Marathon Chronicles

Discuss and unveil current Marathon projects.

Re: Marathon Chronicles

Post Jun 20th '18, 00:37

I’m going to make a much longer post after returning from a walk. This post may actually reference contents of that later post; I cut these gameplay videos out of said post after realising I’d be physically away from the computer for awhile, so if something here doesn’t make sense, it will once I return. (The videos aren’t relevant to the longer post, and the limit on post speed is the only reason I even combined them.)

Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore (latest revision)

Finally populated most of the level (there are a few rooms that still need enemies added, but we’re talking about around 10% of them). It’s still not anywhere near complete; I think the main reason I never finished populating it was frustration at how quickly I hit the 1,000-polygon mark back when the 1,024-polygon limit was still a thing. This map has the second highest polygon count of any level I’d constructed in the 1,024-polygon era; it currently sits at 1,011 polygons, and I only felt I’d constructed about two-thirds of what the level required. (“Room a Thousand Years Wide”, at 1,089 polygons, and “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk”, at 1,031, have more polygons now, but they were at 971 and 946, respectively, before the polygon limit was lifted. Only “Burn Down the Mission”, at 1,012, slipped past this one back in the polygon limit era.) As a result, you’ll notice that some parts of the level are ridiculously ornate, and other parts are positively spartan. This is because I ran up against the limit for the spartan parts. I’ve been on a roll revising levels in this scenario, so over the next few days before my vacation I may add areas to this level.

Sketches of Pain through Deadwing

Twice in a row, the game has crashed when I’ve successfully played from the start through “Deadwing”; it’s frozen each time I’ve proceeded to “Room a Thousand Years Wide”. I don’t know if this is a bug in A1 or if it’s a bug in my map. Resuming the map from a save file, then proceeding to “Room” works fine. Scratch starting from “Deadwing” and then proceeding to “Room” works fine. Perhaps the game is running out of memory. I might also play through on Kindergarten just for shits and giggles and see if the problem still recurs.

The map file here is a few days old, so there are a few things I’ve already revised. Offhand, the biggest change involves an erstwhile 5D space section on “Pleiades’ Dust” that I implemented due to viewing distance limits in the M∞ engine. This might break suspension of disbelief once you open the door to the secret (the door in the 5D space section remained closed), or if there are enemy corpses littering the floor that you don’t see from the other side.

I have now revised the geometry of these segments to remove the 5D space; they are now contiguous. (For that matter, I may make more of the level transparent; an awful lot of the level has transparent, solid walls, and I may add even more of them now that polygon sides and viewing distance aren’t much of a consideration.)

Other than that, the other changes I’ve made were mostly fairly subtle. I textured a few walls in “Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein” and fixed one of the ambient sound objects that played the wrong “siren” sound (I replaced the second “siren” sound with Tempus Irae’s “wind and thunder” sound effect in Chronicles, but Weland lists the same name for both those sounds, so I got confused as to which one I needed to use). I can’t even recall the changes I made to the other levels; I think they were also mostly ambient sound-related, but subtler than that.
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The Man
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Post Jun 20th '18, 02:28

This is going to be long; a lot longer than I intended, actually, but with good reason. If you read any of my long posts in this thread to the end, I’d ask you to make it this one. (However, I’ll allow a special dispensation for individuals suffering certain psychological issues, which I’ll explain when I reach the relevant point about halfway through.) Most of it is about something much more important than a mere Marathon scenario, but several of my recollections tie in closely with this scenario, so I’m posting it here. I also intend to make another post later that isn’t closely tied to this scenario; I’ll almost certainly post that as its own thread.

(I didn’t plan to write two lengthy recollections – I only planned this to be around five paragraphs – but writings have a way of escaping my plans for them. I should really have learned this by now; as I’ve mentioned before, on one occasion, six weeks after sitting down planning a 3,000-word essay, I’d already written 70,000 words. I hope to finish that writing by the end of this year.)

§

I’ve been thinking about the plot of this scenario some more. I think I can get away with not having a linear story for several reasons – number one, Infinity, Eternal, and Rubicon already don’t. My current name for the “hub” dream levels is “naked lunch one” through “naked lunch six” (the last of these is currently only in the secret levels, though). Obviously, they’re named after a William S. Burroughs novel; in it, he used a literary “cut-up” technique. The idea was that you didn’t need to reveal every single connecting element of the plot; readers could piece together the overall whole from the details revealed on the page. Infinity basically does exactly that.

The germ of my new plot idea, though, comes from Slaughterhouse-Five. Since there are currently five dream levels in the main game, I’m half-thinking of renaming them after the novel, though I haven’t definitively decided to do that. The main idea I’m turning around in my head is basically summed up in the first sentence of the main body of the novel: “Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” (The first chapter is metafiction that describes Vonnegut’s writing process; the novel proper starts in the second.)

There are several ways to read Slaughterhouse-Five, but the way I read it is that the time travel to the future, the aliens, and the other supernatural elements are all in Billy Pilgrim’s head. They’re his brain’s way of coping with the traumas he’s experienced throughout his life. His travels into the past, meanwhile, are PTSD flashbacks.

I’ve suffered a PTSD flashback before. I was incredibly fortunate that I only had one; it was a result of a car accident that I think may have sent me unconscious for a fraction of a second, but fortunately, I wasn’t badly injured, nor were the people in the car I struck. But it affected my brain for months. It didn’t affect my performance at my job, but it sent me off-track at school, and I wound up having to submit several assignments late (fortunately, my professor was quite understanding of my mental issues and I received almost full credit for my work).

At a point of particular stress, I experienced a flashback. It was as though I were literally present at the scene of the accident again; my sense of touch, I think, still reflected the world around me, but my senses of hearing and vision and, for that matter, my consciousness may as well have been sent back in time to the scene of the accident. I was barely even able to move physically, and I was terrified even to open my eyes. I’m not entirely sure how long it lasted, but I think it must’ve gone on for about fifteen minutes. In the aftermath, most of the progress I’d made recovering from the accident was undone for awhile.

I think people who haven’t had flashbacks underestimate how severe they are. It’s not just a memory of the past; it’s an entire regression to the past. It’s… well, Vonnegut’s metaphor is the best I’ve read. It’s time travel. You’re almost literally reliving the experience – your physical atoms might not actually be transported back to the trauma, but your brain might as well be.

I’m incredibly fortunate to only have had one of them. Some people cope with the aftereffects of PTSD for the rest of their lives. I still don’t know if I’m fully over all the effects (in fact, I think lingering PTSD may have worsened another mental illness I experienced later on), but I no longer live with major fears of a second flashback, at least. I think the medication I take may also have helped blunt the effects somewhat.

I’ve been considering for awhile the idea that I can use a video game to explore elements of sanity, perception, and reality. Vonnegut was probably a much better writer than I am, but I think he’s given me the way forward. The player character in Marathon would certainly have plenty of traumas after the events of even the canonical trilogy, much less the third-party scenarios I’m planning to include in Chronicles’ backstory. There is ample room to use my own game to explore the effects of this.

