Thursday, February 11, 2016

Text Based Building

I've mentioned building before, and I also mentioned how it's kind of tough to write about. It's hard to talk about, too. Every time someone asks me what I've been doing lately, it's a choice between "basically nothing," or attempting to explain this building process to them.

I'm going to try to shed a little more light on it today and what exactly I'm talking about.

If this is your first time hearing about this and you aren't already bored, I initially wrote a post to explain exactly what Cleft of Dimensions is, and then I briefly and inadequately explained what building is in a different post. If you already know what a MUD is, it's that.

Building is the way that areas are created within the game. The rooms are created and linked together, named and described, and then the rooms are filled with friendly creatures, or not so friendly creatures, stuff to loot, find, buy or steal, and then the whole place is programmed to function as desired. Building is done with a set of code that allows the builder to create in real time while logged in, rather than however they used to do it, which I wouldn't know. It was probably harder.

The process is long and I'm certain unexciting to watch. It's not like watching someone play a game. It's a slow and careful process and involves a lot of double checking things immediately after making them. If you don't review and ensure things are going as planned immediately, debugging it can be incredibly tough.

Showing the entire building process in one post would be exhausting and far too many words for any sane person to read in one setting, so this post will just briefly show what piecing together the rooms that make up the area looks like.

To note, this area that I'm building is based off of Sunsnug Isle, the palico town, from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and includes two of the areas from the game as well. The area focuses more on the actual palicos as hireable pets that can be outfitted and trained, with a good dash of monster hunting.

First thing's first: Creating Rooms

So what you do is create a room using a virtual number. That room is now a location that can be linked to or have other rooms created from. The 'dig' command creates a new room and automatically links to it from the room you're in. I created room 8418, named it, then dug northwest to simultaneously create and link room 8419. I then went into room 8419 and dug northwest again to create and link room 8420. From 8420, I dug northeast to create and link room 8421. Tah-dah~

You can name and describe rooms as you go, but I can't imagine the kind of person who would do that. I do sometimes write little notes so that when I cross check what has been created with my drawn maps, I have a few things to go off of.

During the creation process, it's handy to have notes in your room descriptions, even if you have the information written down on a paper map. There is no set-in-stone set of steps you have to follow to build - you could technically make mobs and objects and write codes before building the area's rooms if you wanted, but it would just be counter intuitive. Personally, if I have things like 'hidden crawl spaces', even though those require codes and mobiles to create, I consider them to be part of the map, and as such, I'll make them before I completely describe and finish all the rooms.

I make sure to put notes in both rooms if there's going to be some kind of connection. Here, both 8426 and 8423 have notes showing that a hidden crawl space will connect them.

You can link rooms together without dig with the word 'link', which is how you link together already built rooms. If you want to be able to go a multitude of directions from one room, you have to link those rooms together manually. You can create a one-way link with the word 'room', which is what I did here. Now, going down from 8431 leaves you stranded in 8432. Until I finish piecing it together, of course.

It's important to double check your base map of the area after putting it together. Here, I had linked the wrong room down from 8421. Oops.

After piecing together the map: Naming and Describing Rooms

Every room starts out blank. You need to give it a name and a description, plus any additional flags. If you want the room to always be dark and need a light source to see inside of it, you need to do that yourself. If the room is indoors, you have to set that, or else you'll see the weather change or the sunrise and sunset from that room. If it's supposed to be a cave, that would be pretty silly.

The spice of life in creating is coloring things. Since it's just walls and walls of text, good coloring not only looks nice, but it helps differentiate between not only rooms, but which blocks of text you're reading in general. If everything was white, it would all blend together pretty monotonously. I generally have to test colors a dozen times before I find what I like. These will be the preface titles to the majority of the rooms. You'll either be on Sunsnug Isle, in the Primal Forest, or in the Sunken Hollow. I keep these color codes in a notepad so I can copy paste them for any room, which is particularly helpful if I decide to change the name later.

After naming and describing, you get a completed looking little room. This description is obviously temporary.

When you're in the room editor, showing the room information looks like this. I can see its description and name, as well as its area, the area's file name, the virtual number of the room, and all this other stuff.

A Builder's Best Friend: Maps and Notes

While building, I have a physical notebook, along with physical maps, and one to several notepads.

This notepad has important information written in it, including those color codes for the room names from earlier. As I begin to create objects and mobs, this notepad will get filled with... well, notes.

I write temporary notes in my computer notepad, while I write the more concrete information down on my physical notebook. There are some things that are just more helpful to have written down physically than on the computer, while stuff like the color codes would be pointless to have written in a physical notebook.

some scribbles from my last area - this is part of a list of objects and their vnums

The physical maps are some of the most helpful things while building. You'll probably have to click on them to see any details, but I draw them on graph paper, typically 3x3 squares for each room so that I can write notes in the actual room squares. This planning tool is incredibly useful and having it physically is much easier to work with and reference.

Sunsnug Isle

Primal Forest

Sunken Hollow

The particularly detail-oriented may notice that I accidentally drew the last two maps opposite of each other. Primal Forest starts with the lower rooms at the top of the page, while Sunken Hollow starts with the upper rooms near the top of the page. That will probably cause confusion for me if I don't redraw them.

I have 6 separate maps for the entirety of my previous area - it was almost 150 rooms big. This one is currently slightly less than 50 total rooms, so it's much easier to show off.

If you've made it this far, you might be interested in these other two pictures: the planning stages of Sunken Hollow and Primal Forest.

Primal Forest - not so bad

Sunken Hollow - what happened here

The areas in Cleft of Dimensions are typically based off of other source materials. My first area was Animal Crossing, my second was the movie Spirited Away, and this third one is of course MH4U. I try to make my maps reminiscent of the actual areas in the source material, as well as having a lot of things with similar names and appearances. I would be lying if I said it didn't make the creation process a little easier, but it's particularly a great deal of fun to recreate games I personally enjoy in a new dimension, so to speak.

bad joke?

It's still not exactly the easiest thing to do. This particular area is going to be very challenging to make - I don't get to utilize the same mechanics that are actually present in MH4U, I have to figure out how to adapt them to the mechanics I have available to me in this game. The biggest hurdle I'm looking at is that I would like to have a few actual big, tough monster fights for higher level players. The monster hunter playstyle doesn't translate well into a game with an autoswing and no active dodging and rolling around, so it's going to be interesting to see how I pull it off while keeping it in the Monster Hunter spirit.

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