Marathon Chronicles

Discuss and unveil current Marathon projects.

Re: Marathon Chronicles

Post Aug 8th '18, 22:06

I'm really enjoying this art (and that thing with the background you posted on the MSF, too).
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Pfhorrest
California

Post Aug 8th '18, 22:40

Pfhorrest wrote:I'm really enjoying this art (and that thing with the background you posted on the MSF, too).


Thanks, man. :)
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 8th '18, 23:49

That’s absolutely beautiful.

I think a lot of it should be fairly doable – it most likely depends primarily upon good scenery objects, which I’m sure you’re capable of creating. Pfh’Joueur has a lot of beautiful plant scenery, as does Tempus. For that matter, I suspect it’s possible to learn something from the vegetation on Pfhor Prime in Rubicon, even though it’s coloured differently.

The other challenge at replicating a sketch like that would be creating circular architecture. I experimented with that in one level using Chisel many years ago, but I never came up with something I was satisfied with, so I haven’t posted videos of the level - it was shameful next to C Lund’s many gorgeous Salinger levels. I suspect that by now someone’s created a Weland plugin to create circles, though I haven’t looked for it yet. It’d be a lot easier if I could preview the shapes I was setting out without having to guess at the coordinates.

I don’t think I can replicate that design 100% in A1 though – in particular, it doesn’t do bridges, so I probably won’t be able to replicate the odd features of the building like the – fin, I guess you’d call it? – and the diagonal support columns. I’ll have to think on how else I’d make the structures look alien.

ETA: hope you feel better, BTW.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 9th '18, 05:50

I do feel better thanI did the other day. ^^

The Man wrote:I think a lot of it should be fairly doable – it most likely depends primarily upon good scenery objects, which I’m sure you’re capable of creating. Pfh’Joueur has a lot of beautiful plant scenery, as does Tempus. For that matter, I suspect it’s possible to learn something from the vegetation on Pfhor Prime in Rubicon, even though it’s coloured differently.


I'll keep those in mind when I get around to drawing some scenery objects. (A heads-up: I'm not super-knowledgeable about the technical side of things yet, so all I'd be able to provide is transparent .PNGs)

wrt: the towers, I would suggest having them be part of the skybox if replicating them properly proves too fiddly, but that wouldn't work if there's any levels where the player has to enter one from the outside...
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 11th '18, 05:12

skybox = background/landscape textures, I presume?

In any case, I could also create a deal like the structure in “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion” that’s just so utterly giant that you can’t really see the ceiling.

Also, as promised, here’s the circular level that I took out of the released version of the game: Wheeling Hubcap Factory. It’s a fun level, but it’s so utterly plain visually, and I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Then again, maybe I was second-guessing myself too much; sometimes simplicity is the best way to go. In either case, I couldn’t figure out where to take the mission from there; large segments aren’t populated (though that’s nothing new for Chronicles) and the mission only requires the exploration of a very small portion of the level.

More to come later, including some stuff RADIX and I haven’t brought into this thread yet and just random other thoughts. I’ve had one hell of a week and I’m too drained too add more right now. It wasn’t a bad week, just a really tiring one.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 11th '18, 06:19

The Man wrote:skybox = background/landscape textures, I presume?


That's what I was thinking of, yeah.

wrt: Wheeling Hubcap Factory--while watching that, I imagined certain walls in the outer hallway sliding around when out of view to reveal or hide stuff, as if you're going to a different corridor every time you pass through the central room. Could disorient the heck out of the player (in a good way, hopefully?) when they realize that they're not traveling through 5D space.

Should hopefully have this next bit of art done by the time you're able to write another post.
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 11th '18, 17:02

Sounds good.

After the night-and-day differences seen in the Eternal thread resulting from changing the miner’s lamp setting, I am now messing about with the settings in Chronicles. I’ve already determined that I’m not going to reduce it to 0 for every level; too much of the scenario relies upon 0% lighting for dramatic effect, and it would be unplayable if I were to change the setting throughout (unless the player just relied on the automap, I guess, but the player shouldn’t have to do that). I think I’m going to vary it by level. Part of me want to use 0 for every dream level, but I already know that’s not possible; “Entangled” is one of the levels that would probably be rendered unplayable by such a setting, and I’m not going to change the lighting from 0% on that; it’s too dramatic. I think I might be able to get away with reducing it to, say, 0.21 on that level. (I think I’m going to use either 0, 0.21, or 0.42 on most levels – 21 and 42 because 7·3 and 7·3·2, plus the latter is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.)

I’m also toying with the idea of varying the setting based on whether a level is a flashback or a present-day level. I’m leaning towards making it brighter in the modern-day levels, based on the idea that memories get less vivid as time passes.

At the same time, I almost think “Wheeling Hubcap Factory”, which I’m currently intending as a modern-day level, should also have a setting of 0, depending upon whether that makes it unplayable. (I’m thinking of putting it back into the scenario; it’s a lot more fun than I remembered). So maybe I’ll just vary it based on what looks good.

I’m probably putting too much thought into this.

And yes, I definitely wanted “Wheeling Hubcap Factory” to be a disorienting level. I definitely like the idea of closing off/opening up passages depending upon the player’s progression through the level, but that does have the possibility of messing up co-op games if players are in the wrong place. I suspect that could probably be averted with Lua somehow, but it’d be a colossal headache to map out and debug if I wanted it to do it properly, but the easiest way would probably be just to write a script that disables the “closing off passages” aspect altogether completely in co-op games, and I suspect that would be a lot easier (just script it to set certain platforms to “activates only once” in co-op). I’m also tempted to use a lot of sliding textures just for added dramatic effect. I’ll play around with it more.

ETA: BTW, if Wrk and/or TL are reading this thread: is it possible to alter the miner’s light settings with Lua, or is that currently something that can only be controlled in MML? I was thinking I might want to change it alongside the fog settings in “Idol of Our Fear”, but I don’t see anything in the documentation about it. I might be searching for the wrong term, though; I just searched for “light”, and everything that came up looked like it was about the level’s lighting data, not the global miner’s light setting. If it’s not implemented in Lua yet, that might be something nice to add in a future A1 release at some point.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 12th '18, 02:03

The Man gave me the go-ahead to summarize some later discussions. Looking over those, a good bit of it has already been shown in this thread (mostly concept art), pretty much leaving something which could go into spoilers. So, under a spoiler it goes for now; hopefully should be okay. I have some relevant art, but I'd like to hold off on posting it here until The Man has shared his thoughts on the below stuff publicly.

Spoiler:
Some background info: in Inmortalitas (my AU), android vessels are commonplace. There's also this cycle of reincarnation involving three people: the Eternal Hero, the Dark One, and the Companion. These entities began life as Gilgamesh, Ishtar, and Enkidu; in the present day, they're Vince Callahan, Enzo Lynwood...and Durandal.

Early in Chronicles, Durandal dies.

My suggestion was as follows, with some redundant bits cut out:

Something goes seriously wrong on the surface and Durandal heads down himself to try and handle it. A high-ranking Pfhor on the "screw the UESC!" side (would Tfear still be around?) ambushes and mortally wounds him, though Durandal's able to do something like snap the Pfhor's wrist before he's tossed away. The SO tries to help him, but there's nothing he can do.

(If the SO were Vince, well--Vince is scared to death by the idea of Durandal getting seriously hurt or killed, so this event would probably be the instigation of his other problems throughout the scenario.)

