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« Blogs Index < Game Guides < HATPC Guides < Cave Design
« jebby's Blog

Cave Design Introduction

The aim of this section is to give you ideas and advice on how to design good caves. Ninety-nine percent of the thinking will be down to you in the end. Metaphorically, I'll tell you how to paint the picture, but not what to paint. The only real limitations you have are the 8000-character limit and your imagination, but the ways to bring your ideas to life effectively is the subject of this section. Do not worry if your first caves appear shabby; as long as you put some of the techniques shown in this guide to use, you will succeed to some extent in making a good cave. Even the best cavemakers started with poorly designed caves, but it doesn't take anybody too long to be making high quality caves. In the case of jebby444, it took him about two years, but now he is just a freak of nature.

Now, this guide may be pretty detailed and will give you a lot of help when making caves, but the best way of improving your cavemaking techniques is by looking at the caves made by the very best cavers. You can find the usernames of such cavemakers on the forums; you might even be able to pick up a little advice directly from them as well. Look at the way they make the traps and look at the things that make you think 'Wow, that's clever!' See how everything links up and look at how Hannah is manipulated through the cave; see that having big blocks of stuff you can blow up doesn't always make a cool cave. As long as you keep the explosives and the projectiles in the right places, you'll be on the right track.

Tips for Beginners

To help you become a great cavemaker, I am going to give you some helpful rules or "tips" on how to build your skills quickly. You may ignore some (and you probably will), but they are designed to help you become a great cavemaker. In the meantime, as a beginner of the art, you need to learn some basic principles before you make some crazy-cool caves.

The rules of thumb only really apply if you're going to make a simple cave that lacks imagination and originality, but you can take any aspect of cavemaking and bring it to the next level - another dimension. If you can think two-dimensions are the limit of this game, you're wrong. Obviously you can't have 3D Hannah levels, but you can add real intelligence and complexity to a cave that make it different to the rest. Anyway, here are the basic rules you should follow if you're just starting off:

1. Keep the dimensions at around 40x40

Boring, huh? If you want to learn fast and get into the good stuff, you need to make several small caves instead of one almighty huge one (in other words, you should start out small, not big). There are also difficulties you can run into with thin and fat caves, but we'll come to that later. Keep it small and keep it simple. You can make freaky-looking caves at some point in the future, but definitely not now.

2. Don't try and build the Mother of all Traps

A lot of newbies make the big mistake of attempting the construction of a colossal trap with hundreds of arrows flying everywhere. Being a kid, as I'm sure some of you are, it's great fun to watch a crazy arrow-filled screen (and by the way, if too many arrows are flying at once, some will disappear), but if you want to start impressing other people then you're going to have to slow it down on your "uber-trap project". People have successfully made enormous visual traps in the past, but they're usually only for novelty and are often pretty useless when it comes to harming Hannah. The best traps are not always visually impressive, but simply force Hannah move around like crazy.

The example below may look good, but this is a poorly designed trap that could be filled in with something far better. A mega trap is only a mega trap when you put a lot of effort into making it.

Bad Example

The trap below still looks good, but is far more complex, fun, and satisfying to play with (Bribe and Massacre by jebby444).

Good Example

3. Don't make big blocks of crates

When you start making a cave, you often have extremely limited cavemaking ideas. Where others would insert a trap, a newbie might put a big rectangular blob of treasure chests or arrows or dynamite. This is just about the ugliest thing you could ever find lurking in a cave, and it could have been filled in with something much more exciting and attractive for the player. If you ever run out of ideas and fill any empty space you have left over with a titanic mountain of boulders and call it a trap, then clear it away and start the area again. Here's an example of what's good and what's not:

Bad Example
Here, you have to hit the dynamite to get out of this room. Do you think that this is the best way of doing it?

The option below is better; not only does it have a level of complexity, but it could also be potentially dangerous to the player. At the sight of the treasure chests falling down, the player may get distracted and collect them all only to get hit by the arrows at the left side. It's a very crude, unreliable, and simple trap, but it's a lot better than the big block in the picture above.

Good Example

4. Empty space is bad space

Never ever leave empty space in a cave. It makes a cave look unfinished and portrays the designer as lazy. There is a whole breed of 'space criminals' in the caving world. They don't have empty space in their caves, but they fill it with something that's totally unnecessary. This could include terrain, squiggly crate lines, spiky holes or over-sized signatures. All of this just rips your cave, however good it is elsewhere, to pieces.

For example, the cave below has a section that is so wasted that the cave could hardly be called finished at all. It desperately needs something inside it...

Bad Example

The next example is a lot better. Don't you agree?

