Considering I’m now making a real game for real, maybe now is a good time to go back to my roots and examine what went right… and what went wrong… with my previous development efforts: my Warcraft III maps.
Today: the multiplayer extravaganza, RDZArena
Just when you thought I had no idea how to make a singleplayer RPG, I started work on a multiplayer hero arena.
I don’t remember why. Maybe it was burgeoning internet access, and membership of a clan that gave me friends to play with. Maybe I was bored. Maybe it’s not even a multiplayer map.
Either way, I let my imagination run rampant and feature creep take hold and… this is what happened.
The Arena‘s basic gameplay is the essence of simplicity. Two teams of four players, controlling identical heroes, enter an enclosed space and knock lumps out of each other.
The thing is… I tend to find multiplayer maps quite boring. There’s always that point where I kind of suck and have to wait another two minutes for my hero to revive before I can get killed again. Ho bloody hum.
So there’s a lot more to do in The Arena than just bash the other players. The Arena is not conquered by player kill counts — it is won by points gained from all manner of actions.
It begins with the wild animals that spawn everywhere. These can be killed for less points than a hero, but they’re much easier and there are plenty of them to choose from. (KrewL_RaiN once remarked that the presence of creeps made The Arena more akin to an AoS than a true hero arena.)
After that, there are the four annexes that open up occasionally to provide additional objectives; either a giant creature to kill or a flag to capture for bonus points. Flags, of course, can be nabbed by killing the carrier as they try to get back to base.
Finally there is the Hill, which provides a steady (if boring) trickle of points, up until the eighth minute when the legendary Dragon’s Tooth is given to you. There is only one Dragon’s Tooth and it drops on death, so being the King of the Hill is by no means a guarantee of absolute victory for you or your team. (It’s even questionable whether it is the best sword in the game — the Rune Blade’s lifestealing effect possibly outweighs the Dragon’s Tooth’s fast attack and high damage.)
There are also special Rounds that activate randomly. A Chaos Round allows you to kill any hero (including team mates) for bonus points, but causes you to teleport to a random point whenever you try to walk somewhere. An Obelisk Round disables the gaining of points by any means except controlling Obelisks. An Instagib round kills anything in one strike but denies points for wild animals.
The Eclipse Round just makes the lights go out and those glorious omnilight weapons take hold (because pitch darkness was really exciting when we worked out how to do it). It’s a bit more of a weather event — like the wind that spawns tornados or the breach in the ozone layer that drops burning shafts of light or the random appearance of a Feral Machine, so I’m not sure why I added it as a Round.
So, much like When the Freedom Slips Away, a large slew of game types are represented in one place. The key difference, though, is that these varied objectives never stray from the core mechanics. Heros hack and slash, heroes carry items, heroes try to avoid dying. That’s all they do, and that’s all they’re ever asked to do.
Even in the Obelisk Round doesn’t truly deviate — because you still gain control of Obelisks by hitting them until they die and then move on to the next one. The myriad ways to gain points are just window dressing around that central concept: you control a single character and knock lumps out of everything.
Speaking of characters, The Arena fills all non-human player slots with bots to ensure it always has eight competitors.
I’m not going to call them sophisticated, but they do have a broad suite of capabilities that make them compelling enough opponents. They’ll pick up items, they’ll upgrade their equipment, they’ll attack the gates to the Hill, they’ll head for annex objectives, they’ll run home if their health gets too low — more than enough to differentiate them from the basic animals patrolling the Arena.
They aren’t perfect, not by a long shot. They’ll often head for an annex objective and then turn right around again. They’ll run away with low health even if a few more strikes or ability casts could let them win a duel. Better than nothing, though.
The controversial part of the Arena was always how talkative it is. Heroes spout floating-text phrases as they wander around, use items and kill each other. The announcer voice (that’s me pitch-shifted) narrates important events like killing sprees and special rounds. The AIs use the same text-chat as players to taunt each other. (It’s that trick where you edited the UI strings to push the normal text chat off the screen, then used game messages instead — so human and bot chatter is consistent.)
A lot of people complained, but I’m going to stand by every banter-drenched line of text I added to this map. You’ve got to remember that it’s not actually a multiplayer map. It’s not about extreme balance and eSports and a fair face-off between ultra-skilled opponents.
It’s a multiplayer map as seen through the eyes of a single player. It’s a map designed to fill the roaring emptiness with light and words and sound. Every text taunt and piece of silly announcer narration is a piece of entertainment to brighten up wandering alone around an effectively barren compound. The onslaught might be non-stop, but that’s sort of the point.
I’ll stand by The Arena all the way. Sure, there are more than a few balance wobbles in there, but it’s completely wild — though in a more controlled and consistent way than the Islands in the Sky maps ever were. WtFSA was a coherent basis and the Arena mostly grew out from that one seed.
The Arena, however, turned out only to be a stepping stone to something much, much larger…