Author Topic: Shmolems: But with a little less then planned  (Read 230 times)

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Offline Shmolem

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Shmolems: But with a little less then planned
« on: September 28, 2020, 11:44:07 pm »
So it is time, I'm finally releasing this pack.

The only levels in there now are the ones from Learning and Simple because those two ranks I actually like the levels of and honestly creating the pack a realized I'm probably striving for a bit too much for a first pack. But again, here are the levels that I really liked! I will continue to create levels, just probably not striving for something as high as I first wanted. I need to take smaller steps with it, pace myself. But with all that being said, here it (finally) is.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2020, 12:32:38 am by Shmolem »

Online kaywhyn

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Re: Shmolems: But with a little less then planned
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2020, 06:32:07 am »
Hey Shmolem, I just finished playing through your small 20 level pack. Here are my replays.

Remarks on the Pack

First off, let me say that this is not a bad attempt at a first pack at all! :) There are some things that can be done to potentially make the pack even better than it is now, but I'll get to that in a moment. These levels are definitely a very welcome sight, particularly since they're on the much easier side, something that the forums has been lacking in somewhat for a while. As you might had guessed, this pack was a very quick solve for me, so I appreciate the easy levels very much, especially since I have played almost nothing but very hard levels for the past several months. None of these levels were particularly hard for me, although I still had to think about some of them extensively to solve, and some of these can still be challenging enough for the more casual players. This being said, I really would had loved to see your other two ranks that you had planned for this pack and see if they would had given me much more of a challenge than the Learning and Simple ranks did.

Now for some problematic things that can be fixed to make the pack better.

Levels with Deceiving and Visually Confusing Design

There were some levels in here which I at first thought were impossible due to the design. Two levels come to mind here, Learning 10 and Simple 6, and, to a lesser extent, Simple 4. The first and third suffer from confusing level design, while the second level is probably the most severe in that it suffers from an issue that is highly frowned upon by most of the community, from what I understand: Information needed to solve the level should all be visible right from the start.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

There was a lengthy discussion of this somewhere on the forums that I read in the past, and the consensus is that nearly all of the community agrees that all information needed to solve the level should be visible to the player right from the start, as they want to solve fair puzzles and that the levels should all be about the puzzles. If any crucial piece of information needed to solve the level appears to be missing, the level will give the appearance of an impossible level, which most players here don't like and is thus generally frowned upon. Don't worry, some of the others here had first level packs that had the exact same problem, although some of them started off in Old Formats, where the trolling potential was much higher.


Now, feedback on the levels

Learning Rank

What I like about these levels is how you combined two skills in each tutorial level. The only exception is Learning 8, where it teaches 3 skills instead of 2: stacker, platforming, and cloner. Some of them are appropriately paired, eg, Learning 1: Climbing and Floating, while others are a bit odd, like Learning 3: Building and Bashing. Here, for this tutorial level, I think the community would expect building to be combined with another constructive skill, most commonly the platformer or, perhaps less commonly, with the stacker. So, I would say that it's a nice twist you did there in combining the builder with a destructive skill instead. Then again, the original Lemmings did this with Fun 4, a tutorial level on using the miner and climbers.

The other really nice thing is that these tutorial levels are quite minimal in that they don't really require any thought at all to solve due to how they're designed. The best example I would say is Learning 6, which teaches gliding and swimming. The only obstacles here are a deadly splat height and a water pond, so this level teaches these two skills really well. The only critique I have here is that the trapdoor blends in completely with the tree due to both being the exact same color. The only indication of its presence at the beginning is the arrow that points to the right meaning that all lemmings dropping from the hatch walk to the right.

I say the only tutorial level that might be a bit challenging for the casual player but especially for someone completely new to the game who has never played any kind of Lemmings game whatsoever is Learning 3, especially since all skills you're given in these tutorial levels is the exact bare minimum to solve them. In this case, all you're given is 2 builders and a basher, and with the builders it might be a bit too harsh because use the first builder in the wrong direction for the zigzag builder staircase and it will render the level unsolvable. Also, it is somewhat a bit of a leap for these players to think about building in a zigzag manner with builders, because some will probably keep trying to use the second builder in the same direction as the first even though it will be very clear to more skilled players that two builders in the same direction will not get them out of the pit. Needless to say, the level is not a problem at all for anyone of this community, but it's quite harsh for those who have never played Lemmings. Of course, the solution here is for them to either play the original Lemmings or the NL Tutorial Pack first, as well as easy packs before playing Shmolems.

