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Message started by Freddy on 10.05.2022 at 22:27:29

Title: A nostalgic blog concerning designing mansions
Post by Freddy on 10.05.2022 at 22:27:29
BLOG (part 1)

2022 may 11th

Many many years ago I started playing Midnight Mansion. The pre-Intel period. In those days I was already active on the first boards and around that time I made my first steps with the mansion builder, which resulted in a project that I called Works in Progress. Several parts of it were used in my House of Wonders. A mansion that absolutely needs a serious renovation. What brings me to my first issue: I do not have access anymore to any of the MM-programs.

Together with brell I became administrator of the current boards (version YaBB 2.2) at the time of the release around Christmas 2006. I am not sure, but I think that it was earlier that year that I released my Midnight Mazes and Monsters. This custom mansion was a huge monster and because it was so big, no wonder that it also contained some good parts.

In January 2010 I created my last mansion: The 7th Key. It was a small, quizzical mansion where Jack struggled with a backpack that wasn't large enough. It was also the period that my MM-life slowly faded away. I remember the start of HD and MM2 with its contest. But finally I did stop completely.

So what is going on right now, more than ten years after? Even without the possibility to play, fix or build mansions! That is the ...

MM1_HD_-_MM_M_001.png (112 KB | 5 )

Title: Re: A nostalgic blog concerning designing mansions
Post by Freddy on 12.05.2022 at 20:05:46
BLOG (part 2)

2022 May the 12th

Recently I was able to (re)watch a lot of MM-videos that I found on internet. Besides it gave me pleasant memories, it also made me think again about the ways of designing mansions.

To hear and see what a player is experiencing and thinking during play was extremely interesting. It made me wonder how the setup of a new mansion of mine should be. This issue is only theoretical, because I don’t have a working builder. The mansion is a virtual desire, but that doesn't need to stop me from giving it a name: Brave New World.

In this blog I like to share my thoughts about designing mansions and will add images to illustrate what I mean. Or just for fun like in my previous post.

Before even thinking of a single brick, door or ladder, I did something I never did before: dive into the roots of the game. And I found inspiration in three sources.

On the ActionSoft downloadpage I got this: Jack Malone explores mansions while avoiding traps, solving puzzles and discover secrets. The lists with the high scores taught me that there is a rang order for 1° the amount of money, 2° the used time and 3° the found secrets, but also that, first of all, Jack has to leave the mansion through the/an exit door! Last of all, Alex Diener (betatester for some of the original MM1’s), did put my attention on the importance of the thrill from playing on the edge of game over. His playing-behaviour increased once Jack’s had two lives or less. And Alex also often saved saving points for later/never …

I must confess that I barely took care of that game-over-thrill. E.g. Midnight Mazes and Monsters started with a pretty large grey area where it was completely impossible to lose lives. In contrary, before Jack encountered the very first challenge he collected over $ 3.000 an could ‘start’ with 9 lives!

So here is my first conclusion for my hypothetical mansion. It must contain:
- an exit door;
- money;
- secrets;
- traps;
- puzzles;
- the thrill of game over.

If I should start building a first section right now, it would be a not complicated area on a normal level, only to documentate how the loss of Jack-lives is when betatesters are exploring it the very first time.
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Title: Re: A nostalgic blog concerning designing mansions
Post by Freddy on 21.05.2022 at 17:54:32
BLOG (part 3)

2022 May the 21st

On our boards, and especially under General Custom Mansions Area, there is a lot of information about:
- the major importance of overall playability;
- avoiding Jack-stucks, half Jack-stucks and cheap deaths;
- taking care with the use of layer 6 etc.

Thanks, brell. I don't think I need to add something to that.

But there is more, so much more!

A good way of spreading rewards, especially the dollars since they generate Jack-lives. (To) empty rooms. The sometimes unpleasant speed of critters and platforms. Treasure areas. Map and sound hints!

With showing several examples I like to tell you about the different ways of designing starting rooms of mansions.

