Zelda3C DiaryNovember 11, 2007 - Usually when I take longer than a month to update this page, emails start rolling in to remind me. Not long ago, I received one called "Link has a message for you" from a guy named eggz. Inside, I found this:
I laughed pretty hard over it. :) Let the update begin!
Last week, I FINALLY had enough money to replace my hard drive! Out came the failing 40 gig, and in went the promising 120 gig. With this, my laptop is back to normal! :) The old drive had indeed taken serious damage from overheating. I've cleaned the machine with compresses air; the fan is working and I'm free to get my computer life back in order.
While this means I can get back to progress as usual with Calatia, it doesn't mean any major work has been done lately. I've taken this time to slightly get caught up on gaming (Yay, Phantom Hourglass!) while Reshaper256 has been buried in college work. I haven't heard from our musician friends lately, either; I guess we've all been taking some time off.
Now that I have a like-new computer in front of me, I'm eager to return to overworld creation. Last time, I was working on the hills north of town, as best I could with only Hyrule Magic. Toward the end, I had to quit because my tile-specific editor wouldn't display blocks properly on my old Windows 98 computer. My next step, then, is to create the common-graphics blocks that happen to not yet exist in the ROM. After that, I can focus on the next major section of the overworld, which connects many areas together.
It's great to be back!
September 30, 2007 - I've been receiving lots of update reminders, lately; it's time to sit down and write about the great news and awful news of the month. I'll get the bad news out of the way first, but keep reading! This is one of the most important diary entries I've ever written.
The bad news, of course, is that my ability to work on Zelda3C continues to be restricted. My time is always limited, but with my laptop still in a coma, overworld progress has grinded to a halt. When I try turning it on, I get a message warning that the hard drive will crash soon. When I run CheckDisk, it processes a long time until the laptop finally shuts off. I reinstalled XP a while back but the machine continues to freeze up. With so many corrupted system files turning up like dead fish, I know I at least need a new hard drive, which I can't afford yet, and possibly other components as well.
I do have my old '98 computer, here, but it's so limited that I can barely stand using it. Multi-tasking is a slow and dangerous game. The small monitor requires excess scrolling in Hyrule Magic. My prorams (and my own memory) don't agree whether my files are located in C:\Zelda3C\ or D:\Laptop_Backup\Zelda3C... [Yes, I could just pick one, but I don't want to settle down here.] These frustrations are really minor, but the major blow comes from my overworld block creator not functioning. The automatically-generated / cropped bitmap tiles are completely misaligned on the canvas. I've created a new outdoor area in HM, but it can't be finalized until I create the cliff pieces, tree segments, and "man-made" objects that don't yet exist. I'm really not looking forward to digging through my code, just for this.
My plan is to swap hard drives in the laptop, run diagnostics, and then make a decision from there. I even had one person email me an offer to buy his old computer (sorry for not replying!) but I don't know if or when I should just get a new machine. 'Normal' is definitely further away than I'd thought. :(
Now then, there's plenty of good news!! :) Even though I've been KO'd for the time being, two of my Zelda3C assistants have been really busy. MikePouch, one of the musicians, has written several original songs and transposed them into Hyrule Magic! They are works in progress, but so far, they have potential! I wrote him a really long email last week with critical, yet encouraging feedback from myself and a few other people. Some of the songs he's composed don't have a place in Zelda 3's tracklist, but we're working on expanding the ROM to hold even more music than currently possible.
The greatest news of all, which Reshaper256 has finally agreed to unveil, is the creation of NEW monsters in the game!!! He has studied the "DNA" of Zelda 3's monsters, in detail, for at least a year now. He has mapped out scores of routines which handle everything from AI to terrain interaction. Every aspect of a sprite can be changed, including strengths, weaknesses, collisions, animations, behavior... everything.
This has sent shockwaves through my plans for new monster graphics. All this time, Josh and I have been replacing sprite graphics so that creatures can be reused as supposedly 'new' enemies. Make a crab into a deeler. Make a soldier into a moblin. Now, most of our graphics are still valid, but they will actually be used with sprites made from scratch! A deeler can descend via web strand, and then hop around like its Zelda 2 counterpart. A wizzrobe won't have to appear in the same place every time; it can randomly materialize and chase Link. Soldiers will have real, inpregnable shields, and new traps will behave in unexpected ways. There will be new things that fly, new things that crawl, new things that chase... If we can dream it up, we can probably bring it to life.
