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Hi! A long time ago I wrote a guide exploring some hidden parts of everyone's favorite farm (and I guess story content) creator, Mission Architect. I'm reposting it here in case folks find it useful, and I've also added a few new nuggets of information I've found out. At first glance, Mission Architect can seem rather limiting. Enemies can only spawn in certain places, there’s only so many maps, etc. But with some tips and tricks, an arc built with Mission Architect can be incredibly cool and innovative, and become a really awesome piece of content, on par with everything else in the game! About me! To introduce myself, I'm @Charlie! I've loved AE in this game since I started playing and I give it a lot of credit for being an amazing creative outlet for me while I was a teenager. I now work as a TV comedy writer for a bunch of different shows, and I wholeheartedly endorse AE as an awesome system for people to flex their storytelling muscles. This guide is not really about what makes a good or well-written plot or anything like that, because really, this game is about being creative and having fun and that's what Mission Architect should enable you to do. Whether you just want to make fun missions to play (or RP) with your friends or you want to share stuff with everyone across all the servers, AE can be a confusing, befuddling experience, so these tips will hopefully help demystify it so you can crank stuff out quick, easy, and get to the good part (the playing along). PART 1: THE STORY These are the only tidbits I'll go into about story, and the discussion is simply to help people understand where to best focus efforts when working on an AE story: 1. Keep things simple when you can. - The more convoluted your plot gets, the more difficult it will be for anyone to stay invested in the story. Plus the more brief you can be with your introductions and text, the easier it’ll be for players to follow what is going on. 2. Keep raising the stakes! - You don’t want to frontload an arc. There should be a sense of urgency in your story, otherwise it can be easy to become disinterested. At their longest, Mission Architect arcs can only be 5 missions. It may seem a bit short if you compare it to some of the Task Forces’ lengths, but those were designed with leveling in mind. (i.e. giving players mass amounts of defeat alls so that they’ll gain plenty of experience and reach the minimum level for the next TF). Really though, 5 missions is plenty of time to tell a good story. If for whatever reason you cannot fit your story into 5 missions, there’s always the option to make a part two... too! Your first mission sets the stage for everything. From then on, your missions should build on top of that, upping the ante until you finally get to the climactic final mission which usually involves a big boss fight. It’s basic story structure! An inciting incident occurs which starts the story. The action gets greater and greater as the stakes rise until finally we’re at the climax! After that, the action slowly falls until we’re left with a resolution! Though you don’t really have to make a falling action/resolution mission... (But you can! We’ll get to that later!) If you don’t keep your arc ramping up, it’s going to become repetitive and unexciting. You’ll wind up with the old Positron Task Force: a bunch of missions strung together that don’t really lead to anything satisfying. PART 2: WHAT DOES ALL THIS WEIRD STUFF IN THE UI MEAN? We’re gonna take this step by step. The first thing you see when you create a new AE file is a section at the front of the 'timeline' at the top of the UI, denoted by a pen icon... Story Settings - Story Title: I mean, pretty obvious, right? It’s the story title. - Story Description: Basically the log-line of your story. What is it about? What characters appear in it? It’s a good place to add Elite Boss/Arch-Villain warnings too, if you want. Story Contact - Contact Name: Once again, pretty self-explanatory. - Contact Type: You can select a ton of different stuff to act as your story’s contact. Objects, custom characters, even freakin’ Bat’Zul. Be aware certain mobs will have weird hit-boxes though and may be a bit more annoying to click. - Contact Group: This is an interesting one. It’ll show up if the person clicks “ask about this contact” and serves as a way to show their allegiances. I like to use it as an occupation. For example, if the contact is a detective, it would read “Veteran Police Detective” or something to that effect. - About Contact: A short biography for your contact. Some of the normal contacts/enemies will have bios pre-loaded, but you can always alter them. This also appears when someone clicks “Ask about this contact.” It should be noted that I find it incredibly hard to believe anyone would ever click the 'Ask About this Contact' button (I mean, has anyone ever done that even in normal content?) Still though, fill it out for fun if you want. Story Parameters - Story Arc Status: I’d be sure to set this to Final immediately. You most likely won’t be publishing a “Work in Progress” arc and it’s easy to forget to change this setting when you’re done with everything and ready to publish. - Suggested Alignment: This is a cool setting. It determines the prime playerbase of your arc. Did you make one for redside or blueside? Or Praetoria, even. - Keywords: Pretty self-explanatory. How would you describe what you’re making? Souvenir Clue - Souvenir Name: What souvenir do people take away from this arc? Maybe it’s the skull of their fallen enemy, maybe it’s a toaster. - Souvenir Description: A souvenir in-game typically has you reminded of all the events of the arc. Essentially, it sums up the entire story through a fond, nostalgic lens. The Mission (1) This is what appears when you hit the 1 button on your first mission. The 1 and 2 are separated like pages of a book, here's what you see for 1: Choose Mission Settings - Enemy Group: My advice is to MORE OFTEN THAN NOT set this to EMPTY. This is where Mission Architect really loses its mojo for some people. What this