Time skip; the SO may or may not have joined Yrro and co. at this point. They're talking with someone at the UESC, the UESC guy yells at an android in the background to come occupy the terminal for a few minutes and yank their hood down (it doesn't do to look like a civilian on a UESC military vessel, after all). Android (henceforth "Platina", the first name to come to mind) grumps over to terminal, SO gets a good look at him...he looks exactly like Durandal. SO may have to do a(nother) reality check.

Ideally, this plot thread would be used to extend the "what is reality" theme somewhat, since now Platina gets to join in on the pain (once the SO brought 'em up, Platina would prolly start remembering his past lives, and there's precious little time to properly sort it all out).


(I think this was before Marcus was established as the SO in Chronicles.)

The Man's response to the above (just the relevant bits):

I like that idea a lot. Of course, this seems to rely on the idea of giving the AIs physical bodies, but I’d already toyed with that idea in previous drafts and can probably go back to it. (I’d also toyed with the idea of reusing Tfear.) The other issue is depicting it from a gameplay standpoint, though it’s possible that can just be recounted in terminals, I guess. I definitely love the reincarnation idea, particularly since M2/Eternal already dealt with it somewhat. It’s also a central theme in Michael Moorcock’s fiction, which I’m quite fond of, though I ought to read more of it.


So personality-wise, I'm thinking that Platina is the opposite of Durandal in several respects (more openly vulnerable/moody, not too confident, conflict-averse, etc.) but shares his bad habit of shoving down whatever he doesn't want to deal with. In addition to Platina's own struggles with the situation he finds himself in, I think this could make for some good inner conflict for Marcus (who I'd like to think would really miss Durandal, and is trying very hard not to treat Platina as a "replacement goldfish" while also trying to wrap his head around the jarring personality shifts). There's also the issue of how Tycho might react to all this when he shows up.
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 12th '18, 20:08

I’ve already written about some of this in our messages, but I’m in a rather bizarre state of mind at the moment and having a difficult time thinking in a linear fashion, which is posing me challenges in summarising my contributions to the conversation. I’ll attempt to do this later today, maybe, if you don’t get to it first. At present, I feel compelled to explore my thoughts on the structure of the scenario. So… spoilers ahead.

Spoiler:
I’ve known “Sketches of Pain” was a placeholder level for about fifteen years now. It’s almost obligatory to begin scenarios with an exposition level these days, but I’m not sure I want to go that route anymore. I’m almost thinking of beginning in medias res. I already sort of do, in a way; “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt” drops you into a complex political situation with a fracturing alliance between the defeated Pfhor, the S’pht, and humanity, and the root causes for this currently aren’t explored until “The Paradox of Tolerance” (though a careful reader of the Rubicon epilogue could probably puzzle it out before then). But I want to go further than that. The Security Officer mentions being unstuck in time in “The Dream’s Dream”, so now I want to really make Chronicles unstuck in time. Maybe I’ll start off with a Tycho level without the slightest bit of context. Then there can be a dream level explaining about being unstuck in time (I may have to rewrite some of “The Dream’s Dream” to avoid redundancy, but that’s OK), and we’ll go from there back to “Take the Veil”. (I’ll also have to create a “Slaughterhouse-Zero”, maybe. Though then again, “Biblical Candy Machines” is really only currently marked as a dream level because I didn’t have a good dream level to put in its place – I can just reorder the existing dream levels, maybe.)

I definitely want to explore the psychological ramifications of being in combat for so long. Slaughterhouse-Five used the time travel elements as a metaphor for PTSD, with it being impossible to tell whether Billy Pilgrim was actually time-travelling or whether it was all in his head as a coping mechanism for the traumas he’d experienced. I tend to favour the latter interpretation, but I’m not going to insult people who hold the former view. In any case, I can’t use that interpretation literally in a Marathon scenario, because it’s already pretty clearly established that the SO is controlling time and moving through several alternate realities until they find the one that doesn’t end up in a galaxy-exploding kaboom. I’m not going to retcon 20+ years of established continuity between the original trilogy and several fan games, so metaphor it is.

That brings us back to the SO and Durandal. I’ve tentatively planned to “kill” Durandal since before Rubicon came out, but of course there’s a long, proud tradition of Durandal never really being dead, and I’m not going to break that either. The relationship between the SO and Durandal, however you wish to characterise it, is the source of the majority of character development in the trilogy, no matter that the SO only even speaks in dream levels and the prologues of some of the games. I can’t possibly throw that away. But having Durandal reincarnate as a somewhat different character, but with the same memories, certainly provides an opportunity for a unique spin.

Of course, the other issue is that the trilogy has always somewhat blurred the line between the character and Durandal anyway. Tycho explicitly says in Infinity that the SO is carrying Durandal’s primal pattern during, I think, “By Committee”, and while Tycho isn’t always trustworthy, this certainly seems a reasonable interpretation of what the chip in “Hang Brain” is – otherwise it doesn’t have any purpose in the game. Of course, that then leads to the question of why we have to find another chip in “Strange Aeons” to merge Durandal with Thoth, but that’s probably just because there wasn’t a way to script in the player keeping a chip with them after a rebellion level back during Infinity. (Now you’d just use a Lua script like the one I wrote for Rubicon and Tempus.) But I’ve digressed. My point is that there’s a blurring between the player and Durandal’s identities, which I think was clearly intentional on Greg K.’s part.

So as a result if one of them dies, even if temporarily, that’s going to add to the SO’s trauma. And that hasn’t been explored that much either. I think it’s more or less established by now in Eternal’s continuity – perhaps Pfhorrest can clarify if I’m missing the mark here – that “I have been Roland, Beowulf, Achilles, Gilgamesh” isn’t entirely metaphorical. So a reincarnation isn’t entirely out of the question here.

In any case, when you have this much time travel, cause following effect at some points is pretty much a given, as much of a headache as this creates to plot out. But that’s not a problem, necessarily. I love time travel stories, and I have a nonlinear mind. I’m apparently much better at spatial reasoning than I thought I was, judging from an intelligence assessment I took recently.

So I think it’s worth exploring the ramifications of this. The Pfhor started destroying any Jjaro technology they came across as a result of a Drinniol revolt, which in Eternal was affected by Hathor and the SO’s actions – which are the consequence of events that happened millennia later. And so on. It’s a puzzle to unwrap. I think I’ll have to diagram it out to get the full story.

One question Eternal doesn’t completely explore, at least to my recollection, is “how did Hathor get that way?” (And again, Pfhorrest can correct me if I’m wrong on this.) I recall there being some implications, but I don’t know if it’s ever definitively stated. It’s implied, though I don’t think ever definitively stated, that at least a portion of the reason is insanity, which could very plausibly be a result of all the experiences that she went through in combat. I think it might also have been implied that the W’rkncacnter worked to break her mind, too, but I haven’t read all the terminals in awhile. In any case, given how close she and the SO were, at least at one point, that will undoubtedly take a toll on the SO as well.

But I admire how Eternal managed to make Hathor a galaxy-spanning threat that has to be stopped at all costs without actually making her unsympathetic. One of the better, more complex tragic villains I’ve seen, really.

IDK. I’m rambling. Anyway. The point is that the SO is going to have their own demons. And a central focus of the scenario is going to be their struggle to maintain control over them. I want to explore the different shades of insanity. It’s possible to be insane and not necessarily be perceiving reality inaccurately, for instance – the difference between insanity and psychosis. The former is simply processing reality incorrectly, and the latter is actually perceiving it incorrectly. I’ve had periods where I questioned what was real, but it wasn’t for the most part because I was perceiving inaccurately; my perceptions just didn’t feel accurate. In particular, my perception of time was distorted as a result of my symptoms and I had difficulty judging distance. But again, I wasn’t seeing anything inaccurate; my mind just had difficulty absorbing what it saw.

