Dev Journal: The story so far… (part I)

Age of Wonders writer Ray Bingham performing the delicate art of script writing in his stairwell.

[Ray:] Greetings fair friends and fellow travelers in the World of Athla, home of the Blessed Continent! It is I, Ray Bingham, the humble writer for all things related to Age of Wonders, happily reporting for blog duty!  I have an exciting twist for this blog entry.  I invited a guest from the game to join us. He’s going to conduct my interview and I will answer his questions to the best of my abilities.

The well-groomed halfling Ham Binger.

My guest is everyone’s favorite, a Halfling hero of legend.  He traded the island of Aldor for a kiss from then a young Elf princess named Julia. He’s a writer of tall tales, a reluctant explorer, an expert pony-rider especially when fleeing a battle and extremely lucky to still be alive.  His name is Ham Binger.

Ham. Welcome to the blog!

[Ham:]  Hi Ray. Nice to see you again. Might I say, you’re one handsome fellow.

[Ray:] As are you, my fine Halfling friend…

[Ham:] Gained a little weight? Among my people, that’s a sign of good fortune! There’s a Halfling saying, “If no jiggle when you wiggle, then get a little biggle.”

[Ray:] Biggle? Really?  By your jiggle, I assume you’re still eating seven meals a day?

[Ham:] It’s a dangerous world. You never know when it will be your last meal, and I’d hate to die on an empty stomach.

A little bit of history

[Ray:] So what topic should we start with?

[Ham:] Before we get into the actual story, tell me a little about how things have changed since you wrote the first game.

Since the first AoW game, Ray’s family has also expanded quite a bit.

[Ray:] Well, when I started writing for Triumph, it was around the time my first daughter was born. Now that daughter’s driving a car. I have four daughters and a son. Life just gets busier. I’ve moved a number of times, and…

[Ham:] Yeah, that’s nice Ray, but I was talking about the game. How has game writing changed?

[Ray:] Oh. Right. That. Well games in general have changed quite a bit since the first game. Back when we first started, few games had blazing fast photorealistic 3D, but today reading a story makes most game fans flee in terror. I think Age of Wonders fans, besides being terrifically good-looking and intelligent people, want a story to go along with a game that challenges their enormous intellects.

The original Age of Wonders received high marks for its story. We created a branching campaign that had different endings depending on your choices, and two starting points: good or evil. I actually wrote that story like I was writing a full novel with six different endings.

The Wizard’s Throne was a huge adjustment for me. The whole mechanic changed, so Lennart and I worked out a story that would account for the arrival of Wizards into the world.  Unfortunately the campaign was pretty linear and some say that story was our weakest.

[Ham:] Can you say ‘Julioch’?

[Ray:] Ugh. Yeah, Inioch made such a great villain in the first series, we couldn’t resist that…

[Ham:] Poor Julia. She just never gets a break, does she?

[Ray:] By the time Shadow magic came around, I originally opted out of writing that, because I wanted to do novels. A few months before the alpha for AoW:SM, I get call from Lennart saying their writer had backed out, leaving them in dire straits. I agreed to come back, mostly because I have a deep respect for my friend from the land of wooden shoes, windmills, dikes, and tulips, and because it really is fun, even if it sucks up every last ounce of my free time.

Shadow Magic was interesting, though I always felt we were forced to rush it. Overall, I like the whole feel of Shadow magic, I go back and read a lot of my old description work and they still make me laugh.

[Ham:] So you still play the old games?

[Ray:] Oh yes! They’re classic. When I started writing for AoWIII, I went through and played all three games over again, from start to finish—all the campaigns. With sites like http://gog.com the games are cheap. I may have cheated on a couple of the maps (That final AoW:SM campaign map is a killer pain!), because I knew how to edit the campaign maps, and I gave my leaders Dominate, High Defense, and Lightning Strike, but it was all for the sake of research… at least that’s what I told my wife when I wasn’t helping her with the dishes.

All three games are still very playable and addicting.

[Ham:] Right. Research. So you played all these games, and then you came to the point of your reminiscing, right?

[Ray:]  My point is that we’re continually evolving, creating fun ways to bring an engaging story, but never forgetting where we came from. This game is so rich in source material, and like most good stories, we don’t tell all of them, we layer them one on another.  We have hundreds of stories we could’ve told. We’ve got nearly 2000 years of game history to draw from, carefully recorded in the world’s timeline.

