Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #56: The plot thickens - Customizable Campaign Experiences I

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Eomolch

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Aug 10, 2018
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As the first sci-fi entry to the Age of Wonders series, Planefall has come with a brand-new sci-fi universe with its own lore and in game stories. The campaigns are where this new galaxy centered around the fallen Star Union and its secrets comes to life the most, and where we encourage the players to dig into the past and explore the background, goals and motivations of the 6 playable races and their smaller brothers, the NPC factions – or let them say “screw it!” and go on a rampage to obliterate everyone!

That’s right: it is not actually required to complete even a single story quest to play through the Age of Wonders Planetfall campaign. So if you feel like a murderhobo that wants to stomp on every player including his own allies, the Planetfall campaign allows it, like it allows many actions that would be blocked in most other 4X campaigns.

“Player freedom” was in fact one of the main design pillars of the Planetfall campaigns and in the following two dev diaries y I will shed some light on how we tackled infusing our missions with enough robustness and flexibility to be able to give our players a customizable campaign experience as well as on the obstacles and challenges this provided during production. This week we will be looking at the choices outside the missions. Next time we cover everything that happens within the missions themselves.

(There will be some minor story spoilers in the following passages, so people who want to explore every bit of the Planetfall campaign by themselves should stop reading here!)


Open Campaign Structure

upload_2020-3-3_15-18-23.png

It all starts in the front-end: Which mission do I pick first?

In Planetfall the base game campaign has three starting points following the story of either the Kir’Ko, the Vanguard or the Dvar. From there you can continue the story with the missions of newly unlocked races and even ignore a race entirely if it isn’t your cup of tea, all while still being able to complete the final campaign mission. It is possible to do a campaign run where you play the Vanguard as the last race before the final mission or to do a run where you only complete the Dvar and Amazon missions and then directly proceed to the finale.

This kind of open structure put a lot of constraints on the stories of each racial mini-campaign. Not only did it mean that the timing of all the campaign events and happenings had to be non-linear and make sense in any given order. But it also limited how much we could re-use characters, since any character that would appear in a mission could get killed or would have to act and react differently if they had been involved in different events before. This led to a large cast of 55 different commanders that can potentially show up in the base game campaign under specific circumstances. Ever wondered why there are three different Cos’Rax in Planetfall? This is because Jikuku shows up in three different campaign missions: Zemestian-4, Avium SK-51 and CNex-3. If he dies during his first appearance, his cousin Roto fills in the second time. If Roto dies as well, Tiri makes the third appearance the charm! Just like in a regular bug infestation supportive family!

upload_2020-3-3_15-21-6.png

Originally, I wanted there to be an achievement for killing all three Cos’Rax cousins in a single campaign play through. Sadly, there are too many Kir’Ko supporters in the office…


Customizable Leaders

Still before the actual start of any mission, we give the player the opportunity to customize the protagonists of each racial campaign. The looks, name, gender and perks can be changed, while the race and secret tech stay fixed to protect the integrity of the story.

upload_2020-3-3_15-22-47.png

You’d like to play as Jackie Gelder? No problem!

This decision provided the biggest problems to our programmers, who had to find their ways of storing and reapplying all leader data to up to 6 different characters when the player’s creations all meet in the final campaign mission. Among all the crazy problems we ran into there, I still distinctly remember the “all leaders are you” bug that turned every player on the final mission into a copy of your leader if you had previously customized him or her…

upload_2020-3-3_15-23-37.png

Let’s negotiate with myself!

But the two possible genders of all playable characters except the Amazon also created a series of challenges in our texts and quests. Suddenly it wasn’t so simple anymore for Jack Gelder to uncover the fate of his lost ex-girlfriend if said girl-friend could lead to a homosexual relationship. Which is why the player is now left with the choice of Jack or Jackie Gelders sexual orientation to play out that part of the story in a way that he deems to be the most fitting – or seek out other explanations for Gelders troubled past…

upload_2020-3-3_15-24-6.png

Or was it the cat all along?

Of course we also had to make sure that any text referencing the leader would have a text version for each gender and that our systems would swap in the right text where it made a difference – which is in English much more rarely the case than in most of the languages that our texts got translated to. E.g. a simple question like “Why are you so stupid, Jack?” does require an alternate female text in languages where the adjective “stupid” gets adjusted based on gender (e.g. “estúpido/estúpida” in Spanish).

That’s it today for my Dev Diary about player choice in the campaign front end – the next time we will be taking a closer look at the in game choices and options, so stay tuned!
 
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Ridixo

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Great, and gracias por traducir bien el juego :)
 

ufozhou

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1.How about refine the endings. after fighting so hard against Queen and Core. the campaign just end in few words. Though it really feel reward at the very last battle of main campaign when having all your played characters form a union. At that very moment I felt my choice matters. this looks like a climaxing but following with water down endings.
2. The consistency of main campaign and dlc campaign. It is good to find one of AI is belongs to the new "star union". However, I think it's important to give campaign AI some characteristics instead of pure AI. He(the AI) open fight against every other AI. which leading his reputation to the worst level. I mean shouldn't the new star Union be a better role than what he shows off?

