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Zelda3C Diary

October 04, 2009

Sessions 2 and 4

Every weekend for the past month, I've spent a few hours building different sections of Truce Dam. You would think that after drawing the graphics, setting the palettes, choosing the tile attributes, and making sure everything will come together smoothly, that actual assembly wouldn't take that long. In reality, there are always several issues that just don't present themselves until building is underway. I've fought with tiles painted in front that look strange when Link swings his sword at them. I prepared an invisible fence (behind the dam) that prevents Link from walking across the river while moving behind the dam. I readjusted the graphics because I wasn't using the brown colors along the diagonal mountain edge. I made changes to 16x16 blocks (4 tiles each) after creating them to avoid slight differences, to use up less blocks. And the list goes on.

The dam requires five "sessions" to be completed, where each session is a canvas in my tile-level block editor. Of these, four of them are now finished. The only part of the dam remaining is the very bottom. This massive structure is otherwise finished! I know, I haven't addressed the shadows on the walls' curves. I can always go back and shade them at any time without needing to change how the dam itself is built. And of course, I must further develop the surrounding mountains, river, trees, trails, Evil Door, etc, in this area. I can have these polished in just a few days.

Egads! While previewing this page, gazing at the screenshot, I noticed a mistake in the bricks to the right of the door. [Goes to fix wall, replace screenshot...]

My brother gave me a hard time (again) about working on this game -- the argument was so heated that I feel like writing about it here. He says I'm wasting my time creating a hack that I never plan to profit from, that no one will really appreciate the years put into it, that everyone will have it conquered in 5 hours, and that I'm actually very selfish for putting time into this instead of hanging out with him and family. Honestly, he exaggerates everything, all the time, and just wants me to watch more Bleach with him. Even though most of my time IS spent with family and friends, I have a passion for game development and specifically THIS game that never burns out. It's a rewarding hobby that doesn't require money or appreciation, though I'm guaranteed the kudos. ;) And if anyone thinks they're getting through this adventure in only 5 hours, they have another thing coming!

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August 29, 2009

One hundred and twenty eight. That's how many unique, location-specific tiles you can have in an outdoor area. How many did I end up drawing in Truce Dam? Sixteen more than that. :( I knew I had several tiles that were extravagant and would hardly be missed, but I did not know how I could give up so many. Worse, I hadn't even drawn the Evil Door nor accounted for the tombstone tiles I knew would have to share this set. I was getting scared of the pending drawing board...

Over time and manipulation, I managed to widdle the dam into possibility. I redrew a few specific tiles so they could be mirrored elsewhere. I sacrificed a few details that may hardly be missed. I fought for the ability to allow Link to walk behind the dam, though there's no reason to go back there. (I don't believe in hiding secrets where they would be in plain sight in real life.) I also fought to allow Link to swim in the archway, so that he can exit from indoors and fall with the water. I came up with a lesser plan for the Evil Door (after all, it's only the Evil Door) and I worked out a creative solution for the tombstones!

People around here have been listening to me whine day in and out about "If I only had one more tile free."... I've been accused of "staring at the waterfall for hours on end." I've been editing on my lunch breaks, carrying my laptop everywhere and writing / scribbling out tile numbers on my printout. "You need to print another copy of that dam? What a waste of ink!" LOL

Beyond finalizing the unique tiles, I have assigned attributes to each tile (high wall, short wall, path, etc). This was a close call, but it worked out so that I have just enough of each attribute. I'm ready to start building blocks of tiles and placing them in the game! I'm looking forward to posting some actual screenshots and then moving on to a new Calatian destination...

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July 13, 2009

Greetings, visitors. I am pleased to announce that the graphics for Truce Dam are complete! It's about time, too... I'll be the first to admit that I started preliminary designs in June of 2008, over a year ago. As you may have read, various calamity and the burn-out that followed has made this the worst year in the project's development. With 'the Wall' finally drawn out, I'm anxious to put this structure behind me.

Not just on paper anymore!

To fully realize the height of this thing, remember that Link is about as tall as one of its doors...

I've been focused on this dam's graphics for a month & a half, trying different patterns and painstakingly drawing each pixel in the archways and stones. I have devoted many hours each weekend to finally completing its entire appearance. This was, by far, the hardest aspect of its design! Building it into the game will be a cakewalk in comparison.

