Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Day Better Forgotten

Well, folks, it's been 5 years; today in 2003, at about 11 AM-ish, I made the mistake of replying yes to Rhialto's tell asking me if I was ready to be promoted. Now I am doomed to wander the halls of Wyvern, wailing to players about rules until the end of days.

But that's not where I made the first mistake that led me to this end. No, it all started at the beginning of January. In the previous year I came to the conclusion that games might be my best bet for the creative outlet I so desired. I tried learning how to write code, but as I have since realized it wasn't for me. However, while I was entertaining the idea of going down that path, I spent quite a bit of time on arcadepod, looking through games as I kind of liked the java applet format to game creation and I was busy generating game idea after game idea and recording them in .txt files. But, while doing so, I ended up finding this game called Wyvern that mentioned being able to make areas for the game and after checking out the link, I learned that no programming was required to do so. Excited, I thought this would be a great way to use Wyvern as a way to see if I was kidding myself in thinking that I could do this and if I wasn't it would be a great way to get some experience before moving on (naive does not begin to describe how I view that thinking today). So, I downloaded the client and logged in.

I was immediately impressed with the game as, while walking through New Verden, it felt very reminiscent of good classic games (needless to say I am a big fan of classic games). So I continued to look around and after getting to level 2, I headed over to Alaria and explored a bit. The big thing that I would do there is play Sokoban as I had a version of the game on my computer which I previously played so it was familiar to me and I enjoyed it. But every now and then I would head over to the towers and do a little fighting to get some XP. During this time, I also used the world map and went to every city, just looking into the first map or two, and then I headed back to Alaria (amusing tidbit: for a very brief time I didn't know there was an inn there so I would save in the Kings Road Inn and run there before every reboot to save again like the message said to).

Shortly thereafter, I thought I had a good enough feel for the game and so I sat down to work on some maps. I created a four map dungeon first that had a demon lord and some other random monsters in it; it was bad, but it was intended to be bad. I was trying to get a feel for the mapmaker and how things worked, so I simply filled it with a wide range of things. Once I was done with this practice run I deleted those maps (which, btw, had a plot to them as I am incapable of making anything without one). Then I opened up a new map and tried to think of something to make next.

That, of course, isn't the best thing to do as you should never stare at a blank map, hoping ideas come to you. You should generate those ideas ahead of time, plan them out, and then sit down and work on them. But rather than do that, I started playing around with the objects in the mapeditor again and I suddenly took the dark earth terrain and I just started drawing it. I didn't necessarily expect to be coming up with the idea that I would be submitting but, as it happened, I started thinking of reasons why would there be dark earth all over the place and then it hit me... this was a lifeless, ruined area.

After that, I was on a roll and idea after idea just kept jumping at me. I put some ruined structures down (I think one the guard towers came first) and then I added a little water. At some point I got to the right hand side of the map and for some odd reason decided to draw some grass under this mansion. Why would there be grass in that one spot if it was a lifeless area though? Hmmm ... magic. Yes, but who's magic? Well I went through the list of monsters and saw a hill giant in green clothes. I then looked back at the green grass and combined the two (as you can guess, I knew nothing about hill giants as I was not a fan of fantasy). Next thing I know there's a hill giant planning to conquer Alaria (I later changed it to New Verden) and he needed allies so there was a place for pirates. But wait, he couldn't go unopposed so there was the guard tower and the Orcs/Undead were what remained from the time when the village turned into a lifeless area. Meanwhile, somewhere in-between I came up with the name Forgotten Oak after seeing the word "forgotten" written on something to my left and I came up with the idea of the magical oak to explain the name. I think all of this took me about three days of doing nothing but sitting at my computer and, from doing that, I ended up with somewhere between 60 and 70 maps (I want to say 63, but I do not remember for sure).

To top it off I had two ideas for other areas that came about around the same time. One was the temple on Forgotten Oak which was to lead to a hidden elf area. I made one map for it (the one you enter when you use the teleporters in the temple) and left it as is thinking this could be my next project. The other was for a dwarf area on the land mass south of Forgotten Oak which later turned into a gray dwarf area. I never really did much with that one but generate ideas and draw the male gray dwarf graphic (which is what inspired the idea that it should be for them and not regular dwarves) and I have since realized I did not need to start another complex area considering all the other projects that I have yet to finish.

