Could multiplayer usermade maps be included in Mainline?

Discussion of all aspects of multiplayer development: unit balancing, map development, server development, and so forth.

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Doc Paterson
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Post by Doc Paterson »

I agree with Noy completely here.

* * * * *

As for Wesbowl, some time ago, I tried to create a small committee of people who'd be interested in fixing/balancing it. There didn't seem to be much interest, and I basically let that plan slip away.

I'd still be all for giving control of it to an interested party or parties.

Otherwise, I'll just fix it myself, though I'd rather not do it too soon, as most of my wesnoth time is going into the mainline maps, atm.
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Post by Clonkinator »

Sapient wrote:Yes, but it's not easy. Here are some tips.
1) It has to be super-polished; no loose ends or unfinished bits
2) Well-balanced (if competitive) and fun
3) Offering a style of play that is not already in the MP official pack, and is the best candidate in its field (we don't want to have a ton of survivals, for example)
4) High replay value; not too faddish
5) Clean WML; a good example for other coders to follow... using appropriate macro names to avoid conflicts, if any.
6) Compact WML (including after MACRO expansion); to minimize impact on MP load times
7) Approval of MP Developers, mainly Doc Paterson

If you think you have something that fits all of these then let the MP developers know about it.
Hm... SurvivalXtreme? :D
1) I don't have quite everything in I wanted, but otherwise this is met.
2) SX is surely fun; given that you use the standard settings.
3) Well... It's a survival, but certainly one of the most popular ones. At least at 1.2.x.
4) Met. This is part of the reason why there are so many SX maps.
5) SX has tons of properly commented-out macros, which are quite easy to use. I think this point is met easily.
6) I got help with this once; thus this should be met as well.
7) Well, I have no clue what Doc Paterson thinks about SX... :?

Anyway, I guess just the fact that SX is a pack and not a single map already is reason enough for it not to get into mainline; but whatever. Maybe it's better if SX stays an add-on anyway... :wink:
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Post by Viliam »

(Disclaimer: I did not play ANL, so my opinions are only based on what I read in this topic. I will assume that it is good, and has no major flaws, except being too different from other campaigns, and not in Wesnoth universe.)


In my opinion, if the campaign is technically good and pleasant to play, it should be included in the Wesnoth mainline. It would be sad if the "Wesnoth tradition" would be in conflict with "Wesnoth engine", if it would make the most creative (ab)use of engine somehow 'wrong'. And it would be discouraging for campaign authors, because the more creative thing they do, the less is their chance of being rewarded by official 'blessing' of the game developers.

There are good arguments for conservative approach. We have a product which works, is very good (in my opinion a shining example for free game development), tested and balanced, and connected by a nice background story. It took years to make it; and an important condition of the final success was the ability of developers to resist thousand whims and "frequently proposed ideas", because it would be never completed and would fall apart otherwise without ever having a polished stable release. It would be wrong to abandon this attitude, and risk destroying what we made.

However, the "classical Wesnoth" is now mostly complete. Honestly, what important things do you expect to change between versions 1.4 and 1.6 -- more standing animations, another checkbox in multiplayer lobby, one more story about loyalists fighting the orcs? I do not want to offend anyone, but please remember the freedom and hope we felt before the 1.0 release. Maintaining and polishing the game is a very important task, but it should not be the only goal.

I guess we should keep the "classical Wesnoth" as it is -- a fixed set of units, factions, scenarios, and campaigns, with occasional updates and additions -- and open the door to something else. Like the Wesbowl, like the UtBS. The more different, the better. If will provide a new exciting experience, and it will not be confused with the classic. Please note that there is a big difference between asking developers to add new features, and creatively using the existing features. Another use of existing features does not contribute to more complexity in C code. It allows playtesting the new idea without giving more work to developers (however once the idea is considered really good, it may later become supported more natively).

