Author Topic: Immediate turn-offs  (Read 2112 times)

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Offline Strato Incendus

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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2018, 10:57:16 am »
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So I really ask myself: How I should name levels in the future?

In fact, you already did make pop culture references in your pack ;) - just off the top of my head, the two "Tomb Raider" levels come to mind. That's a game that was popular enough to have several movies made based on it.

But generally speaking, I don't take any issue either with levels which are merely "accurately descriptive" - like "The Block-Store", "A Study in Scarlet", "A Stroll on the Lawn", "Five Do Not Survive", etc.

It's hard for me to pinpoint what makes a level title feel generic to me, and this perception will obviously vary among individuals. But for me personally, Duudu's levels tend to have the most generic titles. "Introducing", "45 seconds", "10/10", "A normal level", "Starting your teacher career"... these are very unspecific, either they don't tell anything about the level at all, or they merely describe the level's game mechanics.

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All this discussion about 10-of-everything levels gave me one idea: Would 5-skills-with-10-of-each levels be better? At least it would provide a bigger variety regarding the skill selection available. Otherwise I would be hard-pressed to create levels that fill the gap between "X-of-everything" levels and actual puzzle levels.

Indeed, you can approach this from two sides:
A) Only four or five different skill types, but then ten of each of those skills. These levels are probably going to be defined more by which skills are missing than by which are present.
B) Eight skills, but only five or three of everything. I outlined in the "case against 10-of-everything levels" thread why X-of-everything levels become exponentially less interesting the higher the X is. 3 to 5 is probably the sweet spot; 1-of-everything levels, while most people seem to enjoy them, can be a little too restrictive sometimes, e.g. by making it too obvious where the builder has to go.

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Interesting, because I love mazes with thin terrain (you probably noticed that there are several of them in NepsterLems ;)).

Yes, a general pattern I noticed about your levels is that they have a lot of repeating elements. This is not only true for mazes, but also for stuff like "Smile if you love Lemmings", "Tomb Raider", "Diagonal Disarray", that Earth-Platform level etc. These are the type of levels I specifically tried to imitate in "Pit Lems", for example with "You had it coming", which is not a maze, but still a bunch of repeating chambers with various objects in them (hatches, stompers, fire traps, water, etc.).

When it comes to mazes, there are different degrees of tolerance for me. "Tomb Raider" for example is still nice, because, even though the screen is still cluttered with stuff, the paths the lemmings can take are not so small that identifying them becomes strenuous on the eye. It's not so narrow that it makes your eyes lose track of the pack.

"Don't cross me" has a very symmetric structure, which makes it easier to work with as well. In contrast, Arty's "Labyrinth of Lucifer" or "Ensnared in a sticky maze" have practically nothing regular about them. That of course is the point of a maze, but this can be made a lot more convenient with thicker terrain pieces, as in Nessy's "Just dig (some more)!" from Lemmins Migration, than when each terrain piece only is 1 or 2 pixels in width.
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Offline Nepster

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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2018, 11:33:41 am »
In fact, you already did make pop culture references in your pack ;) - just off the top of my head, the two "Tomb Raider" levels come to mind. That's a game that was popular enough to have several movies made based on it.

But generally speaking, I don't take any issue either with levels which are merely "accurately descriptive" - like "The Block-Store", "A Study in Scarlet", "A Stroll on the Lawn", "Five Do Not Survive", etc.
Funny that you should mention them as examples: The title "Tomb Raider" was there before I realized that it is a pop culture reference. On the other hand I thought that "A Study in Scarlet" would be by far the most recognizable pop culture reference. ;P

Offline Proxima

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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2018, 03:29:32 pm »
Anyway, time for me to list my own level turn-offs, some of which will match things already mentioned.

- Trajectory manipulation. Gliders, swimmers in vertical water, batters, fling-bombers, trampolines: they can all get really fiddly because it's not at all clear from looking at the level where you can reach and where you can't. This is even more true if other skills have to be used to reach a starting-point, so that ideas take a long time to try out and adjust if incorrect.

- Very large levels, especially vertical scrolling ones, with tight solutions. These tend not to be very satisfying because there is no main theme or central idea behind the solution. I'm happy with resource management levels (lots of skill types, no main solution) if they are less tight; finding ways to save skills in one area so you have enough for another and putting it all together can be satisfying in itself. But a single intended solution with nothing left over, spread over a sprawling level, often crosses the line into frustration.