I’m not going to use euphemisms here. I was literally insane during this period. But I wasn’t a danger to anyone at this point – not to anyone else, and not to myself either. I wouldn’t have thought to harm – well, OK, I might’ve harmed a fly, but I certainly wouldn’t have intentionally caused harm to anything larger. But there’s this sort of popular ignorance that believes the mentally ill are all prone to violent psychoses. In reality, the mentally ill are much likelier to be the victims of violent crime than they are to be its perpetrators. There are only a tiny fraction of mental illnesses that incline their sufferers to be likely threats to others, and I think this is a flaw in our language – there’s a kind of mental illness that affects a person’s perception and thoughts in a manner directly harmful to that person, and there’s another kind of mental illness that affects a person’s thoughts and perception in a manner that is much likelier to harm others, but we group them under the same banner, and people think of “mental illness” and hear the latter even though that’s something like 1% of the population.

So I think I can use the SO to explore the other, much more common side of mental illness. And while I don’t know what the trauma of combat is like, I have experienced trauma. I have suffered from it. I’ve experienced a PTSD flashback (I’m incredibly fortunate that it was only one). I’ve experienced loss. I’ve lost years of productivity as a result of grief. I know the difficulty of communicating when my experiences and perceptions have made my manners of thought and expression highly prone to misinterpretation. And so on.

Which takes us back to the catalysts for the SO’s demons. The trauma of combat is obviously one. Loss is another. The backstory throughout these scenarios has already explored some of the player’s losses. Rubicon’s has Kate – not just a loss but a betrayal there, I suppose. Eternal has Hathor, which is far more complex since it’s explored over one of the longest Marathon scenarios ever, not just in terms of gameplay length but also in terms of word count. (Seriously, it’s really wordy. I love it, but holy shit, is it wordy. Then again, I’m one to talk – just look at these posts. Or that opening terminal to “The Paradox of Tolerance”. At least I’ve kept the terminals in “The Dream’s Dream” to reasonable lengths so far, I guess.) But there’s definitely loss there and betrayal and who knows what else. And the SO has lost Durandal several times. And who knows how many others over the years.

The SO has managed to keep going through that, but it certainly required a lot of work. Infinity arguably depicts the SO undergoing a break to their psyche and ultimately overcoming it. The dream terminals in both Infinity and Rubicon certainly depict some sort of working through issues too. And IDK how to characterise the player’s state in Eternal but it certainly isn’t one of perfect sanity.

Everyone has multiple breaking points. There are points where it’s best, at least from an emotional and mental health standpoint, to take time off and pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, not everyone in our world has that luxury, which is one of several injustices in the world that infuriates me on a visceral level as well as a philosophical and moral one. But the SO can travel in time, or go back and keep trying again until things work out as well as possible.

As a result, I’m interested in exploring what occurs after a breaking point. How to piece oneself back together. Because we talk about breaking like it’s final. Unfortunately, there are some people for whom it is, but I’d like to minimise that number. There are things that are just… taboos in our society in a manner that people don’t think about, and I’m not talking about things like sex, or about things like racism; I’m talking about things like insanity and failure. We don’t discuss them in a productive fashion. Failure isn’t always final (and where it is, it’s because society is structured unjustly; I consider that a truly just society needs to allow citizens at least some freedom to fail). Insanity isn’t always final (and again, where it is, I consider injustice to be an exacerbating factor here; we surely can’t save everyone but we should make more effort to save more of them). Recovery – rebuilding oneself, if you like – is a central idea I’m working towards.

I’m going to make a sharp break here and veer towards the issue of trust. One of the things I most loved about Rubicon was how effectively the story made it impossible to know for certain whom to trust. It’s pretty clear even Durandal isn’t telling the truth about everything in the story. Tycho, ironically, seems more honest than Durandal in Rubicon, but it’s difficult to know that for certain, either, because there’s no external verification for anything either of them says.

Since this is a sequel to Rubicon, I’m going to keep most of Tycho’s characterisation in that scenario. Rather aloof, almost feigning a disinterest in humanity’s interest, clearly motivated by dislike for Durandal, but ultimately appearing to be surprisingly well-meaning and generally honest. I’d actually planned much of the same characterisation for Tycho long before Rubicon X came out, so unfortunately it can’t be a surprise here as I’d initially hoped when I started writing. But I can still deepen the character.

I’m likely to keep most of Durandal’s characterisation, too. Still sarcastic, still generally benevolent, but clearly with his own agenda.

When I started writing the scenario, I planned a branching timeline with a sort of murder mystery. Durandal was murdered at the halfway point, more or less. The rest of the scenario would branch depending upon a player choice – one timeline had the player siding with Tycho and his renegade Pfhor (later also including renegade humans), another with Leela and the Jjaro. I never developed this idea enough to qualify as a coherent story because it would probably have required seventy levels. And ultimately, I came to realise that Marathon does not provide a good medium for a murder mystery. I also was nowhere near subtle enough a writer yet to write one – I wasn’t able to provide remotely plausible characterisation on the Jjaro’s end.

I’ve spent a lot of time discussing Vonnegut here. I’m going to drop in a passage from another of my favourite writers, Orwell.

Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.

I didn’t at all understand this quote when I first read it in eighth grade. It didn’t seem real. I hadn’t lived through anything to actualise that kind of horror to my mind. I’d read stories of Nazism and Stalinism in books and seen them in old newsreels, but they were movie villains to me. The idea of how an ideology like Nazism could grip an entire nation wasn’t capable of penetrating my mind.

I acquired a bachelor of arts in political science in 2008. I’d of course read Orwell several times by then, and I had a much better understanding of his political thought by that point, but I still don’t think I really understood O’Brien’s quote. Not on a visceral level. To understand something like that, you have to experience it in real time.

Nothing we’re seeing right now, to be clear, is on the same level of atrocity as 1941 Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union. But 1933 Nazi Germany hadn’t risen to the level of atrocity as 1941 Nazi Germany. Authoritarianism doesn’t take hold overnight. It’s more like the proverbial turtle (is it a turtle?) in the pot of boiling water. The temperature rises gradually enough that people might not notice it.

But we’re seeing a lot of countries go from ostensible democracies to… not. I don’t know if you could ever say post-communist Russia was truly democratic, but it certainly isn’t now. Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela, Poland, and the Philippines are among countries that probably were democratic at one point, but have slid into various levels of authoritarianism. And there’s a danger of that here. It’s not happened yet. But it could.

Germany may have committed one of the greatest atrocities in human history during WWII, but the de-Nazification after the war was surprisingly effective. I’ve used the Pfhor’s political situation in Chronicles as a metaphor for post-WWI Germany: an overly punitive settlement led to genuine suffering that ultimately provided fuel for horrific demagoguery. One of the questions I intend to explore is how to de-Nazify a society. There was reason to believe after WWII that democracy might ultimately become the standard system of government throughout the world, but we’re now seeing evidence that a society that becomes a democracy may not stay a democracy.