3. More campaign should be included in dlc. And more background story about the secret between core and Queen. What I know so far is the core try to take control of star union and Queen make the disaster leading her, core and star union fallen.
 

Mzimoxs

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Ever wondered why there are three different Cos’Rax in Planetfall? This is because Jikuku shows up in three different campaign missions: Zemestian-4, Avium SK-51 and CNex-3. If he dies during his first appearance, his cousin Roto fills in the second time. If Roto dies as well, Tiri makes the third appearance the charm! Just like in a regular bug infestation supportive family!

This is interesting. I wondered indeed why we have three Kir'Ko Synthesis players, I failed to realize they had the same name, though...
It doesn't seem to work perfectly, though. In my last playthrough I killed Jikuku and Femita Abaz twice. But I used a strange order to play through the missions, maybe this is the reason.
 

DragonZee

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To tell you the truth I didn't stop to think the campaigns are so complex, sorry :p Well I did appreciate the branching storylines and some reaccuring characters but...

...I just plowed through all of them, making choices on the way, and didn't try to customize the expierience more then what was given by you guys (no custom characters) :p Sorry all that work put into making it gender-friendly or adding 3 Cos'Raxes to the fray wasn't noticed by me :D

That said, giving tidbits on development process is nice and all but give us the damn dlc teasers already!

PS: I need to agree with the poster above: the endings should be fleshed out a bit more, for example some cinematics would be nice.
 

Mauer

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Ah, maybe I should play the campaign after all. I usually only play sandbox in games like this because the limitations campaigns tend to put on units and playstyles, and overly long tutorial campaigns.
 

ufozhou

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Ah, maybe I should play the campaign after all. I usually only play sandbox in games like this because the limitations campaigns tend to put on units and playstyles, and overly long tutorial campaigns.
well the tutorial is not very Long. and the game is mostly open sandbox with everything unlocked. Only some goals were applied. In my view. The campaign AI seems more friendly and possible for negotiating
 

Eomolch

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Great, and gracias por traducir bien el juego :)

Gracias! Se lo diré a las personas que están en contacto con nuestros traductores españoles ;)

1.How about refine the endings. after fighting so hard against Queen and Core. the campaign just end in few words. Though it really feel reward at the very last battle of main campaign when having all your played characters form a union. At that very moment I felt my choice matters. this looks like a climaxing but following with water down endings.

I would have loved to have cinematic cut scene endings for our campaigns. Sadly there was/is simply no time or budget for it.

2. The consistency of main campaign and dlc campaign. It is good to find one of AI is belongs to the new "star union". However, I think it's important to give campaign AI some characteristics instead of pure AI. He(the AI) open fight against every other AI. which leading his reputation to the worst level. I mean shouldn't the new star Union be a better role than what he shows off?

Which character are you talking about in which mission? As far as I am aware all our characters action's are in accordance with the story, but maybe something went wrong for you in one particular edge case.

3. More campaign should be included in dlc. And more background story about the secret between core and Queen. What I know so far is the core try to take control of star union and Queen make the disaster leading her, core and star union fallen.

It's great to hear that there is interest in more campaigns, but it is simply not possible to make more campaign missions for one DLC with the current schedule and team size. Campaigns like we make them in Planetfall are very complex and time consuming.

It doesn't seem to work perfectly, though. In my last playthrough I killed Jikuku and Femita Abaz twice. But I used a strange order to play through the missions, maybe this is the reason.

Thank you for letting us know about this. :) I will check if something is not working correctly there. While the order does make a difference in the set up, all possible play through orders should have been accounted for.

To tell you the truth I didn't stop to think the campaigns are so complex, sorry :p Well I did appreciate the branching storylines and some reaccuring characters but...

...I just plowed through all of them, making choices on the way, and didn't try to customize the expierience more then what was given by you guys (no custom characters) :p Sorry all that work put into making it gender-friendly or adding 3 Cos'Raxes to the fray wasn't noticed by me :D

That's what the dev diaries are there for: to give you guys some more behind the scenes looks and show you things that will surprise you :p
 

ufozhou

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Which character are you talking about in which mission? As far as I am aware all our characters action's are in accordance with the story, but maybe something went wrong for you in one particular edge case.
View attachment 550884
this michael Valentine from Vanguard.
Which character are you talking about in which mission? As far as I am aware all our characters action's are in accordance with the story, but maybe something went wrong for you in one particular edge case.
718850_20200305190900_1.png
718850_20200305190711_1.png
718850_20200305185744_1.png


It should be the last mission of DLC
this Michael Valentine from vanguard. I think he is the only commander who can become Alliance as his background of ELOP confederation (the new star uion who against core and queen) you can see his reputation is -375 due to open fight with minor cause several times. later on he fight the last amazon. His reputation also dropped into full black moon(the worst)
But I do have the saved record, these screenshots is able to prove this character has lost control.
(the first quest from him is ask for luxury for his own interest which suggest he is corrupted but what he shows is far more than corruption,)
 

Eomolch

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Hi ufozhou, thanks for getting back to me with this. But it looks to me like there is nothing wrong here.

