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Zelda3C Diary

September 4, 2012


People of Earth.  We have decided to return GameMakr24 to his planet of origin, having extracted all possible knowledge regarding the world called Hyrule.  We will now commence our search across the cosmos for the Triforce.  Thank you for your understanding.


…Hi, everyone.  [sheepish]  As many of you know, tomorrow marks one year since my previous diary update.  I myself might have missed the occasion, but many emails lately have ensured my awareness.  I’ve actually been writing my next installment in my head, over and again, during my long commutes to work.  “How do I tell the world I’m not getting anywhere?”


The sad fact is that the project is no closer to being completed.  It’s also no closer to being canceled, so long-time fans, please breathe again.  The Forces That Be are still in effect, so since I can’t write about progress, I’ll write about life.


After my brother went overseas to serve our great country of America (nowhere dangerous, luckily), I felt sure the time he had monopolized would go toward leaps and bounds of Calatia development.  Instead, I found myself ever-more needed by my kids. :)  My son is six and my daughter is two.  They get SO excited each afternoon when I walk in the front door.  It’s every father’s dream – “Daddy’s home!!  Daddy’s home!!”  …Now really, how do you retreat to your office for some good old-fashioned hacking when your kids want to play?


I thought I could manage my time such that my wife and kids would get a large slice, and then I would get a slice for myself.  It’s hard to put my finger on all the different ways my time is claimed, but anyone reading this knows that “things come up.”  This weekend, it’s someone’s birthday.  Next weekend, we have to clean part of the house.  Etc, etc.


I can steal away an hour at times, whenever possible, but for me it’s hard to get into the groove.  When I sit down, I have to relearn all the details of editing the game, and of course I need a clear vision of what I’m trying to accomplish.  By the time I achieve “ready mode”, it’s time to quit, and the time for my next chance is undetermined.  There is such frustration in waiting, forgetting, and starting again.


This seems like a good place to be honest, so I’ll admit that I was even cheating on this game for a short while.  Knowing I haven’t created another hack since Zelda Outlands, I thought it wouldn’t take very long to fulfill my life-long dream of turning Battle of Olympus into a Zelda game.  No one has ever responded to this idea in the past, so I know it’s just for me, but my ideas for it are incredible.  The game is so close to being Zelda as it is… all it would take is some graphics and text replacements.  The serious catch, however, is the text encoding.  I spent many hours trying to crack it, and essentially did, except for symbols and numerical characters.  Someday I’ll return to that project too, but not any time soon.


In this way, I’ve at least kept my hex editing skills sharp and enjoyed a change of pace.  NES games are so much easier for locating data, lol…  Another problem with working on Zelda3C has been the ASM coding, specifically overworld events.  There came a point (see lower on this page!) where I was dedicating all my focus on trying to get the new world to change according to story flags.  I experimented several ways with opening Hyrule Castle’s gate after the rainstorm, but in a different area, and with a different appearance, but always to no avail.  Some of my story plans depended on this; I was faced with having to show events in a much less compelling way.  Knowing I might have to rework part of the overworld was very discouraging; I never did move on from this obstacle.


Also earlier this year, I experienced OPERATING SYSTEM NOT FOUND.  It seems my machine was tired of running Vista (can you blame it?)  … I was having many problems with that laptop, including the HP Pavilion screen going black™ at most angles, so when this happened during a routine restart, enough was enough.  I had to wait awhile to get enough money for a new machine, during which time I would borrow my wife’s laptop when she wasn’t doing homework.  Now, finally, I’m running Windows 7 on a shiny new Toshiba and couldn’t be happier.


Life is getting even more demanding lately for reasons I can’t write about publicly, so I know I can’t promise an immediate resurgence of progress.  I can only assure that this project “eats at me” all the time – I know I’ve come so far, I know how awesome it will be, I know many people are waiting.  I’ve gotten lots of encouraging email from many people… no one ever complains about the wait, it’s always “however long it takes!” each time.  I must have some devoted followers if even after a year, they haven’t given up.  Speaking of emails, you know I have another fun attachment to share.  This one isn’t actually from Eggz, but from a guy named Ryan.  He has used his own “Zelda 3 engine” to produce this.  See the message..?



