Sunday, January 23, 2011

Map Quest

For as avid a video game player as I am, there was once a time where I was almost as much of an avid game creator. I have no degree in game design, and the most sophisticated programming I ever did was a little bit of Choose Your Own Adventure-style text adventuring with BASIC way back in elementary school. However, you give me a map editor for a game I like, and you won't see me for the rest of the afternoon.

I've mentioned before that I've created a few multiplayer levels for Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. The level editing software about as robust and complex as anything I've ever used, and I learned through online training resources and my own fiddling around how to assemble countless 3-D blocks into a functional level with moving platforms and breakable glass.

I also have a homebrew adaptation of Super Mario World that's been in the works since late high school. What started out as a little bit of entertaining tinkering to while away the hours of my senior year free periods (think study hall without an assigned room) evolved into a major side project that held the interest of my college's video game club for four years running. It's been on indefinite hiatus since graduation, but I turn my attention back to it every so often when an interested party volunteers to beta test and give me feedback.

After all this time, though, some of my most deviously clever ideas from several years ago have been used by other level designers, so my work becomes all the more derivative the longer it sits. That's why my favorite editing projects are ones I do for myself, or for my friends and family.

Perhaps my favorite map editing has been for Heroes of Might and Magic III, which has been a hotseat staple for my sister and I since the day I got it. The interface is simple, but there are enough options to thoroughly customize whatever crazy landscapes I have in mind. I find myself once again customizing a map, this time for my significant other, who hasn't had many opportunities to play and could do with a lovingly crafted introductory map that exposes her to all the enemies, items, and locations at a better learning curve than what the preloaded maps have to offer.

It's been quite some time since I've done anything other than play games, write about games, or make videos of games, so it's refreshing to be creating something again. Especially something where I can hide secret love notes and mobs of angry peasants numbering in the thousands.


JoeReviewer said...

I know what you mean. I downloaded this Super Mario Bros. X game and along with a completely incredible and fun to play series of levels, it has a great level creator with graphics, music, and NPC's from Super Mario Bros. 1-3, World, and even some graphics from other games like Zelda or Metroid. In fact, it even let's you edit levels from the main game (which uses all aforementioned things) and edit while you play the level (though the changes aren't saved). Now if only I could get my hands on a similar Mega Man editor/creator...

Flashman85 said...

Cool! I only once tried out a Mega Man level editor, but I decided that anything other than an all-out Mega Man Game Creator had the potential to affect my enjoyment of the original games, so I've left them untouched.