Campaign Standards of Today

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Campaign Standards of Today

Postby JimmyJames » Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:44 pm

I think this is a nice topic to complement the ongoing campaign contest that you guys are running now:

Everybody likes a good story. I think that's hammered enough but I just nailed it into the wall for your consideration.

Now before you read any of this, I am just an observer right now and I'm telling you what I've seen and remembered. To date, I have never released a map or campaign but I've fiddled with   Starcraft's Campaign Editor and I've fiddled less with Warcraft's WorldEdit... so any replies from an actual campaign maker is greatly greatly appreciated.

So this is a topic about the campaign standards of today and what could be improved to make campaigns easier to make. Accessibility is all a game needs to have a creative fanbase!

HIS STORY

With Starcraft 2 in progress and Warcraft 3 pretty much in an odd desolate abandonment from campaign makers, what standards do you think Starcraft 2's fan made campaigns will place on the community? Will there even be one or will it be as active as Warcraft 3?

Of course stories are key,
but since dialogue is a common way to develop a story, people will expect good voice acting. Bad voice acting will do worse than no voice acting at all unless it's a bad in a good way like a spoof.

Ruben Moreno's or Auspex's The Antioch Chronicles was the first to implement an engaging story and professional level voice acting into one package. If their third episode came out, I think a custom soundtrack would've also been included along with new modded units.
The cream of the crop in modding for me was RazorclawX's Vision of the Future series and the Oracle's The Legacy of the Confederation along with Fallen Angel. A custom soundtrack was beautifully chosen in the world of Ranma for VotF and the luxury of composer Joel Steudler enhanced the experience to the Oracle's works. Steudler even went as far to create a custom cinematic which no other Starcraft campaign had achieved yet (One for LotC and one for Fallen Angel).
While they were shiny, going back to storytelling, the best that I can remember after TAC was Desler's Celestial Irruption also because of its voice acting.
The one's with the most unique gameplay that stood out brilliantly were VotF series and Fallen Angel.

CAMPAIGN ELEMENTS

So what I have so far:

Story, definitely a requirement.
To complement telling a story, Professional Voice Acting, Custom soundtracks which don't exactly have to be original because that's also very luxurious.
Custom cinematics is the hugest luxury of all while many would just substitute with many in-game cinematics since Warcraft III.

Gameplay, the second biggest consideration.
To complement gameplay, the elements include terraforming/terrain because this can be as subtle as the music soundtrack. Finding new gameplay that strays away from the RTS concept or even better, evolving the RTS gameplay is another thing. And finally, modifications of units and abilities.

PAST PROBLEMS

One problem with the Warcraft Campaign Maker's Community are large standards. The Campaign makers worry about too many things at one time and that made their projects lose hope and fail. A blessing to the story telling elements is Warcraft's cinematic mode which is also a curse because a Campaign Maker would then have to really know how to compose a shot to film and therefore knocking the barriers between Film Making, Storytelling, and Gameplay Composing. In Starcraft, all you needed to do was center the only game screen you had and if you did that, that was the best camera operation everybody was satisfied with while the composition of game elements within the screen wouldn't be as scruntinized as people in Warcraft III was. While the Warcraft III WorldEdit was more complex allowing scripts other than trigger commands to do just the same thing, it was less accessible to the community because there was a larger learning curve to even be able to read the damn things! (That was one of my frustrations with the WorldEdit).

But not all the faults lie within the Blizzard Campaign Maker's Community (BCMC?). Blizzard itself is to blame where they don't officially offer as much support for the Campaign Editors as they do with the Game itself. The cinematic mode they inputted into the editor was a great addition indeed for storytelling but I don't think enough was added for the ease of storytelling. They mainly concentrated on a mapmaker's potential to form gameplay instead of story. For instance, one thing that I think would solve the high standard of dialogue and voice acting is to have dialogue bubbles that are ably attached to the unit itself just like an actual RPG... and then you could have the option to have it fade out or clicked/commanded to disappear as another bubble could be commanded to appear from another unit. The Starcraft had to deal with uninspired display text over the screen. It didn't have the same pulling effect as a dialogue bubble would have. Warcraft III, other than the display text now has bottom display space under the letterbox mode which is a nice improvement, but again, it's not as powerful as a dialogue bubble. Dialogue bubbles have more attitude and personality than boring text falling by the wayside (Silent movies had better strategies when they covered the whole screen to display dialogue!). Blizzard needs to input more storytelling capabilities into their campaign editors.

