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How to design a scenario

Discussion in 'Civ3 - Tutorials, Reference, & Guides' started by Plotinus, Dec 24, 2005.

  1. rhodie

    rhodie Bwana M'Kubwa

    May 19, 2002
    Here and There
    Go to page One of this thread where Plotinus describes how to create a scenario. There is a section about techs that might help. You will need to create a new tech image and use the editor to link everything.
    So that each 'Civ' could create its own unique units I created a separate 'tech tree' for each of the different protagonists in my Conquest scenario 'Defeat Into Victory' i.e.: Only Japan could create the Aichi M6A Seiran torpedo bomber because only Japan could research the tech 'Bushido'.
  2. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

    Nov 14, 2003
    Have a look here.
  3. Midnight-Blue766

    Midnight-Blue766 The filidh that cam frae Skye

    Sep 24, 2007
    Northern Equestria
    Okay, in the event that he doesn't post (sorry if I seem impatient), here are the tentative fixed versions:

    Spoiler Part 1 :
    There are lots of tutorials here about the nuts and bolts of modding: how to make/add units, how to do improvements, and so on and so forth. But there aren't many on how to design mods. I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on this subject in case they help those wondering where to start. This is by no means a definitive guide, just some ideas that I've picked up along the way. And I'm not pretending to be an expert. Most of this stuff is really just common sense, but it may help to have it set out like this.

    I'll say a bit about the actual mechanics of it, but only a bit. Part of the idea of this tutorial is to give links to other tutorials that tell you how to add units, create LHs etc. Some are given at the start of each section. But browse the Tutorials forum itself, as there's lots more useful advice there.

    This is for Conquests only. If you are interested in modding and you don't have Conquests, get it, because modding is so much easier with it. In particular, Conquests was specifically designed for scenario-making (hence the name).


    Broadly, a mod is any modification to Civ, so it's anything that someone has made with the Editor that changes the rules in some way. More narrowly, though, the word "mod" refers to a mod that changes the rules but leaves the map alone. It might alter the tech tree, add lots of units and governments, or whatever, but the basic idea of epic Civ III remains the same.

    A scenario, by contrast, is a mod with a map and, probably, a more limited scope. A typical scenario will focus on a small area of history (or fantasy), with a relatively small number of civs on a relatively small map; it may leave the basic rules of the game unchanged.

    A good example of a mod is R8XFT's Anno Domini. A good example of scenarios are all the Conquests that come with, well, Conquests (and see the list in the next section).

    Sometimes it's hard to tell whether you're dealing with a mod or a scenario. Ryhe's of Civilization is billed as a mod, but it has a set map (a map of the whole world), which might seem to make it a scenario. But the game follows the whole of history, like standard epic Civ III, so it seems too wide in focus to be a scenario. Again, Pinktilapia's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire is billed as a mod, but not only does it have a set map but it focuses on one limited part of history.

    I'm going to look mostly at scenarios. This is because (a) I've only done them, not wider mods, and (b) I think they offer interesting challenges to the modder that other projects lack. But some of this may be useful if you're making a random map mod too.

    Scenarios to study

    These are some of the scenarios that I think are the best. I haven't seen every scenario by any means (and I generally don't like modern age ones, which is why there aren't many here) so don't assume this is some kind of definitive list of the best scenarios available. But I'll refer to some of these in what follows.

    The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Pinktilapia, a tour de force of both scope and detail, with many innovative techniques to ensure that the player really does follow the course of the real Roman Empire throughout its history.
    The Rise and Fall of the Mughals by Rambuchan and Luddi VII, a very well balanced scenario with detailed pedia and masses of historical info.

    The Cold War Deluxe by El Justo, El Justo's biggie, probably the best "modern-day world politics simulation" scenario (and there are a lot…).

    Escape From Zombie Island II by KingArthur, one of the most imaginative scenarios, showing how the Civ III engine can be used to make a game that looks and plays quite differently. Do not play this with the lights off.

    Going Viking by KingArthur, another KingArthur classic with some clever use of game features, though much more in the "traditional" vein.

    The Great Armada by Loulong, one of the best by one of the classier scenario makers.

    LOTR: War of the Ring by Quasidemo, an absolute stormer of a scenario, showing what you can do with imagination and good writing. This must be the only fantasy scenario that features no custom graphics whatsoever but which really works.

    The Middle East in the Reign of Heraclius by Calgacus, this was the first custom scenario I played, so I like it. A good example of choosing a fairly narrow but interesting period of history and "scenarioising" it.

    In addition to these, there are my two scenarios, The Rood and the Dragon and The Desert and the Mountain. I wouldn't necessarily say they are the best around, or indeed that I followed all the advice I'm giving here (which is of course partly inspired by failure as well as success). But I'll mention them a lot, simply to illustrate what I will pretentiously call "the creative process".
    Last edited: May 30, 2020 at 2:48 AM
  4. Midnight-Blue766

    Midnight-Blue766 The filidh that cam frae Skye

    Sep 24, 2007
    Northern Equestria
    Spoiler Part 2 :
    Folder structure and Editor navigation

    General help for modding

    You probably know this already from more technically-minded tutorials, but still. I haven't seen a good explanation of this, and it's basic to all modding, not to mention to the kind of thing this tutorial talks about, so here it is in detail.

    To make any kind of mod, including a scenario, you need to create a new folder. This folder goes in the Civilization III\Conquests\Scenarios folder, which is where all modding stuff is stored. It doesn't matter what you call your folder (typically they have the same name as the mod itself). The folder needs to contain two subsidiary folders, named Art and Text. The contents of these folders will vary depending on how much stuff you're changing.

