File: README.SevenTasks.txt

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The Seven Tasks
===============

A mini-campaign made with Wolfire's "Lugaru."

My thanks to Wolfire for making a cool game like Lugaru. I also thank the
Wolfire fan community; although I didn't post much in the forums, I relied
heavily on the posts of others to help me make these maps.

About this read me:

I have always been a fan of finding out how games, books, paintings, movies,
etc. were made; what went into the creative process. Since I enjoy it I thought
others might enjoy it as well and have written up a "Making of the Seven Tasks."
If you're interested in what I was thinking or where I was going with the maps I
designed read on.
If not, that's okay, I hope you enjoy the mini-campaign anyway.


The Design of the Seven Tasks
-----------------------------

The Sleuthing
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Because I wasn't making a lot of fighting levels I felt I should add something
else to engage the player to make up for the short length. I came up with the
idea that the main character was something akin to a hired assassin. The
secondary goal for the player would be to figure out who hired the assassin and
why they hired him. Clues would be provided through conversations with Sage and
the design of each map.

This was the birth of the relationship between the mendicants and the order of
the Seneschals. But because of the struggles I had with the map editor I ended
up giving up on much of this simply out of frustration.

I also had wanted to place a shapeshifting Secret Rabbit somewhere in each of
the dialogue levels. If the player wanted they could hunt for and find this
rabbit in its various forms (very tiny, very large, invisible, as a wolf) and
then listen to it tell a joke or something. This idea was scratched completely
because I just wanted to finish the campaign and I was tired of dealing with the
bugginess of the map editor.

For those still interested in sleuthing here are the areas where you can still
solve the mystery. They are organized from easiest to hardest to solve (in my
opinion, anyway):

    Desert Village
    Mountain City
    Monastery
    Theatre (maybe)
    Desert sandstorm (probably not but maybe. hint: it's not the obvious answer)

For those interesting in solving those mysteries, don't read what I've written
about those individual levels because of spoilers.

Elegance through simplicity
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Many modern games, in an attempt to be visually realistic or to make use of
modern graphics capabilities, have excessive and hyper detailed visuals that
just result in a cluttered visual space and game space.

One of the things I liked about Lugaru was that the simplicity of the design
created an uncluttered environment to play in. Looking at Turner's village, the
raider base, or Jack's camp we see very simple blocks. This, in my mind, makes
sense since we don't actually need a functioning village or camp to let us know
that we are in those locations. The simple blocks, while not an actual village,
represent a village; they are symbolic of a village; they form an abstract
village. However, looking at the Wolfire blog entries "The ruins of Lugaru" and
"Designing Cultures" it seems the intent of these simple blocks was different
from my interpretation, nevertheless my interpretation is what shaped my
creative process in the Seven Tasks.

The general idea I had was that if there were many buildings, such as in a
village or city, each individual structure was not very important and thus
didn't need a lot of detail; it was the village or city as a general whole that
needed detail by having many structures; it only needed to be a silhouette of a
city. If, however, the level consisted of only one structure, such as a smithy
or a monastery, then because of its individuality that building was that much
more important and needed that much more detail.

A Living World is an Interesting One
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have always felt that the most interesting games to play are ones that seem to
take place in a real world, where characters move with some purpose and do
things that make sense to some degree.

There wasn't much room for that in a mod of Lugaru but this idea did shape what
clothes rabbits wore or where they patrolled. It also shaped the placement of
some of the structures in some of the maps.

The Kinds of Levels
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the beginning I was having trouble brainstorming ideas for what the maps
should be. I came up with a general process I used early on, of placing each map
in some sphere of rabbit/human life. This helped me brainstorm a lot of the
early map ideas. For example, the maps would take place in the sphere of family
life (village), professional life (smithy), religious life (monastery), social
life (city), artistic life (theatre), etc.

I also considered that the reason the mendicants ask for aid in each tasks is
because they lost something we all fear to lose in that sphere of life (e.g.: we
fear losing our families in family life, we fear losing our business in
professional life, we fear losing our status in artistic life). This idea was
scrapped early on though and didn't really affect the plot.