- Levels with lots of lemmings / lix and a high death toll, so that you can never be sure you've saved the maximum possible. (Sure, on puzzle levels you don't know for certain whether there's a different solution that saves more, but with this type of level you don't even know whether you've saved the maximum for your solution.)

- Visual clutter. You've worked hard on the level's appearance; I don't want to play with clear physics mode constantly on so that I can't appreciate it! But if there's too much clutter -- particularly if I can't tell what's background and what's terrain -- then that's what I will have to do.

- Levels that require a lot of pausing and framestepping to assign skills close together, or near the start of play. I'm happy that framestepping tools exist, but I want the majority of my play to be normal speed.

- The icicle trap in the Snow style.

Offline Strato Incendus

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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2018, 07:13:38 pm »
I think I have another sub-category to add: Things that pointlessly waste the players time. The main criterion for this is repetitiveness:

- builder fests (platformers obviously also count by extension)
- we all fall down-type levels like "Private Room Available" where you have to assign lots of separate diggers (call them "digger fests", if you want to)
- lemmings falling to their death right from the hatch, either a fatal fall or dropping into a trap like in one Wafflemm level that I remember quite clearly. Often you have to keep assigning certain athletic skills (floaters, swimmers etc.) as a form of stalling until there is safe ground beneath the hatch.
In either case, you have to do a bunch of click-heavy, totally obvious stuff first before the actual level can get started. "Bitter Lemming" isn't so bad, but "POOR WEE CREATURES!" and "Steel Works" are more annoying examples of this.
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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2018, 09:31:13 pm »
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- lemmings falling to their death right from the hatch, either a fatal fall or dropping into a trap like in one Wafflemm level that I remember quite clearly. Often you have to keep assigning certain athletic skills (floaters, swimmers etc.) as a form of stalling until there is safe ground beneath the hatch.
In either case, you have to do a bunch of click-heavy, totally obvious stuff first before the actual level can get started. "Bitter Lemming" isn't so bad, but "POOR WEE CREATURES!" and "Steel Works" are more annoying examples of this.

With A Twist Of Lemming Please is the worst example of this. You have 50 lemmings and 50 floaters and must save 100%; obvious solutions involve making literally EVERY lemming a floater, as there is no obvious way to create a safe landing place and still complete the level. Some very creative solutions get away with less, but still need to give a very significant number of lemmings floaters - and whereas the "assign floater to everyone" solution allows for doing that first before trying to solve anything, the "use less floaters" solutions very noticably require multitasking between solving and floatering. And it's quesitonable whether the developers intended for such solutions to exist, given that the level appears to be set up to not allow splatforming. (And the worst thing? Take the needless floaters out of the equation, and it's actually a very good level.)

Poor Wee Creatures is actually a really good level IMO, because while it does involve creating a safe landing place from the entrance, part of the puzzle is how to build that safe landing place - it's not just a matter of "build up from the landing spot", nor does the level expect you to keep assigning floaters in the meantime.

Steel Works is a case that worked well for the original game, which had just as much focus on execution as it does on solving; but under modern standards, using an engine like NeoLemmix that minimizes execution difficulty, it no longer holds up.

Bitter Lemming is an early level, where either option is viable - build a splatform, or assign lots of floaters. I do think a better way to handle that level would've been to, eg, require 20 lemmings saved and give 20 floaters (not 50). Then, new players might discover the splatform option while trying to save 100% - while they may have already discovered the concept in general on Fun 27 (depending on what solution they used, and possibly what platform - eg. on Master System, a single miner solves Fun 27, but that doesn't cut it on DOS / Amiga), Bitter Lemming is the first case of a splat directly out of the trapdoor.
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Offline Proxima

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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2018, 11:10:03 pm »
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- lemmings falling to their death right from the hatch

Heh. That's actually one of my favourite devices. I always avoid making such levels click-heavy, though. If the level is intended to be hard, then I only give one floater (or two if two workers are needed), and allow a certain number to die -- the puzzle is then to build the landing bridge quickly enough not to lose more than you're allowed. For easier levels, I just set the save requirement low so that you can make one or two floaters and allow lemmings to die, but you can also go for 100% if you like. The best example is "The Lion, Lix and the Wardrobe" where it's a 5-of-everything level, so only 5 floaters, and it's actually possible to complete the landing platform in time to save 100%, so the level ended up being a multi-layered puzzle.