I’m pretty sure that’s a question mark at the end of it, lol…  Although I haven’t tried it, you can actually play this at the following location:  Someone let me know if there’s a different message when you step on the warp tile…


Lastly, the Zelda3C Message Board is no more.  The entire hosting site has been discontinued.  Several people have written offering alternatives, including the creation of a “real” blog that allows comments.  I’ll have to look into such a thing, as I’m sure it’s not hard to set up.  I’ve also had suggestions for a Facebook page devoted to the project, but that seems overwhelming to someone who can’t keep up with a simple HTML file these days.  And oh man, Twitter?  If I had all the time in the world, I would totally be tweeting about each fraction of overworld area I produce.  :)


I’m sure I’ve written this before, but I really wish the overworld were already completed.  I didn’t set out on this adventure with the notion of nitpicking every tile combination at a snail’s pace, trying to use code to find just the right puzzle piece, and using more code to create that piece when it’s proven not to exist.  I’m so glad the dungeons are object-based instead of tile-based.  I have this project because I enjoy creating new worlds and quests within them; if I could just make the process even more convenient, the game would finally be back in motion.  Words for me to ponder…


What are your thoughts?  Write to me and let me know!


September 5, 2011


What!  I haven’t updated in five months?  I knew it had been a while, but wow!  Where does the time go?  :(


I do know where a lot of time has gone.  As always, I’m not writing to supply excuses, but to record lags in progress for my own benefit as well as for readers. 


A few months ago, my brother learned that he will be deployed overseas for over a year.  After completing his service, he plans to start a new life in a different country where he has close friends.  What this means to me is that my remaining days with him have been numbered.  Therefore, I have been spending LOTS of time with him, even more, lately, than I have with my wife & kids.  (My wife is very understanding, but my kids – not so much, lol.)  He and I have gotten closer in this time; I’m really going to miss him.


Tomorrow morning he leaves for 3 weeks of training; he’ll be deployed immediately afterward.  He’s very private and paranoid so I won’t say where, but it’s fortunately not into any war.  Even before his unit was chosen for active duty, we’ve been hanging out a lot; my days have usually been defined by everyone competing for my attention, with no “me time” spared.  I am very loved; no complaints here!  In the future, though, my newfound hours will be spent working on Zelda3C.  I can finally – FINALLY – make regular progress toward my goals for a whole new Zelda game.


I was actually going to wait one more week before posting anything because I like to have real news when I write, but Eggz has outdone himself this time – see below!



I don’t know which affects me more – reading about my own death, or seeing the name ‘Calatia’ in “actual print”...  It seems only fitting that the ‘Link to the Past’ story is hacked in order to prod me toward hacking the actual game!  I love that Link’s uncle mumbles hex values – priceless!


So where do I go from here?  My primary focus, as described in my last update, is to systematically experiment with event overlays, such as the tiles that seal and unseal dungeon entrances, and document my findings.  I admit I’m not overcome with excitement on this front.  I long to create new areas, puzzles, and gameplay scenarios, not meticulously poke at cryptic hex banks.  But the torture will be well worth it if I can tell Calatia’s story in a cohesive way.  This means closing and opening entrances to indoor areas on cue, especially in respect to time travel cause and effect.


As a closing note, my genius friend Vagla (does he still use that handle?) has located several new pieces of LoZ data which can be used to improve Outlands.  Although I didn’t receive much feedback for a “10 year anniversary” edition, and although the “deadline” for this commemoration has passed, it won’t take me long to apply the changes and release a new patch.  I know there are people out there who will enjoy the update.  :)


What are your thoughts? Reply on the Zelda3C Message Board!


March 25, 2011

Hi, everyone!  Today’s entry will be themed, “Past, Present, Future”...  Isn’t that exciting?  lol...  Really, it’s three posts in one, so get comfortable – I’m making up for lost time again.  :)




Past:  Zelda Challenge on Cartridge!


Many of you have heard from ErockBrox on the message boards, a team member who is devoted to experimenting with indoor puzzles and pushing the limits of dungeon objects.  This guy’s generosity extends beyond giving his time and focus to Zelda 3 – he’s actually given me a copy of my own rewrite, Zelda Challenge ~ Outlands, in cartridge form!


I’ve known for years that companies exist online that burn hacks to cartridge and sell them.  The first time I saw Outlands for sale on eBay (for around $200, I think), I was initially upset.  I never intended for myself (or anyone else) to make a profit on this game – it’s all for fun.  (Extreme fun!)  But there was nothing I could do, of course, other than to inform people that Outlands is not some long-lost, unreleased Zelda sequel.


