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|12-16-2014, 05:18 PM||#2|
Join Date: Apr 2008
Inspired by RDZ's post mortem series, I decided to a retrospective on my own projects.__________________
aka. Burial Mounds, Tales in Sand, Eternal Strife
The Necropolis series was probably the first legible map I had ever done.
Legible as in you could play a game of it and not feel like it had massive feature holes.
It started out of a random idea, "what if everyone was dead and the reanimated armies of ancient kings were the only people left".
Strange, but thats how it began.
The main points were.
1.) Deserts, an enviroment type I really liked. Also the sandy type wasn't well represented in wc3, whose deserts were more scrubland or savannah.
2.) Skeletons, but more importantly an alternative take on undeath. Not the creations of a gothic necromancer, but the citizens of a civilization past.
3.) Units as resource. The idea was that your basic skeletal mob provided bodies on the field but also a resource, that being corpses.
With no real lumber and gold being more or less free, the main resource of necropolis was intended to be corpses.
More on that below.
As with all my maps, I probably spent way too much time on a backstory and world that rarely ever shone through in the actual game.
But hey, I enjoy it.
This resulted in a rather unusual setting for the map.
I come from a culture there is a belief in ancestral spirits, where during a certain festival; offerings of food and other material goods (in symbolic form) are left to the dead.
As a result, I decided that the necropolis was to be a city of ritual. A fully represented city of courts, temples and markets.
Built by the descendants of those interred there to serve the dead in the afterlife.
The communal burial of generations of a culture's dead.
The anchor which tied the living and the dead.
There were also at least two overarching plots (of sorts).
One which involved intelligent carrion bugs (who were considered sacred beasts) trying to supplant humans as a the dominant sentient life form.
The second, being the reason for undeath; the killing/chaining of death deity (a goddess I think) in a bid for humans to become immortal. (Which I guess worked out, though not the way they expected.)
All that world-building aside, the plot never did address the most important part: Why the player was battling for control of crypts against other legions of undead.
In later versions the reason given was the kings (players) were continuing the feuds they fought in life.
But that was added later, so it doesnt quite count.
Now for how the game actually played.
Necropolis is firstly about spamming skeletons, the degree to which mattered changed over time (and in my view) not for the better.
It is secondly about how many ways you can build an ability from a raise dead base. ie. how many corpse affecting abilities could one come up with.
I personally see Necroplis (in its final incarcnation) to be a victim of over-development.
It is by far the most polished version, but the core concept of the game arguably jumped the shark somewhere along the line.
That line I guess was the implementation of hero classes, items and fixed base locations.
As for the history of commander type units in Necropolis
>In the oldest versions, the player had a pseudo-hero unit that carried and aura and had bigger stats.
>Then came the era of the Lich, where players had a hero that could be kited out in various ways to support their army.
Initially with a predetermined set of kits with names such support or siege, later with a fully customisable skillset. Limited only wc3's lack of ability of place the same ability into an alternate slot, though theoretically a huge amount of object editor data could support this.
In this version the hero was a (fairly) balanced commander/warrior mix as opposed to the original aura-bot beef.
>The final version was the implementation of real hero classes, with real heroic stats and the stuff that comes with. Namely immunity to basic units and being the strongest unit after a certain point.
A total of 12 ranging from ancient kings to beetles, timeless heroes and mountain demons.
Then came the items, just huge numbers of them.
6 item shops, almost all filled to the brim, complete overkill in item variety; most of which was meaningless.
Made worse by the fact most of them were either uninteresting (+flat stat) or unfitting for the genre (more suited to an arena, aos or any hero centric combat map)
Prime example being Nassan's Mangler, whose unique effect was "hero's damage deals additional universal damage to enemies around you"
To be fair there were some gems that blended the "awesome character item" with "something that makes sense in a army centric map".
Sacred Flame gave a %health regen aura, effectively turning the hero into a fountain; simple but awesome.
Both seemed a good idea at first; involve more of the world's lore into the game.
Naturally, it had the side effect of making the game very hero focused.