The Design of the Maps
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bonus Zombie Level
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

This was originally going to be one of the seven tasks wherein Yew has to save
the graveyard's groundskeeper from the undead who is hiding in his hut in the
center of the graveyard. They were going to be ghosts at first but I didn't know
how to get the ghostly tutorial level rabbit so I just changed it to zombies. As
such, they had to be slow and so to counter this I made them strong and
powerful.

I made this a bonus level because it was one of the first levels I made but I
couldn't think of a satisfactory "who" and "why". I thought of young rabbits
meddling with necromancy to resurrect one of their fabled heroes, but I decided
it just wasn't good enough.

I really had fun with this level and I'm happy with the way it turned out. The
first moments of the map, when the zombies swarm onto the box, really bring up
imagery for me of zombie movie heroes trapped on top of a truck fending off the
monsters. Also, when you get surrounded by eight rabbit zombies and are able to
fend off all of them, that is a tremendously powerful feeling.

The Last Castle
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Originally this was going to be the monastery but I felt that it would be more
appropriate if this map was the headquarters of the Seneschals. I deleted some
of the platforms and the belfry, added the apprentice huts, the Seneschal homes,
and the sparring rink.

The original idea for this map came from looking at the lookout ruins in
Turner's village in Lugaru, and trying to imagine what the original structure
might have looked like. The wall closest to the sparring rink is still the
original intact wall from the Turner's village map.

The player spends little time in this map but I still felt I should flesh out
the world of the Seneschals as best I could. I wanted to make sure the player
would see the uniform of the Seneschals in training, since this was a clue for
solving the mystery in the Mountain City, and I wanted to make sure the player
knew that Sage was not the only master in the Last Castle.

So, we see another master giving a lecture on sparring to some apprentices. We
see several masters with Sage, discussing what to do about the murder of an
apprentice. During sunset we see some apprentices resting among their huts,
while a couple spar in the rink, and one wanders in the hills. We see some
masters and apprentices meditating inside the Castle. All of this is meant to
help give the player a sense of what kind of life is lived here, if the player
cares to look. This is a place of training; a place of self improvement; but it
is not a cruel place either.

The Desert Village
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I spent so much time on those chimneys. I spent an arduous time positioning
fires in the air and then chimneys around them so that all you could see was the
smoke. But, then on reloads the fires or chimneys had repositioned themselves.
The reason I had done it in the first place was because it was a clue in the
mystery. There are five huts but only four of them have active chimneys which
means one of the families is missing. This, combined with the clue of the two
sacrifices in front of three spikes, was meant to lead the player to realize
that one of the families was sacrificed but one of the parents escaped and she
or her was the mendicant, begging for revenge. The villagers who are out hunting
are hunting this escaped victim, a plot point which allowed me to create a
village larger than the eight rabbit limit, by splitting the village populace
into two maps.

But if this village believes in rabbit sacrifices, how have they done this for
any length of time without killing off their population? To answer this I
created, nearby, the ruins of another village, implying that this village's
sacrificial rituals originally extended to their neighbors but now they have
begun to turn on themselves.

During the day we see something of village life. A mother walks among the huts,
as her daughter trails after her. Some children play in the orchard as their
friend watches. A mother tends to the cabbage (or something) patch. During the
evening we see the rest of the adults shadow the behavior of the day. One rabbit
patrols, spending a long time in the cabbage patch looking for signs of his wife
who was working there. A couple searches the orchard for their child. Another
rabbit searches the hut for his wife. One rabbit pauses as he wanders in a large
aimless circle, numb from the shock.

I changed the children rabbits' power and strength and armor and protection, so
I don't know why they can take such punishment before dying.

The Smithy
^^^^^^^^^^

I spent a good amount of time creating a chimney through which the player could
jump down and surprise the smith. It doesn't work that well in practice. Oh
well.