essentially does is set every spawnpoint on the map to spawn a certain enemy group mob. Guess what though. You can make every spawn on the map into a mission detail, meaning instead of a bland mob, you can make it into something MUCH, much cooler, and open up tons of possibilities. More on that once we get to Mission Details and Goals. - Map Type: Choose your map. On the right side you will begin to see Mission Map Details (bear in mind the map pictures are often wonky, but the details in text will be there)... Mission Parameters - Minimum/Maximum Level: This defines the level range of your characters, and can be used to do some very cool things. Usually, you will want to set this to be the level of your primary enemy group (i.e. if you’re doing a Crey arc, you’d make it 35-54). Just because you have an arc set to a certain level range, doesn’t mean enemies from other level ranges can’t appear, they’ll just con as grey or purple! We’ll get into some cool uses for this setting later. NOTE: Custom Characters ALWAYS go from 1-54. - Mission Pacing: If you set Enemy Group to empty, (which you often should, like I said), this setting won’t matter. If you ignored me and set a mission enemy group, this setting has options for different level ranges (i.e. people in front are lower level than people in back). - Time to Complete: Is there a time limit to your mission? Adding this will require a Return Fail Dialogue from the contact, even if you give players 3 hours to click a glowie. - Mission Exit: This makes it so that once the mission is complete, people have to leave using the door they entered with. It’s great for trap missions, which we’ll get to later. Mission Begin Clue/Mission Complete Clue: These clues are good for summing up the events of the mission, but the problem is that there’s no guarantee they’ll be read, especially when your arc is played by teams. Sometimes the New Clue pop-up doesn’t show for whatever reason, or the sound effect might not play. For all these reasons, clues shouldn’t be the most reliable way of telling your story. You should stick to some of the text options below. Write Text - Mission Introduction Dialogue: Your contact’s introduction to the mission. These are best kept brief, just explain the situation and ask for help. A good tip (which is often implemented in CoH arcs) is to have the contact sum up the mission in one sentence and color that sentence orange. That way the player knows EXACTLY what he’s doing. (In order to color something, highlight the text and right click. You can also set things to italic, bold, or even add in the $name shortcut to make the contact address players by name). I like to also bold or color the names of the antagonists. Like say if we were fighting someone known as Baron Evil McJones, every time his name showed up, I’d color it red, meaning he’s going to be important to this arc. - Mission Send Off Dialogue: This is what your contact says after the mission is accepted. It can be a good place to drop more information, but the player will most likely be rearing to start the mission, so it’s best just to constrain it to a single paragraph. - Compass Active Task Text: This is VITAL. Teams may play your arc, and you want every team member to know what is going on so they can enjoy the story as well. It is unrealistic to expect everyone on a team to go into their Missions tab and read the contact dialogue. Heck, it's unrealistic to even expect a single player to do that. When people run content, a lot will almost always zoom through the dialogue. But everybody and I mean EVERYBODY reads the Nav Text. You don’t want to this text to be vague (I.e. Defeat all enemies) you want it to almost echo the orange sentence you wrote in Mission Introduction Dialogue (I.e. Stop Baron Evil McJones from Getting the Magic Crystal). That way everyone will know exactly what is going on in your mission. - Still Busy Dialogue: This text will most likely never be read. I mean who is seriously going to talk to the contact again after they get the mission? But it's required. A good place to be funny if you want. - Return Success Dialogue: The mission was a success, but the contact is going to hint at whatever is coming next... - Additional Text (Unrequired Text) - - Mission Title/Mission Subtitle: This is a cosmetic thing. A good place to see this in action is the Rikti War Zone or the new Incarnate Arcs (i.e. the places where you see individual missions labeled Part One: Dream Doctor's Big Day). It’s just a fun way to spice up the mission screen. Don’t be afraid to change text color here, or bold stuff, it can be very cool. - - Mission Accept Text: How the player responds to the contact/how they take the mission. Typically, you shouldn’t put words in the player’s mouth. It’s best to stick with something like, “Let’s do it” and not write something specific that may alienate players who think ‘my character would NEVER say that!’ - - Mission Entry Popup: This is a great way to convey information to the entire team. Keep this pop-up VERY short, as if it is too long, people may just click OK and zoom past them. If used effectively, this pop-up can remind all players of the mission’s objective by saying something like “Baron Evil McJones must be around here somewhere, searching for the crystal that can cure his impotence.” Or it can also just set the scene for the mission by saying something like... “Pure magical energy courses throughout the cavern.” or “The smell of burning oil permeates the air.” - - Mission Success/Fail Popup: The same as the pop-up above, only after the mission is completed. A great way to hint at what comes next. - - Return Fail Dialogue: This is only seen (and required) if you have an objective that can be failed (like an escort or defend or time limit). You’ll have to advance the story even if they couldn’t complete your objectives.
