Author Topic: Why The 'Tame' Levels Failed To Be 'Fun', or - The Importance of Maps  (Read 947 times)

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Offline WillLem

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I've been spending a lot of time recently playing through first ranks of packs, in order to research what makes a "good easy level".

As a designer, I often find it more of a challenge to create accessible, playable and interesting easy levels than difficult, well-backroute-proofed puzzles. The latter is a case of making sure that the solution to a particular map is the only one possible, which can be tricky, but the former requires arguably a similar level of care towards making sure that the level is light enough on the difficulty without being too trivial.

As the first ranks of the official games, 'Fun' and 'Tame' (from Lemmings and Oh No! More Lemmings respectively) are often compared to one another. The former is lauded for its straightforward presentation of the 8 skills, followed by several challenging maps which encourage the player to think carefully about how to solve the level whilst also providing them with more than enough skills to explore the different possibilities; however, the latter is universally slated as being largely a pointless set of poorly conceived filler levels.

Some may point to the laziness of every level having 20 of every skill, 50 lemmings with only 25 to be saved, release rate always set to 50, and always a 4-minute time limit, which is far more than the level requires. None of these things ever provide the player with a stimulating challenge in any of the 20 levels. Contrast this with the varied time limits, save requirements and release rates of the 'Fun' levels, and you do indeed have a recipe for boredom.

However, I would point to the maps themselves. 20-of-everything levels are not a bad thing, provided the map provides opportunity for exploration, plenty of hazards to overcome, and the necessity to work your way around it carefully. 'Fun' provides many of these, showcasing the ingenuity of the level designers whilst keeping the game interesting and accessible to beginners. Even as a seasoned lemmings player, I still enjoy playing through the 'Fun' levels from time to time, looking for alternative routes and different methods of navigating the map.

Unfortunately, a lot of the 'Tame' maps simply don't provide the same stimulation. Many of them can be solved with no more than 2 or 3 very obvious skill assignments, and I wonder whether they were just hastily thrown together to provide an "easy" rank for a pack which otherwise presents challenges way beyond that of original Lemmings, or whether the intention was to provide the player with an opportunity to just play around with the skills and see what they do.

If the former, then that would of course account for the generally low quality of the levels, but - if the latter, then there are definitely ways these levels could have fulfilled that intention, if the maps themselves had presented the player with a significant enough challenge.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2020, 04:15:30 AM by WillLem »

Offline Turrican

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Re: Why The Tame Levels Failed, or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2020, 12:32:20 PM »
There are two very old packs that prove that the tame maps can become pretty challenging. These are the CSTame packs , that Clam had created for Lemmix. I know you generally don't play Lemmix levels , but I strongly recommend you to take a look at these packs.

Copy-pasting from the Clammings thread:

"The CSTame packs were two packs , Clam made in 2009 , and their purpose were , to make the Tame levels from onml much more challenging. These packs were practically "challenges:The levelpack" , because they contained 20 challenges ( 1 for each Tame level ) , tranformed into custom levels.

The players here had two options: They could load the two packs and try to complete the levels , or they could load the dos version of onml , and try to complete the challenges there.

Because the challenges needed to work the same way in onml , things like what Willlem did in his pack ( like adding additional opening hatches ) , were not allowed in these packs. You are not allowed to make a single change on the terrain , when you design these levels/challenges , because every solution needs to also work on dos onml , exactly the same way. And for that reason , the concept of backroutes doesn't exist for these levels/packs.

As a result some of these Tame-based levels ended to be some of Clam's hardest levels (probably harder comparted to the levels that exist here in Clammings).

And also some of these levels , ended as some of the most high quality glitch levels that have ever appeared in dos/Lemmix ( levels like "Now you're stuck" , "The squares fight back" and "LemmisXVIII" ) .

Also several of the levels had a very strict time limit because they were practically speedrun challenges ( with most notable example the final level , called "Speed run challenge!" , which required you to save 100% in Tame 20 in 30 seconds. you had 1 minute time limit , but you needed to beat it with 30 seconds remaining on the clock ) ."


Also the tame levels had created several other iconic challenges , like the "Tame 20 no builders save 100%" , or Geoo's "Tame 13 , 1 builder save 100% ( link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=by3MunMkw1M ) .
« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 12:39:35 PM by Turrican »
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Offline Proxima

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Re: Why The Tame Levels Failed, or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2020, 03:06:43 PM »
It's certainly true that the Tame maps can become challenging with restricted skillsets. The Tame 13 1-builder solution is an all-time classic in terms of what can be achieved with DOS Lemmings mechanics, but it's very heavy on glitch usage.

That wasn't really WillLem's point, though, which was to compare the Tame levels as they are with Fun 8-30. Both sets of levels give 20 of each skill and have lenient save requirements and time limits; but they feel very different.

I've written about this before (mainly in response to Strato's blanket dismissals of all 20-of-all levels as worthless), and my analysis is very similar to WillLem's. What makes the Fun levels better than the Tame levels is that they present distinct obstacles to the player (long falls, gaps to cross, traps, dealing with RR 99, multiple trapdoors, mesh terrain...) and the player has to work out, from the tools available, how to cope with each obstacle.

The Tame levels never vary from "some terrain is between you and the exit". Some levels are oriented downward, some upward, and some across, and one level has a bit of steel (albeit off the path) but there are no deadly hazards at all. Anyone who can pass Tame 1 already has the full knowledge and experience required to pass every level in the set.

