Author Topic: Steel decoration: steel or earth?  (Read 3785 times)

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Offline Simon

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Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« on: March 05, 2016, 11:14:14 am »
Hi folks,

Here's a violent scene from Steel Works.



The implosion clears out the destructible moss.

Lix recognizes earth tiles and steel tiles. Whatever tile gets to draw the topmost pixel determines whether a pixel is steel or earth. Neolemmix calls this behavior "regular autosteel".



The leftmost image displays two purple tiles. The top part is steel, the bottom part is destructible earth.

The purple tiles are meant as steel decoration. The top tile should be laid over a steel block, as we see in the rightmost image. That produces a cleanly-shaven steel block on explosion. To get this behavior in Lix, it's necessary to make the top purple tile steel.

The purple steel tile should not decorate earth, or appear out in the open like on the leftmost image. These uses lead to the irritating middle image.

Opinions please!

I will post my own opinion later, along with design questions.

-- Simon

Offline ccexplore

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2016, 04:08:59 pm »
It boils down to this ambiguity:  when parts of A are obscured by parts of B, are the obscured parts of A merely visually hidden, or are they actually not there anymore? (ie. did B merely hide A, or eat it?)  In most cases the ambiguity doesn't matter since physics would treat A and B the same--except when one is steel and the other isn't.

In the decorative moss case, the intention is clearly that it is merely a visual occlusion, not that the moss ate away the steel somehow.  If we are being truly realistic, the explosion/implosion would've removed only the moss to reveal the indestructible steel hidden behind it.

It's possible that there are other cases where the other interpretation is more natural.  That being said, with steel terrain typically being these rigid square blocks, I feel like my expectation is that they should almost always exist as whole blocks rather than having their parts ate way due to overlapping terrain (I'll make an exception for purposely using eraser pieces to create irregular steel, of course).  Yes, this means the potential horror of hidden steel by unenlightened level designers, but that's the level designer's fault.

Anyway, as only an occasional level designer, I suppose my opinion should not really have as much weight as those who have more experiences designing levels.

Offline Nepster

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2016, 05:14:55 pm »
I would say, it boils down to this ambiguity: Do we want to help players to recognize steel or do we want to help level designers to create beautiful levels?

1) As mentioned before, level designers can mess things up with both implementations of steel. Only with the current one, players can recognize it better.
2) Lix is a puzzle game, so it should be clear from the beginning, what is steel and what not.
3) We have to distinguish between pieces, that decorate other terrain/steel and decoration pieces that by chance sometimes reach over steel. Moss is of the first kind, because one cannot put is somewhere in the air and expect it to look good. The purple piece is of the second kind: One can easily create decoration in a completely empty area purely by putting such pieces there. So it is decoration, that is a priori independant of the steel, but may reach over some steel pieces.
With the decoration pieces of the first kind (e.g. moss) one might expect that it preserves the original terrain resp. steel. For the second kind (e.g. purple pieces), I would expect that it has one defined behavior, like any other piece that can appear without other context. So it should not matter, whether it is placed over steel or not.
4) I didn't know about that purple steel piece before. Would I have seen it in a Lix level for the first time, I would have expected it to be usual terrain, because I already knew it to be destructible and the rest of Lix works on the basis of wysiwyg.
Sorry, but I feel that adding steel and non-steel versions of one and the same piece is a mistake by graphic designers and only confuses players!
5) I haven't seen much steel decoration in recently made levels. Mostly it was used in the original L1 and in some early Lemmix levels. So I have to ask: Why do we want to decorate steel, when there is so much else one can decorate?
6) When I update old Lemmix levels that have moss over steel, I usually move the moss away from the edge of the steel. This way the decoration is preserved and players only discover the destructible moss by exploding a lemming there (which in many cases isn't terribly likely - Steel Works might be an exception here). And even when the moss gets blown away, the gameplay doesn't change - just one part of the levels looks ugly now.

Offline IchoTolot

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2016, 05:17:30 pm »
I would say, it boils down to this ambiguity: Do we want to help players to recognize steel or do we want to help level designers to create beautiful levels?

