Author Topic: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings  (Read 329 times)

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Offline kieranmillar

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GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« on: May 09, 2019, 09:50:36 pm »
Mike Dailly has a post-mortem on Lemmings that's just been posted on the official GDC Youtube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybs5FR-uUNI

Offline Simon

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2019, 03:03:23 am »
Summary:

First half is presentation of The Complete History of Lemmings.

Extra detail on L1 level design: They made the hard puzzles first, then made the easy repeats, then made the tutorials. Reason for tutorials is that L1 opened a new genre, thus 20-of-everything levels wouldn't have cut it as introduction; the introduction had to be even gentler.

Some design insight on the L2. He doesn't like the cornucopia of skills. He thinks that having 16 skills in L2 would have been much more fitting. He likes the ballooner, superlem, and archer. Magno booter and pole valuter are considered mediocre. Hang glider is considered silly.

Lots of technical insight into L2. Showcases their L2 level editor. L1 and L2 editors were built into the game itself, for rapid playtesting. I don't believe any such editor is in the shipped binaries, but I've never hacked these binaries.

He doesn't like L3, he thinks basing Lemmings on tiles instead of pixels kills the charm.

He blames Sony for sitting on the intellectual monopoly for too long and not doing anything with the monopoly.

He's sad that two-player Lemmings has never materialized after L1. No mention of Lix, NL, Clones, Pingus, contemporary level design culture, ...

-- Simon
« Last Edit: May 10, 2019, 03:12:36 am by Simon »

Offline ccexplore

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2019, 06:39:15 am »
Thanks for the summary! :thumbsup: I do hope to have time eventually to watch the actual video.

Did he ever say which additional 8 skills he'd keep for L2, assuming the other 8 are all the classic ones from L1?  Surely not something like superlem?!?  I see he likes the ones with the "cool" factor, the ones that are more complex and hands-on.  But I suspect if he actually had to play through many levels that make you use those skills over and over, he's more likely to come around appreciate and stick with the simpler but useful ones, like jumper, for the extra 8 skills.

I wonder, if L3 had not been tile-based but pixel-based, would Mike actually have liked it?  Feel free to correct me with counterexamples, but the tile-base aspect of the physics doesn't seem integral to the game, I believe the game could've been implemented pixel-based and still retain all the same features it has, and seems like it'd play almost the same as being tile-based.

Given that L1 and L2 are shipped in floppies, I'm quite sure they'd make sure to exclude the editor in shipped binaries if only to reduce the disk footprint.  Even with the primitive programming toolset at the time, I believe it's still quite feasible to conditionally exclude editor code from compiling into the release build.

I think our best evidence for the editor not hidden in the shipped product, at least for DOS L1, is that we've pretty much figured out all the files where the graphics are stored, and we've scanned the EXEs for ASCII text.  You'd expect that if the editor still exists in some form that can be made functional in the game, you should be able to find some graphics and text that are uniquely the editor's.  On the off chance that maybe there really is some remnant of editor code still accessible either via some hidden key sequence or via trivial hacking, I still suspect it would still fail to run properly without the editor-unique graphics and text.

I also want to argue that the person who made CustLemm probably could've unlocked (and add whatever assets are missing to make it work) any possible hidden built-in editor in the game, if it was truly present.  That he instead wrote his own LemEdit editor would seem to suggest there isn't any to be unlocked from the game.

Granted, this is all just DOS L1.  Maybe the situation is different with Amiga L1 or one of the L2 ports, we've worked far less on those ports to ascertain.

Even during the brief time Mike hung around on our old incarnations of the forum, he was basically not active at all with custom levels, I don't recall him ever playing any.  So it's no surprise to me that he's probably unaware of Lix, NL etc.  Plus he might have permanently lost track of this community during one of our past site moves, and was no longer around at all by the time Lix and NL became widely played here.

Offline mobius

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2019, 09:41:54 pm »
awesome; thanks for posting this :thumbsup:

has anyone (can anyone?) managed to contact him and demand ask him for those supposed original 500 missing levels that went into the creation of the game but didn't get voted into the final levelpack?? I haven't watched this entire video; I'm referring to an older one of a conference around the 21st anniversary of Lemmings posted here a while ago.
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Online namida

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2019, 11:14:19 pm »
He mentions that cut levels exist in this video, but only individually references one level, a crystal level called "The Sky At Night". We can see the entire level's minimap, the stats and the skillset, as well as a segment of the level, at around 19 minutes into the video. It appears to be a generic 20-of-everything type level, aside from having a fairly high save requirement for such levels (98 of 100) and a fairly tight time limit for such a level of its size (4 minutes, about 3 screens wide).

I'd definitely love to see the cut levels. Even if they aren't any good themself, there's always the possibility of them being made into good levels...
« Last Edit: May 10, 2019, 11:25:07 pm by namida »
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Offline mobius

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2019, 11:46:10 pm »
Exactly! this is a piece of history that must see the light of day!