    The other component of your mod is the .biq file itself. This is the file you alter with the Editor. So having created your folder, you next need to create the .biq file. Do this by opening the Editor. Then go to the Scenario menu, and choose Custom Rules. Click past the dire warning. Now save it as Mymod (or whatever). Congratulations: you have created a mod that is identical to the main game. Now we need to make it better.

    Brief piece of navigational help: there are three main parts to the Editor that you'll be using. The first is the map which you see fills the main window. You edit this with the aid of the Map menu and some of the icons along the top of the screen. The second is the Rules set of windows, accessed via the Rules menu (or, simply, CTRL-R). The third is the Scenario Properties set of windows, access via the Scenario menu. I'm not clear what the difference is between Rules and Scenario Properties, but in their wisdom, Firaxis have laid down that they shall be separate. A point that may trip you up here is that you can make changes in the Rules windows and then close the Rules window using the X in the top right hand corner. The changes stay. However, if you make changes in the Scenario Properties window, you must click "OK" or "Apply" at the bottom to make the changes. Making a change and then immediately closing the window will nullify the change. Why this difference between the two? In the immortal and highly prescient words of Brian Wilson, God only knows.

    The first thing you need to do in the Editor is tell it to look for files in your mod's folder. Go to the "Scenario" menu and choose "Scenario Properties". There is a box called "Scenario Search Folders". Here, type the name of your folder, "Mymod" or whatever. This means that the game will look for material in the Mymod folder. If it can't find what it needs there, it will look in the main game folders. If it still can't find it, it will crash.

    You can tell it to look for multiple folders here. For example, you may be using units or other things that come in the Conquests scenarios. Say you're using some graphic from the Rise of Rome scenario. You will need to enter into the box: "Mymod;..\conquests\Rise of Rome". You can add as many more of these as you like. The game will always look first in the first folder specified, second in the second, and so on, before looking in the main game folders.

    Mymod (and any other folders you use) must mimic the folder structure of the main game. Thus, the original CivIII folder is divided into Art and Text (and some other stuff that doesn't concern us). "Text" contains several text files; "Art" is subdivided into various other folders, such as Units, Leaderheads, and so on. If you look in the PTW and the Conquests folders, you will see that they follow the same structure, but they don't replicate everything. They contain only what is added or changed. For example, the PTW folder contains a Leaderheads folder that has material for the new LHs that came with PTW. The Conquests Units folder contains only the units that were added with Conquests. Mymod should be the same. If you add any units, you need to create a Units folder within Mymod\Art and put the graphics in there. If you don't add any units, you don't need a Units folder at all. The same for everything else.

    The one file that you will definitely be needing is the PediaIcons text file, which goes in Mymod\Text. This monstrosity is Firaxis' idea of user-friendly modding. Basically, it contains all the information necessary to make the graphics etc work, information that you would think would have been specified with the Editor. For example, it is in this file that you tell the game what graphics go with which improvement, unit, leaderhead, and so on. You need to copy the main game PediaIcons file (from Civilization III\Conquests\Text, of course) into the Mymod folder. Then you will edit this (not the original one!) as you make the mod.

    So in what follows, where I talk about editing particular files or adding things to particular folders, take it as read that these are files, folders etc within Mymod. If they do not exist, create them, carefully mimicking the structure of the original game folders. If all this seems a bit arcane, simply examine the folder structure of some of the scenarios you can download from CFC and you will see how it works. It's not user-friendly but it's not really very complicated.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020 at 2:48 AM
  5. Midnight-Blue766

    Midnight-Blue766 The filidh that cam frae Skye

    Sep 24, 2007
    Northern Equestria
    Spoiler Part 3 :
    Choosing a topic

    Now that the preliminaries are over, we can think about more artistic stuff.

    First, obviously, you need an idea for your scenario. What region will it cover, and in what time period? You've probably already thought of a basic idea, but you need to plan carefully what the focus will be. Say you want to make a scenario about Ancient Egypt, but which period? That will determine how big your map will be, will it include Nubia and the Levant? It will also determine the kind of things that are going to be happening in your scenario. Is it going to be about building great monuments, or fighting bitter civil wars?

    Ideally, you want to make a scenario that has something different to offer. At the time of writing this, the first page of the "Completed Scenarios" forum alone has eleven offerings about World War II! And there's a Firaxis WWII Conquest to start with. Now that doesn't mean you shouldn't make a WWII scenario if you want to, of course. But if you want people to play it, it should offer something a bit new. Consider doing a scenario about just one WWII campaign, one that hasn't been done before. Or add a different slant. WWII With a Twist by Finn McCool has UFOs. That sets it apart a bit. Either that, or make one so good it overshadows all the others. That might be hard!

    An alternative is to find some area of history that hasn't been so well served. Ideally it should be one that interests you! You could find out some history of where you live, for example. There are lots of scenarios about Europe, not quite so many about America and Asia, and very few about Africa. There are lots set in the twentieth century, lots set in classical times, a few in the high Middle Ages or the Renaissance, and a few in the industrial era. Some of the most interesting scenarios introduce areas of history that aren't so well known. Good examples are The Classic Maya by The Last Conformist and The Rise and Fall of the Mughals by Rambuchan and Luddi VII.

    The best situation, I think, is where you happen to have been learning about a period of history that is fairly obscure and which hasn't been "scenarioed", but which is really interesting and has lots of possibilities for making into a game. This was what I felt I had with The Desert and the Mountain. It was surprising to find that even a civ as venerable as Ethiopia seemed not to have featured in a scenario (although it's been added to a few mods).

