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Author Topic: Cascade Aqueduct  (Read 3620 times)

Offline Maki

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Cascade Aqueduct
« on: September 23, 2015, 02:15:05 PM »
Hi!  So, a long time ago, I made a bunch of Descent stuff.  Project: Mandrill, Phobos Encounter, stuff like that.  Since then, I mostly moved on to things like Half-Life 2.  :o

But, I felt like making a new level for Descent 2, so I found SDLDevil, which is a Windows port of the ancient MSDOS editor for the game, and built Cascade Aqueduct.  It’s a medium-sized single player map with a water theme that uses Descent 1 robots exclusively.  It follows vanilla Descent limitations and aims to make a level that plays well and make use of Descent's naturally abstract style.

It’s time to fire up your 28.8 modem and download all 66KB of this fresh Descenty goodness.  Have fun!

http://jasongimba.com/?p=335

Also on DMDB:
http://www.enspiar.com/dmdb/viewMission.php?id=1072

DXX-Rebirth recommended!

Offline Scyphi

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2015, 06:47:07 PM »
Played it. Liked it, it's a nicely balanced level. Feels very D2, but with a nice dose of D1 attitude to temper it, keeping it from getting too "wild" as most D2 levels tended to do.

Actually, I'd love to see more D1/D2 hybrid levels along this same feel. It's really more along the lines of what I'd really D2 to be more like, honestly. I mean, D2 is great in it's own right, but in some ways it kind of lost sight of what made D1 so fun and cool. But I'm rambling now.

Anyway, nice to see one more level from the person who put together Phobos Encounter (a personal favorite). :)
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Offline Maki

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2015, 09:18:06 AM »
Yeah, the main reason I went with D1 robots is because they just felt more thought-out and well-rounded than their D2 brethren.  I'm a big proponent of the Doom "slow moving fireball" theory of enemy design, where having physical projectiles to dodge is inherently more entertaining than hitscan or even the "Light Vulcan" guns that the ITSD robots have.  Most D2 robots simply fire too fast and too wildly to encourage this kind of gameplay, whereas D1 robots can create a kind of slow moving "bullet hell" in the right circumstances - especially with the Defense Proto and Heavy Driller robots.

In hindsight, I don't feel many D2 missions took advantage of this.  Personally, I was too much of a neophyte back then to appreciate the difference.

I am happy you liked the level.  ;D

Offline Scyphi

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2015, 03:54:07 PM »
D2 also had a problem with level structure. The initial 8 or so levels were good, but after that they just start getting so nonsensical and all over the place that they blur together and are totally illogical and not very plausible anymore. I much prefer the more calm and sensible approach D1 favored with it's level structure, where it was certainly still a maze, but there was more rhyme and reason to it, and more chance to be unique.

Here, you've managed to blend both styles; D1's leveled thinking but with the the distinct and angular approach D2 favored. It's a nice blend, I like it. :)
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Offline Kaiaatzl

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2015, 04:46:04 PM »
I disagree, I really liked D2's wildly imaginative robot and map design.  Not making sense was one of the good parts!  It was certainly good for ideas, and not just ideas for level designs...
I've never seen another game with map design anywhere near that insane.  Or enemies that do nonsensical things like shoot homing plasma at you when you hit them.

I went through your map on Ace in D2X-XL and I had a good time, I ended up spending the second half of my run strategizing at least as much as actually fighting, and I certainly made use of every resource you put in there... though I didn't find that last cloak until I technically didn't need it anymore.  I recorded my run because the opportunity to do a blind run of anything in this game is so rare and I'll upload my vid later on today or tomorrow.  Trying to do a badass "hit the reactor with fusion and run" turned into something a little bit more comical because of the grating.
Since I had an incentive to actually think my way through and do it in one run, the actual combat ended up feeling a little bit too easy.  And that had nothing to do with saving cloaks either!  I had inventory on but I always used them just about as soon as I picked them up.

Offline Maki

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2015, 06:30:34 PM »
Like Descent 3, I feel Descent 2's level structure relies too much on the Guidebot as a crutch for chaotic, rambling level design.  That, and the Thief Bot really brings the game down for me.  I like the concept, but the fact that he's used on almost every level is just tiresome.

There's this high-level question you always have to ask yourself, which is, what does this scenario bring to the table that the previous one didn't?  In other words, everything should have a purpose and a reason for existing.  In Descent 2, you kind of get the sense that they just tunneled without much rhyme or reason and hoped that the Guidebot would make sense of it all.  But try playing without it in an unfamiliar level.  Even by the end of Quartzon, the maps are really convoluted.  They'll stash critical paths in weird corners out of your field-of-view.

So, there were two things I focused on here.  Since I wasn't going to use the Guidebot, I paid attention to lighting to guide the player around the map instead of just making everything evenly lit like I would have done in the past.  And second was choosing and placing the right robot for the right situation instead of - well, I have no idea what bizarre logic I used in the past.  :P  I found this easier to do with Descent 1's robots because they all have their place.  Whereas in Descent 2, they're not quite interchangeable, but their roles do blur a lot.  Perhaps because they were trying to fit the level themes and so each system needed its own variations on the same role.

