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Which way works for you?

When you're designing a hack, which way works better for you? Is it better if one designs levels first and THEN the OW, or concentrate on an elaborate OW and then do the levels? Or is there some other strategy you work on?

Right now, I'm setting up. I'm just working on setting everything up: the music, the (Ex)GFX (downloading and/or making of either), tools to edit X Y or Z, and... (heaven help me) Blocks. I never realized just how much work it is to set everything up, and that doesn't even count doing any physical editing for the hack itself!

So talk to me. What's your preferred method? :)

Voice actor. Composer. Musician.


GvS ~ u:11380
I first of all look for graphics. When I've found enough graphics and ideas for levels, I can estimate how many levels one world shall have. Then I make the overworld of that world. Once that is done, I just start creating the levels in order. And making one level takes about a week for me.
I actually like to save level design for last. This does not mean I go by the motto "most important things are saved for last", because I usually do ASM, which is the 2nd most important component, either first or second (sometimes I do overworld first and then ASM, or sometimes ASM first then overworld). However, if you use ASM that will affect the gameplay of a level, you must do that before designing the level, or you might screw up your design and have to trash the ASM.
don't click this link...
I usually create the overworld first and then worj on the levels and make the events after finishing a level.
Working on a hack I probably won't even finish.
1. Make the entire design of the level, including block and sprite placement. Uses cement blocks, placeholder tiles, edges that aren't filled in, and other bad graphics. Sprites have wrong graphics too. It's easy to get carried away with the graphics and forget about design, so I always design it first to make sure the "core" of the level is quality.

2. Port (usually) or find music appropriate for the level. It helps to make this its own little task, but I don't insert music in the level until the very end. With no music, I can listen to whatever I want when testing the level and even use music of a certain length to time it.

3. Create ExGFX files for sprites and draw their graphics. It's often difficult to make sprite animation look natural and get mapping ideal, but it's good to get out of the way.

4. Draw the FG. I usually try multiple textures until one finally clicks, work on slopes and such if need be, then add decorations. It's very cool to replace the filler tiles with real FG graphics.

5. Draw the BG. Like the FG, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right design. Since the space needs to be filled and it's often layered, I sketch a lot on pencil and paper before drawing. It's almost like a little painting.

6. Put everything together and test for bugs, inserting music and making sure appropriate blocks and sprites work.

7. Overworld is the final thing. Rather than create an elaborate OW and force you to design certain levels within it, I'd rather have the overworld adapt to levels you want to create. This gives me a chance to include little level-specific graphics (pipes near a pipe-themed level for instance) and make the level placement ideal.
-I start to make the design of the level, and use any type of block that I feel like it should be put in the level, including sprite placement.
-I try to find music that suits the level, no matter what's the type of level.
-ExGFX. If I find sprites that has wrong graphics, I either put this sprite's correct graphics in my ExGFX file or draw graphics for them.
-I apply custom blocks and sprites.
-Test everything, to see if there's not any bugs in the level.
-The overworld.
I would certainly do the OW after levels. It makes it easier to design and place the tiles in ideal positions.

I am interested in knowing how people completely design levels with placeholder tiles, though. To me that sounds pretty hard to do, especially since you would have to remap all of those tiles which seems tedious, doesn't it? Unless of course there is some other method I am missing.

Anyway, I am the type of person who puts everything in a level as it's being designed. That means if I design 3 screens of a level, those 3 screens will pretty much be complete with tiles, aesthetics, sprites, etc. I save music for the end, though.
Overworld -> music -> graphics -> level. I usually prepare everything I'll need before I actually start making a level (which also includes creating the map).
Whatever I feel like doing, really. If I force myself to do a certain thing because "that's next on the list", it likely won't end up that great.

For my current hack the first thing I did was draw some graphics, and right now I'm doing some ASM work on the most important game aspects (overworld, status bar and message box recoding). When those are done, I'll probably code a sprite or two, whichever amount is necessary, and start working on the first level.

For the rest of the game, I'll probably make things as needed: sketch the level idea, draw the graphics, code sprites, make ASM hacks as needed, build the level, draw the overworld if I don't have one already, insert the new songs I need, repeat until done.

I keep things pretty tidy from the start, so organization isn't a huge problem even with this slightly messy approach.

Overworld -> ? -> Levels

I make stuff when I get inspiration, which can come from browsing graphics, or listening to music, or whatever.
I do the Plot to see if matched, then the name of the hack, after that, the levels and finally, the OW.
Overworld > Graphics > Music > Sprites* > Level
* optional

The finished OW makes me know how many levels I have to design, in which ambient, in which world, etc. Getting the graphics first so I can design around a certain kind of level. Getting the music to get the perfect ambient, and THEN I can start making the level.
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to hear birds and see none.
I usually go:

ASM/Music -> Graphics -> Custom Sprites -> Level

I usually work on the overworld after making a couple levels first (if I even manage to get that far in my hacks, which has not happened in a while. I tend to lose motivation halfway through the first level.)
level -> everything

I havent touched the OW editor once yet. maybe ill get to it when i start working on my hack again, who knows...
The very first thing that I did was the entire Overworld (without the events, but with Mario's paths), so I could extract some ideas from it for the levels and even the plot throughout the process. Then I think of a basic design for the next level. Once I come up with an idea, I search the corresponding graphics and music, and finally I make the level. Then I add the events and repeat the process.
Something like this (note that steps overlap):

- general overworld ideas (world themes, boss locations, switch palace locations, purpose of each submap, etc)
- general level ideas for a particular world (also plan where each normal/secret exit leads to, to help with progression between levels)
- overworld layer 1 for that particular world, along with the first screen or two of each level (this gets expanded as time goes on; when I'm ready to start a particular level I often already have the tileset/palette/enemies chosen)
- overworld layer 2/events for that particular world
- any ASM, graphics files, etc. for a particular level, if I plan on using any
- level design for that level (all at once, similar to what Iceguy said, except for me, music is essential before I start)
- repeat level-related steps for the next level until all levels in a world are designed
- take a break from that hack
- repeat with the next world
- also, throughout all these steps, plan out ideas for later on, adjusting if I think of a better idea

Alyssa's Unlikely Trap (demo 3)