SKYRIM
  • written by Chesko   19 April 2013 21:51:13   11691 views   81 likes

    Arissa - The Wandering Rogue

    Hey everyone. Today, I'd like to take the lid off of my next major project. This is a very different kind of mod for me, so your feedback is very appreciated.


    Arissa

    ~ The Wandering Rogue ~


    WHAT IS "ARISSA - THE WANDERING ROGUE"?

    Arissa is a new companion character for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. She is being designed as a game-long companion that can accompany you from start to finish. She is inspired by Emma and Amgepo's Vilja, Bethesda's Serana from Dawnguard, and the kinds of characters found in Bioware games. She will be fully voiced by Nikkita, and is being co-written by Chesko and Nikkita.

    Her main “town” outfit is a custom version of the Rogue Sorceress Outfit graciously provided by TheRoadStroker, and modified by Nikkita. Her hair is from ApachiiSkyHair; her eyes, from Eyes of Beauty. Used with permission.



    WHO IS ARISSA?

    Arissa is an Imperial with an independent, rebellious spirit and a gift for making expensive things disappear.

    Arissa has a mind of her own, and is not afraid to speak it. While you are learning about her through her comments, dialogue, and quests, she is continuously learning about you through your actions, decisions, and the quests she accompanies you on. You may find yourself surprised when she recalls a past event or comment that may not have meant much to you at the time, but stuck with her for one reason or another.

    She has her own set of values and beliefs which you will come to learn about by being with her throughout the game. Certain actions will improve her respect and trust in you, while others will hinder or destroy it. If she has a problem with the way you are acting, she will confront you (or, in severe cases, even try to stop you).



    WHO IS ARISSA DESIGNED FOR?

    Arissa is designed for anyone that wants a refreshing new companion to accompany the Dovahkiin's long, lonely journey.

    She is not designed as a generic companion that will fit all playstyles. She is a consumate thief, so she will best accompany a character that complements her skills and abilities instead of overlapping them (though, even carefully-played thief / magic characters might find an interesting partner in crime in Arissa). Her skills and spells can be improved over time though natural progression and story-based events in her own quests, as well as the places you visit. Don't be surprised if she learns a few new tricks when you next visit the College of Winterhold. But no matter the improvements, Arissa will continue to be a rogue-type character at heart; you will not be able to channel her into becoming a primarily fighter-type or mage-type character. We love customization too, but in this case, we felt that the storytelling would suffer if we didn't focus her archetype.

    While Arissa will be able to be plugged in to any existing save game, the best experience with Arissa will be had in starting a new game, since much of your shared experiences will come with her accompanying you through the various major story points.



    ON HER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PLAYER

    Arissa is being designed very differently from conventional followers in Skyrim. She is not a pack-mule, a slave or a dress-up doll. She will not do everything you ask. Over time, as her trust in you increases, so too will the number of things you will be able to do together. Her receptiveness to your suggestions will also increase as well.

    She is being designed to be as independent and decoupled from the player as is possible, while still ensuring she is a fun person to play with in your game. For instance, she has her own affairs to attend to when visiting major cities like Whiterun. So when you visit one of these major cities in your first few hours together, she will simply leave the player's side for a while to drink, dance, shop, relax, craft, or engage in more thief-like behavior in some of the more affluent households in the city (which may land her in trouble with local guards). She will not ask your permission to do this, because, well, she's an adult and she doesn't need it.

    She will want a percentage of the wealth that you loot while adventuring together. The details of this are still being worked out in order to ensure that it remains streamlined but logical. She will not continue to accompany you on adventures if she gains nothing from it. As your relationship transitions from a mutual-gain to a more personal one (if you allow it), she may no longer expect payment.

    Arissa will comment on and sometimes be an active participant in several major quests in the game, including:

    The main quest
    The civil war
    The Companions
    The College of Winterhold
    The Thieves Guild
    Various Daedric quests
    Several major sidequests
    and so on.

    Arissa is not omnipresent; she is only aware of what she sees and hears. If you leave her out of something, she will have no knowledge of it and will not comment about it to the player. In this way, she is a Bioware-like companion that will be viable throughout your playthough.

    There will be a romance option. The details of this are still being hashed out. The only details I can provide are that it will not be the terminus of your relationship with her; it is not the end goal where there is no more dialogue or story to be had after "the fade to black scene with the violin music". It is being treated as a separate thread. While it will not be directly tied to her main quest or yours, your shared experiences together will greatly increase the bond between you. It will be available for male and female characters, with some unique dialogue for each.



    ON HER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORLD

    Arissa does not exist in a vacuum; she will know (and enter dialogue with) several NPCs throughout the world. She will be generally cognizant of the state of the world, but unless you bring her with you during certain key quest lines, the details may not be available to her.

    Due to her proclivities, you may see an increase in certain world events like hired thugs. Except the contract letter of the person they have been hired to rough up will be her, not you.



    GAMEPLAY DETAILS

    There will be a "Regard" system in place to control how she feels about you. She respects feats of strength, confidence, and cunning. She does not respect cowards, weakness, and certain other traits.