I’m really excited about how we bring the story to the players this time around.  The Campaign, specifically, is a mix of all the best aspects of prior versions.  We’ve had the time to do it right.

The AoW team innovations

[Ham:] You keep saying “we”. Is this story process collaborative?

[Ray:] Absolutely. I try to inject as many of the game elements into the storyline—because the rules of the game are the rules of the world. But I don’t play the game regularly like some of the developers, so I rely heavily on the developers to clue me in. Lennart and Godwin have been great.

[Ham:] Godwin?

[Ray:] Godewijn Perizonius. I anglicized his name, cuz I don’t “sprecken zee Dutch” and he has way too many letters in his name. Godwin’s the architect behind the scenario maps and campaign. I work very closely with him. He and Lennart are very thorough and keep me from writing novels into every chapter of the campaign. They focus the story to the core elements, as I have a tendency to want to elaborate on tangential sidestories. The AoW world is so ripe with fascinating ideas, alas, they make me choose. Again, keep focused.

[Ham:] Speaking of focus.

[Ray:] Right. So as I was saying, the campaign story is epic. It’s told from the point of view of two rivals. The player choosing which rival they will play: the Elven Court, or the Commonwealth. The story in both branches will have one major decision point, which means the campaign will different endings depending on your choices. Because the campaign’s slightly shorter than AoW1, I think players will feel greater motivation to play all the branches to their respective conclusions.

Another nice feature of the campaigns is that nearly every map is a different leader—characters you collect as you progress through the campaign. They start out as heroes, but then you give them a chance to lead, and each leader has a different set of skills, which is a major new feature of AoWIII.

All in all, I’m thrilled by the features in this campaign. As you can tell we have taken the most popular aspects of each campaign and applied them here within the confines of our budget and schedule, and I think it’ll be a real hit.

What has happened with Merlin and Julia since Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic? Read about it and more in the next development journal.

The following two tabs change content below.
We’ve moved over to the paradox forums. Please come visit us there to discuss:
You can still read the collective wisdom - and lolz - of the community here, but posting is no longer possible.

Home Forums Dev Journal: The story so far… (part I)

This topic contains 39 replies, has 24 voices, and was last updated by  juriuf 5 months, 2 weeks ago.

Viewing 30 posts - 1 through 30 (of 40 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #6414

    [Ray:] Greetings fair friends and fellow travelers in the World of Athla, home of the Blessed Continent! It is I, Ray Bingham, the humble writer for a
    [See the full post at: Dev Journal: The story so far… (part I)]

    #6417

    Brother JO
    Member

    I’m a bit unhappy to hear that campaign will be shorter than aow1 campaign, but I’ll still be happy to play the campaign and explore the story.:) I’m looking forward to see the next journal about merlin and julia 🙂

    #6424

    vota dc
    Member

    first game was
    3 first race – 4 second race – 5 third race (4+1 final battle) wasn’t so long after all.

    #6428

    Love me some replayable campaignin’.

    #6429

    Tomipapa
    Member

    Thnx Raymond! Was awesome to read. Glad to hear that you guys also seeing AoW 1 story as the best. It was, without doubt. And im one of the “some” who say the story in AoW 2 was not that great. While i completed AoW 1 with all sides i never finished the second one, i was bored much sooner… But what i read so far from the story of AoW 3 was great, im really excited. Just dont forget those unit descriptions this time 🙂

    #6434

    The first time I played in AOW I was at the age of 9. Would play hours on a computer with all the armies and heroes and I would not stop playing until I saw all map.
    Today I am at the age of 22 did not find a game that compares to AOW. Were games well but not challenging like first game
    I hope that AOW3 was interesting as the game first

    Thanks ray for the excellent game and interesting stories

    Thanks Ham Binger for all battles against orcs and goblins you was great hero

    #6435

    Personally i prefer the wizard storyline but thats may be because i played 2 and sm before 1.
    Nice to see the world now has a name, thats really nice 😀

    Will we get to see any of this “We’ve got nearly 2000 years of game history to draw from, carefully recorded in the world’s timeline.” in the game or manual ?
    I would love to see the world timeline visually represented in some way 😀

    Sending out your heroes to be your leaders in far away lands is a really good idea, i like that a lot 😀

    Sounding good so far, really cant wait for your next post 🙂
    It was a really enjoyable read too ^^

    #6437

    Gyor
    Member

    I like that your filling in the gaps in the lore, looking forward to the next dev blog post.

