A Designer’s Guide to Creating a Quality Scenario by Master Echuu

A Designer’s Guide to Creating a Quality Scenario
By Master Echuu of SCN Punk

Greetings, fellow scenario designers. There are so many FAQs and Guides out there on how to use the scenario editor, but I’ve created this guide to help designers put those skills to good use. For those of you out there that are just learning the ways of the editor and have big plans for future campaigns, this guide may be of some use. This guide will show you each step you should take to create a quality piece of work to people’s liking. It will show you what you should do to get started on your scenario, and everything you should consider when in the designing process of the scenario.

The Early Stages:

Step 1 ~ The Plot


Your scenario needs a plot in order to make it exciting and attention grabbing. Before you start designing the scenario, you should create the storyline. When mapping out the story, you should ask yourself the following questions.

1. Which races or Civilizations will the scenario involve?
2. Where and when will the story take place?
3. What will be the motive of the enemy side?
4. What actions will the player-controlled side take to overcome the enemy?
5. Will any heroes be involved?
6. What will be the final outcome of the story?

These are the basic concepts of most storylines that you will see in campaigns and scenarios. After the basics, you can work out the small details of the story as you progress.

Step 2 ~ The Setting


The setting is key for any scenario or campaign. The settings include the time and place of the scenario, and the main characters of the story. Characters typically appear in RPG scenarios only. If your scenario is based around leading armies into battle, then the civilization or race will be the “Character”. Also, what is the time period of the scenario? All of these things should be considered when the setting is being created, and should be explained thoroughly to the player.


Into the Editor


Once the storyline and settings of your scenario have been confirmed, it’s time to start designing. You should be taking your time as you design your scenario. You may refer to the following list of step order when designing your scenario.

1. Create the Terrain
2. Create the Players and Set the AI
3. Place the Units on the Map belonging to the right Players
4. Create your settings Trigger (Renames, HP and Attack Change, etc…)
5. Set the Diplomacy
6. Fill in the Message Boxes (Instructions, Hints, etc…)
7. Create the scenario triggers

NOTE: This is just a suggestion to all scenario designers. Each designer may have their own way of going about creating their scenarios.

Scenario Design Tutorial


The following section will cover the five most important aspects of any scenario. Strategies and useful information will be given to improve your scenario, based on the criteria of the scenario review system.

1 ~ Playability

Depending on what type of scenario you are creating, the playability can differ for each scenario. Essentially, the playability is the player interaction of the scenario. Playability should not be too short, but not too long. Keep the playability level near the middle, which is usually just enough to keep the player busy for a reasonable amount of time.

In an RPG scenario, the player will typically take control of a single unit, guiding it through the map and fighting enemies along a fixed path. Usually RPG scenarios require a variety of playability, such as avoiding traps, stealing vehicles, or boss battles, to keep the player busy and engaged. RPG scenarios shouldn’t have playability throughout the entire scenario, but usually non-interactive cut scenes to introduce and close the scenario.

In a strategic game, consisting of a fixed force, the player usually must rely on tactics and unit abilities in order to survive. You should give the player a mixture of units, requiring that the player know which units are strong or weak against another unit. If the player is under the control of a large amount of units, it would be wise to makes sure that the path the player must follow is wide enough to avoid any unit jams.

In a build and destroy scenario, the player is given control of a military base and is responsible for gathering resources and training an army to overcome the enemy. A good idea for this would be to disable certain units for the player, so that the player cannot take the easy way out and may have to make do with the units he/she has available. Another thing that is great for build and destroy scenarios is setting up looping task triggers, so the enemy will attack the player every so often, to keep the flow of the game more exciting. Of course, you could create your own personal AI for the computer controlled players, but if you would rather avoid that long and tedious process, triggers would be your best bet.


2 ~ Balance

The balance of a scenario is one of the most important aspects of a scenario. Poor balance usually results in a poor scenario. Essentially, balance is the difficulty of completing a scenario. It should not be too easy to complete, but not too difficult. A scenario that is too easy will usually result in the player losing interest in playing about halfway through. A scenario that is too hard will usually result in a player getting very frustrated and quitting the scenario.

In an RPG scenario, the character’s stats usually must be raised, but to a reasonable amount. Don’t give the hero too much health so that it can never die, or too much attack power so that it kills everything in one hit. Typically, the unit’s HP should be around 400 – 500, while its attack remains at 9 –12. Make sure there are many obstacles for the hero to overcome, to keep the balance at a constant flow. If the scenario includes health packs to heal the hero, make sure that each pack needs to be used in order to survive the scenario. If the player ends the scenario with 2 or 3 health packs, then the balance needs some fixing.

In a Fixed Force Scenario, the player should be given a mixture of units, as mentioned above. Purposely set up the enemy units so that the player will have an advantage over them, but only if they choose their units wisely. Don’t give the player 100 units, while the enemy only has about 30 units. In a common fixed force scenario, the player usually takes control of either 10 – 20 units. The scenario should start out somewhat easy, making the enemy groups of the units weak. As the scenario progresses, give the player more things to worry about, such as heavy weapons.

In a Build and Destroy scenario, balance usually requires that the enemy have a well-defended stronghold, forcing the player to build massive armies, and relying on strategies in order to succeed. As mentioned above, set up enemy AI or triggers so that they will attack the player every so often. As the game progresses, have the enemy strike forces grow larger and more deadly.


3 ~ Creativity

An appealing scenario usually requires that creative ideas are brought into it. Coming up with your own ideas and implementing them into your scenario will give it a little bit of life, and may impress your players. Nobody wants to play a dull scenario that’s just like all of the others. Also, make sure you have triggers for your scenario. Just throwing a map together with some units for the player to use does not show any effort or creativity. Triggers can create dialogue for the scenario, as well as many other things.

