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The Famous "Dungeon Designing" Question.


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#1 Demonlink

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 01:43 PM

So, I've started to hit a roadblock regarding unto my quest. Dungeons. I've never been able to actually find a way, motivation, or procedure that's actually satisfying to me. I'd like to hear some opinions. How do most of you tackle down this important aspect of quest design? I don't want to make a bland dungeon that's just full of enemies, I'd consider that as rushed work.

 

No, I'd like to find something that could inspire me to make some clever design, such as from A Tribute to Yeto's Quest (I actually have a main dungeon inspired from this quest's castle). Or the brain scratching mazes from Evan20K's Isle of Rebirth.

 

What I usually get stuck on are designing puzzles, traps, everything that makes a Zelda dungeon, a Zelda dungeon. This is what I need more focus on. I try to analize these aspects from other quests and such, but I still haven't found a way that I could adapt to my own style. I don't want to copy other styles.

 

I look forward to seeing your answers. :D

 

 


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#2 Zephvan

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 03:46 PM

I can't say I'm the most experienced in designing dungeons (or quests in general), but I would suggest checking out this series on the dungeon design in Zelda games if you're looking for some design tips. Here's the link: https://www.youtube....hdWhsNsYY3NA5B2

To anyone looking for design tips, I would highly recommend checking some of these vids out. (Thank you, GMTK for making these!)

 

As far as actually constructing them in ZQuest, I can't offer any real tips, as it's been too long since I've tackled anything like that.

 

Wish I could be of more help.


Edited by Zephvan, 30 April 2021 - 08:00 AM.

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#3 TheRock

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 05:00 PM

I made a tutorial on how to design dungeon and puzzles. 

For how to design a dungeon like Evan20K's dungeon layout, it's how in the layout, like the way the player moves through the dungeon. Make sure to not do any of the graphics or the screen design until all of the layout and the movement patters are done. This will allow you to look at the full layout and see if you like how complex the dungeon is without needing to change how any of the screens work. 

The dungeon design one: https://www.purezc.n...topic=76724&hl=

The puzzle design one: https://www.purezc.n...topic=76726&hl=


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#4 Twilight Knight

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Posted 30 April 2021 - 04:03 AM

Dungeons... I usually left the dungeons to CastChaos  :heh:

 

But I'm getting better at designing them. I think the tutorials by TheRock sums up really nicely how to tackle designing a dungeon. Also those videos Zephvan shared look interesting, I'll watch those.

 

 

What indeed is very important is/are the gimmick(s) of the dungeon. That will help you design the layout and puzzles a lot. The gimmick doesn't need to be unique I think. A dungeon with the overused raising/lowering water level gimmick could still be interesting with its puzzles, layout and theme.

Besides that the gimmick of your dungeon doesn't need to be a "state toggling system" like raising/lowering water. It can also be some other interesting feature. Such as a dungeon that has incredibly many keys; a dungeon that has no keys at all; a dungeon that is integrated with the overworld; a dungeon that has multiple entrances; or even a dungeon that is more like an arena (also that can be made interesting). Anything unconventional could be used as a gimmick.

 

 

Of course what will give your dungeon a lot of direction is what item(s) it has for Link to obtain. Think of puzzles where the player will wonder what to do first, but will be able to solve once the player gets the dungeon item.

 

Amongst other things the dungeon item is also an objective. Typical objectives are: get keys > use keys for dungeon item > get keys with dungeon item > use keys for boss key > get keys with boss key > use keys to access the boss. Changing (the order of) these objectives could mak e your dungeon more interesting.

 

 

Very important is that you also need inspiration! Miyamoto wasn't sitting in a room all by himself with a blank piece of paper and thought out the entirety of the Legend of Zelda from scratch without any sources of inspiration. The man is an absolute genius, but even he can't pull every idea out of thin air!

