Author Topic: Lemmings 3D block structure  (Read 928 times)

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Offline Simon

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Lemmings 3D block structure
« on: March 19, 2018, 02:40:48 am »
This was split off from Simon blocks blogs.

Block-based Lemmings

mobius likes L3's block-based physics. Lemmings can only do things at multiples of 8 pixels, far coarser than the single-pixel granularity of L1 and L2. When you play L3, you must assign at seemingly unnatural times and often fail good-looking assignments, but I'm not sure if this is typical for block-based Lemmings or a failure of L3's user interface.

Raymanni toys with the idea to write a game like L3D, presumably block-based, but we haven't talked about details much. L3D works with extremely coarse blocks, it took 1-2 seconds for a lemming to traverse a single block at normal speed.

Compared L1 and L2, all of Lix, (Super)Lemmini, and Clones refine the pixel granularity to at least twice the pixel density. This doesn't necessarily produce better gameplay either. Clones enraged the most: Your clones couldn't slip through single-pixel gaps and would instead bonk their head at single leftover pixels in the terrain.

Maybe Lemmings 1 hits a sweet spot, a windfall because 320x200 EGA or VGA were widespread in the early 1990s.

Or maybe there's more to the even coarser games, and we don't know it yet. In that case, best of luck to Raymanni with hist first prototype, whenever he'll start cracking on that. :lix-grin:

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« Last Edit: March 21, 2018, 01:20:06 am by Simon »

Offline ccexplore

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2018, 04:49:42 am »
mobius likes L3's block-based physics. Lemmings can only do things at multiples of 8 pixels, far coarser than the single-pixel granularity of L1 and L2. When you play L3, you must assign at seemingly unnatural times and often fail good-looking assignments, but I'm not sure if this is typical for block-based Lemmings or a failure of L3's user interface.

Gameboy and NES Lemmings also have mostly block-based physics (due to technical limitations), and it seems like most people who played those ports complain about that aspect especially wrt skill assignments.  I'll grant you that L3 also has additional quirks that doesn't help matters.

Still, it seems like timing of skill assignments in block-based physics is something you can probably get used to over time?  I managed to play through both NES and Gameboy Lemmings just fine, and I do believe I can appreciate how the block-based physics helps to keep things less precision-prone.

Clones enraged the most: Your clones couldn't slip through single-pixel gaps and would instead bonk their head at single leftover pixels in the terrain.

Maybe Lemmings 1 hits a sweet spot, a windfall because 320x200 EGA or VGA were widespread in the early 1990s.

Clones' problem is more about the collision detection, I expect it would just be as annoying in the lower resolution of Lemmings 1.  More generally, it also helps when the level design itself avoids forcing the player to pay attention to pixel-precision-level details.  Perhaps that's easier in singleplayer levels than multiplayer.

Offline Raymanni

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2018, 01:43:06 pm »
I prefer block-based puzzle games. They feel more consistent usually have very clear rules. (I'm talking about something like Chip's Challenge, for example.)

I've actually been wondering how to improve L3D's grid. The levels are created with 64x64x64 blocks, which are sometimes slopes or cut in half. Lemmings can only execute skills when they are at the precise position on the grid (digger in the middle, basher at the edge, builder on both...)

So why not make the blocks smaller and get rid of the slabs, Lemmings could also take up one cell in the grid at a time.

This method feels like better choice, but I need to take in account all of the game mechanics L3D had to offer. How would the builder work, for example? How about slopes and turning-walls?
At the end of the day I'm not trying to completely recreate L3D. That game had it's flaws, and that's why I want to improve my version. :lemming:

Offline ccexplore

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2018, 08:47:37 am »
I've yet to have played Lemmings 3D.  What angle does builders and miners use in that game?  Is it the typical 2-to-1 slope?  If so, perhaps that's how the half-block comes into play in the game physics.

In contrast, NES and Gameboy Lemmings use square blocks, but then also alter builders and miners to go at 45-degree slopes.  I don't think any other ports of Lemmings 1 use such slopes.

Offline namida

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2018, 09:57:49 am »
If I remember correctly, builder is the usual 2:1, whereas a miner is 4:1.
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Offline Simon

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2018, 01:14:45 am »
namida is correct; builder slope is 2:1 and miner is 4:1. In Raymanni's left picture, the square square block consists of 2 slabs stacked, and lemmings have a height of 1 slab. But the L3D physics are finer than that:



In L3D, a square block consists of 4 slabs stacked, and Lemmings have a height of 2 slabs stacked. Lemmings can ascend only one of these 1/4-block-slabs at once.

