Invasion from the Unknown 2.0.0

Nearly 11 years ago, I was checking out some of the free and open-source games included with the openSUSE distribution when I came across a fantasy turn-based strategy game called Wesnoth. I vaguely remember taking a quick look at it and dismissing it for some reason. It wasn’t until an OS update later the same year that I would actually give version 0.9.5 a proper try. Immediately upon doing so, I was enthralled by the game’s sheer quality and its surprisingly accessible gameplay.

During the first quarter of 2006, I started toying around with WML and the map editor, and put together three or four semi-playable campaigns rife with awful prose and flat characters just for fun. At the time, the possibility of publishing my content online for others to play it didn’t even cross my mind — and frankly, it’s for the best that it didn’t. Much later that year, though, I decided to join the forums and actively interact with the community. The next year I started to seriously think about giving back to this community, as a way of saying “thank you” to the countless people — developers, artists, musicians, translators, and players — who invested their time and energy into this project.

It would be a big understatement to say that joining the Wesnoth development team became a turning point for me, personally. But that is far from the only experience that changed my perception of open-source software and people in general. Looking back on it, making a campaign comprising 30-odd scenarios, all to give a rejected Elvish Shyde replacement sprite a practical purpose, was an incredibly ambitious idea and I probably wouldn’t have attempted anything like that a year later, and certainly not now. But it’s a thing I did, and a lot of people seemed to like the result despite the generous borrowing of elements from other campaigns — mostly mainline — so I decided to keep maintaining it, and even started to work on a sequel after a while.

That epic-length campaign was originally codenamed “Armageddon”, but for production purposes I went with a longer, albeit less sophisticated name: “Invasion from the Unknown”. I asked around for better name ideas, but nobody answered that call, so the name stuck. Its sequel was codenamed and later properly titled “After the Storm”.

IftU changed a lot during its early days. Scenarios were moved around, renamed, rewritten, and characters introduced or redesigned as I saw fit. In particular, working on AtS throughout 2008 and 2009 and preparing for a prospective addition of IftU to mainline brought in more profound changes to the story line, partly to accommodate some future plot points better. But I also began to view this campaign in a critical light. Various changes in my life helped exacerbate my negative opinion of IftU, and this eventually spilled over to AtS as well, resulting in approximately two years of creative block.

Finally, at some point mid-2011, I snapped out of that mindset and decided to embrace some of IftU’s less favorable qualities and complete AtS and its sequel — which eventually became AtS episode III — but I also decided to improve and rework what I could as soon as I had the chance. After releasing the completed AtS 0.9.0 in Q1 2013, my work on codename “Reconstruction” began. I was finally free to do as I wished with IftU, and make the campaign that I tried to make in 2007, except without the broken grammar, malapropisms, awkward dialogue structure, close-to-nonexistent characterization, and unmaintainable program code. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, everything.

It’s pretty clear to anyone who’s been following Wesnoth up close that things aren’t what they used to be back in 2007. Interests and demographics have changed, and IftU and AtS have been hit hard by these trends. People these days are more interested in complete products than in actively participating in the development process. There is an overabundance of long campaigns and very little time to play them. Wesnoth’s audience overall is also shrinking and engaging less with content creators, which further compounds the problem and isn’t a huge motivation in general. And even though I wasn’t alone on it, maintaining core Wesnoth — especially during my tenure as Release Manager during 2015 — sucked up pretty much all of my time and energy, leaving me barely able to spend perhaps a couple of days a month on Reconstruction. But after coming across a person who actually valued IftU and AtS for what they are, I managed to focus again and eventually start releasing the Reconstruction release candidates throughout late Q4 2015. All that was supposed to culminate in a 2.0.0 release on December 24th, but a lot of unexpected things happened during December so I had to hold that plan off for a while. And now we’re here.

I’d like to think that my 2007 self (and especially my 2006 self) would have played the Reconstruction version of IftU right after finishing UtBS, and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it — even if he didn’t really have the experience needed to discern bad prose from acceptable prose, or code, for that matter. Maybe it’s not the best campaign ever, and maybe it fills a niche that no longer exists, but it’s a thing I made and I think that’s important in some intangible fashion. I created, therefore, I am. I don’t know.

Version 2.0.0 is by no means intended to be the final update to IftU, and I have a few ideas brewing for version 2.1.0 already. It probably won’t happen until AtS 0.10.0 is out, however, and that’s going to take me at least another month due to recent incidents beyond my control that have been keeping me from working on it. Yep, it keeps happening.

Version 2.0.0:
* Scenarios:
* S21 - Innuendo:
* Minor balancing changes.
* 22A - Face of the Enemy:
* Lift shroud prior to highlighting the exit gate during the boss fight.
* Units:
* New unit type descriptions
* Shaxthal Assault Drone, Minor Imp, Imp, Blood Imp, Gutwrencher Imp,
Armageddon Imp, Skeleton Rider (taken from Liberty), Bone Knight.

I’d like to thank vultraz, nemaara, and pydsigner/pyndragon for their invaluable input, assistance, and moral support throughout Reconstruction’s development (especially the second half); Espreon, AI0867, and Alarantalara for maintaining the previous incarnation of IftU on my behalf while I was fully preoccupied with AtS development; Kitty, Loonycyborg, Mica, Mist, and Mythological, for helping with IftU during the Wesnoth 1.3.x and 1.5.x times; and my beloved companion who stuck beside me all these years and helped me through rough times and put up with me until his departure in February this year. This release is dedicated to all of you, and to the Wesnoth community as a whole.

Good luck, have fun, and trust your heart.