- How much do you plan before starting? Do you simply outline the main ideas, or draw every screen, item, and enemy on paper?
I'll plan the overall game flow before starting, i.e. what (main) items and where, what zones/dungeons require what items, where each zone is located and general "foot traffic" of the player. This gives me an overview of how the player will progress through the quest, and what is and isn't available to them at any time (to control sequence breaks and the like). After that I'll loosely sketch the overworld then just freestyle the screens, ensuring each zone is locked according to the flow diagram. If I was more pedantic about making a really good overworld I'd plan the screens better.
Whenever I need a change of pace (usually once I've "screened" a zone) I'll switch to dungeon design/screening. I'll always plan the entire route on paper first, including the critical path (i.e. shortest route through the dungeon), keys, items, locks and shortcuts, then build the rooms individually. This is for more simplistic dungeons - if I have a heavier theme then I'll plan out the look and feel of each screen/zone in more detail in order to visually tell a story.
Once the overworld is complete I'll add shops and secrets where they fit best.
Overall game flow and individual dungeon progression is the bare minimum necessary planning before you start building your quest. Anything less and you're leaving yourself way open to issues arising in the future.
- How long does it take you to finish a quest? How about a fully fleshed out 8x8 map?
As an example, Linked Seasons was an 8x8 map with four single-level dungeons, and it took about two months (one of which involved working many hours a day). It also had a custom tileset though which took at least as much time to draw as the quest, so probably one month of hard work to create a short quest with an existing tileset. Obviously if you have a job/family then it's gonna take much longer!
- What parts do you tackle first? How do you split work?
I change it up as I go in order to keep from getting fatigued, but I'll usually do some overworld then a dungeon, then more overworld and so on, with design time and art spliced in between.
- Do you scrap/redo large chunks of work? If so, how? (zquest seems very brittle here)
No. I plan first so nothing huge gets scrapped. At most I'll delete individual screens, which is as simple as pressing the delete key.
- How much do you improvise?
Most screens are improvised, unless there's a specific feature I'm building.
- What parts were difficult / tedious to pull off? What looked easy when it was actually hard?
1) Making the screens. There's a lot of screens to get through, and it's tedious as hell.
2) Building the combo table. Again, lots of combos that need to be set up with correct flags, animation, walkability... kill me pls.
- Are there any pitfalls that can trip you up later on, if not solved at the beggining?
Everything. XD Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance! For a specific example, building zones/dungeons (and the paths between them) without understanding the capabilities of the player (i.e. what items they have, when). This can easily introduce unforeseen sequence breaks and potential soft locks. In an early build of Hero of Time the player was able to enter the Gerudo Valley (with burning hot sand) without the boots, where they were killed by the sand then respawned... in the valley. This needed an ad-hoc fix which wasn't spectacular.
Another thing is, if you're doing a lot of custom tiles, leave ample room in the tilesheets/combo pages for additional tiles, and try to be as organised as possible. There's nothing worse than not having the room to fit tiles in where they need to go, making you have to either shift pages and pages of tiles further down (and potentially breaking everything that references them in the process) or have similar tiles spread all over the tilesheet making it a nightmare to keep track of them all. Same goes for palettes - keep them organised and leave space!
To repeat what I said at the beginning, I consider it mandatory to plan the overall quest flow (each stage of the quest, what items are where, what's accessible to the player when, etc.) before starting a quest, and mandatory to plan dungeon progression (critical path/locks/keys/items/shortcuts) before building each dungeon. If your plans are solid, your quest will be solid. If your plans are loose/nonexistent, your quest will likely have issues that you'll either have to waste time fixing or will go unnoticed until after release and cause issues then.
Edited by NoeL, 20 February 2020 - 07:35 PM.