I’ve had my own bouts of insanity in recent years; beyond the PTSD, another mental illness I began experiencing last year literally made me question the reality of what I was experiencing. The short version is that I didn’t feel like a real person, and I didn’t feel like anything that occurred to me or around me was real, either. Most frequently, I felt as though I was a character in a poorly written Philip K. Dick pastiche. Occasionally, it would be Joseph Heller or Richard Condon instead. World news certainly didn’t feel real, but the events around me also didn’t feel real. I felt as though there was a veil separating me from external reality; my recent memories felt like someone else’s memories. When I was in conversation, even with close friends, I felt robotic or as though there was an actor portraying my lines. I occasionally experienced the sensation of leaving my corporeal body, as though I were floating above myself. Colours seemed muted; I derived little enjoyment from tasks that often brought me pleasure (except listening to music; listening to music may have actually given me increased pleasure).

It was miserable. Occasionally I would experience synaesthesia, which was literally the only upside I found in the entire ordeal. The name of the disorder is depersonalisation/derealisation disorder, which I’ll to abbreviate as DPDR for the rest of this writing because it’s a mouthful. The immediate cause was an uncle’s unexpected (to me) death. (Other family members knew he was sick, but I was informed of his illness the day before he died.) My brain shut down, I think, because it was overloaded and couldn’t process the information.

I think other factors worsened it. The surreality of the last few years’ worth of world events – if you submitted it as a movie script or as a book, it’d be rejected because it’s so over-the-top and seemingly unrealistic. Lingering effects of PTSD. For that matter, the fact that a middle/high school classmate had recently won the Academy Award for Best Picture didn’t feel real, either. (“Friends” might be overstating the connection I had with her, but “acquaintances” is almost certainly underselling it; the school was too small for us to have been acquaintances. We probably had at least one class together all seven years we attended school together, and both of us spent very nearly all four years of high school in the Drama League. If there were an English word between “friend” and “acquaintance”, that’d be it.)

I assumed I was merely depressed at first. I’ve dealt with depression. I can handle the kinds of depression I’ve had in the past. It sucks, but I have coping strategies. I’ve beaten it before; I know I can beat it again.

DPDR was something else. It mimics the symptoms of depression in several ways – most notably, the muted colours and the anhedonia. It took several months for me to realise it wasn’t depression.

It wasn’t the passage of time that provided my epiphany, and as great as my therapist and psychiatrist have been for me, they weren’t the ones who figured it out either. (It doesn’t help that the correct diagnosis is obscure and poorly understood.) The impetus was actually listening to the rock band Counting Crows, thinking, “These lyrics seem extremely mentally unbalanced, and I’m identifying way too closely with them for my own comfort”, doing research about the band’s lead songwriter, and discovering he had DPDR.

This isn’t some sort of mental illness-related hypochondria; both my therapist and psychiatrist ran through lists of symptoms and various other tests, and they confirmed my self-diagnosis almost immediately. (I hadn’t looked up any of these lists before beginning to describe my symptoms – in fact, I think I may have confirmed the precise name of the disorder less than an hour before my therapist appointment – so because I’d independently described several of the symptoms in great detail, I think that helped confirm to my therapist that I wasn’t just imagining that I had the disorder.)

Getting the diagnosis helped a lot, but it was fairly comparable to being lost at sea and being given GPS coordinates. It helps to know where you have to swim, but you still have to do the actual swimming, and if you’re already fatigued, that’s not going to be an easy task.

Regardless, my psychiatrist hit on the idea of treating DPDR as an anxiety disorder. This worked miracles for a time. Even though it’s typically treated as a dissociative disorder – which it is – there seems to be a substantial anxiety component to it. Anti-anxiety medication undid a phenomenal number of my symptoms.

As a result, I recovered substantially for awhile, but I have reasons to suspect a lot of my recovery has recently been undone. Not all of it – I couldn’t have written this many words if it were completely undone. It took a massive amount of effort merely to write a few paragraphs when my DPDR was at its worst; once I finally managed to hit on the right note for this work, however, I more or less just started typing and continued until I felt it was finished. (At first, I typed and deleted text for about twenty minutes until I found the right thread, for reasons I’ll explain below.)

Playing parts of Spacial Outpouring has given me further ideas for how to explore mental illness in the context of a Marathon scenario, as has the central idea behind Rubicon - “truth is the first casualty of war”, and so it’s impossible to know whom to trust. (“How are we feeling today? Drowsy, manipulated and confused? Good. You should be used to that by now.”) I want to take this a step further – I want players to be unable to fully trust not merely the AIs, but their own perception. (It’s possible Spacial Outpouring explores this idea as well. I’ll have to play more of it once I return from vacation.)

Obviously, this is a tricky idea to use in a video game – take it too far, or do it in the wrong way, and it becomes unfair. I don’t want to screw with anything about any individual level to the point where what players see isn’t what they get. But my idea is that some of these levels will be half-remembered vestiges of the past, which I intend to reflect a central theme of the game.

This is poorly understood, but the act of thinking about a memory results in the old memory being overwritten. In other words, we don’t remember what actually happened; we remember the sum total of every recollection we’ve ever had of a given event. The memory isn’t ROM. It’s RAM. Every time you access a file, you overwrite its previous contents, and there’s no backup.

One consequence of this is that the more we’ve thought about any particular event, and/or the deeper our emotional reaction to that event, the less reliable our recollection of that event is. This is the main reason FBI agents immediately write down notes about any conversation they’ve had if they think it’ll be important and/or one of the parties to the conversation may lie about it. It’s also why witness tampering is a crime, and for that matter why eyewitness testimony isn’t nearly as reliable as people think it is.

In any case, the title of an early level reflects what I intend to do with the narrative: “revisions of the past”. Every single recollection is a revision of the past. We, as humans, don’t understand this, and I think it has much wider-ranging consequences than is commonly appreciated. I hope to be able to explore some of these, as well as the ramifications of being unable to trust one’s own perceptions.

I don’t want to make too much of my own mental disorders. I’ve suffered mental illness for years, and I’m sure that if I hadn’t, I’d have been much more professionally successful. But as sufferers of mental illnesses go, I’ve been very lucky. My family has been far more supportive than I’ve probably deserved (I have to admit that I was a complete asshole for around a decade), and they fortunately had fairly ample resources to prop me up throughout my many failures over the years.

It is, in fact, largely because of this support that I’m currently able to write lucidly about my experiences with mental illnesses – I’ve had the first-world comforts of being able to correspond with people over the Internet for decades, which has enabled me to hone my writing to a level of precision that most people with my particular cocktail of mental issues never manage to achieve. (I haven’t discussed my experiences with autism-spectrum disorder in this post, and due to its length, I don’t think I will; a future one will probably address several, though.)

