In 2004 Aro hosted the Age of Kings ‘Pretty Town Contest’ whereby contestants design a pretty town for others to explore. ‘A Wanderer’s Dream’ is one of these submissions to the contest and ultimately did not make it in top place. The theme for the competition was a swamp, and ‘A Wanderer’s Dream’ does fairly well in conveying this.
A Wanderer’s dream does not factor very well in enjoyment, which is the primarily what this category is all about, instead, it does well in map design. The player’s objective in this scenario is to explore the surrounding land and its towns by following the set flags. In short, I really did not enjoy walking around this map. There was simply nothing remarkable to keep my attention, nothing that interesting. On top of that, there were simply not enough instructions to keep me attentive and the notion of going back and forwards all the time to follow the flags that pop up everytime you hop on one was just not my cup of tea. The flags were also quite confusing to find, as there was no indications as to where they were. In short, it is kind of boring. No replay value. The game would do well to have had a tour guide, so that, with every important area you arrived at, such as a settlement, the guide could tell you about it and the land around. This would make for a much more interesting play because people would be drawn into the history of the world. Instead, we are left to wander into the towns and villages and marshlands, wandering of their history, waiting for something to pop up to keep our interest. The structure of flags was very annoying and disorganised, the player forced to repeatedly retrace his steps across the entire map to reach the next flag, nothing interesting along the way to keep the player motivated to continue his journeys. Rather, the strength of this game rests solely on the basis of a well-designed map with many creative aspects. The map, consisting of a swamp, being the theme of the contest, is vast and with many settlements to explore. The ideas are without doubt interestingly conveyed, but could have had more to keep not only my full interest, but also my motivation to continue exploring. Furthermore I encountered a bug, which hindered me from further play. When I was to enter House Harkonnen’s fortress by boat, I could not pass through the gates, the thin strip of land underneath the gateway preventing me from doing so. I could not find another way to get to the next flag. I also found that the waterfall was walkable, no invisible cliff to prevent players from going down on it. In all I love these type of scenarios, and I liked this one, but more effort could be added to further enhance its ability to deal out enjoyment.
Balance in a Pretty Town scenario is rather subjective. There was no fighting, thus no difficulty, and thus Balance cannot rate this scenario. It is fair to award this category with a full rating since fighting was clearly not the author's intent.
Creativity in this scenario is best seen through aspects such as the little renaming of respective characters like the Guild Observer, Baron Harkonnen, Leto Atreides and a wraith but mostly in the map design. The map is a design of a swamp and does okay in conveying this. The heavy use of mud paths and flowers are nice and creative in conveying a ‘boggish’ effect, if not a little over-done, and the fortress of House Harkonnen surrounded and crisscrossed by water is great. House Harkonnen is probably the most creative part of the design with water running through gateways, allowing allied ships only to pass through, little islands within the walls supporting buildings and with many farms in the south east of the fortress flooded with water and mud paths and plants. In addition you will find spawning flags that indicate the path you are to take, stepping stones and a waterfall.
Map Design: (4.0)
Map design is the most important element in a Pretty Town design. The basis of the competition rests on the contestants use of terrain mixing, eye candy and creativity shown in all aspects such as the story, placement of buildings, the use of map copying and the overall map, how it was placed, conveyed and how it looks. The map design in ‘A Wanderer’s Dream’ was good, a design featuring a few ‘Dune’ inspired settlements in a large marshland with plenty of water, shallows, mud paths, flowers and plants conveying a realistically lush and wet climate. Since the theme of the contest was primarily that of a swamp, the scenario does okay in conveying this. Much of the map was swamp with settlements within. The terrain mixing of ground elements and of trees was fairly decent, but in most areas we were encountered by buckets of dirt 1, dirt 3 or leaves, making it, at times, boring to look at. Some of the forests were very well conveyed with a good assortment of trees, flowers, flowerbeds and the forest floor covered in leaves. The settlements were creative and interestingly conveyed, with Dibbly being a township spread across a series of islands surrounded by marsh, House Atreides a bustling town in the north and House Harkonnen a formidable fortress city nestled in the south surrounded entirely by marshland and open water with the Battersea Bases spread across mountainsides and several linking islands. However, the map lacked in something ‘pretty’. What we had was nice and creative and was interesting to explore, but there was nothing beautiful. On the other hand there was too much use of the Gaia trees such as Tree B, C, G and H, and in one area, a poorly designed waterfall consisting entirely of snow and some sea rocks, the waterfall unrealistically walkable. The use of mud paths and flowers to convey the swamp was a tab poor too, although did do well in conveying, as I said before, a ‘boggish’ effect. In conclusion the overall design was exceptional, nice to explore, but nothing great.
Story/ Instructions: (3.0)
Probably the worst part of the game. Consisting of hardly a story and few instructions, missing hints and history or even a bitmap this side of the scenario is not what it could have been. There was one objective, but no in-game chat messages to further extend on this. There was some chat messages telling you whether you needed to walk or take a boat to the next flag, but nothing more.
I mentioned in Playability how the flags were sometimes confusing to find, leaving the player to scroll across the whole map in search of the newly spawned one. One cannot tell which is old and which is new. Perhaps the old flags could be removed when a new one is made and a map revealer created by triggers put in its place. This would definitely improve the confusion issue. One would know that the flag meant the next area to travel too, the views absent of flags the ones already explored.
In a word – Creative.
In closing –Interesting to explore and a recommended download for Pretty Town Contest enthusiasts and those seeking creative designs and ideas.
[Edited on 12/07/06 @ 01:37 PM]