The future of Invasion from the Unknown (and After the Storm, sort of)

Well, the cat’s out of the bag already. Not that I really intended to keep the plan under wraps for very long in the first place—perhaps I should have done that—but I already implied, and then confirmed that this is a thing that is taking place.

Invasion from the Unknown is being rewritten.

Those who have stuck around for long enough may know that IftU’s prose has been revised before by ESR (up to scenario 6 or maybe 9, my memory’s hazy on this one) and later by SouthernOracle (entire campaign). None of these efforts went deeper than the language layer, and even then there is still a lot left to be desired in that department. I have also repeatedly redesigned and rewritten scenario 4 (“Over the Sands”) from scratch over the years.

During the production of After the Storm I realized and learned many things about my past and current work. A sizable amount of AtS’ development consisted of deciding exactly how much of IftU works and how much does not, either in execution or essence. Even after I gave up on perfectionism for AtS, I could not help but think that making such an absurdly ambitious sequel to such a very, very poorly done campaign was an absolutely preposterous waste of time. And I still think that is the case, and there is nothing I can really do to remedy the situation for people who have already played IftU and who will always remember it as the chaotic mess of half-baked ideas and shallow characters it currently is.

But I believe I can do better for future players.

The thought of ‘remaking’ IftU had been in my mind for years, but I always knew I would never find the right person with the interest in taking up such a colossal and largely unrewarding task while ensuring the end result would be just as I envisioned it. But… I also thought I would never see After the Storm complete with its two planned episodes and the—originally intended to be a separate sequel—final episode wrapping it up for good. AtS’ completion—regardless of how bad or good the results are—gives me a certain confidence that I am able to see a project through, even if that may involve a few a lot of unexpected turns along the way.

While the few people who actually like the ‘classic’ IftU might be inclined to assume the campaign’s overall tone will change for the worse (AtSification, anyone?), I don’t intend that to be the case and that would actually break AtS itself as the experiment in style it is intended to be. I do intend to add some of the characterization that is entirely missing in the current product, but not to the point of boring anyone to death with it — well, anyone who would play Excruciatingly Frequent and Extensive Walls of Text: The Campaign anyway. At the same time, some backstory elements and plot will be revised to allow some things to make more sense than they do at the moment. Scenario 4 will be rewritten from scratch once again in an effort to make it less tedious and more coherent. One or two scenarios may be axed in order to help with balancing and pacing issues currently resulting from the campaign’s length. Mal Keshar will be replaced with a talking animal and Anlindë will be spared from scenario 13!

At the same time, the terrible codebase is being replaced with some more polished WML and Lua from AtS, and rewritten to take advantage of features that have only appeared in Wesnoth 1.9.x and 1.11.x — bear in mind that IftU was written in 2007 (Wesnoth 1.3.x) and most code has only been ported to run on newer versions within restrictive time constraints, without much regard for style or robustness.

All in all, I believe that this will allow me to keep some ideas fresh in my mind while continuing to exercise some skills for the benefit of both IftU and AtS. How long is this going to take? Less than AtS, certainly hopefully, but far more than it took me to complete IftU in the first place. My workflow requires me to go through the scenario sequence in an orderly, linear fashion, and I am only at scenario 7 after commencing this endeavor only about two months ago; and of course, my time is constrained by some sprite artwork that needs to be done or redone for both campaigns.

Now, the question nobody asked and nobody with a fully-functional brain should ever care about: How is this affecting the development of a sequel to After the Storm?

Simply put, it isn’t.

To be more specific, I do not intend to start working on a sequel to AtS right away given the poor/nil reception it has had as of this writing. And even if it were my intention to work on it in the immediate future, there would be tons of work to be done for it that currently fall far beyond my skills in terms of game design and artwork. I really want to avoid repeating the same mistake I did with AtS and tie this sequel to a previous iteration of limited scope and impact. Instead, I want it to be able to stand on its own and attract people who have never/will never play IftU or AtS; and I have a few ideas to achieve that, but nothing concrete or affordable as of yet. Will it ever see the light of day? Only time will tell.