Please note, there's only one palette applied in this picture. As a result, we have blue grass along the cliff's top edges, gray mountains that are usually brown, and a kind of murky waterfall. In fact, I'm not sure the dam itself will be grey -- the final colors are not yet decided.

Not everything here is from scratch, though "borrowed" tiles are modified from their original forms. The waterway's arch is taken from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Eye of the Beholder, a game I've never played, but it has some spooky, chanting people atop a tower, within this arch. The doorways are loosely based on Secret of Mana entrances. The pattern across the top (notice how it's warped to follow the curved surface??) is from the painting realm in SoulBlazer. The Zora gems I drew myself, based on the 3rd spiritual stone in Ocarina of Time. I created the stone wall and balcony rails completely from scratch.

There's an alternate wall in the lower corner which I'm probably not going to use. It was my attempt at shading, but the limited palette causes the middle of the curve to seem flat. Plus, it takes away from the bending tiles, which I'm very proud of. I don't think the dam really needs any extra shading... Of course, I'm always open to suggestions if anyone can improve any of these graphics.

The straight, vertical mountain sides are only placed here as an example -- see the "blueprints" earlier on this page for a more accurate mountainside. And no, Link can't fit between the mountain ridges and the balconies -- jumping from here would send him into the mountain walls, not the water below.

I thought about whether I could somehow allow Link to walk on top of the dam, and jump down, but I realize it's impossible. Allowing this would let Link hop into bad places, such as onto the balcony rails or into the water opening, which makes no sense because the opening is directly above the waterway. I'll need the entire thing to be made of solid blocks; no path tiles across it. ....Plus, there's no real reason to be up there. :P

I really want Link to be able to enter the dam from one side and then leave from the middle, riding the waterfall down. I think this will be possible, though the game won't let him swim north to re-enter where he emerged. (He would have to be walking.) Again, no reason to do this, except it would be fun to fall from that height. :) Unless... what if Reshaper256 and I create a sprite-object that floats halfway up the waterfall that Link could "collect" as he falls? Also, what if there's a secret door behind the waterfall to swim into? Always so many considerations!

I remember Sephiroth3 telling me that the waterfall-splash-sprite, used outside the Great Fairy Cave where you throw items into a pond, can only be placed once. So, that's another sprite we'll need -- one that makes Link look like he's getting soaked, like the original does. (I'm a big fan of entering waterfalls...)

I hope I have enough tiles to cover this area. The tile count must include the dam, the tombstones which are adjacent to this area, and the Evil Door. (Have I not mentioned the Evil Door?) As soon as I assign numbers to each unique tile, I'll know for sure if I have enough.

I have to say, I'm hit by an unexpected elation from having finished Truce Dam's graphics. I've been exceptionally happy all day, knowing that I'm free to create the dam instead of simply drawing it day after day. I thought about the project all the way to work this morning -- something I used to do all the time. Getting stuck in traffic only means I get to write down all my ideas! ;)

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May 16, 2009

Someone wrote me recently and pointed out that I haven't updated this page in half a year! Yikes! :( And in that time, I don't have much to report, either... This is alarming.

The most progress I've made has been the processing of Erick's emails. I know that doesn't sound like anything, but this guy has been busy. He's sent a total of 55 messages, most of which have one or more videos attached. He has designed all kinds of puzzles, scenarios, and new ways to manipulate indoor objects. Many of his experiments exploit properties I never would have discovered! He has posted blacked-out dungeon rooms on the message board, which is anti-climatic, but the layouts he's hiding are incredible.

In response to all these great ideas, I've had to create a new workbook to keep up with them. I have separate sheets for graphics, sprites, objects, and items. On each page, each entry describes a puzzle element, item usage, or object attribute that I can take advantage of while creating dungeons. Each includes a screenshot and a link to a video demonstration.

...I always lose motivation because I don't have enough time to make giant leaps of progress. With just an hour here and there, I have to stop before I've really begun. However, I've found something that inspires me to press onward. I've recently started playing Zelda 3 BS - Ancient Stone Tablets. If you don't know, this is a "2nd quest" of Zelda 3 that was broadcast via satellite to homes in Japan. Link explores a slightly changed Hyrule with all new dungeons. I'm halfway through this translated set of four ROMs, and not only does it get me back into the LTTP mindset, it offers a few new ideas and even some new graphics. Here's a link to the project's website!

