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Basic Hold Construction (By the CaravelNet Forum Members)
Much of the following has been gleaned by watching what others think about hold design. A large part down to personal taste, and how much time you're willing to invest in polishing your contribution...
These are some of the things that I consider, in varying degrees, important:
* If rooms are difficult, try to make it so the player always has more than one room to play, so they've less chance of becoming completely stuck, then bored because there's nowhere else to go and nothing else to do.
* If rooms are really, really difficult, consider making them optional.
* Make sure all rooms are finishable. If rooms are approachable from multiple directions, are they finishable from each of these?
* Make sure, if Beethro is required to backtrack at any point in a level, that he can actually do so. Check to see if any of your rooms are 'one way only' and whether they have a good reason for being so. If a room hasn't been completed and you can backtrack to it, can you finish it from the other direction?
* If possible, try to come up with a broad theme for your levels. Don't stick to it 100%, mix things up a bit, but perhaps give the player a few ideas to latch on to, so they feel like they're getting good at some particular set of skills. Players are then rewarded by their own increase in skill, and therefore self esteem.
* Don't use too many graphical themes on one level.
* Try to have a progression of difficulty across a level, or across the entire hold. Also consider interspersing difficult rooms with more moderate ones, or somehow pacing your level so you don't traumatise the player. You're an entertainer. The player is not your victim upon whom you are conducting a relentless, merciless campaign of evil experiments. Though that's not to say there isn't a place for evil experiments...
* Reward the player. Rewards need not be obvious. They could besecret rooms or areas. Artwork. Jokes (in the form of scrolls, or 'room jokes') Challenges for rooms they've already completed and may want to go back to try again to do more elegantly, or differently. A story to follow. Basically, something, anything, to retain attention and focus.
* If you're going to make a room which involves large amounts of hack+slash, make checkpoints readily available. If Beethro has to swing his sword for 5 minutes straight, have a checkpoint right next to him. If he has to clear a lot of tar, place checkpoints every minute or two of progress, or after each discrete section.
* Checkpoints before anything difficult or subtle. Don't make the player restart a room because you just trapped him in a dead end.
* Checkpoints in exit rooms let players look at their complete levels in the restore menu, and they'll look all nice and neat. If they visit an exit room before completing the level, they will never, otherwise, see this. Plus, if there are optional secrets on a level, we don't want to force players to re-complete any rooms they've already done.
* Have fun, and don't take all of these rules too seriously. Playability can be tweaked, and there are lots of cool DROD players ready and willing to provide feedback. More, if you decide to join in...
* Don't be reticent about providing feedback yourself. Make it constructive, and if you've something harsh to say, make it diplomatic.
If you're revealing secrets about someones hold, place [secret] [/secret] tags around them in the forums. If you like a hold, positive feedback will encourage the author to provide more of the same. If you provide no feedback, and noone else does either, that may well mean no more holds from the same author. The only payment an architect recieves is the positive feedback of their peers.
The regulars on the Caravel Games Forums have been building holds even before Architect's Edition was released, so they know a thing or two about playability. These tips were compiled by Stuart Knapton, who is keen to stress that he's just the messenger.