Good Example

5. Use every space available and keep it compact

This is related to the previous rule, and it's very important. There are very few first-class caves that don't use every block of air available. For example, if you have a room that is ten squares high and you only use the bottom five for traps,  you haven't used every space available. Another good example is with traps that involve you jumping across platforms that are destroyed after you leave them, similar to the concept of the following screen-shots. If this trap cuts across your cave, then you need to put spike-covered terrain directly below this 'floating trap' as tightly and as snugly as you possibly can. Then when you put traps under this one, you'll know exactly where your boundaries are you'll have as much space as possible.

Here is an example. The bottom half is being used, but the area within the red oval isn't being used at all! The room may be checked off as complete, but it could be better...

Bad Example

The following is a basic example of what you could fit in there:

Good Example

6. Avoid box-like rooms

Don't make square rooms if you can avoid it (unless you're going for a square-like design). It doesn't look good, and a well-landscaped ceiling with additional spikes looks much better. Look carefully at how the following examples achieve this.

The following is a pretty boring room... It needs something around where the red box is.

Bad Example

The picture below is better. The floor is still kind of flat and featureless. Let's make things a bit rockier there...

Better Example

Below is the finished room. A lot better than the boring box we had previously, huh?

Good Example

7. Make borders wherever necessary

This tip combines concepts from both Step 5 and 6. In order to keep your caves compact, there will be certain situations when the best way to do this is by following the idea of Step 6 and to use rocky or jagged terrain mixed with spikes or other tiles. If you have a trap that doesn't include too much terrain, is a strange shape, or takes up quite a bit of space, you need to give it a border. This is basically a line of terrain that goes all the way around it and fits it like a glove, creating a boundary. This allows for maximum room for other traps and ensures that this trap doesn't interfere with other ones (for example, if arrows go astray).

Look at this trap below. It's a big terrain-less trap that makes a big lump in your cave. How are you going to cover it over when you plan to put later traps in the red boxes?

Bad Example

To make the trap a little more 'space-friendly', you change it to this:

Good Example

By moving the arrows closer to the actual platforms, you create more room for the trap's boundaries. You can then add spikes not only to give it a more cave-like appearance, but to give the player a reason to stay on the platforms.

8.  Use monsters sparingly

As I said above,  you’re going to run out of ideas for traps fairly quickly when you first start making caves. If you don’t make big, ugly blocks of crates to fill in a space, you’ll probably chuck a few monsters in there too. Use monsters as little as you can; they take out a lot of the skill in cavemaking and waste space that  could be taken up by a good trap. If you’re going to use monsters, make sure you use them as part of a trap.

For instance, don’t use them like this:

Bad Example

Instead, use them as part of a trap. This is a very shoddy example, but it gives you the idea of a situation in which you might use a monster in a trap. Don’t try and copy this trap as it is poorly designed and is only used as an example. Personally, I don’t use them at all (as you can probably tell from the example!), but it is okay if you do.

Good Example

Also be aware that the CaveMaker may try to put restrictions on how many of each type of monster you can put in your level, but to avoid this, just copy and paste the tile. Also, there is a maximum of six enemies per level. If you try to put more, only the first six (in reading order) will show up.

9.  Try not to fill water caves up with spikes

When ideas disappear and you have a big empty pool of water, you might be tempted to fill it with  spikes. This is something that every player hates to see, and you won’t be very popular if you do this.

10.  Remember that there’s always a cave better than yours

Sorry to break it to you, but you’re probably not as good a cavemaker as you think you are. If you just made what you thought was the coolest, craziest, hardest and most enjoyable cave that could ever exist, you are most likely wrong (unless you are  canadianstickdeath; normal rules do not apply to him). Don’t expect to be making legendary caves straight away. Almost every caver makes what they think is a brilliant cave and then have it owned ten times over by a load of caves made by other people. Don’t worry about this. You aren’t a bad cavemaker, but you need to learn that you aren’t capable of building Holy Grails yet.

Frequently Asked Questions

How seriously should I take these rules?

If you’ve never made a cave in your life, you need to take all of these rules seriously. If you’ve made caves before and want to improve then you should make sure that you don’t break any of them too badly, but you can bend them however much you think is necessary to get what you want. If you make caves for long enough a time, you will be able to break all of these rules except 10. It’ll be a long time before you can do that, though!

What  is a trap?

A trap is an assembly of different tiles that forces Hannah to move in some way, usually by threatening death or a blockage that makes the cave impossible. Traps often feature arrows and/or dynamite.

Why can’t I make a cave however I like?

You can. But the whole point of this guide was to learn how to start making good caves as fast as possible. Be patient and you will soon be free to do what you like. The fastest way of getting to this stage is by limiting your own actions for a short while so you can learn the basics. Always have fun when making caves, but the less that you follow these suggestions the slower you will progress.

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