Flash forward to this year – I actually receive in the mail an NES-gray cartridge containing my own adventure, complete with a professionally created label based on Zelda’s design, but gold-colored with “Outlands” written in Zelda font.  Just holding it and knowing that I “created” its contents is uncanny.   (Best gift from a fan EVER – thanks again, Erock!!!)


So of course all other gaming is put on hold while I play my own game.  I have to say, it was a unique, satisfying experience to watch the title screen appear on my TV via my NES, to read the intro story and see all the new items’ graphics, and then to push Start on a real NES controller.  I created my file and set foot into a world I had designed a very long time ago.  And this time, save states were non-existent...


Almost ten years have passed since I completed and released this hack to the world.  (No, I didn’t get started on Zelda3C immediately afterward...)  Even though I’ve fielded countless questions in email as to various secrets’ whereabouts, I was not prepared for the vast quantity of content I had forgotten about.  I wanted quick rupees?  Too bad – I couldn’t remember where all the secrets were!  The next dungeon key?  The specific walls that can be bombed open, both outdoors and in?  I often had to search just like any other player.


This, of course, is actually the beauty of man’s imperfect memory.  After all this time, I could actually be surprised by the situations and circumstances laid out by my own hand.  I still knew where to go and what to do in the overworld, but I hadn’t analyzed the dungeons’ mazes and puzzles since I had first created them.  I even laughed at some of the traps as shutter doors crashed behind me, thinking “Oh no, I didn’t...”


As I got further into the first quest, I was actually getting my butt kicked.  I was avoiding getting Bagu’s note because most players wouldn’t have found it yet, which means they wouldn’t be able to buy medicine so soon.  I’d be deep within Level 6, overwhelmed by the number of centaurs (wizzrobes) in one room, and upon my death my wife would say, “You have only yourself to blame!”


I even had to draw maps of the larger, more complex dungeons.  There was no way I was going to pull out my original blueprints from the filing cabinets, which would’ve spoiled every last detail.  I have yet to go back and compare my design maps to my new ones, but I’d like to see how many of my own secrets I missed.


I don’t mean to write a full review of my game here, lol, but I have to say that Second Quest is a LOT harder than First Quest.  I’d say I had four times as many deaths.  Rooms get more dangerous and bosses are placed more frequently.  I can also say that it’s totally worth it to play, since I saved many of the game’s surprises for last. 


The last surprise, however, was unintentional – I found a new bug in the game!!  :(  It turns out that the Thunderbird (Ganon) can actually escape the room and attack from the safety of the informational area at the top.  Unfair shots were coming at me from my heart containers, from my rupees, from my map...  And this final boss WOULD NOT come back into the actual room.  I had to save, quit, and walk all the way back for a new confrontation before I could beat the game.  The reason he escaped in the first place?  The introduction of those pillars along the walls provided bridges that occasionally let certain kinds of monsters out.  I didn’t know about this while creating them, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any other rooms where you’re trapped with no way to reset monster positions.  Oh well – the Thunderbird is occasionally cheap and flies to where you can’t strike...  no use regretting it now.


It has occurred to me that the 10 year anniversary of Outlands is coming up; I could commemorate it with a new version addressing this as well as a host of minor improvements.  Such a release would include:


-          Cleaning the top and bottom rows tiles on the title screen, which weren’t revealed to me in NESticle.

-          Increasing the text speed, using a change provided by someone too late.

-          Better ocarina (flute) destinations, since I *finally* know how to do that.  Currently, Link flies to the original game’s dungeon sites.

-          Create a text warning within a few dungeon rooms about monsters that can escape OR fixing / removing the pillars from the walls.

-          Moving a few items (won’t say which, for spoilers) to where they would be more useful if found sooner.

-          Correcting very minor outdoor terrain alignments with adjacent screens.

-          Fixing the slight graphics glitch behind the giant Stalfos, which also didn’t occur in NESticle.


I’m not committed to this yet; just playing with the ideas.  I would have to relearn parts of the game’s inner-workings and re-familiarize myself with a lot of hex.  Plus, I think the 10-year mark is next month; I’d have to get crackin’!  The only way I’d even consider this is if I were flooded with requests for an updated release.  Most of these are blemishes on an otherwise perfect rewrite.    Anyone truly interested in an updated release?




Present:  Descending River


Okay, getting back to SNES.  I’ve finished a series of short waterfalls, the likes of which never existed in Zelda 3.  By short, I mean half the normal height.  Can someone tell me if this section of river looks good?



