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Best old author/team

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:17 pm
by kakhome1
As opposed to selecting individual missions, who do you think made the best classic single player campaigns in the 1990s? Again they need to have had at least a vast majority of their work be pre-2000. You can pick two if you want and commentary is welcome!

(I don't know which forum this topic is better for, so I put it here as well.)

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:16 pm
by LightWolf
Honestly, they were great. Except for winding up sub-30 shields quite quickly after barely any progress on level 2 in one GELD mission :P (it was one of the Iron series)

Random quasi-related thing: Ellusion did EAF2. I have a copy of EAF1, however it's an incomplete copy. Anyone have the complete version?

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:53 pm
by kakhome1
I think it's on the Descent Mission Database. If not, it's here:

It's worth noting however that if you consider the quality of EAF2 to be marginal, the quality of the first is only likely to be more marginal.

I don't know why it's still called 'Ellusion Design' because EAF2 was not the best mission available even at the time and Obsidian does not represent the best work (or even really the current style) of its two authors (Sirius and Darkhorse).

Also, as a response to something Sirius posted in the Descent Single Player forum, which missions are unplayable in DosBOX simply due to how the robots are modeled? I have played a few TEW levels in Dos and didn't notice weird things like you suggest. What non XL missions should not be played in Dos due to robots not properly functioning?

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:24 pm
by LightWolf
I have the first one, but the DMDB version (I think?) wasn't complete. The final level was just a string of rooms.

EAF2 was Ellusion's first mission, so that's why it's under their name. Keep in mind that this was back in the '90s ;)

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:58 pm
by kakhome1
But couldn't you say just as well than anything with Sirius and/or Darkhorse as the author is by Ellusion then?

It's also pretty dramatic how different Apocalyptic Factor is from Obsidian. Finding similarities is harder (I guess both have big levels, so there's one).

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:18 pm
by LightWolf
Sirius and Darkhorse did an independent venture for AF. Ellusion is/was a megagroup of people. Sirius and Darkhorse did level design, but I don't think that many of the graphics or robots were theirs IIRC. Sirius and Darkhorse also didn't seem to have a part in EAF2 - though I could be wrong.

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:51 pm
by Sirius
Yeah, there's a lot to go into with that. :)

First, the question from earlier about problematic robots: it doesn't render the affected missions unplayable - it's just that the robots look bad because you can see some parts through each other. Enemy Within is not affected by this issue because the robots weren't built in Polytron, although a few robots do seem to have graphical glitches where some polygons seem to "spike". I wish I could have figured that out because it still annoys me, but debugging rendering code isn't particularly easy when it comes from the 1990s and has no tooling.
While few post-XL missions actually have custom polymodels, any of the other ones that do are probably affected - Pumo Mines would be if it actually ran outside of XL, but luckily it doesn't so no harm done.

Now, the Ellusion thing. Yes, that was a late-90s "supergroup" of a number of different developers/designers, and people joined it at various stages. The level designer for EAF2 was Diocon; I believe EAF1 was a solo project of his before Ellusion formed. Wizard handled the briefings and custom graphics; Paradox created the polymodels and did the HXM work; and Chris Schiel was the composer. My involvement in the project was limited to testing and attempting to get the robots - especially bosses - to render a little better (see the Polytron issue above). BSP was somewhat arcane in those days, and arguably it still is. The credits indicates Garry Knudson might have helped out a bit with this as well.

DH joined Ellusion soon after and we brought the Obsidian project with us. It was already well underway by that point, though, and we didn't need any help with level design for what remained, so at the time Diocon was mostly working on anarchy levels. There were some notable collaborators on other aspects, though; the player ship was from Garry Knudson (he was pretty much the guy for that at the time because nobody else had the tools/expertise to do as good a job), the briefing graphics were from Midgard, and the composers were pretty talented as well (Doug "Anarchy" Hale and Verran). The cockpit graphics were created by Wizard using a ray-tracer, as I recall - many hours of work went into that.

Unfortunately Ellusion never released any further single-player missions after that. There were some abortive attempts to get something rolling in D3, but nobody really settled on anything, and later on Descent Network handed us an in-progress mission called The Unknown Deep to finish up, but that ultimately stalled as well. It's kind of a pity, there were some great guys in that group - haven't seen too many of them since, with the exception of Verran of course and Kyouryuu has been by now and then (seemingly with a different name each time :mrgreen: I can't remember what it was when he visited either the D:U or Overload forums, can't even remember which of those two projects it was).