Ah; watching more of this video I see an explanation of how their game editor worked and now understand why some of the levels are the way they are.

If you look at some of the originals in an editor you often see tons of erased pieces or pieces hidden behind other pieces that are seemingly meaningless.  It seems going back and finding a specific piece after working on a level could be tedious. On the other hand this editor they used seems quite powerful for the time.
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Offline Dullstar

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2019, 01:47:41 pm »
I find it interesting that they have footage of those editors; that suggests that they still exist somewhere even if it's entirely inaccessible to us.

Offline GigaLem

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2019, 08:34:16 pm »
awesome; thanks for posting this :thumbsup:

has anyone (can anyone?) managed to contact him and demand ask him for those supposed original 500 missing levels that went into the creation of the game but didn't get voted into the final levelpack?? I haven't watched this entire video; I'm referring to an older one of a conference around the 21st anniversary of Lemmings posted here a while ago.

I am tempted to ask him on twitter

Online namida

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2019, 08:38:34 pm »
Sadly, it looks like it won't be happening. :(
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Offline mobius

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2019, 01:46:03 am »
wow thanks so much for trying. At least you asked and he actually responded! 8-) At least we know now.

I don't care what they say about Twitter, that's awesome :P


Another interesting thing he mentions around 15:00 is changing tough levels to make them easier... He talks about copy/making the repeats for introductory levels separately. He mentions adding 1 or 2 builders etc. I think he's implying here that some of the hard levels (like maybe Pillar of Hercules etc) were more stringent originally then they made them a little easier. I can't think of any good examples atm but maybe this accounts for some of the late game levels having 'backroutes' or seeming easier then they should (for experienced players now-a-days). Maybe this occurred in ONML as well (this kind of thing seems more prominent in that game)
nevermind I just understood now that he says at the end of this "so the levels could appear twice" So I guess he's referring to the repeats after all... but they added 20 of everything, not 1 or 2 builders??

At least he admits here the steel detection was crap :D
« Last Edit: May 12, 2019, 01:57:09 am by mobius »
"Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away."
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Offline Mr. K

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2019, 11:15:22 pm »
Heh... came back over here to see if it was posted.  Not a lot of new information, but it was great finally seeing the internal editors in the flesh.  If Mike Dailly happens to find in the future that he still has the disks, I have a few Amigas now I could use to read them out to IPF and we could try to reverse engineer the disk routines.

It was interesting to see how the editor was integrated into the original game-- it basically just runs the game like normal until you call it up.  To me, that implies that there's a chance the final game could still have the code in there, or at least remnants of the editor hooks (perhaps a dummied out input handler for the editor key?).  There hasn't really been a lot of Amiga specific reverse engineering done since the DOS version is a lot more accessible-- but it would make sense that the DOS version wouldn't have it because it is just a port.  (That reminds me though, do we know much about the timing of the three original versions, Amiga/ST/DOS?  Did they finish the Amiga version and then do the ports, or work on them simultaneously?  I'm not even sure if all three versions released on the same day, or if the ST and DOS versions followed the Amiga version later in 1991)

Online namida

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2019, 12:10:53 am »
Quote
If Mike Dailly happens to find in the future that he still has the disks, I have a few Amigas now I could use to read them out to IPF and we could try to reverse engineer the disk routines.

His statement strongly implies he does have the disks, he just doesn't have the necessary code for reading them. I don't know what he meant by this - I didn't want to bother him too much by continuing to pester him, so I just let it go with his response above (responding with a general "thanks for your time" type email).

If he's referring to literally reading the disk, I have no idea what it might or might not take there. I hope he wasn't just referring to the data compression algorithm, because we cracked the Amiga compression algorithm a long time ago and could easily extract the files (and even if not - if he has a working copy of the editor, and it's as integrated with the game engine as he says (which is likely), we have ways to extract the level from memory once it's loaded).

Also, welcome back to the forums Mr K! :D
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Offline ccexplore

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Re: GDC Post-Mortem on Lemmings
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2019, 08:43:20 pm »
(That reminds me though, do we know much about the timing of the three original versions, Amiga/ST/DOS?  Did they finish the Amiga version and then do the ports, or work on them simultaneously?  I'm not even sure if all three versions released on the same day, or if the ST and DOS versions followed the Amiga version later in 1991)

I don't remember the exact timings but I'm 99.9% sure the development of those 3 versions happened in parallel.  It's a fair point though that the editor would only be expected on the Amiga version, which hasn't been subjected to much reverse engineering.  Did anyone try asking Mike whether the shipped Amiga version still has either remnants of editor code, maybe even a hidden hotkey to get to in-game?  (Though I suspect if the latter exists, someone would've discovered by now after all these years?)

=========

The way I read Mike's twitter reply to namida is that it might be more than just some customized file compression format, there might be copy protection in place that works by deviating from standard disk formating, such that regular Amiga tools will not be able to even make a copy of the disk or to capture an image of it.  I also don't see Mike wiling to risk lending out the one and only copy of the original disk to anyone else to attempt extraction.