1) As mentioned before, level designers can mess things up with both implementations of steel. Only with the current one, players can recognize it better.
2) Lix is a puzzle game, so it should be clear from the beginning, what is steel and what not.
3) We have to distinguish between pieces, that decorate other terrain/steel and decoration pieces that by chance sometimes reach over steel. Moss is of the first kind, because one cannot put is somewhere in the air and expect it to look good. The purple piece is of the second kind: One can easily create decoration in a completely empty area purely by putting such pieces there. So it is decoration, that is a priori independant of the steel, but may reach over some steel pieces.
With the decoration pieces of the first kind (e.g. moss) one might expect that it preserves the original terrain resp. steel. For the second kind (e.g. purple pieces), I would expect that it has one defined behavior, like any other piece that can appear without other context. So it should not matter, whether it is placed over steel or not.
4) I didn't know about that purple steel piece before. Would I have seen it in a Lix level for the first time, I would have expected it to be usual terrain, because I already knew it to be destructible and the rest of Lix works on the basis of wysiwyg.
Sorry, but I feel that adding steel and non-steel versions of one and the same piece is a mistake by graphic designers and only confuses players!
5) I haven't seen much steel decoration in recently made levels. Mostly it was used in the original L1 and in some early Lemmix levels. So I have to ask: Why do we want to decorate steel, when there is so much else one can decorate?
6) When I update old Lemmix levels that have moss over steel, I usually move the moss away from the edge of the steel. This way the decoration is preserved and players only discover the destructible moss by exploding a lemming there (which in many cases isn't terribly likely - Steel Works might be an exception here). And even when the moss gets blown away, the gameplay doesn't change - just one part of the levels looks ugly now.

Or you can simply add some steel areas to the places where it matters ;)

Offline Nepster

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2016, 05:46:59 pm »
Or you can simply add some steel areas to the places where it matters ;)
But not in Lix. ;P

Offline Proxima

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2016, 06:04:20 pm »
5) I haven't seen much steel decoration in recently made levels. Mostly it was used in the original L1 and in some early Lemmix levels. So I have to ask: Why do we want to decorate steel, when there is so much else one can decorate?

Cart before horse, I think. The reason Lix levels don't decorate steel is that the game engine doesn't provide the option of doing so, without the decoration becoming a non-steel area, which allows the player to cut into the steel and is almost always undesirable from the designer's point of view. So we end up with levels that look gorgeous in other respects, but the steel is, out of necessity, barren and clinical.

Mind you, I'm not sure changing things to allow moss over steel helps very much. Consider a level like "Over the Hump" (Daunting 24). This is an earth-terrain level where steel had to be added to prevent the player going straight through the terrain. It doesn't look good. It looks as if the steel is separate from the level instead of an organic part of it.  But I don't know how one would improve on this within the Lix (or for that matter, Lemmings) build-up-level-from-terrain-pieces paradigm.

To return to the original question: on first playing Lemmings, my automatic instinct was to regard terrain-on-steel as a form of layering, and to expect that explosions would leave it intact, just as terrain can partially obscure water, but when you remove the terrain, the water is still there.

I accept the point that if terrain-on-steel is allowed to behave as steel, then some information is hidden from the player. But that's true of water also, and it's often desirable to allow terrain to partially overlap water for aesthetic effect. This has, in a couple of cases, led to problems where the designer has let the water extend too far under the terrain, so the player expects a certain area to be safe to excavate and it turns out to be fatal. But we can discourage this via forum feedback, rather than changing the game engine to make it impossible.

Moss on steel rarely hides important information. The rest of the steel block is still there, so the player doesn't start thinking "Perhaps I can explode the moss, get inside, and bash through the rest of the steel." Well, they might think that once if they're used to L1 glitches. But after a bit of experimentation, the player quickly finds out that Lix doesn't have those steel glitches any more.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this line of thought any more :) I should probably come back to this some time when I'm less tired.

Offline Simon

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2016, 06:13:06 pm »
Over the Hump:



-- Simon

Offline Mindless

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2016, 03:59:46 am »
Here's a violent scene from Steel Works.



The implosion clears out the destructible moss.

I would have expected that either (a) the moss goes away and reveals the steel behind it or (b) the moss survives destruction, like it would in Lemmings.  The way it appears in that screenshot, somehow the moss was covering an exactly moss-shaped missing portion of the steel block...