Looking back through my recent notes and chats, I've realized the project has become too ambitious, or at least too unfocused. I've allowed people to start churning out music for a game they can't even beta-test yet, at a time when I'm not ready to focus on each song. People write all the time asking to submit graphics, but I don't have the time to guide anyone through the process of managing tiles & palettes. If I do take the time, it means I must stop doing my own things.

This is all the tip of the iceberg, though -- Reshaper256 and I have had so many brainstorming revelations that we could potentially transform the game into more than just a hack. Some of these affect the structure of the quest itself, which unfortunately would leave my original plans and work by the wayside. The feasible concepts of new items, new sprites, new effects, etc, all sound promising, but the time required adds up. Exactly how far can you change a game before it's too unlike the original, anyway..? I'm overwhelmed with the many directions of this game I should be pursuing.

Really, I'm just thinking out loud, pondering the sweeping changes we'll probably go ahead with, someday. Or, maybe we won't -- free time isn't becoming any more plentiful, for any of us. I'd rather see the game completed and released then caught up in eternal development. If it's ever going to be finished, I need to resume progress on the basic things required... such as that "unexciting" dam. The thing is huge, and awesome, yet I struggle to talk myself into working on it. And no, I won't jump to some other part of the game, such as the lighthouse at the far corner of Calatia, since I have a 'thing' about creating in an adjacent, time-linear manner.

All I have to do is stay focused, right? One thing at a time...

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October 26, 2008

The process of creating Truce Dam created a wall not just against a lake of water, but against my progress in general. Or maybe it rerouted my progress... I prefer to see it that way.

After the geography was straightened out so that the dam would make sense, I found myself wondering what the dam should be made of, as far as graphics texturing. I wondered how best to decorate it with regal details. And of course, I need a shading scheme for the curved edges on either side. I tried my hand in creating its tiles from scratch, but it didn't turn out well.

I then began receiving long, detailed emails from a guy named Erick, who has had many great ideas and suggestions. One such thought was to take several graphics from an obscure SNES game called Gunman's Proof, since it looks and plays a lot like Zelda. (Please don't ask for the ROM - I must ignore such requests.)

The game was so much fun that I played all the way through it. I also played parts of a few other SNES games, taking snapshots like a tourist with a camera whenever I found something useful. I even created a program that lets me tag each image according to its merit(s), whether it includes wall patterns, floor patterns, bridges, pillars, spikes, or even a potentially useful palette. Though playing other SNES games sounds like a detour, it was a learning experience with lots of new graphics as treasure.

As for working directly on Zelda3C, I've sorted through the legendary pile of notes and drawings that have accumulated, typing them up and filing them away by location. With each post-it note or unfolded page, I found myself drawn into totally random parts of Calatia, weaving together old inspirations with new thoughts and ideas.

When I encountered story segments or monologue, I made new drafts that challenged existing script. I even fixed a few plot holes I hadn't noticed. Certain sketches had me working out details to areas deep within the game; I was even drawing dungeon maps in spite of my efforts to focus solely on the overworld.

This exercise even brought about the solution to a long-standing issue I've had with the route between the beach and Calatia Castle. Each adjacent area has its own set of graphics. If Link were to walk directly from one screen to the next, he would see the area behind him adopt the new graphics, making them ugly as they scrolled off-screen. Nintendo avoided this by keeping special graphics spaced apart by "plain" areas, but it couldn't be helped on this layout. Grudgingly, my plan was to set up cave tunnels between each screen, which would've been annoying to visit several times. At last, I've realized I can use two graphics sets that share a common graphics subset, such that the area in the middle has tiles from the areas north and south of it. Now the areas can be connected by stairs, not tunnels.

I've been very focused on allocating all the graphics and palettes in the game to specific areas, rather than just taking the next available of each and assuming I'll have enough. I've realized I have so many interesting outdoor places that I just barely have enough resources to pull them off. A few locations use many of the same graphics as Zelda 3, most notably the new forest, but overall this game requires all new graphics and tile layouts. Accomplishments like the castle and town have proven that everything can be created from scratch, and I'm enjoying the work thoroughly.

I'm not yet able to resume work on that gigantic dam, knowing that its neighbor, Epoch Tower, still needs a massive overhaul. Their respective graphics sets are in limbo because the tower, which is built on Sanctuary's tiles, also includes the tiles for the graveyard. I have huge ASM plans for making the tower look better and more 'real' but I'll need those tombstone tiles to make it happen. If the project Reshaper256 and I are working on proves successful, I'll instead bundle the tombstone graphics with the dam graphics, even though the graveyard is north of the forest, far away from the dam. It's amazing how much impact unrelated areas can have on each other.