I don’t think it looks bad...  But I have reservations regarding animation, which I’ll get to in a moment.  The sides of each waterfall don’t quite connect to the water below, but I think that’s forgivable.  And of course, I need to place more animated waves here and there.


I think it’s awesome that it takes two waterfalls to reach from a one-story cliff to a two story cliff.  That is, the game doesn’t normally have such short drops as presented by these mini-falls.  The cliff east of the bush here is, technically, a 1.5 story high cliff.  I had to block it with ridge because Link’s physics make weird jumps if he leaps from up there.


I was inspired by many photos of rivers that have small drops too brief and numerous to be called waterfalls.  Making a whole series of these like you would find in real life, however, would be quite an undertaking since dry land would have to descend with short cliffs and/or increasingly tower over the river.  Due to pre-decided water levels in Calatia, however, this is more than an experiment – I need the water to drop here to match the landscape to the south.


The minor problem, as I said, is with animation.  Check out all three frames of this same location:




If you look closely, there are sharp, square corners on all sides of the two center walls – only the middle screenshot is spared.  As far as I can tell, there’s no way to smooth away these black squares.  I believe I’m still going to keep these waterfalls, even though I can’t improve them.  There are only so many tiles available; I built these walls using the least awkward tile combinations.


As for functionality, almost every rock (iceberg?) is strategically placed to limit Link’s movements.  If he hits a wall while falling, he’ll just keep falling until he finds somewhere he can stop.  Those eastern rocks actually keep him from falling up onto the southeast shore!  Also, since I know you’re wondering, Link can’t swim between the two walls dividing the pairs of waterfalls.  He just won’t fit.  It can’t be helped!


This is the last overworld area I’m going to construct for a while.  I’m mostly creating areas in the order they will be encountered; I have finally reached a point where I must know my limitations with events and overlays prior to continuing development.  Some decision-making is in order to make sure Link’s itinerary and the story itself are sound.




Future:  Story Events


Although I dare not say why, certain areas I’ve been working on are critical because they need to change with the course of the story.  Using Zelda 3 as an example, the front gate of Hyrule Castle is sealed shut until an overlay replaces that gate with an opened version of itself.  This happens only when Link reaches Sanctuary and the rain stops.  Other examples include certain dungeon entrances that require some action to replace a few overworld blocks with updated, “opened” versions.


I’ve long known that these events are hardcoded into the game’s ASM.  They’re apparently complicated or at least very hard to find and decipher.  For the most part, I’ve planned Quest for Calatia without assuming I could ever control these devices, choosing instead to make creative secret entrances with the abilities I do have.  In light of the “opening story situation” I’m currently facing, I really need to move the castle gate event.  I have changed the overlay in Hyrule Magic; it’s no longer a castle gate; I just need to make my new set of blocks appear somewhere else.


I have a lot of studying ahead of me to determine how much control I have over where, when and why events happen.  A long time ago, Sephiroth3 gave me the addresses in the ROM for some tables that control where overlays occur.  I’m only just now experimenting with the findings he provided me.  My first test was to swap a permanent event with a temporary one.  Can you recognize both areas depicted by this one screen shot?



Normally, when you dash into the rocks stacked west of Link’s house, an event places an overlay so that, going forward, there is a stairway leading underground to a fairy cave.  (Grab your bug-catching net!)  I swapped this event with the drained pond event; now that Link has been in that cave, the rocks are still there but the forest is overwritten by dirt and mud.  (The soldier here is unfazed by the deforestation, but refuses to get his metal boots wet...)


Meanwhile, as shown below, pulling the indoor lever to open its floodgate has no effect on the marsh pond, but it does cause a familiar hole to appear north of it.  The piece of heart, however, still appears in the same place.



Looks like the blue soldier isn’t afraid of shallow water; I guess the green one near Link’s house just refuses to cross the mud.  None of the soldiers made any real attempt to harm Link during the taking of these screenshots; Agahnim’s control over them has definitely dulled their senses...


My new focus is to study every aspect of all the game’s events and learn how flexible each one is.  I can then properly incorporate them, when possible, into the new adventure.  I have a definite need for the castle gate event, but most of the others won’t make or break my current plans.  Wish me luck!  :)



What are your thoughts? Reply on the Zelda3C Message Board!


