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PawelS: on modding tools, what he does and future plans!

Interview by Swolte: April 2005

PawelS has been been having a great influence on keeping the Age of Wonders-game alive and ever developing. He has made several programs for our community that allow us to modify and convert beyond what was thought possible. He does this in a very modest, calm and professional manner. For this, he was picked for an interview! Enjoy!

How did you discover Age of wonders and what made you get hooked?

I always liked fantasy TBS (Turn Based Strategy) games, since the times of Master of Magic and Heroes of Might and Magic 2. (Earlier I played King’s Bounty, the ancestor of the HoMM series, but it wasn’t a true TBS). One day I saw a piece in a Polish computer games magazine about a game in development called Age of Wonders (I think it was in 1997). The game features sounded promising, so I decided to keep an eye on it. When the game was released in 1999, I bought it, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with it because I prefer to play single player games, and the AI (Artificial Intelligence) in AoW1 is terrible. I like AoW2 and AoWSM more, because the AI is much better in them so single player games can be challenging on some maps.

What I like in the AoW series is its diversity; there are many races with their own unique units that have many different abilities, etc. I think AoW games are in many ways similar to my previous favorite game, Master of Magic. The other games in this genre have significant weaknesses in comparison to AoW. In HoMM there is a “stacking rule” (100 dragons can occupy the same slot as 1 peasant), which leads to the “killer stack tactics”, and the game outcome is often decided after one big battle. The Warlords and Disciples series lack a true tactical combat system, which, in my opinion, is a mandatory feature of a good fantasy TBS game.

I like tinkering with the games to improve them. Long ago I made a HoMM2 mod using an Excel sheet to calculate unit values, so they were better balanced. Using a similar method, I made some changes to AoW1. I haven’t created an AoWSM mod yet, but if I do, it will be very “different”, and maybe I’ll be the only one who likes it. ;) For now, I enjoy making programs that help modders and mapmakers.

Could you tell us about the programs you have developed for this game?

My programs include:

* UGPM – a tool for re-coloring units. It allows the modmakers to create new unit graphics for their mods by re-coloring existing units. My original program is text-based, but HamletG has developed a GUI version.

* A simple program that enables using the standard maps and the AoWSM campaign with a mod.

* Map Converter (my biggest pride) – converts AoW1 maps to AoWSM. It took me a lot of time and effort to make it.

* ILB converter – converts AoW1 unit graphics to AoWSM.

* Unit Editor – allows giving units more than 50 HP and levels higher than 4.

* Map Sizer – creates maps of any size, up to 256x256.

* I also made a replacement ILB file for AoW2/AoWSM with colored spell icons. It’s easy to tell which spell belongs to which magic sphere when using them.

My programs and other AoWSM-related files are available on my website and some of them can be also downloaded from the AoW2 Heaven site.

There are always a lot of great suggestions for changes on the forums. Can you explain why some changes are easy to implement while others would be impossible?

Some things in the game (called “resources”) are moddable in the AoWSM editor and using other tools, like my Unit Editor. The rest is hard-coded and almost impossible to change without access to the game source code, which is kept safe by the game developers to prevent other programmers from stealing their work.

What are you currently working on?

You know it. ;) Currently we’re both working hard on the unofficial patch. I’m a member of the Technical Support and Unit/Structure design teams. The patch will give the mapmakers lots of new game elements to use, like units, wizards, map structures, event images, etc.

How do you see the future of modding for Age of Wonders?

I think there won’t be many new modding possibilities (unless the AoW1 source code is released), so the modders should rather think about the best way to utilize the existing possibilities to make the game more enjoyable and balanced.

Of course there may be an AoW3, but we just don’t know how moddable it will be.

My plans for the future include:

* an AoWSM mod (mentioned earlier)

* a new version of the Map Converter, which will use units and map structures introduced in the unofficial patch

* an update to the MapSizer that will allow resizing existing maps and copying areas from one map to another

* a new version of my re-coloring program, with some new features

* a new version of colored spell icons (AoW1 style – black icons on colored backgrounds)

* AoW1 campaigns converted to AoWSM (replacing the standard AoWSM campaign, with the AoW1 world map displayed)

* a map for the map contest that will be announced after the release of the unofficial patch

* I’m also developing my own game (it’s in a very early stage for now).

Thank you for the interview! As a last question, have you ever been (secretly) associated with Triumph Studios?

Even if I was secretly associated with them, I couldn’t tell you, because it would be a secret! ;) By the way, why would they need a secret agent?

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