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Poor Wee Creatures is actually a really good level IMO, because while it does involve creating a safe landing place from the entrance, part of the puzzle is how to build that safe landing place - it's not just a matter of "build up from the landing spot", nor does the level expect you to keep assigning floaters in the meantime.

One of my favourite Orig levels too. Although the solution I used as a kid was indeed to build up from the bottom :P

Steel Works was a decent puzzle by Orig standards. It wasn't obvious a priori how to construct landing platforms under both fatal falls within the limitations of the skill set and save requirement. (Somewhat spoiled because the first fall is only fatal by one pixel, but since I didn't know, I went for a solution that didn't depend on this.)

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while they may have already discovered the concept in general on Fun 27

I misread that as Fun 17, which by sheer coincidence is another level where one solution is to build a landing bridge under a fatal fall. (Although Fun 17 gives you enough floaters to meet the save requirement. Then again, so does Fun 27 on DOS, thanks to the nuke glitch!)

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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #21 on: August 21, 2018, 11:38:35 pm »
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One of my favourite Orig levels too. Although the solution I used as a kid was indeed to build up from the bottom :P

Actually, I vaguely remember doing it this way myself back in the day, including on DOS. I know on the Master System, a splatform built from the bottom is completely viable, but a while back I tried to do so on DOS and I couldn't find any way to do so and still complete the level.

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I misread that as Fun 17, which by sheer coincidence is another level where one solution is to build a landing bridge under a fatal fall. (Although Fun 17 gives you enough floaters to meet the save requirement. Then again, so does Fun 27 on DOS, thanks to the nuke glitch!)

And Master System strikes again in my case. :P The Master System version of Fun 17 gives no floaters (and doesn't have steel glitches in the same vein as DOS, or at least, didn't that I knew of when I encountered this level), so a splatform is not an option. This actually happens a lot on the Fun levels in that version - instead of being 20 (sometimes 10) of everything, they're just 20(/10) of most, with floaters being the most commonly cut. However, it DOES have a much thicker ground under the trap (yeah, there's only one trap on Master System - technical limitations, it can only handle one triggered trap per level; no limit on constant hazards like water / fire though), which enables a different alternate solution: Dig and bash under the trap. IIRC, this even works on the repeat.
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Offline Strato Incendus

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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #22 on: September 25, 2018, 10:48:31 am »
Okay, I got another one - something which is used in healthily low amounts in original Lemmings, but rather frequent in custom packs:

- endless lines of Fire tileset letters!

For me, this is another case of "just as tedious to play as it is to create (and vice versa)". Since you cannot actually type inside the level editor, you have to place every letter in the landscape by hand. That should be enough to deter people from doing it excessively - one would think! ;)

But still, every now and then, there's a level where the main task is building from one "blood letter" to the next one, only occasionally mining or bashing to get out of an N or an H shape.

I'm fine with reading a long text ahead of the level in a pre-level screen - but I don't want my lemmings to actually walk through such a novel! :D
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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #23 on: September 25, 2018, 10:56:06 am »
For me, this is another case of "just as tedious to play as it is to create (and vice versa)". Since you cannot actually type inside the level editor, you have to place every letter in the landscape by hand. That should be enough to deter people from doing it excessively - one would think! ;)

Not Fire set, and the lemmings don't actually interact with it, but...



...how's that for tedious to create? :P (Doomsday Lemmings, Plauge 1 "Cycle of Undeath")
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Offline Strato Incendus

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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #24 on: September 25, 2018, 03:56:37 pm »
Well, at least you don't have to build from letter to letter! :P So in that case, it's more effort for the creator than for the player (unless the difficulty of the level makes up for that, of course! ;) )

Here it seems to have some significance for the hidden meaning of the level, though. Some people just seem to write completely random stuff all the way over their level terrain. Meaning, you still don't have to build across the whole mess, because the letters are placed on other terrain, but then you wonder even more what the purpose is :D .
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Re: Immediate turn-offs
« Reply #25 on: September 25, 2018, 07:50:35 pm »
It's just to add to the creepy vibe. The translation is something like "When the end comes, every lemming will painfully die one by one".
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