To manage the flood of new ideas we've already generated ourselves, I've created a new Excel spreadsheet program. This one has a table of contents at the beginning with links to monster data sheets. Each of these sheets is based on a template form. As I fill them out, I embed their graphics and write their descriptions & requirements. I select options in various fields, like "Location: Outdoors, Indoors, Both", "Category: Friendly, Monster, Boss, Non-Living"... etc. (Yes, we're talking about creating new bosses, some day, though it's a pipe dream right now.) Beside each of Link's listed weapons are the options, "is fatal, is normal, is weak, stuns awhile, stuns barely, deflected" ... And of course, there are many True/False fields for such things as "Wall collision, Travels over water, Can fall in holes, Counts as Must-Kill," etc. There's even a small section for friendly sprites, which covers whether they can talk, walk around, and whether Link can walk through them.
All these concepts and abilities take time to implement. For the most part, we can't just pump them out as soon as we envision them. So far, we have one creature designed completely from scratch. Its movement, awareness of Link, attack patterns, and weaknesses are all brand new. Back in the day, it was the very first Zelda monster I ever fought. And as you'll see in the YouTube videos (!!!), it behaves just like its Hylian cousins. Thanks again to Josh Noullet for the graphics and Reshaper256 for so many hours of development.
Reshaper256 recorded his progress as he developed the blue bot sprite. The 1st video shows a major landmark -- we were excited just to have creatures on the screen that look normal, cause damage, and can be killed. In the 2nd video, they can actually move around. Notice how they animate differently, depening on whether they're traveling or sitting still. The 3rd video shows that they're programmed to be aggressive. They don't just hop around anymore -- they attack! The 4th video shows that there's strength in numbers.
[A few notes about these videos, since I know you're going to ask -- No, the boomerang won't necessarily set them on fire. Yes, we're going to fix the way they look when frozen or taking damage. Yes, we're still considering how high / fast a bot can jump. And no, Zelda 3 locations are never used in Zelda3C.]
As you can see, in the wake of the Laptop Failure, I've had a lot to think about and keep me busy. The overworld may not be developing, but the game as a whole is progressing beyond every hope I've ever had.
August 19, 2007 - Things have been chaotic in Calatia, the past month. If you've been reading the message board, you know that my laptop has been sealed by malicious forces; I can't use it to work on Zelda3C. Although XP won't boot up, I've gained access to the hard drive; all my data is recovered and copied to my old Win '98 machine. I still need to reinstall XP as well as all my old programs, but things will get back to normal eventually.
The last thing I was doing before the laptop failed was overhauling the graphics of Epoch Tower. Although the design and concept are awesome (and secret), it was seriously begging for more colors and details. (Same as the castle, a while back.) The laptop crash may have been a Big Chest in disguise -- since then, I've talked with Reshaper256 about an ASM hack that will make the tower even more incredible. He's pretty sure the new idea will work; once he finishes his part, I'll be redrawing in a much different way.
In the meantime, I'm working on Noisy Hill, a small area north of town where kids go to play. The path at the base of the hill leads out to the rest of Calatia. There are ladders, ledges, tall grass, bushes, and flowers, all surrounded by trees. It's basically a fun, safe place to run around. I'm already almost done because there are no special graphics to worry about. No new blocks to create.
I actually can't use my tile-level overworld editor because it doesn't work on this machine! I don't understand why -- it was originally designed on here, then improved on the laptop. But the auto-cropped bitmaps are coming out larger than the spreadsheet cells, and they aren't lining up with the grid. I could probably work out the programming issues, but I'd rather just wait for my laptop. There are plenty of areas that don't require new structures.
