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Caesar IV Heaven » Forums » Emperor: Game Help » "A Xia's Diary III" - Gweilo's design blog and commentary
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Topic Subject:"A Xia's Diary III" - Gweilo's design blog and commentary
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Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-12-17 06:00 ET (US)         
With the release of Emperor at GOG.com, I'm seeing both new and renewed interest in this game. I think that helped bring back my muse, because I now have ideas and motivation to jump back in to custom campaign design.

I released a couple of small campaigns last year but now is the time to return to one of grand scale. Since the first of this month (May 2017) I've been working on "A Xia's Diary III".

It's been a LONG time (over 14 years!) since I used the Three Kingdoms period as the time period for a custom campaign, but I have been drawn back to it. I believe it's mostly due to finally seeing John Woo's excellent movie "Red Cliff" (2009), which tells the story of the famous Battle of Red Cliffs. (In my opinion you should RUN, not walk, to see this film!)

My research for the storyline was a bit overwhelming because there is SO much good plot material available for the 3K period, and there is (sadly) so little we designers can put on the splash screens of a custom campaign (due to constraints with the Campaign Creator software). Nevertheless, here are the events I am focusing on to include in this new campaign.

184 CE - Yellow Turban Rebellion begins
185 CE - Oath of the Peach Garden between Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhange Fei.
189 CE - Emperor Ling dies.
190 CE - Dong Zhuo captures Luoyang and sacks it. He takes Emperor Xian to Chang-an and establishes it as the new capital.
192 CE - Dong Zhuo is killed by his subordinate Lu Bu.
192 CE - The main Yellow Turban army surrenders to Cao Cao.
192 CE - Liu Bei becomes Prefect on Pingyuan County and assists Gongsun Zan in fighting Yuan Shao.
196 CE - Cao Cao takes control of Emperor Xian and moves the captial to Xuchang.
200 CE - The Battle of Guandu. Cao Cao defeats Yuan Shao.
200 CE - Yuan Shao dies of illness.
208 CE - The Battle of Red Cliffs. Cao Cao is defeated by a coalition of Liu Bei and Sun Quan.
210 CE - General Zhou Yu of Wu dies of illness.
213 CE - Cao Cao's forces capture Liang province (Liangzhou).
214 CE - Liu Bei captures Chengdu.
219 CE - Liu Bei's forces capture Liang province (Liangzhou). (This is known as the Hanzhong Campaign)
220 CE - Cao Cao dies of illness in Luoyang.
220 CE - Cao Pi succeeds Cao Cao and forces Emperor Xian to abdicate, proclaiming himself Emperor of Wei.
220 CE - Guan Yu is killed by Sun Quan's forces.
221 CE - Zhange Fei is assassinated by his subordinates.
221 CE - Liu Bei declares himself Emperor of Shu.
222 CE - Sun Quan declares himself Emperor of Wu.
224 CE - Liu Bei dies of illness.
252 CE - Sun Quan dies of illness.

As with my other Xia Diary campaigns, the third installment will also have the maximum scope of 10 missions. I have 8 new custom maps planned for it. Here is a draft of the mission teasers and time limits:

Mission 1 - Oath of the Garden - 4 years, from 181 CE to 185 CE.

Mission 2 - The Yellow Turban Rebellion - 5 years, from 185 CE to 190 CE.

Mission 3 - Descent into Chaos - 6 years, from 190 CE to 196 CE.

Mission 4 - The Battle of Guandu - 5 years, from 196 CE to 201 CE.

Mission 5 - Sun Quan's Challenge - 3 years, from 201 CE to 204 CE

Mission 6 - Rider of the Water Dragon - 4 years, from 204 CE to 208 CE

Mission 7 - The Battle of Red Cliffs - 3 years, from 208 CE to 211 CE.

Mission 8 - The Relentless Ambition of Cao Cao - 6 years, from 211 CE to 217 CE.

Mission 9 - The Fist of Liu Bei - 6 years, from 217 CE to 223 CE

Mission 10 - Grand Xia of the Three Kingdoms - no time limit, starts in 223 CE.

