The start of an unnamed campagin

Discuss and unveil current Marathon projects.

Re: The start of an unnamed campagin

Post Dec 28th '15, 09:00

I scratch started the level at TC. Did not visit the weapons locker.

First impressions.
I like it. I like the whole level being available at the end terminal. After conquering a level, I like to go sightseeing to look at the interesting things I missed during the heat of battle. In general, I like the visual impact. It was interesting, attractive, and credible. I really liked the hallway going to the end terminal: absolutely industrial.

There was sufficient ammo lying around;
I even had some left over at the end. I appreciate it when I can scratch start a level and scavenge enough ordnance to complete it yet there not be so much that I don’t have to manage it. Ordnance Management is a first year mandatory class at the UESC SO Academy but then there's always plenty of ammo at the Academy.

There was more than enough health available from conveniently located yet not overly abundant terminals.
Spoiler:
With a couple of exceptions I bypassed the canisters. I ran on the 2x at polygon 896: the blue cabinet door was already open when I entered the cave at full speed. I used the 3x but was depleted to 2 red units during the first encounter after I had it. I get very careless with lots of health. I’m going to replay from a save before that point and see if I really needed it. I’ll use precision scavenging instead of scooping the whole shelf.


The most thrilling point was
Spoiler:
getting into the middle floor of the building under construction. It took about a dozen leaps the first time but now I can get it about one out of four. Though there may be an easier way that I don’t know about.


The best mystery was The Singular Incident of the Switch at Polygon 469. I spent a long time on this during the fighting, but didn’t actually solve it until my tour. At which time I was surprised by a blue bug who got splattered for his impertinence.

The secondary fire on the shotgun was kinda fun, but in the long run it just seems a little too much. Sorta like double jumping or whatever they call it in Destiny (Hey, does this cape make me look fat?). My personal preference would be to stick with the grenade/rocket jumping with its attendant hazards.

The story terminals are good too, though one writer is expressing some schadenfreude and may be tending towards instability.
I just play 'em; I don't know how they work.
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HelviusRufus

Post Dec 28th '15, 19:08

The idea of a jetpack shotgun is a bit odd. It just doesn't seem to fit the weapon. The RPG or even the alien weapon I think would be more suitable candidates (especially consider they don't already have a secondary). Also one thing I've always wanted since playing infinity is duel-wielding SMGs. If you can do it in Halo 3 why not infinity?
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3371-Alpha
Veldin Orbit

Post Dec 29th '15, 03:55

I'm glad you liked what you saw and enjoyed what you did, Helvius. By the way, I created this recurring gameplay motif where the player has a fire fight with the enemies across a pit; I did it leading up to the shotgun, with the top floors of the houses, and with the silo at the end. Did you notice this motif? Did you enjoy it?

HelviusRufus wrote:
The most thrilling point was
Spoiler:
getting into the middle floor of the building under construction. It took about a dozen leaps the first time but now I can get it about one out of four. Though there may be an easier way that I don’t know about.



The easiest way to get there
Spoiler:
is also the only way to get there that I'm aware of. Get to the top floor of the building under construction. From the top floor you can run off the edge and around a corner and into the second floor. There's really only one corner where this will work, and a quick inspection from the outside of the building will reveal which works best.



HelviusRufus wrote:The secondary fire on the shotgun was kinda fun, but in the long run it just seems a little too much.


3371-Alpha wrote:The idea of a jetpack shotgun is a bit odd. It just doesn't seem to fit the weapon.


I'm still on the fence about this alt fire. I kind of like it, but yes, it is a little out of place. Originally the shotgun's secondary fire was a charge up that fired all the shots with a small spread. I moved that ability over to the SMG so that the SMG is more of a sniping weapon. Maybe I'll switch the secondary fires between those two guns again. I'd definitely be interested in hearing what you guys think I should do with the secondary fire of the shotgun and SMG. (Maybe I could give the SMG a jetpack ability, but have it be a charge up ability with one really big kick?)
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philtron

Post Dec 29th '15, 06:16

I'VE GOT IT! Put the jetpack as the flamethrower's secondary (lets just say Durandal gave you a pressure upgrade allowing you to ride on it) & put the tight spread upgrade on the alien weapon (the Pfhore always has weird new crap for you to steal).
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3371-Alpha
Veldin Orbit

Post Jan 3rd '16, 22:00

I've played though 90% of level 1. What I liked is how you keep very tight control over weapons, ammo, and health. I felt like I had to make every shot count.

