Author Topic: Levels relying on tricks  (Read 871 times)

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Offline Strato Incendus

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Levels relying on tricks
« on: June 16, 2018, 03:54:24 pm »
Playing through Nessy's Lemmings Migration, I found out that on a lot of levels I got stuck on, it was down to me not knowing of certain skill combination tricks which were required to be used in order to even have a chance of finding the solution to the puzzle.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

A level from Raymanni's Raylems taught me the practical application of a trick I had just previously read about here; but otherwise, not knowing that this trick was even possible would have caused me to get stuck there as well.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

And don't even get me started on Arty's "make skills go through" tricks ;) .

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Original Lemmings also did this by requiring things like the three-builder wall or digger pits to contain the crowd, and quite suddenly so, without prior explanation. This however also happens to be the major roadblock for first time Lemmings players, because while "skill teaching levels" are commonplace and easy to understand in both official and custom Lemmings packs, "trick teaching levels" are very unusual.

I did create a couple of these trick teaching levels in Pit Lems - namely "Ouch, my head!", "Stop right there", "Basic economics", "Doubling down", "Step up" etc. And I'm considering doing a similar thing for my upcoming pack, Lemmings World Tour.

The difference between a level teaching you a trick and one simply demanding it from you is obviously the prior announcement that the trick is possible via the pre-level text.

I'm uncertain now whether to include these with the levels in question - I have attached the most difficult four of them for the sake of illustration. These levels are designed to show off as many tricks as possible with one particular skill (miner, digger, builder, and blocker) in one level each.

The problem is of course: By using the pre-level texts, I give away a major part of the solution, thereby "degrading" possibly challenging levels and making them suitable for rank 2. Without the preview text however, some of these might be challenging enough for rank 4.

Unless, of course, we as a community decide to compile a separate "trick teaching pack" to point new players to. Then our custom packs can simply demand those tricks from the player without a bad conscience.

I want the player with the best problem solving skills to excell at my levels; I don't want anyone to fail just because they don't know a certain thing is possible in general (that's almost like not knowing of a given skill) and therefore don't even consider it as part of the solution. Because if that trick is all there is to a level, the solution is probably just one Google search away, even in case of a custom level ;P .

The NeoLemmix introduction pack already introduces all the new skills, objects, and mechanics, but not the synergies and combinations which are possible with these.

I'd be happy to contribute some of my levels to this trick teaching pack, i.e. those levels which I think showcase the respective tricks pretty well. "Stop right there" or "Doubling down" being two prime examples.
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My packs so far:
Lemmings World Tour, my music-themed flagship pack, 320 levels - Let's Played by Colorful Arty
Paralems, a more flavour-driven one, 150 levels
Pit Lems, a more puzzly one, 100 levels - Let's Played by nin10doadict
Lemmicks, a pack for NeoLemmix 1.43 full of gimmicks, 170 levels

Offline Proxima

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2018, 07:41:37 pm »
Original Lemmings also did this by requiring things like the three-builder wall or digger pits to contain the crowd, and quite suddenly so, without prior explanation.

Original Lemmings is an interesting case, as the majority of its "trick-requiring" levels actually provide enough skills for the level to be done without the trick. For the three-builder wall, I imagine you're thinking of I have a cunning plan, and for digger pits, the 100% levels in the first half of Taxing. These don't actually require the tricks in question, and I for one played original Lemmings without ever learning these tricks. (The ascending pillar scenario in particular had me stuck for about a year -- granted I was a kid at the time -- because I hadn't internalised that diggers are better at trapping the crowd than miners, so I was trying some weird mixture of digging and mining to get down fast enough. At least learning this technique allowed me to backroute The Great Lemming Caper later on!)

It's a grey area as to what constitutes a "trick" and what is just a combination of skills; but I think in original Lemmings, there are only two levels that are intended to require tricks and really do require them: Down, along, up. In that order (blocker turns builder) and No added colours or Lemmings (releasing a blocker). As it happens, these two levels perfectly illustrate two very different kinds of trick-requiring level: In Down, along, up, it is (in my opinion) very easy to discover the trick, but the level is still very hard because of execution. In No added colours, execution is not hard (the second miner is a little tricky), and the main difficulty is that of staring at a puzzle that looks impossible, knowing that it must be possible somehow but you just can't see it.

It's also a great illustration that being stuck not knowing a trick is not necessarily bad. The initial frustration feeds into the feeling of immense satisfaction when you spot the trick and solve the level. (No added colours has been voted by this forum as the best level in the original game.) Then again, it isn't necessarily good either; if the trick is too obscure or hard to work out by experimentation -- especially if it's counter to what you would reasonably expect, like many of the glitches in the original game -- then you can come away from the level feeling it wasn't playing fair. But there's no sharp distinction between these outcomes; some levels will go one way for some players and the other way for others.

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The difference between a level teaching you a trick and one simply demanding it from you is obviously the prior announcement that the trick is possible via the pre-level text.

Far from being "obvious", this is completely wrong. Right now on the DROD forum, I'm the team leader for an ongoing project in which we're building a large levelset, one level for each element in the game, first teaching its basic behaviour, then how it combines with previously introduced elements and the tricks it can be used for. In a few cases, we've had to include text -- mainly when introducing new controls, or when certain nuances of how elements behave are too complex to expect the player to figure them out from observation. But more than 90% of the teaching in this levelset is with no text, only the room design itself.

For some illustrations of textless teaching in Lemmings, see Lovely 13 "Let's Block and Blow?" in the Lix community set. The trick: the knockback from fling exploders can release a blocker. This is taught by giving the player pretty much no opportunity to do anything except perform the trick and see the result. Another example is Lovely 11 "Beneath the Lab". The trick: builders will turn when they bump on terrain, but platformers will stop work and continue in the same direction. Here, there are two possibilities you can try, and if you try the wrong one, you might think of switching the two skills to see what happens.