It is true that basic Skeletons had always been weak individually, but the older versions the game centred around the player augmenting this frail horde as their main presence on the battlefield. In the final version, they were just there.
Fixed bases were a terrible idea, I dont know why I did that.
For clarity, the map went from
> random bases (in a FFA context)
> fixed but fluid bases (you could conquer a Crypt and move all your holdings even if the original was taken)
> Fully fixed unmovable bases that contained shops and were not in anyway associated with the objective; Crypts
Then there is the minor stuff, like how base troops went from being spawned via raise dead to just auto spawning from crypts.
In practice, there was little difference, the Lich almost never had to manage mana and each Crypt spawned it's own corpses.
Thus as long as the Lich as camped at a crypt, there effectively was no difference.
However for some strange reason, this made the game feel awkwardly like footmen wars and not in a good way.
Basically the gist of everything is that a strategy game about empowering a mob became an AOS where players could control the creep-wave.
At least it ended looking shiny.
Last edited by Kino : 12-16-2014 at 06:12 PM.
|12-18-2014, 06:25 PM||#3|
Don't know if I'm meant to post here, but...__________________
I rather like this. I wish I had any sort of (even half-)completed works to put up for a retrospective. All I can offer is my mind. :<
|12-19-2014, 10:26 AM||#4|
MDL & Resource Moderator
Sounds almost like you made three different maps, let alone different versions of the same thing.__________________
I don't really know how you'd add heroes without ruining the army focus. Give them no attack and only AoE abilities and auras? Abilities that could somehow nullify other heroes' auras?
I would have made more unit-heavy maps, but WC3's pathing breaks down really badly beyond a certain point... And only being able to select 12 units at a time is a pain.
|12-19-2014, 12:03 PM||#5|
Join Date: Apr 2008
Yeah go ahead.
Technically I did, the map's 3 incarnations were Burial Mounds, Eternal Strife and Necropolis, each was built from the ground up (if my memory serves me accurately D:)
I consider then under the same series, since they were all intended to be spiritual successors to each other.
Namely about mob tactics, zone control and a desert/undeath setting.
In my opinion at least, there was a good middle ground during the very early necropolis versions.
The reasons I feel that way goes as follows.
- Mercenary/tertiary units were much stronger, heroes didn't have innate resistance to their stuns and other methods of focus fire.
- Heroes weren't weak but they weren't hard hitting either, you could duel a unit easily but you couldn't survive against a mob also because of 1.
Personally, I only feel the very hero-centric stuff doesn't belong.
Very general attacks and abilities such as those used by melee-map heroes would be mostly fine, mostly.
|03-11-2015, 07:36 AM||#6|
Join Date: Apr 2008
Ah Dreamvale, the map that killed my interest in modding wc3 and possibly anything ever.
This, this is why you don’t set out to redo a fully formed map from scratch.
Lest you forget how, or run out of time to finish it.
I guess in my case it was a mix of both.
The pretext was always the same. A band of travellers trying to escape a surreal forest infested with bizarre monsters, investigating ruins of a past civilisation that they may or may not have been a part of.
Stories and characters initially matched the feel of the map quite well, strange travellers from odd but somewhat home-like lands. They were always fairly likeable heroes, but also small and personal ones. No apocalyptic beasts or world-renown warriors; just that blind watchman from the town trying to find his lost wife.
Initially, the terrain was smothered by a thick green fog (arguably too thick) with the dull sun providing a cool light over the ruins, forests and marshes. In fact, the map could be summarised in one word; green. As it was quite literally coloured so in its entirety.
Consciously planned or not, this also had one positive side effect; it made contextualizing the map very easy. The whole dream-stew nature of things never quite seemed off as you fought through monsters packs (with little in common but the general colouration of their models) room to room as jungle became city and so forth.
In short, the setting allowed the player to never question why something was so. Why did a horde of turtles decide to help you against a bigger beast? Why did you need to close a portal to advance?
There was no real plot explanation beyond the initial paragraphs of “escape the vale, land of your nightmare”. Which is strange, as to how much it worked. I might be exaggerating, but at least for me the dream-like “feel” of the map carried it pretty well.
