Author Topic: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020  (Read 599 times)

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Offline WillLem

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Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« on: May 21, 2020, 03:55:46 pm »
Split off from thread: WillLem's thoughts about Lix

Sparked by video: Youtube: WillLem plays lemforum/Lovely 6-10

SI = Spawn Interval = Number of physics updates between two spawning lixes from the hatches. Measured as release rate in Lemmings. Release rate and spawn interval measure the same thing using different numbers.

VSI = Variable Spawn Interval, the ability of the player to change the spawn interval during play. Lix doesn't have it. Lemmings had it.


-- Simon



To be fair, even the Amiga version didn't offer release rate changes or a timer in 2-Player mode... perhaps this is why it doesn't feature in Lix's single-player mode either, if it was never originally intended to be a single-player game.

That said, I always thought that RR should have been available in the 2P mode as with practice you can use it tactically as well as functionally, even in realtime.

Still, the Phyus counter happily makes up for lack of a timer and I guess I can try out something new and see how the game is different without the RR...

Offline ccexplore

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2020, 06:50:20 pm »
Having said that, I can see that Lix is quite far removed from Lemmings as a game and isn't trying to be a Lemmings clone, despite its obvious similarities.

It's not a direct clone for sure, but it's clearly based on the same overall gameplay concepts as Lemmings.  I feel like it's a gross exaggeration to say it's "quite far removed" merely because of a few differences here and there like lack of timed levels and a locked release rate.  If anything, comparing Lemmings with say "The Lemming Chronicles/All New World of Lemmings" (ie. Lemmings 3) feels much further apart to me than Lemmings vs Lix.

That said, I always thought that RR should have been available in the 2P mode as with practice you can use it tactically as well as functionally, even in realtime.

I'll defer to Simon and other more experienced multiplayer experts to comment on this.  While undoubtedly opportunities can arise from time to time to use it effectively, I suspect it's often a double-edge sword and can just as easily cause you problems.  The thing to remember is that other players can try to "steal" your lemmings by diverting your lemmings to their exit, as well as sabotaging the route you set up earlier so that your lemmings end up dying (typically falling to their deaths).  If you have a tight bunch of lemmings, such adversarial actions can potentially be more damaging by causing more of your lemmings to get stolen or sabotaged before you can react and correct/defend.

Perhaps if levels have time limits also, then allowing release rate changes can maybe serve as a reasonable endgame tactic.

Still, whatever its effectiveness and pitfalls may prove to be in multiplayer, it sounds reasonable to at least offer as one more thing the player can use or not use as they see fit during multiplayer games.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 02:25:54 pm by Simon »

Offline namida

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2020, 07:12:08 pm »
Quote
To be fair, even the Amiga version didn't offer release rate changes or a timer in 2-Player mode... perhaps this is why it doesn't feature in Lix's single-player mode either, if it was never originally intended to be a single-player game.

Lix did feature these things in the past in single-player mode, but they were culled. I'm not sure if multiplayer ever had them.

Just to be clear, it has been discussed whether NL should cull them too, but the decision was that it isn't going to happen. That definitely isn't going to change now, when even more content relying on them exists than did at the time of the decision.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 03:54:28 pm by Simon »

Offline Simon

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2020, 01:27:19 pm »
Moved from thread: WillLem's thoughts about Lix

Quote
- No release rate control - or if there is, it isn't obvious

Right, this is fixed per level. This was a substantial design decision. Rodents are controlled via skill assignments, and a player-variable spawn interval ("VSI") would be alien to this core game idea.

Considering a Lix player who has not played Lemmings, would they miss VSI, or feel that the design is incomplete in this area?

Tradition is a weak argument: We aren't trying to replicate Lemmings 1. There is already vanilla Lemmix for that.

To be helpful for the player is not a good argument for a game rule either. It would also be helpful to pause lixes in place arbitrarily, or to have unlimited walker skill, or to teleport up to three lixes per level. The assisting tools such as framestepping should be powerful indeed, but not the gameplay mechanics; the mechanics should make a reasonable whole.