As far as level design, the homage to Arrival and/or Ne Cede Malis is readily apparent. It's good for the sake of allusion, but I found that the overall effect was too mazelike, with too many narrow passages overlapping each other on the map. I think by shifting some hallways a little, you could make it significantly easier to travel using the automap with little effect on the flow.

On top of that, there are times when the player lacks direction. Sometimes you find a locked door, and other times you find a switch. But with the connections unknown, I spend a lot of time aimlessly re-combing over the map, hoping to discover that something new has opened up. The door to the fusion pistol (537) is one such example. Another is door 637. In fact, I still haven't found where to open it, which is why I'm only 90% through the level. Can I get a hint?

Typically terminals give the player more direction on the nitty gritty of how to complete the level. If you have no plans to make terminal PICTs, consider using #INFORMATION sections instead of #PICT. Or you could do well to make a single icon image and use that for log ons, log offs, picts, and the scenario itself.

Some more minutia:
  • Does picking up a second pistol serve any purpose?
  • This is engine-side, but I guess I'm still getting used to saving without the dialog box.
  • It's neat how one trooper can 'let himself out' by lobbing a grenade into the switch on the opposite side.
  • Platform 146 frequently gets out of sync with its siblings.
  • A handful of walls are simply paved and don't match the surrounding textures and lights.
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Crater Creator

Post Jan 3rd '16, 23:53

Thanks for playing, and thanks for the feedback. I'm interested to see what you think of the later levels.

Crater Creator wrote:Sometimes you find a locked door, and other times you find a switch. But with the connections unknown, I spend a lot of time aimlessly re-combing over the map, hoping to discover that something new has opened up. The door to the fusion pistol (537) is one such example. Another is door 637. In fact, I still haven't found where to open it, which is why I'm only 90% through the level. Can I get a hint?


Well that's probably because those doors are related to secrets. They're not supposed to be easy to figure out and the connections aren't supposed to be obvious. The fusion pistol is a secret, for example. Door 637 cannot be opened from the outside; you have to teleport into the room from a completely different part of the map; the teleporter is also secret although I provide a hint near where the teleporter is located. Let me know if you need more of a hint than that.

Crater Creator wrote:Typically terminals give the player more direction on the nitty gritty of how to complete the level. If you have no plans to make terminal PICTs, consider using #INFORMATION sections instead of #PICT. Or you could do well to make a single icon image and use that for log ons, log offs, picts, and the scenario itself.


I'll admit that how to beat the level is also a little obfuscated if you don't stumble on it on accident. Let me know if you need help with that. Future levels give more direction to the player, although for this one I deliberately wanted the player to feel lost and unsure of what to do.

I actually can't figure out how to get pictures to show up in terminals. I thought I could just include the Infinity Images file in the merge folder and reference image numbers in the terminals; I tried this in the third map but it didn't work.

Crater Creator wrote:Does picking up a second pistol serve any purpose?


No, and I don't know how to make it so the player doesn't pick up the second pistol (or a second shotgun). I'll have to make a post asking if anyone knows the solution.

Crater Creator wrote:Platform 146 frequently gets out of sync with its siblings.


It happens. I couldn't fix it so I made its switch flicker to imply that its malfunctioning due to damage.

Crater Creator wrote:A handful of walls are simply paved and don't match the surrounding textures and lights.


If I ever get back to this level I'll probably just remake it from scratch.
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philtron

Post Jan 4th '16, 06:25

I see. No, I don't need more hints for getting to secrets - thank you for stopping where you did. The reason I wanted to get past 637 so badly was I assumed it was necessary to progress. The level is presented as if it were an extermination level. So I assumed there were still aliens behind that door, and the fact they were still alive is what kept the terminals from updating to finished. Now, through your reply and Weland I see it's an exploration level, and somehow I managed to walk over every nook and cranny except past door 249, which seems to contain the only must-be-explored polygon.

So on the one hand, I could point out it's a bad sign if I have to ask for guidance and crack open the map in Weland to figure out what to do next. I could suggest it should be more apparent how to make progress, and the level could be shaped so it's more apparent which doors can open (aside from secret ones) and which are aesthetic. On the other hand, there's nothing special about the place where I got stuck. There's nothing in particular 'wrong' about that area, and I don't know why I missed it. In short, this is a case where both the mapmaker and the player could've done better.

Now that I'm past it, I plan to continue with level 2.
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Crater Creator

Post Jan 4th '16, 22:41

A quick heads up: there are no aesthetic doors in my maps; some people might disagree, but I think door textures placed purely for aesthetics or "world building" reasons are disingenuous on the part of the map maker; if you see a door texture in my map then it means there's someway to open it, or, there's a way to get past it and open it from the other side.
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philtron

Post Jan 5th '16, 06:55

philtron wrote:The easiest way to get there


Yes it is! I just went and tried my way
Spoiler:
ShotgunSonata_0004.png

Flying thru the air with the greatest of ease
but using a shotgun instead of trapeze.

and it took about 30 tries before I made it. I was thinking I'd gained too much weight during new year's celebrations to still do it, but I finally made it. Yes, your way is much easier.

