Enemies in Keen4

Discussion and analysis of graphics, story, levels, and so on.
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Enemies in Keen4

Post by MrBlack » Fri Feb 25, 2011 6:39 pm

I think I've discovered one of the reasons people don't bother making levels for Keen4. The enemies aren't interesting or versatile at all. (Disclaimer: I don't know the proper names for most enemies, bare with me)

Slugs, Fire breathers: Too easy to deal with. Fire and forget.
Mushrooms, Snakes, Killer rocks: Super predictable behaviour, easy to avoid.
Stormclouds: Predictable, easy to avoid.
Item eaters: Don't do anything other than possibly force a level restart (if they eat a key)
Bounders: Easily killable, so they can't be used as an obstacle but extra jump height can't be used as part of progress either.

This leaves only 4 decent enemies to make things interesting. By far the best is the Fireguy, I've already used him quite a lot. Threatening and unkillable but not unavoidable. The other main one is Skypests, can't be dealt with easily (depending where they're used).

Arachnuts: Threatening but easily avoidable.
Birds: Hard to use because in many situations they're ridiculously overpowered and unavoidable.

I think the main issue is that no enemies besides Fireguys and Skpests provide a true threat that requires any level of effort to overcome, other than birds which are just insane and arachnuts which are just a hassle. I do need to experiment with the underwater pixie things though (According to testing they DO work out of water, unlike swimming keen :[ ).

Maybe it's just me and my perspective, but this is what's been bothering me while I make levels. When I compare it to Keen5, it makes me think about dropping Keen4 and working on Keen5 levels instead. Looking at Keen5...

Shikadi, Shikadi Master, Shikadi Dog: Threatening, can be dealt with but require effort/skill
Robots: Pole interaction (Shikadi support this too)
Robogargs: Spammable like Vorticons in Keen3, provide a threat but are easily dealt with, keep you on your toes (unlike Slugs)
Eyes: Like Arachnut but more versatile
Robo Red: Unkillable, super threatening but predictable and avoidable.

The more I think about it, the more Keen4 just seems like its enemies don't add any depth to the level. Sure it's a few shots you have to use or a few times you have to be careful where you step, but they just seem more like a hassle than enhancing the level. I feel like I could make Keen5 levels much more engaging with enemies, in Keen4 I'm struggling to avoid being overly difficult, frustrating or too easy. There's only so many ways I can use Skypests and Fireguys.

This is all kind of a stream of stuff I'm writing as it comes to me but I think there's some basis for discussion here.

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Post by VikingBoyBilly » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:34 pm

You forgot wormmouth, who is hard to deal with but at the same time predictable.

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Post by Nospike » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:44 pm

He mentions a "snake"... isn't that the wormouth?

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Post by Eros » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:22 pm

there's no robogarg, there's not even biogarg for that matter. it's the sparky.

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Post by VikingBoyBilly » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:33 pm

oh yeah... 'snakes.' Now that I think about it, you could easily jump over them if it weren't for the fact they were deliberately placed in narrow pathways to prevent abusing this.

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Post by Gridlock » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:08 pm

Well, each Keen game has a very different collection of enemies. With modding, you feel a lot freer to change the enemies and make unique ones. When you are trying to make a levelpack, you generally want to keep the enemies the same. I do agree that Keen 5 has better enemies, but that doesn't make the Keen 4 ones bad in my opinion. The most important thing is how they are utilized. While slugs and licks don't really allow a whole lot of creativity, some of the other enemies do.

If you are struggling with difficulty, I would start experimenting with basic in level puzzles. They can involve things like bridges and elevators. I'd be glad to help you get some ideas and possibly help you with more advanced tile property manipulation to make some things possible. No one will complain if you add in a few unique things that Keen 4 didn't have.

Here's my overall thought. Keen 4 is more primitive with enemies than Keen 5, but that doesn't mean you can't do anything with them. I think most people prefer clever level design over enemies anyway. While switching to Keen 5 is possible, I'd actually rather see a Keen 4 levelpack. I can tell whatever you make will have a lot of quality, and I think Keen 4 deserves that as well as Keen 5. It's completely your choice, however.

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Post by Ceilick » Sat Feb 26, 2011 2:38 am

The degree to which enemies are interesting or challenging is going to depend on the level design.

Difficulty can be increased with:

-Slopes/steps/uneven platforms: Since keen can't shoot diagonally, this makes these basic enemies harder to shoot. This keeps the enemies alive longer, allows the slugs to drop more poison, and generally makes each enemy more difficult.

-Short platforms. If the platforms are shorter, the enemies have less patrol ground and Keen has less maneuvering space. This increases difficulty and the challenge of each enemy.

-Force players to confront enemies from above or below. Consider this particularly with mad mushrooms.

-Shallow ceilings. Limit the areas in which the player can just jump over the enemies.

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Post by levellass » Sat Feb 26, 2011 12:56 pm

Indeed, the use of level design can make some enemies atrocious, it's all up to the designer themselves. For example:

* Wormouths: Passages with low ceilings to avoid jumping, foreground tiles that obscure the small sprite

* Skypests: Anywhere indoors, especially with alrgeish rooms so they don't land often but are in the air near you a lot

* Mushrooms: A lot of them placed at slightly different heights so they bounce out of step, the sue of variable height ceilings to make a row of mushrooms bounce in a complex pattern, one-way platforms to allow mushrooms to hurt you from beneath or move up a level

And with modern patching, even levelpacks can change the behavior of many enemies quite significantly.

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Post by Tulip » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:21 pm

Overall I relatively disagree with the keen4 enemy criticism of MrBlack, but with view to another keen game: Keen 6. Each Keen 4 enemy is unique in behaviour, while most Keen 6 enemies are of the simple walk around on platforms type. (and this is probably the reason why I found the enemy cast so dull in Keen 8).
The problem with Keen 4 enemies is mainly that you don't have enemies with "strength", which means either they're killed by a single shot or they never die.

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Post by XkyRauh » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:52 am

And furthermore, there's a distinct lack of Vorticon-like enemies! ;) Seriously, Vorticon Grunts are the most versatile, interesting enemy in the entire Commander Keen series--it's a shame they aren't around in Galaxy.

Interesting analysis of the Keen4 enemies, MrBlack; it definitely helps explain my general disliking of Keen4, relative to other episodes.

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