The image in part 1 of this blog is the starting room from my Midnight Mazes and Monsters. The idea was to raise doubt about first going left or right. That was wrong since the explication about the 'crumbs' only came several rooms later in one of the two directions. Besides that, if you choose the way to the crumbs first, then there is far to much backtracking to do.

It seems that in the HD-version coins give a glow, so I assume that the single hidden coin is hinted. Then that's okay. But in the not-HD-version the coin was completely invisible. Therefor I shouldn't do that anymore. The setup of this mansion is starting with a very easy area (where Jack can't lose any life). So now I have the feeling that the hidden coin (not-HD-version) isn't appropriate for that are anymore.

Conclusion: without making any building mistake, the design of the first room was influenced by bad ideas.

Next time I show examples coming from the original mansions.

Title: Re: A nostalgic blog concerning designing mansions
Post by Freddy on 23.05.2022 at 02:45:31
BLOG (part 4)

2022 May the 22nd

The added images are from the first 3 rooms and one of the possible 4th-rooms from MM1 HD Knight Mansion hard.

Picture 1 shows the starting room which gives smooth play. The minor change that I should do is moving Jack’s start position to the right of the column, since the scorpion above his head is going left and very soon coming down. I prefer a start where I don’t need to bother about Jack’s life. For me it is a matter of acclimatization and ‘feeling’ the mansion.

In room 2 Jack encounters his first challenges. The easiest way is waiting till the scorpion disappears in the deep, leaving the blue bird as the only enemy to avoid.

On image 3 you see that it is forced to continue forward on the upper floor. There he had choice and climbed the vine to arrive in the room shown on picture 4.

This room exposes perfectly that Jack is really in a hard mansion! He has to think about getting the moneybag at the left and leaving in the upper right corner, while avoiding both birds.
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Title: Re: A nostalgic blog concerning designing mansions
Post by Freddy on 26.05.2022 at 17:57:23
BLOG (part 5)

2022 May the 26th

Freddy wrote on 21.05.2022 at 17:54:32:
But there is more, so much more!

A good way of spreading rewards, especially the dollars since they generate Jack-lives. (To) empty rooms. The sometimes unpleasant speed of critters and platforms. Treasure areas. Map and sound hints!

I absolutely need to add dark rooms and the number/spread of saving points to this list.

Now back to business: set-up of the starting room(s).

The most controversial start in the original mansions is, in my opinion, the one in Chateau de Medusa hard. I try to explain this with the included images that are stills from the video where Alex Diener’s Jack struggles through the first rooms of MM1 HD Chateau de Medusa hard.

Jack has to start in a flat room with only one moving skull spider at the right and the task to do a precise jump to the left (pic 1).

The video starts with Jack’s first attempt by walking to the left where he got stuck in a row of dark rooms. After a voluntary game over he started to the right where he soon found out that this way is a dead end street. With his nose against a grey door he had no other choice than turn around (pic 2).

Like in his first attempt he continued to the room at the left where is no other possibility than climbing the ladder down (pic3). Since he was there before, he now wasn’t taken by surprise and hesitated while hanging at the bottom of the ladder (pic 4). But like in all previous rooms, there was only one way to continue: falling into the deep (pic 5, 6 & 7).

Jack had a safe landing on the invisible vines; invisible because it’s a dark room. The silver coins show an odd arrow to the right, but he decided to turn to the left first. There he kicked without succes against a wall (pic 8).

The only way forward is to the right, while being careful and picking up the coins (pic 9 & 10). As soon as he entered the next room two things happened nearly together: he walked into a mess of coins and bumped against an invisible wall (pic 11 & 12). Just like with his previous attempt he couldn’t start jumping over the lava pits or doing anything else that was useful.

It is interesting to see the images from his way back to the left because all the silver coins are gone now (pic 13, 14 & 15). Especially the last image is weird because the room is completely black.

Because there is no way up in any of the dark rooms, the area to find the solution is somehow limited in size: the bottom row in four rooms. So, no panic!