I can beat the level on Ace taking it slow and methodical, so it doesn't surprise me if it skews a bit on the easy side.  Gameplay videos are always fun to see.  ;D
« Last Edit: September 24, 2015, 06:32:10 PM by Maki »

Offline Kaiaatzl

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2015, 08:37:52 PM »
Huh, I never needed to use the guidebot in Descent 2.
Descent 3, sometimes, but not for navigation. :D

Video's uploading but the time is estimated at 2081 minutes and considering it's already been over five hours and it's only at 17% I'm expecting it to actually take a day and half.  I'm going to cancel the upload and move it onto my old computer so I can leave it going overnight... It'll probably be viewable sometime monday. :-\
« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 05:46:57 PM by Kaiaatzl »

Offline Scyphi

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2015, 05:51:59 PM »
Huh, I never needed to use the guidebot in Descent 2.
Descent 3, sometimes, but not for navigation. :D

For target practice, I'm sure. :P

I never really needed to use GB in D2 either, but I suspect this is largely because I'm familiar enough with Descent that I can keep my bearings regardless of the environment, and don't need to rely on GB so much.

But I know that's not true of all players, and now that Maki's brought it up, he does have a point; the level design in both D2 and D3 rely on GB quite a bit...especially for D2, which I think is more guilty of it. If you got lost in a D2 level, you were either stuck wasting time wandering around until you manage to get your bearings again, or turn to Guide-Bot, because especially in the later levels of D2, even the auto-map isn't much help; there's too much chaotic level stuff to peer through. In D1, you didn't have Guide-Bot, so you were still obligated to draw a line and keep things from getting TOO wild. And even if D1 did have a Guide-Bot, I think it's level design is such that it'd give you more choice about whether or not to use the GB in the first place, because the design was complicated enough that the directionally-challenged could still get lost, but reasonable enough that one could still find their way through it on their own nicely enough.

Ultimately, of course, it depends on the player, and there are plenty of fans who love D2 just the way it is. However, I do want to note that when the subject of level design came up on the Descent Underground forums, discussing what direction DU should take, there did seem to be majority agreement that D2 generally had the weaker level design. Though if it helps, all three games have been subject to criticisms in that area, because none of them are quite perfect in practically every way. ;)
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Offline Maki

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2015, 07:40:06 AM »
I feel my preference is somewhere between Descent 1 and Descent Maximum.  Descent Maximum, in particular, was really good about presenting these bite-sized chunks of level (because it had to), focused on one or two sweeping central areas and structuring the rest of the level off of them, and then moving on to the next one before it outstayed its welcome.  There are some really nice examples of simple-and-elegant level design in that.  Sometimes too simple.  But, it's better than being totally lost and squinting through the automap, or spending half the game staring at the Guidebot's triangular butt.  ;D

Offline Kaiaatzl

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2015, 06:52:46 PM »
I thought Vertigo combined the ideas from Maximum and Counterstrike quite well.
Downside is you sometimes see rooms that were copied cube-for-cube from Maximum's levels.  On 4 and 17 especially...

Offline Scyphi

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2015, 05:57:57 AM »
Quote from: Maki
I feel my preference is somewhere between Descent 1 and Descent Maximum.

You and I really are of like mind then, because I am exactly the same. Of the official D2 level sets, I liked Descent Maximum the most as it was the most level-headed about it's level design overall. Maximum's only real fault is that the levels are, well, short. Really short in some instances. Personally, I'd like the levels to be just a little longer than that. And I believe it was Kai himself who once observed that Maximum didn't always capture the thematic parts of Counterstrike as well. For example, I recall the Limefrost levels were among the more forgettable in Maximum whereas in Counterstrike, the Limefrost levels were the one group of levels where I thought the more chaotic level design actually worked to it's favor, thematically (made it feel more like legit ice caverns). Though Maximum's Ice Boss level was rather clever...albeit challenging. You kind have to change your whole approach to fighting that particular boss.

Speaking of, it's been awhile since I played Maximum all the way through...note to self...
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Offline Maki

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2015, 07:25:44 AM »
There was one Limefrost level in particular that really stood out to me though - I think it was Widorn, level 16 or 17?  The one which basically had an octagonal shaft running down the middle which was grated off, but connected two or three different floors.  I really liked the structure and flow of that one.  Another one I liked was the water level that was shaped like a curvy W.

Offline Kaiaatzl

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2015, 05:09:27 PM »
Well my video's finished uploading ahead of schedule.  It only took almost four days. :D
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTbfBoDxyZM

Offline Maki

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2015, 09:04:40 AM »
Thanks for the footage.  Reminds me of Borderlands.  I also see what you mean with the patented Anti-Fusion Reactor.  Or, at least that's what I'm calling it now.

Seems that the Lights Off trigger doesn't work right in D2X.  Not that it would have saved you from the twin Vulcan drillers, but it's supposed to darken the room for their reveal.  It is admittedly a pain to get back to that point if you die.  In hindsight, I think having a switch that removes the first grating bridge, perhaps protected around the corner by a ceiling door that opens after you get the Red Key, would have been a nice little shortcut.  I did prevent the Matcens from respawning, though, so there's that.

Offline Scyphi

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Re: Cascade Aqueduct
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2015, 02:31:02 PM »
It probably didn't help that the mode Kai had D2X-XL in was especially...flashy. I mean, wow, I had forgotten just how flashy D2X-XL can get if you turn on all the bells and whistles.

Personally, I didn't even need the lights going out at the red key room to tell me there was a trap waiting, I could just intuitively knew it. The room had that sort of feel, y'know? So when the lights went out in my playthrough, my first thought was "knew it."
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