Thursday, April 30, 2009

Battle for Wesnoth: Kid-Friendly

artwork from Battle for Wesnoth, modified by JTP


Skip intro

The Battle for Wesnoth--consistently ranked at the top of open-source games--is a really extraordinary strategy game that also happens to be free. On the surface it doesn't seem that special: it doesn't feature any stunning graphics and it is turn-based, so it is much more contemplative than action-packed. Why is it so great? Well, you really need to play it a while to understand, but the main things are:
  1. Very interesting strategy component - sort of feels like playing a higher-level Risk game or a slower turn-based Rise of Nations. To win you have to deal effectively with day/night, terrain, attack/defense, recruitment, character development, health etc. There are enough components to keep things interesting but not so many to be overwhelming.
  2. Engaging storylines - compelling single (and even some multi-user) campaigns.
  3. Character development - Characters can be developed somewhat (i.e, raise levels) which provides some familiarity (and hence attachment) to them but this is limited to only a few levels which prevents this aspect from overshadowing the game's strategy component.
  4. Good AI - the computer doesn't really make dumb moves, you either have to outsmart or overpower the enemy to win.
  5. Visually beautiful - I mentioned that the graphics are 2D, but even though they are simple, they are quite engaging. Much of the artwork is really great.
  6. Good music - in a classical-esque tradition.
  7. Free.
  8. Extendable - it isn't very difficult to create your own game or campaign.

Kid-friendly graphics

I have a lot of young boys who happen to really like this game. For a game set in a fantasy world completely realized with community contributed artwork, Wesnoth is remarkably kid-friendly. While there is nothing approaching pornography in it, there are a handful of portraits and units that are not attired as modestly as could be hoped. Most of the ones I've tidied up really didn't need it much, but since I was at it...

The beauty of open-source is that the software (in this case the images) can be modified to suit one's own tastes. I took liberty to touch up a few pictures, trimmed some others and wrote a script that will replace them in one click. The replacement artwork is rough around the edges, but it gets the job done (see my conglomerate image above).

How to run wesnoth-kid-friendly

This assumes you are on Windows (instructions are included in the zip file for other OS's):
  1. Install Battle for Wesnoth - ideally in the default location so my script can find it.
  2. Install the one-click ruby installer. (go the section "Ruby on Windows" and click on the "Ruby One-Click Installer link")
  3. Download my zip file. (this contains kid-friendly up artwork and a script to copy them into place).
  4. Unzip it.
  5. Click on wesnoth-kid-friendly.rb (NOTE: this writes over the old images. Of course, you can always reinstall it if you don't like what I've done)
By default, I scan typical linux and windows directories for a Battle for Wesnoth directory. If the script isn't finding your installation, you can run the program on the commandline with the path to the Wesnoth directory given as the only argument. Or email me with the path of your directory and I'll add it to the script.

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