05 May 2010

Creating a Campaign

Hey. I sometimes get asked what my 'strategy' is when making campaign. I got asked again yesterday and this time I wanted to share some of my insight on my blog.

[QUOTE=[Name removed]]Hello OutsiderXE,

I recently finished your Lord of the Clans campaign, which I thought was spectacular apart from the occasional bug.

Anyways, I've recently started working on a campaign detailing [text removed], and I was wondering if you would be able to give me some advice on how to make my campaign as interesting and elaborate as your ones.

Hope to hear from you soon,
[Name removed][/QUOTE]

Now of course the big difference is that my campaigns are based on books, preexisting stories. So I have the advantage of having a plot lined out for me since the beginning and my job is to add plausible missions to it. It often means that story has to be cut, added on or changed to work with my gameplay ideas.

I have to admit that, especially Lord of the Clans (being my first campaign), is somewhat of a mess. I usually start making a testmap, which is more or less becomes the first mission of any campaign, where I try to nail the 'feeling' that's going to accompany the full project. In LotC it was having a single hero with basic skills and the behaviour of his environment. The first mission was (supposed to be) a stealth mission. The second mission was also supposed to be stealthy but turned out 'fighty' instead with spare stealth ideas. At that time I barely planned maps ahead (I still don't do it too much but I get better) so each mission idea was developed as it was created. I sincerely believe that the more detailed you plan out your campaign before you first start up the editor, the better it gets. So, anyway. After making 2-3 missions I kinda (thought) I got the hang of it, but I was still exploring the possibilities of the editor. That's probably why there are many mini-games at mission 4, 5 and 6. But here I gotta say that I 'borrowed' many ideas from established maps. I actually stole the terrain from one of the AoS maps and changed it to my liking. I still feel ashamed about it.

At some point I thought I could divide the eight maps of the campaign into three gameplay chapters. 1,2,3 is where you control a single hero in mixes of stealth and fight maps. 4 and 5 is wher the minigames are at, 6 and 7 is where mass unit production and base building comes into play. And number 8 is supposed to be a comeback to stealth and fight.

It took me 2,5 years to finish this first campaign. The big reason is, when you first create a project of that size, you never know how long it's going to take you so you don't take it too seriously. You work on it every now and then. Other reasons are that I just started getting to know the editor, and The Frozen Throne was released inbetween so some features were only included a long time later (Runes for example).

I consider overlong cinematics, bad terrain graphics and lack of special skills the weak points of the campaign. Overlong cinematics because I mostly didn't cut dialogues enough to make them more crips. Terrain graphics simply becasue I was a newbie, and I still just not am that visual guy. Special skills because only the Frozen hrone allowed an easy implementation of such and LotC was already too far in development to allow them.

I hope this kind of helped. If you want to read more I can tell you about my experience I gathered by creating my second campaign, Day of the Dragon.


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