And of course, the United States has not truly been a democracy for all that long. It started out with only white, male property owners able to vote, and those property owners could literally own humans as chattel. (I will allow readers to draw their own parallels to the Pfhor as desired.) It was eventually extended to all white males; racial minorities and women ostensibly gained the right to vote later, but it was de facto illegal for many African-Americans to vote until the Civil Rights era. We’re now seeing a return to that throughout the country, with factors such as increasing restrictions upon the franchise, racially biased gerrymandering, and felon disenfranchisement, which is intrinsically racially biased because convictions for felonies are racially biased.

But authoritarianism isn’t inevitable, either. I’ve been reading Richard Evans’ The Coming of the Third Reich off and on for awhile, and one of the central lessons of his book is that nothing about Nazi Germany was inevitable. Germany wasn’t, in fact, unusually antisemitic by European standards in the early 20th century; France and Russia, among others, were probably worse. Nor was there anything in the German national character that made dictatorship seem like a particularly likely outcome there. There were a number of points in the historical timeline where, if people had made different choices, it’s entirely possible Hitler would never have come to power, and even after he was appointed chancellor, there are a number of points where it’s feasible he might not have consolidated as much power to himself as he could have. The German Communists, for instance, refused to form a coalition with the centre-left in 1933, which directly led to Hitler’s appointment as chancellor – otherwise, the left and centre-left would have been able to form a government. (There actually seems to have been a fairly extensive history of political violence between the left and the centre-left in Germany, so it wasn’t completely unreasonable for them to distrust one another, but their refusal to set aside their differences was certainly a catastrophic error.) Readers are invited to draw their own parallels about Duverger’s law and third-party voters in first-past-the-post presidential systems if they so choose.

Chronicles will have two authoritarian societies to explore as case studies: one is the Pfhor and the second is on Antichthon. A central question of these segments of the story will be: “How did they get that way?” Humanity has, on the whole, regarded slavery as an evil for around 150 years (though not as universally as many of us like to believe – human trafficking is still a serious problem), but it wasn’t a settled question in the 1860s; we had a war about it. It wasn’t inevitable that a creative work produced by humans would’ve chosen to depict slavers as evil. It probably wasn’t inevitable that the Pfhor would establish an empire based on slavery. Perhaps Chronicles can explore the reasons that occurred.

And of course, RADIX and I have already written above some of our thoughts about Antichthon and the fall of Jjaro democracy. I don’t intend to explore every factor behind this in exhaustive detail, because I prefer to leave many aspects of the Jjaro’s society mysterious, but I do want to go further detail behind, first, the creation of Lh’owon and the S’pht, and second, why they vanished and

Of course, I don’t want to contradict Eternal too much (I’m willing to leave a few continuity discrepancies, which I can ascribe to separate timelines potentially created by the player’s actions, but I don’t want any central plot elements in the two scenarios to be completely irreconcilable), so I need to re-read all its terminals. I plan to go through and help condense some of them where possible this December, so I think I’ll probably crystalise a lot more of my thoughts about the Jjaro at this point as well.

That’s enough for now, I think. I should probably start compiling a document with this stuff so I can organise my writing better in the future.


ETA: oh, here’s a gameplay video of “Slaughterhouse-One” (fka “naked lunch one”) and “The Dream’s Dream” with the miner’s lamp turned to 0. I think it looks a lot better. I can’t do this with all the dream levels, though – in fact I had to turn it back up for “Supper’s Ready” (I’d put it down to 0.21) because it rendered one of the dark parts in “Lover’s Leap” borderline impossible to climb, and it made it almost impossible to see any ammo at the start. I suspect if I redo the lighting in that one, it’d undo some of the problems, but I don’t know how much of it I want to undo, because the opening looks so cool right now. I’ll think about it. “Entangled” would also probably be completely unplayable with the miner’s lamp off unless I turned the lighting up, and I definitely don’t want to do that.

I used a different strategy to kill the last Juggernaut with the staff. It’s a lot less elegant than the one in the previous video, but it’s also a lot easier to replicate. There was a fair amount of luck involved in producing the previous video, but in the immortal words of Jason Jones, I hope everyone agrees after watching it that luck played no part in this replay.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 12th '18, 23:59

Short on time but just to answer Eternal questions: the Roland Beowulf thing in Eternal is a metaphorical dreamlike interpretation of a memory / vision shared by Marcus and Hathor about events in their subjective future that is actually the distant past, the events of ch5. Nobody is literally reincarnated but time runs around in circles so it’s like living life after life in the same pattern always manipulated into the same conclusion.

And Hathor isn’t made crazy by the W’rk, she just hates humanity for their constant use of her as a tool even after multiple deaths, and then gets even angrier still when Marcus, her only potential ally, won’t side with her quest for vengeance; and then add several more deaths atop that at Marcus’ hands driving her into a mad fury and then give her Jjaro technology and she BECOMES a W’rk, since the W’rk are just mad Jjaro.
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Pfhorrest
California

Post Aug 13th '18, 01:17

Thanks for the quick explanations; it’d probably been years since I’d last played the levels that explained those parts of the story. The “mad Jjaro” thing is a really cool idea. Am I right in remembering that you’d written the Jjaro as basically being ascended members of other species, or am I thinking of some other scenario? (I can’t think of which other scenario that’d be, though.)

I guess it’s not literally reincarnation as we typically think of it, though in a way being brought back to experience the same chain of events seems like it would be its own kind of special hell. In any case, I’ll have to think about whether I want to diverge by introducing literal reincarnation into the setting. Pathways had a sort of nothingness after death, if I’m remembering correctly, which sounds pretty awful to experience, but if I’m getting into reincarnation territory anyway, I could always make changing that a central focus of the story.

IDK. Lot to think about. Thanks for the insight.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 13th '18, 02:09

wrt: the latest vid, it definitely looks pretty good with the miner's light shut off. (Maybe it was in the previous vid on these levels and I just didn't see it, but I also really like that effect with the sky at around 6:39)

--

Art and ramblings below. Spoilers, obviously.

Spoiler:
To start off:

chronicles - platina.png


First drawing(s) of Platina. By the time I started on this, I had a fairly clear mental image of what he'd look like; the only element I remember having trouble with was the pattern on his hood.

Since the Eternal Hero and Dark One of Inmortalitas don't always have the exact same features as Vince and Enzo, the third incarnation of the Companion has freckles (which hopefully have the added effect of making him look younger than Durandal).

As mentioned above, I imagine Marcus first meeting him when he's part of the UESC; perhaps the ship's captain hands Platina over to Marcus and Yrro with the false claim that he's "dead weight" (in reality, Platina was never givena chance to demonstrate his skills and was used as a glorified secretary). So the poor guy's anxious to prove himself but also terrified of screwing up.

chronicles - interactions.png


Trying to get an idea of how Marcus and Platina would interact. Again, Marcus's face being visible is more for clarity's sake. Individual notes as follows:

1) In my mind, it's been many years since Durandal's passing (at least twenty, though the length of the time skip, if any, is ultimately up to The Man), so the metaphorical scars it left on Marcus aren't as fresh anymore, but probably haven't started properly healing yet. All Platina knows at this point is that someone close to Marcus died, he held onto a piece of their armour in remembrance, and it's still not easy for him to talk about it.

2) Vince's interactions with Platina would've been a little less awkward...unfortunately, in this timeline, he's long deceased.

3) Marcus overestimates Platina's confidence.

4) As opposed to Durandal, who could be somewhat capricious even on a good day, Platina is more open about wanting to be helpful.

5) Maybe at some point, the resistance's ship gets boarded by hostiles, so Marcus instructs Platina to hide...not that it helps. I'd like to think that Marcus would just be glad that Platina's still alive.