    Of course, if you choose something really obscure people might not play it. After all, all those WWII scenarios have big threads, because everyone is interested in the subject. Some people like to learn new stuff from playing scenarios, but others will stick only with subjects they know. In particular, most people like war. So don't expect everyone to be bowled over by your scenario about the ecclesiastical struggle between Nikon's reformers and the Staroveri. I'd play it, though!

    Planning the scenario

    So you've got your subject. How to turn it into a scenario? This is where everything suddenly begins to look daunting.

    The first task is to decide the focus and the theme. This includes deciding on what civs to include, how big to make the map, and what the game will revolve around. Is it going to be a brutal war experience? Is culture where it's at? Is it going to be about exploration and trade? Think of the Firaxis scenarios and how you have to do different things in each one. The Mesopotamia one is a race to build Wonders, while the Age of Discovery is about settling new lands and bringing back treasures. Sengoku is about hacking your way through a series of opponents. Which of these elements fits naturally with your idea?

    Sometimes it's fairly easy to sort out this side of things. With The Rood and the Dragon I knew that I wanted to make a scenario about the Anglo-Saxons. It seemed clear that this was going to be basically the same set-up as Sengoku, several small kingdoms slugging it out for control of the island. So it was going to be about fighting, but with other elements as well, about building a new civilisation in an island where the old was on its way out.

    Similarly, the focus was not hard to establish, it should go from the fifth century, when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were founded, to the eleventh, the eve of the Norman Conquest. That meant going through the pagan era and then the Christian, with the Viking invasions to deal with. I could have included the Norman Conquest, but I decided not to, because (a) it would have made things a bit too big and long and (b) it would be unbalancing, as only the southernmost kingdoms would get invaded.

    Next you need to think about what special features are going to be in the scenario. What elements of this period of history might make for interesting game elements? Here again, several things suggested themselves with "The Rood". One of the features of Dark Ages Britain was the way in which the Irish preserved much learning from antiquity, and by the eighth and ninth centuries were sending philosophers and theologians to Britain and to the Continent. In Civ terms, they had a high culture rating. So why not incorporate that into the game, by making Ireland likely to get a Culture Victory? The player would have to get a high culture rating in order to prevent this (because to get a Culture Victory you have to have more than twice the culture of your closest rival). There's an interesting element that isn't in any other scenario, normally you're trying to get the most culture and win (if you're doing anything with culture at all), but here you're trying to prevent someone else winning.

    So that gives an interesting twist to start with. That means that Ireland has to be a single civ, rather than a number of competing kingdoms as it was in reality, but that's OK because we're making this scenario from the point of view of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms alone. In other words, we sacrifice some realism for the sake of gameplay. This is something you inevitably have to do. Civ isn't a close simulation, at best it's a game inspired by whatever slice of history you're dealing with.

    How might the Anglo-Saxons get a high culture? Of course they can do it by building lots of cultural buildings in the normal manner. But in reality, Anglo-Saxon culture revolved around warfare. It would be good if there were a way to get culture from fighting. But luckily, the game has such a system built into it. Remember the Mesoamerican Conquest, and being able to enslave enemies whom you then sacrifice? The Anglo-Saxons didn't enslave people, but this system can be put to good use. You don't have to call it enslaving. If you make the "captured" unit a Trophy instead of a slave, and call sacrificing it "displaying" it, then you've got a pretty good way of having the Anglo-Saxons generate culture through combat, and what's more, it really adds to the atmosphere.

    All this shows an important point, you can twist the rules to suit yourself. All you have to do is rename things. Remember that Civ is, at heart, a spreadsheet. It's just numbers going back and forth, and the numbers only mean anything because of the words and images that appear on the screen. You can change those, thanks to those nice text files in the Mymod\Text folder. A good example of this is in Going Viking by KingArthur. The improvement that generates Vikings has a tendency to melt down. But you don't have to call it melting down, a visit to the text files, and it's a tendency for the warriors to get drunk and angry and cause a riot in the town. It has the same effect as a meltdown, of course, since that's hardcoded, but you can just call it something else and suddenly you've added a bit of flavour to the scenario, and possibly given the players a bit of a surprise too with your "new feature".

    As you can see, successful scenario design involves, basically, juggling two fundamental elements:

    (1) Realism.

    (2) Gameplay.

    Both of these are important, and any scenario that focuses exclusively on one and ignores the other will not be very good. You can make a scenario that models every military unit in the period in exhaustive detail, or which features every civ that existed in that location, or where you have commissioned the map specially from the Ordnance Survey people, but if it's not fun to play there's not much point. Civ is a game "based on" history, not an accurate simulator of history. You have to give up some degree of historical accuracy for the sake of gameplay. We've seen an example in The Rood, making Ireland a single civ rather than a pile of competing kingdoms. Making them one civ is necessary if the "culture race" element is to work. And having four or five Irish civs rather than just the one would mean 25+ civs on the map, which is simply too many. Extra realism here would add nothing to the game and just make the turns too long.

    But at the same time you have to have some historical realism, or at least seem to. What's the point in playing one scenario over another? A big part is atmosphere. Why are there so many WWII scenarios? Because people are interested in WWII and want to play it. If your WWII scenario puts Germany where Italy should be and leaves out France, no-one will want to play it (unless of course you're deliberately making some kind of alternate reality WWII scenario). No-one plays Civ as a history lesson, at least I hope not, but accuracy (where possible) will help to give your scenario character and authenticity, and help people to feel that they're playing something a bit different. Again, Civ is just numbers being crunched in a computer. If you want to make it more than that, you have to use graphics, text, and (maybe) music to create an illusion. That means atmosphere, and if your scenario is based on history, it has to seem as authentic as possible (note, that's not necessarily the same thing as being as authentic as possible!).