As a result, I think I can explore mental illness in a manner that may prove enlightening to others, and it’s entirely possible that the interactive medium of the video game will enable me to do things with the concept that would be impossible in other media. And more than ever, I believe this is a necessary task. To explain why, I’ll once again have to return to grief.

§

Here I must place a trigger warning for suicide. The last thing I want is for anyone to kill themselves as a result of reading this. If you are currently harbouring thoughts of suicide, I strongly encourage you to stop reading immediately after this paragraph; instead, please contact a resource for help. If you’re American, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255; it’s toll-free, so please go call now. If you’re in other countries, there’s an ample list of resources that can help here, and I suspect you can still call the American lifeline, though there may be a cost. Alternatively, go see a therapist, or hell, even go talk to a friend. Something. I’m serious. One of the cruel products of discussing suicide in depth is that in some cases, it can cause impulses of suicide in others. If you need help, please seek it. There is no shame in this – on the contrary, it takes strength even to ask for it.

As I mentioned obliquely in the Eternal thread, I’m once again dealing with severe grief right now. I’ll provide a more complete explanation here; over the past few days I’ve also been working on a second writing I hope to post soon.

My friend Scott recently took his own life. I only learned of it this weekend or thereabouts, though I think it had occurred a couple of weeks prior. He was probably by far my closest friend throughout most of middle school, and probably my only friend at several points during those years; he remained one of my two closest friends throughout high school. We hadn’t spoken in probably years, though (it didn’t help that he’d moved out of state), and I’ll probably wonder for the rest of my life if I could’ve done anything to help him. I know it’s not my fault, but I’ll probably carry the “what if” question around with me as long as I maintain awareness – particularly since, especially for the past few months, I was routinely thinking about him, but hadn’t contacted him (largely due to my explicit loathing of Facebook, but lack of any other avenues to contact most of my old school friends).

My grieving process is likely to involve this scenario heavily, because he named the damn thing and built most of its first real level’s central area (currently “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk”; likely to change if I find a name I feel is a fitting tribute to him). My approach going forward has almost certainly been irrevocably altered.

In recent years, I’ve seen the conversation around suicide change. In the past, a large number of people on the Internet would always call the suicide victim selfish. (I’m using the word ’victim’ here deliberately, for reasons I’ll explain soon.) I saw almost none of this in response to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide earlier this month. A few people still did this, but every time I saw it happen, they got shut down immediately.

Suicide is usually an impulse. That’s one of the most misunderstood things about it. A person can get drawn into it with thinking that seems rational to them at the time, but the actual act of suicide usually occurs on impulse. Of people that attempted suicide, only 13% reported having thought about it for eight hours or more; 70% reported having thought about it for less than an hour, and nearly a quarter said the idea occurred to them no more than five minutes before their attempt.

As a result, whether a person acts on the impulse depends to a substantial degree on whether they have convenient means to act on it. After the United Kingdom converted its coal gas ovens, which emitted toxic carbon monoxide that provided a convenient and supposedly painless method of suicide, to natural gas ovens, which didn’t, the national suicide rate declined by some 30%, and it hasn’t risen since. Similarly, simply owning a firearm increases one’s risk of suicide substantially, because a firearm can turn into an instantaneous suicide implement.

By eliminating a convenient, instantaneous means of suicide, in other words, it’s possible to prevent many suicides. But the understanding of suicide as an impulse is crucial to taking this preventative approach. There are some works of art that get it. One is Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut, a criminally overlooked album which contains probably the best lyrics Roger Waters has ever written. The relevant passage:

I held the blade in trembling hands
Prepared to make it, but
Just then the phone rang
I never had the nerve to make the final cut

In other words, an entirely coincidental phone call prevents the singer’s suicide, because it was an impulse. After the phone call, the impulse has subsided. (The knowledge that someone cared enough to call may also have helped – this was the ’80s when the call was probably less likely to be a telemarketer – but the phone call itself was the immediate preventative factor.)

As I’ve said, I’ve seen the conversation on suicide evolve in the past few years. I can’t blame anyone who commits suicide for being selfish. They may seem selfish to outside observers, but the thing you have to understand about severe depression is that it lies to you. The phrase “gaslighting” is used to refer to abusers who lie to you in a way deliberately intended to make you question your own sanity, but with depression, your brain is essentially gaslighting itself. So you may well think of people who care about you, but your brain will convince you they’ll be better off without you. It’s an insidious, terrible illness – I don’t use this word often, but it’s evil.

As a result, I don’t see people as having committed suicide. I see them as victims of it. It’s something that occurs to them – a product of malignant brain chemistry. Over the past few decades, addiction has increasingly become understood properly as a disease – overcoming it isn’t merely a matter of willpower; it’s a matter of physical health as well. I may be developing unwarranted optimism, but I believe I see a similar shift occurring with depression and suicide. It seems to be increasingly understood that it’s a result of the brain going haywire and overpowering a person’s rational thought. It isn’t a selfish act, because for as long as the impulse overpowers their judgement, suicide victims think the world will, on balance, be better off without them.

In order to prevent suicide more effectively, it is necessary to understand its causes – and at least in this country, suicide rates have been rising. Across race, gender, age, and other demographic categories, suicide rates have risen in all states but Nevada since 1999. In more than half of cases, victims of suicide had no diagnosed mental health condition when they ended their lives, though this may be less due to lack of mental illness and more due to lack of proper mental health treatment. Some demographic categories, especially men, appear less likely to seek help; poorer Americans also probably can’t afford the help they need.

It is reasonable to classify America’s increase in suicide as an epidemic. Some of the factors playing into suicide seem better understood now than they did a few years ago, though they’re still far from perfectly understood. I want to help make it understood better, and I now feel it almost obligatory to use this game as one medium to do so. I still haven’t finished brainstorming all the ways I’ll use it to explore sanity and perception and all the many other issues I want to use it for, but I feel I’ve got the central theme down now.

My friend named this scenario. I can’t talk to him ever again, and I’ll regret that for the rest of my life. There were a large number of things I wish I’d said to him – I don’t know if he even knew he was my only real friend at those points during middle school. The illness that took him down is, as I said, evil. There’s too much evil in the world these days. I feel obligated to respond to this particular horror by creating something good.

I hereby renew my invitation for contributions and input from others – I want as much help as possible to ensure this is the best damn game I’m capable of making. I certainly can’t bring myself to retitle it now, and since it bears his title, I want it to be as good as it can be.

I’ll accept condolences as well, but I don’t want people to spend too much time worrying about my personal wellbeing; I have a fantastic support network, probably a better one than I deserve, and I’ll feel awful for months if not years, but I’ll pull through. (Nietzsche may not have been correct that everything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but I have a feeling that this, for me, will fall under Nietzsche’s observation.) I have to confess that I have harboured thoughts of suicide at times in the past, but thus far, every time I reached the planning stage, I responded by reaching out to someone. I don’t feel half as low right now as I did at those points, and I’ve been seeing a therapist routinely for years, so I doubt I’ll reach that point again anytime soon – I’ve become comfortable enough talking about these things that if I have impulses of self-harm, I’ll ask for help with them. (I still have trouble asking for help with a number of other issues, though!)