I find the floater and runner weak, too. Were I to start from scratch without preexisting levels by our community, I would cut both of these. I'm sure we can do better, the slider is already more interesting than the floater.

VSI was easier to cull than either of these two. And at the time of the VSI cull, the runner's existence was one of my main arguments for the VSI cull, thus I didn't consider the runner's cull for a while.

Quote from: ccx
Ironically, I've always felt such an alternative actually makes the goal of bunching lemmings more fiddly to execute compared to a release rate change.

Interesting. I agree that the runeer doesn't feel nice to cluster, either.

But I would have thought that the bunching would be much easier because you can bunch exactly where you need it. I guess the runner's permanent future speed, after you achieved the bunching, throws wrenches in your ideas?

The bunching via VSI feels so remote to everything else we do with the rodents. It must be planned far in advance. Hmm. I feel there must be better game designs than either VSI or runner to bunch the rodents.

-- Simon

Offline Simon

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2020, 01:30:56 pm »
release rate is useful for way more than just speeding up the stream once the level is solved...

Reply by ccexplore:

That's true and release rate certainly wasn't my favorite cull, but at the same time, even in games like NeoLemmix where it remained, how often does one run into levels where changing the release rate is actually used for puzzle purposes?  It's also of note that even in the official Lemmings franchise, they removed the ability to change release rate starting in Lemmings 2, though it did make a comeback in Lemmings 3D and Lemmings Revolution.  It is basically deemed less essential than a timer, the one thing that was kept throughout the franchise.  (Though even in Lemmings 2 the timer already felt less emphasized too--don't remember any 1-minute levels there.)

When the cull occurred in Lix, one of the alternatives as pointed out by Forestidia, is adding runners to the level, to help deal with the cases where a temporary change in release rate was used to put a bunch of lemmings close together.  Ironically, I've always felt such an alternative actually makes the goal of bunching lemmings more fiddly to execute compared to a release rate change.


End reply by ccexplore.

Quote from: ccx
Ironically, I've always felt such an alternative actually makes the goal of bunching lemmings more fiddly to execute compared to a release rate change.

Interesting. I agree that the runeer doesn't feel nice to cluster, either.

But I would have thought that the bunching would be much easier because you can bunch exactly where you need it. I guess the runner's permanent future speed, after you achieved the bunching, throws wrenches in your ideas?[/i]

The bunching via VSI feels so remote to everything else we do with the rodents. It must be planned far in advance. Hmm. I feel there must be better game designs than either VSI or runner to bunch the rodents.

Reply by ccexplore:

Well, as I understand it, you'd assign the lemming behind a runner, and then after some hopefully short amount of time when it gets close enough to the lemming in front, you then assign the front lemming a runner as well so they stay the same distance thereafter.

If you need to bunch together more than 2 lemmings, you'd have to repeat the above.  VSI sometimes opens the possibility of only needing to set the SI once to match the natural periodicity of motion (eg. time walking back and forth once between two obstacles) and then all the lemmings coming out end up together perfectly.  Granted, while this is a useful trick for challenge solutions, maybe it's not a trick you want to get too popular across custom levels.

Giving a second runner to allow the lemmings to maintain same distance after catching up seems generally recommended to not frustrate player execution-wise.  Yet it opens possibility that in some cases, maybe it's enough if the runner momentarily catches up to the non-runner at just the right time and place, you don't actually need the other runner assignment to maintain the close distance.  Then you save the runner for potential use elsewhere, and potentially backrouting the level.  Even if there is no backroute concern, it's a somewhat annoying side effect that you now end up with 2 speedy lemmings from now on even when there's no need at all for the speed.  Even in the case where you manage the level with one runner, it may still be annoying that the lemming is now permanently fast.