Doctor Doack said in the Starcraft 2 centered topic:
Wc3 has shown me how much blizzard's mapping community completely fails at making ums maps, so I am not really caring about that. I'm mostly worried about modding... but Blizzard will never be open to modders, let alone on the level actually decent companies are (Epic, GPG), so it's probably a lost cause to really hope.
I'm not sure if you were directing this at custom maps on Bnet AND Warcraft 3 Campaigns but I want to emphasize the reason why Warcraft 3 campaigns weren't being made in connection to the other UMS maps too....

I will repeat once again from the beginning:
So this is a topic about the campaign standards of today and what could be improved to make campaigns easier to make. Accessibility is all a game needs to have a creative fanbase!


Any additional corrections, comments, and replies are greatly appreciated:

I was mainly exposed to TAC, and CC's Campaigns and that was it. If anyone has any others they would like to mention, please educate me.
Last edited by JimmyJames on Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby tipereth » Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:11 pm

VotF worked as well as it did because, shit, the Black Dream was really fun to use.

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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby The Oracle » Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:44 pm

From a campaign maker's point of view, I see the following as all being important in this order:

Story:  The story itself has to be interesting enough for people to want to play hours upon hours of missions to watch it unfold. 

Game-play:  The game-play should not be too easy or too challenging, medium difficulty is best for a veteran campaign.  The game-play itself should be intuitive, and flow.  Objectives should progress the story and should give the player something new.  Also remember, StarCraft is an RTS.  Action should be at the heart of whatever happens in the maps.

Dialogue:  More important than voice acting is what the characters are actually saying.  Is it 'realistic' dialogue, things people might say under the circumstances, or contrived dialogue (unrealistic), or cliche (been said or done before / copied from someone else).  Are the characters speaking in a way that sets them apart from each other (unique personalities)?  Is there personality conflict?  Do the characters 'change' during the course of the campaign (ultimately any story will follow a protagonist changing for better or worse from start to finish).  While the game-play progresses the story, dialogue should progress 'both' the story, character development, and the game-play.

Voice-acting:  If it's to be done, there are two elements.  The quality of the acting, and the quality of the recordings.  If either is lacking, the quality of recording should be secondary to the acting.  Poorly acted or poorly written dialogue will harm a campaign.  If the acting quality is not there, there should not be voiceovers in the campaign, even if the technical quality of the recordings is excellent.

Visuals:  Last but not least are visuals.  If all other elements are there, these add and enhance the campaign in a way very little else can.  If the campaign uses the visuals as a crutch though and doesn't have the story, acting, dialogue, or game-play to back it up, it will still meet poor reception in the community no matter how good the visuals are.  (A conversion is different; I strictly speak of story based campaigns).  Sure people will go 'ga-ga' over the visuals initially, but that will fade. 

****************************

The bottom line is a campaign needs to be memorable.  It needs to be a unique experience.  And it doesn't need fancy voices, graphics, or actors.  The most important three components are story, dialogue, and game-play.  All that's needed for these is the map editor.  Once a campaign maker has those three licked, the rest is just icing on the cake.

(Ironically, it's the visuals and audio that actually end up taking the most time in post-production, even though they contribute the least to the overall impact of the campaign).
Last edited by The Oracle on Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby wibod » Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:38 pm

tipereth wrote:VotF worked as well as it did because, shit, the Black Dream was really fun to use.


This, and RCX managed to use a million characters fairly well.

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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Meta » Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:50 am

Something you guys are forgetting are the actual storytelling and ambience. It doesn't matter if you have a great story, when it is told via extremely long mission briefings or boring 1-hour segments showing the very same area with no action whatsoever. Of course, every story will have its quiet moments, its more intense moments and the more intensive gameplay-heavy moments, but these should be balanced. Good soundtrack, sound effects and terrain must all interact to make storytelling a dynamic process. LotC is a fine example of this.

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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Maglok » Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:02 am

That's all very true, I like the train of thought.

Jimmy posted a bit about where some campaign makers wanted to achieve more then they were capabale of and thus achieved no release at all in the end. This phenomena is known as the 'feature creep' and is indeed very real. There are mods to this day that have taken 5 years to 'complete' and... well are not completed at all. Project Revolution is one of those projects that just wants to redesign units all the time, that will cut in you actually producing something. At one point you have to say 'this is what will be in this level' and lock it, do it, release it, and take any ideas you get afterwards to the next level.

