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Planning and executing a quest - what's your process / time frame?


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#1 bloqm

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 04:08 AM

Hello! I'm thinking about making a quest, trying to get a feel of the usual workflow and dev time before I commit.

 

From what I've gathered, it seems some people take years and years while others can churn out a quest in a month or two; that sounds crazy fast to me. I'm curious about what's your overall process of creating a quest, and how long each step takes you from the original idea to finishing.

On a tangent note, looking at the database it seems that most quest have a very active post-release, with years between the release and the last update - way more than most commercial games!

 

Based on what I've seen, ZQuest seems to be very limited (a good point imo), but not very good at editing (it feels easier to put in than to take back) -- I'm guessing that most of the effort and time goes into planning, and execution is fairly straightforward unless there's scripting or trying new things. At least, I can't imagine myself improvising a whole quest, it feels like most of the ideas and content has to be set *on stone* before drawing the first tile.

 

This thread/pool was enlightening about the execution time per screen, but I'm also curious about the rest of the process, from start to end. For example:

- How much do you plan before starting? Do you simply outline the main ideas, or draw every screen, item, and enemy on paper?
- How long does it take you to finish a quest? How about a fully fleshed out 8x8 map?

- What parts do you tackle first? How do you split work?

- Do you scrap/redo large chunks of work? If so, how? (zquest seems very brittle here)

- How much do you improvise?

- What parts were difficult / tedious to pull off? What looked easy when it was actually hard?

- Are there any pitfalls that can trip you up later on, if not solved at the beggining?

 

Thanks!


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#2 ShadowTiger

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:56 AM

As much as I love a thread about design and eventual execution, I think it all comes down to the individual and how picky they are.

 

Me, I always get hung up on the combo pages.  I like to have a really good working environment down pat before I start designing.  I don't even really have much of a story first;  just basic barebones concepts that I want to see happen.  Heck, I will design an entire quest around a really cool boss fight and the music that corresponds to it.

 

I mostly spend my time optimizing the combo pages to facilitate my future work that I know I'll need.  I'll take the back corners of cliffs and remove the background from them so I can put them on layer 3, or I'll make the bottom corners of cliffs transparent so I can layer them on a shore or some odd patch of grass/dirt transition, and so on.  I'll make relational and dungeon carving mode features or a whole bunch of combo aliases.

 

By the time I've finished most of it, my attention has focused on something else like some other video game or watching some net series.  Maybe the solution is to get really familiar with a single tileset and let it represent your needs for the indefinite future so you don't always have to do that work when you do decide to make a quest.  You'll already be intimately familiar with it and don't have to mess around with it much.  Then, always know where that quest file is and have backups of it in multiple locations, each of which is named with the latest date you worked on it so you know how old it is.  Don't trust metadata.  It can change.  File names generally don't. 


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#3 Titanium Justice

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 11:04 AM

In the past, my earliest attempts at quests were more or less built completely upon improvisation, which ended up with some very messy graphics, non-functional landscapes, and dead ends. It was a sort of primordial chaos.

With my most recent quest that I actually finished, I drew inspiration from a previous project that was my closest to being an actual quest. Essentially my idea was to salvage the stuff that worked from that previous work while leaving the mess behind.

I was aware of how both my previous attempts and some other people's attempts ended with unfinished projects. I didn't actually expect that I would end up finishing a quest, but at the time, I had set limitations in place to help ensure that this one would come closer to being finished than anything that came before.

First off, I ended up using the Zero tileset as the base and I modified it by adding loose tiles from similar tilesets. One of my reasons for using the Zero tileset was not just because of personal appeal, but because it was based upon the classic tileset, which is generally easier to use because it doesn't involve a great deal of layering.
If you take note of the quests completed in the database, most of them (especially the more recent ones) are built using more simplistic tilesets like the classic or egbz tileset, so I dont think that is a coincidence.
These tilesets allow you to place things with greater ease, whereas more graphically complex tilesets take more time and attention to detail just for aesthetic's sake. That's just my take.

