DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Discussion and analysis of graphics, story, levels, and so on.
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Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by levellass » Mon Apr 24, 2017 2:49 pm

I am fond of this level too overall.

As 'The Bloogdome' I expected a more arena-like atmosphere, like The Thunderdome from Mad Max, it at least should have had some Bloog-related imagery.

However, like Xky, I also appreciate the mix of artificial and natural themes. The level strikes me as an older, more natural Bloog construct that was taken over by the Fleex and modernized. Some imagery reflecting this could have added a bit of atmosphere, something perhaps involving a more direct clash with purple tentacles spreading over grey panels or spots of recent construction. (Alternatively the other domes are artificial constructs that fell into disrepair in which case providing them with some rusty remnants of technology could have given a different feel to them.)

I'm not a fan of the thick dome walls, as with the other domes we should be able to see the outside. (Plus some basic spikes. I too would welcome some Nospikes stuck in walls.)

As a showcase for the Nospikes this falls flat; while interesting I feel they would work far better in a more open, platform-based level. There Keen could jump over and avoid them as well as lure them off of edges to fall satisfyingly long distances. We see, from he sheer number of shots needed to stun, that Nospikes were meant to be avoided or tricked rather than simply blasted through and using this as a gameplay mechanic would have been inventive. (However given that they were a 'reward' for playing on medium or hard their integration to a level was always going to be limited.) There are some nice moments with these guys, but still.

This would have made a better showcase for the Flect, given the difficulty of getting above them. This would force strategy since the player would have to hop over, lead and avoid them in many situations. The dome is passageway-like yet also open in many points.

As a whole I rate the level high, it is relatively short and uncomplicated, as opposed to say Bloogton Tower or Mnftg which can drag on. The area at the bottom was, as far as I recall, the first time I'd seen Platforms go where Keen couldn't (While staying on the board, pretty much.) It was a welcome challenge and had a different atmosphere. (Again natural, below.. As if it had been forced to retreat there as the above was modified, both figuratively and literally subsumed by technology.) All-in-all I find it a fun level to breeze through even though there's room for improvement. Its brevity and pacing make up for its shortfalls where as more solidly built levels that drag on can irk.

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Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Ceilick » Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:17 am

1. Keen came to Fribbulus Xax on a weekday. The Bloogdome would ordinarily be packed to capacity on the weekend, but it's off-season right now, and so all Keen has to contend with are a few Nospikes doing personal training.

Good point Levellass, the level design really is more conducive to Flects than Nospike, although for me this change alone would even further distance the level from my expectations for the "Bloogdome".

Not to harp on the point, but I also didn't mean to suggest the organic/artificial theme couldn't work, just that...its very haphazard here, especially as opposed to any of the other levels in Keen 6 which combine these themes. Additional tiles are needed to help blend these themes for this level. We see the kind of things that would work at the start and end of the level, with the red i-beams, but we could use more. More I-beams, maybe some weird angled ones connecting platform to platform, or some kind subtle transitional tiles, or areas of decay as Levellass mentions. That isn't to say there isn't value in the minimalism and 'less is more' trend so often seen in Keen, but as the level stands, for me, the themes feel smashed together like a bad fan level.

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Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by XkyRauh » Sat May 27, 2017 3:11 pm

Hey, it's been a month and we've had plenty of time to reflect on how great(?) the Bloogdome is, so let's head over to Bloogton Manufacturing now!

Man, this level is some of the most blatant door-key-door progression that Doom was criticized for. Literally, the entire point of the level is to ascend the building to turn on a lone platform allowing you to retrieve the Yellow Keygem at the start of the level, so that you can ascend the building a second time. If younger me hadn't been so in love with the music of this level, I think it would've been a drag for sure.

Good things:
- Hey, those red pillars are rad! And they've got 3 different styles of top (for two different slopes and a flat top)! Neat!
- Lots of good 'explore more for bonus points' points. I dig the extra Sundaes and Pizzas you can get just for pogoing around and getting as far into the level's space as possible.
- The long trail of Bloog Soda bottles along the left chute for the return trip to the Keygem... I know it's not many points, but I appreciate a level-specific return path.

Bad things:
- Uhhhh, why do we need 3 copies of the same switch housing?
- Why do we even need the Red Keygem, for that matter? I've got a hunch the Red and Green Keygems were originally swapped, and someone spared us THAT level of tedium. Garg.
- Hey, check out this cluster of floating diagonal platforms on the left--we've got all this unused space here... better put something that looks boring and serves no point other than to frustrate players because the collision of these things is wonky!
- Backtracking. Again. I don't know why this didn't bother me so much when I was a youth!

As far as the factory theme goes, I liked how Bloogfoods was laid out in a pseudo-assembly-line fashion. I could at least PRETEND like there was some food production occurring, as I trekked through the level. Bloogton Manufacturing, however, is really devoid of process or purpose, it seems. There are two conveyor belts, but they are both near the beginning. And toxic slime? Also, multiple tiny diagonal platforms. Yes.

How could this level be improved? I'd argue that the level needs to be more compact, purposed, and industrial. If we are going to keep the door-key-door progression, let's at least divide the level into subsections, such that backtracking isn't required. Give us a pre-packaging area, heavy on the switches and poles, with the spike balls the primary danger. Give us a packaging area, where the conveyors are thick and the Bloogs/Blooguards ample. Give us a post-production area, where there is more open space for shipping/receiving, but the player needs to navigate some other hazard (perhaps a small maze).

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Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by levellass » Mon May 29, 2017 5:53 am

I always thought this level should be laid on its side, be more horizontal than vertical. The one unique element really 'native' to this level is the conveyors, and they work best horizontally. (And, I should add, a bit faster.) The whole level seems to me to be formless platforming, something done much better (but still tediously) in Bloogton Tower. This could really have benefited from an actual organized structure, a storage room full of items, conveyors from place to place, a stomping-stamping area...ANYTHING that gave the building some semblance of structure or purpose.

The only thing that redeems this level for me is the music; without that it would be a chore.

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Re: DISCUSSION: Keen 6 level design.

Post by Fleexy » Mon May 29, 2017 7:16 pm

I think this level would be much improved by some variation in the background. Even a few factory-looking background objects would make it more interesting. I remember getting a little lost because all the platforms look the same, especially between the red and green door areas.

The thing that most frustrates me about this level is that the trickiest platforming event - grabbing the yellow key - is almost the last thing to do. If the player fails that and isn't using in-level saving, they have to do the whole level again. I almost never bothered with the Queen Viva because that area could only be attempted after dealing with virtually everything else. Maybe some challenge area with the extra life at stake could replace the Zone Of Seven Sprinkled Diagonal Platforms so the player could do it on the way up.

Speaking of going up, the level seems completely desolate on the last ascent holding the yellow key: likely all the guards are stunned and the player has to clamber up the same slopes once more. I'm not sure what to do about that short of completely reorganizing the level. In Myst III: Exile, some sections end with the player getting a long ride over the area and seeing it from a new perspective. Maybe a goplat trip back up from the yellow key area with some new opportunities for point-grabbing would be neat?

For what it's worth, I liked the switch housings because I enjoy figuring out what things do, but it would be an improvement if the housings were different shapes. That would make them more visually appealing and aid in remembering what assembly you were last experimenting with.

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