Here again the patrol paths are representative of the behavior of the rabbits.
One apprentice gathers wood for the fire (although I'm not sure wood fires can
get hot enough for a smithy), one apprentice gathers water at the well and
brings it to the smith's water bucket, and another gathers ore in the cave (not
really how things are done, but I liked the idea). The smith, more thoughtful
than his apprentices, pauses at each station. He goes to the fire to heat the
metal, then to the anvil (box) to shape it, and then to the water bucket to cool
the metal.

The idea I had for the mystery in this level was that the smith worked far from
the city in order to be near a magical cave which gave him ore for his superior
weapons. The mendicant was going to be a spirit that lived in the cave, angry
over the theft of its property. There was going to be a clue in the cave near
the smithy, where Yew would hear the spirit speak, but I couldn't get the
hotspot to work right, even with hex edit.

Theatre
^^^^^^^

What does an artist fear most? There can be many answers to this, but the answer
I was thinking of was, "Being forgotten." Thus, the mystery in this task was
that the aging thespian Commedus never wants to be forgotten, and so he is the
mendicant asking for his own death. For his last performance he wants to be
mysteriously killed on stage so everyone will talk about it for years. But it
can't look like he let someone kill him, because that would make him seem a
hack, so he has to fight back to make the death look like a murder. His rival
thespians, two prima donnas and a starving artist, don't know the specifics of
his plan but don't want to be outstaged either. I added them not only to add
extra fighting but also to provide the clue that the answer to the mystery of
"who is the mendicant" wasn't one of Commedus' rivals.

I wondered about the behavior of rabbits in Lugaru to run for help if injured
and then run with their help back towards you. Should I make two maps, one for
the rivals and one for the thespian? I decided to justify the behavior this way:
after seeing he or she is being beaten, a rival races to kill Commedus, but upon
arriving either Commedus terrifies them and chases them back (if he's behind),
or he dodges them and runs to you to finish what he wants you to do (if he's in
front).

Artists strive for originality and uniqueness, as a general thing. So I made
every character unique. Commedus is a tiny bit fatter due to his age and he
wears somber colors in anticipation of his death. One prima donna is shorter
than the others and wears darker colors to complement her dark fur. The male
rival is taller and slightly thinner, and he wears drab pants, since he is a
poor, starving artist. The Green and yellow prima donna I increased the size of
her legs and lowered the size of her torso to give her a more curvy appearance,
to represent her obsession with physical looks. I also made the dialogue boxes
very bright and had the rivals speak in a theatrical manner.

Originally I planned on having a large indoor theatre, modeled off of the Globe
Theatre in which Shakespeare performed, with benches and balconies. But, I
instead decided this would be too cluttered and went with the current, simpler
design, based off of the ancient Greek amphitheatres.

The placard at the start of the map was supposed to have a hotspot advertising
the final performance but I just couldn't get a hotspot to place.

Desert Sandstorm
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

This level was the fusion of two ideas. One was an idea of having a giant
rabbit that grants wishes. The other one was of the player having to hunt down
some bandits in the middle of a sandstorm. So, I just put them together and
decided that the reason Yew is chasing this group of rabbits is because they
want to sacrifice someone to the giant, but the giant is tired of being bothered
so he asks the Seneshcals to take care of it for him.

I had a lot of fun making this level. I had to keep trying to think of
different things that could exist along this desert path: ruined villages,
ancient statues, crumbling oasis, a canyon. I also had to pay attention to make
sure that if the player followed a sign at a slightly wrong angle, they would
still find what they were looking for. So, I'd have to go back and increase the
circumference of ruins or increase the width of the front of the canyon, so the
player could bump into something rather than running forever through the desert,
having not noticed the next location. Originally, I wanted it to be that the
player would find some area and then have to search in a circle for the next
area, but I realized this was too sadistic and resorted to using mainly road
signs. I also decided to use dead bodies, rabbits who questioned their leader's
decision, to let the player know they were on the right track.

I also wanted to give the sense of history in the desert, as though these
things had been around for a while. Aside from the typical cubes that form ruins
I also added roads buried in sand, walls and pillars being knocked over by
growing trees, and the old statue was one of my favorite touches, giving the
idea that something truly epic had once been built in this desert.

