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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nadrian Diplomacy: Argae's Ancient Precursor

The other day I was backing up stuff to my external hard drive, The Ark, when I stumbled upon my original profile folder for my old computer when I was a kid. Back then, every person in the family didn't have his or her own laptop, so we all shared one home PC. We sometimes had our own computer accounts, with passwords and everything, but mostly we just shared one profile for simplicity's sake, and had our own folders. Mine, "Austin's Folder" has been virtually preserved from its original state when it was uploaded to an external hard drive back in 2004.
As I looked through the folder, I was surprised and interested to see a folder labeled "Nadrian Diplomacy." It was an unfinished web-based game I had started a decade ago, and the pictures, compiled web pages, and forms in the folder brought back a lot of memories. It was fun to see the broken remnants of a project I had never finished, yet had reincarnated into a large universe in the form of Argaenothruzil years later. It was interesting to see the seeds that had planted such big projects.
So without further reminiscing, here is an overview of the RPG that never was,

Nadrian Diplomacy:
The War Has Begun

The name itself seems to be an oxymoron—diplomacy and war? But I didn't think of such things back then. I just wanted to make something cool. I had just seen the forum RPG Hyrulian War online, and wanted to make my own version. To come up with the name of the game's land, Nadria, I combined the first letters of the first names of me and my two best friends, Dustin and Nathan.
Though I'm not sure how the site was supposed to be organized pagewise, this appears to be the title screen I designed:

The broken GIFs to the sides of the title were apparently animated flames whose files I have lost, judging by their filenames, and the image below the poorly-Photostudio'd embossed rune may have been a hit counter. I still can't figure out whether I had figured out a means of actually playing the game, because the image to the right is all that showed up when Play Now was clicked. I'm guessing that the Nadrian Diplomacy "flag" led to a Bravenet forum, but there's also a weird blank web page in the folder that simply reads "GO! Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III" on it. So maybe the actual means of playing the game wasn't too important to me at the time, or maybe I had just been having trouble figuring out some bugs. At any rate, there does happen to be a Notepad file containing the rules on the "rules scroll" link on the page, which read

NADRIAN DIPLOMACY RULES
~N~D~
How to Play:
You play the game by posting pages in your journal on the Forum page. (You cannot post or have a journal if you don't have a character. Make a character by going to the Nadrian Diplomacy homepage and clicking 'Make your character.') Please do not post in other peoples' journals. These will be deleted promptly.
These journals record your plans for the game. These plans will actually begin to happen within the 'The Story' forum, and any battles you plan in your journal will be carried out and played. You may use any items you own in your plans.
You post in your journal by clicking on it, then filling in the following information.
HERO NAME: Your name as appears in NadriaRACE: Your race, as of NadriaHOMELAND: The webmaster will tell you your homeland when you create your character.HERO LEVEL: If you're not sure what your level is, check the Heroes' Guild.SUBJECT: A brief idea of your plans for the post.
If you're confused on how you should post, check AbelHawk's journal for examples.

~N~D~
Gameplay
Each day in real life is a month in Nadria, so the course of a Nadrian year is about 2 weeks, taking off from the Sundays, which aren't update days.

Interesting indeed. It was very much like Hyrulian War, with real time representing time passing in the game. I also even used Abelhawk as a guide for my friends, just like I did in Argaenothruzil later. I still can't seem to visualize it much, but it does help to know that I was the moderator that would weave the stories together based on my friends' "journal plans." This is an interesting mechanic I wish I could explore.

As the rules mention, and as seen above, one of the pages was a character creation form. This is kind of a fun memory, because I thought it was the coolest thing in the world when I figured out how to do forms on WordPerfect. To me, it was amazing and sublime to be able to create a dropdown menu and put in my own responses for the person to choose from. Since I can't link the original .HTM page, I just decided to recreate it in Google Forms. You can view a surprisingly similar replica here:


 I found it interesting when looking at this that I had thought of Civil Elves all the way back then, because they later became a key race in Argaenothruzil. I have no idea what a Rheu'kinah is, but it must have been a pretty awesome race if you had to be a "member" to be one. That's another really funny thing—membership in my game. Looking back, I had no idea why games like Runescape charged for membership. Now it makes sense from an adult, businessperson perspective, but to me it was just a simple rule: you pay for cool stuff. So I think to me I was going to have my friends pay me a dollar or something if they wanted to be a member. I think Nathan actually may have given me a dollar so he could be a Rheu'kinah! If I ever see him again, I may owe him a buck.

"Zusna City" (The word "zusna" is the name of my favorite Norse rune, Ansuz, backwards). Each of the buildings was a link to a new page with information on the game, and other textures in the folder suggest that I had planned to change the pages' weather depending on the season (I had winter tiles, for example) There were similar web pages on the web at the time. I'm pretty sure I got the idea from one of them. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to position them in that way. I never had a great web-page making program besides Homestead.com, or Corel WordPerfect. So the only pages I was able to make were some internal ones: the Merchant, the Heroes' Guild, the Library, and within the library, a "Book of Downloads" with links to fonts that were needed to view Nadrian Diplomacy in its intended styles.

The way these pages work is intriguing. I clearly intended to just draw all the items (with those terrible gradients) in Photostudio, and have a massive illustrated shop for my players to choose from and add to their inventories. As seen in the Heroes' Guild shot, each person would have their own customized portrait, their information that they chose in the Character Creation form, and actual graphical representations of inventory slots.
It bears mentioning, after looking at some of the items, that I have always been fascinated in tables. I still am. So I remember coming up with a ton of different materials for crafting items, such as wool, metal, wax, clay, etc. I also came up with, as you can see in Mandrake the Mage's offered skills, lots of different weapon augmentations. There were three types of enchantments (as seen in the shot), as well as sharpening, counterweighting, gem-studding, diamond-edging, etc. It was all integral to the game's system of attributes like charisma, reputation, agility, strength, and so forth.

As you can see from these screenshots, I really liked that background, and changed the color of it for each page. I was pretty handy at the time, even with a sub-par graphic editing software like Photostudio. On the Heroes' Guild page I even thought to invert the picture's black and white values before coloring it so that it looked more yellow than gold.

Each website came with its own MIDI-file ambient music, almost all from Zelda games, except for the Heroes' Guild, which had a Kirby music track.

Well, that's Nadrian Diplomacy for you. It's interesting to see the roots of Argaenothruzil, which I almost forgot wasn't original in its form. It took Nadrian Diplomacy to teach me how a game could (or could not) be organized, then Argaenothruzil Classic to teach me that there are better forums out there, and it wasn't until I nearly lost Argaenothruzil that I realized that I had moved on from Tolkienesque races and lore and wanted to make a truly unique forum RPG in Shaarzahn. It's interesting how in each step it has moved past being gamelike and has gone to be more like just writing exercises in a dynamic world.

I planned to make Nadrian Diplomacy into an actual website, hosted on my uncle's Bratsman.com server, but for some reason it never stuck. Perhaps I got too busy, or perhaps I simply didn't have enough time to manage everything, or perhaps my friends lost interest. Either way, it's always a blast to dig up old projects and analyze them. It's like an archaelogical expedition into my memories. Hope you enjoyed reading!

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