    Of course, if your scenario is a fantasy one, these considerations don't apply. But even there, you want to create a world that is as atmospheric as possible. You could make a scenario with a bunch of elves and dragons and things, but why would anyone want to play that when they already have Warhammer? Create an interesting world with an interesting story that's not just a retread of Lord of the Rings or Dragonlance and you're halfway there.

    The balance between realism and gameplay comes at every level, from the broad scope of the thing to the little details. The basic rule of thumb, in my view, goes like this. Consider in turn the various events, buildings, belief systems, and all the other "stuff" that happened in the period in question. Ask yourself: how can this be put into a scenario? Could it be a Wonder? A technology to research? An improvement available to everyone? Or what? If there are ways to model it, are they fun? Would they actually add to the game? Does this thing have to be in the scenario at all? How would it relate to other elements that you'd like to put in there? If it seems good, pencil it in. And try to think outside the box!

    All this means research, of course. You need to find out as much as you can about your chosen period and location to get ideas. The more "stuff" you can gather about the period, the more potential game features you have.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020 at 2:49 AM
  6. Midnight-Blue766

    Midnight-Blue766 The filidh that cam frae Skye

    Sep 24, 2007
    Northern Equestria
    Spoiler Part 4 :
    The tech tree

    How to make tech images
    How to make the tech screen

    I think that the tech tree is the heart of the game, so once you've got an idea of the map and the civs, this is the place to start thinking. Developing the tech tree means also thinking about the units, Wonders, improvements, governments and everything else at the same time.

    Some scenarios will just have the standard tech tree, or perhaps no tech tree at all, that is, there will be no scientific research. The War of the Ring and The Middle East in the Reign of Heraclius are examples of this. Obviously such a scenario is much easier to do. I'm assuming that you want to go for the full-blown thing.

    You need to think about what sort of techs you will want and how many to have. This is somewhere that you'll probably need to use quite a bit of poetic licence. Your period may not have seen much technological advance at all. But of course the tech tree isn't limited to what we think of strictly as technology, you can have social developments, new ideas in philosophy or religion, and so on. There wasn't much strictly technological development in Anglo-Saxon times, but I put together a three-era tech tree for The Rood simply on the basis of non-technological developments like this.

    One trick is to pull in things from before or after the period in question. So in The Rood, some of the early techs you can research, such as Runes or Sailing, were obviously known to the Anglo-Saxons before the period in question. Others, such as Feudalism, only really came in after the period. But there's no reason why you can't feature them in your tech tree if you're pushed for ideas.

    Similarly, you can make "development" where in reality there was none. Again in The Rood, you have to research Haethen religion before you can research Wyrd. In reality, Wyrd was always an integral element of Haethen religion. But why not separate them? The idea of a scenario is to look in more detail at a certain period. I think the tech tree is the ideal place to do this. You can create techs to represent beliefs, elements of worldviews, and so on, which help to create atmosphere.

    You can take this to extremes, so that techs no longer represent what we'd think of as techs at all. Look at Escape From Zombie Island II, where each "tech" is a scene from a clichéd zombie movie. It's called a "tech tree", but it doesn't have to be about technology if you don't want it to be.

    This demonstrates that the tech tree is the one way you can really control the order of events in a scenario. The best example of this, once again, is The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Pinktilapia used the tech tree in a very cunning way here. The player begins in the second age, and researches techs in the normal way. But back in the first age, which is where all the AI civs begin, the techs follow a strict progression and are researched at regular intervals. Each time the AI civs research these techs, the player gets them automatically too (via the Great Library mechanism, which gives you any tech owned by at least two other civs). These techs, which appear at very regular intervals, give the AI civs new units and improvements; they also make various improvements or Wonders belonging to the player obsolete, forcing them to adapt their game and adjust. The result is that the "tech tree" has been turned into, essentially, a strict timeline that dictates what goes on in the game.

    Clever stuff! Note that you can replicate this, to varying degrees, by specifying the maximum and minimum research times of techs, as well as their cost. If you make a tech cost 999 beakers, that effectively means that it will take the maximum research time to learn. If you make the maximum and minimum research times the same, that means that all techs will take precisely that amount of time to research, no matter what the player does with the sliders (assuming that one lone scientist remains, of course, since it's possible to have no research going on at all). These allow you to control the pace at which things change in the game. Skillful use of the tech tree can allow you to make the scenario into a story, and the tech tree is the script. You don't have to replicate RFRE to do this. In the Rood, I placed the Vikings on an island separated from everyone else by sea. The only ship capable of crossing this was the Longboat, and only the Vikings could build this. But the Longboat was not available until halfway through the tech tree. This meant that the Vikings were stuck there (building up their strength) until they researched the relevant tech, at which point they all sailed over the sea and attacked the player (in theory). Thus, you can use the tech tree to time events in this way, especially if you use things like flavours (see below for more on this).

    Of course, techs aren't just there to tell a story: they should also allow the player to build things. So you need to think about what units, Wonders, improvements, and so on will go with each tech.


    How to add units
    And again
    How to make units
    Tips on unit-making

    Everyone likes units. Some scenarios and mods are absolutely bursting with them. There are hundreds of great units in the CFC libraries, and I think everyone has at some point planned a mod that will include every single one. Of course it's impossible, but even if it weren't, it would be unplayable.

