Friday, 17 February 2012

Behind the Scenes Final Part: Castle of Jumping and Falling

Hai there, Salmaras here to talk through the production process of the Castle of Jumping and Falling, this time I'm here to talk about the last Wing, and the Map's Finale.

Didn't play Castle? Don't know what it is? Find out and download it here on the Minecraft Forums

The Castle Gardens

So there's a reason the Castle Gardens seem a bit mixed in it's content is because the original room was split in four biomes, Desert, Frozen Water, Forest and Mushroom.

The Path splitting them is gone, but you can still see the four of them there, as well as the leaked water that was keeping everything going (The water is there to push you gently back to the start if you get confused.).

Actually scratch that, there is no Mushroom Biome because we realised that it didn't really look right in terms of parkour, so I changed it so that once you got to the tree it was a straight jump to some plains.

I'm happy with how the room turned out, though it is a little confusing to look at in terms of working out where you're going, but maybe that's half the fun.

The Workshop

Ok so, the Workshop is basically my favourite room, because it's the one that actually mixes things up a little in terms of Parkour as well as letting me play with Redstone a little bit. I also noticed that a lot of people just seem to stop and stare at the little minecart that's endlessly looping through a window.

The first jump was a weird one, since there were two sides you could choose but they both opened and closed differently, from experience I can say that for whatever reason the left one is easier, but they're both challenging jumps.

the Emergency Stairs thing was more of an afterthought, I wanted to fit more Parkour in the room whilst at the same time keeping with the mechanical theme, so that was really all I could think off, and hey at least it worked (Except for the one time it didn't, but we never released that version which is good.)

The Blacksmith

The Blacksmith is just an aesthetic room, it exists to give credence to the next room you go in, as well as keep in line with there being three rooms in each wing, since the last bit of Parkour was actually on the next bit.

Interestingly due to my own error, in the first version we released you were able to climb the water to the outside of the map as I'd forgotten to cap it. (The Lava is not capped, but good luck swimming in it.)

The Mine

Making a natural looking Mine isn't easy, and whilst I do think I got the shape and random elements of your typical Minecraft cave down, I did perhaps put a few too many ores lying around in there but hey, that's why they're mining in here.

The Mine is also the greatest illusion of the map, as you descend down the ladder and become surrounded by smooth stone you genuinely feel like you're underground, when in reality the mine is actually higher than some of the other buildings in the map, you just happen to have been slowly going up the whole time.

The Finale and The Golden Room

Originally the Finale ended in the Cobblestone and lava area, a place where you could collect your wool together and then end your time gracefully by falling into the void.

When we decided on the sequel however, I went back to Castle and edited the ending so that you finish where the sequel begins, trapped in a small building staring at a broken bridge and some hills, only difference between the two being the open gate in the sequel so that you can finally continue. The illusion is a convincing one (though not perfect) and creates a sense of connection between the two maps that I'm really happy with.

As for the golden room... well I just wanted to give a nicer ending for those that made the extra effort to hunt down all of the secrets, and my anti-cheat sign seemed to work nicely, though I apologise to anyone who just pulled it out of curiosity.

So that's the Castle of Jumping and Falling for you, come back later and... Oh I almost forgot, see whilst I did the Parkour building on this I didn't do the entirety of construction on my own, so here's a little bit from Lambdafish, who you may know better as my partner for Kingdom of Jumping and Falling.

"I'm actually really overwhelmed by the amount of support we have gotten from Castle of Jumping and Falling, when we started development, I thought it would just be to show we had done something, and then be forgotten about, but it's still here and people love it!

 My involvement in this map is secondary to Salmaras's, as I am a builder rather than a designer (though I have designed a few things). I feel that we work well as a team, and the final product (apparently) shows.

 Me and Salmaras have also worked tirelessly to keep the product alive, after we realised that we had made something worthwhile. You will notice that we are always on the thread, thanking you guys, listening to your feedback and adjusting accordingly, we do ultimately care about the map, and about those who play it.

So the question... what do I think about what we have made? I hope we have made something promising, but that is for the players to say."

Ok so, for real this time that's everything... gee this is a long post. Anyhoo, come back later and you can hear a bit about the Demo we released for Kingdom.
Thanks for reading and f you'd like to hear more from me or say hello, you can find me on Twitter @SeriousSalmaras

Monday, 30 January 2012

Behind the Scenes Part 2: Castle of Jumping and Falling

Hai there, Salmaras here to talk through the production process of the Castle of Jumping and Falling, this time I'm here to talk about the Quarters, aka the Nether Wing.

Didn't play Castle? Don't know what it is? Find out and download it here on the Minecraft Forums

The Great Hall

Oh the poor great hall...

This room used to be filled with tables and chairs and all sorts of wooden accessories. Then I put the lava in and the whole thing caught fire apart from a small bit at the back. I suppose the smart thing to do would have been to remove the lava, but I figured that would have made things a little too uninteresting.

