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Scenario Design

Overcoming the Obstacles of Creativity Part 1

An interview with Queen Elquein. Her AOW maps are well known for their terrain beauty and playability. Elquein is the scenario downloads manager for LeagueAOW. Although the following interview touches on techniques used mostly in AOW1, but the priniciples behind them are very applicable for AOW2 mapmaking as well. We mapmakers know that feeling of giving up when we come to a point where we run out of ideas or when we suffer from a map crash. Elquein had a particularly bad experience in her last AOW1 map: Athendore, where she lost the entire map due to a bug which corrupted the file. And she started all over again when most people will just give up.

This article is in two parts.

(Note: If you want to view some screenshots of the AOW1 map Athendore, take a look at the AOWH version of this article here.)

Q: Why do you make maps?

Elquein:

Why do I make maps? Hmm...hard to say. I suppose I want to be the best mapmaker out there. Modesty is a virtue, but not in this case. You need to have good goal in mind. I don't want to make maps that people think are "ok". I want to make maps that people will remember, maps that people will refer to when talking about good maps. I don't need much feedback. I know if my map is good or bad.

If it's bad, then it goes into the "Failed Maps" folder that I have, and you would be surprised to see how many half-made maps I have there. I aim for perfection. So until I make that perfect map, I'll keep making them whenever I have the time.

Q: Where do you usually get your ideas?

Elquein:

First, I thought I'd have a good answer for this, but now that I think on it, I don't. I never really get a grand idea, it's just something that comes out of nowhere into my mind. I just get this feeling sometimes that I want to create a map. Then, I just open the editor and start creating.

It really doesn't matter what I make, I just slowly begin to get more ideas, and I keep twisting and shaping those ideas as I try to put them on the map. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.

I once told a friend of mine that making a map is like painting, you are an artist of sorts. It's all about inspiration. I never force myself to make a map. I have tried, but the results didn't please me at all.

One little hint about generating map ideas: take pen and paper, and simply draw out or write down your ideas.

I personally like to just lie on my bed and draw a little minimap, with several little explanations and plans, about what it will look like, who will be there, what terrain I would like to use, and so on.


How to deal with difficulties when making maps

Q: Last year, while working on a large map, I remember you had to start over because your map file became corrupted, it must been hard, how were you able to recover from such a painful lost?

Elquein:

Well I wouldn't call it painful, it was just extremely annoying and it made me say things that I wouldn't normally say. But that also made me search for a solution for the annoying map crash bug that AoW has, and I did find it. So I never have to worry about that again.

But after I lost my map (that was suppose to be my greatest piece of work so far), for weeks I didn't even want to look at the editor.

I completely wiped everything from my mind and did other things I like to do that had nothing do with computers. That helped.

Slowly, when the fact that I had lost my map didn't annoy me anymore, I began re-making the map that I had lost. although it didn't look much like the old one, but the result was Athendore. I'm quite pleased with that map. So you could say that, that little crash, caused lot of good. :)

Q: What advice do you have for those who start on a map and find it hard to finish?

Elquein:

There are 3 phases when it comes to making a map.

First is the beginning when you have lot of ideas and you are excited. You can spend hours after hours creating your map that you have high hopes for.

After a while, the second phase begins. Most likely, you have made many exciting places, and now you just need to cover and make the more boring terrain. You know you have to do it, but you just can't bring yourself to finish it. You place a few trees and mountains, and then you get bored. I know the feeling, it has happened to me many times.

If you get over this second phase, you get to the very nice third phase: when it's time to finish the map. You would be making heroes and items; adding some finishing touches on the terrain, playtesting and so on.

Now obviously, most mapmakers, including myself, have problems with the second phase. That's when things start to get boring, and you think that you will never get this map done. This happens especially with large and extra large maps. When you get the feeling that you are just about fed up with the editor and making the silly terrain. Then it's better to just take a break - few hours, a few days, even a few weeks if you feel like it.

There really is no rush to finish the map. The more you rush, the more bugs you will miss, and usually, one can see it in the terrain if the mapmaker has been rushing to get the map finished.

When I was making Athendore, I had many week-long breaks in between. I just didn't want to make the map if I was bored. Even though making Athendore took me very long, about 6 months, I knew that I had done the best I could at that time, and was very pleased with the result. If you get that kind of feeling, then you should be happy. As all you need to do is to do your best, no more, no less.


Go to Part 2

Screenshots and editing by Bluecollarheaven.

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