1. When you are making a map, what are the steps you go through in the process?
MFL's Guide to Heading a Collaboration Map Edit
This will be written for the general public, but it will be given from the perspective of someone with saving/uploading tools and a sizable collaboration team.
Let's say you've gotten a general theme, be it artistic (Fall of Zeal) or design conception (Illusion). The first thing you do is consider your resources. Saving? Check. Uploading? Check. Enough Talent? Check. Design an outline for the map that describes the path, difficulty, theme, and other guidelines for the contributing members. You can find some such outlines above in MIHB's post, or consider this one:
As far as sketches go, this is a two month old outline for our second map Fall of Zeal, which, after crashing 2 hours into production at a time before we had save capability, had only been just re-created as our last map.
Once the outline has been distributed, depending on the type of map, begin pre-production. This occurs in various forms: for art intensive maps, begin to "box" off key landmarks and mimic the sketch given. Compare the Fall of Zeal sketch to the minimap on the bottom right. For room intensive maps, start creating and testing rooms over the span of days in order to ensure they meet all the standards of room creation (you can read more about that here.).
Then pick a day for go-time.
Mapmaking Day Edit
Start by uploading a basic outline that carries over all that was created in pre-production. Then start to divy up sections, giving the pre-outlined boxes and some difficulty/concept guidelines for room creation to certain collaborators, and letting the creative heads continue to work on outlining/pathing/aesthetic works that need to be in place prior to any level creation.
You can glean from the Fall of Zeal outline that any creative project has to have a limit on the individuals with creative control, otherwise things will fall apart very quickly through bickering or failed map integration. The role I played was especially critical during the map creation phase; namely, the central hub with which all contributing members would confer. There needs to be at least one head, preferably just one, that can keep every variable in mind, integrating the individual contributors and their contributions alike. He needs to know his collaborators strengths, their times available, and the extent to which they can be left to their own devices. Collaborator A will need a few boxes with entrances and exits predesigned and a lot of instruction/room testing, while Collaborator B can be left to design their own aesthetic as well as rooms with little micromanagement.
Most importantly, you and your co-heads must be ruthless and exacting judges of character. You are handing your work out to strangers with only their word as sole offering of collateral. In all my time of collaboration work, and even giving codes out in maps, I've had zero incidents with map destruction. It could be said to be luck, but those with excellent insight will know with whom they can work. If you can't tell if someone can be trusted, you aren't capable as head of a collaboration effort. Taking chances with your hours of work is not advisable.
The map proceeds to grow with more and more of the outline filled up by rooms and artwork, with saves are generally made every thirty minutes. Have your contributors invite your testers to try their work so you don't have to. It is granted that you gave these people the position of tester, not because they aren't good builders, but because you trust their judgment with regards to evaluating level creativity and difficulty in your stead. Let the testers work it out with the member who created the area, this is important for both saving your time and allowing your collaborators to perform their tasks with a sense of independent ownership and self-efficacy.
Finishing and Releasing Edit
Finally, when the map is ready for your finishing touches, save it and bring it offline. Slap on your logo, your tinychat, any other aesthetic bells and whistles you'd like to add, then prep it for a Beta test. You can either upload it in private again under a random name and just let your members test it out in full, or you can send it right out for the public to play through. Watch for bottlenecks; that is to say, clump ups of players in a room that doesn't warrant such difficulty for its location, and nerf the room (make it easier) accordingly. Have your collaborators keep a close eye on player progress and various locations, fixing exploits or making changes when necessary.
Make a final save with a version you are happy with, and, FINALLY, have a go at the map yourself!
Other Questions Edit
3. How do you go about creating maps offline?
7. Will the animator be released to the public?
That's Aslai's business, we have no idea.
8. Where do your original ideas come from? (Obstacles and such.)