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Designer answers

by talos_911

  1. Describe the process of making a complete scenario starting from the idea and ending in the submission of your finished scenario. Do you have a schedule in which you have written the exact tasks for every day?
    This is way too long a process to describe... generally I start by getting my bearings on the map (i.e. which side is the keep facing)... I feel this is critical because in my first map (Movie LOTR2 : Helms Deep), I had made the entire castle and placed the keep last... and discovered to my horror that the keep was facing the wrong way!
    In the end, I was able to turn it into a defensive advantage... but from then on, I see which way the keep is going to face, before starting anything else.
    For sequence of events... one can refer to the Scenario Design Bible over at SHK... from conceptualizing the story, right down to taking screenies of the completed map and promoting it.
  2. What is your first piece of advice to a new scenario designer?
    You must have a vision for your map before starting it... a pre-defined idea of what you're going to do, for example, in the case of movie based maps... how will you be portraying certain elements from the movie in the game within the confines of the editor... what part you will be leaving out, etc.
    Even if this vision changes during the course of map-making (which ALWAYS happens with me).
  3. How do you decide the map size of your scenario?
    I decide according to the scale of the map... there really isn't much of decision to make... I just start off with the biggest map size and work on from there.
  4. How do you balance your scenario (invasions, events and victory conditions)?
    Perfect balance is only achieved by a LOT of playtesting, and (at least for me) with the help of experienced playtesters.
  5. How long does it take you to design a scenario? (you don't have to answer this question if you have already mentioned this in question #1)
    On average... about 3 to 4 months.
  6. What is your favourite eye-candy and why? What is the most common eye-candy you use? (note: this does not exclude natural eye-candy, such as rock formations, erosion etc.)
    Adding walls and extra elements around the keep, to give it a customized look.
  7. Do you design scenarios for multiple games at the same time?
    I only design for SH at the moment... At one point I was designing for SH:C as well, but I've stopped that now.
  8. What do you like and what don't you like about the SH editor?
    No comments.
  9. Do you playtest your scenario yourself or do you ask for playtesters?
    I feel playtesters play a very crucial role in balancing a map.
    Firstly, the map designer is obviously familiar with every nook and cranny of his map, and would know any weaknesses in the castle's design (in case of pre-built castles)... also, he/she would know exactly when an event is scripted for etc... so the map might seem a bit too easy, and might consequently become too hard for others.
    Secondly, they use different approaches to the map, so that one can ensure that the map is balanced for a variety of playing styles.
    Jalis and UnikUnok really helped in this aspect in order to make Helm's Deep a success.
  10. How do you know your scenario is ready to be submitted?
    After the balancing is fine-tuned, I let the map run without doing anything on it (I'm talking of defensive-sieges here). If I lost spectacularly, then I move onto the next phase, and play the map while doing minimal troop control (generally playing like a rookie)... If I lose by a large margin again... then I feel the map is ready (or I send it for a final playtest by other playtesters for confirmation).
  11. If a fancy eye-candy you want to have on the map requires you to make playability worse, would you add that eye-candy on the map? (i.e. the graphics vs. playability issue)
    My motto is : Fun First.
    No matter how good an eyecandy will look, or how accurate a castle is... if it doesn't play well... then one should as well submit it in the freebuild.
    A great designer balances the two elements and gives more precedence to Playability. A classic example of this is Sulis' latest map... Sylvandell 5.
  12. What makes a scenario fun to play?
    Here, I'd like to quote myself from a post I made over at SHK. An overwhelming majority of maps (up at SHH) are average works with the goal of creating a good looking or impossible to siege castle (most newbies make sieges since it takes less time to make and easier). However this approach usually wash functionality and balance down the drain. This also leaves landscaping out.
    Your point about either making the map good looking to balance out tactical weakness and vice-versa is spot on. A perfect balance between these factors, while possible, is hard to achieve and a little deviation could easily be ignored by compensating with the other.
    A hard fought battle and subsequent win is much more appreciated than an easy one. The key however is winning...
    That's where the bane of map designers comes in...BALANCE !
    Since we are discussing about tips to make good maps...I'd like to put in my two cents.
    Perfect Balance (according to the very good review guidelines at SHH) is when a player loses the map the first few times before winning...or on a smaller scale, loses the bulk of his/her forces before winning.
    Now, some seek to make this by pitting huge armies against each other and counting on the fact that he won the battle with huge amount of losses. BUT the problem occurs when players use different a result one could win the very same battle easily or not win at all.
    One of the ways to solve this problem which I use is to create the ILLUSION of losing, all the while making sure that the player WILL win in the end.
    For example, in my first map... Movie Helm's Deep (doesn't really look like HD does it). The player faces an army of 100 swordsmen, 100 pikemen, 200 macemen and 100 other baddies, while all they have are about 100 archers and a handful of swordsmen and pikemen... so how do they win ?
    Traps and Pitch... although the player can see them, the psychological feeling they get is that they are sorely outnumbered. However as the game moves on, and the enemy breaks through several layers of defences this trepidation turns into resignation as the enemy marches on endlessly. But the force multipliers, the traps and pitch ditches, thin the ranks until the very end when the way to the keep is clear and all you have left are 5 swordsmen on top of the keep and the last wave of 30 pikemen marching for you.... the slight hope goes again... but as the pikemen climb, they meet death (5 swordsmen near the keep entrance can handle much more than that too!). And from hopeless resignation to victory...the range of emotions is what makes a map exciting.
    If the enemy were to meet their doom before they breached the wall with your forces intact or you would have lost no matter what you tried...then the map is a failure...but by surprising the player, even a not-too-well-made map such as Helm's Deep has got very good reviews.
    That I believe is what makes for a good map.
  13. If you're considered a creative designer, then what is the secret behind your imagination and creativity?
    A majority of my maps are movie based... so my 'creativity' is defined as how well I am able to emulate the movie structure and chain of events into the map while keeping it as much fun as possible... There is no secret to my creativity... just a LOT of research work on the map before production starts and an understanding of the game editor and its mechanics.
  14. Which one is better, designing ten 4.0 scenarios or one 5.0 scenario (quantity vs. quality)?
    Definitely the latter, as I myself follow this mantra.
  15. Do you work on many scenarios at the same time or do you concentrate your efforts on a single scenario at a time?
    Only one scenario at a time.
  16. Do you work on your scenarios regularly or irregularly?
    As and when time permits, but I try to be regular.
  17. After you've submitted a scenario, do you feel confident or uncertain of the success of your scenario? How do you try to ensure the success of your scenario?
    Without sounding conceited... I feel confident in a scenario I submit, because I know I've put in a lot of effort in it to make it stand out from the crowd.
    By advertising it as if it were the next best thing since sliced bread :P.
    I just try to make people aware of its existence by posting in threads such as the Review Request thread or upcoming maps' thread...
    I also make my download description as presentable and polished as humanly possible... if you work on a map for months on end, one shouldn't spare the effort in the d/l description.
    As you may have noticed, I also have links to my maps in my sig too.
  18. Would you submit a scenario if you were certain it wouldn't be rated high (high is 4.0+)?
    No way.
  19. What keeps you motivated to design scenarios? Why did you start designing scenarios?
    I started scenario designing because I couldn't find a decent movie based Helm's Deep map! I just decided to make one myself.
    I got some good reviews, especially Sulis', which encouraged me to make more maps... after that I was hooked :P.
  20. What do you do when you're not motivated enough to design scenarios?
    I do research on maps I'd like to make.