    I think the epic game is a good model for planning your unit progressions. Think about it: at the start you get a 2-1-1 unit and a 1-2-1 unit, the basic attacker and the basic defender. Then a 1-1-2 unit, a basic fast unit. Most of the subsequent units are just souped-up versions of these, 3-2-1, 1-3-1, and so on. It works well. You'd do worse than follow this basic pattern for your units. In The Desert, I aimed to do roughly this for each of the five culture groupings, and it seemed to work pretty well.

    Of course you don't have to follow it slavishly, and it would be boring if you did. But it can provide a good model of the kind of progression you can have, and the sorts of intervals between one unit and the next upgrade. You can also get good ideas from the Conquests, which have different ways of doing things. For example, the Sengoku features a fast-moving defensive unit, which you don't find in the epic game.

    You need to think about what military units were really used during the period in question and how to adapt them for Civ. Obviously it's going to be fairly artificial. For one thing, real-life units tend not to divide so neatly into defensive and offensive lines. For another, there may not have been much real development in your period, or perhaps all troops were pretty much the same. Again, this was true of the Anglo-Saxons, so I had to find out different kinds of warriors and basically pretend that some came later than others and were more powerful. It's not entirely historical, but it's "scenarioisation" so that's OK.

    Having worked out the kinds of units you want to include, you now need to go through all the units that are actually available. Look at the Firaxis units (don't forget those that appear only in the Conquests, and don't forget the King unit graphics too, although they don't have attack animations, but they can be good for Leader units) and through the vast back catalogue of CFC. There is a unit directory but it's rather old, although it can be worth looking up the old units too. A better library is the artists' library, but still it's a good idea to trawl through the units forum itself as well. Some always slip through the library nets.

    On the assumption that you can't actually make your own units, you need to look at what's available and see how closely it matches what you want. If you're after WWII tanks you're probably doing well; if you're after an army of gorillas you're probably not. Chances are you'll have to use a bit of imagination. I put an Uruk-Hai into The Desert, masquerading as a Falasha zealot, but I think I just about got away with it. You may need to modify your unit plans according to what you find, indeed, you may find good unit ideas that you hadn't thought of. If you can make your own units, you're clearly much more advanced than I am and shouldn't be reading this at all.

    Once again, you will have to balance gameplay and historical realism. In particular, it's important to make sure that the units you add are not unbalancing. Say one of the civs in your period had an unstoppably powerful cavalry which swept all before it. No doubt you will want to make this the UU for that civ. But it can't be really unstoppable, or the game will be unbalanced. Make it powerful, but not a game-breaker. Similarly, it's probably better to have a few units that make sense and follow a logical progression rather than bunging everything in that looks vaguely relevant.

    It's nice to have UUs for each civ, so if enough unit graphics are available think about what they should be. Try to space UUs out so that not everyone has them at the same time, ideally, of course, a civ's UU should be available at around the time it really was flourishing. Similarly, flavour units are nice. But it all depends on the scenario and the period. If everyone had pretty much the same troops, flavour units aren't necessary. If, on the other hand, you're doing a scenario about the British fighting the Zulus, they are unlikely to have any units in common.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020 at 2:49 AM
  7. Midnight-Blue766

    Midnight-Blue766 The filidh that cam frae Skye

    Sep 24, 2007
    Northern Equestria
    Spoiler Part 5 :
    Wonders and improvements

    How to add buildings
    How to make buildings

    Pretty much the same approach applies here. Think about the epic game and the kinds of improvements you get, and the stages at which you get them. This should provide the basic model. Of course you can vary it, quite radically if you want. But you know the basic idea, one improvement increases trade, another increases research, and so on. Feel free to combine effects (how about an improvement that increases both?) but as always, strive for balance. Such a super-building would cost lots more or perhaps require a resource.

    Similarly, think carefully about what "stuff" in the period should be Wonders, and how to distribute them along the tech tree. Again, you can combine effects, but be careful to reflect this in cost and availability.

    As with units, you're constrained by what is available. The library thread is a bit outdated but it has some good links, and again you can browse the forum. However, making your own improvements and Wonders is a lot easier than making your own units, so you may well be able to fill in any gaps yourself.

    The map

    How to make accurate maps

    Drawing the map is fun or a pain, depending on your viewpoint. Once again, you must balance realism with gameplay. Where possible, make the map close to reality, but don't be afraid to fiddle it where necessary to make things more playable. Most Civ world maps do this anyway, making Britain larger or Africa smaller.

    A really important decision is size. This is unrelated to the actual size of the area covered, because clearly there is no rule about how much real land is represented by a single Civ tile. Thus The Rood had a much larger map than The Desert, even though it represented a much smaller area in real life. Map size makes a great difference to the style of game. As a rule, the larger the map the longer each turn and the game as a whole will take. Smaller maps make for quicker games that are easier to get going. Larger maps make for long campaigns that demand lots of attention. They also generally mean more micro-management.

    To see the difference, compare The Great Armada with LOTR: War of the Ring. The former has a large map (not huge, but pretty big) while the latter has a fairly small one. Start a game on the former as Spain and you can spend half an hour working out where all your cities are, what they are all doing, what you need to be building, what to research, who your targets are, and so on. With War of the Ring, playing as Gondor gives you only a few cities. Minas Morgul is only a couple of tiles away from Minas Tirith. Everything is smaller scale and easier to get to grips with.

    A good example of a medium-sized map is The Rise and Fall of the Mughals, which I think is about in the middle of the scale. This map doesn't feel cramped, but neither does it feel too vast to handle. There's room to expand, but you don't have to send your forces over immense prairies if you want to invade someone.