In any case, on the 11th, a little bit before midnight, I sent Rhialto these Forgotten Oak maps and the one hidden elf map. Well, not really. I screwed up and hit enter causing the email to send without any text in the body or my attachment. The only thing it had was a title saying; "Forgotten Oak (large map submission)" and I was horrified when Rhialto emailed me back (almost right away) to tell me my attachment didn't make it... which I didn't realize until after I sat down and finished writing my best attempt at a professional email describing who I was and what my area was. It was 746 words and included a joke which I cringe at when reading right now; "Why choose Forgotten Oak to be added: becus u lik itz da bes! ;)" I am really embarrassed by it now, but maybe in another entry I will post it (typos and all) for you guys to chuckle at.

Anyway, I got an email back telling me he would look at it. Then we conversed a bit about a problem with boats vanishing in maps. Ahead of time I was fully prepared to get an email back telling me more work needed to be done and was ready to make any changes that were needed until it was good enough. But, to my surprise, I got an email on the 13th, after he had time to look at my area, and to my utter shock he said he liked them to the point where he thought they were of exceptionally high quality. To this day I don't get that and I think you'll see why when viewing my early maps below. Maybe it was my ability to follow instructions and get the teleporter paths right (something which few people did, as I later realized) or the fact that it had a story for it, which is rare at the time... or perhaps even that I had another area in the works already (most wizards would make one area and then stop). I don't know, but at the time stupid me was pleased and unaware of what horrors awaited me. So I logged into Arilou (the account I made on the 8th to save the name as I knew that would be the name I wanted to be a wizard) and got to level 2 while waiting for him to find me.

I remember running through Garignor's a bit and then being in Alaria's main map when I got this tell from this Rhialto fellow. I was confused as my highest level account was level 6 (this was when the level 15 rule was just a suggestion) and so all I knew of the game came from reading the manuals and my little experience with leveling that account. Who was this Rhialto fellow? I knew him as Steve so it was odd, but after a brief pause I said yes without stupidly letting on about my confusion and waited in his workroom while he set everything up (incase you're wondering, at this point I caught on that he was the person I had been conversing with in emails - I'm not that dense, despite what Teshuvah may have told you).

After this, I devoted all my time to getting these maps online (which ended up happening on the 16th). I then met up with Legolas who took over and did the actual testing of my maps before they went live. It was a little odd and a lot to absorb at once, but he helped me out in ways I cannot put to words. The very first bit of advice he gave me was after a player sent me a tell asking me to give him something or whatever and would not relent (this guy must've thought the new wizard would be an easy target). I asked Legolas what I should do and he told me something along the lines of; "Before you silence, always warn them... and then warn again." Basically, I've modeled by entire attitude, (the real one, not the joking, 'I'll banish you all' one) in regards to being an admin, on that. After that he helped to make me a better mapmaker and a better wizard. I consider him to have been my mentor and on a good day, where I'm not trying to kill him, I cannot say enough good things about how he helped me and how much of a great guy he is.

I don't know what else to say after that, I really should end it now as nothing will top that last sentence, but I first must show you Forgotten Oak of old and even before that I just want to say one thing - When I was first promoted, I had no intention of being an admin. I thought it was crazy to get involved in it as I knew how bad people could get from my past gaming experience. But I'm the type of person who cannot see someone being abused because of someone else breaking the rules and not do anything about it. So despite my promise to myself that I would just be a mapmaker, I ended up becoming one of the most active admins. As such, my mapmaking has suffered since I have had less time for it. It also caused me to become the mean wizard in the eyes of some and it's generally a lot of stress, but I've continued always for two reasons;

One, I see it as a way I can give back to Rhialto and the game as I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given. The ability to express myself with my maps is something I love doing. Even if nobody gets to see them, I am just happy that my vision of something can be brought to life in the way it can when I upload it to the server or (to a lesser extent) see it in the mapeditor. So I am very thankful as I was given a chance I don't think I deserved at the time.

Two, I do it for players most of all. I know some of you like to complain, but then there are a lot of you who like to praise the game for its great community and even go so far as to say that's why you play. So, just knowing that you guys can login after a hard day and relax to have some fun with as little stress as possible because people aren't cursing at you to no end or doing a whole host of other stressful things, makes it all worth it.

Anyway, I hate being sappy and I hate talking about what I do like it's something of importance (i'm not curing cancer here) so remember this as you're probably not going to hear such candid talk from me again. In fact, if you repeat it I will probably threaten to eat you after roasting you alive. Now, let's get on to the part where you get to make fun of my awful mapmaking abilities of 2003 already. We both know that's what you came here for, after all.