I suggest to separate the "classic Wesnoth" and "experimental Wesnoth" inside the program. For example the campaign selection menu could have multiple tabs: "Wesnoth" for campaigns in Wesnoth universe, "Extensions" for UtBS and ANL, and "Add-ons" for downloaded campaigns. Similarly in multiplayer. This way the traditional Wesnoth content will be kept clean, and yet high-quality non-traditional content may be encouraged by adding to mainline.

There is a psychological difference between content coming directly with the game, and content additionally selected and downloaded. People sometimes want to be told what to do, want to rely on references (that's why e.g. web site Digg is so popular). Adding something to mainline, or removing it, is a strong signal. (For example for translators it greatly changes the priority.) We have no statistics, but I would guess that a mainline campaign get at least 10 times more players than a campaign on campaign server, because most people will try the mainline campaigns first, and only then start downloading from server.


As example of creative engine use, my favourite game now is "DotA-Allstars". It is a scenario for "Warcraft III Frozen Throne", which greatly changes the rules of the game. In Warcraft, making buildings and units, researching, and attacking with large armies, is the essense of game. In DotA this does not exist: you receive some buildings which you do not care about, only protect them from being destroyed; the units are built and sent to combat automatically. You have only one hero, which gains money by killing (as opposed to mining economy in Warcraft), and can buy and construct a lot of powerful items (the items in Warcraft as pretty rare, although not as rare as in Wesnoth; and you must find them, not buy them). This game is very different from classical Warcraft, but I love it, and it is the only reason why I play Warcraft these days.

There are also many "tower defense" scenarios for Warcraft, which are also completely different from the traditional game. Player only builds towers, which must destroy the monsters walking on predefined paths. Then there is a group of "one hero explores a labyrint" scenarios; and some funny scenarios which resemble Wesbowl. And all these things in my opinion make Warcraft much better, and are very useful when the traditional scenarios, after being played for hundred times, become boring. So I hope to see something analogical in Wesnoth too. The new things deserve more attention, but have too small momentum to make a fork and survive. The creative use of engine should be officially supported.
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Post by jb »

Viliam
There is a psychological difference between content coming directly with the game, and content additionally selected and downloaded.
I totally agree.

Including something like ANL would be nice as a breakthrough in philosophy about what wesnoth is and what wesnoth could be. Because regardless of what some people think, wesnoth is not just campaigns and Vs. mode.

It's been expanding into all sorts of new game-types. Yet it's not taken seriously by many in power, because they have already made up their mind about what it means to be wesnoth. Thinking like this means growth is no longer possible.

Sadly, to be perfectly honest, creativity is not encouraged nor rewarded. There are too many people in power who don't want to grow or change, each with their own personal/unique reasons. Many of them valid.

Putting ANL into mainline would give it a sense of validity, not just something found in the "bargain bin", but something that has real value and is considered a wonderful addition to the wesnoth family, instead of a quirky add-on.

Great UMC is treated like the unwanted step-child. Embrace all your children, not just your favorite ones.

It just feels like a shame, and a loss of the hope (that Viliam reminds us) that was the backbone of wesnoth when it was an innocent seed seeking to grow.
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Post by Rhuvaen »

I think the dam-breaking argument is pretty bogus - because nowhere in the process are the MP devs losing control. If they accept content X and content Y is closely related, then it can be argued that X is already in mainline and Y isn't needed. If Y is not related, then X being mainline isn't really an issue. Again: at no point are MP devs losing control in that process.

Looking at the breadth of MP innovation out there on the campaign server, I'd say that for a long time mainline MP has been blissfully ignoring some developments and is way behind the current standard in some categories of gameplay. I'm not saying that competitive MP content is not top-notch. I'm saying there's almost nothing else there :).

The only part that's right about the dam analogy is that there's a huge dynamism and potential on the other side of the dev brick wall. That shouldn't be seen as a threat though, but harnessed and encouraged where it is wanted.