It is true that with runners you can do the work closer to the location where it is critical for the lemmings to be bunched together, certainly in comparison of VSI where you need to deal with it way early around the time the lemmings came out.  This VSI problem can lead to the dreaded "restart to almost the beginning, losing all the otherwise perfectly fine moves in the replay because altering SI affects the timing of every lemming thereafter".  I guess it depends on how easy/early you are able to anticipate the need to bunch the lemming when examining the level and planning for solutions.

In the end, all this is more an observation that runners may help achieve some of what VSI achieves, but obviously they do so a bit differently from VSI and each has their own side effects.  It's not ever going to be a perfect substitute, but of course, the real answer is that if too many levels were too affected we wouldn't have culled anyway, and hopefully the few affected levels are okay to re-design a bit more radically to either better integrate the usage of runners, or abandon the idea of bunching the lemmings in favor of doing something else interesting for the solution.

I think having come from a background of doing many challenge solutions in Lemmings, I probably always had a bias for clever uses of VSI.


End reply by ccexplore.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 02:25:29 pm by Simon »

Offline Simon

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2020, 01:40:59 pm »
Right, this is fixed per level. This was a substantial design decision. Rodents are controlled via skill assignments, and a player-variable spawn interval ("VSI") would be alien to this core game idea.

Reply by WillLem: Would it? I disagree here, and I also think it's a shame that the makers of Lemmings never developed the idea of using RR control except for in that one level in Oh No!.

Tradition is a weak argument: We aren't trying to replicate Lemmings 1. There is already vanilla Lemmix for that... To be helpful for the player is not a good argument for a game rule either.

Reply by WillLem: Neither of these would be my main arguments for its inclusion. I would turn mainly to its tactical potential, not to mention its usefulness as a way of speeding up the release of the crowd generally. It's not "helpful" in the same way a player-assist tool is, it's more... immersive, I suppose; it puts the player in charge of all facets of the game, not just the skill assignments, which opens up more possibilities for inventing solutions.

I dislike too many levels with only one solution: this style of play gets very frustrating after a while, and you start to feel like you might as well be playing Sudoku. It's good to vary it up a bit, give the player options.


Hmm. I feel there must be better game designs than either VSI or runner to bunch the rodents.

Reply by WillLem: I appreciate your wanting to find alternative solutions to this idea rather than just cull VSI. But - why cull VSI at all if you acknowledge that it has some use? Why not offer VSI and Runners? Then, level designers & players alike can choose which method to use and when...

That's true and release rate certainly wasn't my favorite cull, but at the same time, even in games like NeoLemmix where it remained, how often does one run into levels where changing the release rate is actually used for puzzle purposes?

Reply by WillLem: It comes up in Lemminas a few times, particularly for time-related talisman solutions. I'm always looking for creative ways to include it in levels without making them too difficult. I suspect that, as time goes on, I'll get better at this, and notice its absence from Lix all the more. That said, I'm still going to play Lix and maybe I'll at least see the benefits of its exclusion from the game, even if it's not my personal preference.

though it did make a comeback in Lemmings 3D and Lemmings Revolution.

Reply by WillLem: It seems to be a preference-based thing, then, rather than an essential part of the game. It's likely that the designers of these games wanted to bring it back because they simply preferred it being there.

Ironically, I've always felt such an alternative actually makes the goal of bunching lemmings more fiddly to execute compared to a release rate change.

Reply by WillLem: Exactly! It seems to run counter to the philosophy that Lemmings should be fuss-free, execution-wise! Who wants to mess about assigning Runners to bunch Lemmings when you can just get the desired gap with the click of a -/+ button? That said, I suppose it does mean that you can bunch them in places other than out of the entrance hatch, and in a slightly more controlled (albeit fiddly) way.

Still, whatever its effectiveness and pitfalls may prove to be in multiplayer, it sounds reasonable to at least offer as one more thing the player can use or not use as they see fit during multiplayer games.

Reply by WillLem: This underlines my philosophy when it comes to Lemmings, and indeed gaming in general: give the player the option, and let them decide whether or not it ought to be part of the game. Of course, I realise this isn't always practical or necessary, but it's a good rule of thumb in that it generally encourages positive and inclusive design choices.