In its earliest form, Dreamvale was an open adventure map about beating monsters. Though, calling it open; however not technically wrong, would be giving the map more credit than due.
In this version, heroes were simple and success was a little over reliant on a certain healing character. Monsters were also simple, but surprising in the fact that many had abilities that needed to be played around. Drains, stacking poisons etc. They may not have had complex or multiple abilities, but those that they had, counted. Almost all were object editor based I might add.
For example; a certain monster pack came with several fragile ranged mobs, backed up by a larger mob with life-drain. That life drain alone would force the player to either; stand and fight, crushing the weaker mobs and soaking the drain. Or walk out of drain range and not kill said ranged attackers.
One might even say that compared to most maps, the early Dreamvale had relatively more complex monsters than heroes.
Overtime, the map became instanced; each level being a self-contained world. This allowed for more variance in visuals, lighting and vegetation. As it could wildly change from room to room. In hindsight, this was probably the best sweeping change that was ever done.
However, this also subtly changed the feel of the map and not for the better. The greater range in environments and instancing also meant that transitions between zones came across as more natural and less stark as a marsh led into a ruin and so forth. Though some areas did retain some of the original feeling, possibly due to the sheer strangeness of their environments.
This stage in the map also added something; dialogue and quest NPCs. I don’t know why, but I guess I felt a need at the time to give some context to the nature of the vale. Thus dialogue was added to flesh out the contexts of each objective and level.
The writing never made much sense to be honest, and the text was very easy to miss; as it often played simultaneous to the task at hand. In the rare cases it wasn’t, the dialogue was hurried along to make way for the actual hack-n-slash bits. Its addition was definitely one of the worst things to have happened.
This part of the map’s development also marked the beginnings of the “I can’t figure out progression systems” phase of the map. A phase that has never truly ended to be honest. The original map had a truly bizarre method of character advancement, upgrades to your abilities would be doled out for defeating bosses or special enemies. Nothing more.
The next phase featured strange methods such as weird pseudo talent trees, manual stat adding and ability enhancing items. Naturally not all simultaneously. Though each one passed so quickly and was so bad, I don’t even remember how many different systems came and went. It eventually settled at a fair system of +stats and abilities scaling off said stats.
Items were never properly handled in any version. They never did scale out of hand, but simultaneously never did anything interesting or were obtained in any way that added to the experience.
If anything, the latter Dreamvale editions had probably much better hero design and generally improved monster combat, though both had their fairly glaring flaws. Monsters became very reliant of 1-shot kills, making avoidance the top priority and rendering any defence mechanisms useless. Heroes had no room to specialise or advance; their skills were locked and couldn’t be modified beyond scaling numerical output.
All that said, this era of development ended with the most complete version of the map; which was also the last version where I knew what I was doing.
At the end of phase 2 of development I decided to iron out of the problems I felt the map had; namely character advancement and items. Better level design was probably somewhere on the table as well, hence the idea to redo everything (almost). RL ensued and the next 3 years resulted in less map time and myself forgetting what I wanted from the map in the first place. The latter, a question I cannot answer any better today. The resulting product was a nightmare mash-up of an action hack-n-slash game and weird ultra-arcade-y level and quest design.
The environment became more mundane, it became a homogenous forest/ruin mix-up that lacked variance between levels. (The main reason was likely due to the change to custom tree models, thus to ensure coherence in visual quality, the variation of trees went down. With less trees, less fitting colour palettes for each area and so on.)
Quests, story-telling and level design is one thing I have consistently gotten worse at over time. If I could figure out what difference between the then and now is, I would be doing it. That’s about as much as can be said.
I guess one major factor is that I caved in to comments that the map should be more action oriented and more diablo-like. Something that I did believe myself for a period of time. If anything, it should be a reminder that though feedback is nice, do not let anyone sell you your own vision.
Ultimately ,the gist of phase 3 development is that a job that should have taken 3 months took 3 years of running in circles. The map became the very thing your heroes battled against, a nightmare.
Last edited by Kino : 03-17-2015 at 06:22 AM.
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