January 11, 2011


Happy 1-11-11!  I rarely make New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve thought of a good one.  Post more, even if it’s nothing incredible, and include more images so you don’t have to imagine everything.  People have been telling me that for years, but it just got more convenient for me.  Rather than take a screenshot, rename it, and it write it into the HTML, I can just copy/paste anything I want into Word and not worry about what its file name is.  I’ve always said I love Excel and hate Word, but for once, it’s really helpful!


So anyway, here’s a glimpse of this year’s efforts.


Hills generally don’t bend at right angles unless they’re carved by man.  In fact, it never occurs in Zelda 3 except throughout the East Palace terrain, and you know that “maze” didn’t come about naturally.  Still, a while back, I used one of these perfect edges as a holding place at the end of an unfinished mountain, where it meets the river:



Yeah, that mountain was copied straight out of East Palace turf.  I never intended to leave this here, but the temptation to cut corners rises in light of the massive world still to create.  Even if I did want to keep it, there’s an inherent problem.  There’s no such thing as the top!  Every single corner of East Palace hills is topped by ancient, crumbly rails.  These just don’t exist in Calatia (at least not yet), especially not in the wilderness.  They look like this:



This particular mountain bend is critical.  It’s at the top of a large screen (Truce Dam and its surroundings) where it transitions to a small screen (North River).  If Link enters the small screen too close to its corner, the game scrolls up to display both that corner and the opposite side of the area.  (Looks freaky; see shorter mountain, below.)  So I must have a mountain here, as opposed to something less consistent, like a pine tree, or less natural, like a vertical fence.



Just as scary as the scrolling error is the sheer height of this mountain.  Higher than I’d expected, considering what I did along the side of North River.  The south face of the mountain would need to be twice as tall as this wall is wide:



I agree, that looks ugly.  I knew this would also need to be carved up somehow – it’s as if Link could walk on this wall, and we’re not playing Prince of Persia.  Worse, try imagining this image placed directly north of the first image I pasted.  That’s the transition you would see when walking from one screen to the other!


I just thought I’d randomly demonstrate the planning and constructing required for the overworld.  =)  This was an easy one, but I still had to play with the various sides of hills to create something cohesive.  Here’s the solution I came up with:




The mountain is still much taller than I’d planned; it takes up more of the lake than desired, but at least it looks good.  The only way to make it big enough to prevent the scrolling error was to give it an actual summit, which I had been avoiding to give the impression of “so high you can’t see the top”.


Next, I worked on the grassy, shallow path that separates this new mountain from the river.  The cool thing is that it’s just wide enough for Link to walk on.  Hug the mountain, don’t fall in the water (unless you can swim) and see where it takes you!



From here I found myself back in the Future again.  As is often the case, requirements of this more complex world often dictate how the Past should be designed.  I like to design chronologically; I would normally put off advanced areas until basic areas are complete.  I can’t reveal the nature of the Lake of the Future, but it greatly influences the Past Lake design.  (Sorry so vague.)


I’ve carved a lot of hills and cliffs the past few days.  We’ve been stranded at home in the snow, so I’ve designed some sections that have only existed in my head until now.  It’s such a relief to see that the layout works the way I’d envisioned.  I would show you, but you really don’t want to see that far into the game.  ;)  Plenty more free time ahead.  Link is always jumping off cliffs only to get trapped in nearby hills; I have some mountains to move!




What are your thoughts? Reply on the Zelda3C Message Board!


November 21, 2010


This weekend has been unusually productive; I have several things to write about today.  And yes, I’m trying to make up for being so quiet this year.


Before I begin, I’d like to brag about Harmony Forest some more.  I know there have only been a few screenshots, so you truly can’t imagine how epic it is.  (Reposted below.)  But any time I find myself opening this area, either to copy a river-side block or just to browse past it, I am struck by what an artistic portrait it is.  You can never see the whole thing at once in-game, of course, but in the editor, I’m stunned that I could create something so complicated and beautiful.  In my own (biased) opinion, it’s better-looking than the Lost Woods, with two kinds of trees, a creek running through it, and horizontal as well as vertical hollow logs.  It’s a great inspiration as I take on the latest areas – it makes me believe I can create any kind of environment I want!






So, thick & grassy fields.  I’ve always loved taking my sword out on a brisk Hyrule day and mowing the lawns with my dash boots.  Therefore, I’m making sure to include thick grass in the more out-of-the-way places in Calatia.  But, did you ever notice the limitations of grass placement in Hyrule?  Behold a screenshot from Zelda 3.  (Look, I posted a screenshot!  Lol!)