    #6438

    Fogcrow
    Member

    Thx Raymond, I’m looking forward to your next journal entry.
    Now I have a few questions for you:
    1. Are we ever going to see a novel, or some short stories placed on Athla?(I would prefer them on High Fantasy scale ^^)
    2. Do you have some completed novels out there?( I just ran a search by writer name on my favorite online bookstore, getting no results)

    #6439

    1. Are we ever going to see a novel, or some short stories placed on Athla?(I would prefer them on High Fantasy scale ^^)

    i would buy this book 😀

    #6441

    mrXD89
    Member

    I realy hope if story would be as great like in old games. I can’t wait to know more about what happend to Julia and Merlin in next journal. And also for novel (i hope we will find there characters from games).

    #6443

    Brother JO
    Member

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>Fogcrow wrote:</div>
    1. Are we ever going to see a novel, or some short stories placed on Athla?(I would prefer them on High Fantasy scale ^^)

    i would buy this book :D

    Me too 😛

    #6449

    simo_87
    Member

    i have to agree with tomipapa, AOW1 campaign actually made you want to finish it then go back and take the other paths and see where the story would go. youd want to clear the maps so you had the best stuff possible to take to the next level. in 2 and sm it felt extremely linear and as ham says, it felt rushed. the story didnt feel like it progressed anywhere, you just came up against the same wizards again and again. i hope we can make choices through the campaign which actually affect the end result.

    #6450

    Extracting some questions from above…

    Q. Will there be a timeline published?
    A. Currently we’re planning to give our most gifted and favorite fans access to a (scrubbed for public consumption… heh.) timeline–aw, heck, we’ll probably publish it here on the site for everyone. 🙂

    Q. Do you have any novels published?
    A. Nope. I have, perhaps, four series of novels I’ve started and alas, they’re all work in progress. Which is my way of saying they’re not good enough yet. Unfortunately when I’m in full developer mode, I have literally no extra time for other projects so I don’t foresee having one out anytime soon.

    Q. Will there be an Age of Wonders Novel?
    A. At one point Lennart pitched the idea to me. With the advent of E-publishing and such, you’d think this would be possible, right? I’ve got some ideas for one, but right now the focus is the game. One of the cool things we’ve done with this latest storyline is that we’re scaling the story in a way that should make it quite extensible for expansion possibilities. Either way we’ll be doing more stories… whether they come in little snippets to enhance the gaming experience or not is still undetermined.

    Thanks for all the comments and thoughts. Best regards,

    –Ray

    #6453

    TheSpeaker
    Member

    Thanks for the journal and the answers Raymond 🙂 I would also definitely buy your book as I’ve loved the stories told through the game throughout the AoW series and I’m sure AoW 3 won’t disappoint. Hell, I’m already hooked and I don’t even know a quarter of what’s going on 😀 Thoroughly enjoyed the unit descriptions as well. It’s nice to get a bit of background on a unit, which was absent in the normal AoW2, so when Shadow Magic came out I was happy as a clam.
    The devs are spoiling us with a dev journal every week. See this why the fans love you all so much. I can now get my weekly AoW fix 😛 Looking forward to part 2 of this journal.

    #6460

    Fentum
    Member

    That’s a very nice piece of wood you are leaning against in the photo. Cool surroundings make for remarkable work.

    #6462

    b0rsuk
    Member

    Are there going to be retcons ?

    #6464

    Jordos
    Member

    Awosome it all is, cannot wait to play the game itself
    Thanks for your answers and your input in the game. It is nice to hear that a friend is helping another friend across the sea.

    The unit descriptions are great, it is always nice to learn more about the units that you are using.
    Looking forward to the coming journal

    Good luck with your research;)

    #6467

    Sordak
    Member

    lets see what comes out of it.
    Ive never followed AoW lore if im going to be honest here.

