What is your process for designing maps/levels?

Seerfree

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I've been having trouble designing levels for my game, as I simply don't know where to start and it can be quite overwhelming (my game is based entirely on puzzles and interacting with characters/the environment... Possibly not a good choice for the first game of someone like me, but the idea came to me and I couldn't resist.)
So, I was wondering, how do others go about designing levels? Do you design a basic map and then insert any necessary characters or obstacles, or plan out everything that's going to be in it first? What kind of planning do you do first? For developers who make their own game art, do you use placeholders while designing a map or do you draw out everything that's going to be in it first?
For me, normally I try to plan out step-by-step puzzles, obstacles, characters and story in a word processor and then set it up in the map, normally with placeholders before making specific art, but I feel like I need to refine my method since trying to work on it right now just gives me a headache...
 

Ms Littlefish

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I make plans on paper first. I write down what objects, people, events I need. I also note if I may need to find/edit some special tiles together, what special details, colors schemes, etc. I jot down what I want the map to accomplish both in terms of function and atmosphere. I'll often blueprint a map on graph paper as well. I'll use placeholders. Always. If I don't have what I need but just want to get cracking at the event it's definitely the way to go. Then you just drop in your new shiny when it's found or made.
 
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LxCharon

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My maps go through so many iterations. I start in my design document which is a very large excel spreadsheet with different pages for different aspects of the game, but on that level I list what and where I need things for the game. Like: Mayor's house-tv that states the news-hidden key in cabinet. And then I move on to my game script, where I map out map layouts using tables in the word document. Then I create a draft of the specific map on graph paper, or in photoshop depending on my mood. And finally I'll map it in the system.

I also always use placeholder sprites because sometimes it can take forever to make my own, and I don't want to just waste time waiting to finish unique sprites.
 

Soulmagnet

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Sometimes...when i run out of ideas, i load one of the pre-made maps that comes with the rm soft and modify them accord to my need, or in case of need my own material i don't use placeholder. i just wait to obtain or make the material i need and that is all.
 

BrandedTales

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I do a quick-and-dirty write-up in word of what needs to be included in the map. This is basically bullets touching on what cinematics take place or key moments that will happen. Then I follow one of two processes:

If there's a centerpiece to the map (key puzzle or key feature), I'll actually start in rmmv and build just the centerpiece. Then I'll expand out from there, splitting off to new maps if it makes sense.

If I'm wide open (not sure at all what I want) on the map, I'll start doodling it on printer paper. I'll draw whatever comes to mind, not worried at all about erasing areas and changing or even starting over. Once I have a sketch in mind, I'll pick my centerpiece and follow the process above.

Probably not the most efficient way to roll, but it gets me going.
 

watermark

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Well, I find this process works well for me:
1. Decide function of map. (e.g. arena? church? bedroom? field? dungeon?)
2. Google a real floorplan or aerial view of a real world location for inspiration.
3. Run the editor's random dungeon generator.
4. Somehow combine the floorplan with the random map you just made.
5. Fix it up & Decorate it.
6. Event it.
 

Milennin

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First check what the map is going to be, then what I want on it, then what the general lay-out of it should be like, then fill in the details.
 

TheOriginalFive

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I prefer to work on it one screen at a time, collect the props that suit its theme, then go wild.
 

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I'm finally back! :kaojoy:
A lot of RL issues happened this year which didn't let me work on Aithne as much, but I am back with new inspiration!
In that time my art style also changed a little, so I'll be doing a small art change with busts/menu art
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