I'm not the only one who's been busy lately -- Reshaper256 is making major progress on the ASM procedure he's developing. I can't get anyone's hopes up yet, but it's something really amazing. Also, I have two new people joining the team, and they're both musicians! JILost and Mike Pouch are both experienced composers with a passion for both music and Zelda. Mike has just finished a soundtrack for a movie his friends have developed. JILost is familiar with Hyrule Magic's music editor and has already used it to transpose two more songs. I have high hopes for their combined efforts! :)
July 21, 2007 - Today marks the completion of Harmony Forest! Every tree, log and bush is wrapped in dense foliage, sprinkled with dead leaves and split by narrow trails. I spent the afternoon polishing all the minor issues that didn't hurt the appearance but could look better. The entire forest is one huge, flawless painting; everything is in 'harmony' with a natural flow and a professional finish.
Looking over the whole thing, I can see why it took so much time. Every object's edge had to line up with all the other objects' edges in ways that looked great and didn't cause gameplay issues. It's deceptively simple in execution, but no one may ever truly grasp the work and decisions involved. I made tree quantities a priority, yet I didn't merge them together in "wall" form very often. This is because doing so would give me less control over where paths and other objects could lie, and my requirements for this forest were strict. I followed a map I drew on paper of the different routes and how they connect and approach the river. Comparing the two, I'm amazed that I didn't have to give up any of my plans. It all fit, but just barely. I really love the results.
This is the entrance to the forest.
This area isn't far from the entrance.
Here's the river again, this time with
This is as deep into the forest
Forest euphoria aside, I'm ready to move into a task I've been putting off for awhile. Remember how much better the castle looked when I "painted in" some real detail over the initial graphics? Epoch Tower, which has never been revealed, needs the same graphical improvement. This clock tower suffers not just from a palette limitation, but from a tile limitation as well. I used the Sanctuary tileset for this tower, which also includes tombstones. There aren't any graves near the tower, but I expected to use the same tileset in the graveyard, just as Nintendo had done. I've finally accepted that this tower's role is far too important to set limitations. This landmark will retain its same unusual shape, but it has plenty of room for more detail. Once I increase the colors, graphics, and tile count, the difference will be astounding.
After I finish this overhaul, I'm going to focus on the area north of Calatia Castle. This, like most upcoming areas, will be hard to write about. My spoiler rule for Zelda3C dictates that the reader should see all of what Link could've seen growing up, so that it will appear familiar during gameplay, yet nothing that Link couldn't have seen as a child. This next area, like the tower, is a "grey area" -- Link has surely been there, but I don't want to reveal it right away. I know it doesn't seem fair, but I have my reasons. :)
Anyway, it's great to finally have the forest behind me. I've been clawing through it so long, it felt like the whole game revolved around it. Moving forward once more is very refreshing.
July 1, 2007 - No one suspects that I'll post again so soon after Friday; surprise! I have a few reasons -- the first regards the message board for Zelda 1 on GameFAQs. Someone started a thread there for Outlands and it's been running strong for about a year. The last post was 6/28/07. There are 33 pages at the time of this writing; this is the most Outlands content I've ever seen in one place!
The thread is located here. I must warn you, however, that it's saturated with every kind of spoiler you can imagine. If you're thinking of using it to get hints, you might want to have a friend search it on your behalf, or just email me instead. It's so huge that you will see many other answers before encountering your particular question.
I also wanted to talk further about the rant I unleashed the other day. Don't anyone be startled -- even I can be overwhelmed by the attention to detail required by this project. Everything has to "fit" in the forest -- this means there has to be enough trees without obstructing certain paths, and all the sections critical to certain parts of the adventure have to be squeezed in. (You pass through the forest during the game's beginning, as well as during the initial quest and beyond, for different reasons.) This is the "nose-to-the-grindstone" part of game development, but I'm happy to keep at it.
Last, I thought I should mention those "other hacks" in more detail for those who are curious:
- Before I started Outlands, I was working on Mariopoly, a graphics / text hack of Monopoly which brought together various characters and places in the Nintendo universe. I changed the pieces you move, the deeds you buy, and the "Chance/Community Chest" cards to match this new theme. It's a great piece of work and it was close to completion before I started playing with Zelda. Only a few bugs and adjustments remain.