L3D builder bricks are special, their width is only half a normal slab's width. This is how lemmings can ascend in 2:1 slopes even though their maximum step height is 1 slab = 1/4 of a block. You can't turn on builder bricks; the turner will throw lemmings off the bridge. Turners on builder bricks will turn lemmings, but you cannot build after turning; the turned lemmings will immediately fall off the bridge.

Extras, not in the picture: Normal block slabs can optionally be angled to form 45-degree ramps or form 45-degree diagonal walls to turn lemmings, but not both. Since a 45-degree ramp consists of 4 stacked slabs, there are 4 possible ramp slabs.

Raymanni: Lie down on the couch and tell me about L3D's flaws. :lix-evil:

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« Last Edit: March 21, 2018, 07:27:10 am by Simon »

Offline namida

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2018, 07:07:17 am »
Quote
L3D builder bricks are special, their width is only half a normal slab's width. This is how lemmings can ascend in 2:1 slopes even though their maximum step height is 1 slab = 1/4 of a block. You can't turn on builder bricks; the turner will throw lemmings off the bridge.

They will turn successfully first, though.
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Offline Raymanni

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2018, 02:24:28 pm »
I should have remembered it's 4 slabs instead of 2. You can even see it very clearly just by looking at some screenshots.


(images from Lemmings Encyclopedia)

Quote
but you cannot build after turning; the turned lemmings will immediately fall off the bridge
This was one of the main issues which annoyed me as a kid. You were always stuck building 2D bridges if there weren't any proper blocks to land on.

Quote
Lie down on the couch and tell me about L3D's flaws. :lix-evil:
Just you wait. :8(): Maybe I should replay L3D and compile a list of things that annoy me.
The first one would be the control scheme: it's unacceptably horrid. You should be able to move the camera with standardized first-person controls and not by clicking at the edge of your screen. Fiddling with the controls take away time from the gameplay itself.

Offline mobius

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2018, 06:13:18 pm »
yay I'm not the only one who likes this idea.

While I haven't toyed with L3 very much yet (or Lemmings 3D at all) I'm sure they're not excellent examples of this, but have some interesting insight on the topic and the idea seems really good to me on paper.

mobius likes L3's block-based physics. Lemmings can only do things at multiples of 8 pixels, far coarser than the single-pixel granularity of L1 and L2. When you play L3, you must assign at seemingly unnatural times and often fail good-looking assignments, but I'm not sure if this is typical for block-based Lemmings or a failure of L3's user interface.

I say failure of L3's user interface. An option to solve this is a question of how much or little you want to allow the game to help you. Many games (Lemmings is not one of them to my knowledge) have a system where if you're close to something that is going to be activated or acted upon the player character or cursor or whatever is moved to that place.
Not sure this is the best solution but having an assignment simply fail due to the Lemmings being in between blocks I would not be a fan of in the slightest.


Another example is Lemmings Revolution. I'm not certain if it qualifies as an actual 'block based' gameplay (the blocks which are digged and built were not the size of actual gameplay blocks, those were smaller) yet still blocks as they're quite larger than pixels.
But what I found more useful about Revolution was how the skills functioned in terms of blocks. For example;
The basher removes a two-high block wall as it bashes (one at a time).
Digger removes one wide but short block at a time.
Miner removes an L shaped block
The quick karate nature makes it almost discrete and removes a lot of precision in that regard.

The builder adds large bricks which, by simply being larger makes it easier to tell where they're going to lead and where they need to be placed. The builder had other problems like hitting terrain and not being able to climb up it but this is another issue with Lemmings not being able to walk up heights they could in L1. As far as judging distances, I found it slightly easier than L1


Attached are some (very impressive and detailed) pictures to demonstrates some things.

In figure 1.0 assume you simply want to dig downward through a narrow area like this. I feel like the lower example is what is more often desirable then the upper but I could be wrong. In either case achieving either scenario exactly on purpose is more difficult without frame stepping. With a theoretical system that makes this easier; frame stepping becomes less necessary. But it's not just about frame stepping being necessary or not. With a simpler system you have less precision=less opportunity. This might sound like a bad thing at first, maybe to some people it is; but as I've stated before I prefer puzzles based on larger concepts than rehashing same gameplay elements over again in new ways by enforcing more precision.