As for the gameplay itself, I had decided early on that there would be a single map dedicated to the overworld areas and that I wouldn't branch out into other maps in risk of spiraling out of control. I planned out where each dungeon would be and I wrote down a notepad file listing which pieces of equipment would be in each of the dungeons and the general flow of what order you would obtain them in (though in the end, it turned out somewhat more nonlinear than I expected, though I think it worked in my favor).

For the dungeons themselves, I decided to limit most of those to the parameters of an NES dungeon size, and some of them were symmetrical in design. I made sure to have a balance of rooms with some being more combat centric and others being more puzzle or enviromental centric.

Another thing that helped was that, unlike some my previous projects which tried too hard to tell a narrative, my finished quest's story segments were quite short and were placed at the beginning and the end of the quest. In my case, gameplay came first and the story was more of an afterthought, though I did feel it helped to make everything come full circle (You could even say that it will . . . throw you for a loop). But like the tileset I used, this was just another personal preference for what I felt made for the most quick and efficent design flow.
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#4 Peteo

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 11:15 AM

How much do you plan before starting? Do you simply outline the main ideas, or draw every screen, item, and enemy on paper?

- Nowadays I plan absolutely everything on paper beforehand. Every single screen and where every item goes etc. My quests tend to be so big and complex that this is absolutely necessary.

 

How long does it take you to finish a quest? How about a fully fleshed out 8x8 map?

- Both MMDWR and Lost Isle took me about two years to make (Lost Isle's OW was made by another person however). My upcoming quest will probably take the same time and more if any real life issues or ZC issues arise.

A full overworld map takes about a week to make. A full dungeon (which usually consists of multiple floors) can take up to a month because of the complex layout, ZC tricks etc.

 

What parts do you tackle first? How do you split work?

- The first thing is to plan everything on paper. Then it is getting the scripts compiled and tested, then it's time to get the graphics and combos in order. And finally after all that begins the screen by screen building process which I have just started with my new quest.

 

Do you scrap/redo large chunks of work? If so, how? (zquest seems very brittle here)

- No, because of all the extensive pre-planning.

 

How much do you improvise?

- Not much because of planning everything beforehand.

 

What parts were difficult / tedious to pull off? What looked easy when it was actually hard?

- Hmm, hard question. Editing palettes is a pain in the arse for me. Really hard to find the colors that are just perfect. I use too much time for this. I thought the script part would be the toughest but putting scripts together and making them work in ZC is unbelievably easy once you get used to it and use the well made scripts by the best scripters.

 

Are there any pitfalls that can trip you up later on, if not solved at the beggining?

- Hmm, having too ambitious plans can be really dangerous. Many quest projects have died because of too high expectations. I'm very ambitious and kind of a perfectionist myself, but even I have to admit to myself that if I ever want to finish my upcoming quest, I have to give up on some of the wildest ideas like 100% custom graphics or 100% scripted/custom bosses as I would never finish the quest that way.

 

 

One fun detail about my quest design process I like to share is that for my new quest (sequel to Lost Isle) the very first thing I picked was music. Yes, music. I like designing areas and worlds based on the music. Music is so important for me that whenever I put a nice MIDI on, I get tons of ideas for new areas. "Hmm, this midi reminds me of a snowy forest, ohh this midi reminds me of a cave full of shiny crystals" etc. Not probably great advice for most quest designers but works for me. :D

 

 

Then, always know where that quest file is and have backups of it in multiple locations, each of which is named with the latest date you worked on it so you know how old it is.  Don't trust metadata.  It can change.  File names generally don't.

 

Now this is some really good and important advice.


Edited by Peteo, 20 February 2020 - 11:24 AM.

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#5 Yoshi

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 12:55 PM

- How much do you plan before starting? Do you simply outline the main ideas, or draw every screen, item, and enemy on paper?

I have a rough plan on paper, it's almost draft-like. As I make the quest, I tend to get ideas that flesh out or expand the outline. I don't 100% follow a plan, so I leave a lot of the planning to just the bare bone structure of a game with areas, items and story.