- Battle of Olympus is one of my favorite NES games ever. Long ago (during Outlands development) I thought hard about how easily I could convert it into another Zelda adventure. There are so many similarities to Zelda II and the Zelda universe, it's uncanny. I have a long list of graphical changes I would make, and I've already rewritten ALL of the text. It would take a long time to make; Zelda3C comes first.
- Crystalis could be described the same way as the above, except I haven't ever done any work on it. A fan wrote me, not too long ago, with the idea of making this into a Zelda game. His suggestions were intriguing; I would love to "Zeldafy" this game as well, someday. Back when Challenge Games was around, someone was going to make a challenge hack with this ROM. Maybe I could pick up where they left off?
- Last but not least, Zelda II. This was my first NES game, other than Super Mario / Duck Hunt. It has inspired me to create new games since I was 12 years old. I've always wanted to see a brand new world made with this game's engine, offering new villages and palaces for anyone who loves the original. I've never attempted to edit this game either, but the editor, data, and even a Zelda2C by x-4000 are already out there. I would love to start a new quest from scratch. It would be nothing like the original. :)
Alright -- I have the whole day to work on Zelda3C; I'm going to attack the forest again. I already finished another session yesterday; I think it will come together well without many more problems. Wish me luck!!
June 29, 2007 - I was afraid to look... Could I have really started the forest LAST YEAR? It's true. I started switching around the tiles' graphics and setting the first blocks back in 2006. If I hadn't been keeping a diary, I would be very upset and bewildered. I'm still upset, but at least it makes some sense. Things have come up, both in-game and in life, this year, as they always do. I've spent time on non-forest things, such as the Saria river and ASM pursuits / fixes. I thought things would move faster after the challenges of Calatia Castle and the complexities of the new town houses. That's all behind me, and the forest is more than half-way done. I'm mostly repeating blocks in new combinations, at this point, so the whole thing will be ready soon.
But my need to create is getting out of hand. I absolutely LOVE making mazes, puzzles, secrets, story, scenarios, and other stages for gameplay. But the "big picture brainstorming" is long over. For the past months, I've felt like I'm putting together a jigsaw puzzle. This doesn't look right against that. No, I can't extend the foliage that direction. Where's that block where the sides wrap from east-bound to north-bound? No, the one without a piece of tree roots in it!
Off and on, I've been assaulted by inspiration. Ideas with bad timing. Concepts for other ROM-hacks that are incredibly genius, fresh and exciting. Yes, I still get excited about Zelda3C. But it's the notion of "one-tenth dreaming, nine-tenths implementing" that sometimes gets me down. I have all these earth-shattering ideas for Zelda3C that can only be created a fraction a week. In many ways, Zelda3C was finished years ago. In my head. On paper. In Excel. Why can't I be faster at actually making it all real?
Outlands only took me a year to make. Six months to learn the ROM and write my editors. Six more months to dream up and lay out an adventure. If I had known Zelda3C would take me well over 5 years, I might have stuck with NES games. I know most people could never stay focused this long. Of course, NES games aren't "super" like Zelda 3 -- there isn't as much content to change. There isn't nearly as much data to conquer. But the ultimate results will overshadow most any NES hack.
I seriously have detailed documents which describe my plans for four different NES rom hacks. Five, if you count a potential sequel to Outlands. The others are Battle of Olympus, Crystalis, Monopoly, and Zelda 2. BoO and Monopoly (yes, Monopoly -- trust me) actually pre-date Outlands, though BoO has made a comeback in my mind with even more ideas. Crystalis and Zelda 2 are more recent daydreams. (Hey, I have to have something to think about during the hour commute to work each day!)
I haven't spent any serious time on these projects, yet -- I would much rather see Zelda3C progress. I just wish, somehow, that building each and every section of the overworld were as quick as drawing it on paper. This game is the ultimate test of patience, but it's a labor of love I just can't set aside.
By the way, in case you wanted to read some actual news, I've finished Session 15 of the forest. This means I solved all the river's edge issues and went on to work with the area above the river's cliff. There's a large hollow log resting horizontally along its rim -- it looks close enough to fall to the river below. A few different paths head further into the forest, waiting for more trees. While they aren't intended to get you lost, you may lose yourself in the places they lead.
