XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

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Does XL improve, worsen, or overall not change the quality of the Descent experience?

Improves it (significantly)
0
No votes
Improves it (slightly)
1
17%
No real change
1
17%
Worsens it (slightly)
0
No votes
Worsens it (significantly)
4
67%
 
Total votes: 6
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XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by kakhome1 » Fri Sep 22, 2017 6:15 pm

Unlike Rebirth, XL has many modifications and allows many new features to be added the classic Descent experience. Yet my impressions with it have been mixed - I always like the classic experience, and I often prefer Rebirth or even Dos as a result. How do you think XL compares to the more 'classic' versions of Descent?
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by AlexanderBorisov » Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:38 am

I played a bit of FS, CS and tried Anthology in XL (I have to mention that I always play on Insane and try to do any good mission without saves and deaths). Had very negative impression of it, it is LOADED with bugs and game-breaking "features". And I don't think anybody cares about them and fixes them. Where in comparison, Rebirth has less bugs than DOS version, those I saw were minor, and it fixes a lot of problems. Some of XL bugs :
1. Matcens often spawn wrong robots. In Anthology there is dual matcens that is supposed to spawn drones and green lifters, but it spawns boarsheads and D2 spiders! Nice surprise!
2. Melee robots behaviour is totally screwed up (this mostly relates to Insane difficulty however); sometimes robots rush at you with enormous speed (much higher than their max speed), and take away 50-100 HP in one attack. Mostly happens when they first see you. Especially game-breaking with cloaked lifters, since they are hard to see. But often they are just stuck at the door or corner, or peacefully drift near you...
3. In general mines become very dark, I played with settings and it is still much worse than in Rebirth. So the cloaked robots are almost impossible to see.
4. Robots can see and fire at you from any distance when they are alarmed. When it is nothing special with weak robots, it is definitely a game breaker with stronger ones such as the red hulks. If it is located in big room you just cannot hit it, and also cannot enter the room. It looks like that, you shoot it from distance, it dodges everything (in Rebirth it does not dodge so well when it does not see you) and unloads at you, you retreat and wait for half a minute until it stops firing, then repeat until you are out of energy. Then go recharge and repeat the whole cycle until the only words you can say is "★■◆●" or "shit".
5. Robots can see you and lead their shots even when you are coming from around the corner...
6. The colored automap is much worse than wireframe map. At first it looks cool, but it is very hard to find areas not visited yet.
7. A lot of small glitches, such as not releasing mouse capture when you toggle away from XL app in Windows.
8. Needless to say, I immediately toggled of all advanced graphical effects because they make it much harder to see robots and their projectiles in time, at least for me. To a degree that it made playing on higher difficulties next to impossible. Well if you play on Rookie it may not bother you.
Also spent much time to figure out how to make game physics and ship controls work the same way as in original version.

So I would not recommend XL to anyone playing above Hotshot (where robots, especially stock robots, move and fire very slowly and you can do what you like with them). It is basically a cool graphics engine but terrible with respect to gameplay.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Sirius » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:15 am

It's complicated... I can't really pick an option out of a poll like this because it depends on too many things. I think the most obvious difference for most people is the graphics, and your experience will vary depending on what you turn on or off. Some people will turn off more than others.

There are less subjective parts to it as well. A lot of levels you can only make in XL... but there have usually been bugs to contend with too. It got better during stretches when people were actively playing it, and more of the problems got reported and fixed, but focus has shifted from single-player to multi-player in the last few years, and most people involved in multi-player after 2010 didn't have the patience to deal with XL. So they moved to Rebirth and then Retro, and XL got neglected. A lot of people today don't even know that it supports 16 players and D3-style CTF - but it does.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Xfing » Sat Sep 23, 2017 10:08 am

I was never able to run it properly, can't really say unfortunately :lol:
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by AlexanderBorisov » Sat Sep 23, 2017 11:54 am