Just to be clear, it has been discussed whether NL should cull them too, but the decision was that it isn't going to happen. That definitely isn't going to change now

Reply by WillLem: I should coco, too! :lemcat:
« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 04:32:16 pm by Simon »

Offline Simon

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2020, 01:50:41 pm »


Gist from Youtube: WillLem plays lemforum/Lovely 6-10: At least Every Lix for Herself (early Lovely) is nasty to play when we want to save all; we must assign 10 floaters in slow succession. It is natural to want to save all. Saving all would benefit from variable spawn interval.

My interpretation: If the player wants quicker spawn interval, we should change Every Lix for Herself and flat-out give that spawn interval. (Or let us change Lix in a different way, I don't see how.)

I'll quicken the SI on Every Lix for Herself for Lix 0.9.32, unless we find something better.

Indeed, clustering is unrelated to this.

-- Simon
« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 02:02:55 pm by Simon »

Offline geoo

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2020, 02:32:43 pm »
Let me chime in with some high level points about the RR issue.

From my point of view elegant game design, especially for puzzle games, is about having a few core features which are rich and interact a lot, so that even with rather simple rules, there's a lot of things you can do as a level designer. As a player is to figure out creative ways of using and combining the things that you know well. If you add additional features that are only used a few times, you're requiring the player to learn more stuff, only to forget about it again (and then maybe not think of it anymore when it's finally needed again, or conversely try to apply it everywhere without needing it). It can often feel tacked on. Of course, that's just a rule of thumb.
If you push this too far, you get something like all the gimmicks that were at some point in NeoLemmix, and if each level you play is about something new it breaks coherence, and in the worst case can make the player frustrated because by the time they encounter a feature again they might have forgotten about it already.

My guess is that the RR was initially added to lemmings as a substitute for fast-forward (maybe due to performance reasons), so once you're done you crank up the RR. Now one sneaky level designer in ONML figured out that it can be used for something else, and then of course custom level designers used it to some extent. Custom level designers (me included) also used all kind of glitches and particular behaviors in their levels, back in the day at least. These "features" also got removed in Lix and NeoLemmix, and their removal broke many levels. (I wouldn't be surprised if some of them were maybe more widely used than RR?)
Anyway, back in the day when fixed RR was not an option yet, I remember cheesing a lot of custom levels exploiting RR when the level designer didn't intend (of course challenge solutions also fall in that category). As a level designer it can be a nightmare to backroute-check your levels because even with a few skills, variable RR allows the player to do a lot of things which as a level designer you have to think of, and vice-versa, can provide a lot of options for the player to think about even when the level designer didn't intend for it to be used. For example, I wouldn't want any level to require RR manipulations like in that Tame 13 solution. The long-term effect of RR changes can sometimes be hard to predict without trying out; I remember some challenge solutions required a lot of trial and error until you got everyone spaced perfectly, Tame 13 is pretty tame by those standards. Even if the level doesn't require it, as a player in hard levels you'll still think of all these possibilities, and if the level designer is unlucky you actually manage to cheese the level with that. Of course, nowadays from a level designer's perspective you can at least fix the RR, but the player still has to deal with it whenever you don't.

When the variable RR was eventually culled in Lix, not that many levels were affected in the end, like maybe 10-20 out of 500? And that doesn't mean that these levels had to be culled, many could be adapted. I'm not sure why the discussion is all focused on runners here in that regard, to answer Simon's question:
Quote
Hmm. I feel there must be better game designs than either VSI or runner to bunch the rodents.
How about a good old digger's pit, for example? Why do you want to cluster your rodents in the first place? Unless you're trying to get everyone through a fast triggered trap, that's probably good enough (and at least Lix has slow traps where this would be sufficient too). If you really need perfect clustering, how about squeezing between blockers, or as a level designer set the RR in such a way that it happens automatically? If you don't want it to be too obvious, maybe make the player dig the pit to cluster the crowd themselves (digger tunnels have a fixed width), or place a cuber to get the right width for the pit? Clustering as a level solution tool is not specific to variable RR. In the end, if you look at the levels where the use of RR can not be reasonably elegantly replaced, you're probably down to the (low?) single digits now. It doesn't live up to even the least useful skills, in terms of required usage. And then the question is, is it really worth it to require the player to learn a new feature (and one that's not that straight-forward, to boot) just for that? If you could choose one single feature to add to Lix, would it be this? Not cloners, not hang gliders, not whatever other more useful features there could be that would qualify as a core feature in the sense I introduced at the beginning?