    It's not just about ease and accessibility, of course. The smaller the map, the more important everything is. Each city is more significant, because there are fewer of them, and each battle matters more. A larger map will tend to have longer wars, with drawn-out campaigns.

    Clearly, different map sizes suit different people (and different styles of game). Personally I like fairly small maps (but not too small). But you may prefer large ones, and indeed some of the most popular scenarios, such as Sarevok and Rocoteh's Barbarossa, have immense ones. These scenarios drag you in and immerse you in the experience. Think about what would work best for yours.

    Note, in particular, that map size affects other things too, mainly turn time and AI behaviour. The bigger the map (and the more civs there are) the longer the waiting time between turns. And the smaller the map the more belligerent the AI will be. The AI will typically try to settle all available land (even if it's on the other side of the continent) before declaring war on its neighbours. So if you want lots of AI warring, go for a smaller, more crowded map. Larger maps will encourage perfectionist behaviour.


    How to add resources

    Don't forget that resources can be used to add lots of atmosphere too. What's more, they don't have to be just minerals and things. Anything from slaves to "local genius" can and has been used as resources. There were probably luxury good during your period that can be luxuries. Resources are another good way of making differences between civs and giving them different strengths: perhaps one civ starts off small, but it has a monopoly on the best resources. Again, think about how you can modify reality to create good gameplay. Firaxis did this by making Saltpetre a strategic resource. The stuff is made from, ahem, guano and is freely available and easy to manufacture, so it makes little sense to implement it as a scarce strategic resource, but it works well from a gameplay point of view. You need it for the new, powerful gunpowder units. Conversely, if a resource has little gameplay value, drop it. Having a wood resource that is required for every single unit would be game-breaking.


    How to add Specialists (read the thread carefully as some of it doesn't apply to Conquests)
    Not often used in mods, but I think they can add an extra touch. Perhaps there was some particular class of citizen in your time period that just won't work as a unit (not everything can be military, after all). Could they be a citizen? They could replace the Tax Collector or Scientist. In The Desert, I created citizens that had multiple effects (eg decrease corruption and increase commerce) or negative effects (eg increase science, but at the cost of happiness). Again, use your imagination!

    There aren't many Specialist graphics knocking around, but one trick here is simply to resize (and perhaps edit a bit) a leaderhead. Voila, instant Specialist graphic.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020 at 2:49 AM
  8. Midnight-Blue766

    Midnight-Blue766 The filidh that cam frae Skye

    Sep 24, 2007
    Northern Equestria
    Spoiler Part 6 :

    How to add civs
    How to make leaderheads

    Who's going to be in the scenario? And which of them will be playable? You need to think carefully about the focus of the scenario. What's it about? What sort of things will the player be doing? Could they do this only as one or two civs within the game? Or should all civs be playable?

    Any civ that isn't playable is there purely to enhance the experience of the player. That means that if it's not needed you shouldn't put it in. Each civ takes up memory and slows the game down.

    The classic example of a scenario where you can play only one civ is The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, where you can play only Rome, and the other civs are there purely as your foils (and they are all cunningly engineered by the scenario setup to behave in certain ways). A good example of one where you can play more or less anyone might be the Middle Ages Conquest, where you can be European, Scandinavian, or Middle Eastern. Obviously each has its own advantages and disadvantages. A game with few playable civs is one where the tech tree, units etc can be tailored around that civ. Moreover, it's much easier to test, as you don't have to play innumerable games as all the different civs. But it can have much less replay value.

    AI civs can do various things. They can be there as military opponents, as trading partners, or simply to fill up space on the map. You can have them as rivals for land-grabbing, for resource claiming, or for cultural dominance. The good thing about an AI civ, preplaced on the map, is that you can set things up so it heads a certain way. So in The Rood, Ireland is set up so that it is bound to get a cultural win if the player doesn't do anything about it. It's got cultural buildings preplaced in its cities. The Vikings, meanwhile, have a big island to expand into, but they cannot sail from it until later in the tech tree. The result is a big, powerful civ with masses of very cheap and powerful units, just itching to burst out and attack people in the late game.

    It's not always obvious how to specify which civs are to be playable and which are AI-only. Here's how to do it. Open the Scenario Properties window and ensure that in the list of civs, each one is highlighted (meaning that they are in the game). Now go to the Players tab. You see that here you can specify things for "Player 1", "Player 2" and so on. There should be the same number of "Players" here as there are civs, and the idea is that you assign a civ to each Player (with the "Civilization" box that is there). So first you need to scroll through the Players and make sure that each one is playing one of the civs that are in the game. Try to avoid assigning the same civ to different Players as this has strange effects. Now, as you can see, you can specify various things for each Player, one of which is whether they are playable. Tick "Human Player" in the top right if you want it to be playable, or leave unticked if this civ is AI-only. "Starts with Embassies" is basically there to specify whether the civ begins knowing all the other civs.

    Important note: when fiddling about with the "Players" and related things in Scenario Properties, it is very easy accidentally to remove a civ entirely from the scenario. Its details are still there under "Civilizations" in the Rules window, but any preplaced cities, units etc are removed from the map. This happens if you un-highlight the civ's name from the list under the "Scenario" tab, or de-associate the civ from a Player number. So when you've made your changes in this window, check the map very carefully and ensure that everyone is where they should be before saving.

    I think it's nice to use custom leaderheads for civs, so have a look through the graphics libraries. There are so many custom LHs now that you are bound to find something you need.