After the 8 tutorial levels, the rank wraps up by putting players to the test with two levels that review the skills that were just learned. Learning 9: Let's Review is an easy puzzle that uses only the classic 8 skills, while the rank finisher, Learning 10: Let's Review Part 2 uses only the original 8 NL skills, meaning before the jumper and shimmier were added. These two levels are great puzzles with excellent solutions, although I already mentioned the problem for Learning 10 above with the visual design in regards to the gap of open air close to the exit area.

Another thing that can probably be better are the level titles. As they currently are, it's very repetitive in the structure (climbing and floating, blocking and bombing, building and bashing, etc). I'm sure you can come up with better and much more creative titles. At the same time, they do fit the tutorial levels considering the levels the titles are associated with are very minimal and is all you have to do in the level to solve. They just sound a bit bland and monotonous. 

Simple Rank

These levels were nicely done. The rank starts off with aptly puzzles in Simple 1, 2, and 3, with my favorite one out of the entire rank being Simple 2. After that comes what I thought was the hardest level of the rank, Simple 4. Not overly hard by any means, but it's a huge leap in difficulty from the first 3 levels of the rank. The next 4 are easy puzzles, although Simple 8 is probably a bit tricky for the more casual players. Simple 9 is a classic splat entrance puzzle which isn't too difficult by any means, but at the same time it's not exactly trivial either. It does differ drastically in that you can't immediately save the crowd and instead have to make a lengthy trip around the level and get through the terrain before you can start saving them with a splatform. Finally, the rank finishes with a nice puzzle that unfortunately has a very bad backroute I found. Thus, despite the two levels I thought were a bit more on the challenging side, the name of Simple for the rank is appropriate for the most part, but don't go in expecting it to be a complete pushover. The levels are made more challenging due to very restrictive skillsets and that you're pretty much given only the bare minimum needed for almost all the levels in the rank.

Level titles here are much better, although I feel as if some of these have been used before. Like Simple 1: It's all in the timing, very close to Havoc 12 of ONML, which has the title It's all a matter of timing. For Simple 2: The long way around, I think there is a custom level or possibly even several with almost the same title. I think there's a custom level that has the title "The long way round," and if there is, I don't remember where I seen it. So, some creative level titles can also be done here, but for the most part the Simple level titles are better than the Learning levels.

Levels I Backrouted

The Learning levels are fine in terms of backroutes, just one level, Learning 10, I think needs a bit of fixing to make it less visually deceiving. So, I will only be listing the Simple levels I backrouted. Here, I backrouted Simple 3 (didn't collect pick-up and some skills leftover), Simple 6 (builder, platformer, and digger leftover and overall my solution is easier than yours), and Simple 10, the last one being the most glaring backroute (so many skills leftover, and my solution is so much easier than yours). Simple 3 is easy to fix, though: Just make the miner a pick-up somewhere so that I can't contain the crowd the way I did. The other two levels I don't have the faintest clue how you can fix, so my solutions might have to be acceptable alternatives. I'm sure you might be able to figure out how, though ;)


Now for other glaring issues not relating to the levels themselves. There is a really bad error in the main menu of the pack, where it says that Shmolems is a pack of 15 levels by eric. Clearly these are errors. Surely he didn't make the pack for you, you made this pack all by yourself, and there are 20 levels, not 15. While I'm on the subject of the main menu, I got to say that it's a pretty nice custom main menu for the pack, especially the rank graphics. The only critique I have here is that the title of the pack is so huge compared to the main menu cards, and the black background with the teal/turquoise color of the title is a bit glaring for my eyes. This is another thing that you at least can do, though. I myself have always been an extremely bad artist. It's definitely a wonder how everyone in my family but me can draw so well :(


Keep in mind that I have not yet made a single level myself, and I likely won't ever make a level pack, but if I did, I doubt I could even make a good first pack as good as this. Instead, for the time being, I'm just a person who loves to play other people's levels and packs and give the author feedback. Once again, this is a decent first pack attempt, and by considering the issues I pointed above, has potential to be even better than it is now. Of course, they should be seen as guidelines rather than a "you must do this, you must do that." After all, it is your pack, so ultimately the decision to make any changes, if any, are up to you.

As I have mentioned in another topic, when it comes to making level packs, it is impossible to appeal to everyone. There will always be levels in a pack some aren't fans of, even when they're liked by most or vice versa. You can improve by considering the feedback others give you about your pack, but at the same time, don't ignore your own level design preferences either. You can choose to follow all, some, or even none of the feedback given. Simply look at the feedback as a learning experience and potential to improve.

