Fathers' Sins, Chapter 3; The Apogee of Evil
Posted on 07/13/08 @ 10:32 AM (updated 08/27/08
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And the sins of the fathers shall be visited
upon the heads of the children,
even unto the third and fourth,
generation of them that hate me.
Time has witnessed many events, when young ones had to suffer from their own fathers' faults and misdeeds; sons and daughters needed to correct the old mistakes, glorify their families once more and expunge the old sins from everybody's memory, what was often too hard to do.
This is the last chapter of the series, previous two had a lot of drawbacks, but I hope the final project will be much better. The map contains interesting design and scripting features, which might catch your attention.
The Apogee of Evil
Stronghold Crusader invasion
The giant, mountain tearing towers started faintly glinting in the cold, lifeless Sun rays, telling about the start of a new day. Perishing gusts of wind were torturing even the smallest living creatures, small sprinkles of snow told about the ferocious overnight blizzard, which left the land snow-capped, but now was finally over. A resounding, unearthly scream reverberates somewhere in the distance, making the swarm of armed warriors shiver. Darius woke up. Although the people surrounding him were already getting ready to move forward, he was lying on the thick fur (a trophy, which he had won after killing a blood thirsty beast) and gazing upon the sharp, snowy mountaintops. The view was oddly scary and hypnotizing, but Darius smiled.[...]
This is a short extract of the story, the full version can be read here and in the main .zip archive.
First of all, I want to warn every player that this is not just a simple invasion. The whole mission has four parts: Siege, economic part, invasion and the rebuilding part;
1. The siege.
Since you are playing in the role of Darius, your first mission is to recapture the Elysium, which is well guarded by your father's troops. You control a big swarm of macemen, a handful of archers and pikemen. You may use the lord as well but be careful as he might die.
Main objective: kill a precise number of enemies during 6 years. Survivors will join your army.
2. Obtaining food.
If you have read the story attentively, you will know that Darius must collect enough food in order to negotiate with the soldiers of your father's army. If you give them food, they will not attack and a small force will even help you to defend the Elysium. This part, in my opinion, is the trickiest of all, as the player can choose the food type, but this will affect the playability; every chosen food type to collect has its own scenario.
Main objective: keep the population above 200, fear factor +5 and collect one food type: meat (1000), bread (500), cheese (100), fruit (80), before the enemy invasion.
Don't be fooled by such floating numbers, collecting every type of food has its drawbacks.
After the reinforcements come to the Elysium, and food has been shared, your father marches towards the city with an enormous army of Sirions. This is the hardest part of all.
Main objective: kill all enemy units during 6 years.
Main objective: rebuild the Elysium, keep the population above 200, fear factor +5. Duration - 1 year.
No enemy and invasions left
No lions on map
Population higher than 200
Fear factor +5
These are the main win conditions in the scenario, however you have no chance to win without passing the first three parts, the rebuilding may not be needed if after the enemy invasions all of these objectives are completed.
No people left
Any enemy on map during 6 years.
As you see, everything is related to the story: Darius must defend the cathedral, where the citizens are hiding, he must also stop the invaders as fast as possible due to the empty food supplies. Please note that if any of these events are triggered at any time, you lose.
Always remember, speed is the most important aspect in this mission.
When you're attacking the city, try finding the best strategy, which should be the fastest and the most effective; every type of troops have their strong sides, use them.
When playing the economic part, spend the gold wisely, buy starting goods.
Make the other world suitable for food maintaining as best possible.
You can still give the food to the enemy when the Sirions attack, but you will receive no help, only a chance of winning.
Always keep your eyes on the popularity.
During the enemy attacks, be ready for both defending and attacking to clear the whole map from foes in time.
When rebuilding the city, some thinking must be used, too.
When you've recaptured Elysium, check on the lord, he might not come to the new keep, you will have to control him manually.
As you might have understood, this mission has a very complex scenario with logical operations "lower than", use of the win and lose timers, cede and "destroy cathedral" events, a possibility to choose one's playing style and etc. With the help of scripting, this mission tests every aspect of the player's skills - attacking a castle, defending it, running an economy, and completing everything fast enough.
The mission contains two types of lose timers: the first lose timer is the "any enemy on map" - if there's even a single enemy unit on the map during 6 years - you lose. Don't be fooled, as it actually says "time until victory", but the win event has been replaced with the lose event. The second timer will always be visible and it will let you know how much time do you have to complete the whole mission; view image As some of you might noticed the win (or should I say lose timer) is set for 72 months, when the maximum is only 60 months. With the help of the hexademical editor, I've managed to add a longer one.