If you want to help materially, you can donate to one of the many nonprofits that does work to help prevent suicide [several are listed here; I’ll probably perform more research over the next few days to find other ways people can help, as well as to narrow down which of these resources seem to be the best uses of people’s money), or, if you’re qualified, volunteer for one of them. I’ll hopefully have a specific link to a charity Scott’s surviving family members have selected tomorrow.

And… well, just be nice. Scott may have been the nicest person I’ve ever known. I knew him closely for nearly a decade, and I don’t recall ever seeing him mistreat anyone, or even lose his temper. There’s far too much meanness in the world right now. One of the best ways people could pay tribute to him is to make the world a nicer place.

I’ll probably post a second recollection as its own thread in a couple of days. This one is closely tied with philosophical musings about mental illness and my ideas for my game; I want to make another post that doesn’t fall into those digressions and focuses more on the personal. (I may end up repeating myself somewhat over these two posts, as I’ve written them separately, and many details are likely to be important to both of them; apologies in advance for the repetition.) I don’t want to half-ass it, but I hope at least to have it completed by the time I leave for vacation on the 23rd. (I doubt I’ll post it tomorrow; I’ll be busy most of the day, first seeing my therapist and later seeing close friends.)

Thanks for reading, and for whatever else you can contribute.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jun 20th '18, 17:50

I hereby renew my invitation for contributions and input from others – I want as much help as possible to ensure this is the best damn game I’m capable of making. I certainly can’t bring myself to retitle it now, and since it bears his title, I want it to be as good as it can be.


If you want any help or suggestions from me story- or art-wise, you can PM me.

I don't know what else to say (and never really do in situations like this), aside from hoping that your vacation allows you to recover emotionally, even if just a little bit.
welcome to the scene of the crash
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General-RADIX

Post Jun 20th '18, 19:11

Thank you; I will almost certainly take you up on that offer after returning from vacation. There are certainly aspects of this scenario’s artwork that could be vastly improved, and from our previous conversations I suspect you’ll also have a lot of great story ideas.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jun 21st '18, 04:03

BTW, I went ahead and posted a .rar of the latest versions of the files. I’m not sure if the old Zippyshare thing was still even up, and since I’ll be on vacation for about ten days starting on Saturday, I figured I might as well update it.

Apart from the map, there aren’t any major change to any of the files; I added a few new sounds to the sound file, but have yet to make use of them. This will be one of the things I figure out with MML soon enough.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jun 22nd '18, 01:24

Room a Thousand Years Wide, naked lunch three, Biblical Candy Machines, To Make an Idol of Our Fear and Call It God

Probably the hardest segment of the game; it’s bookended by two of the three hardest levels in the whole game. I stopped playing after “To Make an Idol” because I was relieved just to have finished it, and this segment is already 110 minutes long (I wasn’t timing myself, but I knew I’d taken a long time to complete the three actual levels; “Room” wound up taking me almost forty-five minutes and “Idol” around forty).

I was hoping to make a video of the next three levels (“2+2=5 (The Lukewarm)”, “Delusions of Adequacy…”, and “With Strength I Burn”), which are structured as a sort of trilogy, but I screwed up on the third one. I might make another attempt before leaving for vacation, but not immediately – I’m going to do a bit of work on Eternal now. (I’m also not all that fond of these three levels in their present state, particularly the first and third – I think they all need a fair amount of work, if they can even be completely salvaged.)
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jun 22nd '18, 16:56

I didn’t bother making another attempt to film the aforementioned three levels; instead I went ahead and did about 90% of the remaining game.

Naked Lunch Four through Kill Your Sons

By the time I completed “Kill Your Sons”, I was exhausted and didn’t feel like playing further. Between these three films, you’ve got most of the best parts of the game, anyway; the levels not included here are either very short, incomplete, and/or likely to be subjected to heavy revision before the final version of the game. “Delusions of Adequacy…” is the only level I’m already largely happy with from the main game that isn’t included in one of these segments, and I’m still going to tweak it substantially before the final release. (I’m very fond of “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion” and “Ys”, but the former isn’t remotely complete and I haven’t yet worked the latter into the main game.)

Amazingly, I only died once in the attempt to make the above film, and it was fairly close to the start of “Supper’s Ready”; I stupidly jumped into one of the inescapable lava pools. I will note that “Kill Your Sons” probably isn’t half as difficult to complete if you’re carrying ammo from previous levels as it is to vid.

ETA: Ys completed with mostly fists (exceptions for the switch and the Juggernaut, though as you’ll see later in the video, I figure out a way to punch the switch, so my future videos of the level won’t even need that exception).
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

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The Man
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Post Jun 24th '18, 08:03

The Man wrote:My friend Scott recently took his own life. I only learned of it this weekend or thereabouts, though I think it had occurred a couple of weeks prior. He was probably by far my closest friend throughout most of middle school, and probably my only friend at several points during those years; he remained one of my two closest friends throughout high school. We hadn’t spoken in probably years, though (it didn’t help that he’d moved out of state), and I’ll probably wonder for the rest of my life if I could’ve done anything to help him. I know it’s not my fault, but I’ll probably carry the “what if” question around with me as long as I maintain awareness – particularly since, especially for the past few months, I was routinely thinking about him, but hadn’t contacted him (largely due to my explicit loathing of Facebook, but lack of any other avenues to contact most of my old school friends).

I am sorry to hear that. In my experience the discussion of suicide is touchy, although I wish our culture was more willing to talk about it as I think the taboo nature of suicide makes people who are suicidal feel more isolated from everyone else. My only girlfriend who I had been with for more than four years, Jesse, committed suicide about a year and a half ago. I am probably hypocritical for giving out advice on coping as I'm not the most stable in this regard, but I think what's most important is to avoid at all costs trying to blame yourself for their death. Whether the guilt is rightfully placed or not it will eat you alive and it solves nothing. Guilt and shame can't bring anyone back.
I’ll accept condolences as well, but I don’t want people to spend too much time worrying about my personal wellbeing; I have a fantastic support network, probably a better one than I deserve, and I’ll feel awful for months if not years, but I’ll pull through. (Nietzsche may not have been correct that everything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but I have a feeling that this, for me, will fall under Nietzsche’s observation.)

To put it in a nice analogy, time heals wounds but still leaves scars. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. You shouldn't forget about the people who you have lost or the low moments in life, as remembering lost ones helps you appreciate the fragility and wonder of your own life, and remembering the low moments in life helps you appreciate the good moments in life.

Apologies for off-topic posting. There's a lot to read ITT and this bit
If you read any of my long posts in this thread to the end, I’d ask you to make it this one.
caught my attention and I felt as though I should say something considering the weight of what was said. I will eventually catch up on reading through this thread in full and play through whatever levels are available and give my feedback. Cheers.
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Flowers

Post Jun 24th '18, 21:42

The Man wrote:...


