Of different approaches to scenario design

Discussion and development of scenarios and campaigns for the game.

Moderators: Forum Moderators, Developers

User avatar
db0
Posts: 395
Joined: January 3rd, 2006, 8:39 pm
Location: Somewhere Far Beyond...
Contact:

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by db0 » May 23rd, 2008, 2:33 pm

I agree with much of what Zookeeper said as well as having a similar opinion to Ratha. I thoroughly enjoy scenarios where the storyline and dialogue are deep enough and that you get good enough twists in what you are expecting to happen.

I thoroughly despise campaigns that that are comprised of dozens of scenarios where it is just one standard battle after another and the dialogue is less than a 100 words.

The point of how to make scenarios interesting can be seen from the classic RPG perspective where the Game Master is called to make an interesting story while avoid having a hackfest or one random encounter after another. Many GMs turn into random ambushes and poorly thought out plots that railroad the players. This is becomes annoying fast.

To my experience as a GM and a campaign designer, I've discovered that the best way to make your players enjoy your campaign is to beat them bloody but never kill them unless they are being explicitly stupid. As long as the player gets to live, getting battered becomes interesting. The end result it to let the player "win" but only by "the skin of their teeth" so to speak.

Unfortunately, a wesnoth campaign gives you much less freedom to delightfully susprise your players. Everything must be scripted and your maps prepared. There is not room for improvisation.
The way to make your scenarios interesting, I believe is through "foreseen tomatoes" and "story twists"

Foreseen tomatoes are the kind of events that jump out on the player and make his life hell but that the player expects them.
A simple tomato, is a surprise that is generally very annoying (as most people here agree) due to it's randomness and power. Not only that but it can easily be avoided the second time around.
A Foreseen tomato avoids this in two ways.
A. It is hinted at the player in various ways before it arrives so that he knows he is coming and will not be totally annihilated (and thus annoyed).
B. It is not overwhelming but rather designed to reduce the resources of the player according to the scenario. A perfect such case would be a trigger depending on the current power of the player.
C. It attempts to be unavoidable but fitting with the story. So, for example, a naga king who becomes a rival to the hero might warn him never to pass a river again. The next time the player does, the nagas assault. This is foreseen and the fault of the player (if, for example, the nagas were angered after a dialogue choice). Then a river is placed in the path of the player.

I've tried to follow this plan in my own scenario in the Forgotten Legacy where the player starts with a default, non-replenishable force and has to reach the end of the map for a grand showdown. There are two paths to follow where the first one takes you through an elf infested forest while the other one through ogre mountains.
While the forest has some elves that attack from the trees, except a few cases of rangers, they are visible from afar and the user can prepare. I tried to maintain surprise with random events (for example of a saurian being tortured which forces the player to rush to help) instead.
On the other path, there are two instances of "ambush" but in both of them the player is forewarned. While he does not know where or when the attack might come, at least he is more way and I've also set it up in a way that while painful, is not game ending and it's also unavoidable. Thus, while a second try might make it less painful, I've tried to reduce that as much as possible.

The Second type of keeping scenarios interesting is through storyline which is how you challenge the player but without suddenly ruining his game and crying "unfair".

A Few examples:
  • * Kill off main characters. Especially nasty when you have that character in your "keep alive list"
  • * Have characters turn against each other but not in the middle of a mission, unless there has been sufficient forewarning. As a story twist you could have the allegiance change happen between missions and the next mission start with the old character as the enemy leader and him having all your recalls available. Ouch
  • * Dialogue options are always a nice choice. They don't have to necessarily end up in multiple campaign paths and a simple choice of allegiances in the same scenario can increase replayability
The storyline twists generally have more possibilities but instead of a surprise factor, they attempt to keep the player hooked to the whole campaign, so as to see how it ends.

Finally, the last option is to make scenarios that go totally beyond the two norms of face-off and path-follow. These are the most difficult to make however as the scripting required increases geometrically.
These are my thoughts for now, possibly more later :)

Blarumyrran
Art Contributor
Posts: 1700
Joined: December 7th, 2006, 8:08 pm

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by Blarumyrran » May 23rd, 2008, 2:39 pm

CarpeGuitarrem wrote:Playing through the mini-Ooze campaign, the final battle has a number of tomato surprises...but except for the last, they add to the feel of a chaotic battle. The enemy just keeps coming, and they toss curveballs at you to keep you on your feet. I kinda like it.
...

you could change the whole town into oozes to kill the evil mage! THE WHOLE TOWN INTO OOZES! that makes up for every possible fault, imho.

User avatar
shadowm
Site Administrator
Posts: 6554
Joined: November 14th, 2006, 5:54 pm
Location: Chile
Contact:

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by shadowm » May 24th, 2008, 2:36 am

CarpeGuitarrem wrote:Playing through the mini-Ooze campaign, the final battle has a number of tomato surprises...but except for the last, they add to the feel of a chaotic battle. The enemy just keeps coming, and they toss curveballs at you to keep you on your feet. I kinda like it.
I don't. Not at all. I have played that campaign many times (because I kinda love the plot, etc.), but have never got past the first three or five turns of that final scenario.
Author of the unofficial UtBS sequels Invasion from the Unknown and After the Storm.