As mentioned in the story, the portal leads to another world. You have to use it to obtain food, but be careful as unearthly creatures might come to your city. However you can kill them to collect meat. Rare diseases spread through the portal, luckily the Elysium has healers, however people are scared.
The impression of conquering the another world is created with the necessity to use those lands, cut trees, hunt animals, keep your soldiers there, etc.
The troop colors are set according to the story. You control a blue army, your father's army is green, and Sirions are deformed, strangely colored beasts (this has also been achieved with the help of the hex editor). Please notice, that if you don't share your food with your father's human army, they will also attack (green soldiers) and you will have no chance of winning.
The whole mission lasts about 22 years, which isn't that long actually, but believe me you will be plenty busy.
Every aspect of running the Elysium has been tested and thought about. You have very few features you can buy/sell, not to mention constructing buildings. Since collecting the food might become rather boring, you will be plenty busy while keeping your eyes on the popularity, defending your workers from the deadly beasts, getting ready for the invasion, etc. According to the story, after Elysium has been recaptured Darius has to shelter people from other castles, when playing this aspect is the unsleeping the workers (please note, you have to press the unsleep button twice)
Tricks like destroying the path to the main keep won't work, as you have the rebuilding part, which if can't be done will result in a loss. Aspects like destroying the walls and selling stone, destroying too many good things, cathedral, buildings are not allowed due to the complex script (you can't have a high enough population if you destroy buildings, you will lose if the cathedral is destroyed, you can't win if the fear factor is lower than +5, etc. You can't just try to kill as much troops as possible using your archers, due to time limit, the same goes for the invasion, you can't sit and wait for Sirions hiding in the city since you'll lose.
Months of playtesting resulted in very interesting and thrilling actions of the enemy. During the siege, soldiers will defend the city rather than go out and try to kill you (like knights and macemen usually do). The patrolling enemies can be a problem as well. Sometimes the castle defenders will come to the place you're striking.
The invasion part is even better. Every Sirion has a different role in attacking, they don't just stand near the signpost, but try to circle the Elysium, hiding behind the mountains, rushing. If some of the enemies are left near the signpost it's your objective to eliminate them.
Remember, that this map has elements of fantasy (some workers and peasants aren't human)!
Map design features
The main aspect of the map is the enormous city. This time I went to realistic and at the same time beautiful construction of the fortress. As you might already see, a lot of dynamic shapes have been used in the outer walls and, what is more, these walls have the inner section which is used by troops. The Elysium has a secret entrance, as mentioned in the story, be very attentive. Custom towers and buildings can be seen throughout the city as well as the interesting layout of all the buildings, streets, pathways, squares. A lot of water is inside the castle: channels, fountains, water supplies, etc. The Elysium has its industrial, religious, living areas, also the main square, entrances and much more other features.
Tricks and eyecandy
As I already mentioned there are lots of small features and tricks: attaching flags to anything, creating foundations for gatehouses, lowered keep door, multiply marketplaces, armouries, granaries, attaching drawbridge to anything, custom buildings, placing horse troops and fire ballistae on walls, and lots more.
Interesting features: a block of flats, a luxurious house, water reservoir, a water heating tower, saunas, water windmills, a theatre, army training ground, the main cathedral, cemetery, the second floor in the castle, gold mines, custom stockpiles, stairs, arrow slits, etc.
Here are some pictures from the map:
Gold and iron mines
The main cathedral and the north east part of the castle
The main entrance
The water reservoir and the main armory
The main square
The Barracks and the training ground
The landscape is very severe: high, sharp mountains snow, cold, rocks, however in these rigorous lands of Magnavane lies Elysium - the beautiful city. I worked hard to achieve this contrast, the landscape took me lots of time, as placing snow on the mountains is extremely hard in Crusader.
Please note, that main physical laws can be seen in this map: there's a lot of snow outside the Elysium, but almost none of it inside because of the central heating, however the stream, the small lake are frozen.
This is, perhaps, the last chapter of the series, and I really hope the map will catch your attention. I've been working on this project from last year's November until now, but I'm quite sure the map will need updates even after such a long time. Playtesting took me about two months, trying to achieve the best AI behavior as possible.
I was thinking about designing a huge city, which would be the centre of the whole mission, but usually some new ideas kept me from creating such a map. My work started near the drawing paper, where I was experimenting with the wall shapes. Lowering the walls took me a lot of patience and nerves, luckily I've found a way to lower them twice as fast as usual. In the beginning I thought about a single custom tower, but then I realized the castle wouldn't look good with simple ones, but yet again it would be too weak without them so I had to work with towers as well. The main gates have foundations, and I haven't seen this trick on Crusader, as well as the lowered keep door or the flags attached to buildings. It's the first time I use these tricks, and I'm thinking of posting a tutorial related to them.
