The Plot Thickens: The Importance of a Sound Plot for Your DF Level
So, you've got a good idea for a DF level. That's a great start, but no matter how good your architecture, enemy placement, and dynamics are, your level isn't going to be immersive without a good plot. The difference between a great action movie and a superb action movie is its plot, and DF is very similar. Sure, you can always run into another Imp base and find all the keys, take the plans, the datatapes, whatever else you may find a FME for, and then set your charges and get out, but let's face it: We're all tired of this by now.
One of the disadvantages of being among the remnants of DF editing is that all of the common plots have been (over)used by now. To make a viable DF level now, you've got to come up with something new. Now, I understand that not everyone is a creative genius, but a believable story is not that difficult to come up with.
So, Matt, where do I begin? Well, I'm delighted you asked. Start off by ingesting these:
Matt's List of Don'ts
1. Don't rehash an original LEC level story. Besides the fact that the LEC levels are all related (so one out of context would be a tad confusing), this is a definite no-no. We've all seen these plots, and those of you who have played a lot of addon levels know the deluge of "Find the Death Star Plans" and "Get the Data Tapes" and "Destroy the Dark Trooper Factory" plots that are out there. We don't need any more of those, thank you.
2. Don't reuse old objectives. Refer to #1. We've gotten the Death Star Plans many many times. We've got enough Nava Cards to weigh down the Moldy Crow. Avoid at all costs the "Find the (random color) key" objective. By all means use keys and locked doors in your levels, but don't center your objective on "Find the red key and open the locked door." And please please please please don't center your level around planting sequencer charges.
3. No, no, no, no, no more Boba Fett. The Fettser doesn't have to show up in every level ever made...besides, how many times can he die? This one really isn't much of a problems in more recent levels, but we've all seen the slew of older ones that feature Fett.
4. The same goes for Dark Troopers. DT factories do NOT pop up every time a level author needs some enemies. Remember that they were first produced in the actual DF storyline, so they didn't exist before then. Also remember that all instances of them were destroyed at the end of the DF story, so there really shouldn't be any after then either. Use DTs sparingly if at all in your levels, and most definitely do not base your level's plot around them.
Now then, sometime more positive:
Matt's List of DOs:
1. DO think up an original situation. Remember that the first thing someone will do when downloading your level is read the text file to see what it's about. Get creative. Go "Rainbow Six" and create a rescue-the-hostages sort of plot. Do a recon mission. Be a forerunner to a large military operation who has to remove specific targets for the operation to succeed. See? There are many situations that are very under used in DF. I'm sure Kyle (and the rest of us) are tired of invading Imperial bases. An example of a new situation? Look at Beyond Glory 2, where you are part of a multi-squad assault on a private fortress. Look at the storyline for The Dogs of War (yes, it will be finished one day...), where you're a mercenary--not even Kyle--on an operation to cause a political uprising. Also go read several other storylines on the projects page for some examples.
2. DO add twists to your plot. Do something with the plot in the middle that isn't alluded to in the text file or story synopsis. Surprise you players. It will force them to pay attention to why they are where they are, be it an Imp base or a deserted planet. Surprises pique interest.
3. DO look beyond the "comfortable" SW Universe. Hey, it's a universe, after all. Rebels and Imperials aren't the only ones getting into adventures and gunfights. There's an underworld, there's smugglers, bounty hunters, mercenaries, private revolutions, systems, economies, etc, etc. The possibilities are endless in the SW Universe. Take advantage of those.
4. DO integrate several objectives to one main objective. For example, the main objective of The Dogs of War Episode I is to get into the lower levels of the palace through the sewers. However, in order to do that, you must shut a power conduit down, make it successfully through the security scanners, and shut down a dangerous turbine. In these sub-objectives you can get away with a data tape or nava card, if they relate to the main objective of the mission. For example, say you're the frontrunner for an aerial attack. You've got to get in and take out the air defense stations. The problem is that they are hidden around the perimeter of the base, unknown to all but those operating them. The solution? Break into the commander's quarters, hack into his computer, and find the info you need to discern the location of the hidden stations. See? It works beautifully. (Feel free to use this idea if it suits you.)
As you can see, your story plays a very important role in your level development. It will make the difference between the player believing what he is doing or being detached and shooting haphazardly. A good story will result in immersion in the level. A bad story will result in a loss of interest. A good story will hook a player and compel them to continue playing the level to find out what happens next. After all, isn't the story what catches the player's eye to begin with?
So, be creative. Be original. But most importantly, have fun. This is your level, your contribution to the Star Wars Universe. Your chance to live out your little SW dream. Make it good. ;)