General Boards => Mapping Tips/Guides => Topic started by: TerraEsperZ on July 02, 2009, 10:12:45 AM

Title: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: TerraEsperZ on July 02, 2009, 10:12:45 AM
I know it sounds weird said like that, but it suddenly became clear to me yesterday why I start so many mapping project but finish so few (heck, Aria Of Sorrow as been sitting on my hard drive for weeks with only the final layout and lettering left to do).

I love the process of mapping. That is, I love playing a game with the specific intent of playing through every areas, trying to find every secret, and assembling a map to help me better understand the spatial relationship between them all. I love finding out if, say, the interior of a vehicle or building matches with its exterior.

Of course, there's a big aesthetic aspect to it all which tends to guide which game I'm interested in, but the actual discovery and assembly is what I love doing most.

There's also a trill in the challenges involved with certain maps that have multiple scrolling layers, transparencies, moving parts, special programming effects, etc. That can be really stimulating as you struggle to find a way to tile a seemingly untilable parallax background, or find the best way to represent a stage with dynamic geography.

But for me, the fun all comes crashing down when the actual assembly is done and the "polishing" phase begins. There's nothing I find more tedious in this hobby than trying to come up with the best map layout, deciding which fonts to use and wasting time trying to extract it, spending hours placing enemies and moving objects, harmonizing colors that use palette cycling effects, wondering what to caption and how, making a map key, etc.

All the extra work is also why I don't want to make gameplay maps. Sometimes, a game can be so complex that finding everything to put it on a map just turns me off of the game completely. That reason is why two other projects of mine have stalled for a long time. The first, Clock Tower (SNES), is because of several cases of randomness in terms of puzzles and item locations which I would have loved to include. The second,S.O.S.(SNES) (a game about a sinking ship taking place during a real-time hour), includes about 70 people you can save in various ways (or can't), depending on your starting character (out of 4) with some appearing or changing status after 20 or 40 minutes with no visible clock available. I don't even want to know how many times I'd have to go through the game to figure out everything and put it all on a map. As it is, I'll probably post a simple geographical map of the ship and not include any of the passengers because of the headache.

You see what I mean by tedious? That's why some maps of mine have been sitting uncompleted for so long. Heck, I was practically done with Heart Of The Alien, the Sega CD sequel to Out Of This World, but I lost interest when deciding how to separate the maps since there are no clear stage delimitation in-game. That's why Aria Of Sorrow has been sitting untouched for weeks, and that one is farther on that most, since I spent hours making an elaborate border for the playable areas and putting together a map key with colors to differentiate between items, bosses, souls, etc. But when came time to settle on the font to use to label the map and a few areas that are maze-like, my mind about just crashed. This wasn't fun or interesting anymore; it was just tedious and incredibly boring (don't worry though, as the realization described in this post has motivated me to force myself into at least finishing this one ASAP).

I also realized that my dad is the same way. He's a big fan of trains and an accomplished railroad modeler, and he's built a number of large layouts when I was a kid. But the only one he ever completely finished was the first one I remember, which took up half our basement when I was four years old. It was covered in buildings, little people and everything was detailed and painted. But afterward, he'd often make plans and get the main part done, that is the wood framework, the mountains and tunnels were shaped with cardboard and often a coating of plaster was applied, all the rails and electrical connections were installed. Then he'd lose interest, run the trains on it for a while and eventually he'd tear it all down, only to start another one a few months later.

See, my dad has always been a great handyman. In fact, he's the exact opposite of the people you can see on Canada's Worst Handyman on TV. He loves building and fixing stuff, but he has no patience for the finishing touches. It's neither challenging nor fun for him, and I think I'm somewhat the same way with game mapping.

I don't know if finally putting my finger on my main problem will help me in the future, but I hope so.

Does anyone else feel similar?


Current project: Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow (GBA)

Upcoming project: Castlevania Legends (GB)
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: Will on July 02, 2009, 10:43:17 AM
I had no idea you had worked on Heart of the Alien. What a surprise. This can be the trouble with cinematic platformers like this. Only just yesterday I have finished Heart of Darkness. When deciding how to split stages, normally I rely on GameFAQs Walkthroughs to aid me.

I don't think I've had a problem like yours Terra, but I have abandoned certain projects either because I wish to move on, or I'm just not up to finishing it. Take for example Kirby's Adventure and Kid Klown. I am more influenced by quality. If Eye of the Beholder weren't so complex and guides would be more reliable revealing everything, I would have finished that game months ago.
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: Maxim on July 02, 2009, 11:51:22 AM
I find the opposite. Once I have managed to get the basic mapping done, there is no way I could avoid finishing it to my personal standards. The only reason I would stop would be if I *couldn't* get all the details, e.g. if there was an inaccessible area or if there was a dynamic effect that cannot be satisfactorily rendered.
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: TerraEsperZ on July 02, 2009, 02:15:15 PM
Another reason why I sometimes get discouraged compared to when I started mapping is that my standards have improved a lot but so did the work to attain them.

