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Thread: What Should I Keep in Mind When Starting a Campaign?

  1. #1
    New Member
    Registered: May 2017

    What Should I Keep in Mind When Starting a Campaign?

    My intention is to build a twelve mission campaign, the first map of which is about halfway done. I'm using various tutorials to guide me through, but all of them are written on the assumption that the individual is creating a single map, or perhaps it really makes no difference. But I thought I should ask about this before "concluding" my first mission.

    So, for example, I've got folders in my Thief 2 directory called "Books/English" in which I keep all of the text for my ingame scrolls and books. Would this be the same folder that all maps in my campaign would refer to? I assume so, and so I've placed a number at the beginning of the name of each file. "1GuardHouseLog" for example. That number being the mission in which that particular text is found. I've done this to avoid confusion when I'm something like eight missions in.

    Am I right in what I'm doing here, and is there anything else I should know about making a campaign?

  2. #2
    Desperately dodgy geezer
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: The Wailing Keep
    You can do it that way. In my campaign, I use the root folder for all common assets (RES folder, plus bitmap, mesh, obj, snd) and also for campaign-wide files in strings, like the common objnames.str. I then have a subfolder for each mission and adjust the darkinst.cfg files in them to point to the root for resources. I usually keep my books and intrface folder (for goals and maps) in each mission-specific folder until it's done, and then copy those out to the root, but as you noted the .str files in books must be unique so a mission number prefix is good. I prefix mine with mX_ where X is the mission number. Depending on your campaign, you may reuse texts in later missions (like if you reuse a map and have the player return somewhere) and for those I just point at the earlier mission's .str file for the readable, unless story dictates that the text would have been added to or changed.

    I would tell you about gotchas when you go to package your whole campaign up, but I've not gotten to that point yet. Mine, which is 10 missions, is split in three acts of 4-3-3 missions and I'm not quite to the point of putting all 10 together. The absolutely biggest thing I can recommend here though is to thoroughly plan out the whole campaign in a document if you haven't already. The whole story arc in text form, then for each mission plan out goals, gameplay sequences, etc. in high detail. It becomes a hugely valuable reference as you go through the work, especially when it drags on for years and you can't remember what you decided for something (mine has been in development hell for 15 years but in its current 10-mission form about 9, and that process began with spending a few months hashing out the design doc with a couple of other folks providing feedback).
    Last edited by Yandros; 27th May 2017 at 08:46.

  3. #3
    New Member
    Registered: May 2017
    Quote Originally Posted by Yandros View Post
    I would tell you about gotchas when you go to package your whole campaign up, but I've not gotten to that point yet. Mine, which is 10 missions, is split in three acts of 4-3-3 missions and I'm not quite to the point of putting all 10 together. The absolutely biggest thing I can recommend here though is to thoroughly plan out the whole campaign in a document if you haven't already. The whole story arc in text form, then for each mission plan out goals, gameplay sequences, etc. in high detail. It becomes a hugely valuable reference as you go through the work, especially when it drags on for years and you can't remember what you decided for something (mine has been in development hell for 15 years but in its current 10-mission form about 9, and that process began with spending a few months hashing out the design doc with a couple of other folks providing feedback.
    Oh yes haha. I've done a tonne of map building in my time, but I discovered very quickly while making this first Thief 2 map that you really can't wing it at all. I got part-way through and then stopped to plan out not only the entire map, but the entire plot of the campaign and the intended maps as you said.

    If you don't mind me asking, are you trying for something particularly unique? I've intentionally made this first map a rather standard Thief mission in which you infiltrate a fortress. It's basically just a variation of the classic mansion maps. As I wrote down ideas for future maps I started putting down all the usual suspects, you know like "Life of the Party" style city maps and so forth. But the more I think about it, the more I kind of want to put something of a different twist on them.

    Still, as complicated as it is, I'm finding DromEd to be an absolutely pleasure to work with. I used to build maps for Build Engine games, especially Blood. In that editor you could end up ruining your map even if you did everything right. It wasn't very reliable. I guess I have community efforts to thank for how solid DromEd is in the present. I have nothing but admiration for those who built maps in a 640x480 window. I did that for a few days before I figured out how to up the resolution, and my tortured eyes were very grateful.
    Last edited by DavidMcMurdo; 26th May 2017 at 23:24.