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August 10, 2008

As everyone following this page knows, I lost my primary means of working on Zelda3C when a lightning bolt destroyed my laptop a few months ago. With nowhere quiet and organized to go, and with previous issues dogging me before that, the project has been crippled for some time now. There has been nothing to write about, save for some tile graphics I've been drawing on my old, slow Windows '98 machine.

This entry brings the start of some good news for a change! At the beginning of this month, I finally bought a new laptop. It has a larger screen (17 inch), a really good graphics card (NVidia) and even enough keyboard space for 10-key. The wait was almost too much to bear, but I finally have my own computer again.

As you might expect, I'm an unwilling participant in Microsoft's mad Vista experiment, but it's not as bad as I'd feared. There's a lot to learn, yes, and it can be really slow, but I think 3 gigs of RAM is enough to get by. My 'bubbles' screensaver suffers, though; I'm getting that 4th gig as soon as I can afford it. :)

Also great news -- I finally procured a copy of Office 2003! No more 2007 ribbons to slow me down, confuse me and frustrate me. As I've described before, I've written most of my Zelda 3 programs in Excel VBA, using spreadsheets layered with bitmap tiles to build the overworld's structures. As soon as I finish the tiles for Truce Dam, they too will appear in Excel as it strings together all the block combinations needed to erect it in-game.

I've been keeping myself busy by exploring Ivalice, undoing DeathToll's dark purposes, and solving puzzles in a curious village. Having the ability to work on Zelda3C any time I want, however, is both reassuring and motivating. This laptop is almost fully personalized with all my favorite programs and settings. It's time I put it to good use!

By the way, Reshaper256 sent me this -- it's called "Link and Zelda - Playtime", by Pallid. I like it so much, I've decided to post it. :)

Truce Dam, version 1

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June 22, 2008

6/25/08 Edit: Thanks, Jeff, for the simple answer to a simple question. :) All I needed to do was change the pen tool into a pencil tool. (The opacity was already at 100%) Also -- thanks andwhyisit, I'll look into Macromedia/Adobe Fireworks. It would indeed be nice to use a program that's intended for pixel art.


Today I installed Adobe Photoshop 7.0 on this relic from the past. After harvesting some graphics from a SNES game, I was all ready to cut, paste, modify, change palettes, resize, etc... but it's not set up the way it was on my laptop. Previously, I had the brush tool (or maybe the pencil tool..?) set up to only draw one pixel at a time, without skipping pixels when held, and without blending the old & new colors. Resizing the tool was easy, but now the brush skips pixels while drawing and I can't completely replace one color with another without clicking several times. Any advice, anyone?

I have other paint programs, including Paint Shop Pro, Tile Layer Pro, and of course Microsoft Paint, but I like Photoshop's ability to set custom gridlines (currently 8x8 pixels apart) as well as its shortcut keys for zooming in & out, changing tools, etc. ...I'm sure this is a ridiculously easy question to all you artists out there, but please... help! :)

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June 19, 2008

Let's start with more devastation. To add insult to injury, the monitor for this old Windows 98 machine has gone bad. The brightness is permanently half what it used to be. So while I could still read text, all pictures were cast into shadow. Lucky I have this smaller, ancient monitor from my Windows 95 computer... It pays to be a pack rat. Will things ever get back to normal..?

My laptop has officially been pronounced dead by the Geek Squad. The mother board, battery, and screen display are burnt beyond repair. Well, it's not that the laptop caught fire or anything, LOL... The hard drive turned out to be readable; it's inside an enclosure that plugs right into a USB port to make an external drive. I didn't lose any data at all. :)

The money I thought I had for a new computer was spent when I went looking for it. The doctors and auto-mechanics are a little bit richer. My hope now lies with my bonus from work, which arrives some time in July, as well as with the claim I've filed with Cyber Power, the manufacturer of the UPS that lightning surged through. I'm definitely going to get a laptop, not a desktop, so that I can be digitally active in more places, more often.

So, last time, I promised I would reveal the structure I'm working on and show some graph paper scans. I was originally going to keep this a secret because people will jump to conclusions, but here it is! Truce Dam!

Truce Dam, version 1

Wait a second, that can't be right. Surely a water dam diverting North River to the west would be much bigger and more impressive?