One example would be using the game's font for all the added text instead of just writing something in Paint.

Another would be that nowadays, I can't bring myself to consider a map complete if all the tiles visible are not shown entirely. For example, the SNES usually has a vertical resolution of 224 pixels, but the last line almost always displays garbage since apparently the SNES uses the time taken to render it for graphical processing. However, that means that unless you use something like vSNES to explore the VRAM and see everything, all the bottom tiles on the screen will be clipped by one pixel, and fixing this is quite time consuming. Doubly so if, like in Star Trek Deep Space 9 - Crossroads Of Time, the graphics as displayed are somewhat darker than what vSNES shows (because of an highlight effect), so you'd then waste yet more time correcting the colors of those tiles just to complete that one missing line. Urgh...


Current project: Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow (GBA)

Upcoming project: Castlevania Legends (GB)
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: JonLeung on July 02, 2009, 08:21:00 PM
I would like to do more mapping, but I hate starting things with the fear of not finishing.  One thing I really don't like is incompleteness.

If I can get started on something, if the wheels can just start moving enough, the train shouldn't stop.  Hence, my obsessive need to finish the Metroid Dread maps in time for April Fool's Day - I mean, sure, I had a clear deadline, but even without one, I think my drive to finish it would still get a bit nutty there.

I have a number of issues regarding the web site revamp (pipe) dream, and this is certainly one of them.  Once I finally get started - like, really seriously started, not just brainstorming - I will do my best to see it through.  It's getting started that's the hard part.

I think we all have our personal quirks (I wouldn't necessarily call them issues, per se).  I think there's some level of OCDness to want to make maps at all, when you consider all the pixel-aligning one has to do.

It would be nice to see some more of your projects completed, Terra.  I know as a perfectionist that may be hard for you to release something if you think you'll ever revisit something to fix it up, regardless of if there's anything to "fix" or tweak.  Whether that means actually overcoming the tedium to do what you plan to do or just relaxing the standards you've set for the final touch-ups, I don't know, but I hope you come around to doing one or the other at some point.

But I'm probably the last person in the world that should be rushing anybody...
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: Will on July 02, 2009, 09:14:28 PM
Why don't you try what most people always do. Send the prototype version of the maps in their completemost state. If you're still not happy with the maps even by the time they're put on the site, you can always submit a newer version of those maps. I had done several remade versions for "Eye of the Beholder" to get it right.
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: Maxim on July 03, 2009, 02:53:08 AM
Regarding missing lines, I wrote a tool that takes a grid-aligned map where you've coloured the "missing" pixels a particular colour and then fills in the gaps using the other tiles on the map. This is particularly useful for diagonally-scrolling maps - I wrote it for SMS Enduro Racer. If there's interest I can try to clean it up for release.
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: snesmaster on July 03, 2009, 07:38:50 AM
I agree with TerraEspwerZ.  I enjoy going through the game and finding every little nook and cranny as well as using vSNES to see parts of the game I never saw when just playing the game.  Once the BG map is made, the more tedious part is going back and putting in all the sprites.  Then the labels.  I'm not quite as bad as TerraEsperZ, since I normally just try to find a font as close as possible to the game font in Photoshop and use that.  But adding legends like I did for the Soul Blazer maps on the SNES takes a lot of time and is no where near as fun as creating the BG map.
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: TerraEsperZ on July 03, 2009, 08:57:58 AM
Regarding fonts, the exact point I put my mind off Aria Of Sorrow is when I decided to use the large font of the Name Entry screen to label the Floating Garden sections (there are 6 of them, and as a whole they constitute a maze). I wanted to label them "Garden" 1 through 6 put that particular font didn't have numbers, only the other, much smaller fonts did.

It's a stupid reason I know, but it annoyed me to no end that the best looking font didn't include numbers. At least I decided to get around that yesterday by using Roman numerals; take *that* stupid Konami >:P

Oh and I'm like Maxim, in that I hate going back to a map once it's been released for a while. A correction or touch up a few days later is fun, since I'm still in the mood of that particular game. But mainly, it's that my style has changed somewhat over the years and my obsession for accuracy doubly so. For example, I need to add a missing room to one of my Prince Of Persia 2 maps, but both the game and my save files went down during my last hard drive crash, as well as my custom keyboard shortcut for screenshots in DOSBox. It just feels like a hassle to essentially have to go back in "full production" mode just for a missing room, but I'll still do it in that particular case for the sake of completeness.

There's also the fact that if I went back to a much older work like, say, my first one which was The Goonies II (NES), I'd want to spend some time upgrading the map to my current standards (removing the text I wrote in Paint as well as the ugly red and yellow circles to indicate hidden doors). Plus I'd want to make a map of the warp zones and labyrinths behind doors, consuming yet more time. Best to leave the past behind.