 

Inspiration for your dungeons and quest in general can come from anything really. Real life, a tv show, a book and of course videogames, there are many things that could spark an idea in you. Write them all down if you have trouble remembering your ideas in hindsight. Do not dismiss any idea, because 1 idea could spark another. Don't think too long on 1 idea, but let it rest and let it simmer. Think of all the ideas you have written down or memorised in retrospect, and do not dwell too long on them in the moment. These are important brainstorming techniques on which you can find many articles to read if you're interested.

 

And your ideas can be shared with others: here on the forums or in private with anyone really. If the person doesn't even know what Zelda is, the person could still bring interesting new perspectives to you.


Last but not least: do some research on your dungeon's theme. F.e. if your dungeon is a prison you might want to watch/read some stuff about medieval prisons (unless it's a space prison of course). Such sources could inspire your puzzles and gimmicks.


This doesn't come from the most experienced dungeon designer, but I thought these would be useful tips nonetheless.


Edit: those videos that Zephvan shared are indeed really interesting. Definitely worth watching!


Edited by Twilight Knight, 30 April 2021 - 03:28 PM.

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#5 NoeL

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Posted 30 April 2021 - 09:25 PM

Quite a few years ago I developed a "critical path" method of simple dungeon layout design, where you'll have a main path with locks, and offshoot "loops" with keys (and shortcuts that are opened by traversing a loop backwards along the critical path). Not the best for multi-state dungeon design, but good for single-state and could be adapted to progressive-state (i.e., when states only change in one direction, like being able to drain water but not refill it). There's a more in-depth post somewhere on this forum but I can't dig it up right now.
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#6 Demonlink

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Posted 03 May 2021 - 03:48 PM

Thanks to everyone for their answers! :D

 

@Zephvan: I have seen that series, and I think the formula I've tried out so far, is from the Oracle series. However, I did once think that I should make each dungeon have its own design inspired from each Zelda entry. I'm still thinking on that one.

 

@The Rock: Thank you! I did see your tutorial on dungeon carving, but I didn't know you made a puzzle one as well. I need to see that puzzle one since I struggle on making them as well. 

 

@Twilight Knight: Thanks! BTW, I loved your dungeons on Crystal Crusades, it's an awesome quest! While some gimmicks might feel repetitive, I want to balance it between "it's a water dungeon again" and "but it's an OUTER SPACE water dungeon!". I feel trying to become too original will also turn into a burn out later on. And yes, objective is important, that reminded me of the Boss Keys video series Zephvan mentioned.

 

@NoeL: I'll try to follow your approach, it's simple and effective, given I plan to have single state dungeons in my quest. (I might try out a multi state one, but that will require another design style). Thanks for answering!


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#7 Geoffrey

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Posted 09 May 2021 - 06:03 PM

Quite a few years ago I developed a "critical path" method of simple dungeon layout design, where you'll have a main path with locks, and offshoot "loops" with keys (and shortcuts that are opened by traversing a loop backwards along the critical path). Not the best for multi-state dungeon design, but good for single-state and could be adapted to progressive-state (i.e., when states only change in one direction, like being able to drain water but not refill it). There's a more in-depth post somewhere on this forum but I can't dig it up right now.

Funny how this is the exact same method that I came to independently.



#8 NoeL

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Posted 09 May 2021 - 11:13 PM

Funny how this is the exact same method that I came to independently.

I'm certain we're not the only ones either - especially since we were likely both inspired by analysing (even subconsciously) existing dungeon designs.



#9 Geoffrey

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Posted 19 May 2021 - 06:44 PM

I'm certain we're not the only ones either - especially since we were likely both inspired by analysing (even subconsciously) existing dungeon designs.