Creating MP content is harder than making SP campaigns in many ways. There are (or were) many workarounds for features that in SP can be taken for granted. Inclusion of units, eras and so on via the campaign server is difficult and error-prone. Yet there are more and more MP content creators with a will to work against these obstacles emerging with a vision of various styles of MP that expand the scope of the existing experience of Wesnoth.

I am strongly disagreeing with what I suspect exists as a sentiment: that sees mainline inclusion as some kind of "reward", as a proof of quality, and as a mark of recognition. If it came to that, it would just foster a narrow elite and erode motivation in the wider community, as well as water-down the principles of the core game.

What I think is needed is that some of these concepts that have evolved get identified and assessed for their worthiness in mainline. It would be an immense help for MP contributors if people could learn the basics of, say ANL from a simple scenario in mainline, have an RPG era with some monsters there already, and could see what sort of different types of cooperative experience are awaiting them on the campaign server.

Nowadays, people are just overwhelmed when they first try to check out the campaign server - simply because mainline doesn't lend a hand in providing a simple, consistent basis for those types of scenarios to learn from.

So what I'm saying is: try to get the MP content creators to work together to provide consistent, introductory MP content for mainline for various styles. Doing so will help them understand that inclusion isn't the road to fame, but to responsibility. It will help them in their own, more specific projects by providing a foundation for advanced content - both by having generic style-specific eras and such distributed and by giving the MP players a chance to try out that style out-of-the-box, instead of having to explain it all in the MP lobby.

It's all good and fair to wait for finished and polished MP content to show up and then include it. It would be much more useful to engage halfways with the MP devs and get some feedback of "well, that concept is interesting, and popular, and has a lot of variants, can you work out what the gist is and make a scenario that's consistent with XYZ?".
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Post by Aethaeryn »

If the developers say no, it's their game - despite how hidebound their arguments may seem to us. If this were to happen, however, I would recommend to do the same thing that Extended Era did to the factions and make an "Extended Mappack" which would be the standard of maps that cannot be mainlined for one reason or another just as the Extended Era is the mark of quality on usermade factions. Then one can get various interesting maps in this "Extended Mappack" and if popular it would be seen as much as EE.
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Post by Noyga »

Seriously, i think Wesbowl is way outdated and does no longer match our level of quality. In particular, it cannot handle non default eras (it's not only the map that has problem, its WML code too).
Through it was nice for when it was created, compared to today's scenarios, it looks like a joke.
I'd vote for removing it.
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Post by Boucman »

I'd give it a chance... if someone can modernize it prior to 1.4, we might keep it

but as it is, it has to go
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Post by Mythological »

Wesnoth engine and WML are pretty flexible ( and thanks to Wesnoth's programmer team they are becoming more rich and flexible with time ) - they give an opportunity for many special scenarios and modes and I am sure that there are many undiscovered ways to (ab)use them in order to make even more original and non-standard scenarios that no one has thought of yet.

But the creativeness and the work should not go unrewarded - people like rewards for their work. Granted that many players playing the campaign or the scenario is a reward by itself, limiting it to that is not the best idea. People ( at least most of them ) would be more motivated to create good stuff if they are aware that if they create something very good there is a chance, no matter how remote, for their content to be included into mainline, instead of knowing that everything that is not consistent with default multiplayer skirmish style battles will forever be restricted to being an add-on.

This is especially the case with Bob The Mighty who IMO deserves some sort of reward for his numerous UMC for which even the ones who don't want their inclusion in mainline did not deny their quality. I hope that if not A New Land, then at lest his Labyrinth of Champions gets accepted.

The problem of the slippery slope is a valid one - if X gets included in mainline, then why not do so with Y, etc. But it is manageable - a similar thing has been done with the inclusion of many new single player campaigns and there have not been any problems. Doc and the other MP devs can always decide upon every particular case and reject the things that migh not be good enough or gameplay duplicates of something else. Besides, there are already few MP scenarios in mainline which differ from mainstream wesnoth multiplayer : Dark Forecast, 6p Survival, The Wilderlands and especially Wesbowl, the last of which is "further down the slope" than most of the usermade MP scenarios ( in other words its gameplay style is very different ).