June 23, 2007 - Today's diary entry illustrates the kind of unexpected problems I run into on a regular basis. After I completed unlucky Session 13, I ran the ROM (no ASM applied; no shade foreground) and made my way to the far end of the river. I had no real reason to test the newest blocks -- I just wanted to make absolutely certain that Link couldn't leave Calatia by following the river.
Two things went wrong. First, I swam in the water rocks to see if it felt clumsy. It was great until I pushed 'up' -- Link jumped out of the water and INTO the mountain! I know I moved the shallow edge awfully close to the grassy shore, but I didn't expect this! It reminds me of getting trapped under the palace stairs in Zelda 2 when you use the fairy glitch and get stuck.
I knew I could fix this by placing another water rock at the foot of the cliff. But then I wondered if Link could jump down on top of it. Not only could Link get in front of the foliage, but he could also walk off the world's edge! :( It doesn't look like it, but the bottom row of foliage tiles are path tiles; Link can walk east, scroll to the next screen, and get stuck in a different mountain on the west side of Calatia. Forever.
The only way to keep Link out of the narrow path is to use mountain ridges -- those natural borders that keep you from jumping down. I only hope that I can get the foliage close enough to the ridges to prevent another path to doom.
There are more unfinished places on display, such as the extra piece in the water and the extra tree leaves. It's a slow process, but at least the entire river is finished!
May 28, 2007 - How far into the woods can you go? ... Halfway -- after that, you're headed out of the woods. Concluding Memorial Day weekend, I'm as far into Harmony Forest as I can get. :) An entire quadrant is completed, with two other quadrants in progress. The Saria river runs smoothly from one end of the woods to the other, stopping just short of reaching Hyrule, at map's end.
The forest is coming together faster because most of the 16x16 (bush-sized) blocks are finished. Remaining are the "vertical log door" blocks which allow entrance tags to take you indoors. Everything else can be arranged quickly without too much effort.
While this raises me above the tile level, there are still many details to consider. The forest is not just a series of trees. Foliage winds and wraps around the trees, hugging the hills and splitting into paths. It's a painting of elements that connect, seamlessly, like decorated walls in a maze. I can't wait to reach the other side...
May 16, 2007 - I couldn't remember the last time I posted, but I'm glad to see it's only been a month. Real life has taken over since that time -- I think I've only been allowed one Saturday morning for Calatia. There's been a lot of cleaning, painting, and moving furniture, plus lots of family events. It's gotten to where I'm not used to sitting in this chair... Luckily, things are calming down now; I'm promised this Saturday to make as much progress as I want.
A few days after I revealed the no-cliffs river, I discovered a conflict in a different part of the game. An ASM hack, otherwise brilliant, was ruining the appearance of this kind of shoreline. With no way NOT to use this shoreline in this area, and with no way of contacting the ASM writer, I was flat-out devastated. All my hard work, only to find limitations in its use. (Sorry, I'm bound to be vague on the exact problem.)
Eventually, I trusted this ASM hack to an anonymous friend of mine. He worked with the code, deciphered its use, and found a way to fix the problem! In the meantime, having halted work for fear of starting over, I studied over some ASM documents and learned the basics of Assembly! I'm already a proficient programmer; I couldn't get my hands on enough material! It's nice to be able to read and understand how some of my ASM hacks work. Who knows -- I may write my own, someday.
I may never have to, though -- the same guy who fixed the shoreline conflict has agreed to become an official part of the project! He's studying many different parts of the game's code, making frequent discoveries. There's a new ASM hack in the works that I almost revealed just now, but as always, ASM hacks are top secret.
I now have two people I can turn to for specialized help -- the other guy is Josh, graphics artist extraordinaire. (The guy who wrote the ASM hacks would make three, if ever I can reach him. Maybe I ought to open ICQ more often...) It's great to have help, but I can't wait to make more of my own progress!
April 14, 2007 - Last week, I uploaded screenshots of the incomplete forest river, showing how dirt trail can be converted to grassy shore. This week, I've decided to show the near-completed river with not a trace of dirt in sight! Before I do, though, take a look at Session 4. These are the blocks I created in my editor this morning. I used every bit of my canvas space this time!
