Work-In-Progress Spotlights
by Scud

The Quiet Dawn

A project by Matt LiVecchi

Welcome again to another Work in Progress Spotlight, and for this week we take a look at our resident Scenario Design & Modding Forum moderator, the artist formerly known as Prince Matty12345, or rather Matt LiVecchi. Called 'The Quiet Dawn', it was spawned from what Matty saw as the majority of fantasy scenarios in the Blacksmith contained the same old cliches and pretty much had the same plot (his words, so if you have design one of these fantasy scenarios, please direct your angry letters to him). So Matty set himself a challenge, to produce a story where the central theme was a fight between good and evil while trying to avoid all the usual cliches and set pieces. But has he done it? Maybe you'll have an opinion at the end of this preview.

'Tis the world Eirenia and peace has reigned for nealry half a century, with the great spirits of myth and lore resting in their tombs not bothering the realms of the living. However, this peace is torn apart by a group of unwitting officers in the royal army that uncover the tomb of one of the great spirits. The cretins release the spirit from it's tomb and havok is then unleashed onto the land, as the world warps and men and even nature itself start to change due to the mythical forces at hand. In this brave new world ('What do you mean, Huxley, that I have no royalties?!') no man can be sure of who his friends are, or even sure of their own actions and morals. The story promises to be darker than most scenarios can offer, but Matty also guarantees the gameplay will be fun and engaging with a good blend of puzzling and adventuring at hand to amuse players. Plus, let's not forget the questing (but as promised before, this will not be the usual point A to B quests you normally see). Being released in an episodic format, we can expect the first part of the story within a month.

I managed to ask Matty a few questions, and he gave rather interesting answers that are a must read:

Many hold you as an accomplished designer and modder, despite the fact your portfolio of released work is rather small. Do you feel that you should release more of your work, even screenshots or teasers?

Matty: Probably yes, but I am in no hurry. The best designs take time, and I am not going to release something for the sake of it. As far as being accomplished, I wouldn't say that. I think I have the skills to be, but will have to submit more work for that to be true. Anyway, the important thing to me has always been quality as apposed to quantity. A lot of projects have been scrapped over the years, mainly because the were not good enough in my opinion. This one though I actually have high hopes for.

This questions is related to the previous one. Have you ever thought of releasing your unfinished work as a compilation for people to look at like Oliver did - or are you a perfectionist who can't stand to see any piece of work go unfinished, if there is even the slightest chance of it ever being seen by the wider public?

Matty: There is no way I would ever release unfinished work. It was unfinished because it sucked, so no point in saying "Here is some crappy scenarios I made." Too much junk gets submitted to the blacksmith anyway. Besides, the stuff I have done that people haven't seen often contains design tricks that I hope to implement in a future release. Also, half my work is modded so it is hard to tell someone to install a mod to look at a scenario that is 45% done.

Can 'vanilla' scenarios still stand-up against the more modded and data-edited scenarios that are currently aviable to download on the Blacksmith?

Matty: Yes and no. A vanilla scenario designer can never compete in the areas of originality, novelty, effects, and perhaps even gameplay.Simply put, I can do stuff with the editor in 5 minutes that tops anything the best designers can do in 4-5 hours. There is just too many physical limitations that will prevent a vanilla designer to do effects that I can do. So in that sense, the answer is no. But a vanilla designer can still write an amazing story, still design a beautiful world, etc.

Given equal skills in writing, map design, and other areas such as balancing, the vanilla designer loses to the modder in my eyes. I guess that the best way of putting it is that a purist has to work that much harder than a modder to get equal results.

When you say available scenarios that is a different question though. There isn't enough available from us modders unfortunately. I am hopeful though that a few great modded campaigns will do a lot to change peoples minds on the subject.

Do you feel there is, how do you say... "a feeling of misgiving" between people who stick to more traditional methods of scenario design, and those who take advantage of the recent developments in data editing and the like?

Matty: Well, I think there is fear of it from a lot of people in the community. I think that many people feel threatened by modding, that it will raise the standard to the point where they can't measure up with the standard editor. It is one reason that modded work is a lot less accepted for AoK than it is for other games, like AoM for example. Often you hear that modding doesn't replace good map design (as if the two were mutually exclusive), or people point to the lack of finished work containing mods and draw the conclusion (perhaps a fair one) that it is too hard to finish such a scenario.

Of course, those of us who promote modding need to do a lot better job of finishing quality designs that contain both a solid grasp of fundamentals and advanced editing techniques. I think the community is open enough to recognise a great work no matter what it is. Ultimately, the life of scenario design for AoK will end some day, but if we can help bridge the gap to people who refuse to touch modded works we can help extend that lifespan.

But let's not forget some screenshots: