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Lemmings was one of the first games my family purchased for me when I was a child, but for Amiga not MSDOS.
It was certainly unique among other games available at the time. Noticable was:
1) the number of lemmings on screen seemed ground breaking, and felt pleasantly overwhelming like trying to control an ants nest.
2) the indirect control of the characters was unusual and refreshing, compared with other platformers that were mostly built to the run-n-gun-(n-jump) formula.
3) the graphics was stunning, seeing these big levels of detailed pixel art, fancy shading, and animations. The level visuals alone were something to behold.
4) the cheerful music. various nursery rhymes and traditional childrens songs recreated as chip tunes.
Despite these positives, I found the game rather unsatisfying to play:
a) boring, because you know exactly what to do, and it’s just a matter of clicking everything at the right time, and a lot of waiting inbetween.
b) boring, because you don’t really know what to do, and it involves a lot of trial and error, replaying these fairly lengthy levels over and over.
c) boring, if/when your trial and error doesn’t lead anwhere.
d) depressing, because you misclick/misjudge something, and it all goes wrong, so you have to nuke, then spend another 60 seconds watching your failure and waiting for the level to restart. the game is sensitive to error, and is most unforgiving.
I completed all of the easy levels in the game, and in it’s expansion pack (oh no more lemmings). And I think I completed all of the second-tier levels in both games as well, but the third- and fourth- tiers were beyond my patience!
I have returned to the game maybe three times since the early 1990s, and my opinion of it did not change at all.
So, I decided to start a new game and play through the whole thing.
I FINALLY completed the game! That’s a 25 year weight off my shoulders!
I took some screenshots along this week’s journey, which I’ll share with you now 🙂
Home Sweet Home
No Fuel Crisis Here
Fixing The Water Tower
Unlocking Desert Isle
On Our Holidays
Going To Barbados
Moving The First Statue
Opening The Cave
Got Myself A Hovercraft
Clear Water Lake
Fixed His Kidney Stone
To Tippett Island
Storm The Castle
Freeing The Forger
Got Myself A Saber
The Teleportation Center
P-P-P-Pick Up A Penguin
RoboDamsel In Distress
Weird Twinsen Clone
Lol, The Dozer Fell Off The Wall
The Final Showdown
Drinks All Round
Band In My Honour
See you all in the next game o/
I saw that 2.21 released engine source from the original games last year. it might be of interest to the coders among us:
And there are details here for getting it to build:
I can imagine the saving mechanic was a consequence of earlier parts of the game’s design.
Designer’s Thought #1 : The world is too big to be active all at once, with all these NPCs moving around at once, and all the speech data to load. So let’s split it into sectors, and have a scene transition between sectors. Also we can change environments this way, loading a different tileset for the town/desert/ice worlds, and we only need to buffer speech data for each sector.
Designer’s Thought #2 : If the player kills all of the pre-placed mobs, the world will be free of those mobs, and is pretty much saved without all the adventuring. So let’s have the mobs respawn – and we can do this on sector change. Little puzzles like getting a key to open a door can also respawn if not completed. These puzzles can be self-contained within each sector, which simplifies the mental model for the player since they can’t carry a key half way across the world – it’ll disappear from their hand once they change sector.
Designer’s Thought #3 : If sectors are going to respawn on (re)load, we don’t need to store very much data in the save game, only the sector we are in and a few global variables like player lives/magic and what parts of the story are unlocked.Yeah, and we’ve seen this in other games, so there is precedent.
I found my save game, and I can explain how I’m stuck.
I’m in a sewer called “Tippet Island”. There is a funky rabbibunny on a raised platform who sells information.
There is also a fisherman to the left who is supposed to drop a key when spoken to, except he does not, so I cannot progress.
It’s possible he did drop a key at some point back in 2017 \_o_/ but it is not in my inventory, nor is there a key in my status screen.
Might I have left this room without opening the gate, lost the key from my status screen, and the event cannot be triggered again? That’s all I can think might have happened.
This is the gate I believe I must open, just up from the funky rabbibunny:
PixelProphecy, do you know the music album DreamWeb by Mind In A Box? I discovered it about 10 years ago, and loved it.
I’ve no idea if the DOS game was a souce of inspiration for the album, but it also has these cyberpunk vibes in the story which is told through the 12 tracks.
I’ve never really listened to NIN’s music, and I couldn’t even tell you if Quake’s soundtrack is typical of their musical style or not.
But I’ve never felt that the Quake soundtrack fits the game very well. It doesn’t really feel like game music at all to me. The distorted industrial instrumentation doesn’t complement the gothic/medieval tone of the game. The slow droning and rhymic ambiance don’t really complement the high-adrenaline nature of a shooter.
It feels like when you commission a piece of high art. You spend time giving the artist guidance, showing them where the work will be put on display and what surroundings it has to fit in with, and giving them themes to inspire them, and you still end up with something unexpected, because they’ve taken the brief in a strange direction.
Game music production is no doubt a more joined up process nowadays, with closer interaction with the client, as well as game music being a speciality one trains in, rather than being a one-off side project that one “has a go at”.
I expect id software felt honored to have NIN work with them, and probably didn’t give the music tracks they received the same critical judgement that the rest of Quake’s content received.
That’s not to say that I *dislike* the music, taken on it’s own. It’s ok, good here and there, but mostly rather flat and repetitive. I think the first 2-3 of minutes of the main theme are enjoyable, and probably the best bit. 🙂
Hey TigerQuoll 🙂
I recorded a demo of E1M1 for you. I found a much faster way through the level today, beating my best time above. It’s sometimes a struggle to think what is the best order to tackle things in, especially when there are teleports and the like.
It’s also hard for me to remember where I’m going sometimes, as will be clear in this demo!
Hopefully this uploads ok…
I have tried a few engines over the years, but my favourite is still DirectQ on windows.
It hasn’t been updated for a while, but it’s a pretty solid no-nonsense engine. It’s DirectX based rather than the GL and supports plenty of resolutions. The custom game menus are not overwhelming, and it runs super smooth on even lower-spec hardware.
I vividly remember one day at school when a pupil brought in his pentium PC and had the school’s IT technician install the RAM and graphics card he had bought the weekend prior. Several of us watched that bit of electronic surgery take place, as we happened to be there at the time.
The graphics card installation went fine, but the technician didn’t install the RAM correctly somehow (either not in pairs or mixing up the chips) and the computer showed a ridiculous amout of memory during POST, and the child thought they had discovered some neat trick together. 🙂
Regarding these episodes: I imagine most people who are into DOS gaming nowadays will also have interest in the hardware side too… and it’s not as if it will only be low-level details being discussed. Listeners can always skip over the bits they don’t like, just as they might do with the regular episodes.
I suggested this idea to you a couple of times in the past and had it dismissed. So I’m delighted to see you’re going forward with it now 🙂
A few ideas:
– CPU episode. Look at the different generations of x86, and discuss what they each brought new to the table and why it mattered. 60vs66MHz bus speed and clock multipliers. Example comparison of a 133 and 150MHz pentium. Also look at the cheaper alternatives to the market leader intel with amd/cyrix/overdrive. Intel’s first real competition – their affordability and relative advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps go as far as looking at mmx and the celeron/duron variants. Look at how fast the industry moved back then – 18 months and your £1200 PC was out of date and couldn’t run some of the latest games. socket A, super 7, pentium II slot. dual cpu mobos. cache sockets. Upgrade paths with different choices of mobos.
– Voodoo card episode. I know you touched on the voodoo cards in your FMB videos, but I’d like to hear a more in-depth discussion of them: the CPU-era each belonged to, comparing their power/features, how they are installed, what they made possible in games and how they worked.
– Ram evolution episode. Like there’s SRAM and DRAM. Soldered and socketed. What was FPM/EDO in the pentium era? How memory was super expensive in the mid 90s. Memory layouts with upper/lower banks. conventional/extended/expanded memory. Why were dimms installed in pairs? Early sdram for pentiums. I feel there’s lots of stuff to explain here.
– A chipset episode. Explain what chipsets were for and how they worked. Then go through each x86 generation. You know there was the FX and VX and TX in the pentium era, and the highly successful 440BX later on. What were these variations all about, why were some more desirable than others, and did it make much of a difference? Explain all this stuff –> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_chipsets#Pentium_chipsets
– A sound card evolution episode. I’ve had others already express interest in this. You have the YM chips of the 1980s, and clever ways to make the PC speaker do more than beep. The Adlib and OPL era. The Soundblaster/multimedia era where cards had game ports, and sometimes IDE headers and CD drives would plug into the card. MIDI synthesis. PCM and sound buffers. And the setup in DOS with IRQ/PORT/DMA and what does that all mean?
Blizzard released their classic games for free back in 2014, which I got at that time.
The links may be removed from their website now, but search engines still have the official direct-download links indexed. They might still work.
I got this free with a graphics card I think.
I quite enjoyed the flight controls and combat, but I also felt the game lacked variety of gameplay and objectives. The tunnels were an unexpected and distinctive addition, but were not particularly enjoyable part of the game for me.
it is explained here — https://www.evanmiller.org/how-not-to-sort-by-average-rating.html
basically, a small number of games played by a person would give a less confident estimate of their skill, than a large number of games played by that person.
Ratio’s don’t factor that in. For example, a player with 100 wins and 2 losses gives a ratio of 50. While another player with 1 win and 0 losses gives a ratio of infinity. And from ratios, we are supposed to believe the second player has higher skill.
the link includes an excel example. equating win/loss with up-vote/down-vote.
The next obvious task is to find a solution to the general case, given any N>3.
I have found that some solutions create a pattern on the board which could be extended into solutions over larger boards.
For example, for even values of N, there is this very simple pattern of queens placed in two lines of “knights moves”. There is an exception however – it only works for N congruent to 0 or 4 mod 6, and not for 2 mod 6:
The pattern doesn’t work for N congruent to 2 mod 6, because of a diagonal clash between the two lines, as is discovered in the original N=8 problem.
It is seen that queens placed in a line of “knights moves” occupy a diagonal every three diagonals, and that a second such line will stand in opposition to the first line in 1 out of 3 even-sized boards, which is where my “mod 6” comes from.
However, with a small tweak to the pattern, I found it could be salvaged:
For odd N, a similar line pattern was found by swapping the two lines around, but this only works for N congruent to 1 or 5 mod 6. (The diagonals present the same problem in the 3 mod 6 case):
This leaves only the class N congruent to 3 mod 6, which caused me some head-scratching. But with a tweak similar to the 2 mod 6 case, albeit a little more complex, a working pattern was found:
So this provides a solution to all NxN boards, except for the two impossible cases (N=2 and N=3).
In the mathematical spirit of the puzzle, we can determine the number of solutions for different board sizes. Consider placing N queens on an NxN board:
N _ # Solutions _ as a % of all possible permutations
1 _ 1 _ 100%
2 _ 0 _ 0%
3 _ 0_ 0%
4 _ 2 _ 8.33%
5 _ 10 _ 8.33%
6 _ 4 _ 0.56%
7 _ 40 _ 0.79%
8 _ 92 _ 0.23%
9 _ 352 _ 0.097%
10 _ 724 _ 0.020%
11 _ 2680 _ 0.0067%
12 _ 14200 _ 0.0030%
13 _ 73712 _ 0.0012%
14 _ 365596 _ 0.00042%
15 _ 2279184 _ 0.00017%
The percentages in some way reflect the difficulty of finding a solution to each puzzle grid.
The game reminds me of Prince of Persia too: platforms and locked doors, fancy character animation, climbing, leaping over gaps… just with a shotgun in hand instead of a sword.
I hadn’t played this one before, and I was expecting more action to be honest like Turrican II, haha. Blackthorne is quite slow paced in comparison, and working out how to open the locked doors and progress without getting stuck makes it feel more like a puzzle game than anything.
DOS games didn’t have virtualised memory, while modern operating systems do. This may cause problems like “data execution” errors, where the DOS game tries to do things which aren’t allowed anymore. Even Win95 games may not run native on modern windows for this same reason.
But getting closer to your question…
You may also have trouble with sound on modern hardware. In the 1990s, sound cards used to be configured at Port 220h / IRQ 5or7 / DMA 0or1, with little deviation possible.
Since the early 2000s, sound hardware has been done differently (modern HDAudio standard vs old AC97 standard), and I’m not sure these old configurations can work anymore.
Installing a virtual sound driver may be possible, to remap the ports on your modern hardware to something your DOS games recognise, but don’t expect success.
If your hardware has a free PCI slot, you may be able to install an era-correct sound card, but I cannot guarantee this would work either.
I successfully completed both of the campaigns in the first half of the month. I’ll talk a little about how I found them:
– The earlier missions are quick and easy (you can do the first 6 missions in a single night) and they serve as a gentle introduction to the gameplay.
We have to realise that RTS is a well established genre nowadays, but in 1996 that was not the case. These early levels do feel *too* easy now, but back then they were important for teaching the basic mechanics of RTS, and I do still have fond memories of playing them in the early 2000s (when I got the game). They offer a nice variety of objectives:
For example, learning how to harvest resources and construct buildings in the first level. Also dealing with gold/wood/food as resources. In the second level, we learn how to control unit groups and some basic combat. The third level introduces the tech tree, with naval units and oil as a resource. The fourth level builds upon this, by having us assault another island with both ships and transports.
This all sets the scene for later levels, as they all involve some combination of (1) building a base and managing resources, (2) Guiding a group of units through a hostile environment. (3a) assaulting an enemy on another island. (3b) assaulting an enemy on the same island. What changes are new units being made available in the tech tree, and of course the map layouts!
– The middle levels (7-10) take less than an hour each on average, and I was working through two each evening. There are some very memorable gems here, like the building a castle on the island mission, and the river run with cannons along it. 😀 Perhaps some of the most fun levels in the game are these middle levels. Not too slow, and just challenging enough.
– The end levels (11-14) are all slow paced, taking over an hour each (one per evening). I found most of these quite boring to be honets, and I was actually dreading starting some of them because I knew what I was in for. The human-L14-finale is perhaps the most interesting of the batch, and I actually chose to play through it again towards the end of august.
In the second half of the month I played several melee games vs computer AI, and made a couple of my own melee maps using the Map Editor, and played on that vs the computer AI as well.
We were going to have an online multiplayer session at some point, but it never happened.
I took a look at the expansion pack ‘beyond the dark portal’. The main thing to note are story-driving hero units having a far greater presence. I did play through these campaigns a couple of times back in the day, but I didn’t complete much this month. There are a few nice levels here, but some poor/rushed/unoriginal levels do sour the campaign for me. In short, it offers nothing particularly different gameplay-wise from the original, but expansions all tend to be like that, don’t they? 🙂
The campaigns are mostly telling a story, and the AI scripts they use are only mildly aggressive, with most units on stationary guard duty, and they don’t get replaced if they are killed.
Some say that the campaigns are for teaching you about all of the units and developing play skills, and the REAL game is the custom 1v1 melee matches: versus computer opponents at first, and later versus other human players.
So the next step for you Tijn, is to try some custom melee games vs computer opponent(s), as these use more aggressive AI scripts, which will offer a greater challenge.
Computer opponents actually select one of three different strategies at random: Focusing on either Air, Sea, or Land dominance. Though if the map has very little sea, it’s possible it makes a terrible choice there 😛
Just make sure you pick fairly open plan maps, that work properly with the game’s lousy pathfinding. Otherwise your cpu opponents will get stuck launching their attacks, enabling you to dominate the map.
Welcome to dgc, evilteuton 🙂
For those who don’t know : evilteuton did a complete playthrough of transarctica on youtube last year. I invited him to DGC as he’s clearly an expert at the game, and who no doubt has many interesting tips and tales to share with us.
We all have happy memories of games we played in the 1990s. So evilteuton: feel free to share your memories of transarctica with us. such as your first impressions of it, and how hard you found it at first. Any funny stories of things which happened during play? How long it took you to complete the game, etc.
Descent was one of the first PC games I saw, as someone had installed it on our school computers, alongside Doom II, and Rise of the Triad.
There was something seductive about it, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what.
– As a shooting game I don’t feel it was anything special.
– The six-degree-of-freedom control system was complicated and confusing to use. Though I often see it being referenced and celebrated on forums, where flight control schemes are being discussed. Perhaps one can master it with experience, and come to appreciate it. idk.
– 3D games were still in their infancy at the time. Even the legendary Doom didn’t have truely 3D environments. Descent was a truely 3D game, with it’s weird twisty labyrinths really reinforcing that fact, messing with our sense of orientation. Perhaps that is what made the game so memorable.
This game is a happy memory for me.
I first heard about it through a school friend, who would regularly talk about how fun it was. We (family) didn’t have a PC until a few months later, but we did have a PC magazine with the WC2 demo bundled with it.
Once we got our PC, I eventually got around to trying the WC2 demo, and I did find it enjoyable. Every few months I’d look at the demo again, trying different ideas and strategies to see what happens. It grew on me over time.
I sometimes wondered what the full game would be like, and what these extra units were which were ghosted out and unavailable in the demo.
While I did play games occasionally, I didn’t consider myself a gamer. Gaming culture as a whole felt quite alien to me, and most of my exposure to games was through my brother, who loved gaming.
It was about 3-4 years after first trying the demo, that I eventually bought the full game. It was in fact the first PC game I bought. And for the next 3-4 years I became very interested in it : playing through the campaigns and melee maps, designing maps of my own, and setting myself other challenges.
It’s fair to say it was my favourite game throughout my teenage years. And comparing it with other games I had seen/played, I firmly believed this to be the best game ever made. The depth and beauty of it was something to behold.
Eventually I grew bored of it, and I moved onto Starcraft. I struggled to decide which was the better game. The SC engine was undeniably better, and despite greater depth and balance in it’s design, my experience overall with SC was considerably less enjoyable.
Around 2005, I learned that WC3 was actually a thing, and I bought it without hesitation. To this day I consider WC3:ROC the best game ever made. I should also point out that it’s expansion pack WC3:TFT changes the dynamics of the game entirely, and imho, strips out the joy, turning it into another starcraft.
The objective for this term is to further city expansion, and implement a sustainable economic model.
– Adjusted taxes to reflect high demands for Commercial and Industrial.
– Reduced Residental taxes to encourage new residents into the area.
– Began levelling the terrain above Grand Valley in preparation for city expansion.
– Layed roads in the new Grand Plateau area
– Expanded the hydro plants behind the nearby fire station.
– A new police station and hospital are constructed in the Grand Plateau area.
– As revenue is already high, we remove the 1% Income Tax, and introduce several new socially progressive ordinances to encourage people to move into our growing area.
– A suspension bridge is constructed over the river near the Marina, providing another access point into Grand Plateau.
– Construction continues along the plateau, to Schwarzenegger Hill.
– Rebalanced taxes to maintain a sustainable demand for all areas, while maintaining a good income.
– Response to a water shortage with construction of several new pumps.
– Some small parks are placed in new residential areas.
– More roads are added to Schwarzenegger Hill, to try and ease congestion.
– Terrain is levelled near to the Ocean Seaport, for placement of a small industrial area.
– Work near the ocean continues, with construction of the Seaside Holiday Park
– An ocean link road is completed, for connecting with our pirate friends.
Discussed with kdrnic – we only have 1 week to go, to try and advance the sim to 2017. I suggested we increase to 10 year slots, as this will only require 6 more turns.
We were voted in for 10 more glorious years!
1950 – 1954
Now that the power issue is over, the cuts to public services have been reversed, with police, health and education budget being raised to 70% and fire dept budget being raised to 50%
Education and health ordinances are also restored to pre 1945 levels.
We begin construction of a new district in Grand Valley.
1955 – 1959
Nuclear power invented. Dossington declared a nuclear free zone.
A new settlement is established in Redneck County, and a seaport is constructed on the coast near micropolis.
Due to high demand for residental areas, residental tax is raised to 10%
Having $11,467 in the treasury at the end of 1959, the bond is repayed, leaving $1467 for the next governor to play with.
Yearly Income: $2182
Approval Rating: 64%
Our power station is nearing the end of it’s life. Previous goverments have made insufficient provision to address this issue, as the hydroelectric plants which have recently been constructed will not be enough to meet our energy needs.
Allowing the power station to fail would be a life threatening disaster, causing chaos and misery for families and businesses across the city. Perhaps the previous goverment would have been happy to have let this happen, leaving us sat in the dark, and our businesses going to ruin?
To help raise funds for the new power station, we’re taking the following actions:
– Cutting funding for schools to 60%
– Cutting funding for police to 60%
– Cutting ordinances for free clinics
– Cutting education ordinances
Our educational institutions have suffered from years of neglect by previous governments, and our children are now paying the price. After schools throughout this city were graded F in most recent inspections, it is clear the whole educational system is in dire need of top-down reform.
The 1947 Schools Act will overturn the ban on grammar schools, and construction of a new Grammar school in Windy Tops will begin in the spring, giving young people from ordinary working families the opportunities denied to them by previous governments.
Through our strong and stable leadership, we have raised the necessary funds to seamlessly replace the aging power station before disaster strikes.
We were committed to keeping the lights on for the next 50 years, and we’ve delivered on our promise.
Yearly Income: $1446
Approval Rating: 64%
What I’ve learned so far this month…
0. Choose one quadrant of the map, relatively flat with lake/river. Start near the centre of that quadrant.
1. R/C/I all need to be close to one another to function well. (eg, within a 10 tile radius or so.) But you have to be careful with arrangements because too much scattering will affect pollution, and whether 3×3 buildings will fit. Which is ultimately going to dent land value and revenue. About 50% of your zones need to be residential, 30% industrial, and 20% commercial. There also needs to be roads touching these three zones so people can travel between them.
2. I feel it’s important to build at a steady rate, and not go under/overboard with any one type of zone, just because it’s currently in decline/demand. The R/C/I bar graphs don’t change instantly. Effects can be delayed, and to some extent will drift over time of their own accord. Also your construction workers need steady jobs, not stops and spurts. Without paying attention to this I feel there is more likely to be recessions, unemployment, and rises in crime.
3. Educational and recreational areas (and trees) should be near residential zones to increase land value. Police stations (and lakes) in commercial zones (to protect commercial demand), and fire stations in industrial zones (as fires usually break out there). Don’t skimp on any of these, but they don’t have to be 100% funded. 75% seems to work just as well.
With these guidelines you can grow cities to 25k without seeing any recessions. And while there is strong demand for all zones, you can keep taxes relatively high at 10% or so, which means you can grow relatively quickly and at a consistent rate. Interruptions to revenue flow can have a feedback effect on (2), triggering a recession, and further loss of revenue.
4. Once your power station is 40 years old, slow spending and start saving for a replacement. You should be getting >$1000/year, which gives you plenty of time to save for a new coal plant. I find that coal remains the best option for a long time. (Supplement with wind and hydro later when possible. You do need a lot of windmills to match one coal plant, but they don’t wear out, so they can be worth it long term.)
5. Commercial seems to play a greater role as the game progresses, and it can be hard to maintain demand for it. This is where you need to start buying road/rail connections to your neighbours, seaport, (and later airports). When building road connections, you need property along the road, up to the edge of the map, otherwise there is no incentive for travel. Starting near a corner means you have two neighbours nearby.
6. If revenue allows it, start a second city in another quadrant of the map with another power plant there. You can grow both cities separately and merge them later. Same with waterfalls – you can start isolated communities around a hydro plant. To grow your city up to 60k you’ll probably need 2 power plants anyway. Once you get up near that population, your revenue will be high enough that you can afford to replace power plants with just 1 year’s revenue.
– The power supply in the city is at 88% of capacity, meaning we can’t connect much more real estate to the current network. With the new Riverside industrial park being developed, I’m concerned we might soon be overloaded, which would be an economic disaster.
– Created ‘Micropolis’ self-sustaining area with hydro power. Hope we can grow this area later, without adding strain on the main power plant.
– Slightly modified the road layout in the main industrial area to improve land usage.
– Added a small residential zone near to the main industrial area, because that corner didn’t have any residential area nearby.
– Raised residential raxes by 1% (from 8% to 9%) to take advantage of the current high demand for residential.
– Micropolis was an instant success, with full land usage within the year. Have doubled the land capacity and added another hydroelectic power station.
– The Riverside industrial park is slow to develop because of no nearby residential areas, so added a small residential area in the foothills of the “Windy Tops” overlooking the park, powered by the Micropolis HEP plants. Both it and Riverside are seen to develop.
– Residents are demanding recreations facilities: zoo, marina, park, stadium, though we can’t afford to provide any of these currently.
– Authorised construction of Windy Tops luxury homes. Care taken to avoid felling trees.
– Developed Micropolis a little more in light commercial, to serve it’s residents.
-Added a small number of commerical properties along the road near the bridge, because there were no commercial areas nearby.
– Created ‘Watergate Business Park’, alongside the Riverside Industrial estate. These are exciting new high-end commercial lettings, ideal for startups and entrepreneurs located in a young and uncoming part of the city.
End of 1919 Status
Projected income for 1920: $1,028
Mayor’s approval rating: 60%
Demand remains high for all three zones.
Power station is now at 93% capacity.
After praising the map design in my earlier post, it’s only fair that I give some criticism of it too for balance, so expect this post to be more negative.
So far I’ve played through e1 and e2. I have to say I preferred e1. e2 levels feel a bit different to e1 levels. I don’t mean the texture differences are bad (they are just as great!), but the map layouts themselves feel poorer somehow.
It is clear that focus has been shifted away from the hub-like areas used in e1. But with fewer such landmarks to guide us, it is harder to build mental maps of these levels, which in turn makes them harder to navigate comfortably.
The designs of e2 feel more like a chaotic clustering of many small areas, which make it hard to identify where you are at a glance. Abundant use of alcoves and corridors don’t help, as turning in areas with low visible range will disorient us, so we can easily lose our sense of direction.
In a more realistic game, this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, as even small areas are regularly given unique and interesting detail with scenery and use of the third dimension. But Doom cannot escape it’s own limitations, and to me this is an example of where it’s abstract geometry becomes a handicap.
3D spaces need landmarks, but Doom is limited in how it can achieve this.
So what are the consequences of this? If the player loses their sense of direction, they have no guide as to where they should go next. They’ll run around aimlessly hoping to stumble upon something new. If that means backtracking, then it quickly becomes boring. But even if we manage to progress, encounters will feel less engaging – it’s just one room after another of monsters – as each encounter becomes less meaningful in the bigger picture.
With doom/quake etc, I’ve always set up my controls so that delete + page down (the keys above left/right arrows) would strafe left/right.
I got quite good at using key combos to run forwards, whilst both turning and strafing.
Friends at school (where I first played Doom) didn’t understand why I used separate strafe keys, when I could just press Alt instead like they all did. I guess they hadn’t imagined needing to turn and strafe together, like when circling an opponent. 😀
But by that time, the mouse was taking over as the choice controller for fps games, so my control scheme never seemed to catch on.
rnlf, those chapter markers were used in quake II as well if I remember rightly. I don’t really like them, even though they are technically more advanced, as I prefer to see distinct levels.
A lot of FPS games break the world into chunks which get dynamically loaded as you walk around (you get those little glitches in the framerate when it happens). Chapter markers feel no different than that to me, and programmatically, they probably are very similar.
Moving between one chapter and the next doesn’t feel like a proper start/end point. So when I cross a chapter marker I don’t feel like I’ve finished.
I grew up with 80s and 90s games which were predominantly level-based, so maybe that’s just what I’m most confortable with. But as I argued above, there benefits to distinct levels, and I’ve come to value their use over these more modern solutions.
Maybe that’s too subjective to make a proper discussion, but it’s just what I like 😀
I think the design of Doom maps owes itself to three things:
i) Doom is divided into relatively short levels, rather than providing a long continuous experience;
ii) The levels are non-linear;
iii) The levels are abstract.
Addressing each of these in turn:
Levels were a pretty standard “trope” in games throughout the 1980s and 1990s, so it’s no surprise that Doom utilised them. Maybe this was due in part to technical limits on 1993 hardware, but I also believe from a design point-of-view it was part of Doom’s recipe for success.
I think they are still worthwhile to have today, even if modern tech is capable of creating a seamless experience. To me, levels are like chapters in a book, breaking up a game into small challenges with well defined goals: Something which players can start and finish in a 30 minute session, or play through in isolation at any time. (Due to juggling real-life demands, players may only be able to allocate 30 minutes at a time, so they fit neatly with that).
Levels allow designers to cleanly break away from what happened before, allowing them to experiment with new and unrelated ideas, keeping the game feeling fresh. Similarly, levels allow players to draw a line under their work, either to put bad experiences behind them, or to frame their most proud moments. Consequently, each level can have it’s own unique identity: An iconic room or construction within it, which prints itself into our memory for life.
And speaking of iconic rooms… A lot of levels in Doom involve one or two central areas (hubs), that you end up crossing through several times as you complete little side errands collecting keycards or raising bridges and barriers. Part of the interest in non-linearity is that you can investigate these little side areas, to see what you can/can’t access, and what obstacles are blocking you. You build up a mental model of what you might need to do. So when you get a red keycard or raise a bridge, you can think back, and connect the dots… It’s mentally stimulating that way.
There doesn’t have to be a strict order-of-operations with non-linear maps either. Players may have choice eg, to do area A or B first. Completing A first may mean that you can approach B from a different/better angle. B might even be completely optional, yielding only some powerup bonus, for example. Little choices like that are important, as they allow us to act on our whims, and provide something for both speedrunners and completionists. And for the more serious gamer, allow experimentation, so we can find the most effective strategies.
A non-linear layout means that a level can be spatially compact too, with lots of branches and loops. This makes it quick to revisit areas once they’re unlocked, either to search for health packs, hunt down a monster you can still hear grunting somewhere, or to locate a door you fear you’ve missed. In comparison, this kind of backtracking can be rather tedious through more linear map design.
Spatial orientation is fun too in non-linear levels: When you have all these areas connected together, you get to visualise how they all join up. Related to that – but maybe this is a personal thing? – I liked the experience of opening a door, and unexpectedly finding myself back in an earlier area. Times when my mental model was back-to-front because that locked door I saw at the start was not the next unlockable area, but was merely returning me back from the area just done! Things like that, which suprise us, disorient us, keep us alert and interesed.
Meanwhile, abstract maps allow designers to work with a superset of possibilities, where levels don’t have to resemble real-world spaces, nor conform to conventional rules about architecture. Doom doesn’t try to convince us that what we’re seeing is something other than what it is, so what we’re most aware of when we play is literally the abstract geometry.
This shared perception between designer and player meant that geometry could be used to it’s fullest effect, creating spaces which are fun to visualise and understand, and uniquely challenging to navigate through.
Furthermore, when you consider these abstract spaces juxtaposed with various combinations of monster behaviours, you can see how a diverse and endless array of traps and confrontations become possible.
It was one of the first DOS games I’d seen, as someone had installed it on the computers at my school. I was quite amazed by it at the time:
– it was a very smooth 3d game with fancy textures and realistic looking monsters.
– controls felt very responsive, and it was enjoyable “dancing” with the monsters, trying to hit them while avoiding being hit.
– the game was simple to understand, so you could pick it up very easily.
– dividing the game into levels was good idea, as it made each level a small challenge in it’s own right, with a well defined goal.
The reason why none of the backstory was in the game itself?
Maybe the game design came first (let’s imagine the designers knew they wanted to use their 3d tech to make something demonic and visceral).
While that was under construction, they may have realised they needed a manual with an introduction. They many have anticipated there would be confused players asking a lot of who/what/why about the game. And maybe for PR reasons, they might have felt they needed a backstory so that the game didn’t seem as shamelessly vulgar as it might have.