Hey, sorry to hear what you're going through. And that I haven't had time to read through everything. But what I've skimmed sucks (the situation, I mean, not your writing). So, here's one of my favourite songs (if you like ska/punk) about living your life instead of not: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2yeNzL7rTU
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ravenshining
Hawai'i

Post Jul 2nd '18, 21:53

Just got back from vacation a couple of hours ago. I’d like to thank both of you for your responses. I’ll certainly respond in much greater depth later, but I’m exhausted; I probably need a vacation from my vacation. It didn’t help that I had an unknown illness that coincided with the first few days of the vacation, thereby throwing off my sleep schedule for the rest of it. Despite all that, I really enjoyed it, but at the same time, I’m also glad to be home.

Overall, I think I’m about as well as could be expected, given both personal and global circumstances. And as long as we’re on the topic, I hope you recover from your illness soon, Lia.

I’ll have a much longer response here and elsewhere soon. Thanks again.
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jul 2nd '18, 22:16

I'm glad to see you back :-) 'Twas a hell of a note to leave on.

and I am starting to feel better, thank you. got a lot of work done on Redux thanks to being sick.
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ravenshining
Hawai'i

Post Jul 3rd '18, 03:17

Welcome back, man! ^^
welcome to the scene of the crash
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General-RADIX

Post Jul 4th '18, 02:07

Thanks to all of you.

A brief note, two films, and then I’ll attempt to give the above posts a proper reply.

Perhaps I should’ve checked in while I was on vacation – sorry if I left anyone worried. I actually had Internet access, but I hadn’t brought a computer, because I didn’t want to spend too much time obsessing over the state of the world. As it turned out I still spent an inordinate amount of time in the car doing exactly that, so I probably could’ve replied on my phone, but typing at ≈20 wpm when you’re used to ≈100 wpm gets old fast. The topics I’ve addressed here demand for me to be able to keep up with my train of thought while writing, which is impossible on a phone.

Anyway.

§

Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore (fists only)

The conversations I’ve been having with Dr Sumner have motivated me to see how many of my levels I can clear out with just fists or with just fists and staff. It probably won’t be all of them. This one took several attempts, but I finally got it.

As mentioned in the YouTube description, I’m still planning to expand this level substantially. In particular, I’m planning to make a second storey for the open courtyard after the cathedral area. Think “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” from Tempus Irae: The Lost Levels, which is my specific inspiration for doing this, only the player will probably start at the second storey rather than the first, only opening up access to the ground floor later. There are also several relatively undecorated areas of the level that I’ll be making quite a bit more ornate, and I’ll probably be expanding the underground clock tower-looking area somewhat as well. I haven’t finalised all the details, and in fact I’m also spending a lot of time realigning the level, since for some reason Forge misaligned it by 1/1024 world unit when I recentred it. It wasn’t a big deal when I was leaving the level geometry intact, but now that I’m adding new segments it’s driving me bonkers.

In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion

Still nowhere near finished. In this film I use only fists and staff; it’s literally impossible to clean the level out without a projectile weapon, but apart from four Enforcers and one underground F’lickta, I don’t think I actually use the staff for anything but inaccessible enemies.

A lot of this also consists of me running around looking for oddities in the level. I find some misaligned textures, a couple of untextured walls, some sounds that don’t function the way I’d like, a few walls with the wrong textures, and a couple of other oddities, but you don’t care – feel free to skip.

§

All right. Replies now.

Flowers wrote:I am sorry to hear that. In my experience the discussion of suicide is touchy, although I wish our culture was more willing to talk about it as I think the taboo nature of suicide makes people who are suicidal feel more isolated from everyone else.

This seems accurate. I’d go further and say that the way our society deals with mental disorders more generally makes people who suffer them feel isolated. The lack of support systems probably has a lot to do with this, too (political rant incoming) – in a sensible country there would be a safety net to help people stay on their feet, but America’s system seems to be custom-designed to make things harder for people with mental disorders. Many people in this country can’t afford therapy without health insurance, and many people can only afford health insurance through their work. But mental disorders make it much harder to stay employed, meaning that the people who most need mental healthcare are the ones least likely to have it. It’s barbaric, and hardly anyone ever talks about it.

My only girlfriend who I had been with for more than four years, Jesse, committed suicide about a year and a half ago. I am probably hypocritical for giving out advice on coping as I'm not the most stable in this regard, but I think what's most important is to avoid at all costs trying to blame yourself for their death. Whether the guilt is rightfully placed or not it will eat you alive and it solves nothing. Guilt and shame can't bring anyone back.

I’m so sorry to hear that. It must be crushing to deal with a loss like that, and in my experience the hurt never really goes away; you just develop skill sets for coping with it.

Apologies for off-topic posting.

It’s not a problem. And I know I write a lot, so I don’t blame anyone if they don’t get through it all at once.

ravenshining wrote:Hey, sorry to hear what you're going through. And that I haven't had time to read through everything. But what I've skimmed sucks (the situation, I mean, not your writing).

Thanks. That’s a great song; I’ll have to look up the lyrics at some point. Punk doesn’t always do much for me (for instance, I feel like I was born twenty years too late to understand the Ramones – I appreciate why their music was revolutionary at the time, but it leaves me cold emotionally), but when I like it, I really like it. This is musically diverse enough that I’ll almost certainly want to check out more of their stuff at some point. I was obsessed with a North Carolina band called Catharsis a few years ago after a friend sent me their LP box set to rip; they’re substantially more hardcore-oriented, but this reminds me a bit of their mellower material, particularly in its usage of dynamic range.

Glad you’re feeling better. But at the same time, you got a lot more time to work on M1R so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

§

I’ll try to catch up in the M1R, Eternal, etc. threads soon, but first I also need to write an update for the YouTube Vidmaster challenge thread.
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jul 4th '18, 23:52

Pushed a whole bunch of changes to master. First, I’ve renamed four levels:

Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk -> The Inner Light. The new title comes from an episode of Star Trek: TNG, Scott’s favourite show (or at least it was while we were in MS/HS). I kind of still want to use the Emperor album as the title for another level, but I don’t have one that it currently suits. I’m not 100% sure this will be the final title of this level, but most of the other really great episodes I can think of don’t really fit. In any case, I’m already using one Emperor title in this scenario (a song, in fact, that appears on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk), so I don’t feel too bad about removing this one for now.

Burn Down the Mission -> The Paradox of Tolerance. This phrase comes from the writings of Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper, and I intend to explore the idea somewhat when I finally write the story. The idea is that a tolerant society, paradoxically, cannot remain tolerant if it tolerates intolerance. I would posit that the idea extends further than Popper took it; for instance, simply saying “protect minority rights”, although usually benevolently intended, is imprecise, because the rich and the powerful are both minorities, and protecting their rights can potentially cause harm to the rights of other minorities. I’m still grappling with the implications of this.

