Mission Creation Principles
2. Make up a story. If your mission is to be historical in nature, much of your design is done for you. Consult a map of Egypt to get a feel for the natural terrain, and draw your map to roughly match it. Some creativity will be called for here, as 4,000-year-old terrain maps are rather hard to come by - you'll more likely have to rely on a description of the area. Then simply create events that parallel the historical events that occurred. One warning: Pharaoh is a game, not a historical simulation. Use history to tell a story, but don't be too slavish to historical accuracy. Schedule your events and set your mission requirements with the flow of gametime in mind. "Rostja" is one of Pharaoh's most historically accurate missions in its central challenge and its time scale and victory requirements, but some players found it tedious.
If your mission is to be entirely fictional, start by making up your own story. This should be an extremely simple, one- or two-sentence description of how you think the mission will unfold and what the key events are that will nudge it in that direction. Stories need a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is whatever geopolitical situation faces the player when he or she loads your mission. The middle consists of obstacles to overcome. The end is whatever victory conditions you define. Experience has taught us that missions with a story line, however basic, are the most fun to play...and if the middle of your story contains surprises and reversals, so much the better. Pharaoh's event scripting makes rather complex stories possible.
3. Know your audience. Before you create your mission, ask yourself whether it is for a small number of hardcore players or a much larger number of casual players. Try to plan the overall difficulty so that casual players aren't totally frustrated by its challenges, yet expert players aren't bored by its ease. To some extent, you can count on player difficulty-level settings to scale the challenge appropriately - but there's a limit to how effective that is.
Beginners will often consider your mission too hard if it's at all challenging. Experts will invariably consider your mission too easy unless you make it nearly unwinnable by anyone except an expert. If you intend to distribute your mission widely, aim squarely for a middle ground - not too hard, not too easy. You can't please everybody, but you'll satisfy most of your players with a medium challenge level. If your mission is for a small circle of friends, tailor it to their expertise. However you go, use the mission's text file to rate its intended difficulty.
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