The Mountain City
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I wanted a city level where the player could wander through, either avoiding
guards through stealth, fighting them in alleys, or urban running past the
opposition. I had a lot of fun making both parts of the city inside the walls
and out. The placement of buildings also came naturally, by following the
natural shape of the terrain. Although if you really think about it, it doesn't
really look like a city, I think it succeeds as the silhouette of a city; a
symbolic city.

But I also wanted to give a sense of the city having just been
sacked by an opposing army. I thought of having buildings knocked over or
lopsided but couldn't, at first, think of a good reason for this, so I settled
on having fires interspersed among the buildings (from the pillaging). Once I
worked on the city inside the walls I needed some way for the player to get back
in if they fell over the wall. I decided to use a natural bit of scenery, a
siege tower, and once that idea was in place, the idea of a catapult which
launched stones to knock over buildings followed instantly.

I also wanted to make a distinction between the inner city and the outer city.
You can see that outside the walls the buildings are spaced further apart, while
inside the walls they are packed closely together. Within the walls there is
greater distinction between the poor houses (at the bottom of the hill) and the
wealthier ones (top of the hill, nearer the royal house). The soldiers outside
the walls are more poorly armed and some of them are even tired and resting.
This is because they are the dregs of General Vine's army and were used to take
on the brunt of the defense. The more elite soldiers are inside, being the most
trusted by the General and the Major to search for the missing Queen Dowager.
You can see the suspicions of the General as to where the Queen Dowager may be
hiding by noticing that the majority of the elite soldiers are searching the
wealthy houses, while only one is searching among the poor houses.

I thought a lot about what the mystery could be in this one. I wondered perhaps
whether the Queen could be the mendicant and whether the sewer exit from which
she escaped (outside the walls) could play some role, but I decided this was too
easy. I finally came up with the idea that the General/Warlord would be a former
Seneschal who ran from his duties to gain glory. You can tell from Sage's
"mission briefing" that there is no mendicant, necessarily. Sage normally says
things like "you WILL do this" but this time he says "I WANT you to do this".
Also you can see that the Warlord is wearing the uniform of a Seneschal in
training. It is no accident that he is as strong as he is either.

Alternate answers to "what's the difference between a general and a warlord": a
scary hat; three flagons of ale; a superego.

Forest of Anshan
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Tree houses are cool. Tree house villages are even cooler.

I am also a big fan of the Epic of Gilgamesh (wikipedia it if you don't know
what it is) so when I decided I wanted to do a forest level I began to think of
the Forest of Anshan where Gilgamesh and Enkidu have to face the monstrous
Humbaba. At first Humbaba was going to be a clan of wolves but then I came up
with a different idea. What if the wolves were hunting the monster Humbaba, and
IT was the mendicant asking for help because it was cunning enough not to face
the wolves by itself (because of this the wolves generally patrol the entrances
to the tree houses hoping to see Humbaba emerge). Thus the reason for Sage's
cryptic comment "What is scarier, a monster or a monster... the monster that
survives." I was going to have a dialogue map, after victory, in which we see
Yew being watched from the trees by a lizard, but I couldn't get the lizard
texture to appear on every load, so I scrapped the idea.

As for the tree houses, aside from my above reasons, it just seemed right to
put them in. I made the trees very big to give a sense of grandeur to the
forest, and once I saw what it looked like, I immediately thought I should
attach platforms and boxes to the trunks. It was meant as a network of platforms
and tunnels by which the player could follow the wolves and then leap down. In
practice this doesn't work that well, at least for me, but I'm still fond of it.
I thought of having a battle on one of the tree platforms, but I felt this would
be a fiasco; the player and/or opponent would most likely end up falling down to
the ground anyway.

The wolves patrol paths often intersect or even go alongside each other. I did
this to encourage the use of the tree houses as means of escape and espionage,
as opposed to purely ground based tactics.