If you don't mind keeping two bitmaps, one for destructible and one for non-destructible terrain (a) could be implemented.  Rendering the level to the bitmaps is a little trickier since you need a special case for destructible terrain behind non-destructible.  But as long as steel cannot be destroyed, terrain behind it can't be revealed.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2016, 05:12:48 pm by Mindless »

Offline namida

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2016, 05:13:28 am »
For what it's worth, I at least briefly considered having a third option in NeoLemmix in regards to steel (this was for V2.00n; I can't find the exact post discussing this). There is, of course, already the options (a) not steel, or (b) steel. The third option would be intended for pieces like these, where they don't add steel areas, but don't cancel steel areas underneath them either. I hadn't considered the possibility of destroying the overlapping terrain and revealing the steel underneath, though. It does make a lot of sense though. Yes, it opens the potential for bad level design, but I would argue that if we have a situation where people are making two different versions of the same piece to account for this - and I doubt that we can prevent people from doing this - then this is one of the cases where we must rely on guidelines, not enforcement, to avoid bad design.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2016, 05:19:02 am by namida »
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Offline Simon

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2016, 01:07:33 pm »
I agree that we should avoid identical-looking terrain pieces, one steel, one earth.

I'm reluctant to complicate game rules purely for visuals. So I'm reluctant to offer a choice per tile, or introduce a new type of terrain.

A steel pixel should look like steel, an earth pixel should look like earth. Decorating steel with earth, you can't win with either rule: Either it's dishonest, or looks strange when dug through. Even worse, the decoration relies on intuition: My judgement has always been that the moss be removable, for it obviously cuts into the 2-D steel. Everybody else likes the moss to be steel, or to reveal steel underneath. I don't want to make a decision now. I'll have to continue on this later.

I agree that the steel tower in Over the Hump looks ad-hoc. The tower doesn't fit well into the scenery.

The earth set clashes with the steel in style. The steel enjoys the full range of lighting, from light grey to almost black. I like this, and more pieces should be like that.

Most of the earth set appears to be cut out of paper. The grass is a 2-D texture cropped to a 2-D mask, no extra shading. The thatched roof of the birdhouse hatch has no 3-D effect either. The earth placed alongside the steel appears flat. While many large earth tiles fare slightly better, I don't think they're plastic enough.

Challenge: Redesign the hump in Over The Hump, such that it looks good. Don't care about Lix mechanics: Make up steel rules as you go along. Declare pixels steel or earth as you like.

Thesis: The barren look of steel in Over the Hump comes from a lack of good medium-sized decoration tiles. Maybe we need steel decoration that looks like steel. The steel rule is secondary at most.

-- Simon
« Last Edit: March 08, 2016, 01:22:22 pm by Simon »

Offline Proxima

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2016, 01:22:02 pm »
Quote from: Wikipedia
Materials which are porous and moisture retentive, such as brick, wood, and certain coarse concrete mixtures are hospitable to moss.

Probably not steel, then. :lix-cool:

Offline Simon

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2016, 01:40:22 pm »
Hehe. The moss roots are powerful enough to cut into steel, but our high-tech digging equipment is not.

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Offline mobius

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2016, 10:50:22 pm »
Over the Hump:



-- Simon

Make the steel sink into the ground but have grass overtop [at the bottom I mean] this should make it look better. That's how it is on my Lemmix version anyway and I like it.

I think the moss not taking any damage on the steel is/looks fine. In Lemmix I just add steel areas if needed.
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Offline geoo