Oh, certainly not. I'm the sole progenitor of all my wondrous ideas. ;)



#10 Evan20000

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Posted 22 May 2021 - 09:20 PM

I could write up a big post about how to design a multistate dungeon or make something confusing while still being relatively compact spatially, but I won't. You know how to find GMTK and Boss Keys. He covers it nicely. Instead, what I will write about is how you should be looking to craft a meta-narrative inside your dungeon. The leadup to the dungeon itself, the presentation of the first few rooms, the amount of paths they can take from the first room, and how many unusual elements (either purely cosmetic or gameplay) are introduced early all shape first impressions. From there, think about how you want to craft the player's journey through the dungeon. An arduous trial or ordeal? A big puzzle box dungeon is in order. A final charge through the enemy's stronghold to face Ganon at his throne room? A lock and key or even gauntlet style dungeon might work better. The pacing the player is exposed to new elements, either visually or mechanically plays a huge part in how they perceive the dungeon and consequentially how they explore it, even in very small subconscious ways.

Did you know the vast majority of players who play Isle of Rebirth go left in the first room of Prismatic Gate judging by Lets Plays and streams? Is it because of the big 3-tile wide inviting carpet in closer proximity to the player, and neatly aligning with the middle of the screen dimensions? Hard to say, but I'd be willing to bet it played a big part of it. The path looks interesting. And immediately past that, the player is exposed to the first encounter with the "main" enemy of the dungeon, the Super Darknut in a relatively tame environment compared to later encounters. Just when you kill them and think it's safe, suddenly the walls open up and lets the traps loose as you now have to contend with them crossing to the other side. Bam. Mood established for the dungeon. Everything else the player experiences from here will be filtered through this lens.

Now once you understand how to form these first impressions deliberately, you eventually realize expectations can be played with or subverted when necessary to further add to the player's journey through the game. I realize this is very abstract and subjective, but over the 10 something years I've been on Pure, level design threads have come and gone and this is something that I think gets glossed over a lot yet is one of the hardest aspects to actually articulate beyond "X dungeons have character" or "Y quests has soul" which isn't very helpful for people actually seeking to implement the knowledge of how to build a 'personality' into your setting that the player can interface with even if only on a subconscious level.


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#11 Demonlink

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Posted 26 May 2021 - 06:40 PM

I could write up a big post about how to design a multistate dungeon or make something confusing while still being relatively compact spatially, but I won't. You know how to find GMTK and Boss Keys. He covers it nicely. Instead, what I will write about is how you should be looking to craft a meta-narrative inside your dungeon. The leadup to the dungeon itself, the presentation of the first few rooms, the amount of paths they can take from the first room, and how many unusual elements (either purely cosmetic or gameplay) are introduced early all shape first impressions. From there, think about how you want to craft the player's journey through the dungeon. An arduous trial or ordeal? A big puzzle box dungeon is in order. A final charge through the enemy's stronghold to face Ganon at his throne room? A lock and key or even gauntlet style dungeon might work better. The pacing the player is exposed to new elements, either visually or mechanically plays a huge part in how they perceive the dungeon and consequentially how they explore it, even in very small subconscious ways.
Did you know the vast majority of players who play Isle of Rebirth go left in the first room of Prismatic Gate judging by Lets Plays and streams? Is it because of the big 3-tile wide inviting carpet in closer proximity to the player, and neatly aligning with the middle of the screen dimensions? Hard to say, but I'd be willing to bet it played a big part of it. The path looks interesting. And immediately past that, the player is exposed to the first encounter with the "main" enemy of the dungeon, the Super Darknut in a relatively tame environment compared to later encounters. Just when you kill them and think it's safe, suddenly the walls open up and lets the traps loose as you now have to contend with them crossing to the other side. Bam. Mood established for the dungeon. Everything else the player experiences from here will be filtered through this lens.
Now once you understand how to form these first impressions deliberately, you eventually realize expectations can be played with or subverted when necessary to further add to the player's journey through the game. I realize this is very abstract and subjective, but over the 10 something years I've been on Pure, level design threads have come and gone and this is something that I think gets glossed over a lot yet is one of the hardest aspects to actually articulate beyond "X dungeons have character" or "Y quests has soul" which isn't very helpful for people actually seeking to implement the knowledge of how to build a 'personality' into your setting that the player can interface with even if only on a subconscious level.