So you can see this is an ambitious project. At this point, I have the skeleton of the storyline, the mission flow, and have built the first map. There is still a long way to go, so if I had to guess on a completion time right now I'd say that I hope to deliver this by Christmas 2017.

Please feel free to leave any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have about this project.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.

[This message has been edited by Gweilo (edited 05-30-2017 @ 01:41 PM).]

AuthorReplies:
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-12-17 16:25 ET (US)     1 / 55       
I just uploaded 3 new screenshots into the teaser album, look for it in the Emperor Heaven Gallery inside the "A Xia's Diary III" folder under Custom Campaign Teasers.

I also created a news article on this project at the Emperor Heaven homepage.

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Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-13-17 07:32 ET (US)     2 / 55       
I played the first alpha test of mission 1 last night. It's always fun to break in a new map. I like the Yin map; it seems to give the feeling of a fertile valley that I hoped for. So far, I don't see any changes needed to it.

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Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-14-17 15:56 ET (US)     3 / 55       
I've finished playtesting through mission 2. Minor tweaks to scripting and mission goals were needed. I like the way the Yin map plays. I uploaded a minimap of my build for it into the teaser album, you can see it here:

http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21/aad

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Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-16-17 05:30 ET (US)     4 / 55       
I have started work on the second custom map. I suspect things will slow down a bit now since I can feel myself getting fussy over it. (Fussy = good....in the long run).

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Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-17-17 06:13 ET (US)     5 / 55       
Made progress on the second map. Took a break from it to replay missions 1 and 2. I got vassalized by the Yellow Turbans but managed to launch a counter invasion and won my freedom. Great fun! This campaign will definitely be heavily oriented to combat, but that is a historical fit for this time period.

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alincarpetman
Angel
posted 05-17-17 17:01 ET (US)     6 / 55       
This is good news, hopefully more players find this site and your campaigns.

I remember the Gweilo's Campaign Compilation which was last updated 03/13/12, since I can't edit that list anymore maybe it can be updated with the latest campaigns and stickied to the top?:

Legend of the Xiong Lovers
Hero of Wudang Mountain
A Xia's Diary III
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-17-17 21:34 ET (US)     7 / 55       
Thank you for reminding me about that forum post. I've updated it for the two campaigns I built last year, and I'll add this one when it is finished.

Tonight I finished a draft of the 2nd map and completed initial scripting for mission 3. Hope to playtest it soon.

I also finished writing the mission introduction and victory text for missions 3 and 4.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.

[This message has been edited by Gweilo (edited 05-17-2017 @ 09:36 PM).]

Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-19-17 06:29 ET (US)     8 / 55       
Playtested mission 3 last night; it had grievious issues. I was trying to cram too much into a 6-year mission. I needed to tweak the scripting, mission goals, map, starting treasury, etc.

Here is a tip for all designers that I often have to remind myself of: while playtesting your missions/adventures, do your best to purge your mind of all pre-knowledge of scripting. Playtest it like a stranger would, using only the hints you have put in the storyline. It's easier said than done.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.

[This message has been edited by Gweilo (edited 05-19-2017 @ 06:50 AM).]

Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-20-17 01:15 ET (US)     9 / 55       
I had a good playtest of mission 3 tonight. It seems balanced for an advanced player without pre-knowledge. Lots of multi-tasking to meet mission goals in 6 game years.

I have the scripting written for mission 4 but I haven't built the map yet. I do have a sketch of it, so the next step is to translate the sketch into a playable map.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-20-17 21:26 ET (US)     10 / 55       
I finished a draft of the mission 4 map and typed in the scripted events. Hope to playtest it soon.

