AlexanderBorisov wrote:About level 2. It is much harder than L1 in terms of difficulty, I did it on my 3-rd try only. first two was killed by 2 snipe mode ITDs when approaching them from the wrong direction (from the top).
I liked the geometry, it is a bit hard to navigate in some parts, but I haven't seen anything like that before. Definitely this geometry goes well with a lot of melee robots; you have to plan how to retreat when several lifters rush at you. The big room at the end of lava river is very good. Multi-level central room is cool, either, and I liked that you made the second energy center, instead of forcing the player to return to the first one.
Yeah, I thought that since we are not using D2 mechanics like disappearing walls, the upper grate wouldn't disappear, so giving the player another energy center would be essential for quality of life in this level.
In general i'd say that you don't need too much non-obligatory areas in a level (especially big ones), otherwise players will be tempted to skip it. Or place some very useful secrets in those. For example this big area with lava river leading to it, seems you can skip it altogether.
The design of the levels in this mission is meant to imitate Parallax, at least to a degree. Of course optional areas are entirely skippable, but they contain rewards that encourage exploring them. In this level for example, that optional area (and the entrance to it) is the only place where you can get homing missiles. It also lets you make your later red key grab easier, since it lets you pick off some of the resistance guarding the key from the other side.
Texturing is good (similar style to the first level but richer), I even seen an "cyan-ice" texture i've never encountered before, probably it was not used or was very rare in D1.
The texturing was meant to emulate the Venus levels from First Strike, obviously. The texture you're referring to did appear in level 4 at the very least, I also remember seeing it in level 21 and possibly in some others. There is considerably more of it in this level than those, though. But I think it's fair game and the theme has been preserved. If you like the texturing here, though, you should love levels 3 and 5. 4 is not bad either, but it's standard Mars fare with it being all red and stuff, but 5 is a completely new theme for D1, since we never explored Ceres in First Strike. Still restricted only to D1 textures, of course.
About robots and their placement. Melee robots are very dangerous here (on Insane). Nice surprise from that snipe mode Smelter near the blue key, other smelters placed in curved tunnels are dangerous too (because of how Phoenix shots reflect and hit you when you retreat). Some nasty ITD's.
My only concern that on lower difficulty, the domination of melee robots could make the level easier than you expected (because you will have much more time to destroy before they reach you, them making them harmless). Need to be tested by someone who usually plays on Hotshot.
As you know, I can cold-start, no-death 100% all of D1's levels, and I'm tackling D2 right now. It can still take me way 100+ tries on the harder levels to do so. You're a better pilot still. But even I see no challenge at all in playing any of the official levels on Hotshot. I don't think anyone that plays on Hotshot is concerned with the game being too easy, because they're making it easy on themselves on purpose. Balancing the difficulty for Hotshot is an exercise in futility IMO, because if someone wants the game to be harder, they'll choose Ace or Insane. That, and it's only level 2 - it's supposed to be easy.
I'd say you can start to introduce missile robots and ITSCs once you have Vulcan (maybe in the next level), like Vertigo and PS do. At least conc hulks and maybe even green platformers in not-too-dangerous locations. I remember PS also used Canaries, and Fox bots in level 2, and even some Ice Spindles (but they did not drop the Helix, of course). IMO flash missile modulas and hornets/baby spiders are fine, too.
You have the vulcan in this level too, it's in a secret compartment in one of the optional areas. I agree that the ITSC is a good robot to introduce soon-ish (as it takes off some of the pressure to introduce the medium hulk). Canaries are on my immediate to-introduce list too, since they're fairly easy robots. As for Foxes and Ice Spindles - the Fox is making its debut in later Solar System levels, since this mission's policy is to be as vanilla and nostalgia-evoking as can be - that means no restrictions on the robots dropping their weapon, but it also means introducing those robots a few levels later than the weapon starts appearing as a set drop. This means no Foxes until the Spreadfire has been introduced (which it will be in level 5), which means the Bulk Destroyers, Ice Spindles and Fusion Hulks are coming in real, real late in the mission, since this mission is going to be way stricter with introducing new types of weapons (which will in and of itself create part of the difficulty). It's acceptable, considering that there are many more robots of similar threat and function to choose from to take their place.