Okay, the awesome creators of Zelda 3 laid out vast grassiness in the marsh south of Link’s house.  They did a great job too – it appears to be natural and plentiful.  But you’ll notice the grass shies away from the large rock near the entrance.  More importantly, it’s never diagonally adjacent to mountains!  The thick grass touches the mountains only in horizontal and vertical places.  This is because to place grass against mountain diagonally, 16x16 blocks would have to contain both at once.  It would take four new blocks to accomplish this effect.


Because my new path between river and mountain is so narrow, I decided my shoreline wouldn’t look good with thick grass unless I pushed the grassy limits.  Thus, here is an image containing “Session 3” of North River.



As always, ignore green shallow water and the strange grey tiles.  The blocks here are arranged to fit on my 4x7 canvas.  With these new blocks, I can give fuller body to thick grass among mountains.  Other tiles here allow for thick grass close to shallow water, which Nintendo did as well, except my versions aren’t restricted to specific areas.  Redundant disclaimer:  No one will ever get a copy of this editor; please don’t ask.  =)


The area I’m working on is a mighty waterfall pouring water into Calatia from the north edge of the game.  However, I’ve been forced to create it one area south because Hyrule Magic displays Area 04 without water.  You see, there is no water on Death Mountain, which used to exist here.  In Zelda 3, all animated water becomes animated clouds.  (In fact, if you could jump over a ridge and walk on the clouds, they would behave as if Link is in shallow water.) 


Lucky for me, because I split “Large Area 03 ~ Death Mountain” into “Small Areas 03, 04, 0B, and 0C”, the cloud effect doesn’t actually occur in Area 04.  But I didn’t know I was in the clear until today!  I believed Hyrule Magic at face value, especially since any water I placed up there would be lava-red.  This was easily fixed, though, just by changing the palette number.  I thought all this would have to be fixed some day with a complicated ASM hack, which I was dreading.  Imagine my relief!


I do have some bad news, though.  The ASM patch, which I only apply to copies of the game because it’s irreversible, is causing strange backgrounds to appear within the tree roots near Truce Dam.  It only kicks in when I exit Epoch Tower and head west, or when I visit the North River areas.  Going indoors for a moment fixes it.  Here’s what it looks like:



It looks really pretty as it flows along by itself, using various dam graphics.  However, I really think I should get it fixed...  I’ll need to beg either Reshaper256 or Sephiroth3 to read the ASM hack and trace whatever is triggering this otherworldly layer.


In closing, now that I know I can freely use my new river area where it’s intended in Area 04 instead of Area 0C, I can begin the real Area 0C which connects the massive waterfall to the lake behind the dam.


What are your thoughts? Reply on the Zelda3C Message Board!


November 7, 2010


One more post before the new year!  (Or more?  Never know...)  I’ve only posted twice this year, besides right now; must be some kind of record.  It seems the more I try to stay on top of this project, the farther away I drift.  But if you’re reading this, you must not have given up yet.  (Or you have, but you’re morbidly curious.)  No excuses...  Long-time readers know the drill:  life takes priority.


I have an FTP client on here now, lol, though it’s only a trial version.  CuteFTP, my old standby.  I wanted to also get CuteHTML, but they discontinued that product three years ago.  Now I’m writing this in Microsoft Word, just to see how it turns out.  Not used to WYSIWYG by any stretch, but I should definitely get with the times.  (I like typing HTML.) 


I briefly thought about starting a Facebook or Twitter account for this.  Wouldn’t it be cool if I had photo galleries with comments and fans “befriending the cause”?  I haven’t done this because I don’t want my already-flooded Inbox inundated with friend requests, though I could probably control the settings on this.  On Twitter, I could tweet whatever small change(s) I’ve made to the game as they happen, and there could be hoards of followers.  Lol, it’s tempting.  I have an Android phone now; I could really get connected.


I have been working on the game, off & on, even though I’ve been cut off from online civilization.  My motivation would be so much higher if I weren’t always struggling with details instead of designing new areas in leaps and bounds.  It’s a fun project either way, but inspiration comes from the big picture, the quest, not the infinite bytes that make up Link’s world.


