So far I'm finding the level design phase to be more challenging than I originally anticipated. The added flexibility to design levels in almost any way I want has been met with the challenge of doing so.
The constraints of the original Temple of Idosra forced me to make every room the same size and with exits to neighboring rooms in the same places (on the borders of the 12x12 grid). On top of that, I had time constraints. When the hurricane struck and I had no power, I passed the time drawing rooms on paper. When power was restored I had too little time left in the game jam to make revisions to my plans.
KramerGames left some good advice over here
about rough drafts of manuscripts and how to relate them to games. It's a nice reminder that you don't have to get everything right the first time, since it's not likely to happen anyway. I used to spend quite a bit of time over on the literature forums on DeviantART, and the usual advice given on writing was to just get something down first. You can't edit a manuscript that doesn't exist. So I decided just to start sketching areas and see where my imagination takes me.
Here's one I put together in a couple of days.
I'm pretty happy with how it looks in the actual game. The game has an adventure feeling with a number of puzzles--but depending on your play style, you can actually ignore many of them. It's heavily influenced by the types of areas in a MUD I used to operate.
An early puzzle that is somewhat optional is to figure out how to get the lamps to turn on. It's not difficult to solve--mainly just hunting down the pieces needed to restore a crude generator. It's a reward for exploring and the lights reveal passages that are totally hidden in the darkness--although you can find them early by stumbling around in the dark.
I took my eyes off the screen for one moment to push the "capture screenshot" button and died. Whoops. I took some steps to steer the player in the right direction at the beginning, and to get to this area I ignored them--so it's pretty tough. While I'm not using "experience points" as is the tradition in RPGs, you can find more powerful weapons and books that teach the player character new skills. Obviously she has some reading to do before reaching this room.