I actually have noticed this on some occassions. NJF once told me about these "little details" that on a larger scale, makes a great difference.

May I ask Evan, just exactly how do you get inspired for making something out of the box? Taking Prismatic Gate in mind, I can imagine it wasn't an easy dungeon to design. How do you maintain your focus about what to do, what to avoid. Should I make this room go left, should I add an extra pot here, should I have this enemy here? Those little things that keep the player and myself interested in design.
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#12 Evan20000

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Posted 26 May 2021 - 10:36 PM

I actually have noticed this on some occassions. NJF once told me about these "little details" that on a larger scale, makes a great difference.

May I ask Evan, just exactly how do you get inspired for making something out of the box? Taking Prismatic Gate in mind, I can imagine it wasn't an easy dungeon to design. How do you maintain your focus about what to do, what to avoid. Should I make this room go left, should I add an extra pot here, should I have this enemy here? Those little things that keep the player and myself interested in design.

The simplest advice I can give is make dungeons and experiment. Try things. Fail a bunch and learn from it.

Pots for instance affect pacing. They give the player an opportunity to refill/restock items (or grind if they're desperate) but also the opportunity to full heal off them cycling the screen means the player will move past those groupings of screens slower, especially if it's deeper into the dungeon where health is (relatively) more valuable.than earlier on. Maintaining focus on the task at hand, keeping the vision of the design coherent, and understanding what does and doesn't work is ultimately a matter of mental discipline. I'm not really sure personally what's the best way to build this other than just keep trying until you've got it, same as practicing any other skill, but that's basically the gist of it as unhelpful as it may unfortunately sound.


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#13 Mitchfork

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Posted 18 June 2021 - 03:53 PM

Keep in mind that I am not as experienced (by a long shot) as some of the other people in this thread, but this kind of brings a different perspective on the question as well, which might be valuable to some.
 
First off, despite using ZC on and off since 2007, I never did real, substantive dungeon design until the end of last year extending into this year.  I'm very comfortable with OW screens, with their organic shapes and kind of loose functioning - and I think a lot of people have the same issue I have, which is turning that energy into dungeons.  But I kind of learned to really enjoy dungeon designing with Crucible Crest and [Redacted], so I wanted to share some things not strictly about how to design dungeons (there are loads of good resources and thoughts about this already) but about how to approach designing dungeons.

 

Overplan - this is the single hardest thing to transition from if you're stuck in OW-brain.  When I do an OW screen, I usually leave the screen connections and details of the screen to however I feel they should go in the moment as long as it matches up to screens I've already designed.  Dungeon screens can't be approached like this - you really need to have a concept for the room, what it does, and how it fits with the rest of the dungeon before you start.  I did a lot of this page in my notebook before I even started Level 1 in Crest:

k9dGtBu.png

You can see that I've identified where most key dungeon items are, where miniboss/boss are, and where locked doors are.  I've also sketched out general outlines for each room and made notes about their function and puzzle components.  It's not noted here, but I also knew in my mind what the general enemy palette would be for the dungeon.

 

It doesn't have to be 100%, and some of these screens did change between plan and final - but this really helped firm up the dungeon flow.  Some people don't like to plan because it "interrupts the design flow" but actually, having the plan before you start helps the design flow since you don't get "stuck" deciding what a room should do.  I found that I always had a starting point for each screen and even if I deviated in little ways, it was way easier to push through and complete the design - whereas in the past when I tried dungeons, I end up getting blocked because I have no idea what to do next or worse find out I need to change screens I've already completed since I designed myself into a corner.