Velensk
Multiplayer Contributor
Posts: 3984
Joined: January 24th, 2007, 12:56 am

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by Velensk » May 26th, 2008, 12:15 am

Hmmm....

I have a certain senario in my campain that may be a tomatoe surprise, I'm looking for feedback

*Spoilers for my upcoming campain*

The senario set-up is that you are on a huge map with lots of rough terrain and 4 enemies who fight well in the rough. You also start with a ally with large number of units, but not nearly enough to defend himself against your foes. (Player should have about 300-400 gold)

The story set-up is that you walked in excpecting to make a bargin with him, and you have agreed to help him fight off his enemies in exchange for his help afterward. He agrees though he gives the impression of having a bleak impression about the future. If you have kept alive your loyal servent he notes to you not to trust your ally.

Once you have beaten your two largest enemies, he will gain enough gold to recruit a small army, and all of his units will be transfered to another side (with the same colour), but on it's own team. Once you attack him personaly he surrenders and gives you what you asked for in the first place. (this is exploitable at the moment due to the fact that if you just put a person next to him you can attack him right off the bat, this is something I intend to fix in the future, but right now am too busy finishing the campain)

Does this sound like something that should be handled better, or would be an annoying surprise?
"There are two kinds of old men in the world. The kind who didn't go to war and who say that they should have lived fast died young and left a handsome corpse and the old men who did go to war and who say that there is no such thing as a handsome corpse."

User avatar
Mist
Inactive Developer
Posts: 753
Joined: February 15th, 2007, 8:44 am
Location: Milton Keynes, UK

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by Mist » May 26th, 2008, 1:13 am

You might insert a turn between the one second oponent got beaten and the one ally switches sides in which he stands idle/tries to retreat/starts to avoid fighting altogether to allow player noticing that something is off even without the adviser. Since this is not obvious to implement (a lot of tweaks to agression, caution, [avoid] areas, grouping) and requires wesnoth 1.5 I'll give you one more alternative.
At the moment of switching sides pull back all allys units to the imediate neigbourhood of his leader (store, kill, unstore) this way player won't findhimself facing enemy in the back butchering his wounded units.
Somewhere, between the sacred silence and sleep.
Disorder.

User avatar
Ken_Oh
Moderator Emeritus
Posts: 2176
Joined: February 6th, 2006, 4:03 am
Location: Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by Ken_Oh » May 26th, 2008, 2:46 am

First, to answer the questions: I'm 100% behind you, zoo. I hate the tomatoes.

Hardcore vs. casual? I don't know. I'm a hardcore retrogamer, which probably makes me casual in many respects. I generally find fun in "pure play," interacting with an interesting environment.

When I attempted to make a campaign (I could probably finish what I started in week now...) http://www.wesnoth.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=10876 , I had two rules: "No surprises that make players want to start the scenario over and play differently," and "Fun in strategy games comes from having to make tough choices." I think I can still hold to them. The second rule is much like what Rhuvaen said about roads. If there is only one path, then where is there any choice in strat?

But, there's one thing I've learned: "surprises" can happen, they just can't be outside of known a set of possibilities. When you charge some enemy units, you might be surprised with the fact that your Mage missed all of its magical strikes. Of course it wasn't impossible, but it was unexpected. This makes you re-evaluate the situation and your strat for it. Or, if your Fencer hits with all its strikes versus a Rogue in good terrain, the same re-evaluation happens, you just estimate things better for you.

I like scenarios that may play slightly different from game to game. The Siege of Elensefar is a great example, and one I've tried to emulate. You have multiple paths to the enemy that you're expected to take; the decision really comes with which units you are going to put on each path. The orcs seem to fortify different areas in each game (I used to play this one over and over) and, while you know the undead are on their way, you don't know exactly if you're going to meet them in the city itself, at the north bridge or on the other side of the water. You may be surprised by any one of these outcomes too, but it's not like they were totally unexpected.

This is what I attempted by some of my scenarios. One had a "Dam house" where if you controlled it most of the area would cover in swamp (giving undead an advantage vs loyalists) but if the enemy took it back, the swamp dries up. Losing the favorable terrain would be a surprise, but not outside of known possibilities. Another scenario was a large and varied map where your Lich sat from a throne surrounded by 4 different enemies. Nothing was hidden from you, so you set out an initial strat that would likely have to change because, when you're fighting simultaneously in 4 directions, it's unlikely that all fronts will go exactly how you want. Setbacks and surprises occur, but you adjust for them.