    But im also not one of those people that doesnt care.
    Ive been obsessed with the lore of quite a few other franchises, but that usually entails me getting realy excited about a specific aspect of it.

    I can only say: go crazy, go as crazy as you can get away with.
    Include abstract concepts, metaphysics, lovecraftean horrors and trope defyig new ideas into the mix.
    It can only help.

    #6470

    Draxynnic
    Member

    Including theoretical physics kharags that then complain about being expected to go “rhaaargh kill”? 😛

    #6472

    Andocair
    Member

    Nice to hear, you who wrote the other AoW games are also working on this one. The stories and descriptions were always an important part of how the games feel.

    I’m not sure how to feel about playing multiple leaders over the course of one campaign though. It sure makes for a diversified gameplay experience, but I like to play the story of one character. I liked AoW2 better than SM in that respect, and AoW1 was by far my favorite.

    Also, exploring every leader class over the course of one playthrough might actually reduce the replayability, because gameplay wise there’s little new to be found in a repeated playthrough. One class with several races would allready make for a quite varied gameplay, and after you finished the campaign you try another leader and another story path.

    #6478

    Q. Will there be an Age of Wonders Novel?<br>
    A. At one point Lennart pitched the idea to me. With the advent of E-publishing and such, you’d think this would be possible, right? I’ve got some ideas for one, but right now the focus is the game. One of the cool things we’ve done with this latest storyline is that we’re scaling the story in a way that should make it quite extensible for expansion possibilities. Either way we’ll be doing more stories… whether they come in little snippets to enhance the gaming experience or not is still undetermined.

    A promotional AOW novella might be nice if Triumph are willing to fork out for it.

    #6507

    Andocair: Actually the way it works is that your main character stays with ALL the maps throughout the course of all campaigns, and that’s who writes the journal entries between the campaigns, but you take turns leading with allies you make along the way through the campaign story, in the maps where your original character is not the actual leader, (s)he plays as a hero that you must keep alive. 🙂 SO in a way you’re never too far away from that one character throughout the whole campaign, and it ties it all together with one story as a result.

    Should be fun!

    #6508

    borsuk: Retcons? Not really. I wanted to do something of a retcon on a particular Stormlord, but the idea got vetoed… by the Continuity Nazi (aka. Godwin)… grrrr… anyhow it would’ve been cool, though probably something of a distraction from the main storyline… I have a lot of those sorts of moments that get vetoed… 😀

    –Ray

    #6509

    I’m just amused that the world name means work, struggle or task in Latin, which fits with how time consuming Ray Bingham says the writing is.

    #6510

    cyz
    Member

    So heroes can become leaders but also degrade back into heroes? This sounds excellent!

    Will this also happen within one game or only inbetween levels?

    #6511

    Draxynnic
    Member

    Andocair: Actually the way it works is that your main character stays with ALL the maps throughout the course of all campaigns, and that’s who writes the journal entries between the campaigns, but you take turns leading with allies you make along the way through the campaign story, in the maps where your original character is not the actual leader, (s)he plays as a hero that you must keep alive. :) SO in a way you’re never too far away from that one character throughout the whole campaign, and it ties it all together with one story as a result.

    Should be fun!

    Interesting system!

    Makes sense, though – there will be times when “you” will be leading your own army, and times when you will be assisting the forces of an ally. Mechanically you the player may still be in charge the whole time, but there’ll be times when you’re subservient to a superior, or when the army you’re using is ultimately loyal to someone else (even if the fluff is that they recognise your skills in tactics and strategy and defer to your suggestions).

    #6515

    Sordak
    Member

    Wait wait wait.

    So you can make your own character in the Campaign?

    #6523

    Q. Can you make your own character in the Campaign?

    A. No. We debated this option, and decided against it. The story kinda hinges on you playing a specific character… (Which characters I discuss in part II and Part III of my interview with Ham Binger… 🙂 )

    #6524

    Tomipapa
    Member

    Raymond, when you see next time our beloved Ham Binger please tell him that he still owes me the cost of his last “small” breakfast: 3 loaf of bread, 1 keg of beer, 2 wheels of cheese, 2 jug of milk and a whole pig… 🙂

    Ps: Can you(or Ham)reveal something about units descriptions in your next interview?

Viewing 30 posts - 1 through 30 (of 40 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.