6) An attempt at small talk, with bonus foreshadowing (assuming that Enkidu wasn't already mentioned in a dream level or something).

Other stuff: A lot of this would be influenced by whatever relationship Marcus had with Durandal, obviously, and I'd be really interested to hear Forrest's thoughts on the matter. In my mind, Marcus wasn't as close to him as Vince would be (should be obvious from my most recent art thread update as of this post, but in Inm., Vince and Durandal become a couple), but still considered him a friend.

--

Regarding Leela, and her "route" and Tycho's possibly being combined/altered in the final--perhaps she met and became friends with Pharos (not knowing how dangerous he actually is, though I sincerely doubt he would ever hurt her--he does try to be a benevolent god, after all, even if his head is firmly up his ass), which causes her no small amount of anguish when she also tries to assist Yrro, and it turns out Yrro really wants to tear Pharos some new orifices (and also free Antichthon from its downward spiral, but Yrro tends to solve most problems with his fists). Spitballing here.

Mention of Hathor makes me wonder if she'd show up every now and then in some dream levels, as an android; it's mostly just to talk with Marcus, and make him wonder if he's imagining things or if she survived Eternal after all. Could really complicate matters if she knew why Durandal came back as Platina.


(edit: also--happy birthday, The Man!)
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 13th '18, 02:37

“Jjaro” in Eternal means three different things: the ancient civilization of humans from the future; the society of AIs and such which was spawned by and survived those humans but later came to include other such beings (which is how S’bhuth is a “failed Jjaro”); and those of such beings from that society and others who escaped Outside and became basically gods. The W’rk are the same type of being as the last, just with a different agenda.
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Pfhorrest
California

Post Aug 13th '18, 03:44

RADIX: There’s a lot to think about there, and I’ll probably have more to say in a couple of days when I’ve thought about it. (Not likely tomorrow – work will probably exhaust me.) First off, though, thanks for the birthday wishes. I had about as good a day as could’ve been expected without 45 being frogmarched out of Bedminster or wherever he is rn in handcuffs, so. (And to be clear, that wasn’t something I expected.)

One thing I will note: I think I want to leave the relationship between Durandal and Marcus at least somewhat up to interpretation. I kind of want people to be able to read whatever subtext or lack thereof they see into their interactions without explicitly stating anything one way or the other, much like the original game (and some fan scenarios) do. In other words, I’m fairly sure I’m not going to explicitly say it’s A Relationship, but I’m also fairly sure I’m not going to explicitly say it’s not. One of the things I like about the original trilogy (and Rubicon and various other fan scenarios) is that not every bit of character development or plot is spelt out, and while there are some gaps in the timeline and characterisation that I intend to fill in, I don’t want to change that aspect of the writing overall.

I should note that I think you can probably also bring in most aspects you want of Vince’s characterisation for the most part, as long as it doesn’t flagrantly contradict Eternal, Rubicon, or Phoenix (and even then, for that matter, because again, I’m toying with the idea that all continuities in Marathon fan scenario affect the Chronicles timeline somehow, even if simply as failed timelines). The main thing is just that I think I want to leave the nature of Marcus/Durandal up to interpretation.

I’ve definitely toyed with the idea of bringing characters like Hathor (and Kate and whomever else) into the dream levels as physical presences. I was actually thinking about how I’d like to bring NPCs as physical presences literally today, actually. Another thing I was thinking of is that I’d actually like the later missions to involve some sort of cooperation with those NPCs, to make them a sort of team effort so that the SO isn’t just pulling off all of these missions on their own (or with the Bobs’/allied S’pht’s/allied Pfhor’s incidental help). Unfortunately, I’m not sure how I’d actually implement them, though. Marathon’s monster AI is really crude, and I’m not well versed enough in game theory to write a better AI in Lua or whatever.

The sky effect I think you’re referring to is something I did within the past week or so. Before then, that room just had a plain ceiling texture. I’m glad you liked it; I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to do something like that in a dream level before. It was probably in the video immediately preceding this one, but it definitely wasn’t in the first several videos of the level. I think I did it in the same revision where I changed all the sewage to water (and put in that cool water effect for that matter).

Pfhorrest: Thanks again for the clarification. I can definitely work with those definitions. I don’t think I’d even have to change anything I’ve planned for the Jjaro arc (or anything that RADIX has written for that matter).
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 14th '18, 05:56

The Man wrote:There’s a lot to think about there, and I’ll probably have more to say in a couple of days when I’ve thought about it. (Not likely tomorrow – work will probably exhaust me.)


Alright (and you're welcome)! In the meantime:

chronicles - plant objects 1.png


Got some plants (and some fungi) done. (Obviously these are meant to be separated; I can do that myself if you need me to. Hopefully they'll all integrate into the shapes file without too much hassle) If I need to do any more, lemme know.
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 14th '18, 21:41

Those look great. I do have a few concerns, which may or may not actually end up being relevant, and I probably should’ve brought the third and fourth up in advance:

  • Perhaps the mushrooms should have more of a gradient. I’ll have to see how they’d look within the game, though – it might not matter. It might also not matter depending upon how the Antichthon textures end up looking. They’d be jarring next to Lh’owon’s artwork, but if the rest of Antichthon looks artistically similar, it’d be fine. (ETA: I actually really like the idea of having discrete artistic styles for separate environments after thinking about it more; it would probably tie in well with the themes of the game. The mushrooms might be fine as they are.)

  • The third shape from the right (or fifth from the left) is so wide that it might look a bit strange in the game, because Marathon tends to use the same shape at all angles for scenery objects. One possibility would be to render it from several different angles. I think there’s the possibility to display shapes from four, five, and eight angles, though I’ll have to look in Anvil and/or SF to make sure of this. It’s definitely possible to use multiple angles for scenery objects, though; the weird, colour-shifting chair in “Supper’s Ready” is such an object.

  • Have you made larger renders of these? If not, it again may not end up being a big deal for most people. I tend to play on a 2560x1600 Retina display, so I’m seeing Marathon in much higher resolution than most people will, at least until 4K displays become standard. On the other hand, I almost want Chronicles’ graphics to use higher-res than is standard, since it could end up saving additional work down the line. If I’d saved my own textures in 1024x1024 resolution with 32-bit colour depth, they wouldn’t need to be redone now.

  • Lastly, there’s the issue of converting these to Marathon 2’s original 256-colour CLUT. I don’t know if anyone still plays without OpenGL these days, but we should probably accommodate them just in case. I’ll try to find the CLUT at some point and upload it here. I also might be able to convert these myself; I’m not completely hopeless with Photoshop, after all.
Beautiful work, though, and they’ll definitely go a long way towards establishing a unique appearance and atmosphere for Antichthon. I may not have time to do anything with them tonight, but I’ll try to get to it this weekend.

A few new videos:

“Slaughterhouse-Two” & “Entangled” – nothing radically different here except the miner’s lamp setting in “Slaughterhouse-Two” is now 0. I experimented with putting the miner’s lamp at 0.21 for “Entangled” and “Supper’s Ready”, but it was impossible to see weapons, ammo, & powerups, plus it became frustrating to climb a particular segment in “Supper’s Ready”. It still is slightly darker than it was in previous videos, because I changed the global setting to 0.42 (it was previously the default, which I believe is 0.5).