Some Guide Guidance by GM Fiddleback (Being a mere suggestion for those in need of it on the usage of formatting and tags in the new forum system.) Hello and welcome to this guidance on guides. This is intended for those who have never written a guide before and want some general guidelines by which to do so, those who have written guides before but want to update them to look reasonably nice on the new forums, and those who like to spectate and kibitz without actually having to make a guide at all. I will cover two things very briefly without going into too much detail. First, we will discuss tags and their usage. Second, we will discuss a few simple formatting choices and the reasons behind them. Tags You now find yourself using a system that allows you to apply tags to the content you create. These tags are intended to make it easy to find your content and to find content that is related to it. When you begin the process of creating your guide or other content, you will be offered the opportunity to select tags related to it. General advice for selecting these tags is as follows: Limit yourself to no more than three tags. This prevents an explosion of needless tags and helps coordinate different pieces of content together so they can be more easily found. If someone creates the very popular guide Joe's Guide to Running Into Walls for Fun and Profit and tags it 'economy', 'inf', and 'advice', your new guide, Susan's Guide For Which Walls Make The Most Profit should be tagged with at least one of, if not all three of, those tags in order to have it come up as related, and presumably useful, similar content. Make sure those three tags reflect the most important topics within your guide. It's no good writing the world's best guide to the tall buildings of Paragon City if no one can actually find it. Sure, it'll be at the top of the forum list for a few days, but that is short-lived glory. With tags you can make your content easy to find, but only if you properly tag it to reflect the information inside. Make your three tags very relevant to the guide you are writing. Don't elect to use tags such as 'cute', 'green', or 'amphibian' when your guide to tall buildings doesn't even mention Kermit at all. Pick one tag as an Item Prefix. Usually you'll want the one that is most relevant to your overall guide content. Think of it as the biggest category your guide would fit in. Formatting In general, you are free to use whatever formatting strikes your fancy and is most appropriate to your guide. We (the moderators and devs) thought it might be nice, however, if the guides could have a sort of similar look and feel. It's by no means mandatory, but if you'd like to work towards that goal or just need some general guidance, try the following. Font The default font choice and size in the editor is preferred. It's the generally best typeface for readability on the forums. Title Go ahead and repeat the title in the body of your guide. Right at the top. Set it to size 20, bold. Color it the default Yellow from the color picker. This ensures that it is big enough to stand out and visible enough on a quick look to verify the correct article is being read. Heading 1 (Main Headings) Headings make useful divisions in guides and other printed matter that help guide the reader through the content and find sections they are most interested in reading. Your main headers, generally the biggest sections and divisions within your document, should also be size 20, non-bold, and that same yellow. It really jumps out as you scroll through a document looking for something. Subheadings (Heading 2 and 3) Within and between main headings, you can further break your content down by subheading to emphasize certain elements of your main heading that are important. Here we take two steps down in size for a Heading 2 (size 18), and two more down for a Heading 3 (Size 16). The color for both, because color as well as size helps us navigate a document, is #00ccff which you will have to manually enter by selecting the paintbrush in the editor and then clicking More Colors and entering that code in the place indicated. Generally speaking, it is usually unnecessary to go much further down the heading chain than a Heading 3. That's a little too much sectioning in most cases. If your guide and content warrant it though, just keep stepping down by two for each subsequent heading level until your text is too too small to be seen. Graphics If your guide includes graphics, try to take the original picture at it's 'best', most readable size. Center it up in the frame so that things don't look 'left heavy'. By Ctrl+Right Clicking you can get a menu that allows you to adjust the size of the graphic as it appears in the post. Make that adjustment look properly balanced size-wise for the body of your text (somewhere around 400 vertical or horizontal pixels seems to be best). In other words, not so big that it overwhelms everything and not so small that a casual reader of the article can't tell what is going on. Keep in mind that by clicking on the graphic in the body of your text, the reader will get a pop up of the graphic at the original size you uploaded it. So readability isn't the prime concern, but should certainly be kept in mind. Other Niceties I find there is usually a preamble on most guides explaining their purpose and reason for existence. These I like to leave in the default text, but increase the size to 16. It makes it easy and quick to read and, if you've written it right, saves the reader time trying to decide if a guide covers what they want or not. After the preamble, which shouldn't be more than the first paragraph under the title, the main text can return to normal size. Indents, bullet and numerical lists, and URLs are on a case by case basis. What you do with them is up to you, but they should be consistent throughout a given document. You'll know if something doesn't look right in the document you are creating based on how the whole document looks overall. From there, just use your best judgement. And That's It... Please remember these are just suggestions and helpful tips for creating your guide. You are free to ignore any and all suggestions if you choose. We aren't going to beat you up over it. This is just intended to help folks get off on the right foot when it comes to creating, or cleaning up, their guides. Have a good game!