Offline WillLem

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Re: Why The Tame Levels Failed, or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2020, 01:38:17 AM »
There are two very old packs that prove that the tame maps can become pretty challenging. These are the CSTame packs , that Clam had created for Lemmix. I know you generally don't play Lemmix levels , but I strongly recommend you to take a look at these packs.

I don't doubt that the level maps can be made very challenging as they are. In fact, level 1 becomes impossible by simply removing all downwardly-destructive skills.

However, as Proxima pointed out, that's not really my point here. I'm specifically looking at why the Tame levels failed as easy levels. And, I'd point to it being a lack of real variety in the maps.

Of course, stuff like skillsets, RR and time limits are also a factor, but even if you left all of that the same, could the Tame levels be made more interesting by making the maps themselves provide more stimulating challenges?

My own pack Tame Gone Wild definitely doesn't address this, btw. It's a somewhat mixed/flawed attempt by me to make the levels more difficult, rather than "still easy, but better", which is a different thing. I may revisit this project at some point, since this was one of my very early remix packs and I'm not 100% happy with it. I think it would be more interesting to try and make them into "good easy levels".

EDIT: I've downloaded Clam's Tame pack for Lix. I'll take a look at it, for sure! :) In fact, it's been a while since I did a Lix LP, so I might do that. The Lemmix ones, however, I'll pass on since they likely require glitch solutions (not really my thing tbh).
« Last Edit: January 07, 2021, 01:09:51 AM by WillLem »

Offline Proxima

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Re: Why The Tame Levels Failed, or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2020, 01:44:31 AM »
I don't doubt that the level maps can be made very challenging as they are. In fact, level 1 becomes impossible by simply removing all downwardly-destructive skills.

Except for one downwardly destructive tool that's always available :P

It is funny, though, that in the "builders and bashers" challenge, Level 1 was by far the hardest in the rank.

Offline Turrican

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Re: Why The Tame Levels Failed, or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2020, 02:23:33 AM »
However, as Proxima pointed out, that's not really my point here. I'm specifically looking at why the Tame levels failed as easy levels. And, I'd point to it being a lack of real variety in the maps.

Of course, stuff like skillsets, RR and time limits are also a factor, but even if you left all of that the same, could the Tame levels be made more interesting by making the maps themselves provide more stimulating challenges?

I agree here. I think it is very obvious , that the reason  , these levels fail to provide any kind of challenge , is a combination of a very large skillset , combined with maps which are too simple , for that given skillset.
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Offline Turrican

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Offline kaywhyn

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Re: Why The Tame Levels Failed, or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2020, 02:50:23 AM »
It's interesting how Clam has suddenly been in recent talks. I recently LPed Clammings, which was suggested by Turrican for me to LP and a pack put together by mobius and Wafflem consisting of various levels of Clam's. Most of them were originally glitch levels, as Turrican has detailed for me, that had to of course be reworked in order to work properly in Neolemmix since that engine eliminated all glitches. And now possibly interest in looking into Clam's Tame challenge packs has been revived. I been meaning to take a look at those packs a very long time ago, but I think that time I was in the process of playing through Askeli's pack, which I can tell you is quite hard. So, I might join you in looking at the Tame challenges, but honestly I might not have a chance at many of them, since they sound like they require extremely tricky and difficult solutions. Then again, I haven't seen the skillsets for any of his Tame levels, so I don't know for sure if any will be doable for me. Plus I need to make sure to set it up to work in Lemmix, which I haven't touched in a very long time.

It's a shame that Clam hasn't been on here in a very long time. He seemed like quite a decent fellow that I would had liked to meet, from having read many of his posts in my daily visits to this site in the last few years. Then again, there's plenty of members who haven't been on in so long that I would also like to meet.
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Offline WillLem

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Re: Why The Tame Levels Failed, or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2020, 04:09:39 AM »
Since Oh No! More Lemmings was an expansion pack, I find it likely that the designers weren't actually concerned with making beginner levels, since the game was already well-established (and in fact was initially required in order for the expansion to run, on some platforms). However, for the purposes of this exercise I'm treating it as if Oh No! could have been a game in its own right.

And, it could also be an interesting challenge to see if the levels can be made 'Fun'! :lemcat:
« Last Edit: January 07, 2021, 01:09:11 AM by WillLem »

Offline DoubleU

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Re: Why The 'Tame' Levels Failed To Be 'Fun', or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2021, 09:41:57 PM »
Since Oh No! More Lemmings was an expansion pack, I find it likely that the designers weren't actually concerned with making beginner levels, since the game was already well-established (and in fact was initially required in order for the expansion to run, on some platforms). However, for the purposes of this exercise I'm treating it as if Oh No! could have been a game in its own right.
My own conjecture is that the Tame levels were established for the purpose of allowing less capable players to be able to see what ONML is like if they're unable to get through the Crazy levels.

Offline WillLem

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Re: Why The 'Tame' Levels Failed To Be 'Fun', or - The Importance of Maps
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2021, 01:07:16 AM »
Here's a list of features from the "Fun" levels, for reference:

Fun level features (click to show/hide)

If you think I've missed anything important from that list, please holler! :lemcat:



Also, a list of features from Oh No! More Lemmings compiled by Proxima. It's my thinking that the Tame levels could have gently introduced some of these features in the context of a more easy, open-ended setup:

ONML Features (click to show/hide)