 

- How long does it take you to finish a quest? How about a fully fleshed out 8x8 map?

As someone who finished two quests... One took two weeks (three weeks for planning stage) and the other one month roughly. Although the database version is taking forever due to the extreme 9 person collaborative nature of it.
 
Also for what it's worth, I finished a solid 8x8 overworld a little over a week.
 
- What parts do you tackle first? How do you split work?
Planning, especially since a lot of my projects are collaborative by nature. Then we split work based on who's most motivated to work on it. Although regarding my solo project, it has a very colourful, chaotic history that it's not ideal to learn from. :D
 
- Do you scrap/redo large chunks of work? If so, how? (zquest seems very brittle here)
- How much do you improvise?
I tend to, even with what I feel is the best plan. Sometimes a better idea just happens during development, and I think that's completely fine if it benefits the final product.
 
- What parts were difficult / tedious to pull off? What looked easy when it was actually hard?
Caves and houses. They are so basic yet because they are basic, especially regarding caves, I feel at risk of having boring design. Recently have been overcoming that feeling, especially with my solo project and upcoming collab. :P
 
- Are there any pitfalls that can trip you up later on, if not solved at the beginning?
Mishandling use of limited free time, really. Also lacking in self confidence, although I imagine that's very niche thing. :P
 
- Shane

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#6 Jamian

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 01:23 PM

I can't imagine myself improvising a whole quest, it feels like most of the ideas and content has to be set *on stone* before drawing the first tile.

 

 

As someone who has done both carefully planned quests and improvised ones, I feel there are advantages to both approaches.

 

Careful planning helps with seeing the big picture as you create the quest, and helps bring cohesiveness and a consistent pace gameplay-wise. One of the drawbacks of careful planning is that you'll have to (fairly) rigidly adhere to your plans, which lowers the likelihood of getting to implement new ideas you may have on the spot.

 

Improvising helps bring spontaneity, and forces you to constantly think of new ideas as you go along. You also have more freedom to expand / shorten areas, and change your plans along the way if you feel like it. One drawback is it makes it more difficult to maintain the aforementioned cohesiveness and consistent pace.

 

There's also something to be said about maintaining motivation. It's not uncommon for people to carefully plan massive quests which are great on paper, but may overwhelm you when you think about how much more stuff you have to create if you're not making progress as fast as you'd like. An improvised quest is less stressful in that regard.

 

I think you should try both approaches and see what works best for you, and what's the most fun for you.


Edited by Jamian, 20 February 2020 - 01:34 PM.

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#7 venrob

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 02:56 PM

So, LGA1 and LGA2 were totally thrown together without any regard for anything. Given, LGA1 was for a school project, and LGA2 was just trying to figure out ZQ more.

 

LGA3, then, was something else entirely. It took me 2 weeks in total from start to finish, shortest of any of my quests. I started by giving a basic area plan, basically just "Some desert over here, some mountains here, a graveyard here, snowy here, water here" without too much thought, just planning what to go where. Then, I planned some basics on what I wanted to be done, and I did it. For instance, in the desert, I felt like a quick sand pit ala Oracles would be nice to have... and then I quickly had the idea of an underground pyramid as a dungeon. Sounding fairly grand, I marked it as lategame in my notes. Similarly for several other areas, I just thought "hmm what could go in such-and-such environment". The dungeons themselves had very little planning going in, aside from the bottom of the well mini-dungeon, but that took 2 seconds to plan fully; "MM style gibdo trading ending in the lens".

Scripting took the majority of the 2 weeks, mostly on ice physics and mirror-shield light-puzzles.

 

MM2D, my most ambitious project, will likely take me several more YEARS to finish; by far longer than any of my other projects, but, easily the most ambitious, considering I'm maling AN ENTIRE 3D GAME IN 2D, and including a RANDOMIZER. It has a lot more planning put into it, but still only so far forward. Most of the plan-ahead is in the scripting, so I can make it easier for myself later on when I need to modify the scripts.