Other than that - I'm a lot for a somewhat different order of introducing robots than Parallax's missions had, in the regard that they sometimes delayed introducing comparatively non-threatening robots, while spamming super-threatening ones early on (D1L6, anyone?). The PTMC defense prototype, the Laser Platformer, the Secondary Lifter, the Canary etc - all these bots could be given a chance to shine in the earlier levels, creating some degree of threat without the need to resort to the missile bots early on. The missile platformer is one of the most lethal bots in the entire game on the other hand (especially with the shot leading AI), so there's no way I'm putting it in this early
I do realize that hard bots can be made harmless by putting them far enough from the player, or with enough room to dodge their fire. I also realize that the lowliest bots can be absolutely deadly in close quarters, like the super-easily underestimated class 1 drone in level 9 of Descent for example, or ITDs in Snipe mode. All in all, I'm for putting off the introduction of instantly lethal mechs to some of the later levels, definitely post-demo. I'd much rather go for a gentler difficulty slope this time.
I think that in the demo you can expect, apart from what you've already seen in the first 2 levels:
- All the red Martian bots from D1 (advanced and secondary lifter, spider + spiderlings) + TRN racer + Hornets <- to supplement the Martian theme
- Cloaked Lifters (D1)
- Supervisor bot
- PTMC Defense Prototype
- Class 1 Platform (laser)
- Diamond Claw, uncloaked (the Red Fatty itself spawns those, so might as well put some in as regular encounters too)
- Bomb-dropping Smelters (like in D2L2), PESTs (like in Quartzon) and Class 1 Drones (like throughout most of D1).
I am a bit surprised to not find any matcens, however. Also this level is rather straightforward, does not need you to invent any kind of strategy.
Of course both levels need testing by other people, too.
No matcens until level four. You know how it goes - in First Strike they were only introduced in level 3, and this has many more levels planned. We have two levels with only the blue and red key before we finally introduce one that has the yellow key too. Starting out small, you know
On the long earlier message.
About ammo and missiles in L1 - yes I don't know what to replace them with. But at least in L2 conc missiles are useful against melee bots.
Then let's just assume you'll carry over some more from level 1 in continuous play. There's really not much more I can come up with for level 1, and at any rate it's better too have too many than to have too few
Snipe mode is fair game (though I'm not sure how exactly it works on melee bots), though from my own experience, Follow or Get Behind are better on melee bots for variety. In level 2 I set all melee bots to Normal, I heard it allows the robot to choose a best routine depending on the situation (though limited to one in total).
I also don't know how the melee bot in snipe mode will behave. Usually it raises the stats + also gives the bot hit-and-run behavior, not sure how hit-and run work on melee bots.
I'm against tweaking the robots' stats, unless you mean speed, reaction time etc, which D2 itself did. But not stuff like health, that's definitely staying vanilla.
Well, it's easy to create an illusion of difficulty by stuffing the levels with very difficult bots, but giving you enough distance from them and/or maneuvering space that they're inconsequential. That's something easily overlooked.
Some levels should be truly hard like mentioned L16 and L21,22 of CS. Maybe in a bit different way. At least should not be doable head-on, make you think a lot for strategy, and require good skills to complete. I also don't think it is a big problem that CS L21,22 is very hard on cold-start; at least it is ok on "hot" start, how most people play it. I remember some later levels of Obsidian took me a lot of thinking and practicing various parts, but rarely more than 5-7 tries to make a full run after this practice part was over. That was good difficulty. But I won't object to smth taking even 20-40 tries. On the other hand Enemy Vignettes level 12 is "frustrating difficulty" example
You even cannot reach the energy center and clear the whole level reliably. This run took me maybe 150-200 attempts to record, even non cold start and not 100%...
Oh don't you worry. Among these 52 levels, many are definitely going to be tough as a mofo. I can imagine liberal fusion hulk/red fatty jr/vulcan driller/super hulk/MAX/SPIKE spam in the final few, along with some nasty traps and stuff. We'll be fine
It's meant to be cold-startable of course. Personally, ever since I started cold-starting levels, I practically never play any other way. Of course if a level is possible to do cold, it's also completely fine during continuous play - it's a "if it's A, it's also always B" kind of relationship IMO.
I want to just mention that a non-coldstartable mission can be fine, too. If it is challenging enough. And it will take a lot of testing and also planning on your side to make it truly cold-startable. Even in Vertigo in one level (18?) they seemed to forget about cold starts, and you had to fight two green spiders + plasma driller+2 sniper ng's with red lasers in the beginning, of course you die 9 of 10 times. The level itself was not hard, however (after you got the gauss). The last level in Vertigo was also a PITA to cold start.
Yeah well, we'll go for cold-startable I think, anyone should be able to play the way they want. Cold starters know what they're in for. We'll probably try to avoid situations like instant fire from missile bots right upon insertion - and if we do create such situations, we'll probably place stuff like cloaks nearby to allow the player to get a foothold.