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Old 05-25-2016, 02:28 PM
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Arilou Arilou is offline
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Default Ziggurat

I've mentioned previously that I was redoing the Ziggurat when the game went down and it was close to done. My intention was to put it up as part of my organizational work when the game returned, but since that will not happen, I thought I'd talk about it a bit since a lot of work went into.

Some people had guessed the direction that I intended to take it in previously. Here's one example...

Originally Posted by Rarkvar View Post
A nice fix idea for this would be to add the entrance at the top of the Ziggurat rather than the bottom, and have the player descend into the crypt in search for "the pirate kings" lost treasure.
Yes, that was basically the plan for the redo.
Another person once mentioned a chambered layout with hidden passages and my response was the same. So, yeah, basically, you start at the top, (in the shrine room) which is the same size as the boss room in the original Ziggurat and then descend into chambered rooms with hidden passages that allow for faster progression through the dungeon and allow access to hidden chambers. Real Ziggurats do not have inner chambers. They are completely filled in, largely with brick, and exist to house that shrine room at the top. Although no shrine room has ever survived.

Anyway, to honor both their real world purpose and the original (misinformed) design, I crafted a little backstory explaining how the lower levels are both made up of open space chambers and filled in with brick. The latter being its normal, real world state, and the former being the state that you can access via magic.

When you descend from the shrine to the first level you enter another chamber of the same size, (as the shrine) through which you can navigate to other chambers on that floor (also of the same size). On that level there are 9 total chambers. Some contain pirates for you to fight, some are puzzle rooms, and all have different access points.

So think of this as the floor layout with each number representing a room:

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9

Each chamber may have as little as one pathway leading to another chamber so you can potentially start at 5 and have to through rooms 8, 9, 6, 3, 2, and 1 before you can enter room 4 even though it is next to room 5 (this not the actual design; it's just an example). Some chambers also have no doorways leading to the main chambers on the same floor and instead can only be accessed by navigating through secret passages or via a staircase from another level.

That also means that some part of navigating a given level will involve going up and down. So, for example, you might be heading east through a bunch of chambers and run into a dead end, except for a staircase. You take the staircase up one level cross into the chamber to its east, then walk down the staircase in that chamber to continue on in the level you came from (again, as an example). You also may have to drop a pushable object on floor 2 in order to activate a button on floor 3 and if you didn't do that you'll have to backtrack (the mechanic for pushable objects didn't exist so I was hoping to get Contrare to code that or, alternatively, use monsters disguised as objects that were set to be able to teleport between maps).

Each level expands the number of available chambers so there are a wider array on floor 2 than floor 1. By the time you get to the bottom level there's a whole maze of chambers with all these different paths you can possibly take. Some paths make you pick between treasure and experience, some between monster fighting and puzzles, some are false paths, leading to trapped dead ends.

Chambers on the first floor are one map each, but multiple chambers start to be grouped into a single map as you descend. So, you'll come to a point where the following (with each number representing a chamber) is one map:

1 2
3 4

You would enter from another 2x2 chambered map at chamber 1 and then have to go to, say, chamber 4 to exit to another 2x2 chambered map. This offers the opportunity to be chased around in a circle by a monster or to engage in more complicated puzzles than are possible in maps that are simply one chamber large.

Much the same pattern as the original Ziggurat exists here, only in reverse. The top two floors are mainly devoted to pirates, then you have a largely undead priest/demon underbelly. The in-story explanation that I crafted was that the pirates are trying to take over the place from the priests and their demon overlords to use as a secret base and, also, they are seeking the fabled treasure that they believe is contained within it. So you'll potentially run into a chamber with a captured priest who is being tortured by the pirates and then chambers where there are lost pirate raiders in the undead/demon section. How you interact with some of these story elements will determine aspects of your progression.

I don't want to post screenshots of actual maps any longer because I don't trust people not to try to steal them. However, here's a photo I took from a pencil outline:

Click here to view image.

It's zoomed in to the first chamber of the first floor so you don't get to see the other eight chambers of that floor. The freaky looking things are palm trees, (I wanted to maintain the original sand plus palm tree design so I crafted an in-story explanation for why they are there when it is seemingly an indoor area). T stands for trap, M between two lines means the monster takes up multiple squares, and the boxes with dots are doors (so there's an inner wall with four doors in the center of the room, which is where you enter from).

The dungeon, as a whole, was not done-done. There were puzzle elements that I wanted to ask Contrare if he could code and I didn't finish all of the chambers. However, I had enough done to provide more content than the previous version and there was a proper path to the boss. The unfinished portions are off to the side stuff, so I figured they would be things that some people would try and fail to gain access to (which is always fun to me).