Offline Simon

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2020, 04:02:49 pm »
Quote from: WillLem
It's likely that the designers of [Lemmings 3D and Lemmings Revolution wanted to bring it [variable spawn interval] back because they simply preferred it being there.

More likely is that the L3D and LR designers were told to remake L1, and copied L1's methods of physics interaction without questioning anything.

After all, they weren't DMA. DMA designed L2 and L3 with fixed spawn interval, then stopped making Lemmings. DMA's Lemmings either have fast-forward or variable spawn interval, never both.

Quote from: geoo
If you add additional features that are only used a few times, you're requiring the player to learn more stuff, only to forget about it again (and then maybe not think of it anymore when it's finally needed again, or conversely try to apply it everywhere without needing it). It can often feel tacked on.

Yeah, this is my reasoning too. In the end, it's a design decision.

With "additional features", we mean features of Lix's physics here, not features that help the player tell the computer what the player has in mind.

Rationalization for Lix's design to fix SI per level: VSI wouldn't pull its weight as a game mechanic: VSI would be a third way of control, next to skills and nuke. Diluting the fundamental design here -- everything happens via skills wherever possible -- would need far more support than mere player convenience.

Quote from: WillLem
That said, I'm still going to play Lix and maybe I'll at least see the benefits of its exclusion from the game, even if it's not my personal preference.

That's my hope, too!

-- Simon
« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 04:35:50 pm by Simon »

Offline WillLem

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2020, 06:04:42 pm »
Unless you're trying to get everyone through a fast triggered trap, that's probably good enough... If you really need perfect clustering, how about... set the RR in such a way that it happens automatically?

RR isn't just about clustering Lemmings. Watch this video for an example of where variable release rate made the solution possible simply by virtue of being able to set how fast the lems were coming out at different times. I've skipped the video to the explanation, but if you want to see it in action just watch from the start.

Anyways, I'm resolved to accepting this difference in Lix and seeing how/if it makes the game any different. :lemcat:

Offline geoo

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2020, 10:06:22 pm »
I know. Clam's "Fill the floor" (I think that was the name) was also a pretty clever level that exploited changing the RR from high to low and back to get desired spacing to make a solution work out, and that is one of the levels that had to be culled. One of the few instances where there was no reasonably elegant way of achieving the same in another way. I liked the level a lot, but in the end it's just a very small number of levels, and that might not justify adding this conceptual complexity which is quite significant because other than that the only way of meaningfully influencing the game is skill assignments. (The nuke, at least in Lix, is only a means of ending the game, but because the exits close it doesn't serve any solutions. Note that this was also changed, because before the nuke worked like in original Lemmings, where it was exploitable in some very clever ways, like in another one of Clam's levels that had to be culled.)

For the occasional level where as a designer you do want to exploit these features there are still the other engines. If you were to limit yourself to Lix (like I do, though mostly for technical reasons) those are probably lesser losses to have, considering you're also missing out on a lot of more widely used features, like all the NeoLemmix-exclusive skills.

Offline namida

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Re: Spawn interval fixed per level, 2020
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2020, 11:35:57 pm »
Quote
Clam's "Fill the floor" (I think that was the name)

Yes, that's right. The DOS version of this level was included in Revenge Of The Lemmings on NeoLemmix, so it's still playable there.