Deadwing -> Men Like Ravenous Fishes. The obligatory Shakespeare title; it comes from his little-known monologue from Sir Thomas More, a play to which he contributed a few pages. You can hear Sir Ian McKellen read it here; the speech is the title character’s condemnation of a mob for its callousness towards vulnerable refugees. I’m not 100% sure I’ll leave it here – to be honest, I’m not 100% sure I’ll leave this level here in its current form. I’m only completely satisfied with a few segments; there are a few others that I’ll at least heavily revise if not completely replace (in particular, the maze. I was fascinated with mazes when I was younger, but they don’t actually translate very well to the FPS genre, it turns out).

2+2=5 (The Lukewarm) -> Neon Valley Street. Again, I removed a Radiohead title because they already have another title (“How to Disappear Completely”, which suits its respective level much better; there’s nothing lukewarm about lava). The new title comes from the works of American musician Janelle Monáe, whose genre is undefinable but usually contains elements of soul, R&B, funk, jazz, classical, progressive rock, and sometimes hip-hop; about a dozen other genres also provide occasional influence. The title is the home of Cindi Mayweather, central character of her Metropolis series of concept albums (thus far, The Chase, The ArchAndroid, and The Electric Lady, with another full-length album evidently planned; Dirty Computer, while also a concept album, is unrelated). Right now this also doesn’t suit this level very well, but again, I’m planning to completely rebuild approximately the first half of the level.

Major changes to levels:

· Neon Valley Street: nerfed the difficulty of a few segments slightly (removed some enemies; changed some Troopers to Projectile Fighters; upgraded a few energy powerups to 3x); made a few doors more obvious by changing their textures.

· Nightmare Heaven: completed here with fists & staff only. I changed all but four of the projectile fighters (the ones on the ledges) in the opening room to regular fighters, because it was murderous and almost a matter of luck whether you’d even survive. I also fixed the tag switches. The reason one of them hadn’t been working was because I’d inadvertently made it a chip insertion switch. However, they’re now all chip insertion switches; I added four chips. (Note that Chronicles makes it possible to carry up to four chips at any given time.) It’s also now necessary to step on certain polygons to make it possible to insert the chips in the first place, meaning that the player must now explore most of the level. The mission has been changed from exploration to repair. (I’m not even sure if I had set a “must be explored” polygon, to be honest; I thought I had, but now I can’t find it.)

I may expand this level further. The switches in the central room at the top currently don’t currently do anything, and I’d like them to. The geometry of the outer ring leaves plenty of room for expansion, and since this is a dream level, it doesn’t have to make perfect sense.

· I’ve been trying to do more work on “In the Shadow”, but I keep getting crashes. I’m not sure what the cause is; the error message is incomprehensible to me. As a result, I’ve reverted to a version with barely any changes since my last video.

· A few other changes mostly involving sounds, I think. And I’m still working on realigning “Miranda”.
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jul 5th '18, 18:54

In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion

Getting closer to implementing a proper mission. I still haven’t put in proper terminals yet, but there are two chips and two chip insertion slots required to open up, first, the ground level, and second, the waterfall that teleports you to the top. This actually required less effort than I was expecting; adding a pattern buffer, two terminals, and enemies may actually be the only other work required, apart from polishing ambient sounds and the like. I may work in a third chip insertion point somewhere, but haven’t decided where yet.

Fists & staff only. I began this intending to use the staff only for the inaccessible snipers, but completely forgot about that by the time I began fighting the four enforcers directly north of the player’s starting position. Oh well.

If you want to play this, it should be in the latest version I’ve pushed to master.
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jul 6th '18, 23:29

I’ve been challenging myself to do as many levels either fists-only or staff-only as possible. Some of them would be well beyond my skill level; a few of them might be beyond anyone’s skill level without further changes. But some of them wound up being fairly easy, and a few wound up being much easier than expected.

I’ve also been playing in order, stopping at sensible points rather than “when I die” or “when the game crashes”. The main Chronicles playlist is a complete mess, so I’ve wanted a cleaner version to present to newcomers. This is still in progress, but it’s going fairly well.

Chapter 1 (“Sketches of Pain” to “The Dream’s Dream”)

Chapter 2 (“Everyone I Went to High School With Is Dead” to “Entangled”)

Chapter 3 is intended to be “The Paradox of Tolerance” to “Biblical Candy Machines”, but it will be broken into three videos for two reasons: one, a recurring bug, and two, length. (“Paradox” and “Room a Thousand Years Wide” are around fifty-four and sixty-four minutes long, respectively, the way I played them.)

The Paradox of Tolerance

Men Like Ravenous Fishes & Room a Thousand Years Wide

I’ve overhauled the way the wires work in “Men Like Ravenous Fishes” because I got sick of what I assume is a bug in Weland. This explanation is going to be a bit dry and technical, but the old implementation had the wires show up as a transparent polygon side of a solid wall. Hitting them would lower a platform that would immediately break all three sets of wires; at the same time, this would raise the goo in the room and lower the platforms that opened up the rest of the level. I did this because there are three different sets of wires, and I wanted the player to have to hit only one of them; at the same time, I wanted hitting one of them to destroy the other two.

Unfortunately, if the wall’s “solid” setting got unchecked, the player couldn’t hit the wires, and completing the level was impossible. This happened all the damn time. I’m sure it happened at least four or five times. I’m pretty sure it got unset every time I opened it in Weland, and I just kept forgetting to check it each time. I suspect it’s a specific bug relating to platforms, because my “solid” settings don’t seem to be overridden anywhere else.

Anyway, I got fed up with this and reversed the implementation. The wires still trigger a platform that results in all three pairs being destroyed, but this time around, the transparent side is for the “destroyed” wires. Thus, if the “solid” setting gets unchecked, it should still possible for the player to complete the level; the player will just be able to wander into a space-textured polygon with no apparent explanation behind it.

This is a quick fix for now. I think what I actually want is to require the player to destroy all three wires, then use a Tick-Enforcer shooting gallery to trigger the aforementioned sequence of events (platforms opening up the end of the level, rising goo, etc.) once the player has done so. However, that’s quite a bit more complicated, and I’m not confident I recall all the steps for implementing it. I actually already have one in “The Paradox of Tolerance” for the three wires that open up the end of that level, and I can just copy it, but it’d still be time-consuming to implement.

In any case, that’s part of why “The Paradox of Tolerance” and “Men Like Ravenous Fishes” are separate videos (also, I haven’t successfully completed “The Paradox of Tolerance” again since the bug ruined my previous film). The other reason is length. If I’d put just those three levels together, the video would be two hours and nineteen minutes long. I’m guessing that if I threw in “Biblical Candy Machines”, it’d be at least three hours.

So yeah. Videos for the rest of the levels TK.