Current project: Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow (GBA)

Upcoming project: Castlevania Legends (GB)
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: snesmaster on July 03, 2009, 10:54:33 AM
The first few maps I did, I did in the style of Nintendo Map Guides.  Like having your character in every screen shot.  Also back then I had the enemies on the same layer as the background.  Some day I will probably go back and put the enemies on separate layers and get rid of the main character in ever screen.  The problem is I would rather work on mapping a game I have not mapped yet.  But someday I will get to it.  That was smart thinking with the Roman numerals :)
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: JonLeung on July 03, 2009, 12:30:18 PM
I think The Goonies II had the Maps Of The Month that one time because my brother picked it...and as I was putting those maps up I realized how incomplete they actually were (but back in the day osrevad's map of Koholint from Link's Awakening got MotM despite not having the dungeons mapped).  But then I went ahead with it anyway.

Now that I know they're your first maps, I actually feel better about having them honoured as's almost like showing where you came from, and how you've improved.  Believe me, I don't regret the choices for MotM - though maybe that one was kind of iffy - but now I don't think I regret it.  (Does anyone care about Maps Of The Month?  I was thinking about reworking that somehow...)

It's interesting to see how some mappers have improved over time.  I recall being unimpressed with Will Mallia's not-1:1-maps and being confused about his random maps from anywhere that I even voiced my suspicion that he may have gotten maps from somewhere else.  But now he's contributed about 1/8th of all the maps on this site all by himself and I'm glad to receive his submissions which come in just about every week.  And Peardian went from hand-drawing crude approximations of missing areas of Yoshi's Island and Super Mario RPG, to being the top Mario-series contributor here, hacking his way through Paper Mario (a 3D N64 game, and with notes and stuff!) and redoing all of Super Mario RPG, a tough enough game to map once.

Others may not have improvements on such extreme levels, but I have noticed changes in some other mappers' works over time.

It's good if you're more of a perfectionist now than before, Terra, but don't let that become a paralyzing fear that prevents you from submitting anything.  There was some stuff you started I was looking forward to in particular (like Battletoads)...
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: Tropicon on July 03, 2009, 04:00:45 PM
Interesting.  So while your mapping your head is still in the game.  With me it's usually the opposite; once I start mapping it's not a game anymore, it's something to be taken apart.  Also I polish as I go.  I capture all a room's elements and start assembly right then and there.  I'm always afraid if I wait I'll leave something out.

As for tricky maps I've got tricky moves.  When a game just won't give up something It's off to BGMapper or Cheat Engine.

I don't really have a problem going back to maps and changing them, but I rarely do it because my changes usually require a whole new map and that's a lot of work.
Title: RE: *gasp* I just realized why I never finish most of my maps!
Post by: RT 55J on July 03, 2009, 09:13:55 PM
The thing that usually stops me from finishing maps (other than real life) is usually due to some stupid thing that aggravates me that should be really easy to fix. For instance, for all three of the Contra games I mapped (the entire original trilogy :P), I ran across a seemingly minor error I made that I had trouble fixing. In all three cases when I went back to fix these errors, and it barely took any time at all. It sort of reminds me of how when I was replaying MM3GB yesterday I was able to beat Dust Man's stage on my first try, while the previous time I played the game I spent hours on that one level. I guess their is a lesson to be learned here, but I'm too lazy to properly verbalize it (something about experience, rest, and cheesecake).

(Maybe I should try the same thing with Gunstar Heroes.)

Granted, I've quit mapping for other reasons too. I was able to map every screen of Lyle in Cube Sector, but fixing the backgrounds and removing the status bars proved to be a Herculean task (especially with that black-on-black problem). I also quit mapping Cave Story, but I forget exactly why. My profile claims it was because of the editor, but now that I really think about it it was probably because my old computer couldn't handle large images very well.

Anyways, as far as retouching old maps is concerned, I've been tempted to do so a couple times too. Both my ZZT maps and Super C maps have one error and a couple of stylistic choices that have been annoying me for a while, and my Contra 3 maps are lacking the stationary enemies that I put in the maps of the other games. And now that I think about it, my Ikachan map could-

The more I talk about this the more work it seems like it's going to be. I should probably keep my mouth shut about the matter lest I give myself more ideas.

Anyways, I should probably wrap up this post soon if I want to finish my map of Rescue: The Embassy Mission early enough to fit in this weekend's update. (Yes, I know I'm committing sacrilege by not posting a thread about it on these forums.) After all, I wouldn't want to be caught spending months mapping a game that can literally be beaten in less than five minutes on your first try (no exaggeration). :P


"its a good day to do what has to be done by me and help my brother to defeat the enemys" - John Freeman