It's hard to bid farewell

My own software projects tend to be very much like pets to me. I take care of them, carry them with me anywhere if it's possible, I feel horribly sad when something bad happens to them and, even when I go mad at them for something, in a few hours we are together like a neat happy family again.

Invasion from the Unknown has been the Wesnoth add-on project of mine since around September 10th 2007 and it has evolved throughout time and endured 3 mainline development cycles introducing drastic game engine changes, receiving little automated help from the likes of wmllint. Instead, it has been kept on shape by me and a few people who have helped with the huge maintenance burden that this epic-length campaign is.

With an initial goal of 30 playable scenarios, 29 of them were made at first and I later shrank the campaign to approx. 26 stages per suggestions from various people including ESR, and split it into two halves of roughly 13 scenarios each. IftU outlasted two other projects of mine which finally rotted among my hard disk backups for good — one after 5 years of development and little progress, and the other after three months of development and decent progress. It also directly or indirectly created or inspired the following Wesnoth-related projects:


The UMC Sandbox” was founded by Eric S. Raymond and I on March 13th after a fairly casual conversation concerning the need for prose-doctoring on IftU:

<Shadow_Master> do you think wesnoth-Invasion_from_the_Unknown (wesnoth-iftu) would be a good name for the project
<esr> Shadow_Master: Why only solve your problem? Start something like wesnoth-designer-sandbox.
<Shadow_Master> as you command, master
<esr> :-)
<esr> Wait...I'm not the one with "Master" in my name...
<Shadow_Master> wesnoth-umc-dev: Wesnoth UMC Development Sandbox
<esr> Makes sense.

Fairly casual. Later, AI0867, Espreon and Turuk joined us in this community effort for coordinated add-on development and we currently work with more than three dozens of add-ons and their maintainers.

WML syntax-highlighting scheme for Kate

I found an old scheme that was posted in the forums and took it over, adding missing features and improving what was already there. This was mainly so I could understand my own WML more easily in my favorite editor, and quickly detect major syntax errors which are hard to debug in Wesnoth.

After the Storm

The sequel to IftU, which has been stuck in Development Hell since around May 2008 and even now doesn't have many possibilities of being finished before 2012. 😛

The Silver Lands

A Wesnoth campaign by one of our collaborators (more specifically, Espreon, a Wesnoth-UMC-Dev half-admin), which is intended to be a sequel to IftU and After the Storm set in those rarely visited parts of the Great Continent.

Wesnoth Team-Colorizer

I originally created this hacky tool with the intention of quickly testing my sprites' team color patches without having to run a IftU test-scenario on Wesnoth each time. It hasn't died yet and a few people still use it.

Thunderstone Era

A multiplayer era started by Aethaeryn with input from ESR and a few community members including myself. Set long after After the Storm, this futuristic add-on is still a work in (very slow) progress and reuses the Shaxthal faction units featured in IftU and AtS.

Some assorted small features or ideas used in IftU made it to mainline campaigns or even the game engine itself over the time. The very idea of naming our game's world Irdya originated from IftU, although the exact name used at first in my campaign was Irya — it became what it is now after a meeting with Aethaeryn and ESR regarding Thunderstone, in which my memory fooled me and I mentioned Irdya instead. This name has even made it to mainline in the form of arcane lore handled only by a few characters in the world.

From #thunderstone (later #wesnoth-thunderstone) at on 2008-03-26:

<Aethaeryn> Shadow_Master: what's the name of the planet?
<Aethaeryn> then the intro's "done"
<SynErr> -,- whats the deal with not just calling it "The Planet"?
<Shadow_Master> esr__: we need a name for the planet; my working draft's planet name in IftU was Irdya or something like that
<esr__> Irdya should be fine,
<Aethaeryn> Shadow_Master: might want to look it up
<Aethaeryn> just to be safe
<esr__> "irdya" is a word in Chadic and in another language I'm not sure of but which is likely Turkish. Investigating further, but I think we're OK there.
<esr__> Ha! irdya in Chadic means "dirt". Appropriate.
<Shadow_Master> esr__: I didn't know, believe me

During my time as maintainer of this campaign I've learned more than just WML: the legacy Bash scripts used by Wesnoth-UMC-Dev are derived from maintenance tools I wrote for IftU, and I also acquired some limited spriting skills to create a few of my original units such as the Shaxthal faction, and Elynia. I'm no Jetrel, but it's better than having nothing, or ugly placeholder frankensteins.

It's been a long, bumpy ride, albeit a fascinating one.

Unfortunately, IftU has not done well lately due to several factors, including horrible design decisions on my part, lack of time and interest on my part due to the need to complete AtS, and other expected and unexpected changes in my life that are beyond the scope of this post. Working with IftU turned into a frustrating experience during 2009 and the end result is a crappy release series for Wesnoth 1.7/1.8, numbered 1.70.x, which most likely doesn't work towards the final scenarios. I'm completely unable to do anything for IftU anymore since it has become something I despise now that I know better. I'm not saying that it is the worst add-on ever (compare most other UMC), but it's still something that I've grown tired of and I'd prefer to never have to touch it again.

IftU's time ended after the 1.6.x-compatible releases, which were as far as I know the least buggy versions. The campaign is already finished and I'll only be wasting my time if I go back and continue working on it trying to fix its many inherent flaws. I really need to move on if I want to get AtS done, along with a few other projects of mine. It's hard to take the decision to abandon an add-on in which we invested enormous amounts of time and resources, but I've been deliberating about it for long already and I've been unable to do anything regarding the many bugs introduced in the 1.70.x series, plus some long-standing complaints and issues.

Even if the campaign is completely abandoned, it'll still be preserved by the Wesnoth community and the Wesnoth-UMC-Dev Project for those who are really interested on it and its history. I just want to concentrate on AtS' development, which, regardless of the players' expectations, I want to see completed as soon as it's possible.

My work on IftU from now on will be limited to occasional updates for syncing content shared with AtS (such as artwork and the Shaxthal faction) in SVN, but I'm not planning to do any more major releases myself, although I may ask Espreon to do more non-maintainer uploads in the future. If someone wants to take over maintenance of the campaign, that would be great, but the last call for co-maintainers was a total failure. No more bug fixes are coming to it otherwise. Many thanks go (in no particular order) to Mythological, cycholka/Mist, Kitty, Espreon, AI0867, Mica, Turuk, fabi/fendrin, ESR, SouthernOracle and loonycyborg for their support and collaborations all these years.