 

So, overall, I either plan none at all or fairly little. My quest time varies greatly. I tackle the work mostly chronologically, though I may plan some rough layouts out-of-order. I have had to scrap stuff many a time- I have no clue what you mean by "ZQ seems very brittle here" though... I improvise a fair amount. Custom graphics are always the hardest- sometimes you end up spending hours working on getting a level palette *JUST* right, for all the very minor visual difference it ends up having. Aside from that, scripting can either end up being much easier than you'd expect or much harder than you'd expect, depending on what you're working on. As for pitfalls, a great idea in a standard zelda style quest is to plan out your dungeon items from the start. I did that in LGA3, and had I not, it would have been much harder to figure out later on.


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#8 TheRock

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 06:28 PM

- How much do you plan before starting? Do you simply outline the main ideas, or draw every screen, item, and enemy on paper? I get inspired by a quest and make what I want to create.
- How long does it take you to finish a quest? How about a fully fleshed out 8x8 map? A 8x8 map will take me about 3-21 days. This will depend on the depth I'm going for.

- What parts do you tackle first? How do you split work? I like to make a layout, then design the screen, and finally add detail.

- Do you scrap/redo large chunks of work? If so, how? (zquest seems very brittle here) If I'm unhappy with how the layout is on something or if I'm unhappy with the design of the screen, then I will scrap the design and try again with the same ideas. I do this to try and get what I wanted.

- How much do you improvise? I usually figure out what the main idea of the area is first. Most of the time I design on the spot based on the main ideas. Like a gimmick. 

- What parts were difficult / tedious to pull off? What looked easy when it was actually hard? Making a custom boss is a complete pain. Adding DMaps can be annoying, oh, by the way you can copy DMaps. I wish I knew that for the past 5 years. A multi state dungeon is hard at first, but after that it's well worth it. A multi state dungeon is this: Water up and water down. One map looks like it has water and other one does not. 

- Are there any pitfalls that can trip you up later on, if not solved at the beginning? I think this really depends on what you are trying to make. If it's a Legend of Zelda game that the starting default settings works.

 

The one thing I highly recommend when making your first quest is to make it something reasonable. Like something that can be finished in 1 month. This allows for making something that is not to much at the time. And just remember, your quest can be whatever you want it to be! There're nothing you cannot do!


Edited by TheRock, 20 February 2020 - 06:28 PM.

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#9 Moosh

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 07:04 PM

- How much do you plan before starting? Do you simply outline the main ideas, or draw every screen, item, and enemy on paper?

The most I'll ever do for planning is writing out a short txt file with some very rough ideas. Usually I keep most of it in my head. I've tried planning a whole dungeon layout exactly once and it didn't exactly go to plan. Much of my layout design is done in the editor and very basic, like placing empty screens in the shape of an area. Or sometimes I'll detail areas in multiple passes instead of completing one screen at a time.
 

- How long does it take you to finish a quest? How about a fully fleshed out 8x8 map?

This depends on complexity. A lot of progress comes in very short bursts of about a week or two. So a quest that takes several years from an outside perspective may actually be the product of a few months made up of mostly week long design binges bridged by lengthy periods of procrastination. I prefer shorter quest developments, two weeks to two months over longer ones. The longer I go, the bigger the burnout gets, eventually amounting to just a dead quest.

For filling out an 8x8 map it once again depends. Overworlds can take me a week, but dungeons I can knock out in a few days. With simple NES dungeons I (and most people I think) could make one in a single day.
 

- What parts do you tackle first? How do you split work?

I almost always design in the order things will be played, though I sometimes put off overworld design, or pass it to somebody else like Russ. More modular stuff like bosses are also often put off for later.

When dividing up work in a collab project, I prefer to work in shifts passing one file back and forth rather than branching into two files and merging them. The reason is that ZC's map importing often requires more work cleaning up afterwards than justifies the time saved. But anything script related can easily be done in a branch file.
 