Also, I'm surprised by the lack of corpses (other than the ones I made).
By the way, what do Pfhor in their various forms eat?
I just play 'em; I don't know how they work.
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HelviusRufus

Post Jan 15th '16, 22:16

philtron wrote:I don't know how to make it so the player doesn't pick up the second pistol (or a second shotgun).

Code: Select all
<items>
  <item index="1" maximum="1"/>  <!-- limit pistol pickups to 1 -->
  <item index="22" maximum="1"/>  <!-- limit shotgun pickups to 1 -->
</items>
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Hopper

Post Jan 15th '16, 22:29

Thanks for the LUA script, Hopper.

But, isn't there some way to do it that doesn't involve scripts? How did other Marathon mods do it in the past, like RED and Eternal?
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philtron

Post Jan 15th '16, 23:08

That's MML, not Lua, and that's how Eternal does it. RED probably originally used Fux!, which could edit many of these values as they were hard-coded into the old Infinity app.
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Pfhorrest
California

Post Jan 16th '16, 16:41

The third level is the only one I've actually played all the way through (I'll get to the other two).

You're quite good at differential shading, especially in your outdoor spaces. I liked that the level was nonlinear, and it's always fun when a level mixes outdoor and indoor spaces like this. Your outdoor areas were quite nice as well.

I do have some criticism, but I hope you'll take it as constructive criticism.

You seem to be over-reliant on simple hallways to connect things. The indoor areas seemed to be mostly nondescript hallways, with a few lighting effects, and some larger, more interesting areas. It was very difficult to navigate indoors, because I simply couldn't remember what linked to what. One thing you could do is replace some of your hallways with larger spaces that effectively serve the same purpose – only two ways in or out. A lot of these hallways are also just 1 WU tall. You could play around a bit more with height.

One thing I've found that can really help players get a sense of space is to build the level around your larger areas, and to let the player easily see how things are connected. When I say around, I don't mean build several large areas and then connect them with hallways. I mean move around them, connecting back to them often. Revisiting the same area multiple times is also helpful for this, especially when it's done from new angles. The player goes through a large room early in the level, with two interesting-looking locked doors that the player must ignore for the moment. Later in the level, the player flips a switch, a door opens and... it's one of those doors in the first area! And the other door is open now too! Or letting the player see a large interesting area through windows and things for a while before allowing them to finally get out there. It can be very satisfying as a player when something like this happens. It makes progressing through the level all the more rewarding and significant.

Another thing is the grid. I'm not sure, but it doesn't look like you use the "constrain to grid" feature much at all. I've always found the grid to be very, very helpful. I think you should experiment more with using the grid for your indoor areas. Right now the indoor areas in the northwest area of the map (not the ones in the freestanding buildings – I liked those) seem strange and disjointed.

Lastly, I've found that it really helps the feel of a map to play around with elevation. One big thing is just making small changes in floor and ceiling elevations. For example, have a doorway (and I highly suggest using actual doorways often, with a small polygon on each side of the door so the door appears to be embedded in the wall) be 0.1 or 0.2 WU higher than the floor of the room, so long as the room is more than 1 WU tall to begin with. Also, when you play RyokoTK's maps, observe how he uses changes in ceiling height to make interesting architecture. It's something I'm just now learning.

A final thing I'll say is that you should avoid having terminals, pattern buffers, switches, etc. in indentations in the wall that are more than 0.25 WU deep. You're doing 0.5 WU, which looks bad and clunky. You have a bit more leeway on windows, but I'd still avoid going more than 0.25 WU.

Anyway, I enjoyed this level. You've already got a lot of good habits. Differential shading is one, and you've done a good job with blending indoor and outdoor spaces. Combat was fun, and you did a good job with ammo and weapon placement. I look forward to seeing your next maps!

