D1:SP - Vesta

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D1:SP - Vesta

Post by vision » Sat Jun 18, 2011 11:24 am

I wouldn't mind some feedback on my first (and probably last) mission for Descent. :)

Vesta

Three very dark levels. The lighting is also a bit experimental in places, so if it looks "unnatural" this is intentional. I tried to make them somewhat non-linear too. I can't tell if the levels are balanced or not (too heavy/light infestation?) since I didn't have a 3rd party perspective while making them. But I can beat each level on insane (cold-start) without too much trouble, and I'm probably a below-average player (I don't play online at all).

Thanks.
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by karx11erx » Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:06 pm

Hi,

I have looked at the first level, and I found it pretty good. I liked the lighting - good mix of light and shadow. I will check out the mission's other levels too as soon as I have time.
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by Alter-Fox » Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:44 pm

Pretty nice -- the levels feel like they should have been made by Parallax, but weren't... well... if they were made by Parallax they probably would have used the keys in a more standard way...
It seems like you also paid a lot of attention to making sure the default midi music fit into each level -- which IMO should be done for any mission that doesn't have a custom soundtrack.

I attempted a hotshot playthrough:

I had some trouble solving level 1, but it was very well done, and I really liked that matcen corridor (the one in the mission screenshot).
Level 2 was awesome. Definitely the best of the three. It feels D1 First Strike, even though it doesn't really feel like any of the levels from that mission. I didn't find the secret exit, because I only looked at the maps in the editor after I had tried a playthrough -- I wanted it to be fresh.
It looks like on the first two levels, the blue door leads to either a secret or the hostages. I wasn't able to get either of the blue keys, but I think that's a cool idea.

Level 3 I was game-over'd in the boss area before actually facing the boss, but there was some nice design there too. I just didn't get to see all of it. Overall I think the intro area wasn't done as well as in the other two levels, but the rest of the level had the best design.

I have one small criticism/suggestion for you though -- this is something that bugs me about a lot of custom levels and levelsets:
I don't like having doors on flat walls. There are two major reasons why you might want to consider putting doors in recessed alcoves on the wall (the way they were done in the Parallax missions).
1. You can put the lights around them to tell the player how they're supposed to open it. Any door that needs a key should always have the lights around it unless keeping track of which door is which is a planend part of the level's challenge, or you let the player know in some other intuitive way (warning stripes around key-requiring doors are confusing, especialy when it's a yellow door -- because usually the yellow stripes can be used [and were used in First Strike] around doors regardless of what the door is. Blue and red stripes also are sometimes put around regular doors in the Parallax levels IIRC, but that's less common).
2. Putting the door in a recessed alcove gives it an illusion of having 3 dimensions instead of 2.

When you play through the Parallax missions it's pretty obvious that the level designers had some rules they were expected to follow while designing the levels -- they did bend them sometimes, but that was rare. If you want to make an authentic looking level, one of the best strategies is to figure out what the level deisgners' rules were, and stick to them. If you're going for an experimental or surreal feel, then figure out those rules and break them (one of them or all of them or any number in between) at every opportunity ;). And sometimes it works to figure out the rules, and then while you're planning the level, decide on a few rules you're going to break -- maybe to define a new concept or add a new game mechanic -- but do it consistently, especially when it involves level flow. Parallax did this in the Vertigo mission -- a good example would be the second secret level, with the huge doors that open when you approach them, and it was done consistently -- when you saw those doors you would know they would open automatically when you approached them, because they always did. A lot of the best user-made missions also seem to have used this strategy...
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by vision » Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:04 pm

Thanks for the feedback Fox, I really appreciate it. You're right about the doors on flat walls thing. I hate that too, but I ran into problems occasionally that I couldn't resolve without a ridiculous amount of cubes ( I don't know if you noticed, but two of the levels used all 800 available. :evil: ). Also, I couldn't think of a better way to execute some of my ideas without flat doors. Oh well.

And all the other non-standard things you mentioned I considered too, but I was going for something that was like a cross between the classic Descent feel mixed with some ideas I had - like the untraditional textures and "optional keys." Yeah, the beginning of the final level is my least favorite, but the rest of the level makes up for it I think. Boss is pretty easy to kill too. I hate when you are forced to snipe or rely on cloak/invuln - kind of lame game-play to me.

It looks like you understood my message because you touched on all the same things I considered when making it. Awesome.
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by karx11erx » Sat Jul 02, 2011 4:14 am

Playing through level one on hotshot using D2X-XL just now, here a few impressions:

Good level structure and smart usage of bottleneck areas and botgens. Very nice trap at the red flag. Level often very dark with D2X-XL due to its automatic generation of lightmaps based on light sources present in the level (corner and face light values set with the level editor are ignored here) - not a problem, but rather a plus imo since D2X-XL offers a built-in headlight. Good robot choice and placement, well suited to the environments where you meet those robots. Making the blue keys giving access to kind of an optional bonus area connecting the start location and reactor chamber like a shortcut also is a neat idea.

Level 2 was well executed, too. I just found the rust textured area with the red hulks you have to pass when going for the yellow key a bit too bland. A bit more diversity in textures might have been a good idea. Rewarding the player with a nice powerup by offering him a fight to get it when already on his way to the exit was a cool idea, too. Having to pass a "scanner" to get access to the hostages is also an idea I like very much.