At last Jack found a hidden sign with a clue to help him (pic 16).


The small area to the right of the starting room is a way back. Right of the closed grey door is a pressure button that should open that door (pic 2). Maybe it is only because it is a way back that these rooms are pretty easy for a hard mansion. But why a way back to the starting room? To do efforts to catch a few more coins or a shield during the fall (pic 4 & 5)? And then again the whole way back to the place where you want to continue with exploring the mansion? Maybe even more than once? Really?

There is nothing wrong with a 4-room-fall, but in a first attempt the odds are big that you get taken by suprise, fall down from the ladder and will miss some rewards. Besides that, the two money bags (pic 4 & 5) are out of reach due to gravity. That is distracting and therefore feels unfair.

The dark rooms! To avoid spoilers I will not give details, but I like to put your attention to the fact that Jack-from-the-video at first missed the sign and the second time only found it after a lot of kicking/jumping/climbing everywhere in the dark rooms. More important is that before he found the sign he hadn’t the slighest idea that there was a hint. In my opinion I think that the hint was okay because it is a hard mansion and the hint did not disappear.

However this was a wake-up call for me to be very careful with designing dark rooms and especially not to forget that coins ‘to show the way’ disappear when Jack picks them up. E.g. there are coins suggesting the presence of a ladder (pic 11 & 12). If Jack climbs that ladder, dies in the zapper beam and leaves the room to search for an other way forward, the player may forget that there was a ladder or where exactly that it was.
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Title: Re: A nostalgic blog concerning designing mansions
Post by Freddy on 05.06.2022 at 19:09:25
BLOG (part 6)

2022 June the 5th

Jack-from-the-videos also visited MM1 HD Spider Palace hard. In the starting room (pic 1) he saw that his only way out is the pole to the room below. But he also noticed that soon there will be a path to the left and one to the right.

Correction (pic 2)!
3 paths to the left and 3 to the right.

I took note from the fact that this Jack chose for the most natural way of exploring: wait with using keys and first have a (brief) look in other rooms.

In the next room (pic 3) he did find 2 saving points. Here Alex Diener said: “Oh, it’s a hub. Probably I use one save pedestal after the left red-door-sections and the other one after the right wing."

Further down Jack arrived in a room with 6 yellow doors and 2 levers to open the 2 closed grey doors. There Alex predicted the future. "Each red door will finally lead to 1 yellow and 1 red key. So Jack will be able to open all yellow and grey doors and will climb down the vine with a red key where he will find a new hub."


The set-up of MM1 HD Spider Palace hard is very very clean, in an almost clinical way. The design of these first 4 rooms is without any risk. And that is also the case for Jack, because there are no enemies, no puzzles and no traps. Easy (pic 2 & 3) and very easy (pic 1 & 4) stuff in a hard mansion.

Things to keep in mind are the moneybags and shields (pic 1 & 4) and the possibility of a secret (pic 4).

Next time I like to share my first ideas for the set-up of Brave New World.
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Title: Re: A nostalgic blog concerning designing mansions
Post by brell on 16.06.2022 at 22:35:30
Dear Freddy,
nice to "see" you again.  Your blog is good and I think in the right category.
What type of Mac and system are you using to play/build?  I am using a VirtualBox machine where, unfortunately, MM lags a little which makes it harder to play.

Title: Re: A nostalgic blog concerning designing mansions
Post by Freddy on 17.06.2022 at 03:39:18
Hi Brell

Everything is very well, besides the fact that I don't have machinery to play and build. I would like to buy an older Mac with macosx 10.3, 10.4 or 10.5. If anyone should know from an online site please let me know.

After struggling through the original mansions again, the first thing I like to do is renovation works in my own mansions, based on my new ideas but with respect to the existing saving points, amount of secrets and money etc. And fixing mistakes, like a really horrible serial-half-Jack-stuck in Midnight Mazes and Monsters.
:o :-[

In part 7 of the blog I will give info about these ideas.

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