Alot of people have asked why there is lava in the Great Hall, and my personal theory is that it's leaking from the Nether Room, but honestly it could just be an innovative yet ultimately incredibly dangerous form of underfloor heating.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen really did not turn out that great (in my opinion) and the main reason for that was because I decided to build the walls first and the parkour second... I certainly didn't repeat that mistake again.

So the main issue was the lack of space I'd set for myself so I decided to just create confusion as to where you were supposed to jump, meaning you'd have to stop and see where you could go from where you were. It probably didn't turn out so great but it was good to see no one actually got confused.

Also two things, firstly the wood you can see left is what used to be counters, and secondly I apologise to those of you who enjoy looking for secrets for leaving all those furnaces lying around (they were all empty, sorry D: )

The Throne Room/Portal Experimentation Room

Why do they test the Portals in the Throne Room? Because they couldn't fit them in the Mage's tower silly.

So this was one of my favourite rooms to build since I was able to go with an entirely different aesthetic whilst sticking to the same rules  (Netherrack instead of cobble for the ground, still having the walls be bricks) so I got to play around with the Nether stuff to make it look like a realistic conversion. (To explain, the Nether is leaking out of the Portals and converting the land around it, something you'll see alot of in Kingdom)

The dripping lava from the roof was there to stop you being able to make the easier looking jumps (Though that didn't stop some people) and the glowstone on the floor was there to highlight the way back as I had to make it so that no matter where you fell in that room (presuming it wasn't into lava) you could always make your way back to the beginning, and these did a great job of lighting the whole place up too.

You may also notice the glowstone growths on the walls providing a bit of lighting too (I tried to make the look similar to the natural formations in the Nether, I hope it came across like that).

The Nether Tunnel

What's important about the tunnel? Well since it led back to the beginning I had to create a realistic looking transition from Nether back to Reality, so that you could see that it was having that effect on the whole castle (Again, this'll come into place in Kingdom)

That's all for now, return later and I'll speak about the last wing, and the number of changes we'd made to the map's ending over time, leading up to the current one which leads into Kingdom's beginning.

If you'd like to hear more from me or say hello, you can find me on Twitter @SeriousSalmaras

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Evolve or Die: Minecraft 1.2

I'm glad to see that Minecraft hasn't just been abandoned in terms of content patches (Though whatever happened to Adventure Mode?) as it may otherwise stagnate eventually, though with Minecraft that could take a fair while.

I could talk about my opinion of 1.2 but I could basically sum it up with the phrase: Jungles are awesome, OMG Kittehs!!!11!!

So instead I wanted to talk about how these changes affect the Design of Minecraft, and the way we interact with it.


So I like the Jungles simply because they're massive, look stunning and are filled with wood (Though I don't think I'd like to spawn in one) and the changes to vines mean you can climb up to the canopies of those massive trees and have access to a whole other layer.

I'm assuming that the other mobs going in beside the Ocelot are going to be somewhat dangerous to the player during the day, making the jungle a sort of risk/reward type thing, if not it may just seem like a giant cache of free wood.

In terms of what they add, I think it's just nice to have another visually distinctive biome to explore, which was my problem with swamps as they never really felt like much of a change to the forests surrouding them.


These little guys are awesome, and I think I prefer them to wolves on the basis that you can actually go out to intentionally find these. If you wanted a wolf you'd just have to sort of aimlessly wander around the forests they could inhabit, you know Ocelots live in the jungle, so you can just go straight there to find one.

From what I've seen their AI can be a little derpy but, it's still a work in progress so I have no problem with that. Speaking of AI...

New Zombie and Skeleton AI

This is fantastic. It's a small change but now the Skeletons and Zombies will actually try to hide from the sun when it rises. This does mean an increase in danger but it does add another layer to that mechanic in the sense of "All these areas must be well lit, otherwise the enemy will just try and hide" which I think will benefit the survival gameplay in the end. (If your house has a balcony, make sure the area under it is well lit, you'll appreciate it)

Spawning enemies with Dispensers

From my personal perspective as a Map-Maker, this is a fantastic addition, since it allows the spawning of enemies without the use of the somewhat unpredictable spawners. This means that the same lever you pull to open a door to a room, could also fill that room with the undead, adding a new layer of challenge to adventure maps and the like.

It can also just add a visual element to a map. For instance, want your players to free villagers as part of it? Just put a villager egg in a dispenser and have them pull the switch, suddenly the villager is as free as can be.

These changes don't exactly massively change the game (Except perhaps the AI changes) but at the very least they add some interesting content without detracting from what's already there. I'll be interested to see what else they add to the jungle in the coming weeks.

Enjoy reading this? If you would like to hear more you can follow me on Twitter @SeriousSalmaras

Friday, 27 January 2012

University Challenged

So, those of you that read through the forum thread (If not you can find that here) may recall me mentioning that the reason I'd made Castle was so that I could use it in my Portfolio so that I could present it to a University (If you didn't know that you certainly do now).

Well, I did present it to the University and I got my reply back a few day  ago, but before I go into that i'll explain this a little more.