On the programming front, I found many cases where my new “dump” of data into Excel wasn’t expected by my obsolete programming, which still assumed I was storing data outside the ROM only as it became relevant.  For example, let’s take 32x32 block 863.  That’s a stack of five rocks that Link can dash into and break as he crashes into it.  I colored them brown instead of white / turquoise, but that’s not important.  =)  My program was designed to keep reading rows, scrolling down, until it found a block called 863 whenever it needed to access it.  Now that I’ve dumped everything into a database, that information is actually found in record number 863.  No need to see if I’ve recorded that block for later usage – it’s guaranteed to be found now.  It’s been months since I cleaned up my code, so I can’t detail the critical issues, but things had to be addressed before I could save the latest session without overwriting important data.


I’ve been working north of Truce Dam, on a river leading into the lake behind the dam.  Unlike the other areas I’ve created, it has no direct ties to the story and no location-specific graphics.  It’s just a place in the wild that Link can explore.  But brace yourself for a spoiler:  the water level is different depending on the current time period.  The dam allows more water to pass in the future; volumes drop from “shallow water against grass” to “cliffs descending to water.”  In Zelda 3, water levels only varied inside the Dark World’s Level 2 and at the small pond surrounding its entrance, but nowhere else in the game.  Zelda3C’s outdoors varies its water levels by time period in several places; what may be a deep body of water now may become shallow or dried up later, and vice-versa.


One problem I had to address is depicted by a screenshot I had made for myself as a reminder.  (Trimmed to hide spoilers.)



The blue tile is a Time Tile (or hourglass tile) that will send you back to the past.  It is temporary for testing; don’t commit it to memory!  The grass color will ultimately be dark green, and the bushes won’t be purple.  (This is not a new Dark World.) 


The time period NOT shown has water levels that meet the grass edges with shallow water borders.  The problem lies here in the future.  If Link starts at the beginning of the thin red arrow and walks south, he is so close to the cliff’s edge that he’s on top of the “jump west” tiles, so he can’t fall off without first moving away from the cliffs.  Worse, if he keeps heading south, the southwest concave (by the top bush) will force him to jump diagonal-NW, backward into the low wall he just passed.  Once there, Link is stuck in the cliff itself, swimming in the wall with no escape.  (Not that it matters, but no mirror allowed while swimming, remember?)


Nintendo never allowed this to happen in Zelda 3, of course.  When this kind of terrain wasn’t higher than Link could reach, the cliffs either had fences or ridges, the latter of which are those natural-looking brown “rails.”  I reviewed all of Hyrule Magic and found special consideration everywhere that Link would have been able to bypass jump tiles.


Resolving this required sliding the land masses to allow enough space to place fences while still allowing Link passage.  I would’ve used ridges but it wouldn’t make sense for them to rise into place over the years – it would be the opposite of erosion.  Such ridges can’t also exist in the past, in this case, because the grass meets shallow water leading into wider deep water.


It’s interesting to note that this is the first “future” area I have created.  (LW/DW are Past/Future in this game.)  Everything I’ve done before now has been part of the past, a time period where Calatia is at peace and Ganon is still presumed dead.  I have always put off working on “future” areas until much later, as I like to create things in the order Link will experience them, but the two versions rely on each other too much to create just the high-water version.  Now that I’ve been to the future, I’m tempted to go back and create the future versions of the town, castle, tower, etc, but they can wait until I’ve expanded the world of the past.


In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who continues to follow this project, either by lurking (which is cool), by posting to the board I’m about to catch up on, or by sending emails of encouragement.  I tend to not write until I feel I have something worth reading, not realizing that most everything I do is a measure of progress.  I tend to not read the boards until I have time to respond properly, and then it takes too long to find “a time of no interruptions.”  The only way I can progress is through small, broken bursts instead of scheduled hours, even though it pains me to jump in and then jump right back out.  I still very much love this project and I look forward to a time when I can be obsessed and hammer this world into being.


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June 13, 2010

It's a good afternoon and things are getting back on track. If you've been following the latest thread, you already know I've regained focus the past few weeks. I'm only just updating the diary because getting the old computer running is a time-consuming inconvenience. (I really need to get an FTP client on my Vista laptop.) As promised, I have a few screenshots to display what I'm up to.

Before and after creating new blocks.


How many differences can you find, above? Each one represents an exact 32x32 block that doesn't exist in Zelda 3. This is a good visual of my routine when creating new areas. First I build the general area while ignoring small areas that can't yet be finished. Then I go back over the land, filling in the missing pieces by making them in my Excel program. I know that most of these imperfections seem like they must have adjustments in the game already, but remember that these blocks are combinations of four 16x16 blocks -- there's no way every combination could exist. Below, the exact blocks needed are displayed in my Excel editor, along with a few that already existed but are placed for reference during development.