    While trying to inject some humanity and independence into Arissa, I realize that not all normal human behaviors are conducive to good gameplay or fun. As in all of my (Chesko's) mods, I try to always err on the side of what is fun, not what is realistic. Some of her no doubt more controversial features, like her town roaming behavior, can be either steered ("Try to stay out of trouble") or toggled off entirely as her regard for you increases. This is going to be a delicate balancing act between your expectations as a player and staying true to her headstrong and sometimes irresponsible nature. Not everyone will like her, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

    She will level up as you do. The crunchy bits of her skill values may or may not be available in-game; I question their value in the grand scheme of things. She will be very, very good at the things that you would expect her to be good at, and mediocre to poor at the things you wouldn't, and you should be able to just trust her to get the job done.

    At this time, she will prefer her own armor over anything you give her. Very high levels of regard may unlock some capability of customizing this further. She will have her own set of "town clothing", "travel / adventure clothing", and armor, and she will switch between them intelligently. She will usually only perform a gear swap when leaving your house, leaving a city, or entering a dungeon. She won't suddenly throw on a set of armor in the middle of combat. She has her own cloak to wear when it's cold, and throws her hood up during rain and snow.

    In combat, she will prefer one-handed bladed weapons, bows, crossbows, or unarmed combat. She will not know any magic initially. She will also have an interesting, new feature that I think will be a lot of fun to use as a new combat strategy that leverages her drama-fueled personality.

    She will have several features inspired by Companion Vilja in order to allow her to pick up items in the surrounding area.

    She will be able to ride a horse. You will be able to buy her one, or you can resort to being horse thieves. Whichever the case, she will not have a dialogue option to summon her horse. She will call it when you are mounted, and dismiss it when you are not. If you ride off without her and she does not have a horse, she will leave your service and walk to the nearest city. Doing this will not win you brownie points.

    If you ask her to wait and then never come back, she will not be happy. If you tell her that "I think we should part ways" in the middle of a dark Draugr tomb or the middle of the woods, she will not be happy.

    Much of her ambient dialogue is flagged as "say once". Meaning, a large bulk of her dialogue will be spoken once, and never again. This should prevent her parrotting the same lines, over and over. For most common actions and events, there are at least 5 variants of the line recorded, to reduce the sensation of repetition. Her ambient, "walking around" dialogue will also be used with great care; sometimes, you may travel in complete silence. For story comments and exposition, much of that will be handled by actually speaking to her, either through directly asking about something, or she may just share her thoughts the next time you click on her when you want to trade or something.

    She will be flagged as Protected by default, meaning you can kill her, but no one else can. There is too much that can go wrong in the game and the AI is not good enough to trust that she won't die for a stupid reason. This may be modifiable through configuration options.



    TECHNICAL DETAILS

    Arissa keeps track of 120+ independent quest and memory-related variables, and this number keeps increasing as development continues. Special attention is being paid to her combat performance and her sandboxing and pathing behaviors. I am actively trying to improve some sore areas like getting her out of the way of arrows and keeping her from jamming up doorways. I may not succeed at all of this, but I'm going to try.

    I am using Bethesda's "mental model" system for Dawnguard's Serana as a basis for some of my scripting work.

    No DLC will be required to use Arissa, though expansion plugins may be developed later that allow her to tie into those questlines as well in the future. SKSE may be required.



    STORY DETAILS

    We can't reveal much at this time. Arissa is being co-written by Chesko and Nikkita. While the bulk of Arissa’s content will relate to how she threads into the player’s various quests, she will feature her own quest line.

    There are new locations to complement her quest, as well as quests that require her to be there to help you along the way. These locations will feature some custom architecture to give it a more personalized feel. In addition to this, the player has the opportunity to unlock a new house.



    DEVELOPMENT PROGRESS

    Her entire introduction quest has been completely voiced and is more or less finished, with multiple branches and outcomes. Her second main quest is being planned now.

    Over 60 lines of dialogue have been recorded that cover most generic circumstances (all of the combat grunts, yes's, no's, hello's, goodbye's, and so on, covering a variety of regard levels and whether or not the player is sneaking). She currently has around the same amount of dialogue recorded as all other generic followers in the game. We wanted to get this sort of thing out of the way first so we would have someone viable to adventure with during testing and to give us something to build on top of. Over 200 additional generic lines of dialogue have been written, including her awareness of areas throughout the game. This expands daily.

    We don't know when it will be done, but things are moving along really smoothly.


    ABOUT NIKKITA AND VOICE ACTING

    Nikkita is a professional voice actress and is gracious enough to be sharing her time and ability with us. She also knows the in's and out's of sound engineering and has very professional recording hardware.

    Sometime soon there will be a trailer that will give you a pretty good feel for Arissa's voice and personality.

    It's too early to say how many lines of recorded dialogue there will be (not to mention, this is not a basis I would want to compete on). She will say what she needs to say, no more and no less. Quality over quantity.


    CONCLUSION

    Please, let us know your thoughts; we're listening. Feedback at this stage of development is great for helping us steer the course of where we go next and what annoyances with follower characters to try to iron out.

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