I leave you with John Romero's rules for level design. I think they're very helpful.

always changing floor height when I wanted to change floor textures
using special border textures between different wall segments and doorways
being strict about texture alignment
conscious use of contrast everywhere in a level between light and dark areas, cramped and open areas
making sure that if a player could see outside that they should be able to somehow get there
being strict about designing several secret areas on every level
making my levels flow so the player will revisit areas several times so they will better understand the 3D space of the level
creating easily recognizable landmarks in several places for easier navigation
adaman

Post Jan 16th '16, 18:03

Thank you for your feedback, adaman. It's always good to hear someone else's perspective.

adaman wrote:Another thing is the grid. I'm not sure, but it doesn't look like you use the "constrain to grid" feature much at all. I've always found the grid to be very, very helpful. I think you should experiment more with using the grid for your indoor areas. Right now the indoor areas in the northwest area of the map (not the ones in the freestanding buildings – I liked those) seem strange and disjointed.


Yes, I rarely follow the grid although I usually hold down "option" or "ctrl" or whatever snaps a line to the exact length you want it to. I don't do this when I want to create a more organic feeling space which, combined with extra polygons to create lightcasting effects, is what gives those Northwestern buildings the feel that they have.

adaman wrote:A final thing I'll say is that you should avoid having terminals, pattern buffers, switches, etc. in indentations in the wall that are more than 0.25 WU deep. You're doing 0.5 WU, which looks bad and clunky. You have a bit more leeway on windows, but I'd still avoid going more than 0.25 WU.


This is deliberate and won't change as long as I make maps taking place on Tau Ceti. In the original Marathon all the terminals and switches were inset by 0.5. So, my terminals and switches are not only a homage to the original Marathon but they also function as a bit of world building that suggests that the Tau Ceti colony was built using similar architectural principles as the UESC Marathon. I originally was going to have a lot more blocky, simplistic architecture to accomplish the same homage/worldbuilding goal, but that got boring real fast.

Again, thank you for your feedback. Although I'll point out that most of your feedback has to do with visual design and I am not a visually oriented mapmaker. At all. RyokoTK puts a lot of focus into his visual and architectural design, which might have something to do with him having a degree in architecture. His levels look great, but they often are very linear in their progression and often involve just throwing a bunch of monsters at the player in an open area. And there's nothing wrong with that, but that's not the type of levels I'm interested in and it's not the type of mapmaker I am.

I am much more interested in curating a specific interactive experience for the player using tools like gameplay motifs, monster behavior, and encounter design. And because my levels tend to be nonlinear that means I have to test, tweak, and polish specific encounters many more times than if they were linear. That leaves me with less energy and less time to work on things such as architectural design, which has to sometimes change dramatically to get an encounter to work right or to get monster behavior to work right.

That Northwest area that you feel is disjointed was originally a completely different area. I deleted 200-300 polygons and did a complete redesign and I'm very happy with the result. In fact, the first area (Northwest leading to shotgun) and the last area (communication silo) were the last spaces I designed, and I think they actually turned out the best because they behave in the most interesting way.

I'm interested in how a gamespace "behaves", not so much in how a gamespace looks.

I'm not trying to dismiss your feedback, and I'm not saying to avoid giving me feedback on my visual design; it's always good to see things from other people's eyes. I just wanted to let you, and anyone else reading this, understand where I'm coming from and why my levels are designed the way they are. It's easy to notice the visual design of a level because it's right there in your face, but it's harder to notice the behavior and gameplay design of a level because you have to consciously pay attention to it across multiple playthroughs.
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philtron

Post Jan 16th '16, 20:23

philtron wrote: In the original Marathon all the terminals and switches were inset by 0.5.

You must have played a very different Marathon than I did. In Arrival, for instance, everything is 0.25 except the pattern buffer (0.168, with signs of a last-minute tweak) and the last required switch (0.5, inside an angled alcove, to make sure you couldn't just hit the switch on the run without fighting the enemies).

Edit: For anyone looking to inspect the original Marathon architecture in Weland, load a level in Aleph One and use ".save level" to export something Weland can read.
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Hopper

Post Jan 16th '16, 21:28

So I guess I was misremembering when I said "all". The 0.5 terminals and switches (like at the start of Blaspheme Quarantine) stood out so much in my mind that I thought all of them were like that.
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philtron

Post Jan 18th '16, 15:20

philtron, I take your point about visuals. Your encounters are clearly well-planned and well-executed, I like them a lot, and they play well with the spaces you've built for them to occur in. That's clearly something you're focused on (far more than I ever was), and it's definitely paying off.