Anyway, as I said, a lot of work went into it, so I thought it worth talking about briefly even though it won't make it into the game. Maybe it will help people see the potential that complex dungeon designs had, though.

If anyone has questions, feel free to ask. And let me know if anyone is interested in more such talks. If so I can discuss the plans for additional gauntlets (in the style of the Alaria one) or more Magetown graveyard expansion stuff or whatever at some point or another.

Also, yes, this is Arilou speaking, not Tom.
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Old 07-13-2016, 01:14 PM
Rarkvar Rarkvar is offline
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Reading this makes me wish you'd stick around with the game and donate some of your areas, but as artist I completely understand your motives.

I actually really enjoyed reading this because game design has always an interest of mine, and the quality of your areas was always amazing. Did you always map out your areas on graph paper like this?
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Old 07-13-2016, 04:18 PM
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Arilou Arilou is offline
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I didn't necessarily draw anything ahead of time in the early days. Forgotten Oak was originally created by opening up a big map and randomly dragging earth terrain around. Then I started wondering why that would be there and concluded that it would be there in a ruins area. Cue opening up the structures folder and dropping ruined buildings around as the idea was forming in my head. Amita's original box map was similarly conceived and my early indoor maps were largely the product of opening a 25x25 map and filling them in. The results were not good.

I think the first thing I started mapping out by hand was the Forgotten Oak Skull Cave since it was a complex, multi-map dungeon with different paths that intersect. That was made after the release of Forgotten Oak and before Amita came out, two months later. The drawings for that were very basic outlines that I scribbled on a blank sheet of printing paper. Think simple shapes, about a couple inches in size, with dashes where I wanted the teleporters to be.

A lot of what I map out by hand takes that form; rough scribbles for the purpose of getting down where each hallway/rooms is and how they intersect. I didn't often get into where each item/monster should be at that stage or decide on the exact size of the map at that point.

In any case, I didn't start consistently doing that immediately after the Skull Cave, but I soon realized the importance of it, particularly as I moved away from one map areas and stated working on things like the Forgotten Oak Castle redo with the different hallways and rooms that link together and various complex dungeons.

The use of graphing paper to get everything down first was not common for me, but it was doable/necessary in the case of the Ziggurat since it combines a basic map design with a complex overall dungeon design. If I was creating a twisty cave map, for example, mapping out each square on graphing papers is more work than just doing it and isn't helpful enough to be worth the time sink it creates. What I would do, in that case, is draw the shape of the map first and mark teleporters/note the main enemies that should be in the map, but that's it. It's often important to do that regardless when working on games, in a general sense, because it helps when explaining to artists what they need to draw for you and, of course, it's critical if you don't have a map editor and have to write out the placement of everything in code, as Rhialto did for Wyvern's early maps. However, since we had a map editor the latter no longer applies and Wyvern map design was very individualistic so whatever you choose to draw is for your benefit only and not because you need team members to see what you want done ahead of time.

Getting back to the Ziggurat; since it's just equally sized box maps linked together it's not that difficult to do such detailed square by square work ahead of time and because of the complexity of the overall design it was critical for me to be able to see it all together ahead of time. When some rooms have four potential paths to connect to other maps and I only wanted to make two of those, on average, available to players it helps to know why those are the two available paths.

If I just drew a bunch of boxes on printing paper and inserted dashes to indicate teleporters, that teleporter placement wouldn't be well thought out. I needed to know that this was going to be a trap room, this was going to be an empty map, this was going to be a false path, this was going to be a pirate bar, etc., and I needed specific details about those maps before I could decide how to link them together. It's particularly involved when you also factor in jumping up and down between floors as a normal part of the player's progression and hidden corridors that secretly link to certain maps in different ways.

There are also instances where chamber space cuts into hidden corridor space by deviating from that box shape a bit and when that happens it's important to make sure there's still a viable path for players to navigate. For example, if I have one chamber below another chamber and I add an extra two lines of map space to the top of the bottom one, I then can't do the same to the bottom of the top map without blocking the hidden corridor pathway for players since it's real space. Meaning, if I took everything and put it together in one big map, it would all fit together perfectly. And, again, accomplishing that means mapping it out ahead of time because I didn't know that I wanted to add space to a map and where I wanted to add it to until I figured out what kind of map I wanted it to be. Hence the importance of hand drawing everything in this kind of detail.

But I didn't forgo simpler sketches altogether. I did do that as a rough draft. The more detailed graph paper drawings are the second draft.
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