It doesn't always look pretty in Excel, since the bitmaps that load don't always match the palette I'm using, but it gets the job done! This took somewhere in the neighborhood of four hours to complete. That's still an incredible amount of time for one session, but as "things" get created, I don't have to recreate them every time for every area.
I took this picture without the forest background just to show what other non-mountain rivers in Calatia will look like. If you think this looks good, you should see it animated! I can't tell you how proud I am of this river.
This is the river with the background applied. The shade makes things much darker; I'm thinking of adding more breaks to add sunlight. It still bugs me that the shade doesn't animate when it's over the water, but it can't be helped. It's not so bad when you aren't thinking about it, lol...
I wonder where I'll focus in Session 5? Wherever I go, I'll need lots of trees!
April 9, 2007 - Hey look, it hasn't been a month since my last entry! ...I haven't posted any screenshots since the revamped castle... Well, there aren't any forest areas large enough to fill an entire screen, but I can at least show examples of what I've been writing about.
This was Session 2 of the forest, created a while back. (Session 1 is a secret.) A session in my editor can only be 4x7 blocks at most; this one is 4x5. It took a lot of consideration to make this -- if Link were able to walk north or south before jumping in the water, it would cause a scrolling error. This is because he entered this screen from the bottom corner of a smaller screen. (A scrolling error would show the top of said screen underneath the bottom of said screen, should Link return to said screen.) Why am I telling you this? LOL
So there you have it, one of the first horizontal logs in Zelda 3. The shade background makes things darker than I'd expected; you can't always see graphical details as well, such as the foliage as it hugs the new tree roots, nor the new mini trees Josh drew up. I guess that makes the sunshine breaks all the more enjoyable. And yes, I realize the sunlight on the water's surface doesn't animate & distort with the water... but I still like it. (The two patches of light on the river were a complete coincidence -- I didn't plan that.
This image is taken from Hyrule Magic. I often plan out paths and shapes in this rough way, to make sure everything will fit, unless I've used graph paper. Here a wide trail has been mostly planned out, but no, Harmony Forest does not have a major road running through it... The reason I gave texture to all trails is so they can border water. All they need is a palette change.
This is the completion of Session 3 and the first use of trail as shoreline. It is 4x7 in size and includes more foliage blocks. There's still a lot of dirt to convert to water. See how the deep water turns to shallow and meets grass instead of mountain? This only happened a select few times in Zelda 3, and each time, it required special grassy shore graphics to be loaded. In Calatia, this kind of river can be created anywhere.
Geographically, this is further upstream of the Saria River, which Link crossed in Zelda 2 on his way to Death Mountain. Don't worry, there won't be any skeleton fish leaping from the water... Time to start Session 4!
March 17, 2007 - Oh, wow. I don't even know how to write this. I can't write this -- it's a spoiler so big, it will get people too excited too soon. Well, prepare yourself for an unfair diary entry.
I just tested one of the biggest, secret changes to Zelda 3. It couldn't be fully tested since its implementation a few years ago; over time I forgot how cool it is, how significantly it impacts the overworld. I knew that after I finished the first part of the new forest, I needed to test it again. This morning, rolling my eyes, I thought, "Let's get this over with."
I found that I was dreading it. After all, I've put a lot of effort into planning Link's itinerary -- if this failed, I would have to rethink his quest plans. I loaded the ROM. (Amazing how infrequently I actually play it, considering how much time goes into making changes.) I laughed about how all the sprites were misplaced because the town had changed so much. And then I entered the forest.
My jaw dropped. Seriously, it was like I was playing someone else's hack. Did I create this? Everything was so much better than I expected, so perfect -- I coudn't think of a single thing I would change. Instead of burying myself in more work, more fixes, I beheld the finished effect. It's amazing!!
I promised myself I would never reveal this aspect of the game; I still won't. This is something I hope everyone encounters as they play it, not as they sift through screenshots. I know some will discover it via other sites' screenshots, after upload day. Anyway, I'm sorry I can't unveil this, but trust me, you're going to like it. :)
The forest is a big place, and so far, I have but two screens of foliage, trees, and logs. Time to see how much more I can finish before the baby wakes up!