That brings me to another point. I wonder how the release an episode a time model caters to SC2 with it's 'fly through the galaxy selecting missions from planets', do we now have to deliver an entire campaign right away? Hm.
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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Taeradun » Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:46 am

I'd agree with Oracle the key components are story, dialogue and gameplay, but I'd draw out the "dialogue" part to "storytelling" as Meta pointed out - characters personalities and talking style is only a part of the way you tell the story that draws the player in to the story; also key to this is setting the general ambience/atmosphere (like throughout a lot of LotC 1 the prevailing mood of panic or depression that the terrans are pretty much doomed), which can also include things like custom music (Nothing Else Matters ;)) or artwork, but if done right you can make do without these.

Story speaks for itself; when you go to any campaign's website what you see is a synopsis of the storyline after all, and gameplay is also important even if you're not doing completely groundbreaking stuff at least avoid having the entire thing be typical "build and destroy".

I was gonna go into a bit about how most of the projects I had planned worked a bit differently in the way they were planned, but that was a lot of typing so forget that. :P Though I will point out that with Code Red, the one project I may actually release a bit of in Brood War some day, it was originally conceived as a "proof of concept" since it was primarily about doing some cool tileset editing and everything else like storyline was incidental (though it has changed a fair bit since the original idea).

JimmyJames wrote:Steudler even went as far to create a custom cinematic which no other Starcraft campaign had achieved yet (One for LotC and one for Fallen Angel).
Don't forget Fall From Grace SE too ;)

Maglok wrote:That brings me to another point. I wonder how the release an episode a time model caters to SC2 with it's 'fly through the galaxy selecting missions from planets', do we now have to deliver an entire campaign right away? Hm.
The flying through space thing may be used for the main campaign; but assuming the ability to make user campaigns work that way will be provided (should be since there was that campaign thing available in Frozen Throne), not everyone will still use it for their custom campaigns (there'll still be a "play individual scenario" option and I would assume still a "set next scenario" option within maps themselves). Campaign makers choosing between the "map at a time" model or "flying through space thing" model would be the same as for Brood War choosing between map at a time or bundling the maps in the EXE and replacing the Brood War campaign menu like FFG SE and Fallen Angel did.
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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Falchion » Mon Jan 14, 2008 6:27 am

Although the others are right, when they say the key elements are story, dialogue and gameplay, my key element is also character and dialogue personality.  It's a factor that makes some heavy influence with dialogue.  With that you can make an angry discussion, a normal conversation and you also can make all the kinds of different characters and the kind of relationships between them.  That's what Trial by Fire is trying to achieve.
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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Marine » Mon Jan 14, 2008 12:04 pm

My main key is story like the Oracle said and also how it has to be memorable.
I think the story has to be good and well written that you could literally picture it in your mind just by reading the story. Thats how it is when ever I make a story. And story helps work on the game play too a little.
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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Thalraxal » Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:15 pm

On making campaigns more accessable for people...  The failure of the community to make campaigns for WC3 is all about story.  There needs to be space for people to work inside Blizzard's Universe.  The thing is, the SC1 Universe is *HUGE*.  The Galaxy is a really, really big place.  There's space for every story in the Korprulu Sector and beyond.  The Zerg Broods are innumerable, Terrans get everywhere and the Protoss have an Empire and we had almost ten years with SC2 being nothing but a distant possibility.  The past (pre-Precursor Campaign), Present (Episodes 1-6) and future (Post-Brood War) were all avaliable for a campaigner to work in.

In WarCraft 3 however, we never had that.  We had one (point whatever is left of Dreanor) worlds at our disposal and Blizzard used most of it in their story.  Both had become well defined (or blown up) and you can only have so many lost continents.  We had a longer history, and what's worse, we had no future.  We knew almost immeadiatly what happened after The Frozen Throne.  We had WoW.  The future was millions of people killing respawning monsters for XP and loot.  There was almost no place left for people to work inside Blizzard's world.  There was no "I wonder what happens next..." leading to "Hey!  I can tell that story in WC3 using WorldEdit!".  And I think that's what crippled WC3 campaigning.  While the SC universe was undefined outside or Auir, Shakuras and some parts of the Korprulu Sector, there was always plenty of space for a campaigner to work.  Even if Blizzard defines every single planet and star system inside the Korprulu sector in SC2, we still have the rest of the Milky Way Galaxy to play with.  Inside WC3, we didn't have that kind of space.

What Blizzard needs to do is give us that space for stories.  Define enough stuff to get us thinking, but leave enough stuff open so we can still have space to play with.  And to not announce Galaxy of StarCraft until the SC2 Expansion has been out for afew years.

Uh... I'll talk about what's important to me in a campaign (both playing and making) in another post.  This one seems to have gotten abit wordy.

