Stuff Under the Header



I love days off. It means I can do what I like to do most, which isn't actually playing games. I much prefer to make them, experiment, and such. DT isn't the only game I make these days, but that isn't something that I want to show yet, nor will I probably affiliate it with this blog. I'm still unsure if I will even mention on this blog, games that I make for profit.

Anyway, I've been asked a few questions about my process at times, and most of the time, they are simply answered only to the person asked. I have been asked on a few occasions how I go about making my levels. This process changes per level/map. It depends on the complexity and general flow, BUT most of them do start out the same way.

An in-progress interior level.

Here's a shot of a map that's still in the layout/planning process. I'll usually start with an empty grid (16x16 pixels per tile, sometimes 32x32) in a paint program and pencil in the static level collision. Giving myself notes and such on the image of what should happen, what I want the player to do at times, and all that.

The colors of notes/scribbles don't usually mean anything specific. Since I'm the only one looking at these, I don't have any sort of standard for that. In groups, this would obviously be different. They're usually drawn to scale so I can drop it in the game as a static background in the map editor. For both quickly getting the collision done and play-testing/tweaking. At this point, changes are super easy and quick to make. The screenshot above is indeed in-game.

Once the graphical details are tiled in, it takes a lot longer to make changes, so I like to tweak the level before moving on. Sometimes even before this step, the layout (with notes) is drawn on paper since that's even quicker. The lines in the screenshot are clean and straight, but I have a quick method for that. (Yay shortcut keys.) There are times when the graphical details are made as I go. For simpler maps, usually boss rooms, I'll do this. Even if the layout needs to be changed later, for these maps, it isn't a hassle at all. The more complex a map is due to anything, be it enemy/trap placement, puzzles, etc, the more planning that goes into it.


Kurtis Haren said...

First off, I'd like to thank Slaix for his recommendation on the editing software. I'll give it a try as soon as possible, I'd really like to get back into doing videos. (Posting this here because I figured it would be read sooner than the previous post)

Anyways, I wanted to ask, do you use a huge image for your graphics, or do you tile them? It's just that it sounds as though you draw out the level first, and then import the whole picture as a background and add solidity to the foreground. I thought that process would make the game run slower or take longer to load than tiling the graphics for the game.

Just curious about the technical side to this. You see, I've been trying to make a Game Maker game using Kirby graphics, and found that while the platforms are generally 16x16, the graphics are actually broken down into 8x8. This is taking forever to fill out large levels with such itty-bitty tiles.

ZephyrBurst said...

That's a good question. I tile everything. There are a few exceptions, but they are few and far between. Having a huge image for each map would be redonkulous. As for taking longer to load, no way. If I went that route, I'd keep them as external sources and load them in as needed, removing those that are unnecessary.

I prefer tiling things myself though. For setting up the tileset, a few things I recommend. Because of the way you'll be selecting your tiles, have your sets be larger in height than width. For example, use 128x256 rather than 256x128.

Even though SNES tiles are actually 8x8, for ease of use, I'll still break it down into 16x16 pieces. Then I'll have 8x8 pieces slipped in for the small details. I try to set up my tilesets efficiently, but also based on how I'll be building a level, so I can grab larger set pieces if needed. This does cause a bit of redundancy in the tileset, but that bit of extra pixel space is a non-issue these days. You're not gonna have major lag problems because you tacked on an extra 128 pixels or what have you.

Here's the tileset I used for Gate C:
You'll notice plenty of redundancy in certain places, but I set it up in a way that would speed up my workflow. I know the image is 192x176. 192 is the widest I set up my tilesets.

A nifty thing about Game Maker tiles is you can change the size of tiles any time without screwing up anything. I'll often times have my background(tileset) open in the GM window and change it from 16x16 to 8x8 when needed.