From a player's perspective as someone who has regularly played multiplayer for a few years, it is challenging and great, but once the number of played games goes into thousands, many things become boring and repetitive. In that case you either have to take a "wesbreak" or start playing usermade scenarios and eras. Of course many new players start playing them immediately. That is an argument for the game to more care about the quality UMC but providing the add-on server for their support. It is the same thing Villiam mentioned for Warcraft with its Corridors and DOTA which in the end made the game even more popular.

I respect the good work of Doc Paterson and Becephalus who made most of the multiplayer maps for Wesnoth, but hopefully, in this time when wesnoth is expanding in the other areas of its gameplay - new campaigns, MP campaigns - its mainline multiplayer content will not remain restrained only to vs. style of play.
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Post by Doc Paterson »

To clarify/elaborate: I'm really not in favor of adding ANL, but I wouldn't be entirely opposed to TLOC going into mainline, provided there was general agreement among other MP devs.

I had a few concerns with some aspects of TLOC last time I played it through (some of the dialog felt a little bit awkward, but this was close to two months ago, and I'm not sure how much that's changed), but I'm sure that those things could be polished, if need be.
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Post by Sapient »

I agree that TLOC would be something more likely to be included than ANL. If it truly is the best MP RPG-style dungeon crawl out there and has good replay value?

The problem with making ANL mainline is it's just a little bit too awkward compared with the very straightforward mode of play people expect from an official Wesnoth scenario. I admit, it has a lot of merits. But the engine just can't currently acheive the level of "polish" with ANL that it can with other scenarios.

I think this is no fault of Bob's, it's more of a user interface problem. There is a lot of information in ANL that is important to the gameplay but just not integrated well enough with the user interface to make is smooth and elegant. Maybe one day improvements in the ThemeWML engine will make further integrations possible.

(As a side note, I never really enjoyed WesBowl and wouldn't miss it.)
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Post by Dave »

A couple of points:

- I completely agree that Wesbowl should be removed. I only wrote Wesbowl to showcase the kind of thing that could be done with WML. I never imagined it'd last in mainline this long.
- I am interested in adding scenarios which show new and innovative ways of doing things to the main distribution. However, I'm hesitant to support adding anything which the game's interface doesn't naturally seem to support. I haven't played ANL much, but it seems to me that someone unfamiliar with Wesnoth would try it and say "well this kingdom-building game is okay, but what a horrible interface!"
- I think we need further improvements to the add-on server to make it easier for users to find the best add-ons that are made.

Finally, perhaps we can come to a compromise on ANL, at least for now. How about someone, Bob perhaps, write a 'story' about it, for us to put as a news item on wesnoth.org? Then anyone visiting wesnoth.org can read about it, and download it from wolff.to or the add-on server.

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Post by Rhuvaen »

About ANL's interface: how is it different than the recruit/recall interface? All the actions are accessible via one right click and a menu. IMO ANL needs a tutorial mode and better documentation. Perhaps even some space in the manual / help docs.

It would be great if add-on scenarios could plug-in their own help documentation, anyway. :)

I also think having a folder structure in the multiplayer game menu would help. Then it would be possible to put special content into their own folder (coop scenario, mp campaign, rpg, etc).

Would there be any interest in randomizing the order of the waves in Team Survival? I would look into that, if there is (because it strikes me as bit predictable...).
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Post by Truper »

The problem with randomizing the waves in Team Survival is that they increase in difficulty as time goes on. Also, the scenario is only beatable *because* it's predictable.
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Post by Ken_Oh »

Rhuvaen wrote:It would be great if add-on scenarios could plug-in their own help documentation, anyway. :)
Oh, yes, please.
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