I took a few nice shots in that level:

Image

Image

All in all you have indeed been expanding the original Descent 1 formula in a creative and refreshing manner here.

Regarding the "doors on flat walls" problem: DLE-XP has a "subdivide segment" function that allows you to break a huge segment into smaller ones while preserving the shape of the level. The segment is split into 7 segments (a central one surrounded by 6 others). You can then move the central segment out so that one of its sides is level with the original segment's boundaries. This will flatten one of the surrounding segments, which you can remove. Resize the central segment to make it fit to a standard sized segment, and you can attach an alcove for a door.

Huge segment:

Image

Split huge segment:

Image

Resized central segment:

Image

Moved central segment out:

Image

Central segment at border of previous huge segment and peripheral segment completely flat now (will be removed in next step):

Image

tunnel attached:

Image
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by vision » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:53 am

Oh wow, that's a pretty neat feature. I admit, I had a little trouble with DLE-XP and would up using DMB2 for half the work I did. If I decide to get crazy in the future and make more levels I'll take more time to learn DLE-XP. Maybe after I finally decide to download D2X-XL (it looks cool, but I'm just smitten with Rebirth right now).
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by karx11erx » Sun Jul 03, 2011 6:00 pm

Played the secret and boss levels today. The secret level was rather boring, with a few clever puzzles though.

The start of the boss level looks rather uninspired too. The shaft accessed through the blue key door could use a second robot generator opposite to the one already there. As it is now, that area is no challenge. The boss area more than makes up for that: It's just fabulous. If you would create a D2X-XL level from it, you could use the extra segments that would give you to add some irregularity to the rock surfaces of it - that would make it look perfect. The only point of criticism I find is that seems to have too few big areas for the boss, so the boss didn't have too many different places to teleport to and maneuver in. Having a botgen or two there wouldn't hurt either. Still it is a very good job that has impressed me.

Btw, you wrote that you can beat each level on insane after a cold start and are a below average player. That might be an indicator that the mission is too easy. At hotshot I found it to be a piece of cake.

Image

This energy room looks cool, too:

Image
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by vision » Sun Jul 03, 2011 11:10 pm

karx11erx wrote:Played the secret and boss levels today. The secret level was rather boring, with a few clever puzzles though.
Yeah, the level pretty much exists just for the puzzles because I didn't really put any in the mission. Oh, and to grab a few megas.
karx11erx wrote:The only point of criticism I find is that seems to have too few big areas for the boss, so the boss didn't have too many different places to teleport to and maneuver in.
Ironically, I closed off a few areas because it was teleporting too much before, haha. You wound up just chasing it all over, which was frustrating because that part of the level is pretty big.
karx11erx wrote:Btw, you wrote that you can beat each level on insane after a cold start and are a below average player. That might be an indicator that the mission is too easy. At hotshot I found it to be a piece of cake.
This is, of course, the hardest part of designing levels - you know where all the tricks and traps are. I guess I erred on the side of "too easy" since I've played a lot of levels that were stupidly hard; you know, super hulks and class 2 platform robots in every room. I find that a little more boring and predictable than levels that are attractive but easy (which was my goal).

BTW, this is really cool feedback. You guys have pretty much highlighted all the things I liked and didn't like about this project. I'm pretty amazed how close your impressions are to my own feelings about it. Uncanny.
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by karx11erx » Mon Jul 04, 2011 3:39 am

Well, since I use D2X-XL, I always see it from that perspective ... D2X-XL has a radar giving you a rough direction where to find the boss, so it would have been cool having to chase the boss around and pass bot gens on the way to him. But I understand of course that this level cannot cater specifically to D2X-XL. Just a hint in case you should ever plan to build a D2X-XL mission.

Btw, I think that a well designed trap is a challenge even if you know about it.

If you'll ever need help with DLE-XP or D2X-XL, just register in D2X-XL forum and ask there. I'll be glad to help.
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by Sirius » Mon Jul 04, 2011 11:37 am

D1 level 6 at the red key is an interesting case study... if you don't know it's there, you're probably going to die (unless you're playing on Trainee and are capable of significantly more). If you do know it's there, you might still die unless you've prepared for it properly (note to other co-op players: please do not take that cloak under the bridge outside red unless you are going there. It's there for a reason).

If it had a few less drillers and more, say, small hulks - on high skill levels it would be a challenge, but not a deathtrap, and this wouldn't change much even if you knew it was there because you still don't really get a chance to do anything about it. You might know where the fire was coming from, which would save you a few shields; however, you're still going to have to do plenty of dodging. If you hadn't been there before you might still be OK if you react fast enough.
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Re: D1:SP - Vesta

Post by Alter-Fox » Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:02 pm

That room is good for practical jokes in coop though...
When I told my brother to go in there and get the red key first, he died almost instantly.
The eyes of the plush lobster stared deep into my soul. I touched it, made as if to pick it up, and then I was a panther.
BEWARE RAZZADOON'S SNOUT!!
...

Also beware my original music, at http://soundcloud.com/snowfoxden and http://vertigofox.bandcamp.com
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