My goal in life is to become a Game Designer, it's what I study to do and it's the reason I included Castle in my Portfolio, so that I can show off some basic level design principles as well as the awesome feedback that you guys left (Especially those of you that made Let's Plays, you are awesome and you win a free Internet).

Unfortunately when I got to the University it transpired that they would have been more interested in an Art Portfolio...

The Course was a Design Course, but the University doesn't have an Art course, which means that anyone on the Design would be doing all the Art and Design for a single game. I can see how that works but I'd much rather be doing Design.

So I explained this to my Interviewer and he said the only way he could rationalise letting me on the course was if I was actually good at the Design I did do, so it's a good thing he enjoyed what I showed him (Thank you to the Youtube guys since I could show him one of the playthroughs as an example), so he said he'd mull it over and I'd hear back from them in about a week.

1 Week Later...

So I finally got my reply back, and they've given me a conditional offer based on the design work I showed them, and me meeting the grades they've set for the courses I do right now.

I probably wouldn't have gotten that offer without this, so thanks guys for the feedback you've given, cause I'd probably be worse off without it.

(If you're curious, this University is my back-up choice if I fail to get into my first choice, which is a course entirely focused on Design.)

As ever, if you want to hear more from me you can follow me on Twitter @SeriousSalmaras

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Behind the Scenes Part 1: Castle of Jumping and Falling

Hai there, Salmaras here to talk through the production process of the Castle of Jumping and Falling, i'm gonna start with the first wing then post about the other two later on.

Didn't play Castle? Don't know what it is? Find out and download it here on the Minecraft Forums

The Courtyard

So if you're wondering why we even had the courtyard, it wasn't cause I needed a large area to put the Training area and rules in (though it certainly helps).

When we started out we were worried about the spawn area so I made myself un-OP and worked out the boundaries of it, and built a wall around it. If I'm honest I didn't realise I was building a castle until about half an hour later, which is why originally I'd just tiled it with Mossy Cobblestone and left it (A problem which was remedied in 1.2).

During building Lambda mentioned we should do something with the area, and since for some reason I didn't think to actually put a courtyard in it, Lambda decided he should build a tutorial area to set the tone of the map (If you didn't know, it involves a fair bit of jumping). You also may have noticed the forest outside the gate, truth be told it's just a clump of trees and some flowers, but it looks nice :D

Also, for anyone wondering where the melons in the kitchen came from, now you know :D (The Groundskeeper is an eccentric man, choosing to produce only melons and wheat).

The Hub

So the main thing here is the Chandelier, which was just some glowstone and iron bars in order to light up the chamber. But later as I tried to work out how to position a tunnel back into the hub I just thought "screw it" and decided to tunnel through the roof.

Fortunately I'd noticed from some previous building that you can fit through a four block set of Iron Bars because of the way they position themselves, though originally I was using it for a sewer system (despite the hole in it, it still holds back the water).

The Library

I chose the Academic Wing for the screenshots originally and then I realised it made it look like the entire map was just filled with bookshelves which was kind of unfortunate, though totally fitting for something with the word Academic prefixing it.

The Library was designed to be both easy, and show of the whole "This castle has been wrecked" theme going on, so though the floor was perfectly intact here, the the stairs and platforms were broken and cracked in order to provide some room for jumping. The secret was supposed to look clever since you can pull the lever to move the bookcases, but it turns out most people just stand on the judge to open the chest :<

The Alchemy Lab

The Alchemy Lab was nice since it was something I had the little decorations to make look proper (There isn't really much to work with in terms of interior furnishing in Minecraft) and it showed off the broken floors (Which is why there's a mention of an earthquake in the opening text) which you'll see throughout the castle. 

That ended up making the room stupidly long though, so I put the secret here in the side through that hole in the roof.

Is it just me who doesn't understand why a brewing stand can support my weight?

The Mage's Tower

The Mage's Tower was nice since it involved alot of jumping that I could make progressively harder as you go up, which is why the stairs get more and more crumbled and broken as things go on until you reach the top. You'll notice a fair few Enchanting Tables scattered around, the point of that being in order to provide that sort of magical feel of the room.

Wondering why there was cake? Truth be told I'd forgotten that being on Peaceful meant you couldn't get hungry, since my testers neglected to do this (Monsters were turned off on my server, so no one actually noticed they weren't on peaceful, myself included) so there was some cake at the bottom of the tower and some porkchops at the beginning (Which I left there in case anyone made the same mistakes my testers did, which a few have).

You may have noticed that you can see the Mage's Tower from the Courtyard... well actually you can't. That Mage tower is just a facade to create a nice looking effect (I later noticed Lambda had put windows in the tower, which was odd since the real one doesn't have any O_o). You'll notice that if you smash open the tower you'll see some furniture and brewing stuff left by Lambda (He gets bored, I think he did the same thing in Kingdom somewhere, but he won't tell me where :<).

Anyhoo, that's enough for now and I'll be back later to talk about the rest of the map, which is probably more interesting than the Academic Wing.

If you'd like to hear more from me or say hello, you can follow me @SeriousSalmaras