“Slaughterhouse-Three” & “Biblical Candy Machines” – fists & staff only. Again, no major changes to the later level; miner’s lamp to 0 in “Slaughterhouse-Three”. I think I might’ve also overwritten the terminal in “Slaughterhouse-Three” with the one that used to be in “Slaughterhouse-Four”.

“Slaughterhouse-Four” & “Supper’s Ready” – miner’s lamp to 0 in “Slaughterhouse-Four”; its terminals were probably from “Slaughterhouse-Five” previously. Fists & staff only. I kill all enemies, including the Juggernauts. There’s one close shave where I get knocked into the lava during the “Apocalypse in 9/8” segment and use a Fighter projectile to get myself out. I escape with about 0.3x shields, retreat, and go back to kill the remaining enemies (unfortunately I’ve lost the alien weapon ammo from the Enforcer by that point). Killing the Juggernauts probably added about 20 minutes to the video. You could listen to all of “Supper’s Ready” twice during this video’s running time, which I encourage people to do.

“Slaughterhouse-Five” & “Nightmare Heaven” – fists & staff only; both have miner’s lamp at 0. Observant viewers may notice that I overwrote “naked lunch five” with “naked lunch six”, then renamed the levels. “naked lunch six”, meanwhile, was replaced with “Wheeling Hubcap Factory”. I’m getting a lot better at “Nightmare Heaven”; I only used half of the available recharge cans. Either that or I was just lucky this time around.

More TK, including a few additional videos and my own thoughts on my levels & strategy from an email exchange with Dr Sumner. I have to leave for now, though.


ETA: “Wheeling Hubcap Factory” – now put in as a secret level; miner’s lamp to 0. I don’t think I’ve made any other changes to it yet (one of the first things I need to do is to remove the Chamberlains’ immunity to fists), and I will very likely put it into the main continuity at some point, probably before “Motherfucker=Redeemer”.

I don’t consider this level in anywhere near a final state yet, but I do want to try what RADIX and I had discussed above about making it as disorienting as possible. I have a few ideas about Lua scripts to use for this purpose, but I haven’t begun coding them yet, and I don’t know how much of what I want to do is even possible. In any case, with Aleph One removing limits on viewing distance & number of transparent sides, I can now expand the outer structure a lot further than I previously had.

From a mapmaker’s technical standpoint, it’s worth noting that there is a colossal amount of 5D space involved in the exterior views. In fact, if memory serves, there are three separate copies of the same space: one visible from the central hub where the player starts; a second from the bottom floor; and a third from the top. This’ll make it a pain to add to them, but I think I can manage it. I had to use three different copies of this space because of the lack of bridges in Marathon. The level’s geometry makes it impossible to see one window from any of the other windows. I do seem to have shrewdly used slightly different elevations for each space so that I could more easily add to them if necessary (however, unpacking which elevation belongs to which space will be a chore), and I also placed the central point of each exterior at a different location. None of this is at all apparent to the player; if you go into Vasara you’ll see some of it, though.

I think I only excluded this level from the initial alpha 3 release because I started out this map wanting to create a Salinger-like level, and it didn’t turn into one. But it’s still pretty cool for what it is.

From a gameplay standpoint, this is a much shorter video than my previous one. The level is currently both an extermination and an exploration level. I believe Marathon actually allows you to leave a few enemies alive in such levels, but you have to kill most of them. It’s necessary to walk on the polygon 180° from the door in each of the outer rings. I’ll probably change the mission in the final version.

“Dream Brother”. No changes to this one, but I made a new video because I’ve removed “naked lunch six”. I did much better against the S’pht’Wr this time, too.

Lastly, a couple of lengthy excerpts I wrote to Dr Sumner, which I’m going to place under spoiler tags due to their length. The first is on the feasibility of clearing out each level beginning with “Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein” using only fists & staff, though also incorporating some of my thoughts about my own mapmaking abilities and so forth:

Spoiler:
I’m now going through and thinking about how each remaining level is likely to be from a fists-&-staff-only standpoint, partially for your edification and partially for mine – I may use these as notes to improve these levels in the future.

“Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein” and “Revisions of the Past”: I’ve done both of these with fists only or fists and staff only. The only hitch is that there’s a secret in “Revisions” that requires grenade jumping. I’m going to allow special dispensations to the no ammo rule for the purpose of showing secrets. Finding some of the secrets in “Revisions” without looking in an editor might be almost impossible, though, even if you’re familiar with the Win95 version. I’ll have to do something to make a few of them less esoteric.

“Everyone I Went to High School With Is Dead”: done it several times. It’s a bit challenging despite having only fighters and A-Bobs as enemies, mostly because Chronicles’ fighters are so much more challenging than M2/∞’s, but it’s not unfair. Interestingly, if you do the level fists only, the real Bobs never show up. I didn’t notice that until a few weeks ago.

The next level you’re likely to have much trouble with from a fists/staff perspective might be “Here Comes the Flood”. It’s mostly doable, but that last room is brutal and the only weapon I’ve ever survived it with is the shotgun. I have done the rest of the level with just fists & staff, though; I didn’t kill the Juggernaut because, really (and I think I left it in an infinite loop fighting one of the Hunters), but the rest of it is fine.

“The Black Angel’s Death Song” might be really difficult throughout. I might make the staff physics on that one faster and add a few recharge cans, or even a permanent recharger. Or maybe I should just remove the enforcers near the start; there’s not really enough room to deal with an enemy that does that much damage with a single shot. (I’m still considering reducing the strength of both the Enforcers’ and Hunters’ projectiles, but that would require massive rebalancing throughout the scenario and a lot of really boring physics edits.) There are a few other tweaks I should make to it, too; in particular, there’s a rear admiral attack that is outright unfair to first-time players. I should give the player more time to react to it.

“Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore”: done it myself several times; it’s a pretty easy level overall with only a couple of difficult segments. I did this intentionally because I wanted a breather level at this point in the scenario.

“Entangled” should probably have a few more oxygen recharge cans at the beginning and maybe a couple more 3x cans. The invisible S’pht’Wr are brutal but might be survivable; I just haven’t really learnt how to deal with them effectively yet. Should probably also add at least one more pattern buffer.

“Paradox of Tolerance”: probably fine despite the juggernauts. Just ignore them apart from making sure you’ve got enough shields and you’ll be OK. And make sure you don’t get too close to the enforcers; this is one of a small number of levels where they have the Rubicon zap attack. (Even then, they don’t have guided projectiles on any levels in this scenario.) I can’t remember if I mentioned this in the terminals for the level; if not, I’ll have to add it. Apart from that, the only other possible hitch is one segment near the end that I won’t spoil; I’ll just say that it’s the point where most of my fists-and-staff-only films of this level ceased to be fists-and-staff-only films.

“Men Like Ravenous Fishes”: Pretty sure I’ve done it myself. It requires a lot of patience, but you’ll get it. It might take awhile to get used to the mechanics of the gravity boots. I also need to fix the ridiculous external velocity that monsters on this and the next level are subjected to when attacked often enough with the staff; it’s really funny, but it breaks suspension of disbelief. I think this is possible with Lua; if not, I can simply alter the staff damage type’s behaviour in just these two levels with MML. Or maybe I can raise the monsters’ inertia setting (I don’t remember what Marathon calls this, but I know it exists).