The area that creativity lacks the most these days are in build and destroy scenarios. Keep in mind that when making one, include as many things as you can to enhance the scenario. Nobody wants to play a random map game, or else they wouldn’t have selected a custom scenario to play. A B&D scenario should have some dialogue and perhaps a few things to start the player out, such as a few shelters and a military structure. Create an appealing map to support the B&D scenario. Just keep in mind that if your scenario seems too much like a Random Map game, then go back to it and try to find any way to touch it up a little bit. What makes a B&D scenario exciting is starting with a rather large base right in the middle of a fight. Have opening cinematics to open the scenario, and give the player control of everything once it’s done with.

4 ~ Map Design

Eye-pleasing maps are a critical part for any scenario. Usually boring maps can result in a boring scenario. The first thing you should think about before creating the terrain is the theme of the map. Which world-type do you want to support in your map. Will your map be a jungle, a volcanic world, a desert, a forest, a space map, or a snow-covered world?

The Terrain


Usually Jungle maps use the palm trees mixed with some strange trees. The best looking ground for a jungle would be dirt 2 mixed with some grass 3. Snow planets usually have a lot of elevation, due to its lack of options for eye-candy. They can have patches of ice and dirty snow scattered in some areas. Indoor designs look best when mixtures of each metal are used throughout, and some organized elevation to represent platforms. Volcanic worlds are usually covered in volcanic rock, with lava pools and rivers throughout the area. Desert maps need a lot of different terrain to make it eye pleasing. Use each type of sand, with lots of scattered elevation. If you have cliffs on your desert map, use the rock terrain near the tops of the of cliffs and grey rocks to add to the map. No matter what theme you choose to create, use as many different types of terrain the editor has to offer that fits the map. If your map has many military structures in it, a good technique to enhance the map would be adding metal to area of the base. Place metal under the structures, just add a little realism to it.

Eye Candy


The most important aspect of map design is adding eye-candy to your map. These can be found under ‘Others’ in the units section with ‘GAIA’ as the owner. Each map theme is its eye-candy that best suits it. Jungles look best when they have a lot of Plants (Lush) scattered throughout. Other things to add include Plant (Bush), Rocks, Grey Water Rocks – Small, Mountains, etc… Snow maps can include Plants (Contorted), Plants (Snow). Just make sure your map has much to look at, and don’t leave any area blank. You can even create illusions with eye-candy. For example, in a dark forest, you can heavily mix Lush Plants and Bush Plants to make the effect of mud or brush.

For more complete guides on how to improve your map, be sure to check out Piett’s (Zara) Guide to Map Design 1 – 5.

5 ~ Story & Instructions

As mentioned before, a story or plot is a key factor to a successful scenario. Be sure to use the ‘Instructions’ Box in the Messages to tell the story. You can the ‘Victory’ Box to wrap up the story and give the conclusion for when the player wins the game.

Another thing that needs to be added to a quality scenario is instructions for the player to follow. Make sure that it is clear to the player what he/she needs to do in order to complete the level. To create objectives, set up a new trigger, click ‘Display as Objective’ and type in the description box what the player needs to do. Then create the desired conditions and effects to complete the objective trigger.

Another important factor that falls under this category is correct spelling and grammar in your dialogue and instructions. A number of scenarios out there are loaded with spelling and grammar errors, which can ruin a scenario. Make sure you capitalize character names and buildings, as well as thoroughly check your spelling before releasing the scenario. Also, changing the color of the dialogue is great thing to touch up the scenario. This can be done by surrounding the color name with <> right before the dialogue. An example of this would be…

[RED][c=red]Soldier – “Attack!”

NOTE: Because HTML is on, I had to use BBCode Brackets around the color names, or else they would not show up. Use <> brackets around the color names and not [].

The colors that can be used are RED, BLUE, GREEN, YELLOW, PURPLE, AQUA, ORANGE, and GREY. Keep in mind that the [COLOR NAME] will not appear in the actual dialogue in the game.

Neatness


I cannot stress enough how important neatness is in a scenario. I’ve seen some scenarios that display quality playability, map design, etc., but the overall design is very sloppy. You don’t want the scenario to be too jumpy, and switch settings every three minutes, but give each setting in your scenario a long time of playability for the player. Don’t make anything too tedious either, such as annoying mazes that don’t really contribute to the scenario, and things like that. Before you send your scenario to the site or someone else, always think… “Is there anything I can do to make it neater.”

Wrapping it Up


If you followed all the guidelines provided that can improve your scenario, then it should be in tip-top shape. Be sure to test your scenario once again and try to find any dry areas that can be improved upon. It would also be wise to have others test your scenario for you (Preferably Designing Experts) to see what needs to be done and provide helpful information. Also, triggers can be very tedious to create sometimes. If you’re stuck, you can always ask for help in my [url=http://swgb.heavengames.com/cgi-bin/forums/display.cgi?action=ct&f=6,3875,0,10]Scenario Design Help Thread[/url]. And if you are planning to design an RPG scenario, be sure to check the [url=http://swgb.heavengames.com/cgi-bin/forums/display.cgi?action=ct&f=6,3066,,all]RPG Design Guide[/url] created by The Crazy Person. I hope this guide is a great help to any scenario designer.

Here are some excellent examples to use as a guide…

Single Scenarios: Jedi Legends Part 1
Campaigns:

Thank you and good luck! :)

- Master Echuu


Contact the author, Master Echuu at
masterechuu@hotmail.com.