 

Playtest Early and Often - This is something I picked up from doing some Doom levels over last summer.  I playtest almost every single room in a dungeon individually as I build them.  I also tend not to move the player spawn point too much if I can help it, so I end up doing repeat testing of a lot of rooms as a block. When John Romero playtested his own Doom levels, he always tested from the start of his level - even if the thing he changed or added was way later in the level.  I find this a bit extreme for my own workflow (Romero worked really damn fast) but I try to do a "lite" version of it.  I find that this helps in a couple of ways:

  • You internalize the puzzle/combat/layout elements in a much deeper way when you do this, and it helps you make decisions on what works and what doesn't, where your pressure points are in terms of flow and pacing, and can help you eliminate redundant elements.
  • You experience the range of RNG that your combat has.  This can help you refine enemy spawn locations and patterns.
  • You figure out the design quirks of things as they appear and can exploit this in future rooms.  For example, by refining the initial sleep moth encounter in Crest and playtesting this dozens of times as I tweaked the script, I learned certain things about their movement that allowed me to make better layouts with them in future screens.  I couldn't have done that if I had built all of the screens up first.
  • Sometimes it feels like setting up undercombos, secrets, enemies, puzzles, etc. is a bit like "eating your vegetables".  You know you have to do it, but you'd rather just stick to the steak.  If you don't playtest as you go, you can end up with a pound of green beans to eat at the end - and this can really kill momentum on a project.  Playtesting helps the digestion and when you get to the last screens, you really are almost done, which definitely helps mentally.

 

Pots for instance affect pacing. They give the player an opportunity to refill/restock items (or grind if they're desperate) but also the opportunity to full heal off them cycling the screen means the player will move past those groupings of screens slower, especially if it's deeper into the dungeon where health is (relatively) more valuable.than earlier on.

I also want to add that this is something that is very easy to tweak in 2.55 with modifiable item drop sets. For instance, the bushes before the mini-boss and boss in Crucible Crest level 1 are guaranteed to drop arrow ammunition and hearts, which

  • constrains the difficulty experience a bit since it fits the design goals of level 1
  • also means that players aren't forced to "grind" out screens to prepare for these fights, which helps the pacing

I have seen a few pre-2.55 quests try to fix this by just putting a ton of pots/bushes in a room, but this has a pacing impact and constrains the room design of these spaces.


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#14 TheManHimself

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Posted Yesterday, 05:11 PM

I'm coming from the same place as you Mitch, vis. being way more comfortable with overworld design than dungeons; but I definitely want to reemphasize what you said about planning in general, because It's pretty important.

 

 

It doesn't have to be 100%, and some of these screens did change between plan and final - but this really helped firm up the dungeon flow.  Some people don't like to plan because it "interrupts the design flow" but actually, having the plan before you start helps the design flow since you don't get "stuck" deciding what a room should do.  I found that I always had a starting point for each screen and even if I deviated in little ways, it was way easier to push through and complete the design - whereas in the past when I tried dungeons, I end up getting blocked because I have no idea what to do next or worse find out I need to change screens I've already completed since I designed myself into a corner.

I feel like you can get away with (okay actually thrive) when you improvise screens, but one of the things about improvisation is that it works best within a specific set of frameworks --- a musical key, a chosen-motif before-hand, etc, etc. and with the clockwork nature of a well-designed dungeon, getting the broad details out of the way allows for more creativity on a screen-by-screen basis. Basically, you don't have to focus on important questions like "does the flow of the dungeon make sense if I put 'x' item here; or what is the flow of this dungeon?" because you've already taken care of the most important details on paper and your mind is freed up to focus on visual detailing and smaller-scale puzzles.

Having a clear delineation between the planning stage and actual construction of the dungeon --- between the substance of the dungeon and the details of it --- shouldn't feel like an interruption: if anything it allows you to flow better when you actually open up Zquest.

TL;DR Mitchfork gives sage advice, so bust out your ream of graphing paper and draw some maps.


Edited by TheManHimself, Yesterday, 05:12 PM.



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