This playlist has most of the recent Chronicles videos, without half a dozen or more old videos of each level. It’s still not perfectly organised, nor is it complete; once I’ve finished my current batch of films it should be a lot better.
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jul 8th '18, 20:48

An inadvertent oversight when I was editing the “To Make an Idol of Our Fear and Call It God” physics has given me cause to reconsider how I’ve implemented the staff throughout the scenario.

If you’ve been reading this thread from the start (I may also have discussed this in the Eternal and/or M1R threads), you’ll know that I’ve felt the staff has been overpowered for awhile now, particularly on the levels where I sped up its firing speed from the Evil implementation’s. At the same time, I also suspect “Idol” is a bit on the “too difficult” side. I have trouble completing it on TC, and I built and rigorously play-tested the damn thing, so I expect most other players probably would, too. (Exceptions for players like Dr Sumner, Jeffrey Lundquist, Jim Mitchell, Jimmy Mitchell, etc.)

So I sped up the staff speed. But because I was doing it with a hex editor, I inadvertently only changed only the melee trigger. The bolt speed kept the slower animation.

I think I like it better that way. If the player uses both triggers at once, it’s a powerful attack that can drive enemies back very quickly and stun them for awhile, but it takes awhile between shots, so you might want to avoid using it against Troopers, Hunters, or Enforcers. The melee attack is still really powerful, and it can also stun enemies to a lesser degree, but you can only use it at close range.

I’m tempted to use this implementation for every present-day level now. I think it’s the best compromise I’ve found to make it useful in present-day levels but not overpowered. The flashback levels will go back to the firing speed it had in Evil.

I’ve also discussed the idea of writing a Lua script to improve the staff’s power the more frequently it gets used. I’m still planning on doing this, but I think I’ll leave the firing speed as is – it’ll only alter either projectile speed, distance the melee attack can travel, and/or damage dealt by the attack.

I’m still not sure whether I want to alter the recoil caused by the staff’s attack. I might leave it be for most of the scenario, but change it on the levels with really low gravity (“Men Like Ravenous Fishes” and “Room a Thousand Years Wide”) – then again, if I restrict the maximum external velocity against monsters with a Lua script, that might cease to be as big a problem. I need to figure out how A1 sends the external velocity value to Lua – the documentation isn’t very clear about what data type it is. Does anyone know this?

I might post an “Idol” video demonstrating the staff later, but I haven’t managed a successful completion of the level since I made the physics change. I’ve been trying to do a staff-and-fists-only video of the level (with the probable exception of the Juggernaut, because, really), but it’s probably beyond my current skill level. I’m still barely capable of completing the damn thing with all available weapons. Also a successful completion in such a fashion would probably take longer than an hour – I estimate I’d gotten about a third of the way through in my most recent attempt and, judging from the file size of the film, I estimate it’d taken at least twenty minutes. (One of my films of “Ys” the lasted almost exactly an hour is 150 KiB; the most recent “Idol” attempt is 52 KiB.)
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jul 8th '18, 21:51

The way I've been doing it, is I have the staff set as a dual-function weapon, so you can't use both triggers at the same time. At various stages of development I've either given it a charge time of 0 (secondary fire can be held down, uses the same amount of energy as primary fire) or 1 (secondary fire requires discreet keypresses, can overload if held down, and uses 4x the energy of primary fire).

With the timing I've been using, which shouldn't be too far off from yours if it's timed at all like a fighter, I found that between 50 and 55 recoil is the threshold for being able to get airborne on normal gravity maps. So I currently have it set to 52, enough to make the staff unwieldy, but not enough to jump with. As for external velocity, that's set with MML IIRC.
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ravenshining
Hawai'i

Post Jul 9th '18, 00:01

Thanks.

I should note that my present-day fighters attack a lot faster than the M2/∞ ones do – probably twice as fast, though I haven’t timed them. I think I might’ve changed the number of ticks per frame from 4 to 2 in most of the levels, but I haven’t got a build of ShapeFusion that’ll load my shapes file yet. (I may work on that tomorrow.) It’s definitely no more than 3 ticks per frame in most of the levels (some of the flashbacks still use the original 4).

Having the fighter staff only fire either the melee or the projectile at any specific time would be more in keeping with how the actual fighters’ staffs behave, but I’ve balanced the gameplay in large part based on the staff’s current behaviour, so I’d probably have to rebalance the whole game if I made that change. On the other hand, I’m still considering nerfing the alien weapon (and possibly a couple of others) and also making both Hunters and Enforcers’ projectiles (and maybe the Hunters themselves) less powerful, and if I do that I’ll have to rebalance the whole game anyway.

On the third hand, changing the staff’s functionality too radically would be a massive departure from its behaviour in Evil and (I think) Eternal, both of which used the staff. (Though the projectile function is far less powerful in Eternal – and for that matter, the staff charges aren’t almost infinite in Eternal – so it’s already radically different.) I’m not certain I’m going to reference Evil’s plot that much (I’m not even sure if it’s supposed to be the same player character from the trilogy, and in any case, its massive time skip might be incompatible with the plot I have planned), but I’ll probably reference at least some of Eternal’s, so I’m not entirely sure I want to change its behaviour too much. It’s already a “human modified fighter staff” anyway, so it can probably be hand-waved as an improvement Durandal (or whomever) made to it in making it usable for the player.

In any case, I’m probably going to change the staff’s behaviour, but I’m still on the fence about how much. I think I like how it behaves in the current version of “Idol”, though.

§

I’m not sure I’ve explained what I’m trying to do with monsters’ external velocity clearly. A1’s Lua scripting has an “external velocity” variable for each monster – specifically Monsters[index].external_velocity, if I’ve read the scripting guide right. So what I want to do is use a for loop within Monsters on each specific tick, and if external_velocity exceeds a specific value (I’m going to try 500 for testing purposes), it’ll get reduced back to 500 (or whatever). The reason is that in the two super-low-gravity levels I mentioned below, it’s extremely common for the staff to knock enemies back so far that the variable overflows and causes the monsters to start moving unpredictably. In some cases they get knocked back to the exact opposite side of the room, which is amusing, but also incredibly unrealistic and disorienting. In a few other cases I’ve also knocked a specific Hunter into a region filled with goo that’s supposed to be inaccessible. And so on.

But how I’d implement this would have to depend upon whether the external_velocity variable is an integer, a matrix, or some other form of data. The Lua scripters’ guide here doesn’t specify. It does indicate that external_velocity is set in the exact opposite direction the monster is facing, but that doesn’t really make sense to me – from my understanding, there would have to be two dimensions to it. (vertical_velocity is a separate variable.)

Anyway, I’m still not entirely sure how to debug A1 Lua from within the engine, so until I can puzzle this out, this specific function will have to wait unless someone knows the variable type.