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2016, 11:32:20 pm »
<geoo> Proposition for the steel issue: a class of decoration (ideally with alpha) that does not affect what's underneath, and if placed on air will just be erased. I cannot be used for any other purpose (e.g. terrain), thus it's only in the tileset designers hand to provide visually distinctive decoration
<SimonNa> this is Clones' mustache stamps
<geoo> basically. Except that it's greenery and stuff that ideally looks different from anything that's available as terrain
<SimonNa> then we get steel with graffiti. How opaque to you want to have that on average?
<geoo> Up to the tile set designer, though rather opaque but filigree enough that it's visibly useless as a terrain piece and thus can be inferred that it isn't terrain
<SimonNa> hmm, steel is a grey rectangle with nails around the edge. You probably want to reveal enough nails underneath the stamp
<geoo> yes. as I said, by convention such decoration tiles would be small and filigree, either narrow or with gaps so you see what's underneath to a decent extent
<geoo> the main idea is that it's visually distinguishable from normal terrain just by style
<geoo> and it can also be applied to normal terrain, but not to air
<SimonNa> we still introduce an extra type of tile. I'm not 100 % convinced that bombing holes into steel is such a problem
<geoo> in fact, this could be a quite powerful decoration tool and would partially alleviate the need to alpha terrain with all its associated issues
<geoo> if this and objects is the only stuff allowed to have alpha, we don't have to worry about the effect of alpha on physics.
<geoo> Only issue it doesn't solve is aliasing terrain against background
<geoo> actually, what is currently deco (e.g. bunny, or the shovel in Matt's set used to be deco) could/should be done away with as it's moving stuff without effect
<geoo> and barely anyone used it anyway
<SimonNa> deco is gadget that is never checked for interaction
<SimonNa> leftover from "let's make lots of crap like trampolines"
<geoo> yes. and it's pretty much useless in its current state and defies design guidelines
<SimonNa> hmm, the bunny doesn't kill you
<geoo> I'd propose replacing this kind of deco with the terrain overlays I described, and don't support alpha blending for actual terrain pieces
<SimonNa> oh, I know what deco is for. L1 exit tops :>
<SimonNa> I have to think about these stamps some more
<SimonNa> the good thing is: extra type of tile => no need to change rules => backwards compatible
<geoo> You could leave them for L1 backward compatibility, but not allow to add them in the editor
<SimonNa> L1 compat is deferred anyway
<SimonNa> do you feel that steel looks bland? do you feel bombing holes into the decoration looks crappy?
<geoo> actually, the more I think about it, the more I like my idea. E.g. the jade piece or the cracks on the shadow terrain could have been done like this
<geoo> I feel bombing holes into especially those green vines looks quite odd and can be annoying to design around, as in pretty much all instances where you place vines on steel you don't want them to affect the steel
<SimonNa> hmm
<SimonNa> it's still good to offer 3-4 variations of the most important bricky tiles. Extra cracks as such decoreation are a good idea
<SimonNa> draw cracks once, place anywhere, including on steel
<geoo> yes
<SimonNa> very Java
<SimonNa> I think the flexibility already warrants a deeper look at this

Offline ccexplore

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Re: Steel decoration: steel or earth?
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2016, 11:37:33 pm »
A steel pixel should look like steel, an earth pixel should look like earth.

Even worse, the decoration relies on intuition

But it's never the case that an individual pixel look like steel or like earth.  Taken out of its surrounding context, a pixel looks like......a pixel.

Your eyes make the determination based on other surrounding pixels forming a pattern consistent with a given set of terrain pieces, some of which are designated as steel while others are earth.  And even to do that, you would have needed the player to have known beforehand which terrain pieces are steel vs earth, either via the editor or via examining the actual files defining the terrain pieces in question.  Otherwise they would still be falling back to either intuition ("gasp!"), or past experience based on testing out the effects of terrain removal against some particular terrain, to determine if something is steel vs earth.

To really let the player know in no uncertain terms what is steel and what isn't, what we really need is an easily in-game-accessible display mode that highlights steel areas, something like the steel area rendering in the Lemmix editor.  Even Clone's mini-map has this feature IIRC.

------------------

In any case, I'm glad Proxima brought up the case of water overlapping terrain.  Why aren't we having an analogous discussion about that case?  Heck, it's not even the case right now that individual water pixels are deadly--we lazily define a deadly (and not visible to the player) rectangle area within the graphics, the actual pixels seen are irrelevant.  Why is it important that steel be WYSIWYG down to pixel resolution but water isn't?

I'd also like to get some good examples of functionally irregular steel shapes.  It just seems very rare to me that a level designer would functionally want to create a case of irregular steel like the moss example.  So it seems like a case where the rule may more often than not end up getting in the way of the level designer.

------------------

Regarding Over the Hump:  IMO it's never going to look completely natural if you want that irregular hump shape and yet at the same time need to have a barrier to prevent a direct path through it.  Even if you have the hump terrain completely cover up the steel, you'd still have some of the exposed steel at the top.  The best I can come up with is if it's possible to reduce the rather fat-looking steel blocks with a single slender vertical steel pool pole, that might look slightly less ungainly.