I'm sorry to say I don't have the unedited version that was sent to Rhialto, but this is pretty close. Here is basically how it originally looked. I added the dark abyss crevices after the maps were live for a bit. So imagine the original with more open space. There were also no empty tiles in the left hand corner, (at least I don't think) no dirt hole, no undead unicorns, and no buildings with new graphics. Meaning, the graveyard was the normal graveyard, the inn was the normal ruined inn, the two small houses were these white ruined buildings, and the castle had blue towers. Also, there was no ruined wall in the right hand corner. I added that later thinking that, in an extreme bit of irony, I could add a plot point about how the villagers were just building a wall to defend the city before the attack and had only done that one bit.

For fun, here is an updated version of that map with all the new terrain I drew. It's a lot better, but still needed work. Specifically it needed to be split up into multiple maps and have a lot more going on in each. If you go to Forgotten Oak right now you can see how much better the west part of the map looks now. Well just think of that style continuing eastward with ever more maps, each with more buildings to explore and things to do, including monsters in each of them. That would be so great... when I get to it in 10 years.

Here's a really bad one for you to laugh at. It's a big square map that is way over the size limit and is filled with junk. I made four maps for the entire castle, one for each floor. Go there now and you will see about 20 maps just for the first floor alone (I didn't get to doing the other floors yet). It has all the same points of interest; the stables, the dining room, the entrance to the dungeons, and the throne room. However, there's so much more. There's an outer wall for extra defense that has space for archers to shoot out at enemies, there's a kitchen, (a dining hall without a kitchen was brilliant, but had to be fixed) and the entrance to the dungeons is fortified so if a break out happens they can't just run into the throne room and kill the king. Also, in the original version those stairs (which were white in the version Rhialto got since the colored stairs came later) were just random dungeons, but when I'm done with the castle there will be lots of good quality maps there instead.

Here's another bad one. I had this thing where I would make 25x25 maps and just fill them up with junk for no good reason whatsoever. I since have learned to make smaller maps and have them look like they belong to the structure that represents them. The current version you see when going to Forgotten Oak isn't the best and needs to be redone yet again, but it was better than this garbage. But anyway, another interesting thing about this and the Orc Tower is that it shows Alaria's influence on my early maps. It's all I really knew, so this is based off of the Southern tower in Alaria and the Orc tower was based off of the Northern one. Oh and for the record, the wooden floors you see in this graphic have updated graphics.

This is pretty close to the original, minus using Legolas' cliffs for walls. It originally used the cave wall terrain. When you see it today it's black and looks great, but back then it was this horrible looking piece of garbage that I hated having to use. So after a suggestion from Janica, I started using the cliff walls for cave walls (for the record, today I'm a cave wall terrain kind of mapmaker). Anyway, this map is an example of how far I've come. The original Elemental Dungeon consisted of 6 maps where as now, it's 15 and still not done. Plus it is what I consider to be some of my best work thanks to some of the brilliant new artwork we now have available to us, including that dark terrain that I came up with at some point. I just love making areas with it.

Here's just another example of my making 25x25 maps and filling it with stuff. This is unedited from what Rhialto got and there's absolutely no need for it to be this big. Go have a look at what it is now. I updated that map awhile ago, but it still holds up.

I don't walk to talk about it and you don't want to know. Trust me, it's better this way.

Well although this was part of a different area, I'm going to conclude this entry with this "gem" (ha!) of a map since it was included with the package to Rhialto. As you can see, I knew next to nothing about fantasy monsters as the ones I placed here are all wrong (although I knew what scorpions were and I put them in a forest map so I can only use that excuse so much). The demons/undead are out of place, gorgons mostly live underground, same with umberhulks, the blood angel shouldn't have been next to the floating eyes, and best of all... it's so beyond amazing that the fox is just wandering around and has not been eaten. Of course, in today's map you will see that it links to other maps. That is something that I did when I tried to complete this idea and turn it into a quest (that story is for another blog). After deciding to scrap it all I took the 3 maps that attached to it, redid them, redid this main map, and left it there despite having to throw out 200 maps.

For fun, I'll let in you in on a secret - You know the map that connects to the serpents? That used to be a lich map. I mean liches, out in broad daylight, just hanging around a forest with dimwitted monsters. How amateurish was that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ya, the best dungeons are the ones that are re-made and thrown out then re-made because the final product is usually something very perfect and enjoyable. It makes this classic game (like you mentioned earlier) have a sense of exciting appeal to it.