The blocks that didn't yet exist.


Please don't ask for a copy of my Excel editor -- it's not for distribution. (It's not friendly to the average user, I won't support it for others' requests, it's *my* toy, etc.) This may be the first time I've actually shown a screenshot of the tile-level editor... I can go into detail on what various buttons do if anyone's curious. And yes, the flowers (and a few other graphics) do not have normal palettes -- displaying palettes beyond defaults is one of the limitations; flowers happen to be stored in the same set as water tiles.

So, I create the new 32x32 blocks at the 8x8 (tile) level, import them into Hyrule Magic, and then place them in the game. This is what I've been doing for years, whenever I'm making progress. The reason it's gotten easier is because I've written mouse-control code which automated my mouse across HM, quickly clicking and copying ALL 32x32 block numbers into the workbook to serve as an initial cache of blocks. This saves me lots of time in having to look blocks up to make sure they don't actually exist already, as well as letting me pull them onto the canvas so that I don't start from scratch when building. (I actually did this for the 16x16 blocks a while back; this new addition was a long time coming.)

The only way I can imagine a better process would be to increase the canvas size from just 4x7 blocks to a 256 block matrix -- big enough to build an entire area (or 1/4 of a large area) before importing the whole thing into HM. It's tempting, but generally I like to make additions of this smaller size anyway and then test them in-game before moving on to the next canvas. Looking at my saved canvas sheets, in the past, I filled 5 canvases for the dam, 10 for the village houses, 31 for the forest, 5 for Epoch Tower, and 23 of them for the castle. And I have so many more ahead of me! lol

In closing, I'm currently focused on the cliffs west of Truce Dam. They don't require new 16x16 blocks, nor any new graphics, for the most part, so they should come together without much trouble. When this area is finished, the next new area will be further west, where the river diverted by the dam runs into parts unknown...

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March 07, 2010

No progress. Well, no progress this year, yet. Last year I wrote some mouse automation code to extract from Hyrule Magic all of the 32x32 blocks, just as I had done for the 16x16 blocks a while back. This lets me know much faster which large overworld blocks (size of 4 bushes, or 4 rocks, etc) already exist in the game. It's basically a new approach for efficiency in creating the outdoors. At this point I was supposed to write code to take advantage of this newly collected data, which won't be hard to write.

Late last year, the basement flooded when the hose disconnected from our washing machine. We woke up the next morning with a few inches of water standing at the bottom of the steps. Imagine my brother's surprise when he jumped out of bed and his feet landed in water! Nothing Zelda3C-related was harmed, but the nightmare was just beginning.

We spent the next few weeks drying things out, salvaging what we could, and throwing a lot of stuff away. As we cleaned, we discovered a pre-existing mold problem on the walls and on the backs of furniture. This required more scrubbing, trashing, etc. Also, lightning (yes, lightning, AGAIN!) knocked out the exact wall socket where I run my computer, and there are very few wall sockets downstairs. (This is still not replaced; I'm upstairs now.) So my "inner sanctum" was soggy, smelly, and powerless for a long time. The downstairs is mostly back to normal now, but my "Zelda3C mindset" is still not where it should be.

I have a happy reason, for a change, to not work on the game: My wife has recently given birth to our first daughter! She's almost 12 weeks old now, really cute, and of course very needy. :) Long-time readers know that I always put family first; you can imagine I've stayed busy helping with diapers, spit-up rags, etc... But mostly, I've been more hands-on with my son, who is now 4 years old. He has reached the age where he understands a lot and is easier to play with, lol...

There have been other reasons not to squeeze in any game design time, such as finally getting an XBox 360, not to mention all the fun I have on my DS. My career is as busy as ever. Life events are always coming up.

Most people probably think this game will never be finished at this rate, and at this rate, they'd be right. I rarely receive fan mail anymore and I haven't heard from any of the team members. I love all the developments of the past, and I'm sure as I get into it, I'll be reminded why this game is so important to me. The work involved doesn't bother me, but what I do hate is spending time remembering how everything works only to have no chance to continue for another few weeks.

As I write this, no one else is home and I know I have several hours to myself. Even though I know circumstances still aren't right to make leaps and bounds, I'm going to ease back into the project and see if I get hooked. Otherwise I may find myself waiting even longer for "things to calm down", which may not be a reasonable expectation. No matter what, I'll keep stubbornly trying to complete this rewrite of my favorite SNES game...

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