinated after the release of NWN2.

16. Any last words to say to those who voted for Rose of Eternity?

THANK YOU! Honestly, for everyone who voted, builder or non-builder, I don't think you will ever understand what it means to me to have so many lovely things said about the work that I poured my blood and sweat into for over 15 months. This is truly something that I have wanted to do my entire life, so to have some confirmation that I do in fact have what it takes, well, there are no mere words to describe the feeling. I truly feel blessed, and I will never forget your kindness.

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