Another good support to continue this work was the portal: I was keeping that idea for a long time as well, and thus I realized that this map just has to have elements of fantasy and magic, as all of my previous maps were rather too close to reality.
Scripting the map is one of my favorite parts, as you actually control the whole playability, so creating this complex scenario was entertaining, besides with the use of the hexademical editor I achieved good results, in my opinion, as now no file replacement is needed.
The landscape isn't perfect in my opinion, but somehow I stick to it; the lack of realism can be seen in those paths or mountains, however I think it doesn't look that bad.
I enjoy writing quite a lot, so the story was more like a hobby work. I know, maybe it's too long, but I'm counting on your tolerance.
In the end, after this project, I'm going to have longer pauses in mapmaking due to my personal life, so I would really want to hear your opinions.
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I started playing Crusader again after 4 - 5 months. I've started to recreate the map I lost. Here's a review for Fathers' Sins, Chapter 3...
I wanted to give the playability a 5.0, but the difficulty of the first siege was unbelievable. I failed more than four times, each resulting in the actual "fun" to decrease. Getting on top of the first two gatehouses were easy with the assassins. The archers I was given died instantly in a hail of arrows, so I had to rely on the brute strength of the macemen to take out everyone on the walls. I sent all the macemen to each of the custom towers, scoring me big points in how many enemies I had killed overall. Macemen then swept all through the city, most of it was automatic as I had their stance set to Aggressive, but in some parts I had to manually control them to go to some parts of the city. Surprisingly, my small group of pikemen lasted longer than all the other types of soldiers... in the end, it was tough as they moved slowly while being shot at with arrows, but I succeeded and the city was mine! I think if you only had to kill 400 - 450 enemies at the start, it would not be as hard, then resulting in higher playability. The rest of the game was great, I chose to stock up with 500 bread. The lions were really annoying, I had to put a clump of soldiers where they spawned, but it was funny watching lions running throughout the city; it slowed down my production, causing the game to take longer. The last invasion was interesting, especially with all the multi-coloured enemies... they were so strange, but it fit the story, which I loved!
Though having to kill 500 enemies at the start was excruciatingly hard, it was possible. So the balance is a 5.0 for that. It's not until you actually get inside the city that you realize how hard it is. The final invasions are balanced perfectly, because in the end, they had overwhelmed all my defenses and I had to recall all my troops to the keep. But the funny thing was that the lord wasn't at the keep! I remember him walking there after I took control of the city, but at the end of the game, I couldn't find him! Ah well, the enemy didn't get too close to the keep, so it probably didn't matter.
The overall concept was something entirely different. You have a choice to stock up on 1000 meat, 500 bread, 100 cheese or 80 fruit, and the idea of a portal to a different world made it challenging to gain those foods as the farms were in "the other world". The story fit very well with everything: the playability, the map design and the creativity. I loved everything about this map. It wasn't a simple invasion map (like so many) and it wasn't a simple "gather a certain amount of resources" map. This 3rd chapter has it all, it's like a gathering of all the best maps put into one.
Map Design: 5
This was very interesting... though the inside of the city was a little confusing to find things, it was different and gave a true fantasy feeling. A massive load of work went into this city, probably more than any other map that has been made in Crusader. I did not recognize the other world at first, because I thought it was an ugly square wall surrounding some oasis, but I finally understood what it really was, which changed my thoughts on the map. The keep was stunning, the stairs leading up to it were amazing. One thing that does not look 100% on most maps is the massive amount of fountains inside the city... sadly, Fathers' Sins, Chapter 3 caught this "fountain freckle", as I like to call it. Nevertheless, they were done with a lot of skill, so it's still a 5.0 for the map design. The mines in the mountains looked interesting with the entrances to each tunnel. The large cathedral was made to please any eyecandy lover... I certainly loved it. Overall, the outside walls looked perfect, giving the impression of a tough shell protecting something beautiful inside.
Definitely a 5.0 for this. You worked hard on the story, I know for sure. I enjoyed reading it. I was a little reluctant at first to read it, as I just wanted to play the map, but the first line hooked me. I'm glad I read it, it was as much fun as the map!
This map needs more ratings! It was amazing. AZ ViTrAzhAs has proven himself as one of the best. Congratulations!
[Edited on 04/18/09 @ 06:05 AM]