Truce Dam, version 2

The size is right (it's huge!) but the landscape is lacking. The lake is too square, as are the mountains leading up to it. It all looks man-made... The door in the cliff represents where the camera would zoom if the opening story displayed the new map. Even though this zoom sequence may be removed, there's no sense in risking its impossibility, so...

Truce Dam, final version?

This is the final version of Truce Dam, unless someone sends me an improved design. The western shore uses the same grassy shallow tiles that I created for the Saria River in the forest. Epoch Tower lies to the east. A path was created between the tree roots and the cliff, unfortunately, but there's no such path on the tower's screen. I placed some fence and created "Temporal Garden" on the fly, to give the fence meaning, but there must be a better means of blocking that section. Also, the two X's mark places where the screen shakes and/or displaces Link when he pushes into them. So many things to watch out for...

Truce Dam, close up

As for the dam itself, it truly is massive. There's no way to see the entire structure on one screen; Link can't see the bottom from the balcony, nor the top while swimming below. Thanks to symmetry, I only needed to draw half the dam at this size. The next step is to identify every single tile I need to reserve and draw for this graphics set. The dam is decorated with jewels that symbolize the Zora. I'm not sure what kind of pattern I need for the surface, yet. It's made of stone or cement, not wood...

In other news, Reshaper256 and I have been chatting regularly again. His ASM proficiency keeps increasing; I may have to rethink how some of the game is played out! :) I need to get in touch with MathOnNapkins... His work, too, will have a huge impact on the outcome.

Let me know what you think of this, the largest structure (aside from the castle) in Calatia!

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May 24, 2008

As many of you long-time readers know, my bad luck is legendary. But it should still come as a surprise to hear that MY LAPTOP WAS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING this past Friday!! :( When my wife called me at work that afternoon and asked if I had backed up all my files, I knew the worst had happened.

About a month ago, when Atlanta's series of storms first started, I bought a very expensive UPS to protect both my computers and all the peripherals. Previously, I had always unplugged the power strip when the computers weren't in use, so it's ironic that buying extra protection (and skipping this habit) actually allowed my laptop to be zapped! I'm SO glad this computer somehow evaded the surge.

Nothing related to Zelda3C was lost in the strike. :) All the files are safely stored on my external HD, which I had been superstitiously unplugging from the laptop each night. The only reason they're there, of course, is because my laptop had crashed earlier this year, prompting me to buy the external HD in the first place! Raise your hands if you think Ganon is trying to sabotage this adventure...

I have this fantastic uncle who recently sent a lot of money... his name is Sam. (da-dun!) His economic stimulus program has arrived with perfect timing; I'm going to build a new PC (or buy a new laptop) in the very near future. It still grinds me, though, that I spent so much effort and money to restore my laptop, only to face the wrath of Zeus. Plus, never knowing what files WERE on the ruined HD will haunt me for a long time.

...So, in the past two months, have I done anything with Zelda3C? ...No. :( There's always something going on, never any extended time to myself. ...No one likes excuses, but I feel like writing about the few obstacles that aren't family & work time related. They may have a hand in my not trying hard enough to squeeze in moments of progress where I can.

1.) Overworld VBA editor not functioning properly. The last few times I tried working on the next outdoor area, I've had mysterious run-time errors and bitmaps that display four times larger than they should. I think I ironed out all the errors, but the bitmap problem has something to do with the format in which edited graphics are saved. I think I may have written about this before, but so far, it's still an issue. Also, I still hate Excel 2007. I seriously need to buy Office 2003, even if it's only available online. 75% of my Zelda3C work is done programmatically through Excel.

2.) Stifled creativity. Creating the overworld, I'm afraid, is still a lot more work than it is fun. I'm into game development because I like creating mazes, puzzles, traps, secrets, and story events. Building the scores of 32x32 blocks required for unique overworld areas is a crazy-slow process. I wish I had some way to automate the placement of mountains, cliffs, tree fragments, and all the grass / dirt borders we take for granted. It's still a tile-by-tile process; even with my VBA program, an area the size of a house can take hours. I can't wait to actually *design* a new, complex area!

3.) Organization of ideas. Once more, I have ideas all over the place. They're on ripped pages, post-it notes, and napkins. They're in emails, text files, chats, and Excel documents. Many are organized, sorted by area & type, but others have accumulated in a small, golden box. Some of these notes are specific to the critical area I'm working on, which is almost a hub to the rest of the game. I need to bring these together to make sure nothing is left out.

