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The Steady Process of Hold Organization (By Patrick Fisher)
The Steady Process of Organizing a Hold From Start to Finish (And beyond!)
When you think of making a hold, most people immediatly have the word "puzzles" or "rooms" come to mind, but that's not all of what you need in a hold. A hold should have good aesthetics, have all rooms easily accessible, and be entertaining for the player rather than be a bunch of rooms thrown together and slapped on the forum. Rooms are only half of the worry (Don't get me wrong, though. They are the most important part nontheless.). This article will take you through the making of a hold, from concept of rooms to recording speech. Of course, you can't do much without some rooms to work with, so let's take a quick gander there.
Creation of Rooms
Many other articles have been written on creating rooms and the thought process when doing so, so I'm not going to even try here. I highly recommend Matthew Cramp's "Birth of a Room" or The_Red_Hawk's "Using Monsters", as they provide excellent rooms ideas and lay out the process ebhind creating a room for you.
When making the rooms, don't worry about making them pretty yet or even worrying too much about entrances and exits for the room. All we want to do here is create a plethora of rooms that we will have at our disposal. We can pretty them up later.
Try not to keep count of the rooms either, as that can tend to put a bit of stress and pressure on you to create some more rooms. Rooms come best when inspiration hits, not when you feel pressured to add a couple of more rooms quickly to reach a set number.
Once you have an amount that you feel comfortable with, you need to start sorting your rooms.
Sorting your Rooms
(Remember: Control-C is your friend here for copying rooms, and Control-V pastes them. You'll be using them a lot in this stage.)
Now that you have a schwack of rooms at your disposal, now is the time to split them up into catagories. Whatever you choose, be sure to either keep the difficulty at a gradual pace to prepare the player, or keep the difficulty at a constant. Don't throw the most difficult rooms at the beginning, as that will both annoying the player and make the hold much less satisfactory. After all, if you complete the hardest room first thing, what's left?
Of course, with the sort comes weeding out all of the rooms that you think either won't fit your theme/difficulty level or that are simply not such good ideas after all. Take the rooms that are still good and leave them around. Either you'll find a way to make the rooms work in your new hold, or you'll save the rooms that are still good for another hold.
Good ideas for secrets are rooms that are still in theme to the level, but have a difficulty that is off-balance compared to the normal required rooms. That way, you can still have the room needed to fully complete the hold, but the player isn't required to pass it before continuing on.
Try not to set a number of levels for yourself, as that will really bring your hold down. If you try for too many levels, you may end up forcing yourself to create rooms in a hurry, and %90 of the time those rooms aren't as enjoyable as rooms where you cleverly thought of every detail in it. If you really feel that you should add more rooms in, just give yourself time. A painter never forces inspiration upon him/herself, but rather waits for inspiration to come to him/her. Normally, a good level had between 7-12 rooms, with about tow to three accessible at a time. That way, much like secret rooms, the player can attempt other rooms while stuck on one.
And, of course, odds are high you will need to make entrance and exit rooms for each level, but that will be covered in the next subsection.
Now that both the levels and the rooms are officially set in stone, now is the time to give your levels more of a theme. Firstly, choose what style you want, then decide on a general theme for it. Will this level take place outside? Is it in a level of a house with a bunch of hallways? Or is it just a normal, everyday(?) dungeon? How you answer those questions will decide on the general feel of the level, such as the amount of hallways and the floor tiles that you use. Outside levels tend to feel more open and happier, while generic dungeons have more of a solumn, 'down-to-buisness' feel. The puzzles you choose for this level should reflect the theme you choose.
This part is optional, but with the introduction of JtRH's scripting system, story is an easy and interesting addition to any hold. However, just like any movie or television show, the best thing to do is KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). While a story may be the main part, make sure not to overdo it and have script in every room. Make sure the focus of what the player is trying to accomplish, and keep it so that the vast majority of the script has a purpose that adds to either plot or character development.
I'll also add that it's best not to have scripts in extremly complicated rooms, as distracting the player could lead to treachery. It's fine to have speech and script in puzzles rooms, but be sure that it won't distract the player to much from the important tasks - clearing the rooms.
If you want to add an extra touch to your hold, you can add custom speech to your hold. Get together some people you know, and convince them to record some speech for you. Even better, JtRH 2.0.8 has the ability to export the game's speech when you export a hold simply by adding the ExportSpeechini parameter.
The best kind of mic for non-professional and easy desktop recording is just a simple desktop mic with a built in stand. While it won't be an extremly professional job, you won't have to worry about having to hold your mic up to your mouth and worry about moving it around.
When it comes to editing, I recommend a free program called Audacity. At the very least, you'll want to edit out the majority of the silence at the beginning and the end of the clips. More advanced things you can do involve removing the static and adding effects to the voices, but it's not necessary.
Many more articles have been written about releasing a hold to the Architecture forum, so all I'm going to say is that if you want your rooms checked but still remain a secret, relocate them after they have been confiremed to be problem-free. Finally, if you have a hidden "Master Wall" area, you'll probably want to leave it outof the beta you publically distribute. After all, you don't want the secrets to be shared publically on the forum before it gets released, do you? Just make sure that the puzzles you put in (If you do) are fully completable with no alternate or 'cheap' solving methods. Never let a perfect hold be ruined by untested secret rooms.
When testing is complete, all problems are fixed, all speech is recorded and imported, and all rooms ae ready to be released, then feel free to upload them to the "Holds" board for release on CaravelNet. Make sure you are logged in when you do this, else you will be unable to update the hold!!! You will have the option to make room images visible only if you have a CaravelNet subscription, and whether you want to check that or not depends on your hold. However, also remember that you have the option to hide rooms manually as well, so if that's your concern, then feel free to leave it open to people without CaravelNet. I would hope that you let non-CaravelNet users view room images, as it lowers the playing field for everyone.
Now that the hold has been published and people have started to submit scores, now is the time to do some quick housecleaning and reflecting.
First of all, if there are any rooms with no monsters or puzzles, be sure to create a one move demo for them, as that will prevent high scores for that room and any 'cheap' scores.
Secondly, when you look at the high scores, do you see any rooms that have lower scores than you expected them to have? If you need to, post in your hold's topic about how people found that alternate solution and how you could either change it or remember it for the next hold you make.
Third, be sure to check the ratings that people are giving you. Did they enjoy the hold? Did they find it enjoyably difficult or frustratingly tedious? Pleasent or downright horrible? If you feel that the votes are unfair, feel free to ask the forum why you received the marks you have. As I always say, Architecting is an art, and as such there is always room for improvement. The mistakes you make on one hold may help make your next hold better than possible before.
If you do need rooms tweaked because of unintended solutions or the dreaded "I swear I solved that room before" syndrome, be sure to hang on until all possible rooms that need updatng are known. Since updating is a rather nasty headache for both the authour and the players, it's best to make sure that only one update is required rather than having to update the hold one room at a time.
And with that, you now have a glistening beacon of puzzles shining brightly atop CaravelNet. With that under your belt, be sure to repay the people who tested your hold by doing a bit of testing on the Architecture forum yourself.