Xfing wrote:I was never able to run it properly, can't really say unfortunately :lol:
Xfing, I think, you said it clear enough. And I agree with Sirius too, you must have big patience to even set it up to be playable. The idea was good, but not the implementation...
Still I'd like to play Anthology, do you think there is any way to do it now without constantly feeling pain in the ass? Because I still think the level design is very good and is worth to be played. I mean on Ace or Insane difficulty at least, and somehow avoid the worst game breaking bugs. Maybe it has split version for Rebirth, or you know a version of XL where it was playable? I still think, it should be possible because it was playtested somehow, and I don't think that at that time, you were dealing with dual matcens spitting boarshead in the beginning of the level, or "Agent Smith lifters", or those red hulks that dodge everything and see you through the walls.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Xfing » Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:12 pm

I think that's the biggest problem with many fanmade source ports - they're poorly optimized and they take much, much more resources than they have any business taking. I remember similar complaints about GZDoom. Probably the reason why work on it was discontinued.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by kakhome1 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:32 pm

ZDooM is great. I don't see why there's any reason to attack it. Way less potential bugs and much easier to keep it almost perfectly faithful. Not a good choice IMO of a port with similar issues to XL, not by a long shot.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Alter-Fox » Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:54 pm

I love xl, not that it doesn't have its flaws but I feel like most of the adjustments make the singleplayer game more fun instead of taking away from it. Worth mentioning though, I've never seen most of the bugs Alexander mentioned and my opinion might very well be different if I had.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Sirius » Sat Sep 23, 2017 1:16 pm

AlexanderBorisov wrote:Still I'd like to play Anthology, do you think there is any way to do it now without constantly feeling pain in the ass? Because I still think the level design is very good and is worth to be played. I mean on Ace or Insane difficulty at least, and somehow avoid the worst game breaking bugs. Maybe it has split version for Rebirth, or you know a version of XL where it was playable? I still think, it should be possible because it was playtested somehow, and I don't think that at that time, you were dealing with dual matcens spitting boarshead in the beginning of the level, or "Agent Smith lifters", or those red hulks that dodge everything and see you through the walls.
The matcens broke after release, yes - though I'm not sure whether that was a bug with the current version of XL or the version at the time that the level was built, and the level for some reason only worked right with the bug. It's definitely not supposed to spawn D2 bots in the D1 section though.

According to the level .txt, it requires "D2X-XL version 1.12.17 or later", which presumably means that was the version I tested on when the level was completed.

There is no split version for Rebirth. It might be technically possible to make Rebirth versions of the first two sections - although there's a good chance you might still exceed Rebirth's wall limits, which were not increased - but the third section would require some pretty heavy re-engineering. Even then you could only get it close - Rebirth doesn't support object triggers, translucent textures or wind tunnels, so those things would need to be redesigned.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by AlexanderBorisov » Sat Sep 23, 2017 1:38 pm

Sirius, thank you very much for the answer! I will try it with that early version (if it is possible to find nowadays) or closest to it. Still intrigued about D3 part, how it looks, does it have thew Hellion mech in the end like LL has... Probably it should have some interesting custom robots, too...
And as a reply to Xfing, about optimization in the source ports, I also did not like how long XL is loading a level, but still considered it a minor issue compared to everything else, and forgot even to mention it.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Alter-Fox » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:56 pm

Oh, there's an easier way.
When I loaded anthology-split into DLE, "checked mine" and then saved all three levels back into the hog they worked without any matcen problems. If that doesn't work for you I can send you the version I fixed.