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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby IskatuMesk » Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:29 pm

Make something original for a change and stop trying to make crappy sequels? :P
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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Meta » Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:59 pm

Thalraxal wrote:On making campaigns more accessable for people...  The failure of the community to make campaigns for WC3 is all about story.  There needs to be space for people to work inside Blizzard's Universe.  The thing is, the SC1 Universe is *HUGE*.  The Galaxy is a really, really big place.  There's space for every story in the Korprulu Sector and beyond.  The Zerg Broods are innumerable, Terrans get everywhere and the Protoss have an Empire and we had almost ten years with SC2 being nothing but a distant possibility.  The past (pre-Precursor Campaign), Present (Episodes 1-6) and future (Post-Brood War) were all avaliable for a campaigner to work in.

In WarCraft 3 however, we never had that.  We had one (point whatever is left of Dreanor) worlds at our disposal and Blizzard used most of it in their story.  Both had become well defined (or blown up) and you can only have so many lost continents.  We had a longer history, and what's worse, we had no future.  We knew almost immeadiatly what happened after The Frozen Throne.  We had WoW.  The future was millions of people killing respawning monsters for XP and loot.  There was almost no place left for people to work inside Blizzard's world.  There was no "I wonder what happens next..." leading to "Hey!  I can tell that story in WC3 using WorldEdit!".  And I think that's what crippled WC3 campaigning.  While the SC universe was undefined outside or Auir, Shakuras and some parts of the Korprulu Sector, there was always plenty of space for a campaigner to work.  Even if Blizzard defines every single planet and star system inside the Korprulu sector in SC2, we still have the rest of the Milky Way Galaxy to play with.  Inside WC3, we didn't have that kind of space.

What Blizzard needs to do is give us that space for stories.  Define enough stuff to get us thinking, but leave enough stuff open so we can still have space to play with.  And to not announce Galaxy of StarCraft until the SC2 Expansion has been out for afew years.

Uh... I'll talk about what's important to me in a campaign (both playing and making) in another post.  This one seems to have gotten abit wordy.


I'll have to agree with your post, although, as Mesk said, something original can be done. You never mentioned making campaigns outside the Blizzard universe, for example. I know of at least one campaign - The Black Company by Badthrall - that takes place outside the WC3 universe and has a great story and flow.

You could still make a WC3 campaign set on Azeroth about a band of low-ranking guys or even guys outside the formal military forces for a change. :)

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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Thalraxal » Mon Jan 14, 2008 5:41 pm

Doctor Doack wrote:Make something original for a change and stop trying to make crappy sequels? :P


Using SC as an example of a more successful campaigning community: How many SC campaigns are independant of the SC-Universe?  If the StarCraft Mini-Campaign Contest is an accurate sample of the SC campaigning community, only 2 of the 13 entries seem to be independant of the SC-Universe (Project Triton and the Shadow Syndicate Campaign).  People seem to like working in the Universe that came with the game.

Mr. Meta wrote:I'll have to agree with your post, although, as Mesk said, something original can be done. You never mentioned making campaigns outside the Blizzard universe, for example. I know of at least one campaign - The Black Company by Badthrall - that takes place outside the WC3 universe and has a great story and flow.

You could still make a WC3 campaign set on Azeroth about a band of low-ranking guys or even guys outside the formal military forces for a change. :)


Hey, don't forget Wanderers of Sorceria.  Outside the WC3-Universe (whether it's a brand new world, or based on the novels of Glen Cook) seems to be the way to go for WC3, but if we want a campaign-rich environment, SC2 will have to provide the kind of openess that SC1 has.

If I do make a campaign for WC3, I'll probably have it set in a world of my own.  I just haven't felt particularly inspired to do anything in WC3, and I've still got acouple SC1 projects I'd like to finish first.


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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby JimmyJames » Tue Jan 15, 2008 1:16 am

A flexible world to work in could be one factor in the reason behind the WC3 community's inability to release projects. Another reason could be the 'feature creep' borrowing the term from Maglok's post where campaign creators put too much work in front of them to finish. But to point at another paragraph in my topic post, does anyone agree that another reason could be the ease and learning curve of the Campaign Editor itself. There is the architect and his tools. If he gets new tools and they are hard to figure out, chances are the person would go back to using his older tools or stop his work altogether. This might also run into why people in the Starcraft community are more successfully productive than the Warcraft community.
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Re: Campaign Standards of Today

Postby Maglok » Tue Jan 15, 2008 1:59 am

I'd boggle that last point down to the fact Warcraft 3 was, A: Not as popular as Starcraft, and probably still isn't and B: Warcraft 3's setting was quickly sequeled by World of Warcraft. If you are a Warcraft fan you'd move on to WoW, sure not everyone, but a lot.
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