- Do you scrap/redo large chunks of work? If so, how? (zquest seems very brittle here)

Virtually never. ZQuest isn't all that complicated to design with, so it's rare you'll find a situation where it's less work to scrap than to refine.
 

- How much do you improvise?

Basically all the time. I keep a mental map of where I'm going when designing an area but rarely have everything figured out from the start. Sometimes this leads to some janky level progression but just as often you stumble onto something brilliant.
 

- What parts were difficult / tedious to pull off? What looked easy when it was actually hard?

My biggest challenge currently is bosses. It's not a matter of them being hard so much as that they're the part I appreciate the most and so I'm the most self critical. As I've said already, overworlds are another thing I find tedious.

As for something that looks easy but is actually hard, that's a tricky one. For most things I feel the inverse is the case, but I suppose the one exception might be subscreens. They look like they should be simple, yet the ZQuest subscreen editor is a confusing and tedious mess, even when you learn all the shortcuts.
 

- Are there any pitfalls that can trip you up later on, if not solved at the beggining?

Now of course this is rich coming from me, but the biggest pitfall in ZC, I believe, is overplanning. It's very easy to write out a million plans in your head or on paper and never finish or even start anything. My biggest failures are all the quests I never started.


Edited by Moosh, 20 February 2020 - 10:40 PM.

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#10 NoeL

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 07:33 PM

- 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.

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#11 NoeL

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 07:54 PM

One drawback [when improvising a quest] is it makes it more difficult to maintain the aforementioned cohesiveness and consistent pace.

 

There's also something to be said about maintaining motivation. It's not uncommon for people to carefully plan massive quests which are great on paper, but may overwhelm you when you think about how much more stuff you have to create if you're not making progress as fast as you'd like. An improvised quest is less stressful in that regard.

I'd also add to this that you have less of a sense of project completion when you're just improvising, which can make it hard to be motivated. It's challenging to just keep building with no end-goal in sight. At least ZC has (semi)-hard limits on map size and Triforce count, otherwise you'd have no sense of progression. At least when you're following a plan it's very easy to see where you're at, which can be demotivating at the start (as you mentioned) but also more motivating when you get towards the end (or break it into chunks - see below). Might be less stressful, but I guarantee more quests that start like this get shelved due to lack of motivation/inspiration/sense of progression.

 

The best solution is to set milestones and deadlines along the way - break up the daunting project into manageable chunks. That gives you a good idea of what needs to be done and how long you think it'll take, and it's just a matter of ticking off checkboxes as you go until wouldn't you know, you've finished!


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#12 Anthus

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 09:28 PM

Anthus' 100% Pro-Strat Guide on Finishing Quests:

 

1.

2.

3. Cry.

 

Okay, but as someone who has never finished a big project, I will answer the questions anyway, in a somewhat serious manner.

 

- How much do you plan before starting? Do you simply outline the main ideas, or draw every screen, item, and enemy on paper?

I would typically have a text file with various ideas, and a general outline for the flow of the game, story beats (if applicable), etc. I'd use a spreadsheet to keep track of what items are where, in dungeons, on the OW, etc. I printed out "custom" graph paper, and would draw the rough shapes on that for dungeons and OWs.

 

- How long does it take you to finish a quest? How about a fully fleshed out 8x8 map?

Never finished a full quest, but I made a dungeon in about a week, and a short (and bad) thing in two weeks. They can be found on the database. Time to make an 8x8 OW depends on the tileset, mainly. I could probably make an 8x8 OW in a few days with Classic, but it might take a month or longer with DoR, or a more complicated set.

 

- What parts do you tackle first? How do you split work?

I start making screens as I need them. "Oh, here's the route to level 1, here's the route to Ganon's whore house, here's the area around the woods" etc. Then when I'd make a dungeon, I'd try to lay down all the room shapes, then go back and fill it in with details, and test it, and change as needed.