February 18, 2007 - I have completely finished playing Twilight Princess. I had *lots* of fun playing this game. It's definitely on par with Ocarina of Time -- in many ways, this game is much more improved. I thought about starting a new game and skipping all heart containers and pieces of heart, but I seriously doubt I could defeat the final boss on just 3 hearts. I won't write anything specific about this game, to avoid spoilers, but if you haven't played it yet, you really need to. :)
Although Zelda3C has been in standby for 2007, it hasn't been without progress. Now and then I've sat down and worked on a side project that has finally reached completion. I've written code which sets mouse positions and mouse clicks; I finally found a way to extract all the tile information from the entire Zelda3C ROM. That is, every tile and its attributes, such as x-flip, y-flip, in-front, and palette, are now recorded by using the Hyrule Magic interface. I know I could've asked Sephiroth3 or someone to write a program that takes it directly from the ROM, but I've always wanted to program the mouse to move around and click things by itself.
The reasoning behind collecting all this data lies with the common blocks used throughout the overworld, regardless of which special graphics are loaded. Blocks with special graphics, after all, are those I've created myself; I already have the exact composition of every castle block, for example, documented in my system. What I've never had until now is a composition list of such blocks as fences, mountain walls, deep & shallow water, grass styles, trees, etc. Every time I've wanted to expand the environment, I've had to search for exactly the right 16x16 block(s) and then find (or create) the 32x32 block which meets the requirement(s). Searching through thousands of blocks is now behind me -- I can simply "draw" the 16x16 blocks I need in my own editor, setting the attributes as needed, and the editor will instantly tell me which block number to use, or include it in a list of new blocks to create, just as it does for new buildings & other things created from scratch.
Having this information in a searchable format has led to more than just the ability to find blocks fast. I've discovered some mistakes (or inefficiencies) that Nintendo allowed. For example, some of the deep water tiles are flipped across the Y axis. These tiles are solid blue; there's no reason to flip them. As a result, there were two versions of many water blocks. That's more blocks to keep up with and less blocks that could be used for something else. So, I searched through all the blocks in the game, freeing up those with unnecessary attribute adjustments. I don't know if I'll actually need these extra blocks, but the list is cleaner with no repeating blocks.
Most recently, I'm tackling an issue regarding the new grass trail graphics. Because the tree roots aren't in the same place as the original tree roots, trees placed against mountain cliffs don't look right yet. The grassy edge of the cliff stops ungracefully when the tree roots begin. I needed a new tile that contains roots *and* grassy edge at the same time. Thanks to my detailed list of tiles, I was able to track the usage of one specific tile I don't need anymore and make sure no current blocks use it. Next, I can look up all the cliff edges in the game and use my new tile to make trees appear normal when they're just north of a cliff.
I know most of this diary entry, like many entries, is boring to a lot of people. Trust me, processing all this data is a long and tedious process; I can't say I'm enjoying it. I'd much rather be writing about how there are more trees than ever in the forest, or how there's a new secret entrance just outside one of the dungeons. The fun stuff is coming... I keep telling myself this as I get the difficult but necessary *work* completed. Next time I work on the forest, piecing together trees should be effortless.
January 6, 2007 - Twilight Princess... There are certain major events in life that place Zelda3C into sleep mode. This is one of them. I haven't worked on the game during the month of December, except for some programming improvements I'm developing which saves me the trouble of manually entering every tile arrangement into Hyrule Magic. Every shortcut I can take in this process is valuable -- overworld development eats up so much time! I truly believe that if it weren't for the overworld, Zelda3C would be finished already. Nothing else in the game is this slow and difficult. :)
LOL, I wonder if I should post my TP progress instead? Without spoiling anything, I'm all set to enter the 3rd dungeon. Unless of course my wife decides to take it and do some major fishing, in which case I'll be working on Zelda3C some more. :) Please do not email me about this game at ALL -- the slightest information could translate into a spoiler for me (I'm very picky about discovering things during gameplay). After I've announced that I've beaten the game, however, I'd love to discuss it. Right now I'm leaning toward the notion that it is, indeed, a greater game than Ocarina of Time. Of course, it's too soon to say...
Questions? Ideas? Suggestions?
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