[Article] AO, the making of

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[Article] AO, the making of

Postby IskatuMesk » Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:21 pm

Armageddon Onslaught derives from several core fundamentals, then expands outwards into creating a unique experience. AO is not my largest undertaking, but it has been my most successful. In this article I will touch on the thought processes involved in its creation, AO's origins, and some of the story concept.

Armageddon Onslaught - Creating the perfect enemy

Picture back when you were young, impulsive, easily influenced. Horror movies still gave you nightmares, the boogey-man was still real, and games held a degree of immersion. When I was young, and Starcraft was just released, I could live it. The fog of war and the unknown nature of the zerg to a mind completely unfettered by literature like Lovecraft and Warhammer allowed me to embrace the Starcraft world as a mysterious and hostile place. Then the campaigns ruined it.

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Diablo was much the same way. Even today I consider Diablo's graphics to be amongst the best ever created in any game. The thought of struggling for survival in a world where everything and anything can hurt you appealed to me. The challenge to rise in power but end up reaching deeper into that well of darkness that inspires terror and mystery. I wanted to mimick this environment. This hostile world where every step into the darkness feels as though you are discovering something new and potentially deadly. Where no matter how many times you traveled down this road, every time was different.


When someone sees a beast or a demon, they feel threatened, because they are alien. This feeling is best emphasis by a careful mix of knowledge and mystery. You may only know of this creature in passing, enough to know it's powerful. Yet you don't know what its full capabilities are. This is what Armageddon Onslaught establishes. In the game you can select the unit and know its name and base damage, but you have no idea what it's going to do until you actually face it in combat. Small, fragile units like the Damnation and Oblivion can actually turn out to be extremely devastating if not dealt with appropriately.

Armageddon itself is derived of these feelings. The feelings of mystery and fear. I give players something they're comfortable with - the default races - and I set them up against something they know little about. After that, it comes down to instinct. You know how to play. You know how to win. But do you know how to fight against an opponent such as this?

With Armageddon I sought to create a race based on that kind of an instinct. Armageddon as a race does not entertain concepts such as politics or currency. Their ships are forged out of the very stones of Hell itself, their soldiers are simply beasts and heretics set free to burn and pillage at their will. Yet, within this chaos, there is a single driving force.

The Great Destroyer.

The Great Destroyer and the Will of Armageddon

When I played Guild Wars: Eye of the North and constantly heard of the title "The Great Destroyer", I had always imagined him to be bigger. Bolder. More intelligent. A sinister evil but a terrible evil. Instead you got this kind of a chicken-like thing that wasn't terribly difficult to cheese your way into killing.

With Armageddon, I wanted to create a name that players could instantly recognize. Instead I ended up with the title "The Great Destroyer". I thought, "Well, it fits, so let's keep it."

The Great Destroyer is essentially the Devil. The incarnation of evil and the will of evil. He exists for one purpose - to sow the seeds of pain and despair. To burn and destroy, to consume and corrupt. He is the very enemy of the Gods and mortalkind.

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When I think of the name, "The Great Destroyer", I imagine a God-like being of such magnitude, not only in scale and physical strength, but in emotion and weight of thought. This is a creature of such incredible hatred and disdain for all things that exists simply to watch them burn. He doesn't care if he dies once or a thousand times, or how many battles he needs to fight, he'll keep on fighting until he reaches this goal. It reminds me a lot of myself, really, so when I think of the Destroyer I think of myself in my worst of times. I end up with a creature that has many forms, many faces, and one personality. A kind of a sarcastic, deep-meaning silence that only stares back at you through the flames in feigned humility.

Given the chance to incarnate him in Starcraft 2, I do believe that it would be something truly impressive to behold.

Bringing Armageddon to life

The concept of a demon race is not something new or original. Indeed, by using the Terran and Protoss races as our protagonists, I surrender any form of truly original basis. Yet, I had the opportunity to provide a unique experience for players and for spectators. The question was, how would I turn these visions into reality?

The wave-based Tier idea plays upon the designs of old UMS maps that gave players hero units with the mission to survive increasingly difficult waves of zerg units. Instead of heroes and crappy terrain, though, we now have our own races and whatever map we want to play on. To produce something that could challenge a team of skilled players or beefed up computers, I had to reach back into time and pull out all of my shelfed concepts from mods ranging from 2008 to 1999. I reached back into the very humble beginnings of my Starcraft modding and looked for my old ideas.

The biggest motivation behind this project was access to Diablo 1 graphics, courtesy of Nottingham Systems, and infinity-engine graphics, courtesy of a bit of grunt work and some logistic support by poiuy_qwert. Once I had these graphics I simply reached upwards into my mind and conjured ideas for them.

The Pit Lord was the first unit to be born, but only because it existed as a part of my Sarenubus Kaladonmus tech demo. SK was intended to be a 10-12 mission long campaign featuring the Zelconian in a sidestory involving Sarenubus' struggle against the Anahn within my universe known as the Lour Saga. As things tend to go, SK was never started on, and the tech demo was forgotten for quite some time. The Pit Lord, though, was the first unit to be added into AO and helped set the bar for future units. I literally told me, "Dudes should be at least this insane to be added".

Shortly after, I got a hold of Belhifet's graphic which I soon used for the Madness Titan. The Madness Titan is a truly fearsome opponent and it was with his creation that I really set in motion the mod's unit list. I had a lot of ideas for units but most of them turned out to be impossible with Starcraft's limitations. For example, the Fallen Hero was supposed to fire a volley of projectiles that would randomly explode mid-flight. That was not possible. Also, the Damnation's projectiles were supposed to have random speeds in addition to random damage - also impossible.

The unit that gave me the most trouble overall was the Great Destroyer himself, and he's still not perfect. I had planned to add a ton of overlay effects to him but as my motivation continued to plummit I realized I'd never get around to it. The biggest problem with TGD was the fact that he'd randomly lock out commands until you pressed "stop", something the AI can't do. I discovered that this was because of the game not running the "walk" animation thread in some rare instances when the unit wanted to move, and TGD needs that sequence to initiate his teleportation code. I made workarounds for this, but the AI still sometimes gets him locked out, usually over water, for some undiscernable reason.

For sounds, I mostly used a bunch of sounds directly ripped from infinity-engine games. I had a few voice actors assist me in voicing a few of the Legendaries, but not all of them got voiced like I had hoped for. Voice acting has become increasingly difficult for me, as schizophrenia makes it impossible to focus much less act decently. I had spent since the beginning of the project over a year ago until about a month pre-release trying to make the Destroyer's voice.

Since I was already extremely experienced in SC modding by the time I began AO, I could confidently challenge all of my old ideas. The problem was that when I ran into problems, like the Destroyer's failure to move, and some other issues, I had no one to turn to. Sometimes being the most knowledgeable in a subject can seriously bite you in the ass, and I was seriously screwed on multiple occasions. SC is not a fun game to mod when you are trying to force your way through its many hardcoded problems. It reminds me a lot of trying to make my campaigns in warcraft 3 and running into problem after problem with the AI or pathing.

Conclusion

AO didn't reach the level of polish I wanted it to reach, but I feel that it's a good start to what will hopefully be a successful project inside Starcraft 2. However, my extremely bad modeling skills won't carry much into that game, so I hope I can find some talented individuals to make graphics for me. Either that or figure out a process of converting WoW models.
Image~[Gameproc]~Image
Warning: dialogue contains politically incorrect content. Viewer rearsore may occur.

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