It's this last point that may actually urge me to get back to work. As I start sorting through the pile of awesomeness, I'll start remembering all the incredible things about this game. Although I'll be encountering lots of stuff for dungeons and far-away places, which I'm not ready for, I'll be driven to somehow reach those areas. Ultimately, all the related plans I need will be in one place. As I get back into the project, it will feel great to dwell on my recent progress instead of always thinking how inactive I am.

I've enjoyed hearing about Reshaper256's latest progress on the message boards. There's something funny about reading developments for a game I've worked on for years and lost sight of. His work and staggering breakthroughs alone are an important reason to keep plugging away at Calatia. Some day this land will be ruled by sprites we've never seen before, with functionality beyond ROM hacking, in the realm of home-brewn game development. It's not just a thrill, but an honor, to have joined with this kind of talent.

I'll close with two emails I received soon after my last diary entry, which are opposites in nature yet remain memorable for me.

"I was just wondering, since parallel worlds seems like the only good patch out there for Zelda 3, I heard yours went to sh**. How far along are you on the Zelda Calatia patch

Big Fan"

This made me really mad when I first read it, and I never replied to the guy. It never occurred to me that people were thinking I had lost motivation because another Zelda 3 hack had reached completion. I respect others' work on the same game, and it has no impact on my own dreams and ambitions for my rewrite. And of course, I can never answer the burning question, "How much longer?" because I honestly don't know how long will take to create brand new structures and layouts for LW and DW sides of a vast new world.

"I think you're making a good choice. Although there may be a lot of people looking forward to your project being completed, there are some things more important in life such as your family. If anything, you haven't let a game take over your life like many other people out there. I look up to you in the fact you have your priorities set right.

Other than that, I can understand how it is trying to make a game. Making your own designs and seeing them work and come to life is one amazing feeling, but also playing games is also important to any gamer. It's just a good thing to see that you have some good values and morals for life unlike most of the other gamers out there. Take care of yourself."

This one was really encouraging -- it's good to hear that someone who really wants to play my game also understands the challenges of balancing time with my son against this very demanding hobby. It's true that I only have so much time with each age he reaches, and that I love kicking back with my wife for some Mario Galaxy or Final Fantasy XII. Sometimes Zelda3C is an obsession, and I'll hack away at it for half a day straight, and love the results. But it's a lonely pastime, with no one around here really rooting me on. I hope someday my son will love playing it and not resent it for any time when it took me away.

I guess it's an age-old dilemma, having to choose between one's interests and loved ones. Striking a balance and making the most of one's time is always the ultimate achievement.

By the way, I've decided to disclose the secret area I'm working on now. I've already revealed it to Reshaper256, but you'll have to tune in next time when I have some graph paper scans to go along with it... I'll try not to take forever!

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March 26, 2008


Hello... this may be the most empty diary entry ever. I have nothing to report for the past few months. I've become so disconnected from the project that I haven't made time for the recent posts on the message board, I haven't tried to reach the rest of the team... in fact, I still haven't responded to one of the musician's emails... It's not that I've lost interest, of course... I've just become so preoccupied with life.

I've been working extra hours at work, playing with my two year-old son, spending time with my wife, hanging out with my brothers, and playing Super Mario Galaxy. (Incredible game!!) The thought of trying to get back into the Zelda3C groove seems really challenging because I know I'll have to re-remember everything, only to be forced to forget again. Disappointing, to say the least. It feels like this project will never be completed. I've come so far, but maybe I need this break. Burnout is the fate of so many potentially great projects. I won't consider giving up, but I know I can't make any progress right now.

I've received several "Are you still alive?" emails lately; it's better that I write something here to check in. I'm sure everyone reading this can relate to the need to actually play games and be with loved ones. Hopefully the next diary entry will make up for this void.

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January 13, 2008 - Hi, everyone! I opened CuteHTML today and found a diary entry I had forgotten about! It was never finished, but it was started on November 17th. I'll upload it as is, and then continue from there.

---- Start of forgotten entry ----

With all my programs reinstalled and a whole day to myself, I sat down to work on Zelda3C. To my complete surprise, my overworld program (Excel workbook with VBA) doesn't work there, either! I've spent hours adjusting my code, trying to somehow make the auto-resized, auto-cropped bitmap images reach the exact same sizes and positions as they used to. Instead, tiles are appearing well outside the cell gridlines. There's no way I can create overworld blocks while this is broken.

