Project Time: 5 weeks 50%
Game: Medieval RTS Mod for Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne
Editor: Warcraft 3 Map Editor
• Photoshop: Custom Hand Painted Textures for
buildings, units and icons
• Maya: All units and models were created from scratch in Maya
• Animations: World of Warcraft and Warcraft 3
• Gimp: Transparency layers and materials to show team color
• Warcraft3Viewer: Texture converter
• Biturn: Tool for converting OBJ to MS3D
• War 3 Model Editor: Program for converting MS3D ito MDX.
Also used for adding and editing textures, team color, Effects and previewing models
• MDLVIS: WoW and Warcraft 3 models replaced with custom ones
Vertexes attached to bones.
What I learned:
- The importance of community feedback and advice.
- Sometimes less is more, several units, upgrades and ideas were cut during the project.
- Balancing gameplay with gradually expanding tech-tree, strategic options and difficulty.
- Creating models from scratch, UV mapping and adding texture.
- Balancing a symmetric RTS map with restrictions, choke points and equal distance to resources for all players.
Warcraft 3 has always been a game close to my heart. I have played Warcraft 3 for 14 years, made custom maps, models, mods, reskins and projects and even though Warcraft 3 date back to 2002, making a complete mod in it has always been in the back of my mind. When I started the project I already had ideas, unit and map sketches scribbled down on notes and books and documents on balance ideas and genres. Digging all of this up gave me something to start to work with. The rest was already in the Games Map Editor.
Pre-production & Planning
The first ideas were along the lines of Age of Mythology with different civilizations and the option to, for each age upgrade, choose a god with unique technology upgrades, units and a “god power” that could wary from vulcanoes to a healing rains. During the planning stage, looking at stream of Age of Empires 2, reading RTS game developers thoughts on different projects and testing my own creation I realized that less is more.
I decided to start with a simple Age of Empires 2 base with only one civilization and no unique upgrades or units. As the project went on, I managed to balance new units and adding in features of my own, creating some unique gameplay in this mod.
Many changes were made to the attack and armor types to be more alike that of medieval RTS games, adding armor types depending on if the unit is infantry, cavalry or lightly armored etc.
Custom Unit Models
Tech-tree showcasing all buildings and units in the game.
Most building icons are from Warcraft or World of Warcraft and all unit icons are made by me, using a picture of the models as a base and then using photoshop for extra detail, color and light.
More units are planned for the future.
The mod hosts up to 6 players on one map with several “expansion” points with gold mines. Each expansion point is guarded by bandits but is a valuable spot to defend later in the game.
Creating the models was tedious work.
When a model was finished it had to be converted in several other programs to be compatible with Warcraft 3’s engine.
They 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 drawn 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.