I had some serious problems with your level design on the first map, however. The map is built around a giant, mostly nondescript maze. And further, the maze overlaps itself numerous times, making the minimap very difficult to use. You made the map, so you know the maze. It may seem relatively simple to you, but to me at least, it was not just confusing, but incredibly frustrating. I know you were referencing Arrival and possibly Ne Cede Malis, but you took it to an extreme (and I honestly didn't like the mazes in those maps to begin with, though they were much smaller and more manageable). At one point I found a switch in the maze next to a window. The switch opened a door I could see through the window. That's good – it's always good to see what a switch does. But the door was in just another hallway. I had no idea how to get there, and I had no idea if I'd even been there before. I'd opened some random door somewhere that would take me forever to find. And it did take me forever to find it. That should have been an "Aha!" moment, where an obstacle that I remembered seeing before was now gone. But I had no conception of how the 3D space of the map fit together, and that made it very difficult to do anything. I think you may have been going for exploration, but it really felt more like aimless wandering. I rarely felt rewarded for finding anything new, because I just ended up thrown back into the maze without a good sense of where to go next. Or if I knew where to go next, I still had a very hard time trying to get there.

That definitely did get better as the scenario went on, though. The second map had a lot more large spaces that I enjoyed. Although I was still often confused by the layout, it wasn't nearly so difficult to find my way forward. The final area in the second map was great, as were the fusion pistol room and the large room near the beginning. And as I said, I liked the third map quite a bit, and out of the three it was definitely the one that was easiest to navigate.

I know you have a very clear idea of what it is you want to make, and I respect that. You're not interested in frivolous visuals, and I think that's fine. You say you're focused on gameplay design, but you mostly seem to care about combat and nonlinearity. I have no problems with your combat. And I have no problems with nonlinearity. But I think you need to do more to help the player navigate your maps and make sense of the 3D space.

Anyways, we clearly have some philosophical differences on mapmaking, and I'm sure some of my criticisms can be chalked up to those differences. I did overall enjoy playing your maps, and I look forward to playing more as they're released.
adaman

Post Jan 21st '16, 01:29

Thank you for the additional feedback, adaman.

That first level definitely has some problems. It has some nice moments, but ultimately it just doesn't work.

adaman wrote:You say you're focused on gameplay design, but you mostly seem to care about combat and nonlinearity... But I think you need to do more to help the player navigate your maps and make sense of the 3D space.


You seem to be drawing a distinction between gameplay vs. combat and nonlinearity. I kind of feel like they're part of the same thing. I get that you're saying "communicating the navigability of the level" is a part of gameplay that I'm ignoring, but can you elaborate on what you consider gameplay as a whole.

adaman wrote:The final area in the second map was great, as were the fusion pistol room and the large room near the beginning.


And in the third map I feel like the first and final areas are the best designed. So maybe I should just make levels that only consist of a beginning and an end and have no middle. It would definitely speed up the process.
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philtron

Post Jan 21st '16, 16:03

I think I just said it wrong and stupidly. What I meant was, you're focusing only on some aspects of gameplay. You seem to be focusing on combat heavily, which is good, but I think you're doing so at the expense of level design. And by level design, I mean the player experience progressing through the level. I'm sure there's a better term for that. Maybe just layout? Also I didn't really mean anything by saying nonlinearity, not sure why I put it in there.

One thing I think would help (at least, I think you should try it once, just to see) is to build a map around one or two large, interesting areas. Have the player constantly interact with those spaces, even if it's just visually. Have the player approach the same areas from different angles. They serve as landmarks that help the player tie the level together, and they can also give the player a sense of satisfaction and progression when they realize they've reached somewhere they could see before but couldn't get to.

I don't think it would be that big a change from your current approach. You already design some interesting areas, you just don't use them for very long. For example, one thing you could do in the second map is have the player move around the fusion pistol room for a while, but not be able to get down there just yet. That room is cool, and yet right now, the player goes down there, gets the fusion pistol, and then leaves.

Also, in the first big room in the second level, it would be interesting and cool if that area later played host to a jumping "puzzle" (they're not really puzzles). Already you have the player pass by that room again at a higher elevation. What if the later in the level the player is a bit higher up, comes back into that room from above, and has to jump across all the high areas in that room to progress? While, of course, triggering a platform that allows the player to easily get back up if they fall. You get a much bigger payoff than if you were to have a separate jumping puzzle in a totally unrelated room.

One more thing, I think the cool (cold?) fusion room in the second level would be improved by using some more lights. It's fine that it's dark, but it would help the player if the exit doors were illuminated. And maybe a few more lights on the walls as well to give the player a better sense of the space they're in. I'm not saying light the whole place up, but a stray light or two would make that space a lot more interesting visually, and make navigation much easier.

And I don't think it's just your beginning and ending areas that are interesting and well-designed. I really like the outdoor portion of the third level. I was also a fan of the larger rooms in the first level, actually. And a number of areas in your second level too (not just the ones I said). I think the problem is that your interesting areas are too spread apart, and the links between them often feel like filler.
adaman

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