I opened up an extremely old copy of the program, from years ago -- and it works fine! It's light-years away from the new features and functionality I've programmed during all this time, but each tile lines up nice and neat. I spent forever comparing the relevant code, and proved it's essentially the same. This got me thinking about Excel file formats, since I was forced to downgrade from Excel 2003 (which I don't own) to Excel 2000 (which I do own) during this fiasco. But no, both workbooks are of the same format.

Finally, I realized the problem. The formats of the actual bitmaps have somehow changed! The old program was opening bitmaps taken straight out of Hyrule Magic, with no graphics editing involved. The new program was opening my edited bitmaps. Not all of my edited graphics load incorrectly, and it doesn't matter which version of Excel I'm running.

It's funny, I was going to buy the Excel 2003 upgrade, but I couldn't find it at Best Buy. All they had to offer was the 2007 upgrade, which I HATE -- it's cursed by ribbons -- the drop-down menus are all gone and I can't even find the most basic Excel commands. (If you're thinking about upgrading to 2007, BEWARE -- the toolbars are from Krypton. The menu system takes a lot of getting used to.

---- End of forgotten entry ----

Well, I was going to ask for help from anyone out there who can explain / examine bitmap file formats. The tiles were appearing larger on the spreadsheet than the grid I'm using. To get around this, I've simply been re-exporting the graphics out of Hyrule Magic whenever a set is found with this problem. I'm not sure, yet, what I must've done wrong in PhotoShop, but at least I could keep working.

Today's diary entry was delayed a few weeks because I wanted more to write about. I didn't realize that the last entry was in NOVEMBER and therefore I have plenty to say. :) Sorry for the delay, but the Christmas season and other events beyond my control took over. I was already planning to update today for sure, and then this showed up in my inbox:

Please save Zelda!

I have no idea where this picture is from, or if it's even Zelda, but it's classic! :) Eggz strikes again!

...My first recent project was to create Calatia's graveyard. I designed the mountain structure, placed lots of trees, and left "placeholders" for tombstones (rocks, etc.) since I currently don't have any graveyard tiles in place. (Planning to destroy the old tombstones to improve Epoch Tower, later on.) It didn't take that much time, but the future placement of graves is very specific.

After the whole area was finished, I pulled out my old notes from Sephiroth3 which explain how tombstones work. It took longer than I care to admit to learn the various banks of data. Ultimately, I had every aspect mastered except one omitted function -- the animation of the tombs as they slide backward! This is handled by a sprite that appears just long enough to provide transition between tombstone positions. Zelda 3 is apparently hardcoded to only use this effect in area 14. As a result, I can place tombs on any screen, but they will snap open with just tile swaps -- no sliding.

Anxious to know whether my graveyard plans would ever come to pass, I asked Reshaper256 to help me find the ASM code which controls this. On New Years Day, I followed step-by-step as he traced the large volume of commands enacting this. This was made much easier by using MathOnNapkins' Disassembly documentation. But even now, we haven't traced it to the point where we can change which screen allows animation. Reshaper256 has probably reached a point where he can branch off from this and enable tombstone animation everywhere in the game. Here's hoping..!

In the meantime, I began work on the next major area of the game, which I've nicknamed Story Central to avoid spoilers. You might call this place the heart of Calatia, since it's close to the middle and connects several key locations. (No, it's not a huge, empty field with a farm in the middle.) I've fought with this area for several days to make everything work, and at last, the structures will fit without everything being too crammed. I need to create all-new graphics & tile combinations for brand new "buildings" that I cannot unveil. When they're done, I can fill out the rest of the area with more hills, trees, and an extension of the river that leads into town.

The only problem left for this area is that the opening story zooms into the map at a point that doesn't make sense. I had planned to place something specific there, but it became impossible after rearranging. Reshaper256 is looking into either changing where the camera zooms down, or skipping the map in the opening story altogether.

Now then, I'm running out of time, but Reshaper256 asked me to post a complete list of everyone who is part of the "Zelda3C Team." I'll post this on the main page when I can, but for now, here they are:

Game creation - GameMakr24
ROM data / ASM - Sephiroth3, Reshaper256
Graphics - GameMakr24, JoshNoullet, darkprince909
Music - Sephiroth3, JILost, MikePouch

There are others who have contributed with data, graphics, music, and ideas; I hope to recognize all of them in the game's ending credits. Thanks again, everyone!!

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