The totem at the start was supposed to have a hotspot that warned of the
monster Humbaba, but the hotspot wouldn't work.

This was one of the levels that for some reason the enemies became super
strong. All the wolves are as strong as the Alpha wolf from Lugaru, so I gave
the wolves weapons. Although, if I had been really nice I would have just given
the player a weapon.

Monastery
^^^^^^^^^

The plot is that this Monastery is a rival order to that of the Seneschals and
your mission is revenge for the murder of one of your own.

When it came to designing the map I wanted to try something different. Rather
than designing the monastery based on aesthetic appeal (like the forest), or
based on plot (like the desert village), or to create a sense of bygone history
(the sandstorm), I wanted to try symbolism.

I decided that there would be rising levels, and as the player climbed higher
he would encounter stronger and stronger opponents, representing their
increasing rank.

The ground, because it is snow, is white and therefore white represents the
earthly. The sky is black and therefore represents the heavenly. So the main
character is traveling from the earthly to the heavenly; it is symbolic of his
rising skill and wisdom throughout his training. The sky light is tinted
slightly red to represent the blood the character has spilt in order to rise
from the earthly to the heavenly.

The enemies also show this symbolic shift in enlightenment. The enemies at the
lowest level wear white as the enemies that are located higher and higher wear
increasingly dark clothes, symbolic of how close they have come to the heavenly.
Along with this, enemies at the lowest ranks wear heavy armor and unbreakable
weapons. As enemies get higher they rely on impermanent weapons and less and
less armor and clothes. This was to be symbolic of their leaving the earthly;
their decreasing reliance on earthly objects as they rely more on their inner
strength which grows due to their increasing enlightenment. This symbolism also
is meant to explain why Yew never carries a weapon from mission to mission and
only uses what he finds.

In the end this didn't work out that well because this was another level where
the enemies were all equally super-strong. I was also having terrible problems
with entire platforms and boxes shifting positions on loads. So, I gave up on
the full scale symbolism of this map, but much of the initial intention can
still be seen.

I was also going to have a second map where the player fought the High Templar
in a duplicate of the room Neo and Morpheus fought in the movie "the Matrix". By
this time though I was exhausted from wrestling with the map editor and scrapped
the idea.

Some ideas that didn't make it
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In between levels: I had thought of doing some levels where the player actually
travels the distance from the Last Castle to his next mission, encountering
story elements on the way. One idea was of bumping into the Queen Dowager and
her guard, as she flees the city, who briefly reveal some of the plot. Another
was that the woman who escaped the desert village was captured by bandits and
you run into them and save her. Ultimately though I felt this was really
unnecessary and simply increased the number of levels without necessarily
increasing the amount of fighting. One good thing was that the desert sandstorm
idea came out of brainstorming for these inbetween levels.

The Vault of Voices: The Seneschals obviously get requests from mendicants
across vast distances. My answer to how this was possible was the Vault of
Voices. It was meant to be a series of rocks floating in a black expanse. As the
player traveled forward he saw in the distance people on platforms, floating.
These were to be the mendicants. One platform would have a lizard among some
trees, another a woman, another would be empty (since the old thespian was
dead), and so on. The final platform would be a new mendicant and there was to
be a conversation between her and Yew, where he takes on a task personally,
rather than through Sage, to show that Yew is no longer an apprentice. This idea
didn't seem crucial however and so it didn't seem like it was worth the time.

A miniature level: The first time I changed my size to 0.1 and ran around I
burst into laughter. I thought of having a map where the world gets "shrunk."
There would be one map where everything is normal sized, and then through magic
or something Yew would get shrunken, and there would be a second map duplicated
in a smaller size. Although cool, it isn't easy to fight when that small, and
the objects don't shrink as much as the player can. The idea was then scrapped.

Valley of the giants: The idea for a giant originally came when I thought of a
stealth level where the player has to sneak through a valley of sleeping giants.
If a giant wakes up he would kill Yew instantly with his immense power. I
dropped this idea though because although it sounds cool, it seemed that in
execution it would probably be really boring.