Celestial Heavens is proud to feature the writing of Charles Watkins, long-time mapmaker and member of the Heroes community. The Behind the Curtain columns include mapmaking tips and views on the state of the game.

1) Mapmaker as Entertainer: "I’d like to explore the emotional side of heroes from the point of view of the player. But much of the discussion is addressed to the mapmakers, since their reward stems from the reactions of the players. By providing players with an enjoyable experience, mapmakers can in turn enjoy the praise and recognition that makes all the work seem worthwhile.

Essentially, the mapmaker is an entertainer. No matter what type of map it is – pictorial, battle, puzzle, RPG, or whatever—it will be judged by players according to whether they had a good time playing it."

2) Saving NWC: "I think there is also a familiarity factor involved. As I recall, in the early days of Heroes III we also complained a lot about the AI. It did not develop castles well and often made stupid mistakes in recruiting. I remember the struggle my friend Corribus had in getting a hero to go through a Lith. But eventually mapmakers learned to live with the problems and found ways to get the AI to behave."

3) Wrangling the AI: "Most every experienced Heroes III player has noted some inferior qualities of the Heroes IV AI. In fact, this is probably the one factor that has led some veteran players to shun the game. (Lack of multi user support was another, but many players hung on long enough to see it finally arrive.) We’ve seen some improvements in the more recent versions, but in Heroes IV, the computer players just don’t seem to play as well as they did in Heroes III. To be sure, Heroes IV is a more complicated game than Heroes III, but even so, there are some obvious shortcomings.

I have no doubt that if they had been given more time to produce the game, the developers would have addressed most of these. But as it is, we have to live with the flaws—and by ‘we’ I mean those who have found that on balance the new features in Heroes IV make it worth playing, despite the weakness of the AI."

4) Epic Heroes: Developing heroes who are both powerful and fun to play. Charles Watkins, whose preference for large maps is well-known, suggests different career paths for your adventurers, who might otherwise become boring Generals. He also answers the age-old question of the Heroes of Might and Magic games, how many heroes?

5) Over the Shoulder -- Charley Makes a Map: In this first reality show of mapmaking, Charley lets you look over his shoulder as he creates a map "and get a sense of the thought process that a mapmaker goes through in the course of a project." The first part deals with the early steps of the process, the hardest thing about making a map according to Charles. See how he finds a suitable storyline for his theme, and how he handles the basic map design.