§

On another note, does someone understand what I’m doing wrong with the MML <sounds> tag? I’ve got this script attempting to change the random sounds in a specific level (“Miranda”, for those keeping track):

Code: Select all
<marathon>
<sounds>
<random index="2" sound="216"/>
<random index="3" sound="220"/>
<random index="4" sound="217"/>
</sounds>
</marathon>

And it does change them – but they simply don’t play, rather than using the engine’s defaults. I double-checked to make sure the sounds I’d added at those specific indices are there in the sounds file I’m using, and they are. Is it possible that embedding two MML scripts for the same level doesn’t work? Apart from that, I’m stumped as to what the problem is, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a properly functioning MML script for sounds, so there may be something I’m missing.

Once I’ve done this, I’d also like to change the “breathing” sound within the main Chronicles script (it currently uses the “cydrone dying” sound, which is not particularly appropriate), as well as some of the platform sounds, but one step at a time.
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jul 12th '18, 22:58

Earlier today, I finally finished a goal of posting complete TC films of every level in the solo scenario. Playlist with the most recent films here; it also links to a playlist with all the films I’ve posted, but I haven’t organised that one properly yet. I figured if players get stuck, they deserve a reasonably current walkthrough, though if you’re playing the scenario and haven’t watched videos of the levels yet, I’d ask, if at all possible, that you avoid doing so unless you get stuck – I’d like people’s reactions to the gameplay as they go in blind if possible. At the same time, I suspect that gameplay videos might increase people’s interest in actually playing the thing, so there they are. Every level in the solo scenario now has a complete gameplay video no older than earlier this month. (Most of the net maps don’t have videos. I actually had some films of net gameplay, but it seems a lot of them play on the wrong map and several others desync; there are only a few that actually work, and I’m not really sure how interesting they are.)

Some of these levels were absolutely brutal to complete on TC. I don’t remember having this much trouble with them the last time I played them on TC, but I might have just remembered them poorly. I might have to revise my assessment of “Kill Your Sons”, “To Make an Idol of Our Fear and Call It God”, and “Room a Thousand Years Wide” being the three hardest levels in the scenario; a few of the bonus levels give them a run for their money. I might honestly have to revise a couple of them to tone down their difficulty; “Dancing MADD” is, a couple of physics oddities aside, difficult in a fun way, whereas several parts of “Errand of Mercy” are just cheap. To be fair, I kept these levels out of the main scenario because I felt they weren’t as good as the main levels I included, but were at least decent enough to deserve to be seen.

I’m coming around to the opinion that I should retexture “Dancing MADD”, fix the couple of issues I have with its gameplay, and put it in the main scenario, though. Not too many levels give you infinitely regenerating ammo and powerful weapons against some of the most powerful enemies in the game – the only other one I can think of is “The Paradox of Tolerance”. “Dancing MADD” is just as fun. I’ve gotta change that title, though. I joked in the video description that puns that awful are probably banned under the Hague Conventions.

“Errand of Mercy” strikes me the same way “Neon Valley Street” does – the second half of the level is worth saving; the first half should probably be scrapped. It’s probably for the same cause: I knew much more about mapmaking when I constructed their second halves, so I had a better idea what was annoying and to avoid. The problem with “Errand of Mercy” is that the architecture is fragmented. It’s a level in three parts (four if you count the opening room, but for purposes of this discussion, I’ll consider three parts; the second and third parts make up what I consider the second half), and there isn’t really any way to put them together. I can expand the second part, and probably will, but the third part is kind of locked in due to the structure of the rooms I constructed.

One possibility is to just delete their first halves and combine them into one level, but they’re so tonally different that I don’t think it feasible. They use different texture sets and different landscape sets (not a problem in A1, but it would feel weird combining them), and for that matter, “Errand of Mercy” is a vacuum level and “Neon Valley Street” isn’t.

In either case, I’ll have to retexture both “Errand of Mercy” and “Dancing MADD” if I use any parts of them at all; I don’t see how I can justify the Marathon 1 textures in the story I have planned. (The original arc I planned was ridiculous fanservice, in retrospect, and Return to Marathon was a much better execution that pretty much rendered all other attempts at reusing M1 textures superfluous – except, of course, for M1 Redux.)

I might write more about some of the other levels later. I already wrote some stuff about all the levels in the YouTube descriptions, but the amount per level varies widely, and I don’t know how many people read them.) For the time being, I’m kind of drained, but on the plus side, I’m employed again, and it didn’t take long between jobs this time, so that’s good. On the minus side, a rock cracked my windshield when I was getting off the interstate, but luckily, Florida’s insurance laws mean it won’t cost me anything; it’s just one more PITA thing I’ll have to deal with.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Jul 13th '18, 21:32

“In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion” and “Ys” are now worked into the main game; they appear between “Master of Puppets” and “How to Disappear Completely”. If you’re playing and haven’t reached that point yet, but want to play those levels, you should be fine unless you’re currently on “Master of Puppets”. Just replace your old map with the new merged version, and your save game file should automatically take you to the next level in the new version of the map. If you’re on “Master of Puppets”, you can either reload from before then or just command-option-new game on “Shadow” (or control-shift-new game on PCs). “Shadow” has far too much ammo right now, as well as multiple placements of every weapon in the game, so your gameplay probably won’t suffer from losing your old ammo.

Note that I haven’t rearranged the level order yet, because there’s a high chance I’ll add additional levels into the main continuity. As a result, you currently progress from level 25 to level 44, then 45, then back to 26. (Subtract one from each number if you want Atque’s numbering. I’m using the game’s numbering here, but Atque’s for my Github notes. I know it’s confusing that there are two sets of numbers, but there isn’t anything I can do about it. I think these two sets of numbers were inherited from Forge and Infinity.)

I’ve completed a video showing off the sequence of “Shadow” through “How to Disappear” that will probably take a long time to encode, so I’ll post it later. These are three of my favourite levels in the game; they’re really fun to play. Of course, “Shadow” will be even better once I’ve finished populating it.

One nice thing about how it’s turned out is that there are multiple paths through the level. I always appreciate nonlinearity in game design. A lot of my levels, particularly the old ones, aren’t as nonlinear as I’d like, which is one reason I like adapting large net maps into solo missions. Net maps already have a preconceived structure that’s highly unlikely to be linear. As a result, there will be multiple paths through the level almost by default.

I haven’t actually made an entirely new level in years, but the next time I make one, I think I’ll create a large structure with multiple paths through it before even beginning to think about implementing a mission. Either that, or maybe I should draw out a skeleton structure on paper before starting to fill in polygons.

I’ll post a video later today, probably.

ETA: “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion”, latest revision. I elected not to include “Ys” or “How to Disappear Completely” from this playthrough here because I don’t think I’d actually changed the levels themselves at all since the last videos, and only including one level means fewer levels to re-record for the “latest videos” playlist the next time I make changes to one of them.

As mentioned in the video description, A1 really doesn’t seem to like the level having too many sound objects, and it doesn’t seem to matter how many objects total the map has; add too many sound objects and you get a crash. Does anyone know a workaround for this, or am I just going to have to live with the ambient sounds that are already there?
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Fool's Gold · Last.fm · Marathon Chronicles · YouTube Vidmaster’s Challenge
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

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