“Room a Thousand Years Wide”: Intro will be really difficult if not outright impossible with only fists & staff. I should probably expand a couple of those sections to give the player more room to manoeuvre. There is a really cheap technique that can be used to knock off the S’pht’Wr near the start without any actual danger to the player, though; let me know if you figure it out. This is one of the most difficult levels in Chronicles overall, and there are a couple other segments that may pose challenges for a fists-and-staff run later on, but probably not to the same extent. Also note that I consider this and the previous level to be two halves of one really big, really long level, but had to split them up due to polygon count and physical size limitations. (“Room” is almost 1,100 polygons on its own; even if the physical size limit were removed, putting them back together as one level would probably crash Aleph One unless the map object limitation were also raised. There are also a lot of physics differences between them, though I think I could resolve that given enough thought.) One further note is that I like this level a lot more than “Men Like Ravenous Fishes”; there were probably ten years between their construction (apart from the last quarter or so of “Men Like Ravenous Fishes”), and I got a lot better at mapmaking in the intervening time.

“Biblical Candy Machines”: done it myself several times; you won’t have any trouble with it

“To Make an Idol of Our Fear and Call It God”: I think this is probably doable with fists & staff only, but it’s proven far beyond my skill level thus far. Hell, I can barely vid it normally. There’s plenty of room to manoeuvre in most of it, but you have to be really, really careful, since one false step and it’s game over. A lot of this level consists of moving forward and retreating. If you move forward too quickly, you will definitely die. If you don’t retreat quickly enough in some segments, you will probably die. Consistently make sure you have favourable terrain and you’ll probably eventually manage to get it with just fists & staff.

“Neon Valley Street”: The opening is… difficult, but doable. The segment with the MoaHs and MoaCs requires a lot of patience, but again doable. The “Eat the Path” homage is actually really easy if you use a cheap solution I discovered by accident one day. I won’t spoil it unless you want to know it.

“Delusions of Adequacy”: plenty of room to manoeuvre, but really difficult overall. The Juggernauts might make fists & staff only impractical, but you might be able to ignore them and still complete the mission. You’ll just have to be careful of your shields due to the respawning hunters.

“With Strength I Burn”: hmm… ehh… maybe. It might require a bit of luck. I’m kind of meh on this level overall, even. Might end up being completely overhauled by the final release if not just outright replaced.

“Supper’s Ready”, “Master of Puppets”, “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion”, “Ys”: I don’t foresee you having any problems. Some of these are difficult, but they’re fair. A few enforcers in “Supper’s Ready” might pose a few problems but I think you can probably take care of them using the staff. I’ve actually vidded all of them except “Supper’s Ready” using only fists and staff.

“How to Disappear Completely”: this one might pose challenges. Again, this level challenges me even when I play it without any restrictions on weapons use. There’s usually lots of room to manoeuvre, but the Enforcers are brutal.

“Another One in the Dark”: probably fine; I think I may have actually done it that way myself

“Kill Your Sons”: you did “Begging for Mercy” and “Hang Brain” fists only, so you’ll be fine. Far beyond my skill level to do it fists only, though.

“Star’s End”: who knows. Probably close to impossible. I’m thinking of removing the Juggernaut. That might make it more fair.

“Acme Station (Michael Bay remix)”: …maybe? This is way easier than “Acme” when you use weapons, but everything blows up when it dies, so you have to be careful of your shields. Use staff projectiles and you may be OK (though be careful with them, because they blow up, too. I mean, the title of the level gives away the gimmick, right?). Clearing the whole level out might be a challenge, though, even though there is an oxygen recharger.

“Eon Blue Apocalypse”: done it myself. It’s somewhat challenging but not unfair. Finding where everything is is likely to be your biggest obstacle.

“Sweet Silence” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”: I think you can probably get them. I can’t remember whether I used any weapons last time I played them. (For the record, I consider these one level but split them up because the automap was illegible when they were paired, plus there was some physics thing I no longer remember that I wanted to change for the second half, once you fixed the vacuum deal. There is one bit of shared architecture between them still.)

“Dancing MADD”: oof. who knows. Again, I have a difficult time clearing this one out even without any restrictions. I think it’s probably fair, because there’s plenty of room to fight most of the enemies, but it’s so, so difficult.

“Errand of Mercy”: there’s a reason this one is a secret; the gameplay balance is awful. I only put it in here because it has a couple of really cool architectural segments and I really like the S’pht’Kr battle against the Pfhor ship, though I don’t think I ever did get the damn thing to fire. I’ll have to completely redo the monster placement.

“Wheeling Hubcap Factory”: is probably literally impossible without weapons use right now because I think the Chamberlains are immune to both fists and the staff. I’ll have to change the fist setting. (I think I’ll leave the staff as is; they’re supposed to be immune to energy weapons, and the staff is definitely an energy weapon.) If I change that, it might be doable, but you probably wouldn’t be able to take any hits in significant portions of the level because you’d be doing them on 0 shields.

“Dream Brother”: The S’pht’Wr are probably impossible, but they don’t always trigger. The rest is fine if you use some cheap strategies. This one’s never worked as intended, which is one of several reasons it’s a secret.

“Thanatos, Beneath the Dust” and “Transport Is Arranged”: I doubt you’ll have any problem whatsoever with either of these. “Transport” is another one that requires grenade jumping to show a secret, though.


The second is on when I use fists & when I use the staff.

Spoiler:
I feel like writing a little more, so perhaps I should mention when I use the fists and when I use the staff. I should note that I’m not even always sure why I choose one or the other myself; writing this down will force me to think about it, which will probably help me understand my strategy better.

The staff is really good at pushing single enemies back quickly. If you need to push an enemy out of the way quickly, the staff is one of your best bets in your entire arsenal, actually. Probably only the rocket launcher and possibly the AR/grenade launcher are more effective. If a single enemy stuns, you can usually keep stunning it by simply using both triggers of the staff simultaneously. (There are two levels – “Men Like Ravenous Fishes” and “Room a Thousand Years Wide” – where it actually pushes enemies back so far that it causes a buffer overflow and pushes them to unpredictable locations. Although I find this incredibly amusing, it definitely breaks suspension of disbelief, and I intend to fix it with a Lua script which I’ll probably try to write this week.)

The staff also deals far more damage than a stationary fist punch. I’m not actually sure if it deals more damage than a running fist punch. It’s probably close with the melee trigger alone, but I think both of them together probably deal more. It usually takes six or seven running fist punches to kill present-day fighters on TC. If you fire both triggers together, I think it usually takes three hits of each. Maybe four; I don’t recall. It’s not six.

But on a lot of levels, the staff doesn’t swing as quickly as you punch. Furthermore, there’s something to be said for not pushing enemies too far out of each other’s path. In those cases, you might want to keep using the fists. And of course, “punch all switches”.

At the same time, having the ability to knock enemies back is often important, depending upon the terrain you’re fighting in, and not having to switch over quickly can at times make the difference between life or death.

I usually find fists-only a bit more challenging than staff-only. But there are some levels where it’s probably about a toss-up (usually the ones where the staff swings more slowly than a fist punch). There isn’t currently any rhyme or reason to which levels have faster fists. In flashback levels, I think they actually both always have the same speed, and you’ll be able to tell which those are because you’ll have all the M2 weapons rather than the Rubicon/Evil versions. (The enemies are also grey or off-blue, but there are a few present-days with that schema as well.) The present-day ones are all over the place; you really just have to use both triggers of the staff on each level to see what their firing speed is. I intend to make a more sensible progression in the final game (i.e., the player swings the staff more quickly after using it more), but I’m not going to worry too much about it until I’ve finalised my level order (otherwise I’d spend too much time changing the physics over and over).



