Project Time: Personal Hobby
Game: Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Horn of the Abyss
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 has been a big part of my childhood, free time and inspiration to become a Level and Game designer.
Apart from it’s colorful pixelated 2D graphics and simple grid-based gameplay, there are few games today with the same myriad of interactable objects, monsters, artifacts and landscape options and variations.
Pre-production & Planning
Before making my first real attempt at building a real map I began by taking a look at already existing maps as a whole, researching monster stats, reading expert players comments on communities and forums, creating a few test maps as a start and wrote down notes. The goal of a good Homm 3 map is to give the player challenges and focal points but at the same time give them or make them believe they have the freedom to explore at will.
Important points with each map:
- The game is based around exploration and interaction with objects and monsters. Building with intersections and crossings are a must.
- Basic knowledge of treasure placement, whether it’s guarded behind monsters or placed in the open.
Benthic and Brine, 2vs2 or FFA
The first map I created.
All buildings and units where made using Maya.
When a model was finished it had to be converted in several other programs to be compatible with Warcraft 3’s engine.
The models were first created in Maya, exported as OBJ files, converted into MS3D and finally converted a second time into MDX files compatible with Warcraft 3. The textures UV map was taken from Maya and where then created using Photoshop.
- When the map was uploaded on Hiveworkshop.com I got a lot of feedback.“Why not add a marketplace? The trade could be an interesting feature.”
The Age of Empires series uses 4 resources. Wood which can be gathered from trees, food gathered from bushes or killing animals and stone and gold mined from veins.
If one resource run out, it is possible to use the marketplace and acquire it through a trade where you pay a slightly higher cost each time.
Warcraft 3 only have 2 resources, Gold and Lumber. Lumber is gathered from trees which are abundant. Gold, however, has to be mined from goldmines are placed in symmetric patterns, unlike Age of Empires each Goldmine is a huge point of interest and require defense.
Enabling lumber to be traded for gold would reduce the need for goldmines and would drastically remove a large part of the core gameplay where players build bases around the mines and the need to defend them.
- “What about upgrade-able unit stages? Age of Empires sometimes have up to 4”
Another comment was the lack of unit stages, with each age in Age of Empires 2 new unit stages are enabled through upgrades. In the favor mod, only 1 extra stage was added to the units.
Age of Empires 2 has 31 civilizations with unique units, buildings, upgrades and play style. They all have something they specialize in, 1-2 unique units, 1-2 unique technologies and civilization bonuses such as gathering gold faster, lower cost for cavalry, extra range to towers etc.
Depending on what civilization you choose some unit are restricted to only 2 stages meaning they can only be upgraded once but not further.
Making certain upgrades unavailable and adding unique features to civilizations means each civilization has its own tactics and way of playing them.
Without civilization/race choice the addition of unit stages it’would be more of a design decision to force players to upgrade their units with stages rather than make tactics changes as radical as they are in Age of Empires 2. It is debatable if it would be worth adding or not but in my opinion, it would not make my mod better or interesting. Balancing the units in Favor to be available in a specific age or after certain upgrades is not only cleaner and easier on the balancing but also removes the need for extra models and units which easily could be replaced with upgrades instead.
I am quite pleased with the final result. The mod was well received on Warcraft 3 forums and I was given valuable and honest feedback.
The project has improved my view of RTS games and game balancing.
For example, balancing and then testing upgrade costs, attack damage and Health on buildings is crucial and setting the cost of a single unit between 100 and 110 can make a huge difference later in the game.