Welcome to Planewalker Games! We are the home of The Broken Hourglass, a new CRPG in development for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers.
Inside the Engine: Area Creation
The Broken Hourglass will ship with dozens of unique landscapes, providing fertile ground for modders who wish to introduce their own characters and quests. New area creation is well within the reach of the ambitious, however. In this installment of our Inside the Engine column, we explore the basics of area creation and discuss the special maps necessary to introduce a new area to the game.

Any 3D environment artist (or 2D artist willing to put in a little extra effort) can create an area for The Broken Hourglass or other WeiNGINE games. WeiNGINE does not use tile-based environments, so each area is a unique project unto itself, and artists need not be constrained by texture limits imposed by the game. Any of the dozens of 3D staging and rendering packages in existence are solid choices for area creation. 3D software makes it easy to exactly match the camera angle used in The Broken Hourglass. An FBX-format file which contains basic staging information will be provided to modders at a later date. Drawing a new area by hand is possible, but the time investment in going back and tracing occlusion maps and generating solidity maps could prove discouraging.

This is not a tutorial in creating 2D isometric landscapes generally, only how to apply the end product to a game using WeiNGINE. Plenty of artistic tutorials exist which cover the techniques involved in building appealing environments.

There are four fundamental components to any area: the backdrop, occlusion map, solidity map, and lightmap. We will illustrate each of these with an actual, in-game example of a small, modest home.

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Rules and Mechanics: Point-Buy Strategies

The third week of every month, we offer a look at rules and gameplay considerations in The Broken Hourglass. This month's entry discusses the choice between buying primary attributes versus secondary skills.

Every playable character in The Broken Hourglass earns experience points which are spent on character traits and abilities. Although the level-path system can be used to automatically spend approximately two-thirds of a character's points, players always have an opportunity to make important decisions about buying new abilities, statistics, and special capabilities.

But which is the better buy—the four primary attributes (Strength, Agility, Toughness, and Judgment) or the 30-odd skills and abilities which govern everything from magical defense to round-table diplomacy?

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Fetish, Chapter 1

This month we begin a new, two-part story set in Mal Nassrin. Fetish brings a look at the city through the eyes of Anikka, a young woman apprenticed to one of the city's healers. Missed any of our earlier stories? See our complete list of serials here.

Fetish
By Sonja Littell-Trotter

Chapter 1


Autumn light is always slanting light, when not even the noonday sun can hold shade perfectly beneath it. Somehow the shadows always slip away, sideways. It was a dusty saffron afternoon, when the weather should have cooled with the approach of winter, but had not. Anikka stood in the doorway of a house not her own and listened to the sound of women weeping.

The boy was dying.  That was all.  The women had waited too long, cared too little, or been too poor, none of which mattered now.  Anikka only half-listened to the women's lament, though. Her new shoes pinched her feet and she was absorbed in trying, unobtrusively, to flex first one foot, then the other.  Nevertheless, when her mentor spoke,  all thoughts of grieving women and cramped feet fled as she lifted her head trying to see what he wanted before he named it.  Catching her eye, he gestured curtly to the bowl that sat by the boy's head, and then wordlessly turned his attention back to the women.

The priest, Gideon Mather, stood with arms crossed at the foot of the bedroll where a young boy lay.  He had donned Oron's Hands, symbolic of Oron's work, the wide black bands wrapped once around the palm and twice around the wrists, their ends tucked precisely into the small pulse-hollow where the wrist joined the hand.  Master Gideon had bands made of heavy silk proper to his rank and experience; hers were simple dyed linen.  Moisture made the dye run and stain her hands, but she wrapped her wrists anyway.  The first was easy--her left hand was smart, after all--but she fumbled the wraps with her dumb hand and bowed her slight body down to hide her clumsy fingers from Gideon's sharp eyes.

 

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Creation of Fire and Water: Origin Myths of Tolmira

Where do we come from? Why are we here? Every civilization asks these questions and has its own answers. In Tolmira, the answers pivot around two primal forces of creation, and the nine gods which succeeded them to ascendance. We offer this week a look at the early creation of the world, and one of the gods which is credited--and blamed--for much of what goes on within it.

The world began with Fire and Water, primal forces of creation. Together they conspired to create the world and everything in it, beginning with the lesser gods who mortals worship today. In all things they were of one mind, until they forged what was to be their final creation: Man. Humanity was unique in its ability to worship--to recognize its creators and revere them. Both believed they should be revered above the other, though their parts in creation had been equal, but they also knew they could not fight amongst themselves for such a conflict would destroy all they wrought. They decided instead to allow the newborn race of man to choose for itself which god would be worshipped above all--or so it seemed.