  4. #4
    Desperately dodgy geezer
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: The Wailing Keep
    Nothing much unique about the settings of the missions in my campaign - city, mansion, cathedral and castle. I am reusing heavily though - 4 of 10 missions are based on the city map, which isn't even that large, but each time you have different goals and different areas and buildings are accessible each time, so hopefully it stays fresh even though you start each one after the first with a sense of familiarity. I also very the weather and fog on revisits to slightly reduce the "been there done that" feeling. I have no idea how it will go over, but since it's all driven by the story, I think most people won't mind.

  5. #5
    Southquarter.com/fms
    Registered: Apr 2000
    Location: The Akkala Highlands
    To the OP - you should probably ask yourself too, why a 12 mission campaign? That is extremely ambitious, especially for someone new to dromeding. Do you actually have 12 missions mapped out in your mind, or are you just picking that as an arbitrary number? To date, there have been only 2 campaigns released in the history of dromed that were 12 missions or longer, and one of them was T2X, which took dozens of people to complete over a 5 year period.

    Thief isn't like Doom or Duke Nukem or even Blood. Good missions are complex, and require a ton of work. Why not focus on something much more realistic, like a 2-5 mission campaign? Then if that all works out, move on to something bigger. Many people over the years have tried to do something like this and their projects have collapsed under their own weight.

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2011
    Location: Wild and Wooly West of Ireland
    That's wonderful....Mr.Tony Robbins ladies and gentlemen!

    Spot on, Chris.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2007
    Location: LosAngeles: Between Amusements
    I've been working on a 3 mission campaign for close to ten years now. It was conceived as a single mission originally, but I had no idea of how DromEd / Dark Engine limitations would affect this. I ran out of objects less than half way through. Then I ran out of brushes. I ended up splitting the mission and re-conceiving it as a campaign. It is finally getting close to complete enough for alpha testing, but sloppy habits over the years have slowed that down to a crawl as I try to optimize resource folders. It is a real chore. If I weren't retiring from work this fall, I doubt I would get it released before 2020.

    So, my advice is plan a nice tight single mission to learn DromEd on. It will grow despite your best efforts. Imagine telling a great short story, not a novel, let alone a trilogy. Then work to keep it short.

  8. #8
    New Member
    Registered: May 2017
    Quote Originally Posted by Brethren View Post
    To the OP - you should probably ask yourself too, why a 12 mission campaign? That is extremely ambitious, especially for someone new to dromeding. Do you actually have 12 missions mapped out in your mind, or are you just picking that as an arbitrary number? To date, there have been only 2 campaigns released in the history of dromed that were 12 missions or longer, and one of them was T2X, which took dozens of people to complete over a 5 year period.

    Thief isn't like Doom or Duke Nukem or even Blood. Good missions are complex, and require a ton of work. Why not focus on something much more realistic, like a 2-5 mission campaign? Then if that all works out, move on to something bigger. Many people over the years have tried to do something like this and their projects have collapsed under their own weight.
    Quote Originally Posted by LarryG View Post
    I've been working on a 3 mission campaign for close to ten years now. It was conceived as a single mission originally, but I had no idea of how DromEd / Dark Engine limitations would affect this. I ran out of objects less than half way through. Then I ran out of brushes. I ended up splitting the mission and re-conceiving it as a campaign. It is finally getting close to complete enough for alpha testing, but sloppy habits over the years have slowed that down to a crawl as I try to optimize resource folders. It is a real chore. If I weren't retiring from work this fall, I doubt I would get it released before 2020.

    So, my advice is plan a nice tight single mission to learn DromEd on. It will grow despite your best efforts. Imagine telling a great short story, not a novel, let alone a trilogy. Then work to keep it short.
    Thank you, both.

    Yeah it has to be twelve missions. The Lord had twelve disciples. It's an important number. Anything less won't work for me. Because of this, I wrote the plot with twelve missions in mind. Although the plot involves you working for the Hammerites, it's nothing to do with some internal symbology—this is one of those personal things that I have to bring to everything that I do. There's no other way.

    But you're both right. The sheer amount of work involved occurred to me very quickly. So what I thought I'd do is shoot for the twelve, but release the first mission as a standalone map when I'm finished with it. That way I can get feedback from everyone and, knowing exactly what's involved in the process, decide if I really want to invest in doing the rest.

    I do have all twelve maps planned out. It's just a matter of making them. I think I've been pretty reasonable in my approach so I can't foresee any limitations becoming an issue, except perhaps that of polygons, because I don't know what the current limit for polygons on screen at once is. In this first map I've got a bridge across which you can see a fortress towering above the map. I tried to keep in mind what the existing levels of Thief II were capable of, and I can't see why what I'm attempting is any more ambitious than the Mechanists' Tower in Life of the Party. Having read everything I can find on map making for the Thief games, I've tried to take as conservative approach as possible, and right now the busiest bit of the map displays a little over 900 polygons at once. It seems fine to me so far in terms of playability.

