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Scenario Design

SHADOW MAGIC INTERVIEW
"More Balanced Multiplayer Maps Needed!"

Note: Though LeagueAOW no longer exists, this interview was retained because it provides useful insights on how to develop a quality AoW scenario.

An Interview with Der Waggs, LeagueAOW owner and lead admin, and his views on making maps for league play.

There are two major concerns when it comes to making scenarios: one aspect is beauty and the other is balance. In a recent forum poll, a lot of you who took part in it stated that there is a need for more balanced maps. So I went to Der Waggs and asked him for his thoughts on the matter of making maps for live MP games. This interview contains useful advice if you are thinking of making maps for purpose of live multiplayer games (TCP/IP games)


History of a Gamer and the birth of LeagueAOW

Der Waggs:
I have been playing the game since its release date in 1999. A friend of mine bought it for my birthday.

When I was in High School, a friend of mine introduced me to the world of board war games. Back then, we didn't have computers. A few years later, I purchased my first computer, mostly as an extension of my wargaming hobby. One day a female friend of mine bought me AoW for my birthday. She found it under the new releases. At first, I didn't think I would enjoy a fantasy game but after giving it a try, I became hooked. I then joined the Starlance League (SL) to play online with other people. Later on, when Argammon retired from lead Admin of Starlance, he left the position to me. I've always played fair and honorably. Argammon even gave me a "Fair Gamer Award" at Starlance :) When SL folded, I decided to start LeagueAoW. I just wanted to return something to the AOW community for all the hours of enjoyment I had playing online as a member of Starlance AOW Combat League.


Maps for League Games. (Multiplayer Maps.)

BCH: League AOW has a map database, what kind of maps can be submitted or do you guys just take in any kind of map?

Der Waggs:
Elquein and I are looking for multiplayer (MP) maps that are fairly well balanced for online tourneys and competition. (Ed: This games are played via TCP/IP connection, i.e. they are live-games) Map size doesn't really matter as each player has his/her own preference on size. We prefer balanced MP maps that are fun and have some nice terrain features. I feel that there is no need to add single player maps as we are concentrating on running multiplayer league games. Besides, Heavengames (AOW Heaven) already has a wonderful map database full of maps. The number of Independents on the map is also the players' preference call.


BCH: How do you determine if a map is suitable for league play? What makes a map good for MP play?

Der Waggs:

1) I open the map in the editor to check if all players start at equal levels with equal city size and resources.

2) Then I count up the resources that each player has access to.

3) Once I've determine the map is fairly well balanced, then I look over the terrain to see if it will be fun to play on. No one wants a boring looking map.

4) Another key is check over the items. Nothing is worse than playing a league game and some player pops up with a super item while the others have no chance of obtaining one.

5) I will play each race on the map once to see how it goes, while making notes on the balance and eye appeal of the map.

6) Later, I pop online and look for a few friends to test it. Then I ask their opinions as well as to see if they find the map exciting to play on.

I like maps with a lot of nasty AI like Slugfest and Westhelad's maps (these are AOW1 maps, but they are the ground work for AOW2 map since the same principle applies). Also, maps/scenarios like Circle of War (AOW1 map by Jpinard) with few AI independents are fun because of the unique layout of the map and the ability to meet your opponents early on.


BCH: Do you think that teleporter ability in cities will change the way the game is played? And should designers for MP maps limit their use?

Der Waggs:
Well, I've already had the pleasure of several online games. I've really enjoyed the ability to teleport. Yes, it does change the way you play since your Wizard and Units can now go from city to city rapidly on the map. As far as limiting their usage, I hope not. They are fun and add a bit of flavor to the map."

I'm sure there will be some nice maps with the teleporter functions off since they may be themed that way for storyline. However, I'm sure that I for one, will play more often on maps that include them. After all, Wizards should be able to "poof" and vanish."


BCH: With the change in system in AOW2 (being able to implement scripts, and upgrading of cities.), will that affect how MP games are play out or not? If it does, how so?

Der Waggs:
I really like the new city upgrading options as it really adds excitement to the game. I think the game play overall is more fun. I see few trying to make a Super leader but concentrate now on building up mixed unit stacks for battle. To win, you now need a good mix of troops and a good spellcaster. Too sum it up, the new game ROCKS. What we really need are some good maps. Many League members are already drooling for better maps having exhausted the ones that came with the game.


BCH: Do you have anything to tell or request of the mapmakers in regards to making scenarios for league gaming?

Der Waggs:
Yes, I do have a few things to say to the mapmakers:

Some of the most eye-appealing and exciting maps I've seen are generally unsuitable for MP. It seems that many Mapmakers are far more concerned with a storyline and how the map looks rather than how it plays. The sad part is it doesn't really take much effort to tweak a map for MP. A good example is your map The Forgotten Evil. The first version had a balance flaw where anyone could win with the Undead. Once, you tweaked the map it became a popular SL map. Many others and I have had many hours of enjoyment playing on it.

The AOW1 map "No Roads" is by far the most popular online map and the most requested. I think this could be a model for future AoW2 league MP maps.


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