Water, ever shifting and treacherous, was unwilling to leave things to chance, and so he stole from his counterpart the Fires of Creation and gave them to humanity to win their favor. Infuriated beyond all reason by this betrayal, Fire took to the sky, fleeing to the opposite end of the world. Without the heat of fire to warm him, Water froze solid--along with all that was left upon the world, including what remained of the humans. Locked within the ice, the fires of creation dimmed within them. Realizing his error, Water gathered what he could of his own frozen essence and departed the world as well in search of his lost companion. Fire saw this and believed he had come to quench her, and began to flee. Water, desperate to make amends, chased after. So it has continued ever since, and so the Moon has always chased the Sun.

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Inside the Engine: Skipping Events

On the fourth Monday of each month, we explore the code underneath The Broken Hourglass, the game environment called "WeiNGINE." This month, we explain how scripting can cause game events to be "skipped," which is more useful than it may seem, and which, of course, the documentation discourages...

Scripting in WeiNGINE keys off game events. There are roughly 90 events the scripting language can hook into, ranging from loading an area to resolving an attack. Most of the time, scripters simply want to add a special occurrence on top of the event which is already taking place, such as:

-    We just entered the Wasteland district, so we want to spawn an encounter with scavengers.
-    We just scored a hit with a special weapon, so we want to add some bonus damage or a special effect.
-    Horace just spotted the PC, so we want him to approach and initiate dialogue.

But what do you do if an event is about to take place-but you want to stop it from occurring? What if the party is trying to rest somewhere resting is not allowed? What if we want to block someone from opening a door?
What if Blue Valkyrie is about to die, but we want to delay that death?

That's where the "skip" concept comes in. Some of the hookable events in the game occur just before the event would happen, and the scripter may tell the game to skip that event, and optionally to take different action instead. This might include displaying a string telling the player why the event was skipped ("You can't open the door until you put on the funny hat") or taking some different action instead (such as thwarting the party's use of an area transition and teleporting them somewhere they didn't intend to go).

The usual approach to a "skip" event is that a special global variable is set to 1. These variables are only checked during the event in question and are always set back to 0 as soon as your hook completes-that is, skipping a door or areatrans or death once will not permanently condemn the event to be skipped for all time. The variables typically take the form _global.int.skip_this_foo, where "foo" is the type of event being skipped.

Consider an in-game example, the Second Wind trait. Once per day, the bearer of the Second Wind trait will "skip" dying after taking a mortal wound, and instead be restored to one-third their normal health total.

We accomplish this with the before_death event. We present for your consideration the before_death event documentation. 

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Rules and Mechanics: Character Races

Previously, we have offered an in-depth look at the Feyborn and the elves of Tolmira. A profile of the Illuminated is coming soon. But if you just want to know who's stronger, who's smarter, and who's a bigger pain in the neck, read on!

There are six different racial profiles for characters in The Broken Hourglass. Humans make up the majority of the population in most Tolmiran territories. Mixed in with their society are the Illuminated, the Feyborn (half-elven, half-human), and three different cultural spinoffs of the old Ilvari race: assimilated elves, Cella, and the Verai.

Mechanically, races in The Broken Hourglass are assumed to have a net value of zero—that is, the total magnitude of the positives on a creature's expected challenge should be completely offset by the total magnitude of the negatives. To keep the accounting simpler and more obvious, humans, as the dominant race of the realm, are given no racial bonuses or penalties to any statistic. Most of the other races have a bonus to one of the four primary attributes (Strength, Agility, Toughness, Judgment) as well as a penalty to another, and various modifiers to secondary skills and abilities. Some races receive traits as part of their racial makeup.

Here, then, are the profiles of the five non-human races.

 


Assimilated Elves: Your next-door neighbor--if your next-door neighbor happens to be descended from Ilvari stock.

Bonuses:
Agility: Elves are gifted with greater manual dexterity and speed than humans.
Perception: Elves are possessed of generally superior senses.
Sword Precision: Almost all assimilated elves pass down at least some appreciation of and proficiency with a blade to their children. It is a cultural artifact of the long-gone Imperial Ilvari which the assimilated population clings to.

Penalties:
Toughness: Elves lack great stamina, and suffer in the Toughness category.
Brawl Precision: Preferring to keep a fight at least at arm's length, the build and reach of the elves does not lend itself well to bare-knuckle fighting.
Diplomacy: "Assimilated" does not mean "fully integrated." Lingering resentment, discomfort over injuries long past... whatever it is, some people—even other elves—can find dealing with the Ilvari awkward.


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