In the first mission it is already shown that the ELOP Confederation is at conflict with the Syndicate Houses and fought Shae Mara before on CNex-3 before she fled to CNex Omega. As a player you are also working towards convincing the other characters on CNex Omega to declare war on Shae Mara, so that makes perfect sense.

Likewise Berhane, with her past connections to Empress Carminia and Nikael Gorodin who is still worshipping CORE would both not be on very good terms with the ELOP who got founded by the people fighting both CORE and Carminia in the Mora Secundis mission.
 

ufozhou

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Hi ufozhou, thanks for getting back to me with this. But it looks to me like there is nothing wrong here.

In the first mission it is already shown that the ELOP Confederation is at conflict with the Syndicate Houses and fought Shae Mara before on CNex-3 before she fled to CNex Omega. As a player you are also working towards convincing the other characters on CNex Omega to declare war on Shae Mara, so that makes perfect sense.

Likewise Berhane, with her past connections to Empress Carminia and Nikael Gorodin who is still worshipping CORE would both not be on very good terms with the ELOP who got founded by the people fighting both CORE and Carminia in the Mora Secundis mission.
thank you that makes sense now.
I just never thought my hard fight ELOPE would have so many enemies and bad reputation(how about give them some default war cause like "CORE supporter +11" ).


I got an assumption: even ELOPE manage to defeat CORE and Caminina. They have not built a universal union like star union before. And it only stands for small amount of individuals.
Is this assumptions right?

Again thank you for rely
 

Iguanaonastick

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Also, it's Michael Valentine. The guy's entire personality can be summed up as "self-serving bastard." Not evil, but definitely untrustworthy.

Considering the stunts he plays in that mission I think he definitely should have a bad reputation.
 

ufozhou

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Also, it's Michael Valentine. The guy's entire personality can be summed up as "self-serving bastard." Not evil, but definitely untrustworthy.

Considering the stunts he plays in that mission I think he definitely should have a bad reputation.
yeah. That might be true. But as a player I hope my choice makes world better. In my play through the way of independent from Queen and CORE is harder than chose either side. However it turned out the ELOPE might just a group of crazy or bad people. I just felt why I chose a harder way leading a worse ending.
I haven't try CORE or Queen lane yet. That why I have so many faith on ELOPE.
 

Eomolch

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Aug 10, 2018
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I got an assumption: even ELOPE manage to defeat CORE and Caminina. They have not built a universal union like star union before. And it only stands for small amount of individuals.
Is this assumptions right?

Again thank you for rely

Hi ufozhou! Like Iguanaonastick already pointed out, Michael Valentine is not exactly the best representative of the ELOP Confederation - there are some black sheep everywhere.

As for your question:

The ELOP Confederation does not have support from all the factions (in the Revelations campaign, it is shown quite clearly that the Syndicate are setting up their own empire), but they are more than just "a few individuals", but a new alliance spanning multiple races and planets.

They will certainly play an important role in future campaigns still ;)
 

BBShockwave

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LOOOL so that's why we have so many Cos'rax-ses! Also, I would have totally chosen my cat to honor, of course. :D
 

ufozhou

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Cannot wait for more campaigns
thanks. this relationship is clear now. Feeling good have chance to share thoughts with developers and other players.
 

Eomolch

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Hi ufozhou, glad I could be of help :) All I can say is that we're doing our best to make the next campaign experience enjoyable for you guys ;)

Also @Mzimoxs, I had the time to check this now and you were right, there was a problem for the Cos'Rax character not getting swapped out correctly if they got defeated in the second Dvar or the second Syndicate mission, as well as for Femita Abaz if she got defeated during the second Assembly mission. The fixes for these will go live when the next patch drops.
 

Elder Fogcrow

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  • Age of Wonders III
  • Tyranny: Archon Edition
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Elven Legacy Collection
  • 500k Club
What an astonishing amount of work most players will never notice xD.

More campaign should be included in dlc.

I couldn´t agree more^^.

And more background story about the secret between core and Queen.

A lot of the backstory, that imho should have been in the original campaign, actually is in the Revelations DLC, mostly in the Anomolous sites.

How about refine the endings. after fighting so hard against Queen and Core. the campaign just end in few words. Though it really feel reward at the very last battle of main campaign when having all your played characters form a union. At that very moment I felt my choice matters. this looks like a climaxing but following with water down endings.

After a campaigns final mission should be a highlight imo, like an actually informative and to a point conclusive Epilogue and/or a cool video sequence...what came after the previous AoW titles victory screens left me elevated, what came after the planetfall one dissapointed...

But after thinking about it for a while I see, and to a point like what you´re doing here: nothing is supposed to be concluded, noone is supposed to be satisfied, or safe, yet. It was a descisive battle, but far from an ending.
You´re purposefully leaving the planetfall universe in the kind of mess where most of the situations created by rolling a "New Planet" could actually happen.