Finally, as with pretty much anything in life, practice makes perfect. Or rather, you get better the more you do something over and over. As some members of the community have pointed out, it helps to play a lot of level packs just to get level ideas and learn some tricks that you can do with the skills. This extends to level making as well. The more you do this, the better you'll get at it. I definitely wish I could say the same thing about myself, but I'll for sure give level designing a try sometime. The Bonus rank of United has given me some motivation to try it, and I originally planned to enter one for the current LDC, but a few days ago I decided that I'll skip out on this one and instead will do the next one for sure. So, with this being said, I'm looking forward to giving your level, as well as those others who have entered at least 1 level, a try once the playing phase for the contest starts. I can still try and get a level in, but honestly I'm just going to feel rushed and pressured at this point, and I certainly don't want to have a very crappy level for my first attempt at level making. Not to mention that I don't really have any good ideas for any of the 3 rules of this contest despite having pre-tested some contest levels.

Overall, nice job with this first, small pack attempt. I'm looking forward to future packs from you. In particular, I'm looking forward to your sequel pack Shmolems 2, which I'm going to head on over and respond to, as it sounds very interesting what you have in mind and planned for the pack :)
« Last Edit: September 29, 2020, 06:37:22 am by kaywhyn »

Offline Shmolem

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Re: Shmolems: But with a little less then planned
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2020, 07:00:47 am »
Thanks so much for the feedback! Some of the issues you addressed I actually did think about at one point or another but didn’t really go out of my way to fix (For some reason I’m not sure why) I’m really happy with Shmolems 2 so far even though I’ve only made two levels for it (Both with the marble tileset). And about the thing where it said something about Eric. I think that happened because someone in my development topic told me how to order the levels and ranks using word document so I copied one from a different pack and but it into mine and then changed it. So maybe it still had some sort of thing with saying something about Eric attached to it somehow. Not sure how else it could've happened.

Online kaywhyn

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Re: Shmolems: But with a little less then planned
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2020, 07:38:20 am »
Thanks so much for the feedback! Some of the issues you addressed I actually did think about at one point or another but didn’t really go out of my way to fix (For some reason I’m not sure why)

You're welcome. Generally, my feedback is almost always positive, and I prefer giving that rather than negative feedback. It's also because I have a much easier time finding good things to say about a level/pack than bad things. For the not as good stuff here, I simply tried to put it as nicely as I possibly can without sounding condescending. So, rest assured that you did just fine. ;) Just the pack has potential to be even better. For the record, my bluntness is what people appreciate most about me. And of course, as you know, I love being helpful wherever and whenever I can :)

Quote
And about the thing where it said something about Eric. I think that happened because someone in my development topic told me how to order the levels and ranks using word document so I copied one from a different pack and but it into mine and then changed it. So maybe it still had some sort of thing with saying something about Eric attached to it somehow. Not sure how else it could've happened.

It probably sounds like it was his Angry Lemmings demo pack that you used as a starting template. At least that's what it seems to be, considering that like Shmolems it is his first pack currently in development. I can't imagine why his name would be in your pack otherwise, especially since only you made Shmolems. At least this is an easy fix on your part for the next update.

Online ericderkovits

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Re: Shmolems: But with a little less then planned
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2020, 08:28:53 am »
nice Scmolem I added your pack to my list of packs I have replays for (new formats). Good Job for your first pack. The one thing I would like is maybe to hear custum music in the pack instead of hearing the boring
default amiga music. There are alot of packs you can use to pick some nice music(maybe even ones from United or Reunion). Anyways maybe I'll continue with my Angry lemmings again.

Offline mantha16

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Re: Shmolems: But with a little less then planned
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2020, 07:30:50 pm »
I do like some of the levels quite a lot others are for newbies.  Can I make a suggestion on a cloudy day having two pick ups on top of each other I'm not keen on maybe move one of them slightly so its clearer.

Offline mantha16

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Re: Shmolems: But with a little less then planned
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2020, 08:00:22 pm »
my replays.  I liked the visuals the game play was easy which I like.  I'm not sure if you'd consider any of them backroutes.

Offline Shmolem

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Re: Shmolems: But with a little less then planned
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2020, 12:05:56 am »
I’m glad I’m getting so much positive feedback on this pack! Thanks everyone!