Instead, most collaborative work after that involved DarkFlameWolf luring people. She was pretty good at that.

Actually, to that point, if the mission didn't describe itself as an Ellusion Design project, I wouldn't really consider it one. Since DH and I worked together before joining ED, I never thought of anything else we worked on as having anything to do with Ellusion Design unless the other guys were involved as well. For anything that saw the light of day that wasn't the case.

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:53 pm
by kakhome1
You did a small mission called Legacy of Chaos. Is it affected?

As for older missions, any of these affected?:
Entropy 2
Konflict at Karon
Kryllidian Krusade
Bahagad Outbreak
Lost Levels

Every one of these even Legacy of Chaos predates Rebirth, but I don't know if that means it won't be affected.

More recent:
Black Prophecy
The Sphere
Dimensional Intersect
Plutonian Shores

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:29 am
by Sirius
It comes down to who did the work and how. Most of the big ones from the DOS D2 era are OK because they knew about the whole BSP thing and tried to get it right. The only reason later missions are more risky is because the authors may have only tested in Rebirth or XL, and not have seen any issues even if they were there.

Phobos/Mandrill/Entropy 2 were fine as far as I saw. Obsidian is 99% working; I recall taking shortcuts on the C4HD robot with the spikes because there weren't enough submodels, but figured it wasn't that easy to see problems anyway. EAF2 I think mostly works but the bosses were a little tricky so the goal for those was to prevent egregious drawing errors, not get them perfect (would have been possible to get them perfect using cob2pm, probably, but we didn't have anyone on staff who knew about it at the time). The last four I think were OK but I have less memory of playing them in DOS D2. I don't recall them being all-custom either, actually - more like Phobos in that regard.

Legacy of Chaos is fine. Black Prophecy might have issues but I haven't checked with DOS D2 to find out. Anthology doesn't use D2's custom polymodels; the D3 robots are .OOF format, which are not affected in D2X-XL's implementation. I think The Sphere and Dimensional Intersect are D2X-XL only levels, so whatever they are doing shouldn't matter much - do they even have custom models? I don't recall seeing them in Dimensional Intersect at least, but it's been a while. Plutonian Shores doesn't have custom polymodels so far and I don't think they were in the plan.

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:46 am
by Alter-Fox
The XL version of Black Prophecy *is* the one you want anyway. It may say it's incomplete but it's still got everything the original had and more.
Just don't pay too much attention to the music. It was written by someone who didn't really know what they were doing back then. :P

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 10:24 am
by kakhome1
@Sirius How to Bahagad, Lost Levels, Kryllidian Krusade, and Konflict at Karon work in Dos?

In Bahagad, the Level 1/5 music doesn't work, so I wonder if it was only tested in the Win95 version and/or only in Rebirth. That issue alone, however, would have no affect on the gameplay.

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 10:38 am
by Sirius
Those were the "last four" I mentioned. They're probably OK but I don't remember as well.
Bahagad is older than Rebirth, though the Win95 version is a possibility - I don't know how DFW did things back then :)

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 11:55 am
by kakhome1
Plutonian Shores, DI, and The Sphere all use Vertigo bots. The later two have modified robot behaviors.

Is the format used in the D3 part of Anthology compatible with Dos? Same question for Black Prophecy XL.

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:07 pm
by Sirius
Vertigo robots have Parallax-built polymodels, which were designed fairly expertly and don't have rendering issues. :)
I don't know that much about BP XL, but Anthology, no. The OOF format came from D3, and isn't supported by any other version of D2.

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:22 pm
by kakhome1
If I use the split copy, will the first two levels work in Dos?

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:38 am
by Sirius
No, for two reasons - the XL level file format is structurally different and DOS D2 won't understand it, and even if it did they both have too many segments and it'd just spit out an error message and quit.

Rebirth might be OK with the segment count, but it won't be OK with the format.

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:53 pm
by DarkFlameWolf
Yeah, it is pretty amazing the amount of folks I 'lured' in to help out on projects. It all worked out in the end and the players benefited the most from it! :3

Re: Best old author/team

Posted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 6:35 pm
by LightWolf
Yokallescence's levels have a custom seeker model and a tiny mega missile-looking Kamakaze robot. but IIRC those are the only new models. Several robots have been retextured though.