The doors in the Descent 3 section don't display properly when they're closed but I suspect, for one, that that bug was already in the POG, and for two it's something anyone could fix who had the latest DLE and actually cared. The high point of the mission for me was everything before that. :P The last level didn't hit D3 on the nose the way the first two did for their game.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by AlexanderBorisov » Mon Sep 25, 2017 5:40 am

Thanks! But I managed to find an earlier XL version (1.15.xxx) that fixes the matcens; it also fixes the lifters bug and the one that robots dodge everything when you shoot them from afar; so it is at least playable. But robots still see you at any range and lifters are still much faster than in "normal" version, i.e Rebirth. Hope I would be able to get through the map on Insane difficulty at least with saves.

The D1 part does not have great gameplay however, you spend most time going to the far away fuel center and back, or finding the next unexplored area, or reloading after the driller or cloaked rocket mech trap (which are abundant), and doing the same. Navigating the map is very hard because of it's size and structure. While geometry is cool it lacks dynamics. Hope it will change later, or in D2-D3 parts.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by kakhome1 » Mon Sep 25, 2017 6:16 am

I don't know about D2 part (haven't played it), but D3 part is much smaller and is different from anything you've seen non-XL. In the split version, it is Level 3. It is not designed to be cold started, however
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Sirius » Tue Sep 26, 2017 8:13 am

Hmmm... I think I know what part that is... in retrospect it would have been better to make it actually difficult to get into that section, since people don't necessarily take the "these robots are too tough let's come back later" approach.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by LightWolf » Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:18 pm

It is actually possible to get an exclusively-wireframe map in XL. Don't remember the key though.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by DarkFlameWolf » Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:38 pm

Yes, there is a wireframe map option in XL. And last I checked, Diedel made it a lot simpler to install the whole thing without having to place objects in specific directories. It just 'unzipped that way.' and all you had to do now was just click the exe file and away you went.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by AlexanderBorisov » Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:08 pm

Wireframe map issue was the least of all evils with XL, at last I found how to enable it. Not that it cures any of really game breaking problems with XL, like buggy robot AI, buggy collision detection, modified reaction to controls (or maybe modified movement physics) that makes my aim to shake any time I move a mouse (not happens in Rebirth), and this Eternal Darkness spell over everything. I cannot imagine anyone can play XL on Insane skill (where all those things are most prominent) without cursing it every ten seconds. By setting it up I mean making gameplay as close to original as possible. Or, at least just POSSIBLE.
But I would say, earlier version 1.15 was less buggy and at least playable. Not always of course. For example I just cannot get past one otherwise trivial matcens with green lifters in XL because they attack you even before they finish spawning fully, and you shots don't even slow them down!
Anyway I was stuck with XL-Anthology at the transition between D1 and D2 part, cannot proceed because I have no energy, around 40 shields, and getting back to energy center and returning kills me because of those buggy lava tunnels that do incredible damage. Wish it had an energy center before the D2 part, at least.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Sirius » Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:31 pm

Umm... yeah, if they're doing "incredible" damage, something got broken. That transition is probably the toughest part of the level, so if you can't get to it without full or mostly-full energy you're nearly guaranteed a respawn.
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by AlexanderBorisov » Tue Oct 03, 2017 8:45 am

It was a kind of small special lava tunnel leading to the whole lava tunnel area, that did the biggest damage. There was another tunnel like this (not necessary to enter however), leading to invulnerability secret and 2 mega missiles. In those tunnels it seems that you cannot turn your ship (I mean yaw/pitch) at all and lose shields while being inside (maybe around 20 HP in the first one and more in the second one). And movement was really slow inside it. Thought it was a kind of XL bug but maybe I am wrong and it is intended to be so...
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by LightWolf » Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:48 pm

It seems like you can adjust brightness settings to get something more akin to Retro (in the form of the light values stored in the level rather than XL's computed lightmaps) - that's lightmap quality IIRC?
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Re: XL - better, worse, or indifferent?

Post by Sirius » Fri Oct 06, 2017 9:14 am

Lightmaps are only used for the higher lighting quality settings. If the sliders are hidden it's not using them.

I've used them somewhat sparingly myself since they take so long to calculate, and the visuals without them aren't really that bad anyway.
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