The Wonderland Games:
Our ongoing focus on the talented designers and artists that make up the Wonderland player community continues. Today's issue will take us back... way back, to the very beginning of the Wonderland forum.
The forum was originally created for the release of Return To Wonderland in November 2003. Since then, the community has grown to include thousands of players, over ten thousand free levels, and 167,000 posts to date. But it wasn't always this busy... only a few dozen users populated the forum in its first months, and levels appeared much less regularly compared to now.
After some digging, we found the first five designers to ever (!) post a level on the Wonderland forum. We managed to track all but one of them down, and asked them each a few questions:
1) Smell the Roses... NOT! by Dianna (on November 26th, 2003)
(The very first level, ever, was posted in late November, 2003, by Dianna. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get in touch with her, and so her comments on this momentous occasion will have to wait for a later issue. We do remember that Dianna was also an avid 'Thief' level designer. Dianna - get in touch with us, or drop by the forum and share any memories you have of this time, or else we'll be forced to make up stories!)
2) Adventureland... by Robbie (on December 10th, 2003)
What inspired you to be one of the first to try out the level editor?
I'd grown up with a fascination for RPGs (Ultima, Bard's Tale, Questor etc) and often dreamed of creating my own levels/games. Along came Wonderland... the game really gave me an opportunity to mix a bit of creative storytelling and puzzle creation which probably came to the fore with Adventureland 2. I think one of the big catalysts for the early members was Dianna's "Smell the Roses...NOT!" which was as I recall the first member created level - it was like we were all standing at the edge of a river in our swimmers, waiting for someone to take the plunge first... in went Dianna, and creativity just flowed from there.
Tell us a little about your subsequent designs, such as your visual elements series.
While I still have Adventureland 3-7 mapped out on the drawing board, I think #2 at a whopping 92x92 took a lot out of me. That, plus being busy with work and a young family (still...). I put out a series called Game Elements (eight in total, I think) which level designers could incorporate into their own creations. I tinkered with model creation, including some archways, bridges, and a neat Screen model (GE5), looked at the technical aspect of 3 or more teleporters of the same colour in a level, and plenty of doodles which are still to materialize... one day! All the original postings are there, and could be worth a look for amnesia sake.
3) Andrew... by Andrew, bpurcell's 5 year old son (on December 11th, 2003)
Not only was Andrew's level one of the first to be ever posted, it was also a level by one of our youngest players to date (at age 5). How did this come about?
When the level editor was released, I immediately started playing with it and trying stuff out. My son Andrew liked to sit on my lap while I worked on the computer. He really LOVED Wonderland and would watch me get through the tough parts and try to copy me on his own. He asked me if he could play with the editor, and I showed him the basics, including how to save a file. His first couple didn't exactly work, but he kept trying. He then came up with a huge level where you had to travel down a long way. If I remember correctly, that was the level I decided to share with everyone else.
Do you still play with the editor or other Wonderland games?
Both my son and I have played every Wonderland game released. My daughter, Ainsley, who just turned five, has also played a few of the levels of the most recent game. We don't play with the editor anymore, unfortunately. We still read the newsletter and look forward to the next Wonderland game. We especially like Peegue's puzzles on the last page. Andrew is 10 now and loves playing on the computer. His big thing now is Pirates Online, which is kind of a Sim game for Pirates of the Caribbean world. He also likes playing on our Wii, most recently with Star Wars Unleashed.
4) Loof to the Rescue... by eeyore31 (on December 17th, 2003)
What did it feel like to create one of the first of many levels?
When I made my first couple of levels, I had no idea how many levels and level-makers were to follow!!! Here it is five years later, and the list is never-ending. There were only a handful of us back then. I don't think any of us realized how many people would end up playing our levels. It simply felt to me that we were a little group of friends sharing a thought.
You also were the first to create themed levelpacks, such as your
"Adventures in Space" series. How did these come about?
When I made the 'themed level packs' it was not planned ahead. For the first one, the 'Week in Wonderland' series, I named the first level 'Monday' because that's what day it was!! Then Tuesday came....etc. The 'Adventures in Space' pack just happened as well. After I made the first level for it, I named it and thought 'Hmmm.....good title!!!' I then tried to work in little 'notes' to read to tie into the theme. A sidenote: Making levels comes very hard for me. I NEVER think mine are as good or fun as the others (and not nearly as hard!) - but the key word is 'fun'! Thank you for our wonderful Wonderland family.
5) XMAS... by LeanDemon (on December 25th, 2003)
How did your XMAS level, by "WonderClaus", come about?
Well, this was shortly after my mom (majic1) introduced me to the Wonderland game and showed me the level creator. At the time I was bored, it was around Christmas, and I decided I'd make a level. I was instantly hooked - and thus started my Wonderland level creation hobby. I found that I enjoyed designing levels more than actually playing them. A few months later I was one of the winners in the Small World competition and less than a year after that was invited to take part in designing 9 levels of the upcoming Wonderland Secret Worlds game.
Right you, in fact, designed some of the original Fire Island levels. How did designing levels as a part of a team differ from creating on your own?
Designing levels as part of a team was definitely more enjoyable than just creating them on my own. Because I was creating levels as part of a team and they were going to be part of the Secret Worlds final product, I was trying my best to make levels that were challenging enough to enjoy, but not too easy as to become boring. Working as a team allowed us to critique each other's levels and suggest improvements etc to make our levels that much better for the final game.
And that's it for this issue's Community Spotlight. As always, a big "Thank You" to all of you who make the Wonderland community forum the place that it has become!