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Unless, of course, we as a community decide to compile a separate "trick teaching pack" to point new players to. Then our custom packs can simply demand those tricks from the player without a bad conscience.

That won't really solve your problem in the way that you want. We can't demand that new players play a trick-teaching pack before any other content. And we can't cover every trick that everyone might want to include in their packs without an absolutely huge teaching pack, which would be more than likely to put new players off altogether.

In the end, you just have to decide for yourself how to rank your levels, bearing in mind that some levels will be much easier for some players because they've seen similar levels and can spot the tricks easily. That's true for every pack :)

Still, I think a "compilation of tricks" pack is a decent idea and I wouldn't mind contributing, if the project gets off the ground.

Offline nin10doadict

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2018, 09:27:46 pm »
I agree with Proxima's idea of trying to design a level that forces use of the trick without anything else interfering or muddling up your mental radar. For example, I recently discovered the stacker-stoner trick that was mentioned and built a level that requires the player to use it. However, those two skills are literally the only thing the player gets, and the only obstacle is a 7-pixel wall. The player has no choice for beating the level but to discover the trick, which shouldn't take too long as there's only so much you can do with the things you're given.
I feel such a level can still fit rank 2 of Oh No More Casualemmings despite requiring a rather obscure tactic. Pre-level text can be nice for explaining things, but I think the impact is stronger if you can design the level in a way that teaches the player rather than relying on text to do it. This lets you save level text for adding flavor or giving more subtle hints.

Offline Nessy

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2018, 11:53:11 pm »
Wait... that trick you mentioned in the Spoiler tag in my pack, which levels used that because that trick isn't part of any intended solution in the pack ???

Offline namida

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2018, 06:15:22 am »
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Bashers and diggers can pass through each other and both continue; in Lemmings 2, they can also cancel each other out perfeclty - I don't know whether the latter is possible in NeoLemmix.
Diggers and miners can also pass through each other and both continue; bashers and miners however can't.
Plus, bashers going down a slope can continue their work if their is enough terrain for them to bash through, effectively turning the basher into a miner.

Basher/Digger cancelling each other out is not possible in NeoLemmix. You can make either one cancel the other, but one will always continue (unless it stops due to an external factor, such as hitting steel).

It actually isn't completely impossible to get a basher and miner to pass through each other if they're going the same direction. See attached replay, for Mild 7 of Lemmings Plus I. It's extremely fiddly to set up though (look carefully at the release rate when watching this replay - it changes, but not right away at the start; and then both skill assignments also need to be pixel precise), and I don't know of any levels that make use of this trick. As far as I know, it is impossible to do this with the two going opposite directions, at least without help from a third skill (most likely a stoner, but the other constructive skills could possibly work too).

Bashers in NL can actually move upwards too, if either a constructive skill pixel is placed at the right time or if they're standing on (slightly sloped) steel.
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Offline Strato Incendus

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2018, 11:14:01 pm »
@Nessy:

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

@namida:

Yes, I was thinking about miners and bashers going in opposite directions - going into the same direction may actually work. It will probably end up with the basher going down the miner's slope; I know a basher can go down a fencer tunnel while continuing to bash.
Ghost Lemmings - help us test a possible new NeoLemmix skill!
My packs so far:
Lemmings World Tour, my music-themed flagship pack, 320 levels - Let's Played by Colorful Arty
Paralems, a more flavour-driven one, 150 levels
Pit Lems, a more puzzly one, 100 levels - Let's Played by nin10doadict
Lemmicks, a pack for NeoLemmix 1.43 full of gimmicks, 170 levels

Offline Proxima

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2018, 11:53:40 pm »
I didn't use that trick for either of those two levels from Migration. I've attached my replays.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 11:59:17 pm by Proxima »

Offline Crane

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2018, 01:12:15 am »
Sometimes you might discover a trick accidentally, like you might unintentionally undermine a blocker on a level such as "A ladder would be handy".  Other times you might discover a trick while designing a level and try to include it in your solution.  And finally, there's "okay, this is what I have left... can I use them to salvage a solution?" - I say salvage because too many people think they might have messed up!  It's how I effectively solved "No added colours or Lemmings" - there was no way to get everyone to the exit except to bash and build, and we had to block otherwise lemmings would fall onto the lower path where there's no escape.  That leaves 2 miners and 2 climbers... then you start thinking and wondering.

Offline namida

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2018, 01:16:20 am »
@namida:

Yes, I was thinking about miners and bashers going in opposite directions - going into the same direction may actually work. It will probably end up with the basher going down the miner's slope; I know a basher can go down a fencer tunnel while continuing to bash.

They have to meet at precisely the right time. If done right, the basher will move very slightly downwards before getting ahead of the miner and continuing horizontally. Meanwhile, the miner will just do its thing as normal.
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Offline Strato Incendus

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Re: Levels relying on tricks
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2018, 11:45:32 am »
@Proxima: Okay, your solution to Headache 6 surprised me!

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Your solution to Headache 8 however, as I expected, does not work anymore. This is the same solution Flopsy used...

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Ghost Lemmings - help us test a possible new NeoLemmix skill!
My packs so far:
Lemmings World Tour, my music-themed flagship pack, 320 levels - Let's Played by Colorful Arty
Paralems, a more flavour-driven one, 150 levels
Pit Lems, a more puzzly one, 100 levels - Let's Played by nin10doadict
Lemmicks, a pack for NeoLemmix 1.43 full of gimmicks, 170 levels