 

- Do you scrap/redo large chunks of work? If so, how? (zquest seems very brittle here)

Yes. This is the biggest downfall of any project imo. You get into this crazy Orouboros cycle of redoing earlier work till it never gets done. Best advice I can give is don't redo stuff. If it sucks, let it suck. Finish it, and move onto something else and if you do a new project, apply what you learned to it there.

 

- How much do you improvise?

A lot actually. In spite of my planning, a lot is improvised, mostly with graphics. This is another big downfall of my projects. This also leads to really messy palettes, which I hate.

 

- What parts were difficult / tedious to pull off? What looked easy when it was actually hard?

Organizing palettes, and graphics. Actually making all the screens.

 

- Are there any pitfalls that can trip you up later on, if not solved at the beggining?

Yes. Overplanning, not enough planning, feature creep, redoing stuff, unorganized quest files to name a few.

 

 

That's my 2 cents :D


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#13 Lüt

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Posted 21 February 2020 - 12:06 AM

Point 1: Quest completion timeframe decreases significantly as you grow increasingly familiar with the program.

 

The first quest I built took 3 months to complete. I knew nothing of ZQuest on the first day of development, and spent much of the build time learning how to do what I wanted to do, rather than actually doing it. The quest ended up having 9 main dungeons, 3 optional dungeons, 3 additional trial caves, a full-size overworld, a half-size underworld, and some miscellaneous bits for a total of over 1,000 screens, along with some additional enemies and items.

 

Now, I could build a quest like that in a week, with testing being done over another week.

 

The reasons for that are 1) learning the program's possibilities 2) learning the optimal way to use those possibilities.

 

As an example, I made an 8x8 freeform dungeon map. I built it using the NES tiles. Have you ever opened ZQuest's default classic quest, and looked at the absolute clusterfuck of dungeon walls? Yeah, I built every single free-form area by placing those one-by-one over the main NES dungeon template. I didn't know about combo aliases, so I didn't realize I could place pre-assembled chunks of walls. I didn't even know I could alt+click the main screen to select whatever combo the mouse was over, so when I wanted to shift a segment of wall sideways by 1 tile, I re-built the entire wall by finding the matching combos in the combo list and re-placing them one-by-one. It was beyond obnoxious, and I could only manage a few hours of it per day. Making the 8x8 floor took about 2 weeks. But now that I know about combo aliases, alt+clicking, and rearranging the combo list, I could build that entire thing in a day.

 

Learning the program and using that knowledge to develop "best practices" suited to your style of design will exponentially increase your productivity, which of course leads to...

 

Point 2: Question completion timeframe increases significantly as you grow increasingly familiar with the program.

 

As you learn more and more of the program's possibilities, and as you grow more and more efficient in your usage of the program, the scope of your projects will expand to accommodate your increased knowledge and speed. Your personal "developer toolkit" will have a lot more "tools" in it, and you'll spend a lot more time thinking of ways to use those tools, and a lot more time to build the things you think of.

 

Granted, this is somewhat dependent on your personal drive. But the vast majority of designers in any field - not just game design - are always looking to improve their craft, step up their performance, and deliver a next product that shows markedly better development than the previous product.

 

So I could do another quest like my first one in a week, but I don't want to.

 

That one's fine for what it is - a classic-based quest that follows NES/ZC convention rather tightly - and I'm not embarrassed by its basic traditional presentation or anything else in it. But I have no intention of getting stuck in a design rut. It's dull as a designer, and it's more dull as a player.

 

I like the classic NES look, but its limited visual variety can only last so long before it wears thin. It needs further expansion if it's going to serve a much larger quest without getting boring. Some users here provided good starts with their classic-based loose tile submissions, but it wasn't enough to suit me, so I went into a phase where designing a single dungeon screen could take hours, or even days, because I was constantly having to draw my own tiles to accommodate what I wanted to do. That phase lasted much longer than I ever anticipated, but now that every possibility is essentially accounted for, and now that I've got many large structures pre-assembled into combo aliases, design can go rather quickly again. And that's been in the works, on and off, for a few years now.