    Bear in mind that, even if the scenario covers several eras, you may want to have single-era LHs only. It certainly makes the download smaller. In this case, you might like to make your own pcx files for the LHs, if you are using the "wrong" era, as it were. For example, The Rood uses Bismarck, but in the Ancient Age. Of course, the pcx images for Bismarck show him in the Industrial Age. R8XFT kindly made a new set of pcx images showing him as Ancient. It's actually not hard to do this , just use Civ3FlcEdit to turn the flc into a storyboard, and cut and paste away.

    Now, if you're going for several different playable civs, it's worth thinking a bit about how different they are going to be. To make the game interesting, it would be good if they offer different sorts of challenges (and have different difficulty levels). At its most basic, this is a matter of making one civ more powerful to start with (more cities, for example). No doubt in your period some civs are more powerful than others. You can also assign different starting techs and different traits. It's also good to have different UUs, if possible.

    Getting more advanced, you may give different techs to different civs. Here's a good tutorial on how to do it. You can do this to different degrees. Anno Domini and Rhye's of Civilization both have basically the same tech tree for all civs, but there are a few techs that are "flavoured" so only certain civs can have them. This way you can assign different religions to different civs, by making religions techs (Civ IV? Pah! Who needs it?). Or you can do it more thoroughly, as I did in The Desert, where the civs are divided into five groups, each of which has a completely different tech tree. A bit of a gimmick, perhaps, but it adds interest.

    The use of such civ-specific techs is one way that you can determine how the AI will act. An AI that has access to some special tech that lets it build an uber-unit will research that tech and build the unit, and become aggressive. But there are a number of other tricks to controlling the AI, some of which we've already hinted at.

    The more overpopulated the map, the more aggressive the AI will be. Moreover, the AI will be better disposed to members of its own culture grouping than to others.

    The more powerful the AI thinks it is, the more aggressive it will be. You can create super-powerful units that can't move, and preplace them in the AI's core cities, and this will make it more ready to attack other people, even though those units can't be actually mobilised. Watch out, though: if you preplace too many of these, the AI will not build normal units here, even to accompany Settlers, and it will sit there building Settlers that don't go anywhere (because it thinks the immobile super-units should accompany them). Daft AI!

    As this suggests, units are a good way to fine-tune the AI. Remember that you can make any given unit unique to a single civ or to a group of them. So you can give one civ an advantage (and make it more aggressive) by specifying that it can build more powerful or cheaper units. You can give an AI more powerful units at one point in the tech tree and weaker ones at another, influencing its power at those times. Here, once again, we see the importance of the tech tree in timing things. Of course, even if its units have the same stats as those of other civs (ie, "flavour" units that don't alter gameplay but are just for looks), I think it's a nice touch.

    One important way you can control the AI is with "flavours", which are much misunderstood. There is a whole tab devoted to these in the Rules window. They are solely there to influence AI behaviour, and don't alter any other rules: they have no effect whatsoever on human players.

    Flavours can be given to improvements and tech advances. You do this on the windows for those things, and it's fairly self-explanatory. A single improvement or tech can have multiple flavours. You can also assign flavours to civs. You do this on the civ window, and again it's pretty simple.

    Now you control it from the "Flavours" tab. The idea is that a civ with a given flavour will be predisposed to go for improvements/techs with that flavour, but you can fine-tune it. For example, say you've given America the "Blue" flavour. And say you've given "Blue" to some improvements and techs, and you also have a "Red" flavour that you've given to others. You want America to build or research only the Blue things and not the Red things. First, highlight "Blue" on the left and "Blue" on the right. In the middle box, tell it that the relationship is 100%. Then highlight "Red" on the left and "Blue" on the right. Make this relationship 0%. This means that any AI civ with the Blue flavour will, when possible, always build or research Blue things, and it will never go for the Red ones (again, this has no effect on human players, who obviously can do whatever they like provided the option is open at all).

    The clever thing is that you can fine-tune this. You could make it so that the relationship between Blue civs and Blue techs/improvements is only 75%, and the relationship between Blue civs and Red techs/improvements is 25%. Then, America will generally go for the Blue things, but it might sometimes go for the Red ones.

    This system helps to ensure that the AI will behave in ways you want it to. In the Rood, I used this to ensure that the Vikings made a beeline for the tech that allowed them to build Longships. That meant that they always took roughly the same time to get to that tech (without being distracted by alternatives), so their invasions could be fairly well timed.


    Government types are cunning things whose potential is not always recognised either. You will no doubt know that the government used by a civ determines a number of things: how many units can be supported by each city, what the cost is for each unit, whether you get extra commerce on trading tiles, how much war weariness there is, and how much corruption there is. But here are a few things that you might not have thought of.

    First, you can use these basic variables in new ways. For example, the Feudalism government that came with Conquests gives you more unit support for smaller cities, rather than the other way around as with all other governments. This forces a quite new playing style on the player.

    Then there are less frequently used effects. "Xenophobic", if ticked, will mean that cities whose populations are 50% or more foreign will not generate culture. That can be a big problem if you're capturing other people's cities. Then there's "Forced Resettlement", which means that when you switch to this government the population of your cities will drop.

    "Rate Cap" can be good too. This specifies (in increments of 10%) the maximum % of income that can be allocated to science. So if you set it to 5, the player cannot set the science slider to higher than 50%. This is another great way of limiting governments.

    One thing to bear in mind: the "OFF" button for corruption is broken. A government with this option actually has terrible corruption, not none at all. The best you can get is the "Minimal" option - a totally corruption-free government is not possible (unlike Civ 1!).

    You can use governments to flavour the civs a bit more, too. Here's Rambuchan's take on the subject:

    Governments can be a very good way of not only distinguishing between the different civs' economies but it's an important and easy way of controlling what they can build also. You can create real distinction through this technique. My experience relates of course to the Mughals scenario and here's what we did.

