Work-In-Progress Spotlights
June 16th, 2012 by Felix36

The Relics of Athalën

A project by Lord Basse

It appears that AoKH has been without a Work in Progress spotlight for almost six months now. Six months is a long time and as you may have guessed, many new projects have come into being since, and many of those projects haven't had the level of coverage they deserve. Now, I'm here to remedy that! "But who is me?" you may ask. Well, I am none other than TC's very own Felix36.

But enough about me; I'm boring. You're probably wondering who it is who's featuring in this spotlight. Well, if you had to take a guess at who it could be, who would you guess? Yes, you're right, it's our very own master of the editor: Lord Basse! And right now he's developing his new campaign project, The Relics of Athalën.

Now, if you don't know who Lord Basse is, then I'm rather worried for you, as he is generally considered to be one of the greatest scenario designers in Age of Kings history. You may remember him, if you were here back in '06, for his very first scenario submission Story of Basse, which remains to this day in demo form. Or perhaps, if you're a little less old, you'd remember him from his epic Gwyndlegard, released in 2010, considered by many to be a masterwork of map design. Or maybe, if you are an even newer member of our lovely community, you would remember him from The Jaguar Gold, a joint project between him and VonCorgath, released this year.

But regardless of where you first heard of him, you will hear from him now, as we have had time to sit down with him and discuss his latest project, and from my eyes: it's looking pretty impressive!

So Mr. Basse, we've seen several projects of yours set in your own world of magic and mystery, it must be becoming rather important to you, do you see the story continuing after this, even with your claim of it being the "third and final installment" in the Gwyndlegard series?

The Gwyndlegard universe, which I still haven’t come up with a proper name for (!), does indeed mean a lot to me. I have had a lot of fun setting up the world, particularly the Old Kingdom which you will see a lot more of in this campaign! I don’t think that the story of Immanuel and his friends will continue any further after this though, I think it’s time for him to finally settle down and get married already! So, yeah, this will be the final installment in the series. I do however have the beginning of a story-arch planned for Immanuel’s grand-son, but I doubt that it will ever make it into a campaign; not because I don’t want to make it, but because real life duties will be taking up most of my time once this is over.

One thing that quite few people have noticed, as far as I know, is that there is actually a fifth campaign of mine set in the Gwyndlegard universe – Sagropireia. It’s never spelled out clearly, but you can pick up hints at it if you look closely. Sagropireia has a sister island, Kalpireia, which is also mentioned as a newly discovered place in The Rockspring Revolution, and which will have a part in this campaign as well. The ancient ruins and underground dockyard are, surprise surprise, remnants of the Old Kingdom. So technically there are two other scenarios, aside from the core trilogy, set in the Gwyndlegard universe!

I'm sure people will be dying to hear about the plot in this new installment! Tell us a little... Go on!

The Relics of Athalën is the sequel to Gwyndlegard and The Rockspring Revolution, and it is a campaign with six (or possibly seven) scenarios – two cinematic scenarios and four to five playable ones. Once completed, it will be the biggest project I have ever created, and hopefully the best one too!

At the start of the campaign, Xaphira escapes from the prison Immanuel put her in and sets out to gather all the Relics of Athalën, four immensely powerful artifacts left by the founder of the Old Kingdom, Athalën. If she gets her hands on all of them, she will practically become a goddess, and an evil one at that, which is why you have to stop her. You will do so by chasing after her through several new countries and environments and play everything from classic Build & Destroy to grand boss fights. The world will be greatly expanded, and you will have the chance to dig deeper into the history of Gwyndlegard and its predecessor, The Old Kingdom. The humour that some thought was a little bleak in The Rockspring Revolution will hopefully be back, now that I once again have four main characters to bounce lines off!

In your scenario designing career, you've become rather well-known for your desire to stick to using a vanilla version of the game. It seems that has been discarded in this project, tell us more about your decision to use mods.

I decided quite early on to use a custom mod for this campaign, for a number of reasons: first off, there were several gameplay elements that I wanted to use that would be literally impossible to create using the vanilla editor; second, after having had a lot of problem trying to create the tricks I wanted for the boss fight in The Rockspring Revolution, I realized how much simpler some of the things would’ve been if I had used a data mod; because I was planning on having similar boss fights in The Relics of Athalën, this was another good reason to use a mod. And third, I wanted to give the Old Kingdom and the campaign as a whole a more unique, memorable look, something that new, custom-made graphics would allow. In the end it was hard to find any reason not to use a mod!

As you say, I’ve almost always been a vanilla designer, with some exceptions where I used data editing. I’ve never really been against using mods, though; I thought that you should use a mod to enhance your work, not as a gimmick, something that campaigns like The Quiet Dawn and Wolfcastle 2, two of my all-time favourites, did very well. Once I started working on this project, I thought just the same, only this time I actually found many things that modding could be useful for.

As our readers will be able to see from the screenshot, indoor scenes have become a reality in this campaign. How is this possible? What did you do?

I added walls and floor tiles as eye-candy units, pretty much like flower beds, and then just arranged them into something looking like a room. It takes some effort to get it right, but it’s definitely worth it; now I can have an actual wall instead of a line of strange-looking wall ends, proper-looking windows instead of cut-off walls, and much more.

You've had a long and full career here at AoKH and you've successfully churned out brilliant scenario after brilliant scenario. Do you not fear that one day you may burn out and have to retire?

If by “burn out��? you mean to get so sick of the game that you can’t open it for months and months, then, well, that’s already happened twice! Once after completing Marvin & Rob, when I didn’t open the editor for over six months, except the two weeks when I worked on My Fair Princess, and once again after finishing Sagropireia. So far though I have come back, more disciplined than before actually. If I hadn’t gone through those lil’ “burn-outs��?, which I got from pushing myself to finish my projects, I wouldn’t have learnt how to force myself to work on something, even when I’m no longer in the mood.

So, no, I’m not too concerned about getting burnt out again. That doesn’t mean, however, that I won’t retire. I still love designing, and whenever I think I’ve run out of ideas for new projects I come up with another two or three. But it’s a very time-consuming hobby, especially if you, like me, like to work on a scenario for several hours a day. My other big hobby, film-making, which I hope to somehow turn into a career, is starting to take up more and more of my time as my film team is actually starting to get some recognition here in Sweden. I want to be able to work whole-heartedly on our films, and perhaps even get a job where I earn some money (!), which means I have to give up other hobbies, of which scenario designing is a big part.

In all likeliness, The Relics of Athalën will be my last, at least major, project. But who knows, I might do as Ingo did and come back a few years later with a new gigantic project. Only time will tell!

And finally, as is customary, we have four screenshots for your viewing pleasure.
  1. Xaphyra
  2. Gates of the Old Kingdom
  3. An army has amassed
  4. Previously unreleased super bonus screenshot!