I uploaded 3 new screenshots to the playtest album, including the drafts of the second and third custom maps. View them here: http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-21-17 10:15 ET (US)     11 / 55       
In order to playtest mission 4 accurately I had to restart testing of the whole campaign because I tinkered with the empire map (names, trade routes, trade commodities, etc.). It was worthwhile because I got a solid test of mission 3 again. I like the multi-tasking required of mission 3, it should prove challenging. I uploaded a minimap of my build for Pingyang (mission 3) into the playtest album, you can see it here:
http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-22-17 06:29 ET (US)     12 / 55       
I made my first test of mission 4 last night. I didn't complete it because I found I had set the wrong trade routes for some cities (land vs. water). I also needed to tweak the map (Bo) a little bit, and adjust some scripting. Hope to retest the mission again soon. I should be able to use the 'I win again' cheat code to fast-forward to mission 4.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-24-17 05:31 ET (US)     13 / 55       
Did my second test of mission 4 last night. I lost the Battle of Guandu, lol. The scripted invasions were set way too high when balanced against the rate a player can build their own military. I tweaked that scripting quite a bit. The river on the map also needed some tweaking (I had forgotten enemy catapult units will destroy ferries but not bridges).

I also have the mission storyline drafts written through mission 6. I am excited to start on the map for mission 5/6. It will be the "Red Cliffs" map, where the famous battle took place. My goal is to make it one of the highlights of this project. I have a sketch of it and like what I see. Now if I can translate that sketch into a game map that captures the same feeling, I will be happy. Hope to start on the map in a few days.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-25-17 21:37 ET (US)     14 / 55       
I lost the Battle of Guandu again, but oh what fun! I uploaded two new creenshots of my playtest of mission 4 at Bo into the teaser album, you can see them here: http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21

The mission is getting closer to the balance I want, it's just taking me longer because I'm trying out some design restrictions that I never put into a military-oriented mission before.

On another note I jumped ahead and built the map for mission 7. It was a small size map so I knew I could create it in little time.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.

[This message has been edited by Gweilo (edited 05-25-2017 @ 09:40 PM).]

Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-26-17 19:52 ET (US)     15 / 55       
I finally won the Battle of Guandu (mission 4)! I'm happy with the balance of the mission now, meaning: you can win it at 'Very Hard' difficulty if you are skilled at micromanaging and employing all the military tricks. Side note: I always playtest at the 'Very Hard' difficulty setting. I feel that makes the most sense if I'm designing a campaign that will be categorized as 'Very Hard', for advanced players.

I uploaded two new screenshots from my victory to the playtest album in our Gallery (see link below). SPOILER ALERT!! These two screenshots show my successful build (minimap) and the defensive strategy used to win the mission, so view at your own risk!

http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-28-17 08:57 ET (US)     16 / 55       
I took a break from playtesting/map-making to give myself a refresher on the historical elements of the campaign. The R3K period is full of action and intrigue and by no means can I fit it all into 10 missions. My goal is to have you, as the Xia, write a diary that shows your involvement with all three major factions (Wei, Wu, Shu). Sometimes you will fight as an ally with them, other times you will fight against them. This is historically accurate for the time, as many of the leaders did switch sides (often repeatedly). However as a Xia, you will not betray loyalties but rather conclude contracts and then accept new ones with different factions.

Within that framework, this campaign is trying to highlight two of the most important battles during the R3K period: the Battle of Guandu and the Battle of Red Cliffs. I found two good maps of these battles and have uploaded them to the campaign teaser album in the Gallery. Check them out if you want a deeper dive into the history represented by 3 of the missions in this campaign.

http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21

While I fully understand that Emperor is at its core (and at its best) a city-building game, not a military real-time strategy game, there are certain design concepts that can be stressed to move it in the RTS direction. I also understand that doing this does not appeal to everyone; in fact I believe the majority of players are casual gamers who prefer Emperor to be a relaxing, slower paced, strategy game without distractions like combat. However, there are also many hard-core, advanced players (and you know who you are, still playing after all these years!). I'm building this campaign with that later group in mind .

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.

[This message has been edited by Gweilo (edited 05-28-2017 @ 09:05 AM).]

Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-29-17 20:46 ET (US)     17 / 55       
I spent most of the day working on the Wu map (mission 5). Making an 'enormous' size map is always a time-consuming endeavor. I like the result, it does seem to give the "Red Cliffs" feel I was looking for. I took time to put extra detail in the map that probably won't be used in the actual campaign, because I intend to release this map for open play too.

