(Will add Part 2 and Screenshots and format when I have time)
This document shall elaborate my thought process during the creation of the StarCraft 2 map Shadow of the Xel’Naga: Chapter 1 – Welcome to Bhekar Ro. The most important parts are in bold to improve readbility.
Deciding on a project idea
I like to draw from a source that has both rich storyline and atmosphere. I love the StarCraft lore and I have read all official StarCraft novels. Doing a project based on books was a fun process in WarCraft 3 so I expect it to be the same in StarCraft 2.
Deciding on a book
Dark Templar Trilogy?
Too large for a beginning project I, Mensgk or Heaven’s Devils?
No Protoss or Zerg directly involved
Queen of Blades or Liberty’s Crusade?
Already depicted in StarCraft games Shadow of the Xel’Naga or Speed of Darkness?
SotX simply because I liked it more
My most important step when turning a book into a project
I ignored the narrative pace and jumps between chapters and characters and developed my own units of meaning. These units of meaning would later become the actual maps in the campaign.
I planned to have as few maps as possible to give each a powerful impact in storyline and gameplay. The original document has changed a lot in terms of gameplay, cinematics, number of players and playable maps. The current plan is to create 7 playable 2-player-cooperative maps, each based on a different genre.
Chapter 1 – GTA in Space
(Semi-open world, side quests, mini-games) Chapter 2 – Survival-Adventure
(Combine items, solve puzzles, flee from Zerg) Chapter 3 – Side-Scroll-Shooter
(aka The Lost Vik…Phoenix!)
Chapter 4 – Tower Defense
(Build defenses and use units to defend a base.) Chapter 5 – Typing of the Dead
(Hack a code and type it to your ally) Chapter 6 – WoW-very light
(Level up, learn skills and use them in 3rd person)
Chapter 7 – StarCraft Multiplayer
Set up a base and vie for dominance against two other races on a multiplayer-style map.
Each map should be more complex than the previous to help me maintain a learning curve within the StarCraft 2 Editor.
The development of Chapter 1
The rest of this document will focus solely on Chapter 1. It describes all phases in its development.
Phase 1: First steps with the Editor
I experimented with a few ideas on a test map, like a car-driving system with a locked camera and keyboard movement. I also got familiar with the Data Editor, giving units new weapons, upgrades, an inventory etc. Finally I created a 1vs1 melee map to train with the Terrain Editor. Various map layouts and ideas for mission objectives were tested. The player's hero drove around in a vehicle and completed objectives like collecting items, killing hostile units, repairing bridges and threshing small animals with the vehicle.
Phase 2: Learning from others
I played numerous other fanmade maps taking advantage of the Editor’s new possibilities. I wanted my campaign to have characteristics that would seperate it from these maps and my WC3 campaigns. I developed the long-term goal to create a 2-player cooperative campaign with different genres for each map.
Phase 3: Planning Chapter 1 - Summary of the book’s events (book chapters: 1, 3, 6)
Octavia and Lars drive around inside a Robo-Harvester during a very bad storm. They meet a guy named Rastin who owns his own Vespene refinery. After doing some chat their seismographic devices make out a source of seismic charges. They go and look for it and find an ancient Xel’Naga Temple. After a while the Temple devours Lars, leaving Octavia to flee back to town.
Phase 4: The First Playable Version
I took ideas from my First steps and tried to bond them with the events depicted in the book. I wanted both players to control the same car, roam around freely and decide which of several objectives they wanted to do. Objectives like gathering specific items, killing hostile critters, repairing broken bridges, laying bombs. I made sure that the triggers and folders were structured similarly to original SC2 maps. It helped me understand the way original SC2 maps were made.
I rewrote details of the story to fit the gameplay. Rastin, the owner of the Refinery, would play an important role as a quest giver. Hostile critters and dangerous environment would make up for the lack of enemies. I choose the bird species Karak as the colonists main threat and reason of their abandonment of their scientific endeavors. Uncontrolled mining equipment (like Perdition Turrets or Spider Mines) would appear as a lifeless threat.
Phase 5: Dismissing first ideas, but keeping the good stuff
Two players controlling one vehicle didn’t work out as intended. The open-world environment hurt the mission flow and made the objectives appear unspectacular as there was no clear story-driven motivation.
Later versions of the map had each player drive his own vehicle and a more linear mission flow. For example:
§ Main Objective 1 - Free Octavia’s and Lars’ Cropfield from occupying Karak birds
§ Main Objective 2 - Chase and kill the Karak Alpha Male, while killing numerous Karak birds on the road
§ Main Objective 3 - Guide defenseless cows to Rastin’s Farm and beware of enemy Karak. Also make sure the cows don’t fall off a cliff. (The Players were then granted access to an Optional Objective.)
§ Optional Objective - Use Rastin’s vehicles to gather Vespene gas in a limited amount of time. (The players would then be rewarded with the Vehicles.)
§ Main Objective 4 - Find the Source of the Tremors. (In a series of mini missions the players would have to avoid stepping on mines, controlling Perdition Turrets to fight off waves of Karak and gather Minerals to repair the Bridge to the Xel’Naga Temple)