Creating a Metaroom - Part 1: Conception - Posted Monday, 21st August 2006 by Liam

Part 1 of 7 from the Creation of a Metaroom: From Inception to Release series of articles.

In this part, we will be looking at various methods of conceptualising and drawing room ideas including a stream-of-consciousness technique often called brainstorming which I use.

Introduction

In this part, we will be looking at various methods of conceptualising and drawing room ideas including a stream-of-consciousness technique often called brainstorming which I use.

To begin with, start with a concept. A concept is always a good place to start If you don't have a concept or idea, what can you base your room on?

I prefer the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique when conceptualising metarooms, simply because I think in words rather than pictures, mostly. It is different for everyone, which is why I’ve written about several different techniques.



Stream-of-consciousness conceptualisation

Start with your basic concept or theme in the middle of the page. Write down whatever comes into your head, whether it is associated with that theme or not, in random places.

Now, circle the ideas you like, and expand upon them… keep doing this until you have some good ideas, and then write those good ideas down on a new sheet. Write down your concept, using these new ideas to expand upon it, and then have a break. Take a walk, drink some tea, or munch on something- it doesn’t matter. Once you’ve had a break, come back to your concept with a fresh viewpoint, and do a little reviewing.

Out of the ideas you had, what works? What doesn’t? What adds to the room and concept, and what takes away from it?

Wash, rinse, and repeat. Keep at it until you have a working idea of what you want in your room, a concept or theme, and some features.

Congratulations, you’re done! If you want to, take another break and review- this is something you’ll be hearing a lot of in these first stages. Reviewing your ideas and work is an important part of a project, and its up to you to judge whether your ideas and work are good, whether they could use some improvement, or are just plain bad.

Once you’re done with that, move onto the next stage – drawing your ideas. I myself use a combination of this technique and a more artistic approach as shown in the next section, where I either paint or draw my ideas and improve on them visually while coming up with good ideas for how they function and run.

I won't detail how to draw your room concept here, as that is simply too wide a topic; simple room sketches are *fine*! Don't go too detailed unless you want to.


My Technique

Conceptualising is a process everybody does differently - I’ve tried to incorporate several different ways of creating an idea or concept, but each person does it differently. My main advice is to pick a theme and go with it - expand on it, expand on those expansions... keep expanding until you have something you can truly be proud of.

The theme or concept can make or break a project - depending on how you work it, of course. Any theme can work - space age, forest, volcano, ice world - but its how you work the concept which can make it horrible or brilliant.

A theme is best served original - but reusing ideas can work well, too. Write down a list of ideas, narrow it down to the ones you really like. Narrow it down again, then expand on those. Review. Wash, rinse, repeat, and you have the process I go through when I’m conceptualising a room.

Usually, when you go to create a metaroom you have an idea in mind - my theme for Terra Pluvialis was ‘Underground Jungle’ originally, but changed to ‘Jungle In Space’ fairly quickly as I worked on the room. Working with that concept, I found the things that I liked about jungles and put them down on paper.

A good architect keeps the people in mind whilst designing a building - in the same way, a good metaroom creator should try to keep the norns and player in mind whilst designing a metaroom. For example, including all three kinds of food in the room, toys, comfort agents and the like. If you intend for your room to be used by norns, you want to keep them entertained, fed, and comfortable. Keep this in mind when coming up with agents and ideas.

Brainstorming is a useful way of getting ideas down quickly- and don’t be limited to just one page, or an A4 page! Continue until your mind conks out and you can think no more.

For your first metaroom, though, I’d keep it small - 800 x 600 is generally accepted as the smallest a room can be, however I would suggest 1024 x 768, which is manageable while remaining slightly large. A good thing to keep in mind is that norns tend to get lost in big metarooms. Anything bigger than 4000 x 4000 and norns begin to get a bit lost, so keep it moderately small.

The layout of a room is very much a simple thing to make- just get sketching. My only advice would be:

• Keep it relatively simple. Some developers prefer to add in all sorts of unnecessary complications, but for your first few rooms you’ll want to keep it easy to make, so stick with simple shapes.
• For rooms with moving ‘grounded’ agents, you need to have flat floors so the agents can move around correctly. Bumps in the floor can cause issues with moving- it is something which is more a mapping issue, but you should keep it in mind when designing your room.


Now... remember that page of ideas you had? Now is the time to start fitting them into your basic room layout, sketching them in. Design is the key, here; if it looks good, do it.

Another thing which is important in the creation of a room is compromise - especially in a team of developers. Everyone has different ideas of what looks best, but it is usually a combination of these ideas which makes the best and most effective room.


Intro - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

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