I also finished my first playtest of mission 5. It's a short 3 year mission so extensive scripting wasn't necessary. I only had to make a few tweaks here and there. The map seemed to play well but we'll see if that hold up for mission 6 (which is a continuation on the same map).

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-30-17 22:22 ET (US)     18 / 55       
Had a blast tonight playtesting through missions 5 and 6. I believe the missions link together nicely and provide a good simulation of the prelude to the Battle of Red Cliffs. There are still a few things to tweak, but overall it played well.

I uploaded 5 screenshots from the playtesting into the campaign teaser album, you can see them at the link below, but be forewarned: they do contain significant spoilers!

http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21

I also finished initial scripting for mission 7, hope to playtest it soon.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.

[This message has been edited by Gweilo (edited 05-31-2017 @ 09:41 AM).]

jaroslav80
Pleb
posted 05-31-17 01:10 ET (US)     19 / 55       
You are very determined. Good luck Gweilo. I hope you will finish it on a full scale.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-31-17 05:22 ET (US)     20 / 55       
Thank you! I'll try!

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 05-31-17 11:53 ET (US)     21 / 55       
I'll share something I had learned a long time ago, then forgot, and now remembered from playtesting. It's about where enemy invasions will spawn on your map. Enemy invasions will not always spawn at an invasion point you have placed on a map. The spawn point of the invasion can be overriden to use the map's entry point instead of an invasion point. This only occurs if you have surrounded your city with military walls/gatehouses and the invasion spawn point originally selected by the game-engine must use pathing through deep water tiles to reach your city. If these conditions occur, the game will instead use the map's entry point for the invasion (which can often have devastating consequences).

I figure other veteran players like me may have also forgotten this. So I will put some wording in the storylines to hint of this fact, in those missions where it can occur.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.

[This message has been edited by Gweilo (edited 05-31-2017 @ 11:53 AM).]

Gweilo
Angel
posted 06-01-17 10:27 ET (US)     22 / 55       
I took a strong dislike to the mission 7 map I had originally built. So I tossed it out and created a new one, this time of 'medium' size. I still need to playtest this mission.

I also finished the storyline (intro and victory text) for mission 8.

I seem to be making good progress on this project.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.

[This message has been edited by Gweilo (edited 06-01-2017 @ 10:30 AM).]

Gweilo
Angel
posted 06-02-17 05:29 ET (US)     23 / 55       
I had a good playtest of mission 7 last night. The new map does give the 'rice paddy' feel I was looking for. Almost all the scripting fired as I wanted and that wasn't easy; there is alot crammed into the 3 year mission. Just a few tweaks and it will be done.

The biggest work left on this project is creating the last 3 maps. Each of these maps represents a significant city, so they will have to be either 'huge' or 'enormous' in size, and that means each one will take considerable time.

After creating those maps, it will be time to retest everything from the beginning. While I'm doing that I will work on the 'Readme' text file that I always include in the campaign download, which contains my design notes and hints to win each mission.

Right now I think there is a fairly decent chance that I can get everything done and release this campaign by the end of July. That date is just tentative, though, because RealLife could interfere with it.

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 06-03-17 22:57 ET (US)     24 / 55       
I finished a draft of the mission 8 map. I like it thus far. I hope to playtest it soon. I uploaded a minimap of it along with the revised mission 7 map into the teaser album, viewable here: http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
Gweilo
Angel
posted 06-04-17 11:43 ET (US)     25 / 55       
The scripting of mission 7, The Battle of Red Cliffs, was bugging me. I've spent a day working on it and now I'm happy. You may never experience more action in a short 3-year mission! I uploaded a couple of screenshots of my Changzhou playtest into the campaign teaser album, check them out here: http://emperor.heavengames.com/gallery/album21

Expand your fun by downloading free custom campaigns for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
Visit Zeus Heaven to expand your knowledge of Zeus and Poseidon.
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