In figure 2.0 you can create very thin terrain (and by extension you can create unusually shaped terrain). Something which honestly has always annoyed me a little. Again, yes interesting things can be done with it but it also has lead so some many annoyances and debates. In Block mechanics you never have this.

How many times has the community debated on technical issues of how a X skill should behave when doing this or that because the pixels force you to do this or it looks like this should be possible when this means that etc... This could be way off, obviously needs to be tested in practice, but I just feel like this wouldn't be as big of an issue without direct or close pixel control.

Now there is a major downside to block style... At least in the way I'm thinking; you could no longer have graphics like the dirt style; with fancy roots and trees and little pieces like that. Which is a big letdown. Also you're always stuck with rigidity to some degree; slopes are always appearing like steps rather than smooth slopes. But I honestly think I could live with that if it meant getting completely rid of all the annoying things I dislike about L1: checkerboard mechanics, lemmings walking through terrain, intense precision demanding gameplay
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Offline ccexplore

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2018, 11:47:36 pm »
Once you're in 3D, pixel-level physics is basically no longer an attractive option both from programming as well as user standpoint.  Programming:  3D rendering is usually handled as collection of surface triangles rather than pixels.  User:  you are usually expected to be able to move the camera (ie. your view of the world) in various angles and zoom levels, so a fixed resolution will probably not look consistently good in such cases.  It makes sense to go back to a more block-like physics model when you're in 3D.

Offline namida

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2018, 08:39:42 pm »
To some extent, you can still have such things.

L3D indeed does have slopes rather than just pure steps in some cases. In fact, miner / builder ramps aside, slopes might even be more common.

Similarly, you can have pieces that are a block physics wise, but are arbitrary visual-wise. For example, trees in L3D. They have the same physics as a block, but appear just like regular trees. They're usually indestructible though, but there's no programming reason why they would HAVE to be.

It is worth noting that L3D is quite far on the easy side. But I don't know if this is due to block based physics; I suspect it's more to do with level design as well as general traits of 3D for Lemmings. Turners are too overpowered to give heaps except in cases where you don't have many choices for where to use them, in which case their use is often very obvious. Even in these cases they can be overpowered; eg. The backroute on Taxing 1. The alternative is to rely on existing turning blocks, which then makes the route quite obvious. L3D didn't often counter this with decoy elements. Many of the hardest levels were almost 2D in practice, eg. Taxing 19 "Lemmtris" (completely 2D), Mayhem 16 "Fun Fair" and 18 "Castle Peralus". One level that remained a great level while fully making use of 3D and providing plenty of decoys was Mayhem 17 "Critical Path", probably the best level in L3D.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2018, 08:45:28 pm by namida »
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Offline LemSteven

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Re: Lemmings 3D block structure
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2018, 03:24:41 am »
One of the biggest flaws with the block-based physics of both 3D Lemmings and The Lemmings Chronicles/The All New World of Lemmings is that skill assignments do not always take effect immediately.  For example in The Lemmings Chronicles if you want to jump over a gap and you assign the skill too late (i.e. past the middle of the last block), the skill won't take effect before the lemming falls.

Another annoying example occurs in 3D Lemmings, where in one level (Which Trampoline?) the lemmings land just past the middle of a block after bouncing off a series of trampolines.  A turner needs to be placed on this block to direct the crowd to the exit, but placing the turner immediately will have no effect because the lemmings never hit the middle of the block.  Instead you have to wait for the lemmings to hit a wall and turn around before assigning the turner.

These issues become less bothersome once you play the game enough to understand how the mechanics work, but I can see how they can be frustrating for first-time players.

I think Lemmings Revolution provides the best of both worlds: The terrain is block-based, but the blocks are very small.  All skill assignments take effect immediately on the block on which the lemming is standing, and a lemming spends multiple frames of animation traversing each block, which makes high-precision skill assignments much easier than in Lemmings/ONML.  If not for some nearly game-breaking glitches in the game physics (e.g. lemmings inexplicably leaking past blockers), Lemmings Revolution would probably be my favorite game in the entire series.