June 28, 2004
On the 9th Day of the Month of the Goddess' Death, a new zone entitled "The Home of the Winds" was revealed to the people of Medievia. I had the pleasure of getting to sit down with the zone's creator, a level 128 immortal named Puflet. If you ever wanted to know more about the process of zone design and the background of this zone, then read on for a behind the scenes look!
Kimetan: What gave you the idea to build this zone? What are the creative steps that gave you the inspiration?
Puflet: Back when I went to high school in Denmark, we sang a ballad about a king who neglected his duties to go hunting, and that song inspired the story behind the zone. I made the enemies of the kingdom a tribe of barbaric mathematicians because I was having a hard time with algebra at this time. I made the winds the king's allies because winds are full of chaotic energies that defy mathematical interpretation.Once I had the characters, I set about incorporating them into a game. First I made a board game. Then I got RPG maker, and started working with that, though I didn't get too far. It didn't take much playing Medievia before I saw the possibilities for a zone based on my Home of the Winds story.
Kimetan: What elements are there to building a zone and how long did each take you for the Home of the Winds, approximately?
Puflet: There are three distinct phases for a zone builder. The first is creating the rooms. This takes the most work, because your zone editor has to examine each room description and make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect and that you don't make undue assumptions about what goes through players' minds when they look at the room. It takes a couple of passes before you get all your rooms approved. That phase took about a month for Home of the Winds.
The second phase is creation of mobs, objects, and zonefile - a list specifying the locations of doors, mobs, and objects. This phase went pretty quickly. It was a lot of fun, and I got a little carried away with my objects. It only took me a couple of weeks to complete.
The final phase is the procs, the survey and coordinates, and the short and long announcements.
I adapted my original zone proposal story for the announcements.
Determining the coordinates was fun. I took my mortal tramping around the hills with an earth crystal (to tell me coordinates), and surveyed until I found a spot not too close to other zones and not too far from a ct and altars. Then I imagined what someone approaching my zone would notice first - the howl of the winds, of course - and that became the zone's survey message.
I had a good idea of the procs I wanted for my zone when I first started building, but it took a few hours to get everything specified exactly with mob, object, and room numbers. I overlooked a few things, and there were other things that had to be changed in order to make some of the procs workable. After a few email exchanges with my WOM and Coder, all my zone's procs reached their final form. This took a few months, but I'm pretty sure that was only because the gods were so busy with Medievia V.
Kimetan: So when you did write, how long a session did you do on average? How many rooms could you manage in that time?
Puflet: I'd write whenever I found the time. I could do a couple rooms in the morning before work or on my lunch hour. In the evening, or on days off, I sometimes spent hours, doing maybe up to ten rooms at a sitting. I'd have the map of the zone on graph paper beside me, and mark the rooms off as I completed them.
Kimetan: Did you ever find yourself coming down with a case of "writers block?" What did you do to overcome these spells?
Puflet: Sometimes, when several rooms were very similar, it was hard to think of new ways to describe them. To help me visualize these rooms in new ways, I looked at history books showing rooms and objects from ancient civilizations.
Kimetan: Did you ever find yourself going back and rewriting rooms you had created some time ago?
Puflet: I tried to reread my room descriptions for errors before uploading them, but I didn't do much major revision once they were written.
Kimetan: The Home of the Winds has a fairly high level requirement for those wishing to solo it, but seems to be geared more towards a large group of mid-level characters - do you like to run this level of zone yourself and was this a factor in designing it?
Puflet: I like zones I can xp in with mid-level clannies or run with a couple bigger people. Zones where it takes hours of careful planning to kill a single mob seem too much like work. I wanted my zone to be fun even for players who might not care to solve all of the puzzles, and hopefully it is.
Kimetan: Do you ever hear people talking about your zone? If so, what sort of feeling does this give you?
Puflet: I've overheard players talking and shouting, and even emoting when they were dead. There's a lot of griping about the winds and other dangers, but sometimes a player will add that it's cool or fun. That makes all my work feel worthwhile.
I've also heard players speculating about how to stop the winds, and being totally wrong. That's amusing.
Kimetan: Do you have plans and ideas for your own zones in the future? Any hints as to themes etc?
Puflet: I'm already well into my second zone, "The City-State of Inurbial." The rooms are completed, and I'm working on the mobs. This zone is loosely based on a parody of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars novels that I wrote many years ago. It involves a kidnapped princess.
Kimetan: What makes building a zone fulfilling for you?
Puflet: Building zones is a great way to bring worlds of my imagination to life and share them with others. I also write science fiction and fantasy, but in a way, zone-building is more fulfilling, because players actually get inside my story, interacting with the characters, and things never happen the same way twice.
Kimetan: What words of advice would you give to all the aspiring zone builders out there?
Puflet: Take the time to do it right. Add extra touches like timed room descriptions, proc-based room descriptions, and fight descriptions for mobs. Mob gossip flags are another great tool. Having mobs talk to each other or to players makes the zone feel more like a real, dynamic place.
Kimetan: Do you have any additional comments (or hints) you would like the players to know about the Home of the Winds?
Puflet: I believe that my characters and room descriptions will tell players all they need to know.
I'd like to thank Puflet for taking the time to give us a little better insight into her zone! For more information about the Home of the Winds, check out ANNOUNCEMENT 575 within the game.
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