Edit 2: BTW, what do people who have played “Pleiades’ Dust” think of its difficulty? It’s the first time the player encounters Chronicles’ beefed up Fighters as enemies, and they may be more challenging for an unaccustomed player to fight in that level’s narrow corridors than I’d realised. I think I’m probably going to add another level that uses them as enemies before “Pleiades’ Dust”, so this might not be a big deal in the long run, but Dr Sumner was actually having trouble with the projectile fighters, so I’m thinking it might be too difficult for such an early level right now - I don’t expect there’s a better Marathon player on the planet, unless someone has a massive library of fists-only TC films that they haven’t released publicly (not entirely impossible, since Dr Sumner hadn’t released a lot of his until a few months ago).
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 15th '18, 06:03

Regarding question 3: I don't have larger renders of these; they were drawn to be in scale with the normal Security Officer sprite. Really hope they don't end up clashing with the higher-rez textures...
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 15th '18, 08:46

It's probably fine. Come to think of it, I don't think any of the other scenery objects are any higher resolution than those. Might be worth rendering future items in higher resolution, though, if possible.

I might add more later when I can use a real keyboard. My internet is being dumb and I'm only able to post from my phone.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 16th '18, 14:38

The Man wrote:It's probably fine. Come to think of it, I don't think any of the other scenery objects are any higher resolution than those. Might be worth rendering future items in higher resolution, though, if possible.


Will keep that in mind!

--

Unrelated:

chronicles - hathor n marcus v2.png


Half conceptual thing, half just trying something new art-wise. Also serves as a height comparison between Hathor (roughly 6'3") and Marcus (5'9").

Regarding the background, one idea I've had knocking around is that most of Marcus's dream-level conversations with Hathor (and maybe the ghosts of other people Marcus knew in the past?) take place in Carroll Street Station. Not the Infinity level, an actual subway station that may have existed on Mars and had some significance to Marcus. It was always kinda grungy and run-down, but in dreams it feels like it's at the bottom of a void. If this would end up significantly lengthening development time, though, I guess these conversations could take place somewhere else.

(Bonus, specific-to-Inmortalitas ramblings that may not have any bearing on Chronicles since it could hose things up backstory-wise, but someone might want to read 'em:)

Spoiler:
I have in mind that the reason Inm!Marcus remembers nothing of his past, even after his memory blocks finish decaying, is that he technically doesn't have one; he's a replicant (an artificial human created with a specific purpose in mind, whatever that may be). Carroll Street Station may have been where he was tossed when his makers got found out; he woke up for the first time there and was eventually found by Hathor.

Marcus does not have fond memories of the place, especially after learning what he really is, so continually revisiting it in dreams would not be a fun experience.
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 16th '18, 15:45

I like that pic. (And the scenery from earlier too).

You know that Carroll Street Station IS an actual subway station in NYC, right?
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Pfhorrest
California

Post Aug 16th '18, 15:49

Pfhorrest wrote:I like that pic. (And the scenery from earlier too).

You know that Carroll Street Station IS an actual subway station in NYC, right?


Thanks. ^^

I did know that Carroll Street Station is a real place; just couldn't remember that it was in NYC.
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General-RADIX

Post Aug 16th '18, 17:42

That looks cool, too. Of course, we’re not going to use Marcus’ face in Chronicles (or probably, for that matter, Hathor’s), but it’s a nice guide to how they look, which might actually help me in writing. I like the idea of Hathor being 6” taller than Marcus, though that’s probably partially because, since I’m roughly 5’5”, my romantic partners are often taller than I am. There isn’t much representation for taller woman/shorter man relationships in media.

Regarding the spoiler-tagged text:

Spoiler:
IDK if I can go with Marcus actually being a replicant, since I’ve been writing as though the Wheeling Hubcap Factory stuff took place on 20th/21st-century Earth. Of course, it’s possible that those could all be implanted memories. The idea of giving Marcus implanted memories from several past lives is actually a fairly intriguing one; it could go a long way towards explaining the “Roland, Beowulf, Achilles, Gilgamesh” stuff. I think to a large extent it depends upon where the dream story ends up going, and frankly, I still don’t know myself yet; a lot of that depends upon specific details of the main game’s story, since there’s a proud tradition of having the dream story mirror events in the main continuity, which I certainly intend to continue. And of course, I don’t want the dream story to be too clear, so maybe I can go with the idea of “maybe they’re implanted memories; maybe Marcus really experienced all these events.” I’m making the unreliability of memories a central enough theme of the scenario already, so perhaps I could leave it up to interpretation as to whether Marcus ever even experienced some of the memories described in the dream terminals.

Regarding the non-spoiler-tagged text, I haven’t yet constructed a level that could stand in for Carroll Street Station, but I can do so, and it probably won’t lengthen development time, since I already knew I needed at least one more dream level; “Dream Brother” isn’t really good enough to go in the main game, and “Biblical Candy Machines” isn’t really a dream level. If I use it as a hub, that might mean I have to use more than one dream level beyond each “Slaughterhouse” level in some sequences, but that’s probably fine, too, since Rubicon already has two dream levels in a row (beyond “Things May Happen”) in one segment in the Salinger plank. (“People Under the Stairs” to “Comfortably Numb”, I think.)

For now, it occurs to me that “Another One in the Dark” might be a more suitable dream level than “Biblical Candy Machines”. I’m actually thinking of reordering the levels, but if anyone has gotten that far in the game, that would mess up their progression through the levels, so maybe I’ll wait until later in development. (“Another One in the Dark” needs a complete overhaul, anyway; it won’t work in co-op right now if one of the players dies.)

(also, since there isn’t really anywhere else to put this, and post flood control sucks, R.I.P. Queen of Soul [MFrown])
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 17th '18, 02:24

I went to download the maps from GitHub, but my download never began, so I opted for the zippyshare download. Just curious, how out of date is the zippyshare link? Is it worth playing through in the mean time?
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Flowers

Post Aug 17th '18, 03:12

It’s probably at least a month out of date; I just went ahead and uploaded my latest map merge here. That’s odd that Github’s not working. I’ve made a handful of other changes to other files, too, but I don’t think any of them significantly affect gameplay right now.

Enjoy, BTW, and be sure to let me know what you think – particularly if any parts are too easy/hard/frustrating & how to fix them.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post Aug 21st '18, 10:45

'twas thinking about Yrro and Pharos lately, so art:

chronicles - yrro n pharos stuff.png


Inm!Yrro is as intelligent as any other bio-engineer, but he's not very good at handling problems that can't be taken care of physically (I mean, he canonically left Lh'owon out of grief after Pthia died, rather than stay put and continue looking after the S'pht...though I suspect the Pfhor would've enslaved them either way). Maybe in Chronicles, he's focused on taking out the current administration so that people more knowledgeable about politics (i.e. Ryu'toth) can start on the slow, hard healing process sooner.

(Wonder if he and Marcus would bond over their shared "felt like they'd failed their loved ones" thing...)

Pharos is the kind of person who wants to do good, but his idea of "good" seems to be pretty short on civil liberties (at least where the Jjaro are concerned; his created species isn't nearly as restricted) and doesn't take basic psychology into account. He's also rather arrogant and unable to accept that certain things are his fault until it's completely, irreparably collapsed around him (sometimes not even then).

--

Also, an idea I had for Leela's appearance in Chronicles:

chronicles - leela idea.png


Comes in blue and green versions (I usually depict her as the former, but Chronicles might follow Eternal in leaving her green).
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