  9. #9
    Desperately dodgy geezer
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: The Wailing Keep
    The onscreen poly limit in OldDark was 1024, any more and polys would start dropping from view, and/or you would crash. With NewDark I've seen upwards of 7-8k polys in view at once but that doesn't mean you should push it unnecessarily. It sounds like you're taking the right approach. As for releasing the missions one at a time, that's a personal choice. For my WIP-for-a-decade campaign I decided long ago to release it all together or not at all, so I'm sticking to that.

  10. #10
    New Member
    Registered: May 2017
    Quote Originally Posted by Yandros View Post
    The onscreen poly limit in OldDark was 1024, any more and polys would start dropping from view, and/or you would crash. With NewDark I've seen upwards of 7-8k polys in view at once but that doesn't mean you should push it unnecessarily. It sounds like you're taking the right approach. As for releasing the missions one at a time, that's a personal choice. For my WIP-for-a-decade campaign I decided long ago to release it all together or not at all, so I'm sticking to that.
    Wow. Thanks for that information. That's a whole lot more than I expected. Yeah 1024 was the number I'd seen talked about the most and, not knowing what the current limit might be, I played it safe. I'll continue to do so I think.

    I think I'll only release the first mission as it's the only one that will really make sense as a standalone map, and it'll serve as a nice little demo I guess. Kind of like shareware.

    I appreciate that this is a very long-term project.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: May 2002
    Location: Texas
    I was going to post something similar to what Brethren said. Designing missions can be very time consuming, and while I don't regret working on my missions and releasing them, I feel that I focused too much on dromed and not enough on other aspects of life. I agree with working on one mission to start so that you can understand all that is involved.

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: Formby, NW England
    I think you should use the built in FM support system, which is much tidier than the old methods.

    In your Thief2 folder you should have an FMs folder. Inside that, create one named after you own FM. Use NewDarkLoader or FMSel. If set up correctly, you can run Dromed and select the FM you want to edit. Another useful feature is that you can look at other FMs for ideas, or make more of your own FM folders to try things out, and all their files will be kept separate from each other.

  13. #13
    New Member
    Registered: May 2017
    Quote Originally Posted by R Soul View Post
    I think you should use the built in FM support system, which is much tidier than the old methods.

    In your Thief2 folder you should have an FMs folder. Inside that, create one named after you own FM. Use NewDarkLoader or FMSel. If set up correctly, you can run Dromed and select the FM you want to edit. Another useful feature is that you can look at other FMs for ideas, or make more of your own FM folders to try things out, and all their files will be kept separate from each other.
    Okay I've done this... interesting. Could I set it up so that instead of having a folder for my whole campaign, I have a folder for each mission, inside of which is their own "Books" folder, etc? Or would this confuse things later on down the line when I need to combine them into a single campaign?

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered: May 2006
    Location: Russia
    My own short expierence: it's a bad idea to make missions separately and finally to join them into campaign. Can't advice the worse thing.
    Making a campaign, you need to write a lot of things. The objects you use; the list of textures... after six or seven missions finished you will lost in a tons of custom resources and will start to add existing stuff again and again. If you have many repetitive archetypes, there is a reason to have a single gamesys for the whole campaign, but this method has its own problems.
    If you decide to change map colors in a single mission, it will be an awful headache.
    You will probably want to keep player's stuff (powerups or items) between certain missions, it's easy to set up but difficult to test. If you use campaign variables, it's even more difficult to test. You have to find balance if you use startup shop based on loot amout earned in previous mission.
    The main advice is: write everything, don't try to remember. It's impossible to finish 12 missions in a year or two, and you memory will not serve well after 5 or 6 years full of another work.
    Should I say about backups? Hope not.
    Good luck.

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2012
    Location: Gèrmany
    Quote Originally Posted by DavidMcMurdo View Post
    Okay I've done this... interesting. Could I set it up so that instead of having a folder for my whole campaign, I have a folder for each mission, inside of which is their own "Books" folder, etc? Or would this confuse things later on down the line when I need to combine them into a single campaign?
    I think that's what you should do. At the end you just have to copy everything together.
    Concerning objects and other shared stuff I made my own folder in the root menu and added it to the resname_base in darkinst.cfg.

    Further I changed the menu.cfg to have special save commands. One for each mission, which saves the .mis in the correct folder and also the .gam so every other mission will load the same .gam file.

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