    4 forms of government: Monarchy, Feudalism, Mansab System and Colonialism.

    Colonialism is the important one for this example.

    We made many improvements in the scenario require this form of government in order to build. This of course meant that we had a whole line of very powerful improvements which only the European Trading Companies could benefit from (auto-producing ships, musketmen, offering propaganda resistance against the Indians with higher cultural ratings etc). Furthermore, if you set these to be auto-producing improvements and the units they auto-prod to be 'unavailable' to anyone then you've got real control and distinction.

    Technique is simple:

    ~ Step One: a) Go to 'Edit Rules > Governments'. Name your government and give it whatever qualities you see fit. b) Make sure that you set its 'Prerequisite' to an unresearchable tech. Very important this last bit.

    ~ Step Two: Go to 'Scenario Properties > Players'. Select the civs you want to distinguish. Typically they are in a culture group together but necessarily. Then select their 'Government' to the new government you just created.

    These are the fundamental steps to take which then allows you freedom to give that culture group whatever special improvements you have in mind.

    ~ Step Three: Go to 'Edit Rules > Improvements and Wonders'. Select the improvement(s) you want and Select the 'Required Government' to the one you created in step one. This prevents anyone else from building these.

    Optional for further distinction and control:

    ~ Step Four: Go to 'Edit Rules > Units > Available To'. Then make sure that no civ is able to build these units. (You don't have to do this, you can just make the unit available to the civs you want.)

    Then you can really tailor what units come out of a culture group operating this form of government. What this allowed us, in practical and in-game terms, was to empower the Euro culture group, despite the fact they started with very few cities and poor land around them.


    How to edit Diplomacy

    Possibly the most under-used element of modding? No, that would be sounds, but still. I think the pedia is pretty important, if only to add a bit of atmosphere. You can call a civ "Nobatia" if you want, but if the pedia entry doesn't tell you who the hell Nobatia was and what happened to it, it won't mean much to most players.

    I think that as a bare minimum, the pedia should tell you what each unit, improvement, and Wonder does (that's just to make the game playable). As an almost bear minimum, it ought to include a little bit of information on what these things actually are or were in real life. Otherwise, why bother to make a mod about a particular period in history at all? One of the best pedias is Rambuchan's for The Rise and Fall of the Mughals, which includes both historical info and gameplay advice.

    Quite apart from the pedia, there's also the dreaded Diplomacy file, not to mention script.txt and labels.txt, which contain most of the text that actually appears in the game. You can edit all this stuff really easily (although the Diplomacy file will take ages if you do it thoroughly). Want to change the text about nuclear meltdowns to make it just a normal fire? Simple , search the script.txt and labels.txt for the standard text, and rewrite it.

    The best use of text to make the game flow that I've seen is by Quasidemo's LOTR: War of the Ring. Here, the pedia, script strings, and other textual elements are all cunningly rewritten and linked to make it really work. He even put quotes from the films in just the right parts. This scenario should be studied by all those whose approach to modding is to bung in masses of graphics and forget the text , this shows that a great and atmospheric scenario can be made with text alone and no custom graphics at all! (Although I'm not really convinced by Smokejaguar as Treebeard, but still, that was a bit of a no-win situation anyway.)

    Putting it all together

    A good scenario isn't just a map with some civs stuck on it and a tech tree and some units , it should form an organic whole. Now that's not very easy to quantify, but ideally, each element should feed into the whole. Pacing is everything. It should feel that the tech advancement is at about the right speed, that you get upgraded units at approximately the right time, that you always have roughly the right amount of things to choose to build in your cities, and so on. Ideally, players should rarely be forced to build only military units (they should have some kind of improvements left to build). There shouldn't be some unit that is in play for three quarters of the entire game, never getting upgraded, either because the unit upgrade line is sparse or because it's a killer unit. There should be a sense of purpose. Think about the Age of Discovery Conquest. You have to explore the New World and send your settlers out there. You have to research the technologies required to build the improvements that spawn Treasure units. You have to find the resources, link them to your colonies, and then build the improvements. Then you have to carry the units back to your capital. So there you have exploration, settling, building, and research all working together for the same goal. Achieving one element kicks off the next stage. They form an organic whole.

    Of course you can have different, unrelated goals for the player. In particular, you can present the player with a choice: go for this way of winning or go for this other way. And there can be sort of "side quests" as well, naturally. But I think the experience is enhanced if you try to think holistically. Think about what the scenario is about, what the "feel" should be, what goals you want the player to be aiming for. And think about how to make the tech tree, improvements, and the rest of it all feed into these goals.


    This is a terribly important part of the process, one that begins more or less as soon as you start modding at all. It goes without saying that every time you add a unit or something in the game you will need to play it and test. You'll be in Debug mode, of course, which you get by going to the Scenario Properties page and ticking the relevant box. This lets you "build" new units and things in the middle of the game, and also watch what the AI is doing at all times (put the Caps Lock key on to speed up its unit movements). But equally importantly, you must test the game balance. If there is particular behaviour you want the AI to engage in, you will have to play over and over again to ensure that it is doing it reliably. You need to see which bits of the game seem to drag and which ones work. You will be doing a lot of tinkering with tech research times, improvement costs, unit stats , all the little details whose cumulative effects are unpredictable. If you can get people to help you beta-test, that is very helpful, but you will need to do lots of testing yourself before it's even at a beta stage.

    If you find yourself playing a game in order to check whether something works, and you get your answer but continue playing anyway, this is a very good sign.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020 at 2:49 AM

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