 

I know that doesn't really answer your specific workflow questions, and my experience has been too varied to answer them with anything other than a simultaneous "yes and no," but hopefully that gives a little insight into dev time.


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#14 Bagu

Bagu

    FFC Junky

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Posted 21 February 2020 - 07:21 AM

I working on my very first quest. I'm learnig by doing, step by step
But I'm following my storyline. Working out the Fairytale, that I wanna tell,

is the most important for me.

So I have a REALLY LARGE message string table.
Oftenly making backward changes, when I learned something new.
I had a bit trouble, cause I began in 2.50, continued in 2.53 and now

I am using 2.55 Alpha 48.

But my 3 Level Mini demo is almost complete by now.

I slowly begin to understand the basics of zscript.

With my new knowledge, it will be easier when I begin a new quest.


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#15 NewJourneysFire

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 12:46 PM

How much do you plan before starting? Do you simply outline the main ideas, or draw every screen, item, and enemy on paper?


Just want to make note for starters that planning is not for everyone, so the approach here certainly varies by person to person. I personally don't plan unless I feel like I have to. Most of my quest was designed on a whim, and changes were made on the fly. Fortunately Zelda as a genre allows for design flexibility which means there's always room for modification. Also, when I do plan, it's more based on research and theory than actually writing things down on paper. If I feel a dungeon will be particularly difficult to make, I'll internally plan my approach in my mind a few times before actually designing a dungeon. It also helps that I use a consistent formula for everything that I do now so that heavily cuts down on planning. 
 

How long does it take you to finish a quest? How about a fully fleshed out 8x8 map?


I am typically hyper motivated and ambitious. I favor grander scale quests, but because of that, my quests can take years and years to finish. 
 

What parts do you tackle first? How do you split work?


I first draw a mental image in my head of the path Link will take through the dungeon and how the dungeon will branch off. Then I design basic NES-like versions of the rooms I want to make. I start by making rooms that are designed to bridge and corridor the dungeon together in an interesting but logical way, and then spread around I'll start making box rooms (box rooms are challenge/rooms and puzzle rooms that are much wider to incorporate as much space as possible for the challenges within). After the simple layout I then focus on visual details and gameplay mechanics. 
 

Do you scrap/redo large chunks of work? If so, how? (zquest seems very brittle here)


I don't scrap much, but a good 50% of my time is constant revision. I'll beta test over and over and over again, and get how the dungeon feels, and I constantly make minor modifications that will benefit the quest. But that's because I typically design on a whim. People who plan their dungeons on paper probably don't need to spend as many hours testing and revising their dungeons because the revisions were already built into the plan. 
 

How much do you improvise?


Taking my note above, you can guess a lot. Zelda Classic is also a pretty dumb engine, so who doesn't improvise? lol
 

What parts were difficult / tedious to pull off? What looked easy when it was actually hard?


Generally speaking, most all rooms involving gameplay always turn out more difficult than they appear. There are so many unforseen issues that come out of creative gameplay ideas, and there are lots of rooms I had to revise more than multiple times before I found something that feels right. ZC can be remarkably wonky at times and it certainly does not want to cooperate with our vision almost most of the time. 
 

Are there any pitfalls that can trip you up later on, if not solved at the beggining?


I'd say this is more of a scripting issue than anything, so I'm certain many scripters can relate to this one. Since I don't script and mainly speak out of my experience with world crafting and dungeon crafting I can say that building a dungeon is like building a house. A good foundation leads to a good house. This means that no matter how much I improve on my dungeons, there reaches a point where some dungeons cannot be fixed of their perceived faults because they were built on a poor foundation. While this is not particularly an issue I experience today, I do see it in a minor extent when I feel that I should have approached some dungeons better from the start. Once you feel you're in an endless circle of trying to revise problems only to create more problems, chances are it's already too late and you'll have to either accept the dungeon as it is or start over from scratch. Thankfully, I can avoid this troubling issue by having a very consistent formula I stick to, but without the formula I'd say I could potentially be in trouble if I didn't plan my dungeons much more cautiously. 


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