I also toyed around with making a scenario where you're given like 4 or 5 eventual penalties if you fail to block certain things happening (e.g. if you let the Elvish Rider escape the board, he'll return 4 turns later with a few Horsemen), and it would be virtually impossible to block every bad thing from happening, yet you could choose to definitely block one or two. The point is making the penalty explicitly known and giving the player a choice and a chance. The only more "information" you would have from playing the game over again is simply if you miscalculated the given data ("Oh, it looks like Horsemen coming from X direction would really wreck me holding Y position. If I want to do A I should really prevent B").

The feedback I got from "good" players on this front (EP specifically) is it was all too long and pointless, whatever that means. :(

User avatar
db0
Posts: 395
Joined: January 3rd, 2006, 8:39 pm
Location: Somewhere Far Beyond...
Contact:

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by db0 » May 26th, 2008, 5:49 am

Ken Oh wrote: I also toyed around with making a scenario where you're given like 4 or 5 eventual penalties if you fail to block certain things happening (e.g. if you let the Elvish Rider escape the board, he'll return 4 turns later with a few Horsemen), and it would be virtually impossible to block every bad thing from happening, yet you could choose to definitely block one or two. The point is making the penalty explicitly known and giving the player a choice and a chance. The only more "information" you would have from playing the game over again is simply if you miscalculated the given data ("Oh, it looks like Horsemen coming from X direction would really wreck me holding Y position. If I want to do A I should really prevent B").

The feedback I got from "good" players on this front (EP specifically) is it was all too long and pointless, whatever that means. :(
This is a good idea but I think the long and pointless comment might have been that it would be too much work for you (the campaign designer) for little change for the player. However I agree that it would make the scenario stand out so if you have the time, go for it.

Velensk
Multiplayer Contributor
Posts: 3984
Joined: January 24th, 2007, 12:56 am

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by Velensk » May 26th, 2008, 11:49 am

Mist wrote:You might insert a turn between the one second oponent got beaten and the one ally switches sides in which he stands idle/tries to retreat/starts to avoid fighting altogether to allow player noticing that something is off even without the adviser. Since this is not obvious to implement (a lot of tweaks to agression, caution, [avoid] areas, grouping) and requires wesnoth 1.5 I'll give you one more alternative.
At the moment of switching sides pull back all allys units to the imediate neigbourhood of his leader (store, kill, unstore) this way player won't findhimself facing enemy in the back butchering his wounded units.
Neither of those options makes allot of sense, admittedly part of the problem is that coming out of nowhere and attacking your men does make sense.

In a way there is sort of a turn before it happens because by the time you've beaten your foes he does not have many units left, and has to take a turn to bring in his reserves. He'll probably have some since he has the income to recruit the whole time. On the other hand, if you didn't know when he'd betray, and one of his units came out of nowhere and killed your wounded Sword-Dancer, or equivilent that would be annoying.
"There are two kinds of old men in the world. The kind who didn't go to war and who say that they should have lived fast died young and left a handsome corpse and the old men who did go to war and who say that there is no such thing as a handsome corpse."

starfury
Posts: 11
Joined: April 21st, 2008, 10:19 pm

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by starfury » May 26th, 2008, 10:34 pm

Velensk wrote:
Mist wrote:You might insert a turn between the one second oponent got beaten and the one ally switches sides in which he stands idle/tries to retreat/starts to avoid fighting altogether to allow player noticing that something is off even without the adviser. Since this is not obvious to implement (a lot of tweaks to agression, caution, [avoid] areas, grouping) and requires wesnoth 1.5 I'll give you one more alternative.
At the moment of switching sides pull back all allys units to the imediate neigbourhood of his leader (store, kill, unstore) this way player won't findhimself facing enemy in the back butchering his wounded units.
Neither of those options makes allot of sense, admittedly part of the problem is that coming out of nowhere and attacking your men does make sense.

In a way there is sort of a turn before it happens because by the time you've beaten your foes he does not have many units left, and has to take a turn to bring in his reserves. He'll probably have some since he has the income to recruit the whole time. On the other hand, if you didn't know when he'd betray, and one of his units came out of nowhere and killed your wounded Sword-Dancer, or equivilent that would be annoying.
What about simply removing any units he has already in play? This could be justified by having one of them say something along the lines of "We will not betray those who have fought with us to protect our homes." If you want to get really fancy you could do this only for units close to the player's units, but I'm not sure if this is possible, or worth the effort if it is since you say he should have few units left anyways.

Velensk
Multiplayer Contributor
Posts: 3984
Joined: January 24th, 2007, 12:56 am

Re: Of different approaches to scenario design

Post by Velensk » May 27th, 2008, 7:17 pm

Does not make sense in the context of the campain. I can't imagine vampires having qualms about killing the people who help them, especialy when those people are other vampires.

For right now I'm leaving it as is, I might change something once I start getting feedback (which hopefully will be soon).
"There are two kinds of old men in the world. The kind who didn't go to war and who say that they should have lived fast died young and left a handsome corpse and the old men who did go to war and who say that there is no such thing as a handsome corpse."

Post Reply